Teach to One's First Report Card

One of our first Freakonomics Radio podcasts was about an innovative New York City Department of Education pilot program called School of One. You can listen to the podcast here, but here's the gist: "The School of One tries to take advantage of technology to essentially customize education for every kid in every classroom and help teachers do their job more effectively. "

School of One's successor, Teach to One, just got its first-year report card from a Teachers College study. The program is thriving; some highlights of the study, from the press release

• Teach to One students started the 2012-13 academic year significantly below national averages

• The average gains of Teach to One students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades surpassed those made by students nationally by ~20%. The researchers said this is particularly noteworthy since participating schools would likely not have scored at the national average without Teach to One.  

• The average gains of Teach to One students in most demographic sub-groups outperformed national norms

• Teach to One students who started with the weakest mathematics skills made the greatest gains—50 percent higher than the national average.

FREAK-est Links

1. Department of Obvious? Restaurants seat good-looking patrons at the best tables. (HT: Cyril Morong)

2. Tel Aviv University discovers a bacteria-killing protein that could replace antibiotics.

3. The Gates Foundation condom-design contest winners: beef tendon and a "wrapping" condom.

4. Mass killers want the spotlight: how to stop them.

The Startup Party

There's a new political party in town: it's primarily focused on creating more political parties.  Jared Hardy recently wrote to us about Startup Party USA, the "first 3+ political party in the United States.  From the website:

Tired of only voting for a party duopoly? Join the Startup Party USA to change our elections away from duopolist rule. Startups aren’t just for monetary profit.

The Startup Party USA intends to be the first 3+ political party in the United States. A 3+ political party is one with the primary mission of reforming voting rules so that even more parties have an equal and fair chance at winning elections. To accomplish this, we must first eliminate winner-take-all or “first past the post” voting everywhere in the USA.

What's the Best Way to Deliver Food Aid?

The question of how best to deliver food aid is a controversial one.  In recent years, economists like Dean Karlan and Ed Glaeser have suggested that direct cash transfers are the most direct, efficient means of delivering aid to struggling families in the U.S. and elsewhere.  In response to the debate, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) collaborated with the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) on several studies. Here's the Ecuador study comparing the effects of aid in the form of cash, food baskets, or supermarket vouchers.  And here's a summary of their findings in Ecuador, Niger, Uganda, and Yemen, which were also discussed at a recent IFPRI seminar:

Findings revealed that there is no one “right” transfer modality. The relative effectiveness of different modalities depends heavily on contextual factors such as the severity of food insecurity and the thickness of markets for grains and other foods. In three countries (Ecuador, Uganda, Yemen), cash had a relatively larger impact on improving dietary diversity as did vouchers in Ecuador, but in the fourth country (Niger), food had a larger impact on dietary diversity. Cash assistance was always significantly more cost-effective to deliver. In fact, researchers determined that if they repeated the study, but only distributed cash, they could feed an additional 32,800 people with the same project budget.

For N.B.A. Hopefuls, Zip Code Matters

We've blogged before about the (relatively small) effect of birth month on athletic excellence.  But how does birth location affect a potential athlete? In The New York TimesSeth Stephens-Davidowitz  calculated the probability of getting to the N.B.A. by Zip codeHe found that players like LeBron James, born to a low-income teenage mom, are the exceptions to the rule:

I recently calculated the probability of reaching the N.B.A., by race, in every county in the United States. I got data on births from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; data on basketball players from basketball-reference.com; and per capita income from the census. The results? Growing up in a wealthier neighborhood is a major, positive predictor of reaching the N.B.A. for both black and white men. Is this driven by sons of N.B.A. players like the Warriors’ brilliant Stephen Curry? Nope. Take them out and the result is similar.

On Suicide and Guns

We've blogged quite a bit about suicide and put out an hour-long podcast on the topic. The podcast featured an interview with Matt Wray, a sociologist who studies America's "suicide belt." He described the type of American most likely to kill himself:

WRAY: So, yes the Inner Mountain West is a place that is disproportionately populated by middle-aged and aging white men, single, unattached, often unemployed with access to guns. This may turn out to be a very powerful explanation and explain a lot of the variance that we observe. It’s backed up by the fact that the one state that is on par with what we see in the suicide belt is Alaska.

DUBNER: All right, so now you can get a picture of the American who’s most likely to kill himself: an older, white male who owns a gun, probably unmarried and maybe unemployed, living somewhere out west, probably in a rural area. 

A new paper (gated) by Alex Tabarrok and Justin Briggs further examines the connection between firearms and suicides. Tabarrok summarizes their findings at Marginal Revolution:

The Industrialization of the Artisanal Revolution

The New York Times reports that Etsy, the website that sells handmade artisanal products, will now allow its sellers to manufacture products. The reason for the shift? It's too hard to scale up when everything's handmade:

But last month, Etsy announced new policies that would allow sellers to apply to peddle items they produced with manufacturing partners, as well as to hire staff and use outside companies to ship their goods — all provided that the sellers demonstrated the “authorship, responsibility and transparency” intrinsic to handmade items.

Thirty Squats for a Free Subway Ride

This month, Moscow is offering free subway rides to passengers who can do 30 squats. It's part Olympic fever, part healthy-lifestyle promotion, via the Wall Street Journal (and be sure to check out the pictures):

Moscow city officials are now offering free rides on the subway to any passenger who does 30 squats before crossing the ticket barrier to enter the metro in an effort to promote physical fitness and sports, according to Russian state media reports.

Each squat will be counted by a special machine marked with the Olympic logo that will be placed next to electronic ticket vending machines.

“We wanted to show that the Olympic Games is not just an international competition that people watch on TV, but that it is also about getting everyone involved in a sporting lifestyle,” Alexander Zhukov, president of the Russian Olympic Committee, was quoted by state-run news wire RIA-Novosti as saying.

How to Sell Ice Cream in Cold Weather

From Eric Kirkland, a photo of an ice-cream shop in Colorado Springs with a weather-sensitive customer-loyalty plan:

Pirate Economics, Somali Edition

An Economist article looks at a new study by the International Criminal Police Organization, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and World Bank on the economics of Somali piracy, including pirate earnings:

The authors interviewed current and former pirates, their financial backers, government officials, middlemen and others. They estimate that between $339m and $413m was paid in ransoms off the Somali coast between 2005 and 2012. The average haul was $2.7m. Ordinary pirates usually get $30,000-75,000 each, with a bonus of up to $10,000 for the first man to board a ship and for those bringing their own weapon or ladder.

The article also explores the financing and profit of pirate expeditions, and how ransom money trickles down: