My political views

This is Pew’s political typology quiz. Online talk of politics is often just hinted at, I thought it would be fun to get explicit. I took the quiz, and below are my responses.

Screenshot 2019-07-28 at 12.55.17 PM

Top response, with low confidence. I really have no deep understanding of how national debt works but I feel the government should do more to help needy Americans. I don’t know where the money should come from. Everything has unintended consequences.

Screenshot 2019-07-28 at 12.59.16 PM.png

Can I say both? No? I think about the subway system here in NYC. I read a ton of articles about how much of a mess the MTA is, but at the end of the day it’s a pretty remarkable system. And public schooling is part of the government, and thinking of that definitely makes me think that “both” is the right response. I guess the second, with low confidence.

Screenshot 2019-07-28 at 1.01.45 PM.png

Is there really no way to skip questions on this quiz? I don’t know anything about this. I chose the top response just to shake things up.

Screenshot 2019-07-28 at 1.02.54 PM.png

Top response, high confidence. Put it like this: slavery is the main reason why many black people can’t get ahead these days.

Screenshot 2019-07-28 at 1.04.02 PM.png

Top response, medium confidence. I think it really depends on the industry and the kind of regulation, though. I’m glad there’s government regulation of over drugs but I think there must be a better way to do it and might be doing more harm than good at the moment.

Screenshot 2019-07-28 at 1.08.14 PM.png

Top response, high confidence.

Brief aside: What does it mean to be ‘accepted by society’? To me that means you should never receive hate or discrimination for being who you are.

My sense is that for other people ‘accepted by society’ means ‘it should become invisible to society, not even abnormal.’ That’s something that I don’t hope for, and mostly this is because I’m a religious Jew who wears a yarmulke in public and I carry my differences with me wherever I go. I don’t think being or feeling different is a bad thing, and I don’t think it should be a bad thing. In fact! In fact the idea that everybody deserves to feel not different is an oppressive majoritarian idea. Moving on.

Screenshot 2019-07-28 at 1.10.14 PM.png

Most? Most corporations make a fair and reasonable amount of profit. I think there are some industries that should be taxed more significantly because they do not serve the public interest. I’m mostly thinking of certain parts of the financial industry.

Screenshot 2019-07-28 at 1.12.17 PM.png

No clue. It depends on the laws and regulations, I guess. You can’t pass, so I’m going to go with the less-liberal option just to keep things interesting. Certainly it’s sometimes true that stricter environmental laws don’t really help anybody.

By the way, part of my response here is that none of the environmental laws will actually be strong enough to impact climate change. If presented with a government program that could convincingly impact climate change I would absolutely hurt the economy and sacrifice jobs.

Screenshot 2019-07-28 at 1.14.01 PM.png

I chose the top one with high confidence, because I’m a good old-fashioned coastal elite and nearly all economists are pro-immigration in the US.

But even if I did think that immigrants were a burden on our country (I guess I’m willing to believe that) I would still be opposed to using cruel methods to expel people from the country. Those two things don’t have to go together.

Screenshot 2019-07-28 at 1.23.03 PM.png

I really don’t know what to do with this choice. The first is just mean and wrong. Poor people don’t have it easy even if they get benefits. I also don’t know if the government is the main reason why poor people have hard lives. Also being poor doesn’t mean you have a “hard life.”

I went with the second because I took this to be asking “should poor people get more or less government money on the margins” and I think more.

Screenshot 2019-07-28 at 1.25.28 PM.png

I vote the second option, with medium confidence. (Though: what even is fair, man?)

Screenshot 2019-07-28 at 1.26.28 PM.png

In a TV interview Malcolm X once said the following:

If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there’s no progress. If you pull it all the way out that’s not progress. Progress is healing the wound that the blow made. And they haven’t even pulled the knife out much less heal the wound. They won’t even admit the knife is there.

I think there’s probably no better year to be a black person in the United States than 2019, and also that’s not saying much. I’m pretty optimistic that things will continue to get better for black people in our country but part of that calculation is taking into consideration continued outrage about police beatings and killings.

Second option, high confidence.

Screenshot 2019-07-28 at 1.32.06 PM.png

Oh god, I don’t know. The first, I guess.

Screenshot 2019-07-28 at 1.32.58 PM.png

The second option, high confidence. Though it really does depend on what “success” means.

Screenshot 2019-07-28 at 1.34.11 PM.png

I think this is another “both” situation for me.

Screenshot 2019-07-28 at 1.37.43 PM.png

I really have very few opinions about foreign policy. and all of them are weakly held.

Screenshot 2019-07-28 at 1.38.39 PM.png

I like voting and I live in NYC, so I’m a registered Democrat. I don’t strongly identify with the party.

Apparently this all makes me an Opportunity Democrat? That’s what Pew tells me, at least.

 

Why are companies trying to look liberal?

It would be one thing if companies like Delta, Dick’s, Hertz were uniformly liberal institutions. Then it would make sense why they were publicly and loudly signaling their break with the NRA. And it would be another thing if the country were uniformly liberal — then it would make clear economic sense for these companies to signal their liberalism.

What’s weird is why these companies are performing liberalism in a country with a Republican congress, a Republican president, Republican domination of state and local government, etc. Why are big companies (minus Hobby Lobby) taking a stand against the NRA?

Here are all the ideas that I am aware of, either from reading or making things up:

  1. If a company or a brand has a national reach, they want to please their national customer base. Gun control is a nationally popular issue — it’s only the geographic clustering of NRA-types that keeps us from having gun control.
  2. Maybe liberals — because they’re younger — have greater buying power, so companies are more interested in courting them on divisive issues.
  3. Increasingly, liberals are well-educated and those with less education prefer Republicans. So increasingly the decision-making employees of these companies are liberal and therefore seek to make liberal stands.
  4. Douthat’s take: companies want to signal social liberalism to protect themselves from government interference.

I recently saw Josh Barro’s response to Douthat, and Barro seems to prefer a mix of 1 and 2 and 3. I’d love to read more about this, if you have recommendations.

P.S. Is this also how we get awesome movies like Black Panther?

 

A New Study about Gender and Pay Gaps

I learned about this via Marginal Revolutions and Freakonomics. Briefly, Uber keeps an enormous amount of data on its drivers, allowing economists to study the different ways that women and men are paid. The Freakonomics folks interviewed an Uber economist:

LIST: So we have mounds and mounds of data. We have millions of drivers. We have millions of observations, and 25 million driver-weeks across 196 cities. So just the depth of the data and the understanding of both the compensation function and the production function of drivers gives us a chance to — once we observe if there is indeed a gap — gives us a chance to unpack what are the features that can explain that gap.

They did find a pay gap that broke down by gender — 7%:

LIST: We found something very surprising. What you find is that men make about 7 percent more per hour on average …

DIAMOND: … which is pretty substantial.

LIST: For doing the exact same job in a setting where work assignments are made by a gender-blind algorithm and pay structure’s tied directly to output and not negotiated.

Was it because of discrimination on an individual level? They don’t think so:

DUBNER: Right. So let me just make sure I’m clear. You’re saying there’s no discrimination on the Uber side, on the supply side, because the algorithm is gender-blind and the price is the price. And you’re saying there’s no discrimination on the passenger side. So does that mean that discrimination accounts for zero percent of whatever pay gap you find or don’t find between male and female Uber drivers?

LIST: That’s correct.

The interview is long and full of juicy details and tough questions. I haven’t read the whole thing carefully yet, but it’s fascinating all the way through:

DUBNER: What is the overall driver attrition rate? I don’t know whether it’s measured in six months or a year, or whatever.

DIAMOND: Yes, six months is what we’ve been looking at.

LIST: More than 60 percent of those who start driving are no longer active on the platform six months later.

DIAMOND: So the six-month attrition rate for the whole U.S. for men is about 63 percent, and for women it’s about 76 percent.

DUBNER: Wow. So that would connote to me, an amateur at least, that maybe this gender pay gap among Uber drivers is reflected in the fact that women leave it so much more. Maybe it’s just a job that on average, women really don’t like. Is that measurable?

There’s a whole discussion about that, and a lot  of other things too besides.

So what does explain the 7% pay gap, in the end? They have theories, foremost among them is that men drive faster than women:

LIST: That’s right. So after we account for experience now we’re left scratching our heads. So, we’re thinking, “Well, we’ve tried discrimination. We’ve done where, when. We’ve done experience. What possibly could it be?” What we notice in the data is that men are actually completing more trips per hour than women. So this is sort of a eureka moment.

DUBNER: They’re driving faster, aren’t they?

HALL: Yeah. So the third factor, which explains the remaining 50 percent of the gap, is speed.

It’s not hard to speculate about how something like how quickly men vs. women tend to drive to possible sources of systemic cultural discrimination. (Are men more confident drivers? Are they less fearful of the law? etc.)

Still, what these economists are finding is that (a) the pay gap is persistent, even in the face of an equalizing pay structure and (b) possible factors explaining the gap will not be simple to address. For example, one source of the gap could be that men tend to work more hours, gaining more experience which pays dividends later, so that one source of the Uber gap is that men are getting paid for experience, not something that you can easily address:

DIAMOND: I think this is showing that the gender pay gap is not likely to go away completely anytime soon. Unless somehow, things in our broader society really change, about how men and women are making choices about their broader lives, than just the labor market. But it’s not also a worry that the labor market is not functioning correctly. It makes sense to compensate people who are doing more productive work. It makes sense to pay people more if they work more hours. I mean, I don’t think those are things that we would ever consider thinking should be changed because that they’re a problem. Those are just real reasons that productivity can differ between men and women. And we should compensate people based on productivity.

What would the implications of this finding be? It’s not that individual discrimination isn’t responsible for the pay gap in general — this would likely depend on the field and the job, right? — but that there are deeper factors at play that might explain a pay gap between men and women.

This shouldn’t really surprise anyone working in education. Men and women teachers are paid according to the same standardized salary schedule in public schools. If you pooled all the male and female teachers, though, you’d see that there is a gender pay gap because of disproportionate numbers of male/female teachers in elementary vs. middle vs. high school. Men make more not because administrators choose to pay them more — largely, it’s because men choose to teach older kids more than women.

There’s no easy way to address this discrimination, if it’s even quite right to call this discrimination. Certainly it’s possible (likely? I don’t really know) that cultural factors partly explain the choices of men and women. At a certain level, though, this is irrelevant. Do we want to mess with the choices of men and women about where and how to work?

(This quickly gets tangled in questions of diversity and representation. Is it a policy priority to ensure that men and women are represented in the teaching force at numbers that are proportional to the students they instruct?)

There might be structural pay gaps that outstrip what can be explained by discrimination. Whether biological or culturally constructed, there might be persistent and not-bad differences between men and women. As I continue to think about this, it seems to make sense to me that we’d want to continue to battle discrimination while also thinking of ways to address inequities using other angles, besides battling pay gaps. Past a certain point, of course.

One last juicy morsel, at the very end of the interview. As Uber introduces tipping it seems that drivers make LESS and that the pay gap narrows somewhat because women are tipped more:

LIST: Yeah, I think when you look at the tipping data in general, you do find a tilt in favor of women compared to men in general. We’ll have a tipping paper for you in a few months. Because the economics of tipping is sort of wide open, and we’ll have a paper just like this one called something like “A Nationwide Experiment on Tipping.”

DUBNER: Right.

LIST: And we’ll do the tipping roll out and show you how earnings change with the introduction of tipping. And the earnings actually go down a little bit. They don’t go up after you introduce tipping.

DUBNER: Now how can that be?

LIST: What happens is the supply curve shifts out enough to compensate the higher tips. And when the supply curve shifts out, the organic wages go down. And what you have is drivers are underutilized. So what I mean by that is typically they’ll sit in their car empty 35 percent of the time. With tipping, maybe it’ll go up to 38 percent of the time.

DUBNER: In other words, the wage declines because more drivers think they’re going to make more money since tips are now included, but that increases the supply of drivers, which means there’s less demand to go around.

LIST: Exactly. That’s perfect.