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The Life of the Number-Crunching Analyst

Thousands of economics majors head off to industry each year to work as analysts. They’re lured by the promise that they’ll learn a lot, work hard, play hard and get ahead.  But is it true?  Who better to ask than the brilliant young analyst Elisabeth Fosslien.  And as a good young analyst, she’s distilled her portrait of life as an analyst into charts.  Having once lived the analyst life—my first job out of college was at the Reserve Bank of Australia, crunching numbers and making charts—all of these resonated with me. Read More »



Why Nations Fail

One of the great experiences of my stint in grad school was taking Advanced Macro classes from a fellow who at the time was regarded as a promising young professor at MIT – Daron Acemoglu.  It was well worth making the bike trip from Harvard, down Mass. Ave., to learn from him.  He is surely the most productive economist alive.  And his frequent collaborator Jim Robinson may just be the most interesting political scientist.  Their joint research program — figuring out what works and what doesn’t in economic development — involves asking some of the most important questions any social scientist can ask.   Read More »



Happy Valentine’s Day: Economist Edition

 You might think that the dismal science has very little to offer on matters of the heart.  But I disagree.  And so does Elisabeth Fosslien. She’s a brilliant young analyst interested in design, math, and economics. Yes, she’s the sort of person who dressed up as a bear market for Halloween.  All this makes her the perfect person for economics-themed data visualization. And so when #FedValentines lit up Twitter last week, she decided to go a step further, and provide the perfect valentine for the economist in your life.  Make your selection, below: Read More »



It’s the Economy, Honey

Yesterday’s NY Times contained a very flattering (and quite personal!) profile of Betsey Stevenson and me. For me, it was all worth it just to get a great family portrait. (Have you ever tried to get a dog and a toddler to look at the camera at the same time?)

I don’t really have a lot to add, other than to say that I thought the author, Motoko Rich, did a fabulous job.  Hopefully it gives folks outside the ivory tower some sense of just what it is that animates the lives of economists.  And yes, I admit that reading it, you’ll quickly conclude both that we are passionate about economics, and that we fit the usual stereotypes about academics.  And if the article makes it sound like we are crazy about our kid, that’s because we are. Read More »



What Does Your Fed Valentine Say?

One of the most wonderful things about Twitter is the spontaneous conversations that start around almost anything. And so, inspired by the hilarious #HealthPolicyValentines, I began a new hashtag on Twitter this morning: #FedValentines.  Folks are tweeting all sorts of Fed-themed valentine’s wishes. As I write, it’s the second-top trending hashtag in the U.S.  

Given that it’s Friday, I figured it worth sharing the fun.  Here’s what I came up with: Read More »



The Politics of Political Prediction Markets

For years, I have argued that the best way to track what really matters through election season is to follow the political prediction markets. The one difficulty is that these markets aren’t really available to the general public.  Sure, the University of Iowa runs a market, but because it’s for research purposes, the maximum bet is set at only $500. And while I track InTrade closely, they’re based in Ireland, and are frowned upon by American regulators. Likewise, Betfair won’t deal with American customers.  But all that may be about to change. Read More »



Economics and Open Marriage

I have to admit that it counts as one of the more bizarre requests of my scholarly life.  After all, I’m just a straight-laced economist. But in light of the Gingrich affair — (which one? the one involving his wife’s accusation that he asked for an open marriage) — the New York Times Room for Debate section asked Betsey Stevenson and me to give an economist’s perspective on open marriage.  Read More »



Is Higher Income Inequality Associated with Lower Intergenerational Mobility?

A lot of our political debate boils down to questions about equality of outcomes versus equality of opportunity. But it turns out that they’re pretty closely related. Take a look at the chart below, which is from a terrific recent speech (with charts!) by Alan Krueger:

The horizontal axis shows the Gini coefficient, which is a summary of the degree of income inequality for each country. I think of this as a measure of inequality of outcomes. The United States sits out there on the right, which says that we have high inequality, which I bet that doesn’t surprise you. Read More »