Tatyana Deryugina (Twitter: @TDeryugina)

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Posted 07 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 22 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 19 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 08 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 29 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 14 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 17 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.

Posted 14 Feb 10 by Tatyana in Musings on Economics

From my slowly-coming-together paper draft:

"The effect of capital shocks on the labor market is also ambiguous, even if population and prices are held constant. If the shock destroys capital that was held by consumers as a durable good (e.g. a house or a car), the marginal utility of consumption will rise relative to leisure and workers will increase their labor supply. The demand for the durable good will then increase as well, leading to higher demand for labor. On the other hand, if the shock destroys producer capital and labor and capital are complements in the production of a final good, then the marginal product of labor will fall and labor demand will decrease. On the third  hand, if some capital was used as an intermediate input in production of capital goods and the latter are destroyed, labor demand will increase.”

OK, I didn’t actually write "third hand” in the paper, but you get the idea.

Posted 07 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 18 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?  

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