The Perils of Technology, iPad Edition

These days, I read a lot of books on an iPad 2 using the Kindle app. It is for the most part a very good experience, especially for recreational reading. As millions of others have noted, having an electronic device loaded up with a mini-library of e-books is especially valuable while traveling, which is when I do a lot of my reading.

The other day, on vacation with the family, I came across a pitfall. I was reading the old football novel North Dallas Forty (thanks to Henry for the suggestion, and all of you for other suggestions). It's pretty entertaining -- especially the race stuff and drug stuff. As it happened, my 9-year-old daughter was curled up beside me reading her book (The Doll People). She took at look at what I was reading. Her eyes immediately found a four-letter word.

Cash Transfers: The Key to Keeping the World's Working Kids in School?

A new paper from Eric V. Edmonds and Norbert Schady finds that cash transfer programs in developing countries may keep kids in school and out of the labor force. From the abstract:

Poor women with children in Ecuador were selected at random for a cash transfer equivalent to 7 percent of monthly expenditures. The transfer is greater than the increase in schooling costs at the end of primary school, but it is less than 20 percent of median child labor earnings in the labor market. Poor families with children in school at the time of the award use the extra income to postpone the child's entry into the labor force. Students in families induced to take-up the cash transfer by the experiment reduce their involvement in paid employment by 78 percent and unpaid economic activity inside their home by 32 percent.

Want Smarter Kids? Space Them (At Least) Two Years Apart

A new study (PDF here) by University of Notre Dame economist Kasey Buckles and graduate student Elizabeth Munnich finds that siblings spaced more than two years apart have higher reading and math scores than children born closer together. The positive effects were seen only in older siblings, not in younger ones.

The authors attribute at least part of the difference to older children getting more of their parents’ time during the first formative years of their lives before a younger sibling comes along.

High IQ in Children Linked to Drug Use Later in Life

A new British study has found that people who scored well on IQ tests as children are more likely to be drug users as adults, especially women. Authors James White and G. David Batty published their study online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, and looked at data from almost 8,000 people over several decades to test what habits and qualities are tied to drug use.

The results suggest that men with high IQ scores at 5 years-old are 50 percent more likely to use drugs by the age of 30 than those with low IQ scores. High IQ scoring women at 5 years-old are twice as likely to use drugs than their low IQ counterparts.

Incentivizing the School Commute

We've written about bribing kids to get better grades. But what about bribing them to walk or ride their bike to school?

A new working paper examines a program in Boulder, Colorado that attempted to incentivize kids to bike or walk to school over a span of several years. The program began with a $10 cash prize for the first two years, but then switched over to a $10 bike store coupon thereafter. One lucky student who rode and walked to school every day during a "prize period" won the coupon.

Even considering the small, non-cash winnings, biking and walking to school increased 16 percent during the prize period. Here's the abstract:

Get Your Free Sperm Here!

The Daily Beast reports on an interesting phenomenon: sperm donors who donate for free.  One couple, stymied by the $2,000-and-up cost of acquiring sperm the usual way (sperm bank), started exploring alternative options online...

Study: Early Bedtimes Keep Kids Slimmer

A new study out of Australia shows that children who go to sleep early and wake up early are less likely to be obese. The results, published in the Oct. 1 issue of the journal Sleep, indicate that it's not so much the amount of sleep kids get, but the times at which they get it that has the biggest impact on their weight.

Why Do Housing Vouchers Lead to Fewer Deaths Among Young Girls, But Not Boys?

A new NBER working paper by Brian Jacob, Jens Ludwig and Douglas Miller examines how improved housing conditions impact child mortality rates in Chicago. The improvement in child mortality seems to apply only to girls, and not boys. The data come from Chicago’s resuscitated housing voucher system, from 1997 through 2005. Here’s the abstract:

The study builds on the findings of the federal government's Moving to Opportunity experiment, which started in the mid-1990s and offered randomly chosen residents of public housing the chance to move to a wealthier neighborhood (poverty below 10%). Among adults, rates of obesity and mental health problems declined, but the effects were mixed on the risky behaviors of kids. Girls did better, while boys did worse.

Addicted to My Grandchildren

A visit with two grandchildren this weekend, then the other four next weekend, then the eight and five-year old without their parents. What a delight! But no very little kids—the kids are now ages 15 to 5. I miss having tiny grandchildren, and I know that if another were to come along it would be as much or even more fun than the first. I guess I’m addicted to grandchildren. Sadly in some sense (although my sons’ and their wives’ lives are complicated enough without their having more kids), my addiction is being cured by an enforced “cold-turkey” regimen—no more grandchildren are likely to be forthcoming. That’s the best way to cure an addiction. With the average age at first marriage being 28 for men and 26 for women, odds are that it will be 15 years until great-grandchildren arrive. The life expectancy of a 68-year-old male is 15 years, so there’s a decent hope of rekindling my addiction—next time to great-grandchildren.

Our Daily Bleg: What Economic Concepts Should Kids Know?

This bleg comes from reader Wayne Smith, who asks for suggestions on which economic concepts are the most important for kids to learn:

What topics do the Freakonomics readers feel are most important to teach kids 8-13 years old? Aside, of course, from the fact that the man keeps you down.

I was listening to The History of Sesame Street audio book the other day and thought that it would be nice to come up with a YouTube show with decent production value that outlines basic economic concepts in an entertaining way. Concepts like capital, value, supply/demand, trade, time value of money, interest, saving and borrowing, opportunity cost, taxation,and so on. This would be more narrative than something like Khan Academy. Naturally each concept can have an episode devoted to it and each concept can be addressed in different ways in different episodes, but in scenarios geared toward kids. What do the readers think about this as a concept?