In most countries, houses get more valuable over time. In Japan, a new buyer will often bulldoze the home. Why? That’s the question we try to answer in our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast, “Why Are Japanese Homes Disposable?” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript.)
Jiro Yoshida, a professor at Penn State University who specializes in real-estate economics, tells us that, per capita, there are nearly four times as many architects in Japan as in the U.S. (here’s data from the International Union of Architects), and more than twice as many construction workers. There is also a huge demand for new homes. When you put all those numbers together, it sounds like a pretty typical housing boom — and yet Japan has a shrinking population and a long-stagnant economy. Read More »
Abby Haglage reports in The Daily Beast of an apparent uptick in firearm-inspired baby names.
In 2002, only 194 babies were named Colt, while in 2012 there were 955. Just 185 babies were given the name Remington in 2002, but by 2012 the number had jumped to 666. Perhaps the most surprising of all, however, is a jump in the name Ruger (America’s leading firearm manufacturer) from just 23 in 2002 to 118 in 2012. “This name [Ruger] is more evidence of parents’ increasing interest in naming children after firearms,” Wattenberg writes. “Colt, Remington, and Gauge have all soared, and Gunner is much more common than the traditional name Gunnar.”
Okay, that’s all well and good, but if parents really want to show their gun bona fides, how about going all-out and naming your kid Colt .45?
(HT: Marginal Revolution)
Due to popular demand, we are working on a podcast about Bitcoin. Last night, I interviewed Marc Andreessen on the subject. His v.c. firm has invested roughly $50 million in Bitcoin-related companies, including CoinBase, and they are looking for more. It was a fascinating interview, in part because Andreessen has been personally involved in so many major digital events of the past 20 years.
In light of today’s news about the meltdown of Mt. Gox, the most prominent Bitcoin exchange to date, here is a preview of a section of last night’s interview with Andreessen. His view is vigorously contra the notion that the end of Mt. Gox would mean the end of Bitcoin; in fact, he would take that as a sign of progress: Read More »
Our last two podcasts, “Why Marry?” (Part 1 and Part 2) explored the broad and deep changes in the institution of marriage. One theme was that the old marriage model of “production complementaries” has shifted to one based on “consumption complementarities.” Here’s Justin Wolfers on the subject:
We have more time, more money, and so you want to spend it with someone that you’ll enjoy. So, similar interests and passions. We call this the model of hedonic marriage. But really it’s a lot more familiar than that. This is just economists giving a jargon name to love. So you want someone who’s actually remarkably similar to you or has similar passions that you do. So it fundamentally changes who marries who.
But is this change also related to income inequality? Wolfers briefly referenced that idea a few years back; in a recent article for Vox, the economics Jeremy Greenwood, Nezih Guner, Georgi Kocharkov, and Cezar Santos further the argument: Read More »
Fabrice Tourre, better known as “Fabulous Fab,” has had a busy few years. While Tourre’s employer, Goldman Sachs, settled with the S.E.C. (to the tune of a $550 million penalty), the trader refused to settle and fought the suit, while simultaneously pursing a Ph.D. in economics at the University of Chicago. Last year, a federal jury found the trader liable on six counts of securities fraud. The Chicago Maroon reports that undergraduate students in the University of Chicago’s economics department can take a class with Tourre this spring:
With spring quarter class bidding opening next week, Economics students have the option to take the honors section of Elements of Economics Analysis 3 taught by Economics Ph.D. student Fabrice Tourre. While students might not be calling him “Fabulous Fab” in the classroom, he is notable in the financial world as the former Goldman Sachs trader found liable this past August on six of seven counts of securities fraud for misleading investors in a complex investment product linked to mortgages.
The picture below is of a “beer” I drank at a friend’s house this past weekend. It actually tasted pretty good; but why 0.5 percent alcohol, which surely added to the cost of production, but couldn’t, I think, have added to the taste? Including the minuscule amount of alcohol would certainly exclude teetotalers from consumption; and to get any kind of buzz a real beer drinker would need to drink at least several gallons. Read More »
A recent podcast, “What You Don’t Know About Online Dating,” discussed how online dating has changed the process of finding a mate in traditionally “thin” markets. Writing for FP, Bethany Allen explores the role of dating sites catering to young Chinese Muslims:
The men’s photos show them clean-shaven, wearing T-shirts or sweaters, while the women are mostly without headscarves, some showing off their bare shoulders. In other words, they appear heavily Sinicized. That’s because the site caters to Hui Muslims, many of whom are virtually indistinguishable in speech and dress from millions of ordinary young men and women in urban China.
That doesn’t mean they aren’t different: Many Hui still seek to marry within their ranks, despite the fact that they are widely dispersed across China, numbering only 10 million out of a population of 1.3 billion. But the Internet is coming to the rescue, as online Hui dating sites have arisen over the past few years to help some of China’s urban Muslims find their matches. “The Internet links major Hui communities in every city,” said Haiyun Ma, a professor at Frostburg State University in Maryland specializing in Muslims in China and a Hui Chinese himself. As a result, “it is easier for young Hui to find spouses” than it used to be.
In 2009, while watching the closing credits of Invictus, the film about Nelson Mandela’s first years as South African president, I heard Yollandi Nortjie sing “9000 days were set aside / 9000 days of destiny / 9000 days to thank Gods wherever they may be.” Mandela spent 9,000 days in prison (about 24.7 years).
For some reason, I started thinking about the power of expressing the passage of time in alternative incremental units, and after playing around on Excel, I figured out that my spouse and I would soon have the opportunity to celebrate our “ten millionth marriage minute” (a little over 19 years).
It struck my fancy that this was a length of time worthy of observing in some way – even if just as an excuse to share a nice bottle of wine. For whatever reason, I loved discovering these additional, arbitrary moments of celebration and I decided it would be pretty easy to alert people when an unusual holiday was about to occur. Read More »
When violent conflicts erupt, the international community inevitably calls for a cease-fire. But is it possible these ceasefires actually worsen later violence? Yes, according to John A. Stevenson, a political science doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago. Here’s an excerpt of Stevenson’s recent article for Slate:
My research on all 174 of the internationally recognized new states that have emerged since 1900 and scores of mass killings reveals that international involvement to temporarily address the symptoms of the violence—the mass death of civilians—increases the likelihood of greater violence and destruction. That is because cease-fires do nothing to eliminate the root causes of violence against civilians. Instead, both sides use the pause in killing to solicit diplomatic and military aid while planning and preparing their next wave of attacks.
According to the 2012 Human Security Report, between 1950 and 2004, 62 percent of cease-fires succeeded with no resumption of conflict in the next five years. The success of two-thirds of cease-fires would seem to support their use. Yet, in the civil wars that begin in new or young states, cease-fires typically succeed only after many that do not. In the interim, the belligerents busy themselves rooting out or killing their civilian rivals.
In last week’s podcast, “Why Marry? (Part 1),” we talked with economists Justin Wolfers and Claudia Goldin about how marriage has changed over the last half century. How popular is marriage these days? Are married people happier? Is divorce as prevalent as we hear?
Now it’s time for “Why Marry? (Part 2).” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript.) With the U.S. marriage rate at an all-time low, around 50 percent, we try to find out the causes, and consequences, of the decline of the institution. Read More »