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Miles Kimball

Miles Kimball

Miles Kimball is Professor of Economics and Survey Research at the University of Michigan. Politically, Miles is an independent who grew up in an apolitical family. He holds many strong opinions—open to revision in response to cogent arguments—that do not line up neatly with either the Republican or Democratic Party.

Articles by Miles Kimball

Nick Timiraos and Andrew Tangel: In the Long Term, an Economy Can’t Expand Faster than the Combined Growth Rates of Its Working Population and Their Output Per Hour

5 days ago

Link to Nick Timiraos’s and Andrew Tangel’s May 17 Wall Street Journal article "Can Trump Deliver 3% Growth? Stubborn Realities Stand in the Way" shown aboveNick Timiraos and Andrew Tangel’s Wall Street Journal article on productivity and number of workers in the US explores many of the same themes as my talk "Restoring American Growth." One of the most basic truisms in the article is the one I made into the title of this post: In the long term, an economy can’t expand faster than the combined growth rates of its working population and their output per hour.Let me talk about each of these in turn, as they do. The Drift of Policy is Against Growth in Number of

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Economics Is Unemotional—And That’s Why It Could Help Bridge America’s Partisan Divide

7 days ago

Here is a link to my 68th Quartz column, "Economics is unemotional—and that’s why it could help bridge America’s partisan divide." Note: You can see all of my previous Quartz columns listed in order of popularity here.In order to keep things tight, my editor for this column, Sarah Todd, suggested cutting two passages that might interest you: my original introduction, which defines the concept of "politicism," and a passage about the politics of financial stability. I reproduce them below from my early draft of this column:Original Intro:Among friends considering where to live, I hear a concern these days I don’t remember hearing when I was younger: “I could

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Edward Lawrence Kimball on Mormonism, Part 1

9 days ago

Link to the video above on YouTubeMy Dad, Edward Lawrence Kimball, died on November 21, 2016, a little less than six months ago. I have posted my tribute to my Dad and the tributes of my brothers and sisters, as well as by my Dad’s colleague Jack Welch:Today, and two weeks from today, I am posting videos of John Dehlin’s two interviews of my Dad about my Dad’s views on Mormonism. (If you can’t wait, here is a link to Part 2.) These interviews are excellent at showing how my Dad thought about religion—something he cared deeply about. If you want to see the best face of Mormonism I know of, take a look at these videos.

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Sam Wang on Simple Statistical Tests for Partisan Asymmetry in Redistricting

11 days ago

By SAM WANGDecember 5, 2015PARTISAN gerrymandering is an offense to democracy. It creates districts that are skewed and uncompetitive, denying voters the ability to elect representatives who fairly reflect their views. But on Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear a case in which a small dose of math can help the justices root out these offenses more easily.Redistricting may seem unglamorous, but it comes up repeatedly before the court. Last month, the justices heard a case that could streamline the path by which they receive such complaints. In oral arguments, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. expressed his fear that his court could be flooded with complex redistricting cases. But he needn’t be concerned. Tuesday’s case gives the court a chance to adopt a simple statistical standard for

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Statistical Tests to End the Curse of Gerrymandering

12 days ago

Link to Sam Wang’s December 5, 2015 New York Times article "Let Math Save Our Democracy"

Sam Wang begins his December 5, 2015 New York Times op-ed "Let Math Save Our Democracy" (flagged by a current article about the upcoming 2020 census) with the words Partisan gerrymandering is an offense to democracy. It creates districts that are skewed and uncompetitive, denying voters the ability to elect representatives who fairly reflect their views.I expressed a similar view in my early post Persuasion: Many people may not realize the extent to which political polarization in the House of Representatives arises from partisan

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Neil Irwin: Alan Krueger on How the Music Industry Explains Inequality

14 days ago

It is exceedingly rare for a White House chief economist to give a speech on rock-and-roll. But Alan Krueger is scheduled to do just that Wednesday evening at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. His talk there (a text was made available in advance) is a terrific window into how the music business explains the forces shaping our collective economic fortunes. "The music industry is a microcosm of what is happening in the U.S. economy at large," Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, says. "We are increasingly becoming a ‘winner-take-all economy,’ a phenomenon that the music industry has long experienced. Over recent decades, technological change, globalization and an erosion of the institutions and practices that support shared prosperity in the U.S. have

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Paul Krugman Defends France Against Its Critics and Warns Highhanded Eurocrats to Mend Their Ways on the Eve of Emmanuel Macron’s Election Victory

15 days ago

Op-Ed ColumnistMay 5, 2017Paul KrugmanOn Sunday France will hold its presidential runoff. Most observers expect Emmanuel Macron, a centrist, to defeat Marine Le Pen, the white nationalist — please, let’s stop dignifying this stuff by calling it “populism.” And I’m pretty sure that Times rules allow me to state directly that I very much hope the conventional wisdom is right. A Le Pen victory would be a disaster for Europe and the world.Yet I also think it’s fair to ask a couple of questions about what’s going on. First, how did things get to this point? Second, would a Le Pen defeat be anything more than a temporary reprieve from the ongoing European crisis?Some background: Like everyone on this side of the Atlantic, I can’t help seeing France in part through Trump-colored glasses. But it’s

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On Theft

16 days ago

I have often marveled that the American Revolutionaries went to war—with all the death and destruction that entailed—over their taxes being too high without much say from them in the matter. But their perspective becomes clear when one realizes how well-versed many of the key players were in the writings of John Locke. In section 18 of his 2d Treatise on Government: “On Civil Government,” John Locke writes: This makes it lawful for a man to kill a thief, who has not in the least hurt him, nor declared any design upon his life, any farther than by the use of force, so to get him in his power as to take away his money, or what he pleases,

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James Hansen’s Advice for Not Frying Our Planet

18 days ago

I highly recommend Jeff Goodell’s interview of James Hansen, linked above. Jeff introduces James Hansen this way: … James Hansen became the first scientist to offer unassailable evidence that burning fossil fuels is heating up the planet. In the decades since, as the world has warmed, the ice has melted and the wildfires have spread, he has published papers on everything from the risks of rapid sea-level rise to the role of soot in global temperature changes …It is clear from the interview that James is a no-nonsense guy. Here are some key passages:1. I would also tell [the President] to think of what the energy sources of the future

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Dan Kofp: US Housing Wealth Is Growing for the Oldest and Wealthiest Americans, at the Expense of Everybody Else

19 days ago

Since the 1970s, coastal US cities have implemented laws that make it impossible for housing supply to equal demand. Proponents of these laws argue they are important for historic preservation, environment protection, and the livability of cities. Conveniently, such laws also happen to inflate the housing prices of many of their supporters—mainly the old and wealthy, who are the clear winners of these kinds of market-constraining regulations.
A new working paper (pdf) from the economists Edward Glaeser of Harvard University and Joseph Gyourko of the University of Pennsylvania shows exactly how much the winners have gained. The researchers analyzed household survey data from 1983 to 2013 (the last year data was collected), and found that housing wealth increased “almost exclusively among the wealthiest, older Americans.”
The chart below shows the change in average housing wealth by age group for the median US household (i.e. the 50th percentile), and for those in the 99th percentile (i.e. the top 1%). Only the median household headed by a 65-to-74-year-old had more housing wealth in 2013 than 1983. For the 99th percentile, every age group saw growth, but the biggest gains accrued to the oldest groups.

“The point we are making is straight out of an intermediate microeconomics class,” Gyourko said in a recent interview with the Global Housing Watch Newsletter.

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You, Too, Are a Math Person; When Race Comes Into the Picture, That Has to Be Reiterated

20 days ago

Link to the article above.

Noah Smith’s and my Quartz column "There’s One Key Difference Between Kids Who Excel at Math and Those Who Don’t" was also published in the Atlantic online as "The Myth of ‘I’m Bad at Math.’" This is by more than an order of magnitude the most popular thing I have ever written. That might even be true for Noah. I followed up with the column "How to Turn Every Child into a ‘Math Person’." Our message of "You, too, can learn math" should be clear enough, but such is the racism in our society, that when it comes to disadvantaged minorities, the message "You, too, can learn math" needs to be reiterated. Until we see the potential in everyone, regardless of race or household income, prejudice continues. The article linked above, "How Does Race Affect a Student’s Math Education" talks about racial obstacles to everyone getting the message that the ability to do math is as nearly universal as the ability to read. Letting someone believe they can’t learn to do math is like letting someone believe they can’t learn to read. Either is cruel in the extreme. Sometimes people don’t realize that math comes slowly to almost everyone.

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Andrew Ross Sorkin: Steve Ballmer Serves Up a Fascinating Data Trove on US Government

21 days ago

April 17, 2017Andrew Ross SorkinGuess what Steven A. Ballmer has been up to for the last several years. (No, not just cheering for the basketball team he owns, the Los Angeles Clippers.) It’s a novel project, and he plans to take the wrapping off it Tuesday.But first the back story, which is a valuable prelude to a description of the project itself.When Mr. Ballmer retired as chief executive of Microsoft in 2014, he was only 57 and quickly realized “I don’t, quote, ‘have anything to do.’”As he looked for a new endeavor — before he decided to buy the Clippers — his wife, Connie, encouraged him to help with some of her philanthropic efforts, an idea he initially rejected.“But come on, doesn’t the government take care of the poor, the sick, the old?” Mr. Ballmer recalled telling her. After all, he pointed out, he happily paid a lot of taxes, and he figured that all that tax money should create a sufficient social safety net.Her answer: “A, it won’t, because there are things government doesn’t get to, and B, you’re missing it.”Mr. Ballmer replied, “No, I’m not.”That conversation led Mr. Ballmer to pursue what may be one of the most ambitious private projects undertaken to answer a question that has long vexed the public and politicians alike. He sought to “figure out what the government really does with the money,” Mr. Ballmer said. “What really happens?”On Tuesday, Mr.

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Leaving a Legacy

23 days ago

A. Link to the video the acoustic performance by Nichole Nordeman of "Legacy" above; b. Link to the official music video of "Legacy"; c. Link to the lyrics for "Legacy"I am one of the relatively few nonsupernaturalists who regularly listens to Contemporary Christian Music. This past week, listened repeatedly to Nichole Nordeman’s song "Legacy" because of its resonance with the criticism I made a week ago in my post "Breaking the Chains" of careerism among economists and other academics. There I write:For most who go into academia, the salary they will get in academia is lower than they could get outside. So most who go into academia make that choice in part out of the joy of ideas, a burning desire for self-expression, a genuine fascination with learning how the world works, or out of idealism—the hope of making the world a better place through their efforts. But by the time those who are successful make it through the long grind of graduate school, getting a job and getting tenure, many have had that joy of ideas, desire for self-expression, thirst for understanding and idealism snuffed out. For many their work life has become a checklist of duties plus the narrow quest for publications in top journals. This fading away of higher, brighter goals betrays the reasons they chose academia in the first place.

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David Brooks: The Crisis of Western Civ

23 days ago

Op-Ed ColumnistApril 21, 2017David BrooksBetween 1935 and 1975, Will and Ariel Durant published a series of volumes that together were known as “The Story of Civilization.” They basically told human history (mostly Western history) as an accumulation of great ideas and innovations, from the Egyptians, through Athens, Magna Carta, the Age of Faith, the Renaissance and the Declaration of the Rights of Man. The series was phenomenally successful, selling over two million copies.That series encapsulated the Western civilization narrative that people, at least in Europe and North America, used for most of the past few centuries to explain their place in the world and in time. This narrative was confidently progressive. There were certain great figures, like Socrates, Erasmus, Montesquieu and Rousseau, who helped fitfully propel the nations to higher reaches of the humanistic ideal.This Western civ narrative came with certain values — about the importance of reasoned discourse, the importance of property rights, the need for a public square that was religiously informed but not theocratically dominated. It set a standard for what great statesmanship looked like. It gave diverse people a sense of shared mission and a common vocabulary, set a framework within which political argument could happen and most important provided a set of common goals.

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An Excellent Graphic from Eric Rosten and Blacki Migliozzi: What’s Really Warming the World?

24 days ago

Climate scientists tend not to report climate results in whole temperatures. Instead, they talk about how the annual temperature departs from an average, or baseline. They call these departures "anomalies." They do this because temperature anomalies are more consistent in an area than absolute temperatures are. For example, the absolute temperature atop the Empire State Building may be different by several degrees than the absolute temperature at New York’s LaGuardia Airport. But the differences from their own averages are likely to be about the same. It means that scientists can get a better idea about temperature with fewer monitoring stations. That’s particularly useful in places where measurement is very difficult (ie, deserts).The simulation results are aligned to the observations using the 1880-1910 average. What’s most important about these temperatures are the trends—the shape and trajectory of the line, and not any single year’s temperature.

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Tyler Cowen on the Declining Benefits of Federalism

25 days ago

In a recent essay, Harvard economist Martin Feldstein listed some reasons we might expect the U.S. to have higher rates of economic growth than other industrialized countries. I agree with most of his list — high entrepreneurialism, world-class research universities, a good work ethic — but there’s one factor I don’t buy. It’s this: “The U.S. has a decentralized political system in which states compete. The competition among states encourages entrepreneurship and work effort and the legal systems protect the rights of property owners and entrepreneurs.” Unfortunately, we’re probably at the point where American federalism does more to hinder than to help growth.One problem is that people simply aren’t that mobile any more. Moving across state lines has declined by about 50 percent from the average over the period 1948 to 1971. This has happened for a variety of reasons, including the aging of America, the rise of dual-income couples, and the fact that some regionally based job attractions, such as automobile manufacturing in Detroit, are no longer so significant. The net result is that state governments don’t have to worry as much about dissatisfied residents moving out. These days that is either harder to do, or people are simply less interested in making a fundamental change. The competitive checks and balances on state governments are correspondingly weaker.

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Restoring American Growth: The Video

26 days ago

In Summer, 2016, I moved from the University of Michigan to the University of Colorado Boulder. This Spring, Nick Flores and Maria Oliveras organized an inaugural public lecture for me as the Eugene D. Eaton Jr. Professor of Economics. I took on the tough question of how to restore American Growth, a question closely related my post two days ago, "Why Is Productivity Growth So Low? 23 Economic Experts Weigh In|FocusEconomics."Watching a bit of the video, I am pleased with how the talk turned out. Restoring American growth is a tough problem, and I wanted to be clear, so the talk is a long one, but I think one that will reward well the time of those who watch it. If I were to write a book about restoring American growth, this is the outline I would begin with in figuring out how to write it. I have to apologize for the slides themselves being washed out in the video by the lighting in the room. I explain the point of the slides well enough, you should be able to follow anyway. But the ideal way to watch this is probably to have the video in one window on your computer and to have the slides open in another window. Or if you are lucky enough to have two computers of any form (or be able to borrow), you might want to have the video going on one computer screen and the slides open on another.

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Why Is Productivity Growth So Low? 23 Economic Experts Weigh In|FocusEconomics

28 days ago

FocusEconomics included me among the 23 experts asked the question "Why is productivity growth so low?" You can see my answer above and all of our answers at this link. Here is the list of economists offering their takes, in the order they appear in the article:Mike NormanKarl DenningerJames PicernoDaniel LacalleAlden AbbottConstantinos CharalambousTimothy TaylorDean BakerCarola BinderJohn CochraneLivio Di MatteoColin LloydElliott MorseMike "Mish" ShedlockGeorge SelginDavid AndolfattoJeff MillerAntonio FatasMiles KimballNeven ValevJohn QuigginDavid T. FlynnSteve KeenFocusEconomics sets up the question well at the beginning.

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Breaking the Chains

April 23, 2017

In his April 14, 2017 Wall Street Journal essay "The Profound Connection Between Easter and Passover," R. R. Reno wrote:The Passover Seder recalls and celebrates the resurrection of the people of Israel.Today we tend to think of slavery strictly as an injustice, which of course it is, and some modern Seders treat the Passover as the triumph of justice over oppression. But this is not the traditional view. In the ancient world, slavery was not just a hardship for individuals but a kind of communal death. An enslaved nation can survive for a time, perhaps, but they have no future. A people in bondage is slowly crushed and extinguished.In section 17 of his 2d Treatise on Government: “On Civil Government,” John Locke makes the same comparison between being enslaved and death:And hence it is, that he who attempts to get another man into his absolute power, does thereby put himself into a state of war with him: it being to be understood as a declaration of a design upon his life: for I have reason to conclude, that he who would get me into his power without my consent, would use me as he pleased when he had got me there, and destroy me too when he had a fancy to it; for nobody can desire to have me in his absolute power, unless it be

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