Friday, September 29, 2017

Scoring Your Professors. Evidence on Gender Bias.

Many colleges and universities use students' evaluations of their professors as part of the evidence which determines the raises and promotions awarded to professors.  But increasing amounts of recent evidence suggest that such evaluations are not free of (probably implicit) gender bias.  Now yet another working paper suggests that students don't necessarily rate their professors only on the basis of objective factors*.

The study**, carried out with data from the Maastricht University, Netherlands, exploits an institutional feature of the university which divides the students in each of the analyzed courses into three sections, led by either male or female teachers.  Each course has one course leader who assigns the reading material to all three sections, and the students cannot self-select into sections based on, say, their preferences for female or male teachers in those.

The study abstract summarizes its findings:

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Death And Taxes: The Trump Administration Tax Plan

Jared Bernstein has written a good long-form article which explains Trump's "tax reform" proposal in some detail, tells us that the Democrats really should create their own tax reform proposal, explains the reasons for that, and also explains, in a fairly simple and chatty style, the economics of various tax plots.  Despite the label "long-form," the article is not hard reading at all, and serves to clarify many basic issues to a non-economist.  Or so I think.

I especially like the bit about the Kansas experiment which seems to be the role model for this new plan the Trump administration has hatched, and which ended in disaster.

The title of this post is a riff on the idea that only two things are unavoidable: death and taxes.  But it's also about one aspect of the Trump tax plan: To eliminate what's left of the federal estate tax.

Currently 99.8% of estates owe no federal estate tax at all.  This might suggest, to a rational person, that repealing it is not a particularly urgent task or one which would truly make the lives of most Americans easier.  That impression should be strengthened when we learn that those 0.2% of estates which do owe federal estate tax owe it only on the part that exceeds a fairly sizable exemption.  In 2017 that exemption is $5.49 million per decedent.

But the repeal of the federal estate tax and the elimination of the alternative minimum tax are high on the wish-list of the Big Money Boyz (such as the Koch brothers) whose influence on American politics has grown immense ever since the Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court which, in my opinion, gave every dollar the same power in political speech.  Those who have more dollars can speak much louder, of course.

What we have so far learned about the Trump administration "tax reform" is that one of its intended consequences is to increase income inequality in the United States, even though it's already very high, and even though a new Pew survey tells us that the majority of Americans don't want to see corporate taxes lowered and a plurality wants to see the taxes on high incomes raised:


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Master Baiter

Have you noticed how clever our Dear Leader is in manipulating the topic for our public political debates?  The Harvard study found evidence on that during the elections, i.e., that the media tended to talk about the policies Trump wanted them to focus on, even if the coverage he received from that was mostly negative.  The coverage Hillary Clinton received was not on her policies, but on her "scandals."

In one sense we are all Trump's puppets.  The New York Times speculates that Trump's recent Alabama speech on football and peaceful protests* was red meat for his white and conservatively patriotic** base:

“It’s not a coincidence that the same week he did the DACA deal that he just flooded Twitter with a bunch of red meat for the base,” Mr. Conant added. “I think his fundamental problem is he needs to figure out ways to grow his base, and his instinct is instead to double down on what he’s already got. Whenever he tacks to the middle, his numbers tick up. But he just can’t bring himself to move beyond his base.”
That is not how Mr. Trump sees it.
In private, the president and his top aides freely admit that he is engaged in a culture war on behalf of his white, working-class base, a New York billionaire waging war against “politically correct” coastal elites on behalf of his supporters in the South and in the Midwest. He believes the war was foisted upon him by former President Barack Obama and other Democrats — and he is determined to win, current and former aides said.

I speculate that another reason why he was let loose on Twitter by his minders are the recent news which are not good for Trump, his administration or the Republican Party:

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Too Much Push For Gender Equality In Tech? The MRAs Speak.

I cannot decide if today's New York Times article "Push for Gender Equality  in Tech? Some Men Say It's Gone Too Far" is to be taken seriously or if it's a very deep type of sarcasm.  The latter interpretation is supported by the way the author, Nelly Bowles, begins the article:

Silicon Valley has for years accommodated a fringe element of men who say women are ruining the tech world.

Now, as the nation’s technology capital — long identified as one of the more hostile work environments for women — reels from a series of high-profile sexual harassment and discrimination scandals, these conversations are gaining broader traction.

One of those who said there had been a change is James Altizer, an engineer at the chip maker Nvidia. Mr. Altizer, 52, said he had realized a few years ago that feminists in Silicon Valley had formed a cabal whose goal was to subjugate men. At the time, he said, he was one of the few with that view.

Now Mr. Altizer said he was less alone. “There’s quite a few people going through that in Silicon Valley right now,” he said. “It’s exploding. It’s mostly young men, younger than me.”

Emphasis is mine.  We move swiftly from the concept of a push for more gender equality in tech to quoting one man who believes that such a push is but the first step in the planned feminist subjugation of men!  Because there's no country on earth where men are subjugated to women (though plenty of examples of the reverse relationship exist), I decided that the article was sarcasm.

That it quotes Paul Elam and Warren Farrell, two famous Men's Rights Activists who believe that men are the truly oppressed sex, made me even more convinced that the author is having us on.

After all,  this is Paul Elam, one of the experts quoted in the article:

A Voice for Men’s founder, Paul Elam, who is a friend and protégé of Farrell’s, has justified violence against women and written that some of them “walk through life with the equivalent of a I’M A STUPID, CONNIVING BITCH—PLEASE RAPE ME neon sign glowing above their empty little narcissistic heads.”