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Timothy Taylor: Conversable Economist

Conversable Economist is an economics blog by Timothy Taylor, who is the author of several economics books. Timothy goes deep into details about a range of topics, backing his arguments up with statistics and data.

The Most Romantic Sentences Ever About Government Statistics?

Arunabh Ghosh offers a candidate for the role of most romantic sentence ever about statistical tables. It's at the start of his article "Counting China: By rejecting sampling in favour of exhaustive enumeration, communist China’s dream of total information became a nightmare" (Aeon, July 23, 2020). Try not to get teary as you read it. Ghosh writes: Sometime in the fall of 1955, a Chinese statistical worker by the name of Feng Jixi penned what might well be the most romantic sentence ever...

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COVID: Perception and Numeracy

Kekst CNC is a "communications strategy" firm that has been doing a series of public opinion polls about COVID-19. Their "COVID-19 Opinion Tracker: Fourth Edition" report surveyed 1,000 adults in different countries, during the time period from July 10-15, 2020. The report includes questions about beliefs on how long the virus will last, how local and national government is performing, how business is performing, feelings about returning to work and wearing masks, and other topics. One...

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When Colleges Went to Online Instruction: Some Patterns

Almost all the US colleges and universities closed down their in-person operations and went to online education in March and April. But they didn't all do so at exactly the same time, nor do they all have the same plans for this fall.  In "Tracking Campus Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic," Christopher R. Marsicano, Kathleen M. Felten, Luis S. Toledo, and Madeline M. Buitendorp (Davidson College Educational Studies Working Paper No. 1,  April 2020) look at the shutdown pattern. They have...

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The World Economy Through a PPP Lens

When comparing the size of economies, you need to use an exchange rate to convert the GDP of one country, measured in its own currency, to compare with the GDP of the other country. But what exchange rate to use? An obvious choice is the market exchange rate. An equally obvious problem is that the exchange rates fluctuate.  If the exchange rate of a country strengthens by 10% in a certain month, that of course doesn't mean that the standard of living for people in that country rose by 10%...

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Interview with Amartya Sen: Economics with a Moral Compass?

The just-released Annual Review of Economics (2020, volume 12, pp. 1-21) leads off with "Economics with a Moral Compass? Welfare Economics: Past, Present, and Future," by Amartya Sen, Angus Deaton, and Tim Besley. It's mostly an interview of Sen (Nobel 1998) about his career, with Deaton (Nobel 2015) and Besley offering some gentle prompting.  A video of the nearly two hours of conversation is also available. I especially enjoyed a number of Sen's stories about economists he had known at...

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I Surpass Keynes: 33 Years Plus One

John Maynard Keynes served as Editor of the Economic Journal--the research journal of Britain's Royal Economic Society--for 33 years plus one issue. He was appointed to the position as a 28 year-old in 1911, and finished with the April 1945 issue. He did have joint or assistant editors for periods of time--Francis Edgeworth (1919-26), D .H. Macgregor ( 1926-34) and Austin Robinson ( 1934-45)--who must have played an especially important role when Keynes was off advising the government. But...

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Summer 2020 Journal of Economic Perspectives Online

I am now in my 34th year as Managing Editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives. The JEP is published by the American Economic Association, which decided about a decade ago--to my delight--that the journal would be freely available on-line, from the current issue all the way back to the first issue. You can download it various e-reader formats, too. Here, I'll start with the Table of Contents for the just-released Summer 2020 issue, which in the Taylor household is known as issue #133....

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The Pandemic Effect on World Trade: Some Early Data

The World Trade Statistical Review 2020 from the World Trade Organization is an annual report which is mainly focused on detailed data for trade patterns from the previous year. I find that it requires some mental effort to remember what the world economy looked like in 2019, but of course, trade tensions were already high. The value of global merchandise trade fell 3% in 2019--the first time it had fallen since the Great Recession years back in 2008-9--while the value of services trade rose...

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Slavery and the History of US Economic Growth

Slavery was both a set of economic arrangements and also a raw authoritarian human rights violation. It's unsurprising that there has been long-standing controversy over the relationship: for example, did slavery in the United States boost to economic growth or hold it back? Gavin Wright revisits these issues in "Slavery and Anglo‐American capitalism revisited"  (Economic History Review, May 2020, 73:2, pp. 353-383, subscription required).  The paper was also the subject of the Tawney...

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A Gentle Case for Paying Kidney Donors

Simon Haeder makes a gentle case, nudging the undecided to consider the possible of paying kidney donors, in "Thinking the Unthinkable: Buying and Selling Human Organs" (Milken Institute Review, Third Quarter 2020, pp. 44-52).Today, 15 percent of Americans suffer from chronic kidney disease. Of these, roughly 800,000 have progressed to end-stage renal disease, where kidney function has been reduced to 10 to 15 percent of normal capacity. Most of them – half a million or so – require regular...

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