Tatyana Deryugina (Twitter: @TDeryugina)

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Posted 23 Feb 11 by Tatyana in General
It seems like everyone is giving their opinion on what’s happening in the Middle East. Instead of offering my opinion on the unrest in Tunisia, Egypt, Lybia, and Bahrain, I will offer my opinion on everyone else’s opinion: the variance in what could happen is pretty large and most people making specific predictions will be wrong. Imagine you’re drawing a ball from an urn with 55 red balls and 45 white ones. If you had to guess the color of the ball that will come up, you will guess red. But there’s a 45 percent chance you will be wrong.

Posted 20 Feb 11 by Tatyana in General

A while back, I had a discussion about the age of drunk drivers. Two related questions came up: what age are most drunk drivers? And are teenagers more likely to drive drunk (in terms of probability) than those in their 20′s. We tend to think of teenagers as less responsible, which may imply they are more likely to drive drunk. On the other hand, there are probably more drivers in their 20′s (and they may also drive more miles), so the overall number of drunk-driving teenagers may be lower.

I found two credible-looking sources. One is an injury law firm citing drunk driving statistics. The other is dui.com citing a Gallup survey.

Drum roll…according to the accident statistics, teenagers (16-20) accounted for 17% of drunk drivers involved in crashes. Those in the 21-24 age group accounted for 34% while those in the 25-34 age group accounted for 31%. So it would appear that the 21-24 age group is the worst (note that this range spans only 4 years, compared to 5 and 10 for the other groups).

According to Gallup, 37% of males and 18% of females between 21 and 45 have driven within two hours of drinking in 1999. People between 21 and 29 made 21% of the drunk-driving trips, although they account for 16% of the driving age population. Many of these "drunk drivers” would not be legally drunk: the average number of drinks consumed prior to driving drunk was 2.7. However (this is the scariest statistic!), drunk drivers under 21 consumed an average of 6.3 drinks before driving. Luckily, they make up only 1% of all drunk driving trips.

Posted 10 Feb 11 by Tatyana in General

I’m visiting a friend who’s a first-year associate for a large law firm in New York. It is 10pm on Thursday night. We’re sitting on her couch while she’s doing doc review. Only five hours ago, the plan was to do something fun unless "something goes terribly wrong”. Most of the time you say that, nothing happens. Not if you’re a first year associate, however. Something went terribly wrong, and a 3,000-document review with a next day deadline appears. So now my friend is mechanically clicking through pages and pages of documents.

This is not particular to her law firm. A lot of the people who went to law school with my sister (who is also working in New York) are in the same position, giving up vacations, canceling fun plans, and reviewing documents. Their message to you is: being a lawyer is as bad as they tell you. No big law firm is different, even though some of them will tell you that. You will review documents. And then you will review some more documents. After that, there may be some doc review. Then you’ll be exhausted and it’ll be time for some non-doc review work.

I’m glad I’m an economist.

Posted 04 Jan 11 by Tatyana in General

Every year, I resolve to not make New Year’s resolutions. And then (after seeing the word "resolution” a few hundred times) the thought creeps in, "Well, isn’t there something I would like to change?”

So I gave up and came up with one resolution this year: write more blog entries. Related to this, I’m starting a topic called "verisimilitudes”. This topic will consist of beliefs that were held at various points in time (and sounded plausible), but were later shown to be false. This was inspired by Bill Bryson, who covers a number of these in his book, "At Home” (a review of which is forthcoming).

Posted 26 Dec 10 by Tatyana in General
 The Bay Bridge has implemented a new toll system – $6 if you cross the bridge between 7 and 10am or between 3 and 7pm  (prime time for commuters to and from work), $4 at all other times. My boyfriend and I happened to be driving into the city right before 10am. As we steadily approached the crossing, a large digital clock on top of the toll booth announced that the time was 9:59. I slowed down as much as I could and looked for the longest line of cars. I saw that more forward-looking people had gotten into the very right lane and then pulled over. A few dozen cars were standing on the shoulder presumably waiting for the time change. Unfortunately, I was too far from the shoulder to do that and so I continued slowly and hoped for the best. 20 seconds before we reached the toll booth, the clock changed to 10 and the price dropped to $4. The cars that were pulled over joined the line. Incentives work, right? Then again, more than a few dozen cars were going through the booths at 9:59 and paying $6.  

Posted 13 Dec 10 by Tatyana in General

Most of the childcare in the US (and probably every country) is done by women. As I walked past a men’s bathroom that had a baby changing table inside, I realized that this is a pretty rare occasion. Most of the baby changing tables are inside women’s rooms. Of course, this cannot explain the gender differences in caring for children, but it raises an interesting question: how much of the differences in child rearing is explained by institutions? If jobs offer maternal leave but not paternal leave, this tilts the incentives toward the woman taking time off. If men’s bathrooms don’t have changing tables, women will have to be the ones changing diapers when the family’s out and about.

Of course, there is also the question of whether this is driven by preferences. If 99% of women prefer to be the ones taking care of the children and 99% of men prefer not to, then putting changing tables in both bathrooms is probably inefficient. If most men use paternal leave to get ahead in their careers (as some have alleged), maybe paternal leave is not a great idea. However, my guess is that preferences co-evolve with infrastructure = if you put a baby station in the men’s bathroom, it will eventually be used.

Posted 04 Oct 10 by Tatyana in General
 I don’t understand the principle under which the developing world is insisting that it should "get” to pollute the atmosphere w/carbon dioxide (or anything else for that matter) because the now-developed world got to do it earlier on and is responsible for the mess we’re in. Grandfathering doesn’t work, but neither does reckless "we’ll do what we want because you got us into this mess” attitude. That’s like saying that developing countries should be allowed to ignore human rights because they were previously ignored by the developed ones. There are many other fair allocations (e.g. ones that equate the marginal value of emissions or emissions per capita) under which the developing world would not have to curb their emissions (at least as much). To be fair, the developed world isn’t acting so great either in insisting on absolute reductions. I guess someone wants to wait and see what happens when the climate change hits the fan.  

Posted 06 Sep 10 by Tatyana in General

I’m sure that there was a time when information was scarce, costly, and slow to make its way around the world. It seems that we have the opposite problem now (there’s also the issue of accuracy, which was probably an acute problem back then, and is a much smaller problem today, on average).
  There’s an abundance of communication tools: e-mail, chat, online collaboration ports, various social websites, etc. Within each category, there are tons of options, some more popular than others. As long as you’re not trying to do anything out of the ordinary, you can probably bet on the popular websites. But once your needs become different from the rest of the population (say you want to share files for online collaboration), it’s difficult to choose. Luckily, there are websites that review software and tell you which one(s) are best. Unluckily, there are many such websites and they don’t always agree.

Consider the issue of finding software that automates backing up files (something I was looking for). On the plus side, there are a lot of options. But if you search for websites that review your options, you’ll also find many of those.

Conclusion: we need websites that look up ratings on other websites and create a weighted average for each product.

Posted 23 Jul 10 by Tatyana in General

If you search for the term "bloggers” on New York Times, you will get 10,000+ results, EVEN if you restrict your search to the last 7 days.  There are probably hundreds of millions of blogs today. The word originated in 1999 from the term "Weblog”, according to Merriam-Webster. That pace of change is pretty amazing.

I’m not sure how beneficial blogging actually is, but I’ve noticed that writing this blog forces me to think about things somewhat. Not to mention that it’s good to practice writing.

Posted 30 Apr 10 by Tatyana in General

Apparently, Larry Summers has a protege, a 3L who wrote an email asserting the possibility that intellectual performance differences between races might be partly genetic. As much as the writer tried to be politically correct (if there is a politically correct way to say something like this), the email got passed around (you can read about it here).

What is it about nature arguments that makes them so appealing? (By the way, when I say "nature”, I mean the unexplained gap AFTER you’ve accounted for observable characteristics of individuals).

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