July 25, 2013

Zuckerberg: My net worth only went up $3.8 billion today, so America needs cheaper programmers

After the conference call,
Zuck headed to the Oingo-Boingo
reunion concert
From Business Insider:
Zuckerberg: America's Failure To Produce Engineers Is 'Systemic' (FB)
Jim Edwards 
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg got political on his Q2 2013 earnings call yesterday, criticizing America for not producing enough talented engineers for him to recruit. 
Zuckerberg's views on this issue are no secret. He's given $100 million to the Newark, N.J., school system to improve education there. And he's backed a controversial lobbying group, FWD.us, which wants to reform immigration law so that companies can recruit foreign engineers and tech workers more easily. 
But yesterday, Zuckerberg again hinted that he thinks America is broken when it comes to educating people to take the science, technical, engineering and math (STEM) jobs that he's creating.

In other news today, from Bloomberg.com:
Zuckerberg’s Wealth Soars $3.8 Billion as Facebook Surges 

It's worth noting that, all else being equal, Zuckerberg's net worth increasing by almost $4 billion today makes Americans more likely to give him the immigration bill he wants. It's not just practical considerations like, wow, he now has even more money to spend on lobbying so we should be nice to him so that maybe he'll be nice to us. No, the psychology is even more primitive than that: it's just the sheer strong juju of any man who makes $3.8 billion in one day that makes us want more good things to happen to him.

Heck, I feel that way most of the time. (Indeed, much of what I write is the opposite of my natural emotional predilections -- that's why I write it: because it took me a long time to figure things out.)

In contrast, if Zuckerberg's net worth had declined $3.8 billion today because Facebook profits were down because he was paying his employees so much higher salaries, there would be much scoffing at Zuckerberg's lobbying for more H-1B visas: What a loser!

And that's the way of the world.

Cubans are bad drivers

Brian Palmer in Slate tries to rate the cities with the worst drivers, using four measures. Here's his synthetic bottom 5:
And now, America, on to the cities with your worst drivers. 
No. 5: Baltimore. Baltimoreans just can’t keep from running into each other. They were outside the top 10 in fatalities, DWI deaths, and pedestrian strikes, but their rate of collision couldn’t keep them out of the top five overall. 
No. 4: Tampa, Fla. Tampa doesn’t do any single thing terribly, but it is consistently poor: 18th worst in years between accidents, fifth in traffic fatalities, tied for 11th in DWI fatalities, and 10th in pedestrian strikes. If the city had managed to get outside the bottom half in any individual category, Tampa residents might have avoided this distinction. 
No. 3: Hialeah. The drivers of Hialeah get into a middling number of accidents, ranking 11th among the 39 candidates. But when they hit someone, they really mean it. The city finished third for fatalities. They also have a terrifying tendency to hit pedestrians. 

Hialeah is the hometown of Nestor Camacho in Tom Wolfe's Back to Blood, a book that begins with Yale man Edward T. Topping IV creeping around a Miami parking lot in his wife's environmentally friendly electric car looking for a parking place, only to have a Cubana in a Ferrari steal the one open space by backing up into it at 35 mph.
No. 2: Philadelphia. Drivers in the city of brotherly love enjoy a good love tap behind the wheel. Second-places finishes in collisions and pedestrian strikes overwhelm their semi-respectable 16th-place ranking in DWI deaths. 
No. 1: Miami. And it’s not even close. First in automotive fatalities, first in pedestrian strikes, first in the obscenity-laced tirades of their fellow drivers.

Just like Dave Barry always said about Miami drivers.

So, three of the most Cuban towns in the country -- Miami, Hialeah, and Tampa -- are in the top 5.

Interesting that the GOP leadership is set on turning the steering of the ship of state over to Cubans to win the votes of Mexicans.

How effective is border security? Shhhhh ... It's a federal secret.

Mickey Kaus points out this Arizona Republic article on how the Obama Administration refuses to release vast piles of statistics on border security:
As Congress weighs whether to pin immigration reform on reaching a threshold of border security, the measure most often cited would call on the Department of Homeland Security to stop 90 percent of illegal border crossings. Doing that means figuring out how to persuade people like Flores not to try again and stopping others headed for el norte from slipping over the border. 
That, in turn, hinges on solid answers to such questions as: How many people actually get through? Where do they get across? When they’re caught, do they give up or keep trying until they make it? 
Homeland Security officials don’t fully know the answers to those questions. And the reason, say leading migration researchers, is that DHS officials don’t want to know, and don’t want the public to know, either. 
“There is zero interest in that kind of analysis among DHS’ leadership,” said economist Bryan Roberts, who served as the agency’s assistant director of the Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation until 2010. “There was no interest when I was there, and there still isn’t any.” ...
Roberts and several other researchers said that the DHS doesn’t have the answers because it doesn’t jointly analyze data from the Border Patrol, which works between ports of entry; Customs and Border Protection, which works at ports of entry; and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, which works across the interior of the country. 
Not looking at the big picture makes it harder for the DHS to figure out whether, say, to build more fences or focus on interior enforcement, the researchers said. And there’s little pressure on the DHS to work with outside experts or better analyze its data to figure out what has worked and what hasn’t. 
... The immigration bill passed last month by the Senate, now languishing as the House weighs its own measures, would evaluate border security using an “effectiveness rate” based on data that the DHS and its agencies won’t release to the public. The bill would provide more than $46 billion and nearly double the size of the Border Patrol by adding 19,200 agents along the Mexico border over the next eight years, to help the agency reach a 90 percent effectiveness rate. 
That rate is meant to show how effectively the Border Patrol prevents illegal crossings. To estimate the number of illegal crossings, the Border Patrol adds up three figures: apprehensions; “turn-backs” (people spotted starting to cross who turned back to avoid getting caught); and “got-aways” (people detected by agents or surveillance equipment but not caught). A 90 percent effectiveness rate means nine apprehensions and turn-backs for each got-away. 
The Border Patrol doesn’t release information on turn-backs or got-aways to the public, just apprehensions; and it admits that the effectiveness rate is a flawed yardstick. Among other gaps, it can’t account for crossers whom agents don’t see. And because the Border Patrol works between ports of entry, its rate doesn’t include those who cross illegally at ports of entry, either hidden in vehicles or using false documents. 
The Government Accountability Office, in a report last December, published previously unreleased data showing that the Border Patrol’s effectiveness rate for fiscal 2011 was 84 percent. By that yardstick, getting to 90 percent isn’t a huge stretch, noted former DHS official Roberts. 
The Border Patrol hasn’t released turn-back or got-away data for fiscal 2012, and hadn’t responded by deadline to The Republic’s request for that information.
Outside researchers say efforts to come up with a better approach to accounting for undocumented migration run smack into Homeland Security’s unwillingness to let academics analyze its data. 
Last year, for example, a panel of leading statisticians, economists and demographers at the National Academy of Sciences conducted a study on illegal immigration at the request of Homeland Security. But the DHS refused to provide the panel key apprehension data, such as coded fingerprint figures that would identify precise numbers of repeat crossers. The DHS had demanded that researchers promise not to disclose that data to the public. Panel members said keeping the information classified would impair the quality of their work; they declined, and didn’t get the data. 
That study, which included data from Mexican governmental sources and previous U.S. academic studies, suggested that about three-quarters of those who decide to cross keep trying until they make it. Other outside studies have found 85 or even 90 percent make it. 
“Almost everybody who really tries eventually gets in,” said Jeffrey Passel, a member of the panel and a senior demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research organization in Washington, D.C., that studies the U.S. Hispanic population. 
The National Academy of Sciences study essentially was ignored in presentations that the DHS gave to the Senate earlier this year during the immigration-reform debate, said the study’s panel members. 
They said the DHS was not eager to draw attention to the study’s findings even though it paid for the report. “In a sense, it throws a monkey wrench into the discussions on immigration. I’m totally for immigration reform, but this report would make Republicans giddy and Democrats go, ‘Oh, crap,’ ” said Alicia Carriquiry, a professor of statistics at Iowa State University and a co-author of the study.

The spread of "sprawl" as latest explanation of black poverty

In the New York Times, David Leonhardt ponders critics (like me) pointing out that Raj Chetty's map of upward mobility (defined as chance child in bottom 20% of income in 1996 makes it to top 20% in income as a younger adult) in the United States looks like a map of the Where the Blacks Aren't. He answers by saying Chetty proved that wasn't true.
The simplest way to explain their conclusion may be to point out that upward mobility tends to be rare for both blacks and whites, as well as for Latinos, in low-mobility areas. In Charlotte, Atlanta and Indianapolis, low-income white children have also tended to grow up to be low-income adults. 
To help demonstrate this pattern, the four researchers – Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren of Harvard and Patrick Kline and Emmanuel Saez of the University of California, Berkeley – have produced another map, showing mobility only for ZIP codes that are at least 80 percent white. (ZIP codes that are less than 80 percent simply appear as blank on the map.)
But the message is clear: the mobility patterns look overwhelmingly similar in this map and in the map above showing all metropolitan areas. 
It’s worth pointing out that race may still play a role in creating these patterns. “Racial shares in an area do matter,” Mr. Chetty says. “But it’s not race at the individual level. It’s race at the level of the ‘commuting zone,’” he added, using the researchers’ term for a region. Whatever the differences are between high-mobility and low-mobility regions, they seem to apply to residents of every race. 

No, race at the individual level still very much matters when you are looking at the chances of the bottom 20%. In the last map, these Southeastern and Rustbelt districts might be ones where blacks make up less than 20% of the population, but they still make up a much larger fraction of the bottom 20% than in the Great Plains.

No, a big part of this is simply Galtonian regression toward the mean. It shouldn't be controversial that whites have higher mean incomes than blacks. So, white children who find themselves growing up in the bottom 20% regress part way toward a higher mean than black children growing up in the bottom 20%.  

Then Leonhardt trots out the liberal explanation du jour for the poor economic performance of heavily black metropolitan areas: sprawl.
Writing about the new study for The Atlantic, Matthew O’Brien laid out a specific case for how race might have created economic segregation in sprawl-filled regions: 
Atlanta, of course, is the prototypical case here: going back to the 1970s, it’s under-invested in public transit,

Okay, but on net African-Americans have been moving from public transit rich NYC to the sprawling Atlanta metropolitan area in pursuit of a better standard of living. Are blacks irrational about this? Or is it simply that Chetty's study inadequately controls for the very different costs of housing across the country?

Sprawl might be one factor, but how long does it take to come up with a list of old fashioned cities like Baltimore, Cleveland, St. Louis, Newark, Hartford, and Milwaukee with intense black poverty? (Of course, if, say, whites in Hartford flee to the suburbs, leaving a black core, then that's "job sprawl." That's so unfalsifiable that if Sir Karl Popper were alive today, he'd be spinning in his grave.)

Also consider the changing impact of local climate, which has only disparate impact effect on race: Think of the wage premium needed to attract workers due to the climate, with Honolulu at zero extra dollars and Point Barrow, Alaska at a bundle. There has been a big shift over the generations. They've had central heating in the Dakotas for a long time now, but air conditioning has spread in Georgia only in the second half of the 20th Century. The spread of AC means Georgia is filling up with workers newly happy about the climate, keeping wages down as it lowers the wage premium in Georgia relative to the Dakotas. In other words, the standard of living has gone up in Georgia due to summers becoming more tolerable. All else being equal, an endogenous change in technology that makes the climate seem better will lower the wage premium.

July 24, 2013

IQ and Iodine in WWII

The World's Awesomest Newspaper reports on a study from a few years ago:
In a report published in the National Bureau of Economic Research, James Freyer, David Weil and Dimitra Politi examined data from about two million enlistees for World War II born between 1921 and 1927, comparing the intelligence levels of those born just before 1924 and those born just after. 
To do this, they looked to standardized IQ tests that each recruit took as a part of the enlistment process.

While the researchers didn't have access to the test scores themselves, they had another way of gauging intelligence levels: smarter recruits were sent to the Air Forces, while the less intelligent ones were assigned to the Ground Forces. 
Next, the economists worked out likely iodine levels in different cities and towns around America using statistics gathered after World War I on the occurrence of goiter. 
Matching the recruits with their hometowns showed researchers that the men from low-iodine areas made a huge leap in IQ after the introduction of iodine. 
The men born in low-iodine areas after 1924 were much more likely to get into the Air Force and had an average IQ that was 15 points above that of their slightly older comrades. 
This averages out to a 3.5 point rise in IQ levels across the nation.

You can see something of a Flynn Effect in the historical record of conscription in the two world wars. American elites were shocked by what a sizable fraction of draftees in WWI were illiterate and/or kind of slow. WWII draftees were somewhat more satisfactory to the big shots. 

In particular, mechanical skills were very good. Thanks to Henry Ford, et al, young American men entered the military in WWII knowing more about repairing internal combustion engines than any other country's soldiers. In contrast, the Japanese started the war in the Pacific with elite technicians capable of bombing Pearl Harbor, but they couldn't ramp up the numbers anywhere near as fast 

But, I hadn't been aware of this 1924 bump.

Kiwanis International is the main charitable supporter of iodizing salt in poor countries.

I'm going to take some days to do some work around the place, so comment moderation gatekeeping  will lag. You might consider not posting comments until I resume regular posting

Shakespeare's Complaint

I'm (slowly) rereading Hamlet for the first time in decades. Something that's obvious this time through is that -- despite the popularity of theories that the Man from Stratford, the well-known theatrical impresario, couldn't have written Shakespeare's plays -- Hamlet was written by a man in the theater business.

A giveaway is not just Hamlet's lengthy warnings to the Player-King about how to avoid bad acting, but also Shakespeare's curious loathing for the then-current (c. 1599) audience fad in London for troupes of child actors. Even top playwrights like Ben Jonson were suddenly writing for companies of child actors. This sensation was taking business away from grown-up troupes like Shakespeare's, forcing them out on the road like the poor wandering Players in Hamlet.

This excerpt from Hamlet is a little like a Simpsons episode in 2000 complaining about the new reality TV fad:
Hamlet -- Do they [i.e., Globe players] hold the same estimation they did when I was in the city? are they so followed?  
Rosencrantz -- No indeed they are not.  
Hamlet -- How comes it? do they grow rusty?  
Rosencrantz -- Nay, their endeavour keeps in the wonted pace: but there is sir, an aery [nest] of children, little eyases [eaglets], that cry out on the top of question, and are most tyrannically clapped for't: these are now the fashion, and so berattle [i.e., abuse] the common stages - so they call them - that many wearing rapiers [i.e., gallants] are afraid of goose-quills [i.e., the satire of the boys' playwrights] and dare scarce come thither [i.e., to the public playhouses].  
Hamlet -- What, are they children? who maintains 'em? how are they escoted [i. e., paid]? Will they pursue the quality [i. e., the profession of acting] no longer than they can sing [i. e., before their voices change]? will they not say afterwards, if they should grow to common players - as it is most like, if their means are no better - their writers do them wrong to make them exclaim against their own succession [i.e., the profession of public actor, to which they must shortly succeed].

Hamlet is an extremely long play, and one of the pleasures of putting on a production is slashing big chunks of Shakespeare's dialogue. It has more great lines than anything else in the English language, but it's also kind of bloated, begging to be trimmed. For example, this eminently losable topical section above is in the same scene (II, ii) following Hamlet's declaration to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern:
I have of late--but wherefore I know not--lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory, this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.  
What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! 
And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not me: no, nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.

It's kind of hard to top that, especially not with some facetiousness about a forgotten fad, so the child actors part is fun to cut. Shortening Hamlet helps theater people feel as if Shakespeare were less a dusty marble statue than their inspired but imperfect collaborator.

In general, the extraordinary cultural emphasis upon Shakespeare even now in the 21st Century is because actors find his work so actorly. There's something magical about how a player can take something so baffling on the page and make it at least vaguely comprehensible when spoken. Hamlet, with its play within a play and lengthy commentary about various matters pertaining to the stage, is the most meta-theatrical of Shakespeare's tragedies, and thus the most beloved by actors.

Breakthrough study: Poor blacks tend to stay poor, black

Much attention has been given to this new map of income mobility by economist Raj Chetty showing average change in national income percentile from low income parents to their children over the last 15 years. 

Red areas -- such as the Southeast, the Rust Belt, and large Indian reservations -- are where few poor children have become prosperous younger adults. And white areas are where more children whose parents were well below average in income in 1996 have become well above average income younger adults. In other words, white areas, such as North Dakota, have had more income mobility.

No doubt, that has something to do with the energy boom in North Dakota, but also with the earlier tendency of young people with something on the ball in North Dakota to move to higher paying cities like Minneapolis and Denver. Until recently, North Dakota had one of the oldest populations in the country due to outflow of young career-seekers. (In Chetty's study, the younger generation are assigned to where they lived in 1996, not where they live now).

Chetty downplays the role of race for vague reasons, but in general his data suggests that income mobility is higher among white populations, as we see in Europe. Regression toward the mean can explain much of the above map of income mobility, with mostly white areas regressing toward a higher mean than heavily black areas.

There are some curious results in this analysis, such as that Charlotte, NC, a major destination for economic migrants over this period due to strong job growth and reasonable housing costs, is shown as having below average economic mobility. One reason is that, all else being equal, an increase in the labor supply keeps down wages of natives, although that's typically hard to see on maps of the U.S. because labor flows to prosperous areas.

A sizable methodological problem has to do with Chetty using national income percentiles, which are massively influenced by the cost of living, especially the cost of buying a home. If you grew up in New York City and stayed there, for example, you'd better be upwardly mobile relative to national average income if you want to continue to live indoors. Thus, more than a few people have left higher paying jobs in NYC for lower paying jobs (but a better standard of living) in Charlotte.

Conversely, the Eastern state with the strongest chance of a poor child getting well-to-do is West Virginia. Let me guess that most of them didn't do it by continuing to live in West Virginia, but by moving to somewhere like suburban Washington DC. Or Charlotte.

Interestingly, a graph of downward mobility shows that Los Angeles children who were at the 80th percentile nationally in 1996 are shown as being among the most downwardly mobile in income percentile in the country's big cities, but this probably has a lot to do with the huge outflow over the last 15 years from Los Angeles to lower cost of living (and lower income) areas.

Still, bearing all that in mind, here is Chetty's table of correlations by urban area ("commuting zone"), with the five worst correlations associated with the poor staying poor in red and the five biggest correlations associated with upward income mobility in blue:
Tax and other Correlations with Intergenerational Mobility 
Local Expenditure 0.215 (0.076)
State Tax 0.199 (0.141)
State EITC Rate 0.231 (0.109)
Student Expenditure 0.251 (0.094)
High-school Dropout Rate -0.639 (0.064)
Score 0.557 (0.086)
College Return -0.276 (0.137)
College Tuition -0.003 (0.060)
Colleges per capita 0.102 (0.042)
Inc. at p75 - Inc. at p25 -0.475 (0.089)
Share of Income of Top 1% 0.178 (0.068)
Share Black -0.605 (0.065)
Black Isolation -0.513 (0.065)
Segregation of Poverty -0.405 (0.063)
Migration Inflow -0.184 (0.075)
Share Foreign Born -0.016 (0.060)
Migration Outflow -0.098 (0.069)
Mean Household Income 0.109 (0.075)
Income Growth Rate 0.561 (0.066)
Share Manufacturing -0.260 (0.081)
Trade Shock -0.274 (0.124)
Social Capital Index 0.617 (0.091)
Religiosity 0.510 (0.087)
Crime Rate -0.326 (0.101)
Share Single Moms -0.763 (0.078)
Share Single Moms (kids of married) -0.652 (0.094)
Divorce Rate -0.688 (0.108)
Teen birth Rate -0.550 (0.091)

The correlations fit in well with Charles Murray's recent book Coming Apart (not to mention The Bell Curve): social capital first, then the nearly tautological income growth rate, then test scores, then religiosity, then a big drop down to school expenditures in fifth place. The highest correlation with a region's poor staying poor is share of single moms.

July 23, 2013

Detroit v. Pittsburgh

From my new column in Taki's Magazine:
With Barack Obama solemnly recounting for us last Friday how being black in America has personally burdened him, race is back in the news. 
Actually, race is always in the news. Still, it’s worth using this particular intersection of inanity—during which the President and the Attorney General have made themselves look more foolish than Geraldo Rivera—to think through the most important question about race in the 21st century: How horrible would it really be if it became respectable to discuss racial realities seriously and intelligently?

Read the whole thing there.

La Raza v. Los Anglos

From the New York Times
More than 5,000 Latinos from community groups came to the conference of NCLR, the nation’s largest Hispanic organization, which is also known as the National Council of La Raza. Facing fading momentum in Washington on immigration, the leaders said they were heading to the fight this fall with their rank and file intensely motivated and more united than ever. 
“Fear, denigration, abuse: those are words that resonate with our community, particularly when it comes to immigration,” Janet Murguía, the president of NCLR, said in a speech on Monday. 
She said the travails of millions of immigrants without legal status were widely affecting Latino neighborhoods, making them feel besieged the way African-Americans did during the civil rights era of the 1960s.

It's interesting that the National Council of La Raza appears to be hoping in the future to just go by their acronym NCLR, although that might not please the the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

With La Raza in the news again, it's worth looking at the thought of Mexican philosopher José Vasconcelos Calderon, whose 1925 book La Raza Cosmica is the well-spring of the Mexican ethnoracial ideology reflected in NCLR's last two initials.

Vasconcelos was, as you'd imagine, more of a white Hispanic than George Zimmerman is.

Here's a long essay denouncing Vasconcelos as a racist, even as a Nazi for taking German money to write anti-English essays during WWII.

Wikipedia offers a few quotes from Vasconcelos, including this regrettable effusion immediately following the English defeat at Dunkirk:
"Hitler, although he disposes of absolute power, finds himself a thousand leagues from Caesarism. Power does not come to Hitler from the military base, but from the book that inspires the troops from the top. Hitler's power is not owed to the troops, nor the battalions, but to his own discussions... Hitler represents, ultimately, an idea, the German idea, so often humiliated previously by French militarism and English perfidy. Truthfully, we find civilian governed 'democracies' fighting against Hitler. But they are democracies in name only". ("La Inteligencia se impone", Timon 16, June 8, 1940)

I think it's fairer to say that Vasconcelos just really disliked Anglo-Saxons, and saw himself, in fortifying the post-Revolutionary Mexican government's anti-Americanism and in attacking Britain in June 1940, as continuing the long struggle between Spanish and English civilizations that goes back to Henry VIII's mistreatment of his first wife Katharine of Aragon. 

Growing up, Vasconcelos lived on the Mexican bank of the Rio Grande, but attended school across the river in Eagle Pass, Texas. Americans widely assume that to know us is to love us, but that's not necessarily true, especially for young male intellectuals.

Vasconcelos wrote:
How different the sounds of the Ibero-American development [from that of the Anglo-Saxons]! They resemble the profound scherzo of a deep and infinite symphony: Voices that bring accents from Atlantis; depths contained in the pupil of the red man, who knew so much, so many thousand years ago, and now seems to have forgotten everything. His soul resembles the old Mayan cenote [natural well] of green waters, laying deep and still, in the middle of the forest, for so many centuries since, that not even its legend remains any more. This infinite quietude is stirred with the drop put in our blood by the Black, eager for sensual joy, intoxicated with dances and unbridled lust. There also appears the Mongol, with the mystery of his slanted eyes that see everything according to a strange angle, and discover I know not what folds and newer dimensions. 
The clear mind of the White, that resembles his skin and his dreams, also intervenes. Judaic striae hidden within the Castilian blood since the days of the cruel expulsion now reveal themselves, along with Arabian melancholy, as a remainder of the sickly Muslim sensuality. Who has not a little of all this, or does not wish to have all? There is the Hindu, who also will come, who has already arrived by way ofthe spirit, and although he is the last one to arrive, he seems the closest relative ...

A Brazilian intellectual, Gilberto Freyre, came up with a similar but mulatto rather than mestizo oriented theory, Lusotropicalism, that was adopted by the rightist Salazar dictatorship of Portugal to justify holding on to Angola and Mozambique. (In contrast to the Spanish, the Portuguese traditionally got along with the English, to keep from being overwhelmed by their Iberian neighbor.)

Vasconcelos observed, with some acuity:
"Each of the great nations of History has believed itself to be the final and chosen one. [...] The English found theirs on observations relative to domestic animals. From the observation of cross-breeding and hereditary varieties in such animals, Darwinism emerged. First, as a modest zoological theory, then as social biology that confers definitive preponderance to the English above all races. Every imperialism needs a justifying philosophy". (La raza cósmica, 1948)

I've harped on the same point, that Darwinism-Galtonism is an outgrowth of smart, rich country boys breeding animals, a field in which the British led the world from the 18th Century onward. 

The triumph of British ideas like Darwinism was not unconnected with the triumph of British horse racing. It's not a coincidence that the various Jockey Clubs founded in 19th Century continental Europe and Argentina were centers of Anglophile sentiment. Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days, and its hero Phineas Fogg (played by David Niven in the movie), is the purest expression of modernizing 19th Century Continental admiration for the sporting English gentleman, a sentiment which Vasconcelos did not much share.

Ironically, this nearly 500 year old Hispanic annoyance at Anglo presumption has taken on new life with the current Cuban putsch within the Republican Party over immigration.

Giant study proves Zuckerberg wrong

From the NYT
Although certain kinds of engineers are in short supply in the United States, plenty of potential candidates exist for thousands of positions for which companies want to import guest workers, according to an analysis of three million résumés of job seekers in the United States. 
The numbers, prepared by a company called Bright, which collects résumés and uses big data tools to connect job seekers with openings, enter a contentious debate over whether tech companies should be allowed to expand their rolls of guest workers. In lobbying Congress for more of these temporary visas, called H-1B visas, the technology industry argues there are not enough qualified Americans. Its critics, including labor groups, say bringing in guest workers is a way to depress wages in the industry. 
Many economists take issue with the industry’s argument, too.

To be precise, economics takes issue with the industry's argument. In contrast, economists, on average, have been shamefully reticent about pointing out that the Silicon Valley billionaires are denying the basic findings of economics (e.g., supply and demand) to add to their billions. Why? Maybe they figure if they are nice to the billionaires, the billionaires might be nice to them.
... “I didn’t expect this result,” said Steve Goodman, Bright’s chief executive.
Bright is based in San Francisco, and it makes money in part by placing qualified candidates with recruiters and, according to Mr. Goodman, employs workers using H-1B visas. “We’re Silicon Valley people, we just assumed the shortage was true,” Mr. Goodman said. “It turns out there is a little Silicon Valley groupthink going on about this, though it’s not comfortable to say that.” 
For a few job categories, like computer systems analysts, there are relatively few “good fits” among American applicants, Bright found. Computer systems analyst jobs, considered relatively low-skilled in the tech world, had four openings for every American candidate. For others, like high-skilled computer programmers, there were more than enough potential candidates in the United States, the company found. 
Bright’s study is unlikely to end the debate, partly because it rests on the company’s proprietary algorithm to determine who is a “good fit” for a particular job opening. Its algorithm uses a range of criteria, including work experience and education, but also work descriptions that indicated a high likelihood of other skills.  
For the study, Bright looked at the job categories for which firms applied for H-1B visas, and then, looked at résumés of job seekers in the United States whose résumés matched those same categories. 
Giovanni Peri, an economist at University of California, Davis, said that the Bright study was insufficient to determine whether there was a need for foreign engineers.

Hey, Giovanni, didn't you prove that in 2007, immigration was wonderful for California workers? Has anything happened economically in California since 2007? Seems like I read about something in the papers.
“It is the difference between job vacancies (demand) and unemployed with right qualifications (supply) that provides a measure of the excess (or not) of demand,” he said. “Knowing only the number of unemployed with right qualifications does not do it.” 
The Senate immigration bill, passed last month, nearly doubles the number of H-1B visas that companies can seek every year.
... Bright’s analysis suggests a hierarchy in the industry that mirrors what has long been said about jobs like low-skilled agricultural or restaurant work: Americans could do these jobs, but are unlikely to accept the pay or conditions. As a result, the jobs are taken by immigrants. 
The age of workers, which the study did not look at, may also play a role. Experienced American workers tend to be older in an industry that prizes youth. 
A study conducted by a Seattle-based company called Payscale found that among 32 technology companies surveyed, only six had a work force with a median age over 35. At Monster, the job search portal, the median age was 30; at Google, 29; and at Facebook, 28. The median age of American workers over all is 42.3 years old, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Another reason for a youth bias is the cost of health insurance, which is immense these days. Peter Schaeffer's rough estimate is that health care (private and public) costs a staggering $12 per hour worked in the United States.

Yet, what do you think health insurance costs per worker at Facebook compared to, say, at General Electric? Not much, right? It's one reason you can get so Zuckerberg Rich in tech -- you don't have to pay much for your employees' health insurance. Obviously, that's not the only reason, but it's pretty weird that ultra-rich companies like Facebook bear so little of the burden of health care.

But, in my experience, people tend to get old. So, shoving the costs of health care onto somebody else, while good for Mark Zuckerberg's net worth, is just a zero sum game, one that the tech billionaires are winning, which means that somebody else (i.e., you) are losing.
... Later that day, Bright was having a party, partly to attract new talent, he said, including foreign programmers here on H-1B visas.

Bright's report is here.

July 22, 2013

George Zimmerman runs amok again

Once again, the Most Hated Man in America gets out of his vehicle. From ABC News today:
By MATT GUTMAN (@mattgutmanABC) and ALEXIS SHAW (@ashaw109) 
July 22, 2013 
George Zimmerman, who has been in hiding since he was acquitted of murder in the death of Trayvon Martin, emerged to help rescue a family who was trapped in an overturned vehicle, police said today. 
Zimmerman was one of two men who came to the aid of a family of four -- two parents and two children -- trapped inside a blue Ford Explorer SUV that had rolled over after traveling off the highway in Sanford, Fla. at approximately 5:45 p.m. Thursday, the Seminole County Sheriff's Office said in a statement. 
The crash occurred at the intersection of I-4 and route Route 46, police said. The crash site is less than a mile from where Zimmerman shot Martin. 
By the time police arrived, two people - including Zimmerman - had already helped the family get out of the overturned car, the sheriff's office said. No one was reported to be injured. 
Zimmerman was not a witness to the crash and left after speaking with the deputy, police said. 
It's the first known sighting of Zimmerman since he left the courtroom following his acquittal last week on murder charges for the death of Martin. Zimmerman, 29, shot and killed Martin, 17, in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26, 2012. The jury determined that Zimmerman shot Martin in self-defense.

Is violent crime actually falling?

You've probably noticed that Chicago's weekend shooting wrap-up articles tend to have headlines with ratios of dead to wounded like this from the long Fourth of July weekend:
Chicago Shootings: 12 Killed, At Least 62 Wounded In Gun Violence Over Long Holiday Weekend

These days in Chicago, a city with fine trauma care centers, it's not uncommon for only 15 or 20 percent of gunshot victims to die, at least according to my scan of weekend wrap-up headlines.

From the WSJ in 2012:
At the same time, medical data and other surveys in the U.S. show a rising number of serious injuries from assaults with guns and knives. The estimated number of people wounded seriously enough by gunshots to require a hospital stay, rather than treatment and release, rose 47% to 30,759 in 2011 from 20,844 in 2001, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-All Injury Program.

Now, this statistic might not be the gold standard of serious violent crime, either. Perhaps guns improved enough to to do more serious damage requiring more than treatment and release. What about better ambulances keeping victims alive long enough to get to the hospital rather than the morgue? Still, this stat raises questions about the assumption that violent crime is steadily falling.
The CDC estimates showed the number of people injured in serious stabbings rose to 23,550 from 22,047 over the same period. 
Mortality rates of gunshot victims, meanwhile, have fallen, according to research performed for The Wall Street Journal by the Howard-Hopkins Surgical Outcomes Research Center, a joint venture between Howard University and Johns Hopkins University. In 2010, 13.96% of U.S. shooting victims died, almost two percentage points lower than in 2007. 

July 21, 2013

New Unz article on race and crime

From Ron Unz's new article on race and crime:
Thus, replacing a city’s blacks with immigrants would tend to lower local crime rates by as much as 90%, and during the 1990s American elites may have become increasingly aware of this important fact, together with the obvious implications for their quality of urban life and housing values. 
According to Census data, between 1990 and 2010 the number of Hispanics and Asians increased by one-third in Los Angeles, by nearly 50% in New York City, and by over 70% in Washington, D.C.  The inevitable result was to squeeze out much of the local black population, which declined, often substantially, in each location.  And all three cities experienced enormous drops in local crime, with homicide rates falling by 73%, 79%, and 72% respectively, perhaps partly as a result of these underlying demographic changes.  Meanwhile, the white population increasingly shifted toward the affluent, who were best able to afford the sharp rise in housing prices.  It is an undeniable fact that American elites, conservative and liberal alike, are today almost universally in favor of very high levels of immigration, and their possible recognition of the direct demographic impact upon their own urban circumstances may be an important but unspoken factor in shaping their views.

Read the whole thing there.