Ask the grumpies: What’s your take on Oster’s interview about gun violence?

OMDG asks:

What’s your take on the Emily Oster interview of the ED Dr at brown about gun violence? 

I am sorry to disappoint, but sadly the interview is only available to paid subscribers and Emily Oster really does not need my money.  (She and Jesse make waaaaay more than DH and I do.)

From what I can tell, the interview is with Megan Ranney, so I looked to see what else she’s been saying on media recently.  Here’s a Boston Globe article.

Ranney said she believes all of the actions being taken by the Biden Administration on gun violence are significant and important, all for different reasons. But the investment in community violence programs is key, she said.

Everything she says in the article seems to be sensible and to be following our best knowledge about preventing gun violence and gun deaths at this time.  She’s also got a Ted talk, and many other interviews online that aren’t pay to access.  I think she knows what she is talking about.  I assume she doesn’t say anything wild and crazy in the Emily Oster interview.

Grumpy Nation:  What do you all think?


  • Before I got my first paycheck for the year, DH’s raise was announced.  He’s making 3K more than I am now!
  • Neither our income percentile nor our marginal tax rate has changed with our two raises, even though it was a 10% raise for me (smaller % for DH).
  • It astonishes me how this is both a lot of money but also how very much more per year the people in the next income percentiles up make.
  • Housing calculators say that we can’t afford to buy a 2 million dollar house with 20% down on our joint income.  That’s limiting housing to 36% of pre-tax income.
  • Is it better to rent for $6K/mo or to buy for $10K/mo (mortgage + taxes)?  I guess there are calculators for that.
  • All of the above conjectures are WAY premature.  I should not even be thinking about them.  (But it is nice to dream.)
  • Said dreaming has spawned a bit of decluttering.  I actually decluttered some books, which I haven’t really done since the relative’s kids grew up and moved out.  I have decluttered children’s books as DC2 grows out of them, but this time we took grown-up books (including a lot of “how to be a professor” advice) to the local public library for their booksale.  Why not?
  • Next up is the good-will closet– we should actually take things to goodwill!
  • After that, DH’s office closet.  It has a combination of things we need to keep, things that will go to my sister if/when she ever decides to have kids (we have some high quality wooden kids stuff that I’d prefer go to family), and a bunch of stuff we don’t actually need (framed pictures and who knows what else).  We should at least move out the stuff we don’t really need.  Also tons and tons of hangers.
  • Last time MIL came to look after the kids, she bought more hangers for DC1’s closet.  I bet DH’s office closet was too packed for her to notice/get to the dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of hangers that are kept there.
  • DH is very picky about hangers so he only has pretty wooden hangers that match.
  • I’m not picky, but the last time we went on leave, I made my closet look pretty for potential renters by using only nice hangers and never really got more.
  • Our furniture has gotten extremely shabby since the pandemic started.  Mostly cat scratches and also a slight scent of cat pee on all of the couches since she did not like us being gone for our trips this summer.  If I do get another job, we will probably start over from scratch on the couches.
  • Schools are so eager to say they’ve got students from 50 states, that I suspect high school graduates from Wyoming can get into most colleges.  There were 5,914 total graduates in the state last year.  Assuming half are college-bound, that’s still under 3,000 graduates.  The undergraduate total enrollment at University of Wyoming is 9,342 and 55% of them are in-state, so around 5,100 in state students, conservatively assume 1/4 are freshmen => 1,300 attend UWyoming, meaning 1,700 do not.  There’s 5,300 colleges and universities in the US.  So… about 3 colleges for every remaining college-bound graduate if they want to check the Wyoming box in their presentations.
  • Sometimes I wonder how it is that I’m an adult and like, in charge of making so many actual decisions.  It’s a little crazy.  And yet, it’s been this way more than half my life at this point.
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We just remembered we needed to make Christmas travel plans

DH and the kids’ late summer trip made me think we’d already done all our holiday planning, but we actually hadn’t done any at all.

By the time I noticed that we hadn’t made any Christmas plans, the cost of plane tickets to visit DH’s family alone was going to be ~$2K, and there would still be plenty of driving on both ends of the trip and non-ideal travel dates.  So we decided to drive.  My car gets good mileage and it wasn’t so bad last year.  I’m looking forward to the next Dispatcher book.  And the next Andrea Vernon.  I think someone kidnapped the Big Axe at the end of last year’s car trip.

So we contacted DH’s mom and DH and his mom talked with his siblings to figure out what would work best with everyone’s plans and schedules.  They decided to see the cousins near where the cousins live rather than near where DH’s parents live.  So basically we would drive in to DH’s parents, then we would all drive to an AirBNB in his brother’s town.  DH’s sister would come for a day.   Last year DH’s brother hosted, but this year DH’s brother’s wife is getting surgery so we will probably get catering.

Then DH and his mom looked at AirBNB schedules.  They (mostly DH) decided on 2 nights in DH’s brother’s town ending on Christmas Eve (most places were already booked on Christmas, and the place we stayed last year is $500/night with a 3 night minimum now!)  DH’s mom is really worried about crime, so that let out a lot of the downtown Airbnb.  We found a place about a 20 min drive from DH’s brother’s place in a surrounding small town for ~$300/night, so $600 total.

So the plan is, drive to DH’s parents’.  Spend the night.  Drive to DH’s brother’s town, check into an AirBNB.  Spend the night.  Either host Christmas there or spend a day there and go to DH’s brother’s the next day after checking out.  Drive back to DH’s parents’.  Spend the night and either the next day or drive home that day.  But plans may change– the nice thing about driving instead of flying is the flexibility.  (The bad thing is that it takes a full day and then some to drive.  But DC1 needs highway practice!)

Gas was ~$100 round trip last time.  It will probably be a little more this time but not too much more.

I’m a little worried about catsitting– the person we used last year has moved to another state and the person we used last summer wasn’t available last Christmas.  It’s hard finding people around at Christmas, and our cat does not like being away from us for long periods of time (back when we had two cats, she seemed fine, but now she seems a little traumatized even when we do get a cat sitter).

The other expense will be our portion of the catering bill, though I’m not entirely sure what’s going to happen there.  (One of the cousins has peanut allergies so they have to be careful.)  But I feel like my part in planning here is done.

But, all in all, not so bad price-wise.

Have you made winter break travel plans?

Link love

This Washington Post article about the horribleness that Texas officials are doing to trans kids in Texas made me cry. Please support Texas democrats this election season and donate to pro-trans causes and places like the ACLU.

In which Xyk discovers that she is underpaid compared to others in her department.  I need to write a post on this– but academic ladies especially, if you are at a public state school, your salary and all the salaries in your department are either available online or from asking the librarians at your school (our librarians will send them to you as a .pdf if you call them).  Look up your salary and the salaries of other members of your department.  Are you underpaid?  If so, you can do something about that without necessarily going on the market (it depends on your department/school/university), especially if you’re at an R1 that is concerned about equity.  I’ll write up a post suggesting things you can do one of these Mondays (or you can write in as an ask the grumpies if you want it as a Friday post– we’re running low on those but not low on posts talking about money).

It’s only recently that economists have started thinking, hey maybe women and minorities are just as rational as white men but they’re playing different games.

Andrew Van Dam is my absolute favorite WaPo reporter.  Some of you were wondering about high paying jobs for people who don’t go to college, also there’s some bonus questions about people who end up doing something other than what their major trained them for.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy Reduces Crime and Violence over 10 Years .  And it reduces it more if you provide some money with it.

This site is fun to play with even though it does not have my high school on it.  (And I’ve never been on facebook… so I’m not in the data anyway.)

Are men becoming feminine?  Check out this thread for a history of opinion pieces.

Activisms:  I have been doing things, I just forget to post them.  This week had a lot of donating for books and other lgbt+ stuff in red states on donorschoose.  This weekend I intend to write a lot of letters to voters with Vote Forward.

Ask the grumpies: teaching tricks

CG asks:

The Chronicle forum used to have a section Jedi mind tricks for making your teaching easier. We could do something like that for teaching . I came up with a good one this semester because of online teaching.

My favorite is “let others do the work for you”– meaning if there’s something you don’t want to do, think about if there’s a way you can make it an appropriate assignment for the students.  For example, I find lecturing about the characteristics of government programs to be really boring (like, what’s their budget, what’s their purpose, etc.) and things have to be updated each year.  It makes a really great student assignment– they get to research a program and practice presentation skills and they usually add cute graphics and it’s just not as boring as me writing dry facts on the board in a monotone.

Otherwise I really love everything in Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov (Amazon link so we get a small kickback).

Here’s some posts on teaching tactics.

Here’s some posts on teaching just generally.

RBOCollege Applications

  • DC1 spent some time listening to Yale admissions podcasts about what not to do in personal essays and went to a Pomona webinar that directly contradicted everything the Yale people said.  What’s in right now (but not at Yale) are essays that start with hooks.  Like the Pomona example of an excellent essay started something like:  “Watermelon.  I wasn’t to know that day that the pink-red and green fruit was going to change my life forever.”
  • DC1, DC2, and I had a great time coming up with ridiculous sounding hooks.  ‘”How did I get into college at all without an essay hook,” my mother wondered.’  or ‘”Perhaps this is why I didn’t get into Williams!” my mother gasped while reading advice on essay hooks.’  DC2’s suggestions were more off the wall and had a fish theme.
  • Eventually we gave up trying to help DC1 brainstorm and hired someone from Outschool to help brainstorm.  It seemed to be less painful for DC1.
  • I am of two minds about this– on the one hand, I never thought I would be one of those people who paid someone to help with college admissions.  I am a big believer in finding a good match for a school and DC1 is in a range where a good essay will help some places but a mediocre essay won’t kill hir chances.  It’s possible there’s some amazing essay that would make hir a shoe-in, but being honest, all hir life experiences are privileged White upper-middle class (but not like, directed a movie as a teenager kind of privileged like one of Angelina Jolie’s kids) and are mildly interesting.  On the other hand, she just seems to be doing the whole brainstorming thing we were doing before but with more knowledge about when an idea isn’t great (only she says it positively, DC1 notes) and without the feeling of pulling teeth.  Zie got more done in a half hour session with her in terms of just putting ideas out there than zie did in half a day with DH and me tag teaming.  (Although it did help that DC1 had done some of the exercises with us before– they’re commonly suggested on the internet/in how to write college essay books.)
  • It’s not even the writing that DC1 is having problems with.  DC1 just has a really hard time choosing or having opinions.  (This is a common theme with DC1– hir only big opinion is that we should always have sushi for meals, and never have raw tomatoes, but also zie would rather have me pick which sushi.) For the questions that are very specific for the State School application that zie has already turned in, zie didn’t really have that much trouble.  But this whole “you can write anything for the common app” is just too much.  Especially since hir first idea would be identical to HMC’s new essay prompt.  (This is the, “I know what I want my career path to be” style essay.)
  • After one session, DC1 had a much better idea for the HMC prompt that zie had already made good progress on, but was still stymied on the common app essay.  So DC1 asked for more sessions.  Which we will pay $50/30 min for once a week until DC1 feels comfortable with hir essays.  I feel #richpeopleguilt about this, but also I’m hoping it will save everybody’s time and my frustration.
  • The even richer economists I know hired actual people not from outschool to give full service college navigation.  So… we’re not really there yet.  (DC1 didn’t even do SAT coaching because I assumed zie wouldn’t need it, which zie didn’t.  Though zie did take some practice PSAT/SATs from previous years and brushed up on forgotten math based on those.)
  • It’s crazy to me how much DC1 hates introspection because when I was that age, if the internet had been more developed, I would so have had an angsty live-journal page.  (Actually I probably wouldn’t have because I was already super leery of aol chat and IRC– my roommate (not #2) hung out on channels that seemed to be mostly gross people looking for under-aged girls to sext. So I was pretty leery even then.)
  • Though to be fair, my common app essay wasn’t particularly introspective– it was about how implicit discrimination by K-12 teachers hurt girls and Black kids and how insisting that the teacher use a quantitative measure for my 4th grade math-pullout sessions (we had Wednesdays off to volunteer or do internships at my boarding school) added really smart Black and Hispanic girls to my group, and it was heartbreaking how they’d been overlooked before. And I wanted to study education and put in systemic changes to help kids like these girls.  In retrospect, probably too white-savior (but I was only 17! I can cut myself some slack!), but I did get into a top SLAC, even if it wasn’t Williams.
  • My sister’s common app essay was amazing.  It was about how physics informed her dancing and vice versa.  She’s still mad at me for her not applying to Stanford even though I suggested she do so.  She said that I was too negative about her chances because I’d seen so many top people not get in and told her it was all random after a certain level.  (Again, I was like 22, what did I know?  But I still stand by the, “it’s random after a certain point.” But even if I was wrong, she shouldn’t still be holding a grudge about it.)  Still she got into lots of amazing schools (all of the ones she applied to, including an Ivy) and loved her college experience, so …

Finally got my promotion salary info

  • My raise was 13%.  I think that’s the 10% regular bump and a 3% merit increase (I got a lot of pubs and killed myself on service last year).
  • That means that for a brief time, I will be making slightly more than DH (he was making slightly more than I was before this raise).
  • DH’s company is supposed to be doing raises soon.  I hope he out-earns me again, because that means we both will be bringing in more money.
  • I never thought I’d be the type to just have completely shared finances, but it works with DH.  He says he likes it because he doesn’t have to think about money stuff and can just let me take care of it.  I also find it easier to manage.  This is all possible because DH gives himself an allowance and we’re making enough that we don’t have to sweat the small money stuff anymore.  Also it means that his larger salary is also my larger income.  :D  He likes it when I get raises too, though it doesn’t actually affect him much these days (see allowance and not sweating the small stuff already).  But it makes me happy.  #bagladysyndrome
  • I am now making more than 2x what my starting salary was.
  • If DH were making what I’m making, he would be making more than 3x his starting salary #trailingspouse
  • My house is also worth a little more than 2x what it was when we bought it, according to our property taxes that are updated every year.
  • According to an inflation calculator, total inflation has been 47% during that time.  So I guess we’re beating inflation, which is good.
  • We’re supposed to have annual merit increases, but that’s kind of broken because we’ve had so many years with no pay raise.  Sensible departments do raises on a 3-5 year scale, but ours only has a one year look-back period, so it’s easy to get bad luck with publication timing.
  • The crazy thing is, I’m still underpaid for an economist with my record.  I guess that’s what happens when you don’t get outside offers.
  • The good thing about having a lower than expected salary is that I am more movable in the eyes of other departments.  The bad thing is that it might lead to lower salaries even if I’m movable because they figure they don’t have to bump me up as much to get me.
  • When I was talking with people this summer about, “My salary is X, will my salary be a problem/would I have to take a paycut if I moved” nobody blinked an eye.  One person was like, yeah, we pay our untenured research faculty (which you could be) more than that, even prorated to 9 months.
  • This was the last big bump I was eligible for.  I’m hoping so hard that my salary won’t matter that much because I will be going someplace else next year.
  • My bursary seems to have completely disappeared.  I got denied a $50 reimbursement (Desk rejection means half price submission fees) because of insufficient funds.  Nobody seems to be able to tell me what is going on– they won’t even respond to my emails to acknowledge that they have gotten the question.  I have another fund to draw from, but it is going to run out in a year and I kind of have all that money ear-marked for research purposes.  (It also hasn’t refilled for this year, but I have some of last year’s money left because I did so little travel.)
  • More digging and more emails– they have confirmed that I have zero bursary this year.  Which is bad because I have made travel and RA and research commitments that involve having a bursary.  Seems like they could have told me something about it before I started getting payments denied.
  • More emails.  Apparently my bursary was tied to being an associate professor and when I became a full professor I lost it.  And like, nobody noticed I had no bursary.  Well, technically the people denying my reimbursement requests noticed, but they didn’t flag it as being unusual even though *everyone* has some kind of bursary.  (This loss was not the case for anybody else in this history of our department or our closest sister department– every single other person who has gone up for full has had an endowed chair.  I’m the only one without.  This is not because my research record is worse or because I have less service, because neither of those are true.)  They are in the process of restoring my bursary with unmarked funds, but it may take a while.  At some point it’s going to be too late for me to not request travel permissions, so hopefully it will be figured out before then.  In the mean time I guess I float reimbursements.
  • I applied for a job in the midwest that’s close to DH’s family.  Even though there’s a supercreep on the faculty.  (He preys on female freshmen and was fired from another institution for doing so.  He will tell you this proudly if you ever meet him.  He likes to say that they’re legal and he won his wrongful termination lawsuit.)

Link Love

Most links this week are coming from me reading my “to read” emails folder that I’ve just been stuffing things in since the pandemic started.  I’m down to 335 as of this typing.

Money and class from A Gai Shan Life

Covid 19 has persistently decreased labor supply.  (This one isn’t as flashy as the Brookings report, but it’s also got cleaner methods.)

I’d posited many years ago that one of the reasons DH’s extended family doesn’t save money is because when they do someone else in the extended family has an emergency and basically it’s gone.  Here’s an experiment in Cote d’Ivoire that shows there’s maybe some merit to that hypothesis.

Machine learning can predict shooting victimization well enough to help prevent it.

This is super depressing.  Basically once WIC runs out, food-insecure moms starve themselves to make sure their kids get food.

Someone asked if/which graduate degrees are “worth it”– here’s the earnings side to that question.  (See graph below– if you click it it should link to the paper.)  Note this is limited to full time earnings.  You should be focusing on the FE versions (the OLS don’t take into account that the kind of guy who gets a humanities advance degree was not going to earn a lot anyway– basically it’s comparing to all other guys, not just guys who would consider post-college humanities education).  The Y variable is ln(earnings) which means you can think of it as .4 as an increase of 40% (B*100%).  If you get the PDV (present discounted cost) of the loans and/or opportunity cost of the money and time, that would tell you if the degree is actually worth it or not.  So basically if graduate school was free and they paid you a stipend comparable to what you would have gotten if you weren’t in graduate school (or your current employer offers a tuition benefit), this would be the total benefit (in terms of % increase of your earnings).  Look at male nurses(!)  They should definitely go for the graduate degree.

Graph of how much value added a graduate degree has by gender for several graduate degrees. Fine arts and humanities degrees may decrease earnings. MDs increase earnings the most (then law, then MBA). Effects are bigger for men than for women especially for nurses.

Ask the grumpies: How to prioritize activism activities

First Gen American asks:

How do you prioritize your activism activities? Is it like whack a mole or do you have a more structured approach?

For me it is very much whack-a-mole.  Back before my sister burned out and my other activist friends moved out of state, there was a lot of prioritization towards connecting groups and getting organization and planning out across groups.  That was really needed.  Leadership was needed.  But… my sister has burned out.  All the local groups in our town are gone, their leaders having moved to blue states or socialist countries.  Students have graduated. So now I’m not really focused on anything local or even state-side.

Mostly I’m donating and writing post-cards.  Soon I should move to letters for this year’s Big Send.

Right now, we should probably be prioritizing getting people registered to vote and to check their registration and to request mail ballots if that’s something in their state.

How do you prioritize activism activities?  How should they be prioritized?


  • Got bivalent boosted and flu shot.  Perhaps should have waited since I probably got BA5 back at the beginning of July but it has been 2 months.
  • As soon as I got home from getting the shots, I got an email from a colleague I’d been sitting next to in a meeting a couple days before saying he was Covid positive.  (I was the only person possibly in the entire building wearing a mask.  I have no regrets.)
  • Did I mention that neither the university nor K-12 are collecting, much less reporting, covid data?  All we have now are county level pcr numbers (weekend cases not reported) and (as of this writing) they are high: 150/100K.  Hopefully it’s just the college kids passing it around and not a new variant.
  • My covid shot arm was sore the next day, but other than that no reaction.  DH had sore arms the day of (he’s all muscle these days, which he says hurts more when it gets poked).  DC1 took a mini-nap the next day which is really unusual for hir, but no sore arms.
  • Someone else in my building came to work in a mask (who usually never does, because nobody ever does).  I wondered why until I overheard her telling someone, “I got a negative yesterday, but I’m feeling worse today.”  But it’s good that she’s masking!  If everyone masked when they felt sick, a lot fewer people would get sick.
  • I wear literally no makeup.  I do basic hygiene and that’s it.  If I’m planning on being outside I will put on sunblock.
  • this is not because I’m naturally beautiful.  I’m fairly sure I have rosacea. Also my face is very round.  If I were bald I’d be a sphere.
  • why not?  1. I’m allergic to everything.  2. I just can’t care. 3. It seems like work. 4. It seems time consuming. 5. It seems like an additional expense. 6. Wouldn’t know how, can’t take the time to learn. 7. Badly applied makeup looks worse than none and I would apply it badly.  8. I resent the patriarchy.  They can get me to shave, which I hate, but they can’t get me to do this.
  • I do, however, remove beard and moustache hairs from my face.  I guess that’s more vanity than hygiene.
  • DC1 is a national merit semi-finalist.  The cutoff for our state was low enough this year that zie had some room– in fact, DC1 would have had room in CA or MA this year.
  • Dumbing of Age (the comic strip by David Willis) has been doing an interesting storyline where there’s a girl (Joyce) going through identity crises (long story, but she used to be a fundamentalist Christian and now isn’t) and there’s another girl, Dorothy, who has a “fixer” personality who is trying to help her, but she’s doing too much and it’s affecting her as well.  This storyline is just SO REAL.  Except that usually people with Dorothy’s fixer personality (*waves to self and to revanche*) do not come from as stable homelives as the one she has and aren’t as mature as she is at age 19 (not saying Revanche wasn’t as mature as Dorothy at 19, but I sure wasn’t).  There are some people in the comments who have always hated Dorothy because in the past she’s seemed too perfect and good and they would say the exact same things people would say about Hillary Clinton, which was irritating.  But now they’re angry when she doesn’t do everything Joyce needs/wants but they’re also angry when she does.  They basically seem to be saying that Dorothy should do everything Joyce asks her to and nothing more, even though Joyce is asking for some pretty ridiculous stuff that she really should be doing herself.  But… it’s hard to see a friend in pain who isn’t taking steps to make it better and not know what to do about it.
  • Our internet went out because someone across the street switched to our internet provider and their box squished one of our lines.  Now our yard has more dug up spots in it since they fixed it by rerouting us with new cables.
  • DC1’s chemistry teacher made a joke whose punchline involved “hoes” and was disturbed by it, as were other students.  Other students said there would be a similar joke coming up in AP stats later this year.  So I emailed the stats teacher (not giving info on who my kid was– it’s a big class and we have different last names) and suggested a different mnemonic that isn’t slut-shaming for hypothesis testing.  (If p is low, reject H-Oh!)  She was nice about it.  I hope she remembers… but hypothesis testing is likely many months from now.
  • I think I may be starting to get arm muscles.  Which I haven’t really had since I used to carry a French horn home from school.