Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Atoning For Blogging

When you read this post it will be Yom Kippur. On this day Jews ask for forgiveness for their sins. So I will ask you to forgive me for being flippant, writing things too fast, pretending to know more than I do, and if I spread misinformation.

To my fellow Jewish bloggers may you have an easy fast and may you be linked to by the book of life blog.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Invisible Beard on Talk Like a Pirate Day

In honor of today's holiday I thought I would recognize one of my favorite economists who doesn't really get the recognition he deserves. Bart [pronounced BARRRT] "The Invisible Beard Smith" grew up on a MARRxist commune in the Caribbean. He soon rejected communist ideas and discovered a love of economics after finding a way to ARRRbitrage bottles of rum between his and the neighboring commune. He left the Caribbean to attend Beloit College in Wisconsin, which was a surprise to many given that it is landlocked and full of landlubbers. After founding the Beloit Students Against Scurvy organization he wrote his senior thesis on optimal currency unions in Latin America "ARRgentina, Brazil, and Chile and the pieces of eight currency union." After Beloit he was accepted to HARRvard's Ph.D program working under MARRtin Feldstein as an R!.A. at the NBERR! His work with Feldstein on social security reform proposed seniors take private accounts or walk the plank! His Job Market paper used "Autoregressive (AR!) estimations of shipping tonnage as a predictor of recession" made him a staRR on the market. His job market experience is quite the tale though. Smith visited both fresh and salt water institutions, his success led him to plunder all of the booty from one Big Ten institution, although he lost an eye after a duel with Tom SARRgent following his NYU seminar. Instead of accepting any offers he has for the last ten years commanded a vessel of economists sailing the seven seas and writing articles. He did return to Washington briefly to work with Glen HubbARRd on TARRP. He was the first economist to publish in all 5 AER journals, which they have titled in his honor an AERRRRR! He is currently a  co-editor of the Review of Economics and Statistics (R!-estat). Keep an eye out for him, I'm sure you'll see his work featured in MARRginal revolution or a write up by Megan McARRdle soon.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How Academic Publishing is like a Football Drive

Touchdown! May be the most exciting words in football, but my favorite word to hear in economics is Accepted! On Sunday I got the e-mail with those words so my paper (co-authored with Towson colleague Tom Rhoads) Stadium Construction and Minor League Baseball Attendance is now forthcoming in Contemporary Economic Policy. The paper shows that building new stadiums for minor league baseball teams increases their attendance, but that increase likely does not create revenue increases sufficient to pay for new stadiums. This is consistent with a lot of the other literature on what is called the honeymoon effect that shows building new stadiums increases attendance for most major league sports.

So how is publishing like a football drive, well by being accepted you know we scored a touchdown. But not all touchdowns are equally exciting. A 95 yard pass with 5 broken tackles is more exciting then a punch into the end zone on 1st in goal. So I would compare the acceptance to scoring at 2nd and goal from the 8 yard line, there was still some doubt, but I was pretty hopeful we would score. Let's review the drive.

If you click on the paper you notice that the working paper version is from 2010. I know we presented the paper in July of 2010 at the Western Economics meetings and did most of the work in the spring of that year, so the paper took roughly 2.5-3 years from idea to acceptance, which isn't out of the norm for me or economics. Before Contemporary Economic Policy (CEP) we submit to two other journals, both of which rejected are paper, but gave some useful comments so I think the version CEP saw was much better than the 2010 paper. So in short we had two stalled drives.

So the CEP drive. I believe we submitted to CEP about a year ago. I would start by saying CEP did a great job getting us back reviews and the process could have been quicker only if we did our revisions faster. We then waited a few months for reviews to be returned (this is standard) and CEP got us 3 sets of reviews, which is not atypical although the other journals we submitted to only gave us one reviewer's comments. We got a first down and continued the drive around midfield as the reviewers generally liked the paper, but had lots of suggestions on how to improve it. We spent some time rewriting the paper and doing additional analysis and sent the paper back a few months later. The reviewers noted we had made some progress but weren't quite ready for acceptance yet, putting us in the red zone. The last set of reviews suggested we were pretty close, but we had to close the deal. I spent a month or two on one final issue thinking about it carefully and I think I had a pretty good explanation and I made small changes to the paper but wrote up about 5 pages of why we think what we were doing was accurate based on consistency checks. After a month the reviewers and editor put up their hands and signaled accepted.

Normally I don't tweet or blog as soon as a paper is accepted. I was a big fan of Barry Sanders (a running back for the Lions) growing up and when he scored he would just handed the ball to referee and went back to the bench. I think a football coach once said "act like you have been in the end zone before" My Towson colleagues and I do enjoy celebratory lattes when one of us has an article accepted, but hopefully I'll find the end zone again soon (even if I'm no Barry Sander).

A post script that amused me. A few hours after accepting the paper the journal's editor sent me a request to become  a reviewer for a different paper. We later exchanged e-mails and he was right there was basically 100% chance I would say yes to reviewing (actually I always say yes to reviewing papers unless they are completely out of my expertise zone).

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Monday, September 10, 2012

The Opportunity Cost of 600 Posts

This will be my blog's 600th post! I started in back in 2006 at the time I was a visiting professor at Beloit College. Like a good economist the first thing that comes to mind is opportunity cost that is what did I give up by writing 600 posts. My guess is I spend about 15 minutes to a half hour on the average posts. So we are looking at maybe 200-300 hours worth of work spread over 6 years. In short about a weeks worth of work over each year. So what could I have done over that year. Perhaps I have could gotten more consulting gigs and earned thousands of dollars, but having tried to get consulting gigs from time to time that is harder than it sounds. I could have spent more time preparing my classes, but in some sense this blog does prepare me for class I look up lots of examples and think about ways to present info to non-economists (and sure enough all of my students are not PhD economists). I also could have written another paper or two, but one thing I like about being at a teaching focused school is that I don't have to get to the diminishing returns part of my research agenda, so my guess is the paper(s) would not have been my best. Of course there is always leisure too!

I think my enjoyment of the posts shows the benefits outweigh the costs.

Looking back here are some my favorite posts
$240 worth of pudding , Evaluating Bar Rescue, Hanukka PPF
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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Kaushik Basu new World Bank Chief Economist

Kaushik Basu today was named the next Chief Economist at the World Bank. His work on child labor has been extremely influential to me and I thought I would take the opportunity to discuss it. I remember in undergrad debating with students who were part of an organization called students against sweat shops that banning sweat shops might not be the best idea and that the relationship between trade and child labor is extremely complex. Basu's models of child labor really cut through that complexity. His 1998 paper in the American Economic Review with Van presents a model that was understandable and extremely policy relevant to me as a first year grad student (although the math might not be approachable to the layman). It shows under what conditions a ban on child labor for exports can help or hurt the poorest in a developing county. As Basu's work shows in many cases the answer isn't clear. Related I like this work with Zarghamee from the Journal of Development Economics  that shows under what conditions boycott products that use child labor may hurt or help.

I also always think of Basu when waiting for people who arrive late to a meeting. Writing with Weibull this essay discussed the culture of lateness that seems to persist in many poor countries (summarized here in the New Yorker).  In short in a country where people are normally late it is best to be late yourself creating a culture of chronic lateness.

I look forward to seeing how Dr. Basu uses his position at the World Bank.
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