Tatyana Deryugina (Twitter: @TDeryugina)

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Posted 09 Feb 11 by Tatyana in Musings on Economics

There’s an interesting article in the Journal of Labor Economics from last month:

"This article examines how the increase in the incarceration of black men and the sex ratio imbalance it induces shape the behavior of young black women. Combining data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Current Population Survey to match male incarceration rates with individual observations over two decades, I show that black male incarceration lowers the odds of black nonmarital teenage fertility while increasing young black women’s school attainment and early employment. These results can account for the sharp bridging of the racial gap over the 1990s for a range of socioeconomic outcomes among females.”

I think only economists could get away with writing something like this in our day and age.

Posted 07 Feb 11 by Tatyana in Musings on Economics

I must have flown at least 15,000 miles in the past two months (counting my flights to CA for the holidays and to Denver). Flying emits huge amounts of carbon dioxide, so I feel as though I single-handedly made an impact on climate change. That may be an exaggeration, but it made me think about how people approach their own climate-change-inducing behavior. I consider myself someone who tries to be environmentally friendly, but I’ve never changed my travel plans to avoid CO2 emissions (I do turn out my lights when I leave!). Here are some things I tell myself:

I’m "small”. My emissions really don’t make a difference.

I’m not really creating extra emissions. My current flight frequencies are temporary and won’t affect flight schedules. Once again, I’m small.

Climate change is going to happen anyway (= no one else is doing anything), so might as well not stress out about it.

All these things are true, yet I’m willing to make small changes that make even less of a difference. Sadly, this experience makes me think that personal voluntary actions are more consistent with cheap warm glow rather than genuine altruism.  Implication – we either need to greatly increase the amount of warm glow possible or create external climate change policies.

Posted 05 Jan 11 by Tatyana in Musings on Economics
 I’m staying in an undisclosed hotel in Denver. When I arrived, there was a door tag on my bed that asked me to "make a green choice”. Specifically, it offered me a $5 voucher to the hotel stores/restaurants for each day I forgo housekeeping services. Being somewhat of an environmentalist and not seeing a huge benefit in clean sheets every day, I went for it. As it turns out, forgoing housekeeping services also means that no one takes out your trash or replenishes your shampoo and toilet paper. In fact, the housekeepers don’t come to your room at all. Not sure what keeping the trash in the (unlined) basket for one more day does for the  planet, but I bet these "green” tags save the hotel a lot of money.  

Posted 06 Nov 10 by Tatyana in Musings on Economics

About two months ago, I registered for the Allied Social Science Associations (ASSA) annual meeting. Yesterday, as I was reviewing my credit card statement, I saw a $10 "cash equivalent transaction fee” and a $1.50 "minimum interest charge”. I always pay my bill in full and on time, so this was really surprising.

My first thought was that the credit card company changed their policies in a devious way without me realizing it. Incensed, I called the credit card company, only to find out that the reason for the charge was an ASSA $18 hotel processing charge. It was submitted by the ASSA as a cash equivalent instead of the normal credit charge, resulting in the transaction fee and subsequent interest. Seriously, ASSA? I thought only consumers were allowed to make mistakes (I assume they didn’t mean for people to get charged with these fees). Most credit card companies have similar policies, so I wonder how many other economists and social scientists will be surprised with these charges.

To give my credit card company credit, they promised to remove the charges after I talked to them. But the 30 minutes I spent figuring this out was definitely a waste to society.

Posted 21 Oct 10 by Tatyana in Musings on Economics
Being on the academic job market so far produces the same feeling in me as riding a Drop Tower, a ride that drops you from a 23-story height.

It took me a long time to get the courage to ride Drop Zone, a Drop Tower in California. While standing in line, I was terrified. I kept thinking, "Why did I voluntarily agree to do this?”. But it was too late to back out at some point – I didn’t want to look like a coward in front of my friends and all the other people in line.

So there you are in this job market "line”. You know it’ll be ok in the end. You know that it’s just a ride and everyone standing in line comes out ok. You see the smiling people around you and imagine that you’re the only one this terrified.

You finally go on the ride. It lifts you up and now you KNOW there’s no getting down without that butterfly feeling in your stomach. All the seats rise at different rates so you don’t know exactly when the drop will begin. You don’t know whether to close your eyes or keep them open. And then it happens – your seat drops from underneath you and the fall begins.

Almost instantaneously, you’re back on the ground. You feel exhilarated. You thank your friends for convincing you to come. And you never want to do it again.

Posted 18 Jul 10 by Tatyana in Musings on Economics
 According to Investopedia’s term of the day, "dismal science”, a term used to describe economics, was coined by Thomas Carlyle. The reason for his use of the term, however, are still debated. The popular explanation is that he was reacting to Malthus’ theory of population growth outstripping food supply growth (and its dismal implications). Another explanation, which I’ve never heard before, is that this term was an attack on John Stuart Mill, an economist who supported equality of races and the emancipation of slaves. A dismal explanation for the origin, if it is true.  

Posted 07 Jul 10 by Tatyana in Musings on Economics

  1. Working is not always the most productive activity in the long run.
  2. Naps are almost always a good idea (see #1).
  3. Surfing the internet is almost never a good idea.
  4. No one will remember your grades after year 2, including you.
  5. Most of the work gets done last minute. Even after you’ve been repeatedly told that most of the work gets done last minute and have desperately tried to avoid this fate.
  6. You will learn a lot, whether you like it or not. And you will not really realize how much you’ve learned until you talk to people who aren’t yet in grad school.

Posted 28 Mar 10 by Tatyana in Books

I just finished reading "Big Bang” by Simon Singh. It’s a fascinating account of the history of astronomy/cosmology, starting from the days people believed the sun revolved around the Earth. The book is a great combination of amusing anecdotes about the scientists themselves, easy-to-understand description of the major theories, the scientific methods used to arrive at the theories, and (best of all) thoughtful commentary on how science progresses.

This made me think of the progress of economics (mostly because everything makes me think of economics these days) and whether it is or will ever become a science in the standard sense. I think it definitely has the potential to be even more rigorous. Unfortunately, no one is giving economists billions of dollars or approval for large scale experiments. Imagine how much economists could do if we got as much funding as the collider…by the way, I do recommend "Big Bang”!

Posted 13 Mar 10 by Tatyana in Musings on Economics

Today’s post on Mankiw’s blog alerted me to a ranking of econ departments that I’ve never seen before. Notice that Mankiw lists this ranking first, followed by US News ranking, which focuses on graduate programs specifically, as opposed to departments in general.

Here are the top 10 according to IDEAS (and their score)...

Posted 16 Feb 10 by Tatyana in Musings on Economics

Sometimes I imagine how much more depressing my PhD would be without PhD comics. Then I wake up in a cold sweat to happily find that it still exists. Not only does it make the suffering of a graduate student seem funnier than it actually is, but it makes you feel like you’re not alone.

The most recent comic was particularly relevant. It also coincided with one of the MIT professors claiming that PhD students used to be interesting people at one point (hard to believe). While I’m not that cynical about the whole experience, I see how easy it is to lose sight of what’s important when you dive into academic work. People do need hobbies (and, in the words of another MIT professor, "math is not a hobby”), friends, and self-care. After I read that comic, I realized that it’s been a long time since I’ve done some things I used to really enjoy, like write poetry. It’s time to change that. Right after I do this presentation on Monday and finish my paper draft.

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