Carpe Diem

Quotation of the day on the evolution of female empowerment into female infantilization….

….is from Ashe Schowe’s op-ed “Feminist hysteria is causing the infantilization of women” in

When did female empowerment become female infantilization?

Women once were encouraged to be strong and independent, to brush aside insensitive words and actions and to emerge stronger. But now, politicians, pundits, even celebrities are feeding an outrage machine by telling women they should be offended by anything and everything.

Add this all up and you have today’s “thought leaders” telling women they need to be spoken to gently, need the government to guard them from harsh words and uncomfortable topics, that their setbacks are always someone else’s fault and that they aren’t in control of their own lives.

This shift toward telling women they need help at every stage of their lives (remember the Obama campaign’s “Life of Julia”?) might raise funds for feminist causes or gain votes for politicians, but it’s not empowering. It’s infantilizing.

Carpe Diem

The sharing economy, Schumpeterian gales of creative destruction, and my top 10 interesting facts about Airbnb

airbnbAccording to its website, Airbnb is a “global community marketplace that connects travelers seeking authentic, high-quality accommodations with hosts who offer unique places to stay.” Along with ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, and home-cooked food sharing marketplaces like EatWith and Feastly, Airbnb is playing a central role in what’s being called “the sharing economy” and “collaborative consumption.” It’s one of the most exciting new economic trends, and it’s opening up promising new possibilities in the areas of domestic and international travel. You can now travel to worldwide destinations like Paris, Bangkok, Bogota or New York City and book your accommodations through Airbnb, arrange for local transportation through Uber or Lyft, and enjoy home-cooked local cuisine prepared by hosts in private homes through EatWith or Feastly.

Thanks to the sharing economy, here’s my economic forecast for the travel industry: Expect continued and very strong Schumpeterian gales, with a high likelihood of market disruption and creative destruction, accompanied by huge tidal waves of increased consumer surplus. (Thanks to Morgan Frank for inspiring some of that forecast language.)

Here are my Top Ten Interesting Facts about Airbnb, collected from its website with some additional assistance from an Airbnb representative.

1. Number of cities served by Airbnb: 34,000 and growing

2. Number of lodging listings worldwide in 190 countries: 800,000 and growing

3. Greatest number of Airbnb reservations ever booked on a single night: 425,000 worldwide on a peak night in August 2014

4. Airbnb’s largest market: Paris, followed by New York City, based on average guest stays per night

5. Percent of Airbnb properties that are located outside of main hotel districts: 76%

6. Average stay for Airbnb guests vs. typical visitors: 5 nights vs. 2.8 nights

7. Average spending per trip for Airbnb guests vs. typical visitors: $978 vs. $669

8. Percent of Airbnb guest spending in neighborhoods where they stay: 50%

9. Number of Airbnb guests during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil: More than 100,000, which generated more than $38 million for local hosts

10. Number of unusual properties available through Airbnb: 4,000 castles (see example above in photo), 2,800 tree houses (see photo), 1,000 islands (see photo) and 9,000 boats

There are also current Airbnb listings for lighthouses, shipping container homes, underground homes, private properties inside national parks, geodesic domes, homes of famous authors, stone houses, handmade homes, gypsy wagons, traditional yurts, homes or apartments with pianos, windmills, retro trailers, fairytale cottages, European villas, and buses, see samples photos above.

You can browse Airbnb listings here and here to start planning your next trip.

Carpe Diem

Friday afternoon links

energy1. Chart of the day. The US was more energy self-sufficient through June of this year (85.2%) than in any previous year since 1987 – thanks mostly to the twin revolutionary technologies of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling.

ch.gaschart2. Merry Christmas. Thanks in part to increased shale oil production, US gas prices have fallen to $3.25 per gallon, the lowest price since December 2013 (see chart above).

3. Who-d a-Thunk It? Venezuelans turn to bitcoins to bypass their socialist government’s currency controls?

4. Highway Robbery. Virginia cops seized $17,550 in cash from a small business owner traveling to DC to buy equipment for his restaurant. He was never charged with a crime so he sued and got his money back 14 months later. It took a jury only 35 minutes to rule in his favor, but by that time he had lost his restaurant. Source.

5. Warrior Coppery. Does your local police department need some armored tanks or assault rifles from the Department of Defense? If so, they just have to  call 800-532-9946. That’s the toll-free number (no joke) for the Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO), the government initiative tasked with redistributing excess military equipment to civilian police around the country. LESO gave more than $449 million of military equipment last year alone. Source.

6. Senate Control. Betting on Iowa Electronic Markets is now predicting that the Democrats will lose control of the Senate with a 90% probability.

7. Global Warming Statistical Meltdown. Mounting evidence suggests that basic assumptions about climate change are mistaken: The numbers don’t add up. Says Georgia Institute of Technology Professor Judith Curry in today’s WSJ.

8. Video. Silicon Valley pioneer Marc Andreessen criticized billionaire investor Carl Icahn in an interview on CNBC, likening him to an “evil Capitan Kirk.”

Carpe Diem

Memo to ‘Businesses for a $10.10 an hour minimum wage’ — You don’t have to wait for Congress, you can act now!

minwageI took this picture a few days ago at an Ace Hardware on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, D.C. and found out that it’s part of a campaign spearheaded by an organization called “Businesses for a Fair Minimum Wage” — a “national network of business owners and executives who believe a fair minimum wage makes good business sense.” Here’s the organization’s mission statement:

As business owners and executives, we support raising the federal minimum wage to strengthen our economy. … We support gradually raising the federal minimum wage to at least $10.10 an hour, and then adjusting it annually to keep up with the cost of living. It’s good for business, customers and our economy.

Obvious question: If these business owners believe so strongly in government legislation that would force them to legally raise their minimum wage to $10.10 per hour because it would “strengthen our economy,” then what are they waiting for? Why don’t they raise their minimum wages right now to $10.10 per hour? In other words, if the business owners believe that a forced, government-mandated minimum wage of $10.10 is good for their businesses, then they should voluntarily and eagerly raise it now to $10.10 for their employees. Why wait for government legislation when they can accomplish their ultimate goal on their own?

I think a more honest and credible statement for the sign above would be “This business supports a federal minimum wage of $10.10 an hour so strongly, that we’re not waiting for Washington to enact legislation — we’ve already voluntarily raised our minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.” Or as somebody on Twitter suggested “This business understands nothing about economics or business.”

This reminds me of wealthy billionaires like Warren Buffett who says that he thinks the “super-rich” and “guys like me” should pay more taxes, or more accurately “be forced by the government to pay more taxes.” Back in 2008 on CD, I reminded Mr. Buffett that  if he thinks that he should pay more in taxes, he doesn’t need to wait for Congress to change the tax laws. He can voluntarily pay more taxes right now in any amount that he thinks is fair by making a gift to the United States Government at the address below:

Gifts to the United States
U.S. Department of the Treasury
Credit Accounting Branch
3700 East-West Highway, Room 6D17
Hyattsville, MD 20782

Update: Today is 10/10 and a good time to remember that the proposed $10.10 per hour minimum wage is equivalent to a $5,700 annual tax per full-time unskilled worker.

Carpe Diem

Despite China’s new status as the world’s largest economy, the US is still 74 years ahead of China on a per-capita basis

china

The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) latest “World Economic Outlook” was released this week and the IMF estimates that China’s GDP (on a purchasing-power-parity [PPP] basis) this year of $17.632 trillion will exceed US GDP in 2014 of $17.416 trillion by 1.2%. According to IMF data, the US produced more economic output last year (on a PPP basis) than China by 3.8% ($16.768 trillion vs. $16.149), but China’s economy is expected to grow by 9.2% this year compared to a 3.9% growth in US GDP, and that will move China’s economic output in 2014 ahead of the US by $216 billion. By next year, the IMF estimates that China’s GDP will grow by another 9% and exceed US GDP by more than 5% and by almost $1 trillion ($19.230 trillion vs. $18.286 trillion). These IMF estimates means the US has officially lost its status as the world’s largest economy, a position it has held for 142 years, going back to 1872 when the US economy first surpassed the UK’s economy.

The Drudge Report has a link today to the Business Insider article “China Just Overtook The US As The World’s Largest Economy,” which starts out like this:

Sorry, America. China just overtook the US to become the world’s largest economy, according to the International Monetary Fund.

MP: Well, there’s really nothing that the US has to feel sorry about, we’re still almost 75 years ahead of China when we consider economic output per person. China and the US are both producing about the same amount of economic output this year, but China’s population is more than four times the size of the US population (1.367 billion vs. 319 million). Therefore, on a per-capita basis the IMF estimates that the US will produce $54,678 in economic output per person in 2014, which is more than four times the expected per-person GDP in China of only $12,893. The chart shows that the US produced that amount of GDP per capita (about $13,000) back in 1940, almost 75 years ago!

Assuming that China’s per-capita GDP continues to grow at its current rate of about 8% per year, it would take another 10 years before China’s per-capita GDP would reach $27,835 and equal the GDP per-capita the US achieved back in 1965. Another 20 years of growth at 8%, and China’s per-capita GDP would be roughly where the US is today.

China has made phenomenal economic gains over the last several decades to become the world’s largest economy, and it’s a remarkable economic success story that only happened after China adopted market-based reforms. They should be congratulated. But before breaking out the champagne and cigars to celebrate China’s new status as the “world’s largest economy” the chart above helps to put this in perspective — on a per-capita basis the US is still 74 years ahead of China.

Update: Without making an adjustment for purchasing-power-parity, the IMF estimates that China’s GDP will be $10.355 trillion this year, which will be more than 40% below the IMF’s estimate for US GDP of $17.416 trillion. On a per-capita basis, China’s economic output per person will be only $7,572 this year, equivalent to America’s GDP per capita back in 1900 (see new chart above).

Carpe Diem

Announcement for Feedburner subscribers

This announcement is mostly for those of you who subscribe to the daily emails for Carpe Diem posts through the Feedburner service. Starting in the next few days (maybe tonight) the AEI website including the AEIdeas blogs and the Carpe Diem blog will be updated and the website addresses will be changing. The Carpe Diem blog will be hosted at this new URL. If you have CD bookmarked, you will be automatically redirected to the new blog website.

IF you are subscribed to the daily Feedburner service, I will do my best to transfer your email subscriptions so that you automatically receive daily emails from the new CD website. A few years ago, I did this when CD was originally hosted by AEI, and I moved my blog from Blogger (Google) to the AEIdeas website and was able to switch everybody receiving daily emails to get content from the website address. Over the next few days, there might be a few days of interrupted service for receiving your daily CD emails from Feedburner, but I’ll do my best to minimize any interruption in service.

Finally, there should be an option at the new CD blog website to subscribe to the Feedburner service directly to get CD posts delivered by email every day. That will allow new subscribers to get the daily CD email service, and it will also allow current subscribers to re-subscribe for Feedburner, just in case there are any problems getting everybody switched over to receive daily emails from the new CD website.

Stay tuned for further announcements about the changes coming to the AEI website and the CD blog.

Carpe Diem

Wednesday night links

oil1. Chart of the Day. Daily US crude oil production increased last week to 8.875 million barrels, the highest production since 1986, on the way to the 9 million barrel per day milestone by next month.

2. America, Here’s Your Deadly, Insane Drug War. Georgia businessman gets robbed. Police apprehend the meth addict criminal, and then use his statement for a drug search warrant on the robbery victim. Then a team of armed law enforcement officers execute the search warrant and murder the robbery victim in his home. After a search that lasted for almost 48 hours, no drugs, paraphernalia, or contraband was found in the robbery victim’s home. Another day, another military-style drug raid, another failed drug search and another dead body of an innocent victim of the US Drug War.

3. Why Breast Cancer Patients Hate October. Margaret Feinburg explains. One reason: $6 billion will be raised this year in the name of breast cancer, but only about 16% will go to actual research.

4. Markets in Everything. a) Detroit Homeowner Offers to Trade His House for an iPhone 6 and b) Abandoned phone booths in London are being used as solar-powered charging stations for mobile phones.

5. Markets Not In Everything. California winery shuts down after being fined $115,000 for using volunteers workers, mostly wealthy retirees who love wine.

6. Craft Beer. There are now more than 3,000 breweries in the US, and the founder of Delaware-based Dog Fish Head Craft Brewery (including the excellent 60 Minute IPA), predicts that means there’s a “beer bloodbath” coming.

7. Grade Inflation Returns to Princeton. For the past decade, each Princeton University department gave no more than 35% As, to create uniformity in grading standards and combat the grade inflation that has seeped into American universities in the last 50 years. Bowing to concerns that it creates a negative campus atmosphere and can be a turnoff for applicants to the school, Princeton University faculty voted to end their practice of grade deflation. Source.

8. Another 3D Printing Medical Miracle. Surgeons at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in NYC have credited 3D printing with helping to save the life of a 2-week-old baby who required complicated heart surgery.

Carpe Diem

If Silicon Valley is pressured to hire more blacks and women, should the NFL be pressured to hire more Asians and women?

Race/Gender Share of US Population, 2013 Share of NFL Players, 2013
Blacks 13.2% 67.3%
Whites 62.6% 31.0%
Hispanics 17.1% 0.6%
Asians 5.3% 0.7%
Females 50.80% 0%

Based on the data in the chart above, what letter grade (A through F) would you assign for the “racial and gender hiring practices” of the National Football League (NFL)? When determining your grade, you would obviously consider the fact that the racial and gender shares of professional football players diverge significantly from the racial and gender makeup of the US population. Shouldn’t we apply the same diversity standards to the NFL that have been used recently to evaluate the racial and gender hiring practices of Silicon Valley companies like Microsoft, Apple, Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Twitter?

For example, blacks were 13.2% of the US population in 2013, but were significantly overrepresented in the NFL with a 67.3% player share in the 2013-2014 season. Whites are 62.6% of the US population, but were significantly underrepresented in the NFL with only a 31% share of players. Likewise, Hispanics and Asians have almost no representation in the NFL (0.6% and 0.7% respectively) compared to their shares of the US population of 17.1% and 5.3%. And women, who make up 50.8% of the US population, but have no representation in the NFL.

To summarize, whites are significantly underrepresented in the NFL by a factor of 2 times, Hispanics are significantly underrepresented by a factor of 28.5 times, Asians are significantly underrepresented by a factor of 7.5 times, blacks are significantly overrepresented by a factor of 5 times, and women are not represented at all. In other words, the NFL players “look nothing like America.” Therefore using the typical “any gender or racial disparity uncovers discrimination and needs to be corrected” standard, as it’s universally applied to Silicon Valley employment, STEM degrees and careers, corporate boards, etc., I would have to assign a letter grade of F to the NFL for its complete lack of diversity relative to the racial and gender shares of America.

But when it comes to professional sports leagues, an apparently much different standard of diversity is applied. According to the “2014 Racial and Gender Report Card: National Football League” (recently released by the The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport – TIDES – at the University of Central Florida) the NFL actually gets a letter grade of A+ for its “racial and gender hiring practices” during the 2013-2014 season. The NFL got the highest grade possible despite the significant statistical over-representation of black NFL players and significant statistical under-representation of white, Hispanic and Asian NFL players, and no female NFL players (data in the table above come from this TIDES report).

This seems pretty Orwellian in the sense that “all racial and gender groups are equal and important for purposes of diversity, but some groups are apparently more equal than others.” For example, when women are underrepresented in STEM fields, the “disparity-proves-discrimination” standard is applied, and resources and support are mobilized to address the gender disparity. But when women are overrepresented in earning college degrees (140 females per 100 men), or 7 out of 11 graduate degrees, or outnumber male veterinarians by more than 3:1, those disparities and the “disparity-proves-discrimination” standard is abandoned. Likewise, when whites, Hispanics, Asians, and women are significantly underrepresented in the NFL, the “disparity-proves-discrimination” standard is abandoned by TIDES and the NFL gets a letter grade of A+ for its supposed “diversity.” That seems pretty bizarre.

In its NFL Racial and Gender Report Card, TIDES asks, “Are we playing fair when it comes to sports? Does everyone, regardless of race or gender, have a chance to score a touchdown?” Well, obviously women have no chance at all to score a touchdown in the NFL, so shouldn’t TIDES be advocating greater representation of women in the NFL? Maybe not, but then why does it even ask the question and why does it give the NFL an A+ for its racial and gender hiring practices that currently completely excludes more than half the US population?

Now, maybe TIDES assumes that all races and genders have an equal chance to score a touchdown in the NFL, but it’s just the objective reality that black male athletes outperform white, Hispanic, and Asians male athletes (and women of all races) when it comes to playing football at the extremely competitive professional level. But then why do we not apply that same standard to the competitive labor market for Silicon Valley tech talent when Asians and men are overrepresented at Microsoft, Google and Apple?

Bottom Line: It’s important to point out that if Silicon Valley companies like Microsoft, Google and Apple are pressured or forced to increase their employee shares of minorities like blacks and Hispanics, they would be forced to discriminate against another minority – Asians, especially Asian men. Just like if the NFL was pressured to increase their player shares of Asians or Hispanics, they would be forced to discriminate against black players. To be fair to all minority groups and to all employers, if we’re not going to force or pressure the NFL to hire more whites, Asians, Hispanics and women, we shouldn’t be forcing or pressuring Silicon Valley companies to hire more blacks, Hispanics and women.

Carpe Diem

Current betting odds on Paddy Power website predict a 69.2% probability that Republicans will gain control of the Senate

I really miss Intrade, the Ireland-based online prediction market that was shut down a few years ago by the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). The CFTC filed a civil lawsuit against Intrade in federal district court and was successful in getting an injunction against the Ireland-based website that prevented Americans from trading, and Intrade was forced to close in late 2012.  

Intrade was a great resource for tracking the probabilities of various future events occurring, including political outcomes, based on the actual trading of futures contracts. For example, suppose you wanted to know the probability that Republicans will gain a majority of seats in the Senate in the mid-term elections next month, and you wanted to see how that probability was changing over time? Intrade would give you those answers.

Well, Intrade is gone, but we now have the Ireland-based Paddy Power betting website, and they offer bets on US political outcomes:

Paddy Power is the home of US politics betting. Whether you want to bet on the Presidential election or elections in the US Senate or House of Representatives, we have all the markets covered.

One of the political bets at Paddy Power is “Control of the US Senate,” and the current odds are being quoted as “1/3 for Republicans” and “2/1 for Democrats.” Unlike Intrade, these Paddy Power betting odds are not quoted as probabilities, but we can calculate probabilities according to a formula I learned from political scientist/economist Tim Groseclose:

If there were no commission (“vig”) those odds above would translate into these probabilities:

Republicans:  3 / (1 + 3) = 0.75 or 75%

Democrats: 1 / (2 + 1) = 0.33 or 33.33%

But those two probabilities add up to 1.0833 (0.75 + 0.33) to account for the “vig,” so we divide each of the original probabilities by 1.0833 to get the adjusted probabilities that will add up to exactly 1.

Republicans: 0.75 / 1.0833 = 0.692 or 69.2%

Democrats: 0.3333 / 1.0833 = 0.308 or 30.8%

And now those two vig-adjusted probabilities add up to 100% (69.2% + 30.8%). So although it’s not as user-friendly as Intrade, we can now calculate and track probabilities of political outcomes using Paddy Power’s betting odds. And the current odds favor Republicans to control the Senate next year more than 2:1 (probabilities of 69.2% for Republican control vs. 30.8% for Democratic control).

Carpe Diem

The 2014 math SAT test results confirm a pattern that has persisted for 40+ years — boys are better at math than girls

sat

mathsatratioThe College Board released its 2014 SAT college-entrance test results today, and here are some highlights of the 2014 SAT math test:

1. Continuing an uninterrupted trend that dates back to at least 1972, high school boys outperformed girls on the 2014 SAT math test with an average score of 530 points compared to the average score of 499 for females, see top chart above. The statistically significant 31-point male advantage this year on the SAT math test is one point lower than the 32-point difference last year, and just slightly below the 34 point difference over the last two decades favoring boys. In terms of percentile ranking, the average test score for male high school students (530) represented the 55th percentile of all students. By comparison, the average female test score (499) was slightly below the 45th percentile ranking for all students (see top chart above).

In addition to average scores by gender, the College Board also reports the 2014 SAT math test results by gender for all scores between 200 to 800 in 10-point increments, and the male-female ratios for each of those 10-point increments are displayed in the bottom chart above. Here are some observations:

2. Male students outnumbered female students for all 2014 math SAT scores of 590 (73rd percentile) and above, and those outcomes are represented in the bottom chart above by all of the blue bars higher than the 1.0 Male:Female ratio (red line).

3. As SAT math scores increased by 10-point intervals from 590 to 800, the male-female ratio gradually increased, reaching a peak male-female ratio of slightly more than 2-to-1 for perfect test scores of 800. At the highest level of math performance on the SAT test this year, there were 203 males achieving perfect scores for every 100 females.

4. We can adjust for the fact that more young women (888,825) than men (783,570) took the SAT test in 2014, and compare the percentage of males who earned perfect scores of 800 points (1.3%) to the percentage of females with perfect scores (0.54%), which produces an adjusted male-female ratio of 2.41-to-1 (vs. the 2.03 unadjusted ratio) for students who had perfect 800-point scores.

5. For scores of 770 points and above on the 2014 math SAT, boys outnumbered girls by a ratio of 1.91-to-1 (22,586 to 11,802) and when adjusted for the differences in sample size, the male-female ratio was 2.17-to-1 (2.88% vs. 1.328%) for scores between 770-800.

One possible explanation for the fact that high school boys consistently score higher on average than girls on the math SAT test and outnumber girls by more than 2-to-1 for perfect scores, would be that high school boys are better students on average than high school girls and are better prepared in mathematics than their female classmates. But that explanation would be false, based on College Board data for students taking the 2013 SAT test (not yet available for 2014):

6. For SAT test-takers, high school girls had superior overall academic high school records compared to boys: females represented 56% of the students in the top 10 percent of their graduating classes, 59% of the students graduating with an A+ grade point average were female, and high school girls graduated with a higher overall average GPA of 3.44 compared to a 3.30 average GPA for their male counterparts.

7. High school girls were over-represented in advanced AP/Honors math classes (54%) compared to boys (46%), and also in advanced AP/Honors science classes by 56% to 44%.

8. For those high school students taking four years of high school mathematics, girls were over-represented (52%) compared to boys (48%), and more of the students studying natural sciences for four years were female students (53%) than male (47%).

Bottom Line: Even though female high school students are better prepared academically on many different measures than their male classmates, both overall and for mathematics specifically, female high school students score significantly lower on the SAT math test, and the +30-point differences in test scores (and 10 point differences in average percentile rankings) favoring males has persisted for generations. At the high-end of math performance, high school males significantly outperformed their female peers on the 2014 SAT math test by a ratio of more than 2-1 for perfect and near-perfect scores, and that outcome has persisted for many decades.

And yet, despite the persistent, statistically significant differences in math performance by gender on the math SAT test that have continued for generations, we hear statements like this: “There just aren’t gender differences anymore in math performance,” says University of Wisconsin-Madison psychology professor Janet Hyde, “So parents and teachers need to revise their thoughts about this. Stereotypes are very, very resistant to change, but as a scientist I have to challenge them with data.”

Given the significant and persistent gender differences in SAT math test scores that have persisted over many generations, the scientific data about gender differences in math performance would seem to present a serious challenge to Professor Hyde’s frequent claims that there are no gender differences in math performance.

Further, the fact that women are underrepresented in STEM occupations and hold only 26% of STEM jobs according to a 2013 Department of Commerce report certainly isn’t because female students are being discouraged from studying math and science in high school. In fact, the evidence shows that females are excelling in math and science in high school – they outnumber males in AP/Honors math and science courses, and are more likely than their male counterparts to take four years of math and science.

Further, compared to boys, high school girls get better grades on average, and are far more likely to graduate in the top 10% of their high school classes, and are much more likely than boys to attend and graduate from college and go on to graduate schools. By all objective measures, girls have essentially all of the necessary ingredients that should result in greater representation in STEM fields like engineering and computer science except perhaps for one: a huge, statistically significant and persistent 30-point gender gap (and a 10 percentile gender gap) on the SAT math test in favor of boys that has persisted for more than 40 years. If there are some inherent gender differences for mathematical ability, as the huge and persistent gender differences for the math SAT test suggests, closing the STEM gender degree and job gaps may be a futile attempt in socially engineering an unnatural and unachievable outcome.