Archive for ‘Data’

Sex and the City, revisited

By , 14 July, 2010, 6 Comments

I recently came across some poll data about gender. Gender equality, in the abstract, is a widely supported goal, especially in the developed world and among women, but nearly half the respondents “believed men had more right than women to obtain jobs in a down economy.”

Unpack that. Firstly, it suggests that men are supporting families while women are working for kicks. Secondly, it suggests that because women are working for kicks, they will be the ones taking time to worry about raising families. If you’re an employer, the argument goes, a woman who wants to make her kids’ doctors appointments is a less reliable employee. And when you have limited funds, you want the reliable bang for your buck.

The first point is false: the majority of women, like the majority of men, work because they have to. If they are lucky, they will enjoy it, but that’s not why they do it. But women do take the lion’s share of responsibility for the house and the kids. The answer to that should be a reorganization of family life that makes it easier to achieve equality in the workplace. But the truth is that the notion of workplace equality is, on its own, fairly appealing to people, while the notion of shared domestic responsibilities still scares us.

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Getting Serious for a Moment

By , 3 February, 2010, No Comment

Latest blog post, on the trillion-dollar question of Indo-Pak peace:

‘…These days, optimists are focused on a new effort by two leading newspapers—the Times of India and The News in Pakistan—to promote “Aman ki Asha,” or “Hope for Peace.” In Delhi, the campaign is ubiquitous: billboards, posters, and television advertisements, some featuring major Bollywood lights. But the simple one below, where Pakistanis are trying to request a song on Indian radio, is my favorite.

The goal, says the News, is “mobilising popular pressure for peace on the establishment of both countries.” The mechanism, says the Times, is “a series of cross-border cultural interactions, business seminars, music and literary festivals and citizen meets that will give the bonds of humanity a chance to survive outside the battlefield of politics, terrorism and fundamentalism.”

Looking back on the last year, and speaking to politicians here in Delhi, I am skeptical…’

Here’s the video I reference. But read the whole post, and comment, at Untold Stories.

The Things that Matter

By , 11 December, 2009, No Comment

Third video of the week: my interview with Gallup’s pollster Ijaz Gilani, Part 2, on the economy, terrorism and civil strife.

Read my analysis at Untold Stories.

Survey Says, Zardari will stay

By , 9 December, 2009, No Comment

A video update from Islamabad:

Turning the Corner

By , 30 October, 2009, 1 Comment

The wise minds at the BEA say the economy has turned a corner, posting GDP growth at a relatively robust rate (3.5%) in the third quarter, just like Ben Bernanke promised it would.

Still, the fact that we’re rising from rock bottom doesn’t tell us how long it will take to get back to where we were, or what the recovered economy will look like. For that, we need to dig deeper into the numbers, and, simply put, the picture isn’t pretty.

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It’s Getting Better All the Time

By , 15 September, 2009, 1 Comment

Before turning in for the night, I feel I ought to join the voices toasting the anniversary of Lehman’s collapse. I’ll leave serious analysis of where we are, and how much remains to be solved, to other bloggers and other days. My thoughts are more mundane.

Yesterday, when the President delivered Wall Street hotshots a lunchtime lecture about the need for regulatory and compensation reform, I noticed one thing: I was watching CNBC, and the market didn’t blink once during his address. In fact, it seemed to perk up during that half-hour (noon to 12:30), and stay up throughout the afternoon.

This morning, Ben Bernanke had a similar result when he addressed econo-wonks during the first half hour of trading.

Why does this matter? This time last year, every time any government official–Bush, Paulson, Bernanke–got on camera with the intention to restore calm, investors panicked. On days when there was no other economic news, regulators opening their mouths were singlehandedly making the situation worse.
That is not to say that Bernanke and Obama going on the conference circuit now has any real economic value, but simply to point out that the non-effects of their speeches show that we are all a lot less jittery, and that’s a good thing.

Economists to America: “Honey, we broke the calculator!”

By , 1 December, 2008, 2 Comments

Once a month, the US government locks a bunch of Econ PhDs in a room to calibrate changes in employment, payroll, production and consumption. Today, the experts announced the results of their November gathering. Guess what? We’re in a recession, and we’ve been there since December 2007.

Well, duh. Americans have been feeling the hit for months.

But economists usually wait around for two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth before calling a recession. That definition rests on the fact that production, consumption and income are interlinked: what a country makes must add up to what it buys. In theory, when GDP is rising, it should be because consumption (roughly 70% of the domestic product figure) is rising too. And when people consume more, it should be because their employers are making more and passing it on.

That means that most of the time, the line about the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer is just gas. Income disparity is growing, but that usually reflects the rich getting richer faster than the poor are emerging from poverty. Assuming that income, consumption and production all move in the same direction justifies A) the 2-quarter definition of a recession and B) the argument that getting people to make and buy more stuff must implicitly raise our standard of living.

That’s apparently no longer the case.

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The Sun Never Sets

By , 28 May, 2008, No Comment

Some people have too much time on their hands. Like this kid at Trinity College, Dublin, who calculated the number of links it takes to get from any article to any other article on Wikipedia. But thanks to his procrastination project, I can confirm that the British Empire is alive and well.

See in today’s world, connectivity is power. There might be more Google searches for “food” or “sex” or “Barack Obama” than there are users signing online to learn about the United Kingdom. But the Wiki entry on the UK has more links to other articles, is more centrally located in the Wiki universe than any of its flashier competitors.

In its 19th century peak, the British Empire worked because England acted as a hub, a barely visible hand for protectorates and principalities that perceived themselves autonomous. London made out well not so much because people wanted to go there, but because they–and their resources–passed through London on the way to everywhere else.

Plus ça change, it seems, plus c’est la même chose.