On the Road Again

It’s hard to believe that almost 16 months have passed since I moved out of Easton and to Boston. Since then, I’ve visited eight countries (including four new ones!) and eleven states (it’s so easy when they’re so close together!!!), managed the completion of one very large research project undertaken by seven very busy economists, attended five conferences, submitted three papers, got buried in four snowstorms, and met countless fantastic people.

If this sounds to you like a here-we-go-again, set-back-to-zero post, you would be correct. At the end of September, I am moving out of my totally awesome (but always boiling) apartment in Porter Square in Cambridge and driving, slowly, back to Colorado.

I’m hoping to hit a few big cities along the way to see friends. My farewell East Coast tour, as it were, and just kind of enjoy the drive back. I haven’t driven across country in over a decade, so I’m actually looking forward to it.

Back to Colorado! Everyone I tell this plan to who is from Colorado or has lived there expresses their jealousy, but then the questions set in. What are you going to do? Why are you leaving? What ski pass are you getting? Everyone in Boston (or nearly everyone, I guess) tells me they are sad to see me go, but you can see the glint in their eyes: planning our next vacation, are we? (You are totally welcome anytime!)

I imagine you have more questions, so I put together this FAQ for you.

Erin moves to Colorado, 2015: FAQ

  1. When are you leaving? October 2 is the plan.
  2. Why are you leaving us? My fellowship at Harvard has come to a close, and while I love lots of things about Boston, I really miss Colorado. This will come as no surprise to pretty much anyone who has ever spent more than 15 seconds talking to me, but I need my mountains and my rivers and my family and my blue, blue skies.
  3. Where are you going to live? My ever-so-generous parents have agreed to house me and my stuff for a few months while I figure it out. Boulder, Denver, and even a few ski towns are on the list, but overall, TBD.
  4. So, you’re moving back in with your parents? I’m also traveling a ton over the next few months, so really, I’m just being practical here.
  5. Are you nervous? Of course! Moving kind of sucks. I should know; I’m an expert at this point. But I’m also really excited to try working for myself.
  6. What are you going to do? Ski, ride bikes, climb mountains, raft rivers, hang with my folks, spend time with old friends, maybe blog some or write a book.
  7. No, I mean for work, Erin. Oh, right, that. I’ve been doing some research consulting over the past four years with groups like UNFPA, the Nike Foundation, UNICEF, and US-based community health groups. The plan is to continue that work and formalize my own research consulting business. If you know anyone who needs some questions answered about economics, cost-benefit analysis, gender, violence, children, or other related issues, I’m your girl. (Basically, hire me, please.)
  8. Wait, that sounds awesome; can I work for you? Uhh, maybe! I could use some help every once in awhile.
  9. Will there be a powder clause in that contract? Duh.
  10. Are you going on the market this year? I’m certainly open to looking for an academic job, but I’m really excited to try this thing on my own for a bit. In addition, moving around the last four years has taken a lot out of me; I’m ready for some stability. I think there are lots of opportunities for me to be involved with universities while not being on the tenure track. Adjuncting, lecturing for friends (I’m great at Skype lectures), spending a semester in China, or maybe even just living near campus and attending seminars. If you’ve got something awesome you think would be a good fit let me know!
  11. Are you going to keep publishing? Yup! I have a few papers in the publication pipeline now. I’m always looking for new projects and I’m hopeful that the consulting work I’m currently doing will lead to some publishable work as well.
  12. Are you sure you’re not just going to become a yoga instructor, eat a lot of pot chocolate chip cookies, and move to a Buddhist retreat center or something? I make no promises.
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The Grand Gender Convergence

The American Economic Review was sitting in my mailbox this morning. Yes, I do realize I’m pretty much the last economist on earth to still receive hard copy journals, but don’t knock it ’til you try it.

Claudia Goldin writes the lead article from the April issue. It’s titled A Grand Gender Convergence: Its Last Chapter. The abstract is below.

The converging roles of men and women are among the grandest advances in society and the economy in the last century. These aspects of the grand gender convergence are figurative chapters in a history of gender roles. But what must the “last” chapter contain for there to be equality in the labor market? The answer may come as a surprise. The solution does not (necessarily) have to involve government intervention and it need not make men more responsible in the home (although that wouldn’t hurt). But it must involve changes in the labor market, in particular how jobs are structured and remunerated to enhance temporal flexibility. The gender gap in pay would be considerably reduced and might vanish altogether if firms did not have an incentive to disproportionately reward individuals who labored long hours and worked particular hours. Such change has taken off in various sectors, such as technology, science and health, but is less apparent in the corporate, financial and legal worlds.

Given the nature of the debate over the past few months on equal pay legislation and other forms of labor market discrimination against women, and more importantly against individuals that don’t conform to the two-gender paradigm, to claim that the gender convergence is in its last chapter seems a little short-sighted. But she’s a historian and a very smart economic historian at that, having written a book, Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women, which I recommend frequently to economics majors interested in labor and gender. The article is essentially an extension of the book’s arguments, this time concentrating on occupational differences.

It’s a good read and would be great for students. In fact, perhaps I’ll have mine read it this week. Look out for their tweets!

Standard of living and measuring welfare effects

A few posts caught my eye today by bloggers discussing different, but related topics. All of them suggest that the most measurable outcomes are not necessarily the metrics of policy success or failure we should focus on.

Francisco Toro, at his new blog the Campaign for Boring Development, comments on how microfinance may not raise the incomes of participants, but it does have the potential to increase standards of living.

Matt Yglesias, at Slate, slams the media for misinterpreting (willfully?) the CBO report that says the equivalent of more than 2 million full time (equivalent) jobs will disappear as a result of the ACA. The Plum Line says it’s not a “job-killer,” but people might choose to work fewer hours because now they can afford healthcare. Is that really so bad?

Job switching among Baby Boomers

I’m teaching Labor Economics this Fall for the first time, which means I’m constantly in search of interesting ways to get students to think about how we study questions of why people work, why they get hired, how firms decide how much labor to hire, and more. In one of these quests this afternoon, I found a BLS report from July outlining duration and number of jobs held by later period Baby Boomers (born 1957-1964) over their lifetimes.

It’s a short, descriptive report and the numbers come from the NLSY79, which is a fantastic longitudinal study of employment and educational outcomes, families and more. What I found so interesting about the report is that it shows that baby boomers, on average, held 11.3 jobs over their working lives. That number struck me as high. Even though about half of those jobs were held before age 24 (think summer jobs, part-time jobs while in school), there’s still a lot of switching over 30-40 working years. And it runs contrary to the narrative that I’ve both heard and repeated, which says that our parents were likely to take one job and keep it throughout until they retired, while my generation (which is unclear to me–too old to be a Millenial, but feel too young to be Gen X), is more likely to have switch jobs often and have shorter tenures at each job.

Of course, we can’t really compare the lifelong numbers until my generation is much older, but I wonder how much that narrative is perception (because we have the closest experience to more volatile period of the ages of 18-24), or because we actually enjoy less job security.

Equal pay for equal work, including housework

My twitter feed is abuzz with Romney’s claim that Obama is really responsible for the war on women. While I noted a few weeks ago here that the recovery has been slightly weaker for women, it’s certainly not true that women’s employment has decreased under Obama or that any specific policies enacted have had the goal of decreasing women’s employment.

Brian Beutler has a good post about it up at TPM.

Male-dominated industries took a hard, early hit during the recession. As those industries rebound, more jobs are going to men than to women. Conversely, women lost a huge number of jobs in states and municipalities as a result of teacher layoffs — a hemorrhaging that could have been stanched by Obama-proposed legislation to spur teacher hiring, which the GOP blocked.

Meanwhile, I’m reading proposed Venezuelan legislation for the new Organic Work Law (Ley Orgánica de Trabajo or NLOT) and marveling at the language put forth by a consortium of women’s groups. Case in point, one of the goals of the proposed legislation:

Visibilizar el aporte de las trabajadoras del hogar no remunerado a la vida social, y garantizar sus derechos laborales.

My translation: “Make visible the contributions to the social fabric of unpaid, female home workers and guarantee their workers’ rights”

The text is filled with language that appears to have the goal of being inclusive particularly of women’s contributions in the home. It calls for giving those responsible for “reproduction and life care” access to social security payments, “equal pay for equal work”, and up to 14 months paid maternity leave  I don’t have enough understanding of the law to say whether it’s a “good law” per se, but it’s incredible that so many women’s groups in Venezuela agreed to this proposed language.

Note that this isn’t the law, and might not ever be. But someone’s talking about it.

The text of the proposed law, in Spanish, was sent to me by Florangel Parodi, former Venezuelan Minister for Women. I’m happy to pass it along if anyone is interested.