Archive for November, 2015


Special mention


Travel days

Posted: 25 November 2015 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,


Back on the road for a few days. No posts then until I return. . .

And here [ht: sk] is why we call the iconic bird that is native to North America a “turkey.”


As officials released the video of the fatal shooting on 20 October 2014 of 17-year-old teen Laquan McDonald by a police officer, hundreds of Chicago community activists took to the streets to express their anger at the incident and the recording’s long-delayed release.


Ever since the publication of Thomas Frank’s book, What’s the Matter with Kansas, we have been grappling with the issue of why poor and working-class people seem to vote against their own economic self-interest. Frank’s view was that these voters were being manipulated by Republican elites into being distracted by social issues like guns and abortion.

Alec MacGillis, in a recent report, offers a different view:

In eastern Kentucky and other former Democratic bastions that have swung Republican in the past several decades, the people who most rely on the safety-net programs secured by Democrats are, by and large, not voting against their own interests by electing Republicans. Rather, they are not voting, period. They have, as voting data, surveys and my own reporting suggest, become profoundly disconnected from the political process.

The people in these communities who are voting Republican in larger proportions are those who are a notch or two up the economic ladder — the sheriff’s deputy, the teacher, the highway worker, the motel clerk, the gas station owner and the coal miner. And their growing allegiance to the Republicans is, in part, a reaction against what they perceive, among those below them on the economic ladder, as a growing dependency on the safety net, the most visible manifestation of downward mobility in their declining towns.


And recent research, as surveyed by Sean McElwee, challenges the official view that class bias in the U.S. electorate doesn’t matter.

The old political science consensus holds that voters and non-voters hold similar policy preferences. Political scientists relied on American National Election Survey (ANES) data, which suggested that “voters are virtually a carbon copy of the citizen population.” However, that consensus is now being seriously challenged, with three important studies showing that there are significant political differences between voters and non-voters.

In a 2007 paper that forms the basis for their book, Who Votes Now, Jan Leighley and Jonathan Nagler found that large gaps had opened up between voters and non-voters on opinions about the size of government and the proper extent of redistribution. . .voters are more likely to oppose unions, government-sponsored health insurance and federal assistance for schools.

These findings are supported by a Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) study of Californians from 2006. The study found that non-voters are more likely to support higher taxes and more services. They are also more likely to oppose Proposition 13 (a constitutional amendment which limits property taxes) and to support affordable housing. A 2014 study by PPIC finds that the gap remains, with non-voters far more likely to support higher taxes and more services. . .

A 2012 Pew study that examined likely voters and non-voters finds a strong partisan difference. While likely voters in the 2012 presidential election split 47 percent in favor of Obama and 47 percent in favor of Romney, 59 percent of nonvoters supported Obama and only 24 percent supported Romney. The study also found divergence on key policy issues, including healthcare, progressive taxation and the role of government in society. . .The splits are primarily along class lines. After reviewing evidence from the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP), Larry Bartels concluded that “No other rich country even came close to matching [the U.S.] level of class polarization in budget-cutting preferences.”

The United States now has an electorate that votes for what they want and what they don’t want other people to have—and that doesn’t include many of the poor and working-class people who would most gain from a different political economy, including stronger, more generous government programs.


Special mention


Chart of the day

Posted: 23 November 2015 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,


An increasing number of student loan borrowers are struggling to repay their education debt as outstanding student loan balances nationwide increased by $13 billion in the third quarter of 2015, according to the New York Federal Reserve.

The percentage of student loan borrowers who are at least 90-day delinquent in payments rose to 11.6 percent during the third quarter of 2015, up from 11.5 percent the previous quarter. The Fed said the 11.6 percent number likely understates delinquency rates “because about half of these loans are currently in deferment, in grace periods or in forbearance and therefore temporarily not in the repayment cycle. This implies that among loans in the repayment cycle delinquency rates are roughly twice as high.”

total debt

Outstanding student loan balances increased to $1.20 trillion as of 30 September 2015. That’s higher than all other forms of individual debt (such as home equity, autos, and credit cards), except home mortgages.


Noah Smith argues that something he refers to as the recent “empirical revolution” in economics is challenging “a ton of standard, common theories.” These include:

1. If you slap some quick supply-and-demand graphs on the board, it looks like minimum wages should harm employment in the short term. But the data shows that they probably don’t.

2. If there’s any sort of limits to mobility, then simple labor demand theory says that a big influx of immigrants should depress the wages of native-born workers of comparable skill. But the data shows that in many cases, especially in the U.S., the effect is very small.

3. A simple theory of labor-leisure choice predicts that welfare should make recipients work less. But a raft of new studies shows that in countries around the world, welfare programs barely reduce observable work effort.

4. Most standard econ theory doesn’t assume the existence of social norms. But experiments consistently show that social norms (or morals, broadly conceived) matter to people.

I agree.

I’d only add that some of us have been teaching these and many other challenges to mainstream economics for a very long time. That’s because we were fortunate to learn theories other than those of mainstream economics, which we have then used in our own teaching of economics.

We teach our students that mainstream, neoclassical economics is one story about the economy. And, we also teach them, there are many other stories—based on different entry points and logics, and which arrive at conclusions very different from those of mainstream economics.


Special mention



Special mention

171698_600 564a79815d463.image


Special mention