March 30, 2013

Race Trumps Class: Happy Cesar Chavez's Birthday

Union boss Cesar Chavez was one of the leading class warriors of my youth, but today he is remembered only as the patron saint of La Raza. As I wrote in The American Conservative in 2006:
In California, only three birthdays are official state holidays: Jesus Christ’s, Martin Luther King’s, and Cesar Chavez’s (March 31st). ...
Chavez was a more interesting figure than either the plaster idol worshipped in the public schools or the celebrity control-freak he turned into as he aged. 
Chavez embodied both the old class politics and the new identity politics. Out of this duality grew the fundamental conflict of his life. What was more important, la causa or la raza? The UFW union or the Mexican race? This irresolvable contradiction culminated in the terrible ironies of his tragic later years and the uselessness of the UFW ever since. 
During his prime, Chavez, a third-generation American citizen from Yuma, Arizona and Navy veteran, was an American labor leader fighting against the importation of strikebreakers from Mexico. But as power and praise went to his head, his image morphed into that of a Mexican mestizo racial emblem, the patron saint of the reconquista of Alta California by la raza. 
In 2006, we automatically assume that America’s self-appointed Latino leaders—the politicians, campaign consultants, media mouthpieces, and identity-politics warriors—favor ever more immigration. Their influence and income flow from their claim to represent vast numbers of Hispanics, so the more warm bodies they can get across the border, the larger will be the ethnic quotas upon which their careers are based. But the union leader who is honestly battling for the welfare of his members—as opposed to the boss merely attempting to maximize the number of dues-paying workers—wants less competition for them. 
Chavez’s essential problem was straight out of Econ 101, the law of supply and demand. He needed to limit the supply of labor in order to drive up wages. Just as American Federation of Labor founder Samuel Gompers, himself a Jewish immigrant, was one of the most influential voices calling for the successful immigration-restriction law of 1924, Chavez, during his effectual years, was a ferocious opponent of illegal immigration. 
His success stemmed from the long-term decline in the farm labor supply. According to agricultural economist Philip L. Martin of the University of California, Davis, migrant farm workers in the U.S. numbered 2 million in the 1920s. Eisenhower cracked down on Mexican illegal immigrants, shipping one million home in 1954 alone. The famous 1960 “Harvest of Shame” documentary by CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow inspired liberal Democrats in Congress to abolish the bracero guest-worker program in 1964. 
The supply of migrant workers dropped to about 200,000, most of them American citizens, making unionization and better contracts feasible—as long as what Marx called “the reserve army of the unemployed” could be bottled up south of the border. The next year, Chavez began his storied organizing campaign. 
Growers fought back by busing the reserve army up from Mexico. In 1979, Chavez bitterly testified to Congress: 
… when the farm workers strike and their strike is successful, the employers go to Mexico and have unlimited, unrestricted use of illegal alien strikebreakers to break the strike. And, for over 30 years, the Immigration and Naturalization Service has looked the other way and assisted in the strikebreaking. I do not remember one single instance in 30 years where the Immigration service has removed strikebreakers. … The employers use professional smugglers to recruit and transport human contraband across the Mexican border for the specific act of strikebreaking… 
In 1969, Chavez led a march to the Mexican border to protest illegal immigration. Joining him were Sen. Walter Mondale and Martin Luther King’s successor as head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Ralph Abernathy. 
The UFW picketed INS offices to demand closure of the border. Chavez also finked on illegal alien scabs to la migra. Columnist Ruben Navarrette Jr. reported in the Arizona Republic, “Cesar Chavez, a labor leader intent on protecting union membership, was as effective a surrogate for the INS as ever existed. Indeed, Chavez and the United Farm Workers Union he headed routinely reported, to the INS, for deportation, suspected illegal immigrants who served as strikebreakers or refused to unionize.” 
Like today’s Minutemen, UFW staffers under the command of Chavez’s brother Manuel patrolled the Arizona-Mexico border to keep out illegal aliens. Unlike the well-behaved Minutemen, however, Chavez’s boys sometimes beat up intruders.

It's fascinating how today race trumps class so unquestionably that almost nobody can even imagine that a Mexican-American union boss would oppose illegal immigration.

Being married v. getting married

Ross Douthat writes:
Yet for an argument that has persuaded so few, the conservative view has actually had decent predictive power. As the cause of gay marriage has pressed forward, the social link between marriage and childbearing has indeed weakened faster than before. As the public’s shift on the issue has accelerated, so has marriage’s overall decline. 
Since Frum warned that gay marriage could advance only at traditional wedlock’s expense, the marriage rate has been falling faster, the out-of-wedlock birthrate has been rising faster, and the substitution of cohabitation for marriage has markedly increased. Underlying these trends is a steady shift in values: Americans are less likely to see children as important to marriage and less likely to see marriage as important to childbearing (the generation gap on gay marriage shows up on unwed parenting as well) than even in the very recent past. 
Correlations do not, of course, establish causation. The economy is obviously playing a leading role in the retreat from marriage — the shocks of recession, the stagnation of wages, the bleak prospects of blue-collar men. Culturally, what matters most is the emergence of what the National Marriage Project calls a “capstone” understanding of marriage, which treats wedlock less as a foundation for adulthood and more as a celebration of adult achievement — and which seems to work out far better for our disciplined upper class than for society as a whole. 
But there is also a certain willed naïveté to the idea that the advance of gay marriage is unrelated to any other marital trend. For 10 years, America’s only major public debate about marriage and family has featured one side — judges and journalists, celebrities and now finally politicians — pressing the case that modern marriage has nothing to do with the way human beings reproduce themselves, that the procreative understanding of the institution was founded entirely on prejudice, and that the shift away from a male-female marital ideal is analogous to the end of segregation. 
Now that this argument seems on its way to victory, is it really plausible that it has changed how Americans view gay relationships while leaving all other ideas about matrimony untouched? 
You can tell this naïveté is willed because it’s selective. There are plenty of interesting arguments, often from gay writers, about how the march to gay marriage might be influencing heterosexual norms — from Alex Ross’s recent musings in The New Yorker on the sudden “queer vibe” in straight pop culture to Dan Savage’s famous argument that straights might do well to imitate the “monogamish” norms of some gay male couples. It’s only the claim that this influence might not always be positive that is dismissed as bigotry and unreason. 
A more honest, less triumphalist case for gay marriage would be willing to concede that, yes, there might be some social costs to redefining marriage. It would simply argue that those costs are too diffuse and hard to quantify to outweigh the immediate benefits of recognizing gay couples’ love and commitment. 
Such honesty would make social liberals more magnanimous in what looks increasingly like victory, and less likely to hound and harass religious institutions that still want to elevate and defend the older marital ideal.
But whether people think they’re on the side of God or of History, magnanimity has rarely been a feature of the culture war.

Back in 2000, I wrote in National Review:
But could it be, instead, that fewer gay men want to be married than to get married? Does gay marriage appeal more because sexual fidelity offers a role for a lifetime, or because a wedding provides the role of a lifetime? ... 
So legalizing single-sex marriage isn't likely to prevent the next gay venereal epidemic. Yet, will gay weddings destroy society? Overall, I'm not terribly worried. Still, the fervor with which some gay grooms will pursue the perfect wedding will make straight men even less enthusiastic about enduring their own weddings. The opportunities for gays to turn weddings into high-camp farces are endless. For example, if two drag queens get married, who gets to wear white? And anything that discourages straight men from marrying would be widely harmful. While most straight guys eventually decide that being married is fine, the vast majority find getting married a baffling and punitive process. (You may have noticed that while Modern Bride magazine is now over 1,000 pages long, there is no Eager Groom magazine.) About the only comment a straight man can make in favor of his role is that at least it's a guy thing … not a gay thing. But for how much longer?

My experience with being married has been that it’s great. On the other hand, my experience with getting married (e.g., worrying about the color of tablecloths, registering for domestic gifts that I never wanted and couldn’t imagine using, etc.) was that it was a nightmare than any self-respecting masculine man would only put up with for love. From a self-respect standpoint, about all you could say for being a groom was that it was, legally, a guy thing, not a gay thing.

Now, the gays are trying to make getting married de jure into even more of a gay thing than it already tends to be de facto.

Those of us on the right half of the bell curve ought to ask ourselves what guys on the left half of the bell curve are going to think as gays increasingly become the most theatrical participants in getting married? Is this really going to be good for society on the whole?

I'm not predicting that many guys will articulate this feeling, but that's who we need to worry about: the less articulate.

Of course, the notion that gay marriage most disturbs men with two-digit IQs is widely seen as a feature, not a bug. A boot stamping on the human face of a social inferior forever is nirvana.

March 29, 2013

"White Men with Guns"

From the Washington Post:

White men with guns

White men with guns
Our nation must confront why they perpetrate so many shootings.

Sabermetrics is making baseball worse

The big lesson in late 20th Century statistical analysis of baseball was that in the ancient debate over baseball strategy between Ty Cobb (make contact, hit line drives, and steal bases) and Babe Ruth (hit homers, take walks, or strike out), the Babe was right, just like his tens of millions of fans believed. Baseball insiders found Cobb's athletic style more elegant, but fans liked the professional wrestling aspects of a huge man bashing the long ball. 

Bill James and his followers proved that Ruth's philosophy was better at winning ballgames, and that baseball men had not fully embraced his philosophy out of aesthetic prejudice: Cobb's style looks better.

Sabermetric sophistication encouraged steroid use and sabermetricians like James overwhelmingly turned a blind eye to the causes of the absurd statistics of the 1990s and 2000s. There's drug testing now, but the sabermetrics continues to make baseball less elegant. Baseball used to have customs about how things were done that were generally good for the game overall if not for the individual team, but today's emphasis on exploiting weaknesses in the structure of the rules to win, win, win is making baseball more of a stand-around bore. When I was a kid, there was slow pitch softball semi-pro circuit where various businesses hired giant oafs to try to hit three or four homers per game. I don't hear about it anymore, but it seems like a lot of the kind of guys who would have been stars in this sideshow game in 1975 are now gainfully employed as MLB first basemen.

I realize that Bill James is a huge hero to a lot of guys like me (including me), but we need to keep in mind that most things in life that succeed run into diminishing marginal positive returns and increasing negative returns. Bill James made baseball more intellectually interesting, but many of the trends he set in motion eventually had negative consequences.

Drug testing has reduced homers, but strikeouts continue to rise (here's the WSJ on the subject, and the NYT). Matthew Futterman writes in the WSJ on the rise of strikeout pitchers:
Sabermetrics, the data-centric approach that prizes doubles and home runs over singles and stolen bases, hasn't done hitters any favors either. ... The problem for baseball over the long term is that the strikeout is the one offensive event that hardly ever sets into motion an unpredictable result. The batter generally mopes back to the dugout. Some fans find it boring, and some purists find it lame.

By the way, I suspect that one thing that's going on in the rise of strikeout pitchers is that tall, athletic white youths have largely given up on basketball, so that leaves more tall talent to concentrate on pitching. 

Coaches now emphasize developing sheer velocity in child pitchers, because the way you get recruited is by wracking up high numbers on the radar gun. You can work on control when you are older. I wonder what this is doing to the enthusiasm for the game of little boys who have to come up to bat against bigger little boys who are trained to throw as hard as possible and not worry about where the ball goes, such as at the batter's face?

Larry Auster, RIP

The author of the 1991 classic, The Path to National Suicide, has died of cancer at age 64.

Hispanics delinquent on mortgages 4.7 times as often as whites

Going on a half dozen years after the mortgage meltdown that began in 2007, the evidence continues to trickle in about the key role of diversity in the disaster. Granted, there's very little demand for hard-headed analyses. Here, for example, is a paper finished in 2011 that has, according to Google, been cited once:
Mortgage Default by 2009: Effects of Race, Ethnicity and Economic Standing During the Boom Years  
Heather Luea
Vanderbilt University  
Adam Reichenberger
Bureau of Labor Statistics  
Tracy Turner
Kansas State University 
Abstract: This paper examines the determinants of 2009 mortgage delinquency by race and ethnicity using new household-level data on mortgage distress from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. Controlling for homeowner and loan characteristics as well as residence in a nonrecourse state, we find startling differences in mortgage delinquency rates that cannot be explained by observables. The unexplained black/white gap corresponds to a 44% higher likelihood that black homeowners will be delinquent on their mortgages relative to non-Hispanic white homeowners. The unexplained difference in Hispanic mortgage delinquency relative to non-Hispanic white homeowners is even greater, at double the black/white delinquency gap.

... The economic decline that began in 2007 was preceded by nearly two decades of government-aided, rapidly rising homeownership rates among minority households (Bostic and Lee, 2007). Given this and the severity of the recent economic crisis, it is important to understand the extent to which minority households have weathered the crisis as well as non-Hispanic white households, all else equal. Indeed, the recent and historical role played by the US government and nonprofit agencies in boosting access to homeownership by underrepresented groups makes understanding these groups’ outcomes particularly relevant.4 
Footnote 4: As recently as June 2002, President Bush announced a goal of closing the homeownership gap for minority households by 5.5 million households by the end of 2010 through innovatiosn such as zero-down-payment loans. That administration's efforts followed more than a decade of housing market interventions, including President Clinton’s National Homeownership Strategy, a trillion dollar commitment by Fannie Mae, the Campaign for Homeownership of the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, and expanded lending to low-income and minority households in part as a result of the implications of the Community Reinvestment Act (Turner and Smith, 2009). 
... As a preview of our findings, we find that black and Hispanic households that own their housing in 2005 are significantly more likely to become delinquent on their home loans by 2009 than non-Hispanic white homeowners. We find an unconditional, weighted likelihood of delinquency of 11.3%, 16% and 3.4% for black, Hispanic, and non-Hispanic white homeowners, respectively, making black homeowners 7.9 and Hispanic homeowners 12.6 percentage points more likely to be delinquent than non-Hispanic white homeowners. 

Let's break those delinquency-by-2009 rates out:

Whites: 3.4%
Blacks: 11.3% (3.3X the white rate)
Hispanics: 16.0% (4.7X the white rate)

The sample sizes of 2005 homeowers in the PSID are not huge: 2344 for whites, 810 for blacks and 263 for Hispanics (the number of Hispanics in a long-running longitudinal study naturally lags behind their number in the population). Also this study design excludes the 2006-07 vintage of new mortgages, which were the bottom of the barrel. However:
While the sample size of the PSID may be considered small compared to loan-based samples (for example, in the 2009 survey, there are roughly 8,000 households), the PSID has a number of advantages over larger samples that are either not household-based or not longitudinal. First, importantly, the unit of observation is the household, and the PSID collects extensive household-level data on employment, income, wealth, and housing costs and characteristics. In 2009, for the first time in the history of the PSID, survey respondents were also asked questions regarding mortgage delinquency and foreclosure, making this a dataset well suited for our study. Second, the PSID is a longitudinal dataset following families from as early as 1968 to present. Using the PSID, we have borrower and loan characteristics overtime, which to our knowledge are data not available in any other single dataset. Third, once sample weights are applied, the PSID is a nationally representative sample of the US population.

Statistically adjusting for all the info in the PSID, it turns out that there are still substantial racial gaps in staying current on mortgages:
Conditioning on extensive borrower and particularly loan characteristics reduces the race and ethnicity gaps in mortgage sustainability considerably, but does not entirely eliminate these gaps. In the full specification, we find that black and Hispanic homeowners remain 1.5 and 3 percentage points more likely to be delinquent than non Hispanic white homeowners, respectively. These unexplained effects are  large relative to the underlying mortgage delinquency rate of 3.4% for non-Hispanic white households.

In other words, statistically adjusting for everything they can come up with (e.g., income), there are still unexplained racial gaps:

Whites: 3.4%
Blacks: 4.9% (1.44X the white rate even after adjustment)
Hispanics: 6.4% (1.88X the white rate after adjustment)

In many ways, the first set of numbers is the more important. As the population shifts from whites to Hispanics, the delinquency rate would tend to get worse. 

But the second table can help explain why money-hungry but politically true-believing lenders like Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide could mess up so badly. You are not allowed to use race/ethnicity in credit modeling, but it turns out that race/ethnicity still matters a lot even in cases where the facts you are allowed to look at are all the same. During the 1990s, Mozilo became convinced that it was sheer racism to worry that Hispanics could default at higher rates than the model predicts.
We find startling differences by race and ethnicity in mortgage delinquency rates that cannot be fully explained by observables ...
The homeownership rates of black and Hispanic households have been and remain substantially below that of non-Hispanic white households. That certain groups experience low homeownership rates is cause for concern particularly to the extent that these gaps are involuntary and in light of the possibility that homeownership generates private and community benefits (i.e., Turner and Luea, 2009; Haurin, Dietz, and Weinberg, 2002). Belief in the positive externalities of homeownership has motivated substantial efforts in the past two decades to boost the homeownership attainment of underrepresented groups, and these efforts have generated relative gains in minority homeownership (Bostic and Lee, 2007). Evidence is mounting that the Great Recession has adversely impacted minorities to a greater extent than non-Hispanic white households. It is likely that the economically disadvantaged households that are losing their homes are some of the same households propelled into homeownership through federal assistance to begin with. If there is a silver lining, it may be that, according to recent work by Molloy and Shan (2011), post-foreclosure households on average do not end up in either less desirable neighborhoods or more crowded living conditions than what they experienced as homeowners. Determining the extent to which housing policy may have fueled the 2009 differential delinquency rates by minority status and why, and whether these households are nonetheless better off for their homeownership stint, would be valuable information for future policy design.

This might also be valuable information for current immigration policy design.

March 28, 2013

How much land do rich people use up?

From the Washington Post:
As income inequality in the United States has soared and median wages have flatlined since 1980, economists have spent a lot of time debating why the top 1 percent have done so much better than everyone else. Is policy to blame? The decline of labor? Technology? 
An equally pressing question, though, is what those increasingly hefty incomes at the very top mean for the lives of everyone else. And a big, newly revised paper (pdf) by the University of Chicago’s Marianne Bertrand and Adair Morse finds that there is a connection, but not a happy one: The gains of the rich have come alongside losses for the middle class. 
As the wealthy have gotten wealthier, the economists find, that’s created an economic arms race in which the middle class has been spending beyond their means in order to keep up. The authors call this “trickle-down consumption.” 
The result? Americans are saving less, bankruptcies are becoming more common, and politicians are pushing for policies to make it easier to take on debt. 
If that argument sounds familiar, it’s because Cornell economist Robert H. Frank has been making this case for years. Those at the top are spending more on fancy goods and bidding up the price of homes. In response, the slightly-less-rich have been spending more to keep pace. That pressure, in turn, eventually ripples down to the middle class — where incomes have stagnated of late — in what Frank calls “expenditure cascades.” 
“What you think you need depends on the context you find yourself in,” Frank said in an interview. “And standards tend to be local. When most of the income gains are going to the very top, the people around them feel relatively poorer and spend more because of that.” 
What Bertrand and Morse have done is put together a detailed empirical case that “trickle-down consumption” really is occurring in cities and counties around the United States — and that it’s responsible for roughly one-fourth of the decline in household savings rates since the early 1980s. 
“Middle income households would have saved between 2.6 and 3.2 percent more by the mid-2000s had incomes at the top grown at the same rate as median income,” they conclude. 
But how does trickle-down consumption actually work? One way is through housing. In cities like New York, the wealthiest are competing for the most valuable apartments and bidding up prices — which has broader ripple effects. What’s more, as those at the top buy bigger and bigger houses, those below them have moved to buy up bigger houses too. (Frank has noted that the median size of a new single-family house in 2007 was 2,300 square feet, or 50 percent bigger than in 1970.) 
That’s just part of the story, though. In areas where incomes of the top 10 percent are growing, Bertrand and Morse found, the supply of businesses and services that cater to the well-off also increase. Swankier bars replace cheaper bars. Expensive restaurants replace cheap restaurants. Whole Foods nudges out the local grocery store. And less-well-off residents end up spending more at these places. 
There also seems to be a “keeping up with the Joneses” effect. As wealthier Americans spend more on things like expensive preschools or fitness clubs or even fashion, their middle-income neighbors start spending more on these goods too — without cutting back elsewhere.

I'm all in favor of economists finally thinking about the cost side of inequality instead of just obsessing over the income side. Yet, this analysis seems largely backwards to me. No doubt it's true to some extent, but it seems to be missing the larger point of who is truly expensive for middle class people to share a metropolitan area with. Instead of Trickle Down consumption, what we see is more like Push Up consumption.

When a Whole Foods opens in your neighborhood, it doesn't actually nudge all the crummy grocery stores out of business. I drive past a Whole Foods all the time to get to the Jon's grocery store frequented by ominous flatheads from Omsk. Yet, Whole Foods is nicer than Jon's.

The real problem is not when you get more for what you pay more for (e.g., Whole Foods over Jon's), but when you have to pay more for the same old thing (e.g., a house with a yard in a safe neighborhood with a good public school).

Let's consider some major costs. 

Do the 1% bid up medical care costs? Facelifts, certainly. They don't demand a lot of diabetes treatment, however.

Do the 1% bid up education costs? Manhattan kindergartens, no doubt. Private colleges to some extent. In the big picture, though, this doesn't seem all that significant.

Do the 1% increase transportation costs? The 0.05% get the 0.1% drooling over private jets that they can't afford. But as for cars, some, but really, it's hard to spend over $100,000 on a car. There are plenty of people who waste money buying or leasing more expensive cars than is prudent for them, but it's more like the 25th percentile aping the 5th percentile. 

Let's think about the Big One, real estate costs. How much metropolitan land do the top 1% take up for their houses and yards? I was going to say 10%, but since many of the 1% live in a small number of urban areas with relatively small lot sizes (e.g., New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles), it may well be less on a national scale.

I've spent most of my life living in Los Angeles and Chicago between really rich people on one side and poor people on the other. One thing I've noticed is that the rich don't really take up all that much room. 

When I go for a hike in the Hollywood Hills, for instance, I often walk by an imposing gated estate that other hikers assert is owned by some major movie star: Will Ferrell is the most popular claim. But it looks like about 4 to 8 acres, most of that steep hillside. 

Last year I taking out the trash when I heard a whoop-whoop-whoop from overhead. I looked up and there was the Marine Corps One helicopter carrying the President to his fundraiser at George Clooney's house, around the corner from the supposed Will Ferrell manor. To be precise, Obama's helicopter was on its way to an airport to land, from which Obama's motorcade would wind up into the canyon. Clooney's house is 7,354 square feet and his estate is 3.16 acres, and apparently doesn't have a big enough lawn to safely land a large helicopter upon.

I'm trying, but I'm having a hard time feeling really oppressed by the fact that George Clooney's house is about as big as my yard. That doesn't strike me as unreasonable.

Now, you could get me riled up over the unconscionable injustice of Clooney owning his Lake Como mansion in the Italian Alps instead of an average person, like, say, me. I could totally picture Comrade Sailer leading an enraged mob to evict Class Criminal Clooney from his Lake Como house and requisition it for the private use of The People, as personally embodied in Comrade Sailer.

But the fact that Clooney owns a bigger chunk of the San Fernando Valley than I do seems pretty ho-hum.

Now, the San Fernando Valley is 260 square miles. The rich take up the southernmost fringe, generally on mountain land that is expensive to build on and rather inconvenient to live on unless privacy is your foremost concern. The flat parts of the San Fernando Valley vary slightly in climate, but, really, it's all about who your neighbors are. And almost the entire Valley is in Los Angeles school district, so getting your kids in with good peers requires intricate feats of gamesmanship.

Granted, the environmentalism of the rich raises land prices by ruling out land for development, thus lowering the supply of housing and raising housing costs. But, I also like to go for hikes, so I understand the tradeoff.

I'm trying to think of how many personal golf courses there are in the Los Angeles area. Having a golf course in your yard is pretty extravagant, but then Los Angeles has always had a lot of extravagantly rich people, so this is an interesting measure of how much metropolitan land extremely rich people use up. 

Offhand, I can think of four small backyard golf courses in the L.A. area. Bob Hope, who was a real estate tycoon in his spare time, had a one-hole golf course at his house in Toluca Lake. Jerry Perenchio, former owner of Univision, has a 10-acre golf course in Malibu. There's a small par 3 course in a coastal canyon farther out toward Zuma Beach. And I believe I've read that Will Smith has a one hole course on his property at Sherwood. No doubt there are some other miniature personal golf courses in the L.A. area that I'm not aware of (and there are several in Palm Springs, 125 miles away), but this isn't really Downton Abbey.

And, rich people's kids don't overwhelm your public schools.

What's really expensive for middle class families are poor people. Middle class people move to upscale school districts or send their kids to private school to get them away from poor people. New exurban developments have excessive house sizes to try to keep the public schools upscale.

The real problem with the rich is that they dominate political thinking on questions like immigration. Keeping Up with the Bloombergs ideologically is politically disastrous for people in the middle. 

Project much, Buzz?

A continuing theme here is that much of the conventional wisdom is generated by individuals with, as they say, issues -- personal, family, and ethnic -- which they tend, as Dr. Freud used to say, to project on to others. 

Buzz Bissinger is one of the more influential sportswriters of the last generation, with his 1990 book on high school football players, Friday Night Lights, beloved for its denunciation of small town racism and hate. Buzz's second cousin Peter Berg directed the movie version a decade ago, and it has twice been made into a TV series. I saw the movie, although I don't recall specifically reading anything by Bissinger before. He appears to have been a pretty standard issue Voice of Our Times, denouncing all the usual suspects.

Currently, Bissinger seems to be undergoing a mental breakdown in which he drops the mask and reveals some of his issues. (I suspect he has more). A fair number of celebrities are more or less bipolar: they became famous when one of their up cycles happened to correspond with a window of opportunity. 

He just published a long essay in GQ that he plays for both teams and spends $200,000 per year on clothes, much of them women's clothes.

This adds an interesting perspective on much of his Voice of Conventional Wisdom output. For example, here's an excerpt from a sequel book he published following up the Texas high school football players from his biggest hit.
After Friday Night Lights (Excerpt) 
When the games ended, real life began. An unlikely love story. 
by Buzz Bissinger  
Byliner Apr 2012
Boobie and I didn’t know it when we first met twenty-four years ago, but one day we would form the ultimate odd couple. A brash Jew from Central Park West in Manhattan who comes up to the chest of a black man from the bad side of the tracks in Odessa, together in the American forgotten. Boobie and me. Me and Boobie. I grew up in privilege and he grew up in poverty. ...
But we shared a year in our lives that forever changed us and created a bond that, no matter how elasticized, will never break. It is the most lasting legacy of Friday Night Lights, or at least the legacy I care about the most. Which is why I’m driving on Farm Road 1788 to Kermit, on my way to draw from him as he draws from me. I speak to him on the phone all the time, but I haven’t seen him in four years, and the time has come to see him again. 
Boobie became iconic to many Americans because of Friday Night Lights—he was the book’s most talked-about character and a symbol of everything that was wrong with high school football because of the tragedy that befell him as a rising senior and the virulent racism directed against him afterwards. ... 
Every teammate said he was a helluva football player who could pretty much do it all. But his coaches felt differently—they saw a powder keg with a fuse. And I think they wanted that keg to go off, just as long as they had another running back to replace him. 
I remember the first time I talked to Boobie. I didn’t know how he would react to me, so obviously an alien, with glasses and a thin reporter’s notebook dangling from my right hand. He was all chisel and sinew, beautiful in the distinct way high school athletes are beautiful, their bodies ripped with the grace of the last days of their youth. ... He was in the trainer’s room. It was August of 1988, a few weeks before the first game. He knew that all eyes in the bleachers would be on him. ... 

... Okay!

Or, then there's Buzz's denunciation of professional athletes as ignorant hate-filled Christians in "Major League Homophobia Isn't Going Away:"
Outside of mandatory meetings, one of the most popular group activities in the clubhouse is the Sunday morning prayer session, and I have a feeling that gay rights is not something that comes up a lot. It’s a guess, but I think it’s a pretty damn good one that most straight athletes’ image of gays is based on the religious right's handbook—predatory creatures who, even if they are professionals, are only in sports for the drop of the towel to the floor after the shower and the root revealed. Not only is the attitude insulting and offensive; way too many straight athletes, particularly pitchers over 30, with their sagging stomachs and scraggly beards picking up bits of food like lint, are kidding themselves. Were it not for the fact that most of them make millions of dollars for doing little or doing it badly, nobody would want them, whether straight, gay, or crustacean. As for their carrot, not the stuff of legend, with or without shrinkage. 
... A two-week suspension is a tiny slap, particularly since most pitching coaches do nothing but go to the mound and give the pitcher a pat on the rear and then take the ball from him (am I the only one who smells something homoerotic in the air?).

... Okay!

March 27, 2013

The Flight from White: Buzz Bissinger Edition

Bestselling 58-year-old sportswriter Buzz Bissinger, whose 1990 book Friday Night Lights was based on in-depth locker room interviews of half-dressed teenage high school football players, announces in GQ that he has spent $587,000 over the last three years on clothes for himself, both men's and women's, such as thigh-high leather boots with six-inch stiletto heels.
Before I started shopping with [his personal stylist] at Gucci, I could count on one finger the number of compliments I got from strangers on what I was wearing. Now I get dozens, 99 percent of them from women and gays and African-Americans who appreciate go-for-it style. No wonder male heterosexual whites are aimed toward obsolescence, boring the rest of us to death. 

Why polygamy will eventually be legalized

You hear the argument frequently that when gay marriage is declared a self-evident civil right, then how, in principle, can three fundamentalist Mormons or three Arabs be denied their rights to be married, too?

Easy -- They are fundamentalist Mormons. 

Look, principles don't have anything to do with it. It's a popularity contest. Gays are popular and Mormons aren't. Gays are powerful nationally, Mormons powerful mostly regionally. Polygamous fundamentalist Mormons are extremely unpopular and not very powerful, so nobody is going to do anything for them.

Okay, but can Arabs be denied their rights?

Not so easy, but it can still be done: After all, they are Arabs. Arabs have their proponents, but they also have their detractors.

Ultimately, though, polgyamy has a secret weapon: polygamous immigrant Africans. 

So, eventually, the question will become: Can blacks be denied their rights? What with America's dark history of racist brutality and all?

Now that is exactly the kind of question that America ultimately gives in on.

March 26, 2013

Taki's: The True Meaning of the V-Word

From my Taki's Magazine column:
What do people really mean by the word “vibrant?” 
Until the disco era, “vibrant” was used only rarely, mostly in connection with vibrations, literal or metaphorical. My cursory online search uncovered zero examples of “vibrant” in the works of George Orwell or John Updike, one in Evelyn Waugh‘s (“that silence vibrant with self-accusation”), and two in Vladimir Nabokov‘s. (Humbert Humbert looks up to a “vibrant sky” through “nervous” rustling branches.) 
According to Google’s Ngram, “vibrant” was an occasionally used word from the 1920s into the early 1970s. But then its share of all the words in books roughly quadrupled by the mid-2000s (when a few people finally started to make fun of it). 
In 2013, it’s hard to avoid the word. For example, on Monday, President Obama announced, “Immigration makes us stronger—it keeps us vibrant.…” 
Similarly, when new Secretary of State John Kerry paid a visit to German Chancellor Angela Merkel last month, he announced that the American-German relationship is “one of our strongest, most vibrant alliances.” (Is “vibrant” the post-Cold War version of “dynamic?”) 
And downtowns are always vibrant, or will be Real Soon Now: “Planners in Maine Envision Vibrant Downtowns.”

Read the whole thing there.

When white people honestly consider a place full of white people to be "vibrant" (e.g., Matthew Yglesias praising a gentrifying corner of Washington D.C. in today's Slate), what do they mean, deep down?

I offer a reductionist definition of "vibrant" in real estate talk terms.

Berezovskyanism in the USA?

In the NYT, Masha Gessen, author of a biography of Vladimir Putin, summarizes a long interview with the late Boris Berezovsky:
Berezovsky’s account had some holes, but he stuck to it his entire life. Whatever his exaggerations or omissions, he played a significant role in Russia’s transition from Boris Yeltsin to Putin. What strikes me is that years later — and up until his death — he still thought it had been a brilliant idea. 
Berezovsky claimed to have been the mastermind behind picking a man with no public face, a former K.G.B. agent, to succeed Yeltsin as the president of Russia. He also said it was his idea to manufacture an entire nonideological pseudo-political pseudo-movement to serve as the new president’s base of support. Berezovsky also had another brilliant idea, which to his regret Putin did not grasp: creating a fake two-party system, with Putin at the head of a socialist-democrat sort of party and Berezovsky leading a neoconservative one, or the other way around.

Well, that's pretty interesting. In fact, the last sentence above might be the most interesting one to appear in the NYT this year. But judging from Google, about the only other websites quoting it have names like Korean Jobs Forum.

By the way, what would be an enthralling fake controversy for the fake parties to fake argue over while they mutually loot the country for real?

Well, it's all too sci-fi hypothetical for me to think about. Obviously, it can't happen here.

"Gay Marriage" in Ngram: Media Muscle in action

Here's a Google Ngram graph of usage in books of the terms "gay marriage" in red and "homosexual marriage" in blue from 1800 to 2008. The terms were essentially nonexistent until the early 1970s, after which there were a tiny, relatively stable number of references to "homosexual marriage" for two decades. Then there was an inflection point around 1994 and another one around 2003. (Methodology notes: The graph above reflects Ngram's default three-year moving average smoothing. If you turn off smoothing, the inflection points appear a little later than when smoothing is on. Of course, books perhaps lag behind other media because of their longer production cycles.)

I'm fascinated by the mechanics of media muscle reflected in the two inflection points. Here's a topic that had interested almost nobody, straight or gay, for, roughly, ever, yet then in two stages becomes a cultural obsession.

My vague recollection from following the news at the time is that the 1994 inflection point was largely due to a concentrated push by the New York Times in the early to mid 1990s. The Times' front page became obsessed with gay genes and gay this and gay that. Perhaps the second inflection point was largely created by the Times as well. In 2000, Richard Berke, the NYT's gay National Political Correspondent boasted to the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association:
Now it's like, there are times when you look at the front-page meeting and ... literally three-quarters of the people deciding what's on the front page are not-so-closeted homosexuals. ...

Now, a theory I've long entertained is that the gay marriage brouhaha reflects a fundamentally healthy movement among gays to push more restrained lifestyles on themselves after their catastrophic debauchery in the 1970s following Gay Liberation caused the AIDS epidemic.

But, it's just expressed triple bankshot-style through today's Who? Whom? conceptual vocabulary.

These days, you see, it doesn't pay to upbraid your own kind to behave in a more traditionally moral manner, and perhaps apologize to society in general for your misdeeds and promise to act better in the future so as not to cause another horrific venereal disease epidemic. That's so ... Victorian! What did the Victorians ever accomplish? (I mean, besides building all those to-die for Victorian houses in the Castro district?)

We don't live in the Victorian Age, we live in the Victim Age. So, gays admitting that AIDS was their own fault was never on the table. So, AIDS had to be ... uh ... Ronald Reagan's fault!

Similarly, gays can't admit that  they need moral reform even when they realize it themselves. Instead, they have to be victims of oppression denying them the right to something they had never noticed they lacked in the past.

March 25, 2013

Why did Galton lag Newton by two centuries?

I have an intellectual toolkit that I use repeatedly while thinking about social systems. Long time readers probably use many of the same tools, such as the notions of regression toward the mean, nature v. nurture distinctions, bell curves, and so forth. On the other hand, it's pretty clear that these tools are second nature for only a very few people in our society. The articles in major newspapers are clearly written and edited largely by people who, while they may grasp these concepts in theory, do not regularly apply them to the news.

In general, it seems as if people don't like to reason statistically, that they find it in rather bad taste. For example, the development of statistics seemed to lag a century or two behind other mathematics-related fields.

Compare what Newton accomplished in the later 17th Century to what Galton accomplished in the later 19th Century. Both are Englishmen from vaguely the same traditions, just separated by a couple of hundred years. 

From my perspective, what Newton did seems harder than what Galton did, yet it took the world a couple of centuries longer to come up with concepts like regression to the mean. Presumably, part of the difference was that Newton was a genius among geniuses and personally accelerated the history of science by some number of decades. 

Still, I’m rather stumped by why the questions that Galton found intriguing didn’t come up earlier. Is there something about human nature that makes statistical reasoning unappealing to most smart people, that they’d rather reason about the solar system than about society?

Take another example: physicist Werner Heisenberg and statistician R.A. Fisher were contemporaries, both publishing important work in the 1920s. Yet, Heisenberg's breakthroughs seem outlandishly more advanced than Fisher's.

A couple of commenters at Andrew Gelman's statistics blog had some good thoughts. Jonathan said:
Physics and mechanics were studies of how God made things work. Randomness is incompatible with God’s will. Newton, Leibniz, even Laplace (“I have no need for that hypothesis”) were quite religious men trying to uncover the fundamental rules of the universe. Statistics is sort of anti-rules discipline, since randomness (pre-quantum physics, say 1930) is not part of the structure of the universe… it’s part of our failed powers of observation and measurement. Gauss realized this and developed least squares techniques, but unless you think “God plays dice,” the theory of statistics was always going to lag physics and mechanics.

R McElreath says:
There’s some history of the perceived conflict between chance and reason in Gigerenzer et al’s “The Empire of Chance”.  
Quick version of the argument: The Greeks and Romans had the dueling personifications of Athena/Minerva (Wisdom) and Tyche/Fortuna (Chance). Minerva was the patron of reason and science, while Fortuna was capricious and even malicious. Getting scholars to see Fortune as a route to Wisdom was perhaps very hard, due to these personifications. 

As Ignatius J. Reilly says in A Confederacy of Dunces:
“Oh Fortuna, blind, heedless goddess, I am strapped to your wheel. Do not crush me beneath your spokes. Raise me on high, divinity.”

Supreme Court to consider Ward Connerly case

The Supreme Court said to day that it would consider overturning an absurd late 2012 ruling by eight Democratic judges on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturning Ward Connerly's 2006 initiative victory banning affirmative action in Michigan. The Democratic judges said that it was unfair for the thuggish plaintiffs, By Any Means Necessary, to have to do what Connerly did and get the majority of Michigan voters to back their view of affirmative action. 

This was one of the more blatant of the countless post-Obama re-election expressions of sheer who? whom? thinking. 

Scalia gives the impression that he thinks that the five Republican Supreme Court Justices (who aren't terribly young, by the way) are all that stand between the country permanently slipping from a world in which affirmative action can't be ended because its beneficiaries are too weak to one in which affirmative action can't be ended because its beneficiaries are too strong.

March 24, 2013

Evolutionary theorists: Migration bad for evolution of cooperation

The "selfish gene" paradigm of evolution raises a lot of fascinating conundrums about how human beings got so cooperative. If you look at chimpanzees, for example, mothers are nice to their children and members of the same group will reciprocate in picking lice off each other. But, that's about it. Their general attitude toward helping their fellow ape is: "We're chimps, not chumps." 

How could altruism evolve under the rules of natural selection? Did it? Well, taking a broad view of "altruism," dogs seem more altruistic toward humans than wolves do. Of course, that probably was the result of artificial rather than natural selection. But then how do we know that humans didn't get artificially selected for being nice, just like their dogs?

Anyway, I'm not the one to work out the ultimate theory of this. So, here's the latest game theory of how an instinct for friendliness could evolve. 

From Nature:
How Natural Selection Can Create Both Self- and Other-Regarding Preferences, and Networked Minds 
Thomas Grund, Christian Waloszek & Dirk Helbing 
Biological competition is widely believed to result in the evolution of selfish preferences. The related concept of the ‘homo economicus’ is at the core of mainstream economics. However, there is also experimental and empirical evidence for other-regarding preferences. Here we present a theory that explains both, self-regarding and other-regarding preferences. Assuming conditions promoting non-cooperative behaviour, we demonstrate that intergenerational migration determines whether evolutionary competition results in a ‘homo economicus’ (showing self-regarding preferences) or a ‘homo socialis’ (having other-regarding preferences). Our model assumes spatially interacting agents playing prisoner's dilemmas, who inherit a trait determining ‘friendliness’, but mutations tend to undermine it. Reproduction is ruled by fitness-based selection without a cultural modification of reproduction rates. Our model calls for a complementary economic theory for ‘networked minds’ (the ‘homo socialis’) and lays the foundations for an evolutionarily grounded theory of other-regarding agents, explaining individually different utility functions as well as conditional cooperation. 
... In conclusion, we offer an over-arching theoretical perspective that could help to overcome the historical controversy in the behavioural sciences between largely incompatible views about human nature. Both, self-regarding and other-regarding types of humans may result from the same evolutionary process. Whereas high levels of intergenerational migration promote the evolution of a ‘homo economicus’, low levels of intergenerational migration promote a ‘homo socialis’, even under ‘Darwinian’ conditions of a survival of the fittest and random mutations. The significance of local reproduction for the evolution of other-regarding preferences is striking and may explain why such preferences are more common in some parts of the world than in others.
Our modelling approach distinguishes between the evolution of individual preferences and behaviours. This makes cooperation conditional on the level of cooperation in the respective neigh-bourhood. Hence, when a few ‘idealists’ are born, who cooperate unconditionally, this can trigger off cooperation cascades, which can largely accelerate the spreading of cooperation33. Our model can also serve as a basis to develop an economic theory of other-regarding agents. The advantage is that it does not need to assume certain properties of boundedly rational agents—these properties rather result from an evolutionary process. In fact, our model naturally explains the evolution of individually different utility functions, as they are experimentally observed (see Figs. 3 + 4), and also the evolution of conditional cooperators9, 34. 

I'm not going to offer an opinion on whether their entire theory works or not. But it sounds like a game theoretic version in reverse of Stephen G. Bloom's book Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America. Even though the New York media devotes a lot of effort to telling us all the time about Hate in small towns, you might start to suspect there's a bit of projection in that. Just walking down the street, you might think that people seem friendlier in smaller, more rooted places where they have to deal repeatedly with the same limited number of people.

Post: Nonwhites don't care about environment, whites at fault and must bribe minorities more to pretend to care

From the Washington Post:
Within mainstream environmentalist groups, diversity is lacking 
... But Tutman is not unique in his feelings of isolation. Minorities in the nation’s largest environmental organizations said in interviews that they feel the same way. 
In fact, they say, the level of diversity, both in leadership and staff, of groups such as the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Sierra Club and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is more like that of the Republican Party they so often criticize for its positions on the environment than that of the multiethnic Democratic Party they have thrown their support behind. 
Some of the groups say they are working toward greater diversity. “I think that the concerns are absolutely well founded,” said Adrianna Quintero, a lawyer for the NRDC. “It’s taken too long for environmental groups to work closely enough with minority communities.” 
Kim Coble, vice president of environmental protection and restoration for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said the organization strives for inclusion, even though the percentage of minorities on its full-time staff is only 4.5 percent in a region where they represent nearly half the population.
“The environmental movement has a bit of a reputation as being a wealthy white community, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation works hard to counteract that,” Coble said. 
The reputation is deserved, said Norris McDonald, president of the African American Environmentalist Association. 
“This goes back a long way,” McDonald said. “It’s why I founded the [association] in 1985. . . . White groups weren’t hiring black professionals, and when they did, it was a hostile atmosphere. There were a handful of black professionals in the environmental groups then, and there are a handful now.” ...
The Sierra Club, whose director, Allison Chin, is Asian American, did not respond to requests for interviews. Spokeswoman Maggie Kao said the group has had an environmental justice arm for at least a decade. Still, several minorities who work for Sierra Club said it lacks diversity.

At no point in the article does anybody suggest that non-whites ought to care more about the environment. It's all about nonwhites getting more jobs and grants to cash in bigger on the environment racket.

Presumably, environmental organizations pay a little less than the corporations they pester. So, trustfunders tend toward Greenpeace and diversity hires gravitate toward BP. The only way to alter this is for the environmental organizations to devote less of their budget to doing whatever it is they do and more toward bidding wars for diversity hires.

It's fascinating how in the 21st Century, ancestry trumps just about everything else. It's kind of like the era of the divine right of hereditary monarchs in that who you are descended from seems to be considered the most important trait in determining your moral worth.

Will Andrew Sullivan finally get a break on the price of his AndroGel?

One of the big changes in my lifetime has been the slow undermining of antitrust law due to the triumph of econ majors. Back in the lefty/populist 70s when I was in college, the conventional wisdom was that the only thing keeping big corporations from conspiring to raise prices were the anti-trust laws (for the benefit of non-American readers who are baffled by the historical relic word "trust:" anti-monopoly/cartel and anti-price-fixing laws).

As I majored in economics at Rice U., however, I learned that the need for anti-trust laws is mostly a big myth, and the magic of the market would take care of all but the most egregious cases. A true believer, I quickly came to scoff at at lawsuits such as the "notorious Utah Pie case" in which the courts upheld antitrust laws despite obviously being Bad for the Economy.

Then I got into business myself, and discovered that competition wasn't perfect like in the Econ textbooks. From the point of view of corporate employees, competition was awful, and that anybody with a brain in his head would negotiate a price-fixing deal or set up a cartel or monopoly with his competitors if the government didn't ban it. 

But, as experience was teaching me the opposite of what I'd learned in college, enlightened opinion (driven heavily by people who got a good grade in Econ 101) was moving toward what I had believed so whole-heartedly in 1978.

Thus, in recent years, huge pharmaceutical firms have been fairly openly bribing their would-be generic rivals to stay out of their markets, and the courts have been fine with this. Now, a Supreme Court case will decide this:

From the NYT:
The case, Federal Trade Commission v. Actavis, No. 12-416, centers on whether the maker of a brand-name drug can pay a generic-drug company to keep the generic version off the market. Based on antitrust law, the obvious answer would seem to be no, the view voiced by the government and most recently upheld by a federal appeals court. 
At least three other federal appeals courts have previously said those payments are legal, however, when made under the settlement of a patent infringement lawsuit. Those courts sided with drug company arguments that the payments are what Congress intended in setting up guidelines to encourage the production of generic drugs. 
The question before the justices pits a company’s constitutional right to protect its intellectual property — through reliance on a patent that excludes competitors — against antitrust law, which holds that a company cannot unfairly exclude others from legitimately entering a business with a rival product. 
When the court rules later this year, its answer could have a sweeping effect on one of the largest segments of the nation’s economy and an industry that touches the wallets of nearly every American. 
“Everybody wants to believe that the big drug companies are bad, that they’re giving us these piles of money to stay off the market,” said Paul M. Bisaro, chief executive of Actavis, whose generic version of AndroGel, a testosterone replacement therapy, is the subject of the case. “But these payments have saved consumers billions and billions of dollars.” 
The agency says in its court briefs that the opposite is true: the payment “allows the brand-name manufacturer to co-opt its rival by sharing the monopoly profits that result from an artificially prolonged period of market exclusivity.” 
The stakes in the dispute are huge. Pharmaceutical sales in the United States totaled roughly $320 billion in 2011, according to IMS Health, a research company whose statistics the agency cites in its arguments. 
Brand-name drugs accounted for only 18 percent of the total prescriptions written by doctors in 2011 but 73 percent of consumer spending, IMS reported. When a generic version of a brand-name drug comes onto the market, the F.T.C. said, it costs about 15 percent of the original, causing the brand-name drug maker to quickly lose about 90 percent of its market share.

Barone v. Sailer / Kaus

Michael Barone writes:
As blogger Steve Sailer notes, a Pew Hispanic Center survey in 2005, near the peak of the housing bubble, reported that 22 million Mexicans would immigrate to the United States as legal guest workers if that was possible. The Pew and Gallup numbers are not commensurate, since Pew asked a hypothetical question and Gallup asked about general desire to immigrate, but there’s a huge difference between 22 million and 5 million. In the debate on immigration policy Sailer and Mickey Kaus have argued that large-scale illegal immigration from Mexico will likely resume when the U.S. economy revives and if a comprehensive immigration law provides legal status for many or most current illegal immigrants. I have predicted that we will never see the kind of large-scale Mexican immigration to the United States that we saw in 1982-2007. I think the Gallup numbers tend to support my prediction. Desire to immigrate does not usually yield a decision to immigrate. People take the plunge of immigration not just to make money but to pursue dreams or escape nightmares. For Mexicans these days the United States is less of a dream and Mexico is less of a nightmare than in the years from 1982 to 2007. 

It's called convergence: Mexico becomes more like America (good in theory, although the obesity data raises a disturbing counter-example), while America becomes more like Mexico.

But, here's a suggestion. The construction industry is just starting to pick up again, and contractors are starting to make houses-rotting-in-the-fields noises about how there are "shortages" of construction workers and they need to get their workers back from Mexico. So, why don't we wait five years and see what happens with immigration before passing some massive immigration "reform" law based on suppositions about how Fortunately, It Can't Happen Again?
Test case: Puerto Rico. The huge influx of Puerto Ricans to New York City that started in the late 1940s abruptly ended in 1961, when incomes in Puerto Rico reached one-third the U.S. mainland income level. There were and are no legal barriers for Puerto Ricans, who are U.S. citizens under an act of Congress passed in 1917. They just stopped coming. Recent years have seen some movement of Puerto Ricans to the Mainland (probably more to metro Orlando than metro New York), but it’s nothing like the magnitude of the 1949-61 migration. The data suggested that Mexicans just stopped coming to the United States in 2007, when the housing bubble burst and the recession began. I’m betting—aware of the nontrivial possibility that I could be wrong—that we won’t see another massive wave of immigration from Mexico.

Perhaps, although the tax breaks given to American corporations to prop up the economy of Puerto Rico, to stop the Puerto Ricans from coming, are lavish. Bribing Puerto Ricans to not be nationalists is enormously expensive on a per capita basis.

Moreover the Puerto Rican population in the U.S. is growing steadily, despite mostly living in low birthrate East Coast cities. According to a new study, the Census Bureau found 2.7 million Puerto Ricans in 1990, 3.7 million in 2000, and 4.6 million in 2010. Over the same period, the population of Puerto Rico itself grew slightly from 3.5 to 3.7 million (but the population of Puerto Rico is down compared to 2000.)

So, that's 74% growth over two decades.

Puerto Ricans, both in P.R. and in America, have low fertility, although the population can keep growing due to "demographic momentum"? (E.g., somebody with four children can have eight grandchildren a lot more easily than somebody with two children can have eight grandchildren.)

But, it's also true that Puerto Rican immigration has been substantial for the last seven years, despite the recession here.

Here's a good 2012 article by John Marino on Puerto Ricans immigrating to the U.S.:
Puerto Rico residents continued their exodus from the island over the past year during tough economic times, with the local population shrinking by 19,099 residents, or 0.51 percent, the biggest percentage loss by far of any U.S. jurisdiction, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. 
The population loss was due to migration to the U.S., with a net 35,469 residents lost to out-migration [that a net of almost 1% of the population leaving in 1 year], while island births outpaced deaths by 16,370 during the 15-month period covered by the new Census data, which runs April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2011. 
The drop-more than double the average annual population loss reflected in the 2010 Census for the previous decade- is part of the first new U.S. population estimate released by the bureau since the 2010 Census, which showed the island's population had declined by 82,821 people, or 2.2 percent, over the past decade. ...
Back in October, an Ipsos poll commissioned by WAPA-TV found 45 percent of islanders have considered leaving Puerto Rico in search of a better quality of life, with the majority of those setting their sights on the States. One-quarter (25 percent) of those who have considered a move from the island have taken concrete steps to do so, the poll found. 
Projected over the entire population, the poll results indicate some 1.5 million people would consider leaving the island, while 419,000 of those have at least started a plan to move. ...
Puerto Rico's population was pegged at 3,725,789 in the 2010 Census, down from the 3,808,610 registered in the 2000 Census. It marked the first time the local population had declined between census counts. 
The 2010 Census also showed there were 4.7 million Puerto Ricans living in the States, which was the first time more Puerto Ricans lived stateside than on the island. 

Puerto Rico is richer than Mexico in terms of per capita GDP, although Puerto Rico has been declining and Mexico improving.

In contrast, the Census found the number of individuals in the U.S. self-identifying as of Mexico origin growing from 13.4 to 31.8 million from 1990 to 2010, a growth of 137% or a little less than twice as fast as the growth in the Puerto Rican population.

It's crucial to note that a huge number of births to Mexican women in the U.S. are within a decade or so of arriving in this country. That's why the Mexican Total Fertility Rate has dropped sharply since the Sand State housing bubble popped -- fewer immigrants means fewer women arriving to have the 3 or 4 kids they can't afford to have in their own country. The last amnesty caused a big baby boom among the amnestied, and there is no reason to imagine the next one wouldn't do the same.