link love

Scalzi speaks for a lot of us in this post.

Why is the covid death rate down?  A run-through of the explanations (spoiler:  it will probably go up in a week or two).

Did you know that Trump is suing his accountants and bankers?  And it’s a personal lawsuit but he’s forcing the DOJ to represent him?

Stacking Pennies’ June wrap up


Want to pretend to be a PhD economist?  This summer you can!  Check out the NBER videos on youtube— Summer Institute started this past week and will be going for the next two weeks.  There is a LOT of Covid stuff planned.

The Julie Andrews Archive


A Google Questions post (before we solicit more Ask the Grumpies next week– get your questions ready!)

Q: do u want to do phd in accounting

A:  No, not really.

Q:  is phd in education worth it than phd in accounting

A:  A PhD in accounting is worth more and harder to get.  A PhD in education is useful if you need to climb the education administration ladder (ex. being a superintendent).

Q:  y r we forced tp do things

A:  Because you don’t do them on your own!  Now pick up that wet towel off the floor!

Q:  what are the works can professor do in vacation

A:  Research, class prep… even service.

Q:  why is last mortgage payment of year higher

A:  That’s bizarre… could your escrow (insurance + tax) have gone up?

Q:  can 529 be used for graduate school nut child no longer dependant

A:  Yes.

Q:  im 18 how long will it take me to get a phd in business accounting

A:  Before or after you finish college with high grades?  Generally 4 years of college + any years of experience you want to do + 5 to 7 years of graduate school, give or take.  Good luck!

Q:  i need a nightjob to pay off debt help

A:  Sorry, that’s rough.  Craigslist?

Q:  does long unemployment hurt your job chances

A:  Yes, sorry again.  Keep trying.  I got nuthin’ here.

Q:  is it normal for a gifted child to sleep early

A:  If they’re sleepy or growing or getting a mental and/or physical workout.  It’s certainly not abnormal, even if gifted kids tend on average to need less sleep, that’s not always the case.

How to write a referee report

Seriously cribbed from A Guide for the Young Economist.  This is how the majority (though not all) of economists do it, and when I’ve reviewed for other fields I’ve been complimented on the organization, so I don’t think you can go wrong using this format even if you’re not an economist.

The letter to the authors

Start with a paragraph called “Summary”.  There’s some disagreement if these are still needed or just waste time, but I think if you do the summary paragraph right, it can be useful to both the editor and the authors.  The summary should NOT just be a restatement of the abstract.  It should be a summary of what the actual paper is about, and not what the authors think it’s about.  So, for example, if it’s an experiment, you would have a sentence saying what you think the authors are trying to do (Ex. The authors explore the effect of salt water vs. fresh water on underwater basket weaving.)  Then you say briefly what they actually did.  (The authors did a randomized controlled experiment using a student population in which…)  You might end with a statement about how they extrapolate their claims to a broader issue.  Often the abstract doesn’t actually fit what the paper is about– it makes much larger claims about what happened.  The summary should be neutral and describe what the authors actually did.  This is helpful to the editor to know what the paper is actually about before they read through it, and helpful to the authors in case what your understanding of the paper is about is different than what they intended.  They can fix their writing to make the paper more clear.  I find it helpful to focus on the method section and tables only for this part.

Then create three sections:




Major should include things that you think must be fixed before the paper is published.  If the paper is a reject, then this is where reasons for rejection would go.  If the paper is an R&R, these are the items that must be addressed for sure.

Minor:  This is where smaller questions go.  You might have things that need clarification, things that are incorrect, additional robustness checks that are not make-or-break but should be addressed, and so on.  It is helpful to include page numbers with these.

Minutia:  This is where all the typos, page proofing, etc. stuff should go.  You’re recognizing that they’re small mistakes that the authors will want to fix, but that they’re not big deals.  These definitely need page numbers.  (If one of your recommendations is “spellcheck” because there are multiple spelling problems, I would put that under minor, as opposed to saying “should it be here instead of hear on the first sentence of page 28?” which would be a minutia, but YMMV.)

Always be polite in your referee report, even if the paper is ridiculous.  Do not make a reject/R&R recommendation within the paper.  (Also:  as an editor I can say for certain that positive letters don’t always lead to R&R recommendations and negative letters don’t always mean the person recommended reject.  It’s insane how some people can say different things depending on the audience.)

Advice is generally that you do not have to spend as much time on reject papers as you do on R&R– some people will say just stating the major points is enough if you plan to reject.  As a reviewer I generally try to give advice for making the paper better should it go to another journal or should the editor disagree with my assessment, but sometimes a paper is just not publishable so it doesn’t matter if they never fix the typo in footnote 17 even if I found it.  I’ve found editing at a lower tier journal that reviewers tend to over recommend revise and resubmit (they’ll be like, “the paper says that correlation is causation, but if they could only get at causation, this would be a great paper, R&R”), and the explanations people give me are much more important than their actual recommendations.  My colleague who edits at a top journal says reviewers over reject (“this is the best paper I’ve ever read, Reject”), so the explanations are important.  When I was editing a top field journal, reviewers tended to get it “right” on average.

The letter to the editor

You will also generally have a letter to the editor.  I find the best editors letters provide a concise summary of the letter to the authors and possibly elaborate on the context of your comments– Basically reiterate the major points that led to your decision of reject, or explain what must be fixed before publishing.  If you don’t have much to say because it’s an obvious accept, use this space to fight for the paper.  You don’t have to be anonymous in the letter to the editor, so you can say more things that put it into context or explain what you’re not sure about because it’s not your area of expertise or what you are sure about because you are an expert.  If you’re not sure if it should be R&R or Reject, here is a good place to say so and explain why– what are the pros and cons?  These pros and cons should also be in your letter to the authors, but you can provide more context in your letter to the editor.  You can also put disclaimers in the letter to the editor like, “I didn’t realize when I accepted this paper that it was written by a former coauthor” or “I reviewed this paper for a top journal earlier and recommended it be sent to this journal instead.” Some dudes who read this blog think that there should never be anything said to the editor that isn’t in the letter to the authors, but I strongly disagree.  I appreciate the reiteration of the major points of the review (especially since some people don’t use must be fixed as their delineation between major and minor sections, but instead use difficulty of fixing etc.) and any context that I should know about (and I really don’t need to know about that typo on footnote 17 unless the paper is a revise and resubmit, but not everybody keeps those things to the minutia section).

Special topic:  Top journals

For top journals (for which I have not yet been an editor but have done a lot of reviewing), you may want to keep in mind the following points:

  1. Is it clean/well-done?  (This is the bare minimum)
  2. Is it Novel? (Doesn’t always have to be, but it helps a lot… though you can’t be too novel or it gets rejected because it’s “not economics” even if it actually is.  grrrr.)
  3. Does it make a major theoretical and/or empirical contribution to the field?  (Sometimes papers don’t need to add to empirics, but they do need to have a theory base even if not literally a theoretical model.)
  4. Is it Important/ of general interest? (This is highly subjective and where many of my papers strike out because it turns out they’re ahead of their time.  grrr.)

Update:  Here’s xykademiqz on the same topic for her science field.

Do you do a lot of referee reports?  How does your field handle them?

DH is getting furloughed again

DH’s company will be between grants/projects again.  So this time instead of laying everybody off, they’ve decided to furlough 20% and actually give time off, not just a paycut.  Everyone seems pretty happy about this solution.   It’s going to be Fridays starting this month.

DH promises he won’t use his extra day of weekend to do yardwork, which seems to be where his free time has gone in the past.  Given our lack of childcare, we’re not too unhappy about this state of affairs.  And, given the number of reimbursements we’ve received over the past few months for travel and summer camps and so on, I think it’s possible we won’t have to dip into savings at least until I start getting paid again in October.

They’re not sure how long things are going to last– the problem is that their next project money involves a lot of travel… and Covid has messed all of that up.  Even states allowing travel have had restrictions about who is allowed to visit the places DH would need to visit.

Hopefully the company will stay in business.  Otherwise, I don’t know, maybe it will be time for him to take an early retirement.  Or moving to Paradise.  Who knows.

Have you and yours been affected by the pandemic/recession?

Link Love

I’m sorry I haven’t been on the ball, guys.  Work has been crazy busy.  I’m doing a lot of service in conjunction with our student diversity association AND I have another associate editor position and… I’m probably going to need a root canal but while I wait for that appointment I cannot chew on the side of my mouth with the temporary crown… AND there’s been a lot of research stuff going on  (I currently have nothing under review for a good reason instead of a bad one!)  (But also… I currently have nothing under review… )

People say this is an important article with lots of people risking their careers for it… but also people are burned out.

An expanded list of one-stop bail fund donating.

Holy excrement this thread on the potential amendments to the constitution prior to the civil war.  A must read.

I was today years old when I learned that you’re always supposed to have a comma after “e.g.”

Someone did a fancy gussied up version of the only card trick I know!

Ask the grumpies: McConnell and Russian campaign funds

Rose asks:

What is true about the rumors I have seen that Mitch the Senator has been given billions/millions in campaign funds filtered from Russian plutocrats?

Here’s what politifact says about this story.  To quote the bottom line:

A post says McConnell’s “biggest donor” is a Russian oligarch who was released from U.S. sanctions.

Blavatnik is involved in Deripaska’s businesses, on which sanctions were lifted recently, but it is inaccurate to call him the Russian oligarch “that the GOP just lifted sanctions on.”

Blavatnik also donated money to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund, but he wasn’t the highest donor, records show. He also contributed to other Republican leaders and GOP-affiliated PACs.

So yes, it looks like he has been given quite a bit of money from Russian plutocrats.  Some portion of the $7.35 million given to the GOP in 2017 by a Russian oligarch, according to this Dallas News story.

Karen, co-opted

One of my friends brought to my attention a conversation around the term, “Karen,” in econ twitter.

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, Karen is the slang term for a privileged entitled white woman who uses her privilege and authority to harm a minority person.  Karens are often seen in videos calling the police on an innocent black person or family, and have the catch phrase, “let me talk to the manager.”

But one important aspect of Karening in its original slang definition is that they are using their privilege for evil.  They’re punching down.  They’re using unjustified anger at minorities simply being in their space to harass and hurt people.

Unfortunately, the term Karen has been co-opted by white men and the occasional metaphorical Karen to mean any strong white woman who is not afraid to speak her mind or, mind-bogglingly, any white woman who follows rules.  So a friend was called a Karen for very briefly blocking traffic in an alley to close a gate that needed to be closed.  White women politely asking other white people to put on their masks have been called Karens.  White women protesting racist and misogynistic men on twitter have been termed Karens by those same white men.

The term is no longer just shorthand for “privileged entitled jerk who uses authority to punch down” when white men and women use it.  It has become a tool of oppression used by more privileged people to keep women down.  Not because of people correctly using it in its originally intended purpose, but by others perverting the meaning to reinforce patriarchal structures of oppression.  Instead of being a term used by the rebellion to free, it’s being used by the evil empire to oppress.

So after some discussion in which my friend said she did not like the term Karen and I noted that I liked its original use (though we both feel sorry for non-Karens named Karen), we came to an agreement.

First, we decided that white men are not allowed to use the term Karen.  When white men use it, no matter how they use it, it is punching down.  Next we discussed white women’s use and decided that it’s either punching down or sideways and there’s not much lost by white women no longer using the term.  They can say entitled privileged jerk, or what have you.  So we agreed that if white people stop using the term “Karen” then its powerful short-hand use can be preserved by the people who truly understand the definition and who need it most.  (I reserve the right to use the term “Karen” when the woman in question is actually named Karen because puns.)

Language evolves, and if enough people use a sexist version of the term Karen, the term itself will do harm.  (And c’mon, white men are even worse– can’t we stop protecting them from their terrible actions too?)

Who do you think should use the word Karen?  What should white people say instead?

We bought exercise things!

Sadly, summer has begun in earnest and it’s regularly hitting triple digits outside.  That limits our exercise options.  DH has also been getting wrist problems along with my back problems doing online yoga, so he’s cut down substantially on that.  DC2 has been used to getting a ton of exercise at school and camp and it looks like camp won’t be happening so zie needs something to get the zoomies out now that we can’t just kick the kids out of the house at any hour.  If we sign a waiver we can use the HOA pool… but … masks don’t work in pools…

I did not think we would ever get an exercise bike, because we have real bikes and exercise bikes take space.  But DH’s SIL put one on her amazon wishlist that she’d done a lot of research on, and it seemed reasonable, so we bought one for ourselves too (amazon affiliate link).  It was around ~325 all told and is light and smallish (not small, but smaller than my parents’ old exercise bike).  We like it fine.  DC2 especially likes it.  I’ve been breaking up my walking around while I watch youtube videos with exercise biking while watching youtube videos.

Speaking of walking around, I was doing it so much that our carpet stopped being as protective as it had been and my feet started hurting so I got some house slippers with arch support from zappos (amazon affiliate link).  They’re kind of hot for summer walking, but they do help when my feet start to hurt.

DH also got a boxing game for Nintendo Switch, though he’s a bit squicked out by the sexualization of the female characters in it (you can buy them skimpy clothing as rewards, for example).  He says it’s a work out.

AND, Ring Fit, which is the whole reason DH bought a Switch to begin with before the Pandemic, finally became available locally (~$80, as opposed to the $250 resellers were selling it for).  DH put on a mask and high-tailed it to the Target the next town over (our Target was already sold out!) where they took one out of the back for him since they hadn’t had time to stock the shelves from that morning’s shipment yet.  Ring Fit comes with a ring that you push and pull on to provide arm exercises, and a thing for your leg to attach the other controller.  You run and push and pull etc. to move your avatar forward in a video game and collect coins and fight enemies.  It is definitely fun and it’s a workout for all of us (set at different levels– mine is set one lower than the kids who are set one lower than DH :/ ), though it is very good at reminding me how terrible my coordination is compared to normal people (just like DDR used to back in the day).

One of my friends bought a stroller for her cat(!)

Have you discovered any new exercise things since summer started?

Link Love

Late because I went to a BLM protest last night (registered 4 voters– not as much as the 25 at the last protest, but this one was a smaller one on campus). I now have a sore throat most likely from chanting and slept in late, likely because I got too much heat again (90 degrees with a zillion percent humidity and a lot of marching and chanting). I spent this morning reading up on early covid symptoms and decided not to worry until 48 hours have passed. I have informed DH he needs to have a go-bag ready to go in case I need to take over the master bathroom suite for quarantine. (I am worried about the a/c recirculating and have been trying out various masks for comfort levels). I hope I’m just being overly paranoid. Everyone at the protest was wearing masks.  It was entirely outside and would occasionally sprinkle.  At the end of the march there were counter-protestors (out of shape more than I am!) but by that point I wanted to pass out and sat on a bench far away from their unmasked selves. I hope they don’t get those kids sick.

cw: kidnapping, pedophilia, bribes, arson etc.  Milwaukee police.  I hope some national journalists look into this, because if true, then that department needs to be completely burned to the ground and started over entirely from scratch (much smaller) with outside people.  (In normal times, I would be like, the DOJ needs to tear them apart, but…)

Andrew Jackson was THE WORST.  The absolute WORST.

Listen to this planet money podcast or read the transcript about how violence in 1921 affected innovation.

This mcsweeny’s article seems depressingly true.  My uni is taking some steps, but not enough.  The students who talked yesterday at the protest were so amazing and so compelling and it is really hard to cry with a mask on when you’re sweating and not supposed to touch your eyes.  We need to do right by them.

Look at the tweet below:  NC is making face mask wearing ILLEGAL.  WHAT WORLD ARE THEY LIVING IN.  VOTE THEM OUT.  Force them to let people vote.  Is there any GOP that cares LESS about business interests than “bathroom bill” North Carolina’s?  I think not.

Natural scientist has suggestions for how to help

This detailed propublica article is a great summary of what we need to get the coronavirus vaccine.

One woman’s family’s experiences with the coronavirus, and a reminder that not every case is average and that tests aren’t always accurate.

OMDG describes various reactions to the upcoming ban on au pairs… some of them are less than empathetic.

A discussion of the lack of evidence-based reading training among many elementary school teachers.

Ask the grumpies: Should economists not teach anything about race?

SLAC prof asks:

In a tweet, Trevon Logan says

The whole thread has more information.  It makes me want to give up.  He says economists do race all wrong.  What do you think?  And what does one need to do/know to be qualified to teach about race?

Ok, so first off:  I am not black.  Also I know and hugely respect Trevon Logan and his work (and I’m fairly sure we referee each other’s papers and I’ve always been impressed with his!)

But I disagree with him.  I think this is ok for two main reasons:

First, I have had a relatively large number of black (mostly female) students, many of whom have taken some of these cross-campus classes he discusses, and they have always asked me for more on race, not less.  You just cannot teach health economics without discussing disparities (and many of the big papers in this area are from epidemiologists and demographers, not economists).  You cannot teach labor economics without having a huge section on discrimination, and while many of the white male economists working in this area have blinders on, it is fairly easy (if you have been listening to people, or if you’re female/minority) to point that out and modify their theories into something more realistic and less bigoted.  Like, of course taste-based discrimination exists, we don’t have competitive markets, duh.  (And current US events during my last semester’s class made it very clear that discrimination can lead to monopoly power, not just be a consequence of it.)  Theories of statistical discrimination should include incorrect stereotypes because we don’t have perfect information, honest to FSM.  Your (not privileged white male) students can generally point out these flaws themselves just using their own experiences and common sense.  You cannot teach public finance without talking about the political economy of race and how these programs affect different groups.  Heck, Political Economy is less than half a class without discussing race.  Similarly, Law and Economics (even if you’re planning on limiting to patents and contract law, race is still a factor!).  Sports economics!  You just cannot do justice to any subject that affects money or people without discussing how race impacts it.  So I include these topics and every year my students have more ideas for things to add.  (Like yes, in health economics we do need to talk about how white doctors have used black women’s bodies and DNA without their permission, you are absolutely right.  That would be a great addition to the Tuskeegee paper we already discuss.)

Second, I have listened to the troubles of our young black female faculty across campus (I was on a university-level thing to improve things, which we sort of did but also mostly didn’t … in any case, we did a lot of listening in addition to convincing the university to allow salary equity bumps and a few other things) who primarily teach these classes that Dr. Logan is suggesting we send our econ majors to.  It is really unfair to them to inundate them with mostly white male econ majors who have been taught that it’s just fine to play devil’s advocate and haven’t really examined their implicit biases at all.  I have enough trouble breaking them in in my intro stats classes.  Can you imagine how disruptive they would be in a discussion based class with women and minorities from what they consider to be lesser majors?  That is going to have huge negative spillovers.

I have other reasons to disagree which may be less ok, and I would modify his advice some.  (Note that since I wrote this post– several other people in the comments of the twitter thread have made these or similar suggestions.)

First off, I agree with him 100% that most of the white dudes in econ who gatekeep and work on racial discrimination start from racist assumptions and for many of them, their main goal is to show how it is Black people’s fault (or women’s fault etc.) for not being more like White men.  It’s only recently that economics has started thinking that no, maybe Black people and women are rational, they’re just playing a different game.  This problem can easily be solved by just saying, “Don’t teach any papers on race by white men (or by Roland Fryer who may be black but has serious issues).”  You can even modify this advice to “Teach only papers on race by black scholars (except not Roland Fryer).”  There’s plenty of great work by black scholars and some by other minorities and women that don’t start with racist assumptions or trying to bend evidence to “prove” racist ideas.  There are even textbooks and summary articles that would be great for lower-level undergraduate classes (William Darity Jr. is a good author/editor to start with).

And there are a LOT of white economists who could themselves benefit from reading this work.  Maybe they should start with So you want to talk about race and/or White Fragility and following Black scholars on twitter.  Then they can move on to articles in academic journals.

In terms of whether or not economists think about discrimination incorrectly… some of them do, but I think we benefit from looking at how different social sciences deal with race and discrimination.  NONE of them give a complete picture.  The assumptions and questions asked are different.  We gain tremendously from thinking about these different viewpoints and different ways of modeling.  (I took Race and the Economy from an amazing Black woman and she incorporated overviews from other fields in the class.  It can be done.)  I could go into huge detail about this, but that would get too long… suffice to say that these different viewpoints complement each other; they are not substitutes.  An economist can learn a lot from how anthropology, sociology, psychology and other fields conceptualize discrimination and other questions involving race.  (Insert rant about irritating white male gate-keepers in labor economics here who think innovation and interdisciplinarity is incorrect.)

Maybe the better advice would be for economist professors themselves to take a few classes across campus, or at the very least, read a textbook from another field, before adding race to their classes.  They should also read up on how to make their classroom more inclusive so that students don’t feel scared to speak up when the professor screws up.

As for me, I have been including race in my classes since I started and I cannot imagine stopping now.  The more I teach, the more I listen to my students, and the more I learn from them, which helps students the next time I teach.  It is a learning process for everybody.  Did I have some cringeworthy moments when I first started, probably, but minority students have been gentle with me and each year I’ve learned more and gotten better and future students benefit from that.

Update:  The more I talk with my colleagues interested in adding a race unit in their classes, the more I’m convinced that my suggestion about only using papers written by minorities is the correct one.  I had no idea that people didn’t know Becker was a huge racist misogynist jerk(!)  I mean, I thought everybody knew that.  People knew it back when he was still young, like decades ago.  So no, DO NOT read Becker in the raw original.  Many of his theory structures are lovely, but read them with the sexist and racist assumptions removed by someone else; there are great minority scholars who have explained the baseline theories and added to them, so go with them.  (William Spriggs talks about some of the problems still inherent today.)

I swear, my colleagues are all going to give up and just end up covering Bertrand and Mullainathan, though I did convince one to try Quillian et al. (in PNAS) instead.  Look, it’s not that B&M isn’t a great paper, it is, but the really horrible overlying thing is that it got into the AER because everybody, including labor economists who should have known better, thought this was the first time a correspondence audit had been done, completely ignoring ALL of the correspondence audits done by Black scholars or non-Americans– I learned about them in my undergrad economics class on Race in the economy.  What I mean is, I’m fairly sure that racism is the reason those earlier audits by black people aren’t known at all.  Quillian and coauthors do a good job of collecting them and plotting their results over time.  (It should have been published in Science, but the racist editor overruled like 7 referees who all said it was must publish.)  Quillian is also white, but he’s a sociologist, so maybe he gets a pass?  Plus he’s very nice.  I’m not sure if there are any minorities in the “et al” portion.  (Plus the econometrics textbook we use has B&M as one of their datasets and students replicate all the ttests and regressions, so it’s not adding that much for our majors.)  Any time I explain this to a White labor economist they get really mad at me because B&M is somehow the first hardcore proof they’ve ever seen about racism against black people other than those small scale in-person audits from like the 70s that somehow Jim Heckman “disproved”  in the 1990s (spoiler:  he didn’t really).

Update 2:  Last night we talked to a number of students and alumni (mostly underrepresented minorities) and they said to be careful to make sure that the lesson is integrated into the curriculum, and to not just have it as a separate unit unconnected with the rest of the class.