Goldman Sachs Stumbles: The End of the "Vampire Squid"?

A few years ago, a friend of mine who used to work on Wall Street told me that the only stock anyone needed to own was Goldman Sachs. He was of course half-joking (I sure hope this wasn't the advice he was giving clients), but his point was clear: whatever price increases were happening out in the world, whatever profits were there for the taking, no matter the market, you could be fairly certain that Goldman was on the scene.

The image of Goldman Sachs as some sort of omnivorous, ever-present beast was perpetuated by Matt Taibbi in his 2010 Rolling Stone article, in which he dubbed the firm "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money." And that was just the second sentence.

It would appear that the squid has since had a few of its tentacles lopped off, or at least been shrunken down to size. For only the second time since it went public in 1999, Goldman Sachs has posted a quarterly loss.

Those Cheating Teachers! (Ep. 45): Full Transcript

KAI RYSSDAL: Time now for a little Freakonomics Radio. It’s that moment every couple of weeks where we talk to Stephen Dubner, the co-author of the books and the blog of the same name, joined this week by the other guy, the other co-author, Steven Levitt from the University of Chicago. Guys, welcome to the program. STEPHEN […]

How an Absent Father Affects Boys and Girls Differently

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the share of children living in mother-only households has risen from 8 percent in 1960 to 23 percent in 2010. Freakonomics has a long-standing interest in the role parents play in the lives of their children, and while we usually find no merit in helicopter parenting, a basic level of involvement is obviously important. Past research has shown that a father's involvement with his children is linked to all kinds of beneficial outcomes, from higher academic achievement, improved social and emotional well-being, to lower incidences of delinquency, risk taking, and other problem behaviors.

A new working paper from authors Deborah A. Cobb-Clark and Erdal Tekin examines the relationship between juvenile delinquency and the role of a father in the household, particularly in terms of the different effects an absent father has on boys and girls. They discovered, among other things, that sons benefit far more from a father (or father-figure) than daughters do. From the abstract:

...we find that adolescent boys engage in more delinquent behavior if there is no father figure in their lives. However, adolescent girls' behavior is largely independent of the presence (or absence) of their fathers.

The Suburb as the Slum: Housing Voucher Shifts in America

A new working paper from the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Opportunity series examines a major demographic shift in housing voucher recipients from the cities to the suburbs. Authors Kenya Covington, Lance Freeman and Michael A. Stoll write: “Just as the suburbanization of poverty has gathered momentum, Americans who use housing choice vouchers (HCV) to help pay for their housing have increasingly moved into suburban areas as well.” The authors studied data from 2000 to 2008 to see how this shift has taken place.

They found that:

Nearly half of all HCV recipients lived in suburban areas in 2008. However, HCV recipients remained less suburbanized than the total population, the poor population, and affordable housing units generally.

Black HCV recipients suburbanized fastest over the 2000 to 2008 period, though white HCV recipients were still more suburbanized than their black or Latino counterparts by 2008. Black HCV recipients' suburbanization rate increased by nearly 5 percent over this period, while for Latinos it increased by about 1 percent. The suburbanization rate for white HCV recipients declined slightly.

What Will Be the Impact of Seven Billion People?

On Halloween this year, the world's population will hit seven billion -- or so estimates the United Nations Population Fund. Spooky, considering we hit six billion only a little more than a decade ago. Elizabeth Kolbert offers a brief history of population growth in a recent New Yorker article:

Depending on how you look at things, it has taken humanity a long time to reach this landmark, or practically no time at all. Around ten thousand years ago, there were maybe five million people on earth. By the time of the First Dynasty in Egypt, the number was up to about fifteen million, and by the time of the birth of Christ it had climbed to somewhere in the vicinity of two hundred million. Global population finally reached a billion around 1800, just a couple of years after Thomas Malthus published his famous essay warning that human numbers would always be held in check by war, pestilence, or “inevitable famine.”

Of course, we all know that Malthus was a little off the mark.