Tatyana Deryugina (Twitter: @TDeryugina)

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Posted 06 Feb 10 by Tatyana in Musings on Economics

In one of last month’s posts on the Freakonomics Blog, Dubner highlights a chapter in SuperFreakonomics that discusses the wage gap between men and women, finds that many women have a lower participation in the workforce after having children and conclude that women end up earning less than men because "many women, even those with MBAs, love kids”. This is an oversimplification of the chapter, of course, but the ease with which the authors jumped from the statistic "women with kids work less” to the conclusion "women love kids and thus choose to work less” was pretty irritating to me.

Here are some more statistics: women do significantly more housework than their husbands, even after controlling for how many hours each spouse works and their earnings. Is that because they like cleanliness better or are better at cleaning? Maybe. You almost never hear of men changing their last names when they get married or of children getting their mother’s last name when they’re born. Is that because women don’t like their last names? Maybe.

But it’s also entire possible (and I think likely) that women feel more societal and family pressure to put their careers second to children and to be responsible for the housework. If society on average expects women to be the primary caretakers of children and houseworkers rather than men, women may end up working less and doing more housework even if they don’t care about kids any more than their husbands.

Imagine you come to  a couple’s house for dinner and see that it’s a mess (dishes aren’t done, male and female clothes on the floor). You have to pick either the husband or the wife as the one who failed in their responsibilities. I’m sure you would be equally likely to pick either one because you’re so egalitarian? But do you think only 50% of the people would blame the woman for the mess?

How many people would think a man was a bad parent if he said, "I won’t be taking any time off when my child is born” v. if a woman said the same thing (minus some necessary time off to recover from giving birth)? Assuming no one wants to be thought of as a bad parent, who do you think will be the one taking time off? And if you’re a married woman of child-bearing age, think about what your mother would say to you if you told her that you plan to keep working while your husband stays home with the baby.

This is of course not meant to offend any women who don’t feel pressured to step back from their careers to spend more time with their children. And maybe the statistics in Dubner’s post do explain the direct cause of the wage gap. But the statistics don’t explain the fundamental cause, the reason for the career differences, and I think those causes are pretty damn important to figure out. Saying that it must be because "women love babies” is like saying that black kids score worse on standardized tests because "black people don’t like learning”.

Posted 02 Feb 10 by Tatyana in Simply Amusing

I thought snobbism in America was nearly dead (at least in public) until I saw this profile on Above The Law. I was shocked at the level of conceit when I read the blog comments of this "partner emeritus” (according to him, he’s a "legend in the legal profession”). I’m still not 100% convinced that this is a real person and not someone who made up a character for the fun of it, but his comments are entertaining to read.

Here are fun exerts:

"If you obtained an LLM degree from a peer law school, yet earned a JD from a non-peer institution, you are still a non-peer. It really irked me to meet some attorneys who thought they were in the same league as I was in because they earned an LLM from a top program.”

I’m not even sure what a "peer” law school is, but I would bet this guy went to Harvard.

"Marriage today is nothing but a contract which includes a pernicious penalty clause that will, in most cases, castigate the male for having fallen in love.”

"Try composing sentences after imbibing half a bottle of scotch before noon.”

"Practitioner’s tip for U. of Wisconsin Law grads: I have been to your state twice in my life. I would rather be marooned without food in Tierra del Fuego than set foot in your state again. No honorarium fee, 5 or 6 figures, would convince me to speak to your kind. Save your money for your life has seen the end game…yesterday.”

I really hope this guy is real!

Posted 31 Jan 10 by Tatyana in Books

From: Karl Marx’s Capital Volume One, Part III: The Production of Absolute Surplus-Value, CHAPTER TEN: THE WORKING-DAY

[66] l. c., p. xiii. The degree of culture of these "labour-powers”
  must naturally be such as appears in the following dialogues with one
  of the commissioners: Jeremiah Haynes, age 12 — "Four times four is 8;
  4 fours are 16. A king is him that has all the money and gold. We have
  a king (told it is a Queen), they call her the Princess Alexandra.
  Told that she married the Queen’s son. The Queen’s son is the Princess
  Alexandra. A Princess is a man.” William Turner, age 12 — "Don’t live
  in England. Think it is a country, but didn’t know before.” John
  Morris, age 14 — "Have heard say that God made the world, and that all
  the people was drownded but one, heard say that one was a little
  bird.” William Smith age 15 — "God made man, man made woman.” Edward
  Taylor, age 15 — "Do not know of London.” Henry Matthewman, age 17 —
  "Had been to chapel, but missed a good many times lately. One name
  that they preached about was Jesus Christ, but I cannot say any
  others, and I cannot tell anything about him. He was not killed, but
  died like other people. He was not the same as other people in some
  ways, because he was religious in some ways and others isn’t.” (l. c.,
  p. xv.) "The devil is a good person. I don’t know where he lives.”
  "Christ was a wicked man.” "This girl spelt God as dog, and did not
  know the name of the queen.” ("Ch. Employment Comm. V. Report, 1866 "
  p. 55, n. 278.) The same system obtains in the glass and paper works
  as in the metallurgical, already cited. In the paper factories, where
  the paper is made by machinery, night-work is the rule for all
  processes, except rag-sorting. In some cases night-work, by relays, is
  carried on incessantly through the whole week, usually from Sunday
  night until midnight of the following Saturday. Those who are on
  day-work work 5 days of 12, and 1 day of 18 hours; those on night-work
  5 nights of 12, and I of 6 hours in each week. In other cases each set
  works 24 hours consecutively on alternate days, one set working 6
  hours on Monday, and 18 on Saturday to make up the 24 hours. In other
  cases an intermediate system prevails, by which all employed on the
  paper-making machinery work 15 or 16 hours every day in the week. This
  system, says Commissioner Lord, "seems to combine all the evils of
  both the 12 hours’ and the 24 hours’ relays.” Children under 13, young
  persons under 18, and women, work under this night system. Sometimes
  under the 12 hours’ system they are obliged, on account of the
  non-appearance of those that ought to relieve them, to work a double
  turn of 24 hours. The evidence proves that boys and girls very often
  work overtime, which, not unfrequently, extends to 24 or even 36 hours
  of uninterrupted toil. In the continuous and unvarying process of
  glazing are found girls of 12 who work the whole month 14 hours a day,
  "without any regular relief or cessation beyond 2 or, at most, 3
  breaks of half an hour each for meals.” In some mills, where regular
  night-work has been entirely given up, over-work goes on to a terrible
  extent, "and that often in the dirtiest, and in the hottest, and in
  the most monotonous of the various processes.” ("Ch. Employment Comm.
  Report IV., 1865,” p. xxxviii, and xxxix.)

Posted 29 Jan 10 by Tatyana in Fun math

Here’s a very practical (and somewhat simplified) math problem that I was faced with today.

You’re deciding whether or not to take the bus or the subway. The stations are right next to each other, they cost the same amount of money, and they’re equally uncomfortable to ride. Suppose that the subway runs every five minutes, but you don’t know how often the bus runs or when the last bus came. Once you get on the bus, it only takes you 20 minutes to get to the destination. It takes 40 minutes by subway. You’re running late, so you want to minimize your travel time. If you’re really into economic details, assume you’re risk neutral and there’s no discounting.

Question 1: How do you figure out how long it’s been since the last bus came?

Question 2: What other piece of information do you need to figure this out exactly? (There are at least two acceptable answers here, but there may be more)

Question 3: Assume that piece of information is 30.  Do you take the bus or the subway?

Question 4: Wasn’t that fun?

If you see me standing at a bus stop, this is a good example of what I’m thinking about.

See the first comment for the answer!

Posted 28 Jan 10 by Tatyana in General
 In a recent Economist article, there was a brief mention about the cost of compliance with the new credit card regulation (something like $500 million for one of the banks). A lot of the regulation was (supposedly) aimed at making it more difficult for companies to take advantage of inattentive or self-control-lacking consumers.
I wonder if anyone would make the argument that this legislation is harmful because it decreases the benefits of education. Think about it: if we allow ignorance to be taken advantage of, there will be less ignorance in the world. The benefit of education will rise, leading to an increase in demand!  

Posted 27 Jan 10 by Tatyana in General
 One of the best things about this new blog that I’ve discovered so far is that I can create posts by sending an email! Lower the cost of creating an entry, and what happens? More entries! Let’s not think about the quality though…  

Posted 27 Jan 10 by Tatyana in General
 This is the new beer-or-quiche (unfortunately, WordPress didn’t let me keep the dashes). As much as I enjoyed having my own domain name, it was infinitely more expensive and the periodic site downtimes got annoying at some point. I was using WordPress anyway, so the cost of switching was pretty low. Now I just have to figure out how to get my posts out of the other website (they might make a nice book of jokes someday!)  

Posted 17 Jan 10 by Tatyana in Simply Amusing

This will probably be the last "blog spammers jokes” publication, mostly because I’m tired of sorting through the spam comments to dig them out. And after a while, they do get kind of old and repetitive.

  1. Fresh joke! What do you call a dog with no legs? It doesn’t matter what you call him he ain’t gonna come. (I know, it’s mean)
  3. A joke for you! Where do polar bears vote? The North Poll.
  5. I have a nice joke for you) Why wouldn’t the bike move very fast?? It was too tired!!
  7. Wanna very nice joke?)) What would you get if you crossed a potato and a frog? A potatoad.
  9. I have a good fresh joke for you! Why do bagpipers walk when they play? They’re trying to get away from the noise.
  11. I have a fresh joke for you) Why did the bald man put a bunny on his head? He wanted a full head of hare.
  13. Wanna very nice joke?)) Why does Santa Claus go down the chimney on Christmas Eve? Because it SOOTS him!
  15. Why is it that people say they "slept like a baby” when babies wake up 10 times every hour?

My friends also suggested the following jokes. I’m pretty sure that the fact they’re both religious dyslexic jokes is a coincidence (please don’t be offended!):

1. What do dyslexic, agnostic insomniacs do?  They lay awake at night wondering if there really is a dog. (by TR)

2. Did you hear about the dyslexic devil-worshipper who made a deal with the devil and sold his soul to Santa? (by MP)

Posted 17 Jan 10 by Tatyana in Musings on Economics
 In the past couple of months, I’ve started reading a few economists’ blogs. I’m thinking of stopping because it’s beginning to interfere with my productivity. Brad DeLong is perhaps the most prolific of them, producing several pages of postings a day. Assuming he doesn’t just post everything he reads, he must read an insane amount. I have no time to read his exerts. It’s mind-boggling. Is that what it’s like to be a genius tenured economist?  

Posted 15 Jan 10 by Tatyana in Simply Amusing

In college, one of my friends took a philosophy class where the professor didn’t adjust the grades based on which of the two TAs you had (they were responsible for grading the papers). One of the TAs was much tougher than the other one, but the professor’s reasoning was that people didn’t know this going into the class, so they had as much of a (random) chance to get the hard TA as the easy one. Because it wasn’t ex-ante unfair, he saw no need to adjust based on ex-post TA harshness.

At first, I thought the reasoning was kind of ridiculous. If you see that the highest grade one TA gave was a B and the other one gave out A’s to 60% of the class, do you really want to argue that nothing should be done about this outcome because of ex-ante equal probabilities of getting the harsh TA? Sure, you’ll be "redistributing” some of the good grades away from the people with the easy TA, but wouldn’t they have wanted that if they didn’t know which one they would get? By the way, this also happens with professors teaching the same class at very different difficulty levels and not adjusting for that when they give out grades.

Of course, the story can be a little more complicated. What if the "easy” TA’s session was at 8am and the "hard” TA’s session was at 2pm? Could it be that the TAs are the same, but the people signing up for the 8am session were smarter than the people who wanted to sleep in? And what if people knew about the TAs’ reputations going into the class?

In this case, of course, you can solve the problem somewhat by having the TAs grade random papers, not just their own students’ and then de-meaning the grade by each TA’s average. Or you can have them both grade each paper (not like they have anything else to do) and take the average grade. Or you can find out which one the easy one is and sign up for her section.

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