The negativity jar

The Imposter Syndrome and other forms of negativity can keep people, especially women, from achieving as much as they should.  If you say enough negative things about yourself, eventually other people start to believe them too.

One of the things that we did back in graduate school (during the job market) was have a big jar named the “Negativity Jar.” Anytime we said something negative about ourselves, we would have to put a quarter in the jar (we were poor graduate students– you might want to up that to $1 or $5). That forced us to restructure to say things that were actually true– to get at what was actually bothering us, and not to reinforce the negative lies. It forced what Cognitive Behavioral Therapists call “Cognitive restructuring.”

After about 2 weeks there was no more money put in the jar. At the end of the year we were able to buy a little bit of chocolate, not the hard liquor we’d been planning on.

Have you ever had a problem with negative self-talk?  What have you done to address it?  Did it work?

Fixing little annoyances

The other week we talked about how having the ability to throw money at problems was a great ability.

But sometimes there are little things that you can do to greatly improve your quality of life, just by fixing tiny annoyances.  These may not cost a lot of money or even time, but just need to get done.  Dedicating a weekend day or hiring a college student to go down the list or just doing them one at a time could produce great dividends.

For example, the light switch in our bedroom is one of those push kinds and has had a tendency to pop off when pushed.  Meaning I have to pick it up, find the notch, and put it back.  After weeks of partner talking about replacing the entire thing, but not going through with it, a little bit of fancy glue to keep the thing from popping off worked just fine and eliminated a regular annoyance.  Sometimes satisficing with the cheap and quick solution is the way to go, especially when optimizing really isn’t going to happen.

Another problem one of us has been having recently is that it has been difficult for her to bend down to plug in the power cord for her external harddrive.  Solution:  attach an extension cord that can go on the desk.  No bending over necessary.  Another quality of life improvement.

A somewhat more expensive fix that we’re contemplating:  partner’s glasses have some kind of coating that means they’re always getting smudged and he’s constantly cleaning them.  Otherwise the glasses are just fine… but I think they annoy him enough that it would be fine to get a new pair (especially if he gets a cheap pair from the internets!)

Are there any little annoyances that you’ve fixed or that you could fix that would make your life better?

Link We-Love-July

Can I get a HELL YEAH for this post from Historiann:  Gender, Ownership, and the Law.

John Scalzi:  AWESOME.

I found this post from SEK at Acephalous to be hilarious:  DISBELIEF!

Daily plate of crazy talks about priorities.

Retire by 40 is taking a reprieve.

Dr. Isis’s commentary on creeptastic Logan Morrison.

We are always rooting for Mutant SuperModel.  Things are not getting easier, but they’re getting better.

An excellent and brilliant apology from Jason Alexander.

We were in this week’s carnival of personal finance.

My cats are doing this. It’s like they know I’m nesting:

Ask the grumpies: fertility timing

Cloud asks

Have you seen this study?

And, more importantly, what do you think of it?

The author of that study was hot hot hot on the market this year.  However, rumor is she’s decided not to move, despite offers.

The Effects of Motherhood Timing on Career Path

This paper estimates the causal effects of motherhood timing on female career path, using national panel data from the NLSY79 and biological fertility shocks to instrument for the age at which a woman bears her first child. Motherhood delay leads to a substantial increase in earnings of 9 percent per year of delay, a smaller increase in wage rates of 3 percent, and an increase in hours worked of 6 percent. Supporting a human capital story, the postponement premium is largest for college-educated women and those in professional and managerial occupations. Family leave laws do not significantly influence the premium. Panel estimation reveals evidence of both fixed wage penalties and lower returns to experience for mothers: a “mommy track” is the likely channel for the timing effect.

All righty.  Before we get into the study itself, Ima gonna explain a little bit about empirical econometrics.  Economists are very interested in the idea of causality.  We’re not the only social science that focuses on causality, but we’re more likely to use something we call “natural experiments” rather than actual experiments (as psychologists do) to explore questions of causality (psychologists call these quasi-experiments).  X and Y are correlated, but does X cause Y, does Y cause X or is there a third variable, Q, that causes both?

One of the types of natural experiments we use is something magical called “Instrumental Variables” or IV for short.  IV is really neat because it basically takes a variable Z that we know causes X and does not cause Y (except through its effect on X).  The canonical example of a good IV is the Vietnam draft lottery number to study the effect of Vietnam service on labor market outcomes.  A worse draft number is correlated with actually serving in Vietnam, but because it is randomly assigned, is not related to labor market outcomes except through its effect on Vietnam service.  A “good instrument” will have these two qualities:  Z will be correlated with X, and Z will not cause Y except through the channel of X.  Most instruments are not as good as the Vietnam draft lottery, but we believe that they will tell us something anyway… but generally we don’t think these IV papers give the final word, just additional evidence.

In this paper, Amalia Miller uses several imperfect instruments to look at the effect of motherhood timing on female labor market outcomes.  Remember, in order to be a good instrument, the instrument will have to be strongly correlated with timing of motherhood and not correlated with female labor market outcomes except through the channel of motherhood timing.  The former we can test using statistics:  there are some heuristics we use for the t-stat, and there are some tests for low coefficients or “weak instruments” that are more or less accepted depending on your training.  The latter is where thinking is needed.

Miller’s chosen instruments are:

1.  whether first pregnancy ended in miscarriage

2. whether conception of the first child occurred while using contraception

3. elapsed time from first conception attempt to first birth.

Now think:  Are these related to female labor market outcomes through any means other than pregnancy timing?

I would argue yes:  All three of these are related to maternal health (including obesity), and health is directly related to labor market outcomes.  Miscarriage not only affects timing of motherhood, but also can cause depression, which relates to labor market outcomes.  Different types of people use contraception (because of religion, sense of responsibility etc.) and these personality characteristics may be directly related to labor market outcomes.  And infertility itself can be very time-consuming (I read a paper the other year on just on how much time is spent at the doctors, and how it has to be spent during the working day for the most part, for example).  I’m sure you can think of many more ways that Z, the instrument, relates to Y, the outcome variable through channels other than X.

Does that kill her results?  Well, no.  It just means we can’t be confident in the answer given in this paper (and it took a while to get this paper published and it’s not in one of the standard top econ field journals, probably for the above reasons).  If we attack the same question in many other imperfect ways and get the same results, we’ll feel more confident with the results in this paper.  We don’t really know the answer, but this should update our Bayesian priors to the results that she finds.  If we do come up with a perfect instrument or run a randomized controlled experiment (which we won’t do because we’re not Nazis) or get a much cleaner natural experiment that we can use a cleaner technique on (say, differences-in-differences) and get different results, then those results will trump these results.  In the absence of that, this paper is providing more information, and provides an improvement over the previous literature which is, at best, getting only at correlation.

So that’s a critique of the coefficients she finds– are they really accurate?  Probably not, but they’re probably closer to the “truth” than what the previous literature has found.

Let’s take the results as given.  Are her conclusions merited given the results?

Supporting a human capital story, the postponement premium is largest for college-educated women and those in professional and managerial occupations. Family leave laws do not significantly influence the premium. Panel estimation reveals evidence of both fixed wage penalties and lower returns to experience for mothers: a “mommy track” is the likely channel for the timing effect.

Well, let’s throw that open to the grumpy nation.  What do you think?  What are alternate explanations?


  • Dear friends of wives/fiances of my male colleagues, Please stop inviting me to women-only bridal and baby showers.  I do not know your friend, I only know her husband/husband-to-be.  Also:  I hate shower games.  Seriously.  If you want to invite me to a shower, please make it co-ed so I know someone there and have food and conversation but no games.  Yes, I will stick a gift into your friend’s husband’s work mailbox anyway.
  • Related:  Dear husband’s aunt whose daughter (that I did not know existed) lives several states away from me, please do not send me an invitation to a woman’s only baby shower for your daughter.  If you want a gift, just send an announcement to your nephew once the baby is born.  Of course, given that the baby will not be born until fricking October, this may not be the last baby shower you are planning on throwing.  Please do not invite me to those either.  (And yes, I sent a gift card anyway, but am not planning on sending one at the birth.  You get one gift.  It would have been twice as much had you followed proper etiquette.)
  • I hate it when people say that parents are showing off with their kids when they’re interacting with their kids in public.  You don’t know why people do what they do.  And it most likely isn’t for your benefit.  (You’re not actually that important.)
  • Dear relatives, Please stop pressuring me to have the baby.  Ze will come by 42 weeks, and it is not my fault if you expected hir at 38 and ze’s still not there at 40.
  • Psychology researchers doing long-term laboratory studies on relationships find that contempt is the #1 predictor of divorce.  It isn’t fun to read about other peoples’ contempt for their spouses on the internets.
  • Dear student, I am afraid that a recommendation letter from me could not be very strong as it would have to contain information about your performance in my class.
  • Some people are more likable before they drink the self-help motivational Koolaid.

Grumpy readership, do you have any random rants to share?  Let it all out.

What are we reading these months?

#1 read After the Golden Age.  This is very good.  DH says it’s really an anti-super-hero book… exactly the opposite formula.  I liked it immensely.  (Did not much care for Discord’s Apple, however.  It was dull and I just don’t care for dystopias all that much.)

May Contain Traces of Magic: #2 wants to know whether it’s good!  Um… I think it was ok.  Obviously not memorable!  Tom Holt’s earlier works are his best.  I didn’t send it on, so it must be worth rereading.

The Quality of Mercy by Faye Kellerman:

Enh. The book was ok, but too long. Get it from the library only. If you want to read about someone inspiring Shakespeare, read King of Shadows by Susan Cooper instead.

In other notes, did you know that a lot of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories are extremely similar to each other?  If you’ve got a “best of” collection, that’s probably all you need.  How many interminable stories about men flying a hot-air balloon to the moon do you want to get through?  And boy these are sure sausage-fests.  The stories and poems you’ve heard of still hold up, of course (The Raven, The Cask of Amontillado), though “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” is hampered by my total lack of belief that (SPOILERS!) an orangutan actually acts that way.  It’s a somewhat uninformed fantasy as far as animal behavior.

Anyway, I’ll keep the Poe volume but my local library / Goodwill is going to get a donation of books pretty soon.

I finished The Fuller Memorandum by Charles Stross, and I continue to love all three of the series by him I am reading (the Laundry Files, the Family Business, and the Halting State series).  I eagerly await sequels.

Also I am apparently the last fantasy reader in the world to read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemison, but it was definitely worth it.  Read it, if you haven’t. Powerful and interesting. I am eager to read the next one! (#1 had not heard of it and has added it to her wishlist.)

Also I read The Hour I First Believed, by Wally Lamb.

This book is amazing and powerful and like woah.  However, it is also insanely depressing.  Every bad thing the in the world happens to the protagonist.  Pretty much the only awful thing that doesn’t happen is millions of snakes fall from the sky and they scratch your cornea WITH POISON.

Goblin Quest, by Jim C. Hines, OTOH, was pretty cool in a not depressing way, and although bad things happen to the protagonist, they cause him to grow as a goblin.  Quite good for something that’s essentially a D&D dungeon crawl from the perspective of a kidnapped goblin.  I’m ordering the set of 3 books in one after having checked out the first from the library.  (DC has been looking at the library paperback cover longingly, and says ze wants it to be around when ze is old enough to read it.)

I was really disappointed with Monster by A Lee Martinez.  It’s the first of his books I haven’t liked, the first one without likeable characters, and the first one that seemed like a mix of books he’d previously written.  In this case, it was like a mix of  and minus anybody we could possibly care about. This from an author who gets us to love kobalds in the wonderful .

Memo to self:  Alan Dean Foster’s books are Just.  Not.  Good.  I don’t know why I keep trying to read them.  Stop!  They range from terrible to not-my-taste.  Every one I read is not enjoyable.  Don’t be fooled by the cover blurb, Self, you will not like them.  (#1 Disagrees!  She is fond of the Pip and Flinx series and enjoyed a few of his funny early works, particularly the one about the aliens who look like giant rabbits.  Also she thinks there was one about cats being in charge of the universe but doesn’t remember it exactly.)

You guys been reading anything interesting out there in grumpyland?

What are your priorities?

Kids, career, other…

Within those, what are your priorities?

If you feel like you don’t have enough time for what you want to do, what can you outsource?  What can you stop doing?  What can you de-prioritize?

If there’s not enough money to outsource, where can you get the money?  Or where can you get the time?

Don’t feel like you have to break the stick: work around the stick, let it bend, change its environment.  Figure out which sacrifices are easiest to make, and which aren’t worth making.

I get it… it’s hard with a special snowflake or a demanding career, and maybe you want to give up the career or maybe you want to keep striving in it.  It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.  I haven’t watched a tv show in weeks… we still have netflix from months ago.  Right now those aren’t my priorities.  Maybe you need a housecleaner or to let your house become messy.  Maybe your partner needs to step up and take on some responsibilities, or your kids.  Maybe it’s time to hire a college student to chauffeur or give enrichment lessons or tutor or take the kids to the playground (my colleagues do all of these).

#2 chimes in:  lazy housework FTW.  I find I even have to prioritize within categories, e.g., food.  Do I want it low-calorie, high-protein, easy, fast, cheap, full of veggies, locally grown, tasty?  All these things can sometimes work together but all of them at once will probably conflict.  So I have to focus on only one or two at a time.  Right now I’m looking at calories but also trying to eat lots of protein.  So I put more emphasis on those, and ignore the cost of the food (and some other things).

Retirement savings vs. extensive travel now?  What’s worth spending on?  Fund retirement or save for a house?  (Both!)

Priorities are hard!  Making decisions initially will drain some willpower, but once you have a system set up, it should (!) simplify everything.

Link self-love

Oopsie, we missed our two year bloggiversary… apparently that was last Saturday.  What were your favorite posts of ours this past year?

Hm… we had some pretty good ones… on uh, the science of potty training… why we have everything,  important relationship lessons, the persecuted majority, progressive taxes… gosh, there must be more…

And here’s some love for other folks:

We think Donna Freedman is awesome.

CNN discusses the july effect in more detail.  The July effect being the reason I have an irrational fear of anethesiologists.

Read this one from eco cat lady for the cat pics.

Texts from Jane Eyre.  Read it and giggle.

Another article from CNN on Romney’s tax returns and tax loopholes.

We were in this week’s carnival of personal finance.

Our one comment on the Yahoo CEO thing… We suggest banning the phrase, “If someone is going to do X, then why have kids,” unless X is something that would result in a reasonable person calling Child Protective Services.  Otherwise mind your own business.  What you choose to do with your kids doesn’t mean they’re going to turn out any better than whatshername’s kids, and if you’re always all up in everybody else’s business… well, maybe you need to get more hobbies (since working for pay is such a horrible thought).  Seriously.

Google questions

Q:  should you buy a house in good school district if you have no school age children

A:  Not necessarily.  On the one hand, houses in good school districts tend to retain their value better.  On the other hand, you get to pay higher property taxes for that privilege.  Finally, if you’re in a bad school zone and the district decides to switch up on you, you gain… but if you’re in a good school zone and the rug gets pulled out from under you, you lose.

Q:  do better schhol systems lead to higher property values

A:  Yes.

Q:  what is the word for folding socks together

A:  Round these parts we call it, “folding socks together”

Q:  can untenured agents get promoted state department

A:  We have no idea.

Q:  college professors get paind 12 months>?

A:  College professors generally only get pained 9 months unless they’re teaching summer school classes.  The other 3 months are for research, glorious research.

Q:  would you marry for money or love

A:  Love!

Q:  anyone use intopic media to replace adsense

A:  Probably, but not us.

Q:  do you want another kid

A:  Not after this one.

Q:  do lecturers get paid over summer

A:  Generally only if they are teaching summer classes.

Q:  what can i do for a living when a 9-5 makes me want to die

A:  If you figure that out, please let #2 know– she would very much like to make a living not doing 9-5.

I am so old

Ways that I know I am old:

Things are too sweet for me.  I now take my coffee black.  Even soda is awfully sweet.  Thai iced tea is right out.

Taking care of my physical body takes, it seems, ALL my time.  I get a haircut, go to the doctor, the dentist, the eye doctor, eat healthy.

Call insurance.  Go to pharmacy.  Yell at pharmacy.

Go to gym.  Go to bed early.  Buy clothes for riding.

Drink more water.

Doctor Yoda

I don’t even have time to do things except for take care of this body!  I like being in my head better.  ARGH so much time!  If only this body didn’t take so much work.

I know you feel me, grumpeteers!