Clarifying parodies of binders full of women

A few people who didn’t watch the debate told me this week that they didn’t understand my binders full of women reference in Friday’s post. The tumblr page was one of many internet parodies of a comment by Mitt Romney in last week’s debate regarding his concerted effort to hire more women as governor of Massachusetts. His request for “binders full of women”, or rather, binders full of female candidate’s portfolios, came in stark contrast to Obama’s very concrete support for the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Here’s a link from the Daily Beast explaining it a bit better. I foresee so many binder Halloween costumes this year.


What I’m reading

I’m headed to Maine this afternoon for a quick talk at Bates College and a wedding in Kennebunkport. I’ve never been to Maine, so I’m excited for the beach and seafood, among other things. I’m also excited to read some books that have been on my list for awhile and another that just came out. This is what I’m taking with me:

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity by Katherine Boo

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Nobel Prize Winner Daniel Kahneman

This Is How You Lose Herby Junot Diaz

It should be a good weekend!

Job listing of the month

I’m late to this as the website was down yesterday and the first two weeks of school have taken up tons of my time, but today’s telling job posting comes from Facebook.

Facebook is seeking exceptional PhD-level graduates in the quantitative social sciences for analytical roles in support of its advertising business and products. Analysts develop expertise in Big Data analysis and of Facebook’s advertising operations and products to provide recommendations fueled by detailed analysis and thoughtful modeling of future scenarios. They work cross-functionally with Product, Engineering and Business teams and help shape the future of Facebook. Ideal candidates combine intellectual curiosity and analytical abilities with strong time management and communication skills and a passion for Facebook.

See! They are trying to make money. And they think that an economist should tell them how to do it.

Menlo Park wouldn’t be so bad, right?

Sabana Grande, renovado

The first time I lived in Caracas, I had an internship at a small business and finance magazine in a part of town known as Sábana Grande. It was not the nicest part of town. The pedestrian mall, which stretches from Plaza Venezuela to Chacaíto, was filled with buhoneros, or street vendors selling socks and batteries and burned CDs. And not just filled like If you were the one copyediting late, you weren’t allowed to be there by yourself, walking around at night was not allowed, under any circumstances. Since then, the pedestrian mall has been totally repaved and the buhoneros have been exiled to a large building named after liberatadora Manuelita Saenz (one of the few famous female figures from Latin American independence movements). It’s clean. And almost totally lacking in street vendors. It’s a supremely surreal experience, to walk up and down the mall. Music is still blaring, cheap shoes are still sold in half of the storefronts, and mannequins with impossible proportions (or rather possible with surgery) grace the windows. My enduring complaints about Caracas are being eroded. Well, at least the dirty part (we won’t get into the catcalls I endured today.) In fact, I’ve been impressed with quite a few areas that were once run down and dangerous and have been renovated. I spent the morning in areas called Altagracia and Capitolio, which has a new (not yet inaugurated) mausoleum for Simón Bolívar’s remains, a renovated Plaza Bolivar, repainted municipal buildings and more. I even saw some people scrubbing the bricks in Sábana Grande today and friends tell me that the nightlife in Capitolio is where it’s at. Unthinkable a decade ago. It seems that Caracas actually has changed in the last 10 years, though perhaps not so much in other ways. I’m here for another week, trying to dig up some data. I’ll let you all know what I’m up to after I get back.



I’m back

I’m back! I’m fighting the worse jet lag I’ve ever experienced in my life. Yesterday I was up at 1:30am and today at 2:30. I figure, this is what @price_laborecon must feel like. Nonetheless, I’m stateside for a few days and going to crank out some original research and blog posts.

Here’s one picture for you, in my new saree. More on Kolkata and India and Bengali weddings later, I’m sure.

Off to the land of sights and smells and senses, or a break

As you’re reading this, I’m likely on a plane, or sitting in one of many airports or train stations that is in my future over the next month and a half or so. Today, I’m headed to India to see my dear friend and colleague get married. It’s going to be a five-day, multicity affair, with an overnight train ride in the middle. En route, I’m stopping in Mumbai and Darjeeling to do some shopping (new saree!) and hiking and to see a bit more of this huge, incredible country. I was in India a few years ago and fell in love with it. It’s overwhelming, to be sure. The smells and the colors and the throngs of people are total madness, but I love it; it’s exhilarating to be somewhere out of my comfort zone. I’m not doing research this trip, though you can guarantee my eyes will be peeled for interesting things. I’m also not taking a computer, which means unless I can get wi-fi for my phone, I’m doing this trip old school. I’m going to read some books and journals, including Casualties of Credit by Wennerland and the CESifo journal issue on malnutrition, and some stuff for fun, like Just Kids and back issues of the New Yorker, but won’t be here or on twitter much. My 30th birthday present to myself is a real break from work, this means not thinking about the papers I have under review, or the one that’s due at the end of August, or the one I have to finish for the CNEH conference in Banff in October (so excited for Banff!). A break. I’m going to sit in a big, comfy chair on a tea plantation and stare at the Himalayas (or the clouds, given that it is monsoon season, but, details). If you want to read more about down time (or the lack thereof), take a few minutes for this piece in the NYT from last week on “busyness”, a phenomenon that I’ve been complaining about since my years at Duke, and suddenly everyone is talking about, or Bryce Covert’s piece in The Nation on work-family balance. If you know something I shouldn’t miss in Darjeeling, Kolkata or Ranchi, please do share. I’ll try to check email sporadically. I’ve also been designated honorary photographer and family blocker for this wedding by my advisors, fellow grad students, and professors in the Economics department at the University of Colorado, so I hope to have some crazy wedding pictures and experiences to share when I get back. Have fun! Talk to you all soon. Enjoy your July and thanks for reading. I forgot to acknowledge my blogiversary (sp?), but I’ve loved getting to know you all over the past year. Thanks for your comments and ideas and conversation and emails and shares and links. This has been an amazing learning experience for me and I’m so excited to keep it up over the next year (I promise not to torture you all too much with job market woes in the coming months. Feel free to chastise me if it gets out of hand.)

Long chain kidney donations

The NBER working paper series this week is giving me some plane reading for the next few days:

It has been previously shown that for sufficiently large pools of patient-donor pairs, (almost) effcient kidney exchange can be achieved by using at most 3-way cycles, i.e. by using cycles among no more than 3 patient-donor pairs. However, as kidney exchange has grown in practice, cycles among n > 3 pairs have proved useful, and long chains initiated by non-directed, altruistic donors have proven to be very eff ective. We explore why this is the case, both empirically and theoretically.
We provide an analytical model of exchange when there are many highly sensitized patients, and show that large cycles of exchange or long chains can significantly increase efficiency when the opportunities for exchange are sparse. As very large cycles of exchange cannot be used in practice, long non-simultaneous chains initiated by non-directed donors significantly increase efficiency in patient pools of the size and composition that presently exist. Most importantly, long chains benefit highly sensitized patients without harming low-sensitized patients.

I have a vague recollection of reading about kidney chains a few months ago, probably in the NYT, and getting a warm, fuzzy feeling inside about altruistic donors and how long chains helped to reach those who didn’t have an altruistic donor. I love it when economics comes together and puts everything in a neat little package for me. I’m excited to read this later.

Source: The Need for (long) Chains in Kidney Exchange (gated)
by Itai Ashlagi, David Gamarnik, Michael A. Rees, Alvin E. Roth NBER Working Paper 18202 (HC)


It’s kind of a big one, right? Today is the beginning of my next decade, and I’m happily in the mountains, riding my bicycle, watching moose, finding secret cabins, and spending time with friends. I hope everyone is having a safe and lovely week. Happy belated 4th and talk to you next week.

Thank goodness for lawyer friends

I posed a question earlier today about the Medicaid (not Medicare as I wrote earlier) portion of the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act that came down this morning. My question, essentially, was how is the decision to compel states to cover certain groups under Medicaid by threatening complete loss of funding different than when the drinking age was raised in the US to 21 by threatening to take away state highway funding? In addition, by holding that part of the law unconstitutional, how is the Supreme Court not denying Congress the ability to change legislation? It seems to me very confusing that the Supreme Court could come along and say you actually cannot change the law. I mean, it’s Congress, right? They make laws, they change laws, they get rid of laws?

I either didn’t express my question very well or no one wanted to answer me, but luckily, I talked to my go-to-lawyer friend tonight who actually read the brief and explained the decision to me. I still don’t totally buy that the reasoning in the brief, but at least I got an explanation.

In short (and correct me if I’m totally mashing your words on this), is that federal highway funding constituted a very small portion of a state’s overall finances. So denying federal highway funding would have constituted a very small burden for any given state. In contrast, because Medicaid represents a much larger proportion of a state’s budget, 20% (or so?) and because the vast majority of that is federally funded, requiring the state to cover more people (and increase its own outlay) amounts to coercion because a state wouldn’t be able to cover those people without federal funds.

The answer to the second part of my question, which I think makes even less sense, is that Congress still has the ability to make laws and distribute funds, but this law represented a radical departure from the formerly existing law, not merely an amendment, which places an undue burden on the states who don’t want to expand access.

Thank goodness for lawyer friends.

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