Our most recent podcast was called “Would a Big Bucket of Cash Really Change Your Life?” It showed that the winners of a 19th-century land lottery did not appear to convert their windfall into intergenerational wealth. This challenges the modern argument that cash transfers are one of the most effective ways of helping a poor family escape poverty — and, therefore, as we said in the podcast, might be seen as a depressing conclusion.
Judd Campbell from Odessa, Texas, wrote in to dispute the depressing part, and offer some worthwhile commentary:
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I just finished listening to the latest podcast about the Georgia land lottery in the 19th century. I actually found it not to be depressing at all.
1. It would be depressing to me to know that poverty has existed into modernity, and the solution would be a simple one-time transfer of wealth. Surely, we could have figured that out by now and eliminated poverty. Clearly, the issue is more complex than that, and thus we have an excuse for not developing a solution. Yet.
2. While I don’t consider myself wealthy, I do make a healthy salary and live in a comfortable home with 4 kids. There are a couple of things that I believe about my life, that may or may not be logical or factual, but provides me comfort:
a. My financial success is not due to my parents. I did it on my own. I did grow up in a comfortable home with loving and supportive parents, my father has a master’s degree, and I appreciate what they have provided me. But in my gut I feel like I achieved my own success. This podcast was uplifting, because it seems to confirm that I am responsible for my own success.
b. On the other hand, I feel like my financial success will help my children be financially successful. Even though I don’t give my parents credit for my success, I believe that I can influence my children to be successful.
We recently published a post about what seemed like an aptonym — a researcher named Thomas Collins who’s been studying the chemical footprints of whiskeys. Does he in fact share a name with the cocktail Tom Collins, or does he stick to Thomas? Thankfully, Professor Collins (or someone doing a good impression of him) left a comment on the post:
I do go by Tom. I, too, heard every combination of comments about what my parents might have been drinking, etc. I made a deliberate choice, therefore, to study whiskeys rather than gin …
Why does poverty persist? Is economic mobility still a real part of the American dream? And if you gave every poor family a big bucket of cash, would it substantially change the trajectory of its future?
Those are some of the questions we ask in our latest podcast, “Would a Big Bucket of Cash Really Change Your Life?” (You can subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)
It attempts to answer an e-mail we received from a reader named Thomas Appleton:
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What would be the socioeconomic effects if the 50 wealthiest Americans each gave $50,000 to 50 different American families, repeating this practice annually with new beneficiaries? How about if these families were targeted in a limited area; say, across some of the poorest neighborhoods in Brooklyn?
Marc Resnick, a professor of human factors and information design at Bentley University, writes to say:
I came across this fantastic aptonym today and as a major Freakonomics fan I had to share it with you: A research team at U.C.-Davis just published a study on the chemical fingerprints of American whiskeys. And the lead researcher is Tom Collins.
To be fair, the scholar’s name is Thomas Collins (he is director of the university’s Food Safety and Measurement Facility), and we don’t know if he really goes by Tom.* Furthermore, Tom Collins the drink is made with gin, which isn’t a whiskey, the beverage under study here. But still … fantastic. Thanks, Marc.
*Prof. Collins, please drop us a line and let us know if you do.
In our “Legacy of a Jerk” podcast, we discussed (among other things) the injunction against speaking ill of the dead. It featured an interview with a daughter of a woman named Carole Roberson, whose obituary stated that she was “a difficult mother and a horrendous mother-in-law.” That said, the obituary also said that “she will STILL be missed.”
Several readers have now sent us this A.P. article about an obituary for a Nevada woman named Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick. She makes Carole Roberson sounds like an angel.
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“On behalf of her children who she abrasively exposed to her evil and violent life, we celebrate her passing from this earth and hope she lives in the after-life reliving each gesture of violence, cruelty and shame that she delivered on her children,” the scathing obituary begins. … [It] was written by Johnson-Reddick’s adult children, whose horror stories prompted Nevada to become one of the first states to allow children to sever parental ties back in the 1980s. …
From a reader named Eric Geyer:
I was listening to one of your first podcasts, “The Dangers of Safety.” In the podcast, you say “There hasn’t been a single on-field death in the NFL.”
This isn’t completely true — there has been one, I remember it from when I was a kid. A player for the Detroit Lions named Chuck Hughes collapsed and died in the field in 1971. This doesn’t invalidate your point from the story — his death was not related to a football injury, but was caused by a heart attack.
Anyway, in case no other overzealous pedant hadn’t pointed this out, I thought you would like to know
The argument over tenure for university professors is a long and boisterous one.
Levitt, for one, is in favor of abolition. If you are on that side of the argument as well, you may be pleased to read a new working paper by David Figlio, Morton Schapiro, and Kevin Soter (all associated with Northwestern, in one capacity or another) called “Are Tenure Track Professors Better Teachers?” (gated, sorry). Short answer (in their study, at least): no.
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This study makes use of detailed student-level data from eight cohorts of first-year students at Northwestern University to investigate the relative effects of tenure track/tenured versus non-tenure line faculty on student learning. We focus on classes taken during a student’s first term at Northwestern, and employ a unique identification strategy in which we control for both student-level fixed effects and next-class-taken fixed effects to measure the degree to which non-tenure line faculty contribute more or less to lasting student learning than do other faculty. We find consistent evidence that students learn relatively more from non-tenure line professors in their introductory courses. These differences are present across a wide variety of subject areas, and are particularly pronounced for Northwestern’s average students and less-qualified students.
“To some extent, we treat women as vessels of reproduction, and once they’ve done that we don’t pay much attention to them.”
That’s from Don McNeil‘s Times article about women’s life expectancy:
Life expectancy for women who live to age 50 is going up around the world, but poor and middle-income countries could easily make greater gains, according to a new World Health Organization report.
Heart disease, stroke and cancer kill most women over 50, said Dr. John R. Beard, director of the W.H.O.’s department of aging, so countries should focus on lowering blood pressure with inexpensive drugs and screening for cervical and breast cancer. Those diseases can be prevented or treated, said Dr. Beard, who was also an author of the study, which was published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization.
Related (if barely): Ronald Coase has died at age 102.