Tag: Self Promotion

Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely

Those of you who are acquainted with my writing on this blog probably know that (a) I study mortality risks, and (b) I sometimes comment on how these risks change when the clocks spring forward and fall backward.   This fall is no exception, as I have a piece in the venerable Costco Connectionmaking the case that maybe keeping Daylight Saving Time as is wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen to the world.  (I could have made the case the other way, as the policy decision here is very unclear, which tends to favor the status quo).

As per usual, the the remarkable Gaisma.com site shows us what’s at stake here in Appleton.  The break in the series starting in month 11 is upon us:

The Appleton Day

What does this mean for you?  Well, starting Sunday it is going to be dark at 5 p.m.  meaning that you are far more likely to get hit by a car at 5 p.m. next week than you are this week.   When I say “far more likely,” our estimate is that the risk is about three times as high!

Of course, you are also far less likely to get hit at 6 a.m. in the extremely unlikely event that you are out 6 a.m.  But, notice, but January 1 the sun won’t rise until after 7 a.m., and if DST was permanent, that would be 8 a.m.   Sunlight is the ultimate scarce resource.

Here is our previous coverage.

* The picture in the Costco piece is of me enjoying some daylight at Wrigley Field. Should Daylight Saving Time be eliminated? Of course not! More daylight means more daytime ball games.

The New Economics of Religion

That’s the title of a June 2016 Journal of Economic Literature piece, available at a website near you.   Typically, this wouldn’t warrant a response from the Lawrence Economics Blog, but typically you don’t see accolades like this directed towards one of our own:

One of the classic papers written on the economics of religion, Azzi and Ehrenberg (1975), summarized the literature on what the empirical correlates of religiosity had discovered about the United States until then.

Wow, classic papers!  If you see Professor Azzi, be sure to ask him about the genesis of that paper.

  • Sriya Iyer. 2016. “The New Economics of Religion.” Journal of Economic Literature, 54(2): 395-441.
  • Corry Azzi and Ronald Ehrenberg. 1975. “Household Allocation of Time and Church Attendance.” Journal of Political Economy 83 (1): 27–56.

Springing Forward

It is that time of year where the days get longer, aided by a single leap and bound.  This Saturday into Sunday, much of the US will push its clocks forward by one hour.  Despite the “Daylight Savings” moniker, there is no actual daylight saved — it just shifts an hour from the morning to the evening.   The consequences of this likely will affect whether some people live through the rest of March or not, as I pointed out in the New York Times Room for Debate section a few years ago.  My contribution has to do with the changes in pedestrian fatality risks and total fatalities associated with the time change.  I also wrote a more general piece for the Appleton Post-Crescent.  Below is my semi-annual rehash of a previous post…

So, what does a time change look like?  Glad you asked:  The figure from the sunshine authority, Gaisma.com, shows daylight patterns for our own Appleton, Wisconsin.  Each day starts with midnight at the bottom and goes to the top, and the months go left to right.  The blue line is the dawn and the red the dusk.

The Appleton Day
Appleton Time

The switch to DST in March and the switch back to standard time in November are clear — they are the discontinuities (the “breaks”) in the sunrise and sunset curves.  Because we “spring ahead” one hour, the sunrise time on Sunday morning will be one hour later than it was on Saturday.  An early morning walk that was in that daylight on Saturday will be in the dark on Sunday.  To have a sunrise at the same time as Saturday’s, we will have to wait until early April.  The opposite happens in the evening.  Sunset will be one hour later starting on Sunday.  There will be less light in the morning, but more light in the evening.

Light and visibility are extremely important determinants of traffic safety, particularly for pedestrians.  Paul Fischbeck and I looked at data from 1999-2005 on fatalities and travel patterns, and determined that the morning risk increases about 30% per mile walked, while the afternoon risk falls close to 80%.

The figure below shows pedestrian fatality risks from 1999-2005.  The blue and maroon bars show fatality risks per 100 million miles walked in March and April, respectively.  Note that for the 6 a.m. time slot the risks increase about 30%, whereas for the 6 p.m. time slot the risks take a sharp nosedive.  At midday the risks stay right about the same (we found no statistically significant difference in risks for that time period).  Overall, total pedestrian fatalities decrease in the Spring both because risks fall more in the evening than they rise in the morning, and there are many more people out later in the day.

Ped Spring

These data are rather crude in the presentation, as they do not focus specifically on the days leading up to and immediately following the time shifts, which is how researchers typically isolate the effects of the time change.

Here are some references for those interested:

S A Ferguson, D F Preusser, A K Lund, P L Zador, and R G Ulmer “Daylight saving time and motor vehicle crashes: the reduction in pedestrian and vehicle occupant fatalities,” American Journal of Public Health 1995 85:1, 92-95

J M Sullivan and M J Flannagan, “The role of ambient light level in fatal crashes: inferences from daylight saving time transitions,” Accident Analysis & Prevention, 2002 34:4, 487-498

D Coate and S Markowitz, “The effects of daylight and daylight saving time on US pedestrian fatalities and motor vehicle occupant fatalities,” Accident Analysis & Prevention, 2004, 36: 3 351-357

River Red

Some of you have certainly read about the mishap at the “abandoned” Gold King mine site in Colorado that left Animas River a peculiar shade of orange — here is a before and after picture that I nabbed from Reddit.

The basic story is that EPA is working to reclaim and shore up a historic mine site, and one of its contractors accidentally breached a dam that led to a spill of several million gallons of toxic water into the Animas River.  The High Country News tells us nine things we need to know about the spill.

In the department of self-promotion, I also used to spend time thinking about cleaning up hazardous waste sites, and recently did a Q&A with PERC about the problem of abandoned mines.   If you are interested in law & economics, or some of the knotty problems of environmental policy, consider taking a look.   The abandoned mines problem could use some fresh thinking, that’s for sure.

Semi-Annual Daylight Savings Post

Those of you who follow this blog have probably noticed that I (a) study mortality risks, and (b) that I have something to say about how those mortality risks change when the clocks spring forward and fall backward.   This fall is no exception, as I am quoted in a blurb on the Time magazine blog about how things are about to get more dangerous late in the day as a result of the time change.

Behold!:   The break in the series starting in month 11:

The Appleton Day

 

That’s daylight for Appleton, Wisconsin, from the remarkable Gaisma.com site.  Starting Sunday it is going to be dark at 5 p.m.  meaning that you are far more likely to get hit by a car at 5 p.m. next week than you are this week.   When I say “far more likely,” our estimate is that the risk is about three times as high!

Of course, you are also far less likely to get hit at 6 a.m. in the extremely unlikely event that you are out 6 a.m.  But, notice, but January 1 the sun won’t rise until after 7 a.m., and if DST was permanent, that would be 8 a.m.   Sunlight is the ultimate scarce resource.

Here is our previous coverage.

 

More Light?!?

I am one of the contributors to the New York Times Room for Debate section today on Daylight Saving Time.  My contribution has to do with the changes in pedestrian fatality risks and total fatalities associated with the time change. (UPDATE:  There is also a piece up in the Sunday Appleton Post-Crescent).

So, what does a time change look like?  Glad you asked:  The figure from the sunshine authority, Gaisma.com, shows daylight patterns for our own Appleton, Wisconsin.  Each day starts with midnight at the bottom and goes to the top, and the months go left to right.  The blue line is the dawn and the red the dusk.

The Appleton Day
Appleton Time

The switch to DST in March and the switch back to standard time in November are clear — they are the discontinuities (the “breaks”) in the sunrise and sunset curves.  Because we “spring ahead” one hour, the sunrise time on Sunday morning will be one hour later than it was on Saturday.  An early morning walk that was in that daylight on Saturday will be in the dark on Sunday.  To have a sunrise at the same time as Saturday’s, we will have to wait until early April.  The opposite happens in the evening.  Sunset will be one hour later starting on Sunday.  There will be less light in the morning, but more light in the evening.

Light and visibility are extremely important determinants of traffic safety, particularly for pedestrians.  Paul Fischbeck and I looked at data from 1999-2005 on fatalities and travel patterns, and determined that the morning risk increases about 30% per mile walked, while the afternoon risk falls close to 80%.

The figure below shows pedestrian fatality risks from 1999-2005.  The blue and maroon bars show fatality risks per 100 million miles walked in March and April, respectively.  Note that for the 6 a.m. time slot the risks increase about 30%, whereas for the 6 p.m. time slot the risks take a sharp nosedive.  At midday the risks stay right about the same (we found no statistically significant difference in risks for that time period).  Overall, total pedestrian fatalities decrease in the Spring both because risks fall more in the evening than they rise in the morning, and there are many more people out later in the day.

Ped Spring

These data are rather crude in the presentation, as they do not focus specifically on the days leading up to and immediately following the time shifts, which is how researchers typically isolate the effects of the time change.

Here are some references for those interested:

S A Ferguson, D F Preusser, A K Lund, P L Zador, and R G Ulmer “Daylight saving time and motor vehicle crashes: the reduction in pedestrian and vehicle occupant fatalities,” American Journal of Public Health 1995 85:1, 92-95

J M Sullivan and M J Flannagan, “The role of ambient light level in fatal crashes: inferences from daylight saving time transitions,” Accident Analysis & Prevention, 2002 34:4, 487-498

D Coate and S Markowitz, “The effects of daylight and daylight saving time on US pedestrian fatalities and motor vehicle occupant fatalities,” Accident Analysis & Prevention, 2004, 36: 3 351-357

 

Abominable, That Is

Abominable
Gosh it’s hot

The Greenfire Speaker Series has enlisted me to talk a bit about my work.  So it is with this much fanfare that I announce that I will be giving a talk on U.S. electricity, carbon emissions, and global climate change:

Is it Warm in Here?  The Great World Carbon Belch and Why It Is Probably Going to Get Worse

The talk is 8:30 p.m. in Sabin House and I guess everyone is welcome (Greenfire circulated some pretty cool posters).

Here’s a taste here, and the talk will draw heavily on these sources:

Paul S. Fischbeck, David Gerard, and Sean T. McCoy (2012), Sensitivity analysis of the build decision for carbon capture and sequestration projects. Greenhouse Gas Sci Technol, 2: 36–45. Available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ghg.1270/full

M. Granger Morgan et al., (2012) Carbon Capture and Sequestration: Removing the Legal and Regulatory Barriers, Reources for the Future Press. (I have a copy!)

William Nordhaus (2013) The Climate Casino: Risk, Uncertainty, and Economics for a Warming World.  Yale University Press.

Severin Borenstein, (2012) “The Private and Public Economics of Renewable Electricity Generation,” Journal of Economic Perspectives, 26(1):67-92. Available at: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.26.1.67

Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney. “Paying Too Much for Energy? The True Costs of Our Energy Choices.” Daedalus 141.2 (2012): 10-30.  Available at: http://web.mit.edu/ceepr/www/publications/workingpapers/2012-002.pdf

BBC News, “At a Glance, The Stern Review,” Available here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/6098362.stm

Click on the picture for six minutes of relatively carbon-free awesomeness.

Annual Daylight ‘Savings’ Plea

Every year about this time I like to remind our students to be careful crossing the street.  Some back-of-the envelope calculations we did once upon a time suggest that the time change is a very dangerous time for walkers at dusk.  (It is also true that it is now safer in the morning, but I’m not sure I want to counsel you to be less safe in the morning).

This is a story from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

“The change that’s going to occur on Sunday is going to have some pronounced effects on your risks of walking between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.,” Dr. Gerard said last night. “Basically, these are the hours when it’s just getting dark. Next week at this time, it will be pitch black. But people walking and people driving won’t have adjusted. The baseline risk for getting killed is almost tripled.”

Their study of pedestrian fatalities from 1999-2005 shows that there is an average of 37 more U.S. pedestrian deaths around 6 p.m. in November compared to October. That amounts to an increase of 186 percent.

No such jump was seen for drivers or passengers in cars.

“It’s astonishing,” Dr. Gerard said of the data. “It’s particularly worse right at the switch date, [when the average increases] two people a day for the next couple weeks, until the adjustment is made.”

This is roughly the same story from the Associated Press.

Here’s some more self-promotion with a bit more discussion of Daylight Savings writ large from the Organizations and Markets blog.

Fall Festival, October 5

The purple balls make their first appearance at Fall Fest this Saturday morning:

“I Like Your Chances: Quantifying Mortality Risks”

David Gerard, Associate Professor of Economics
Briggs Hall 119

Two things are certain in life – death and taxes. As Professor Gerard is a bit tired of talking about taxes, he will discuss work on quantifying mortality risks for use in regulatory policies. He describes these risks in terms of ‘micromorts’ (a one-in-a-million chance of dying) and characterizes mortality risks for demographic groups across the U.S. and Europe.

Given the subject matter, we might change that to Careful so that you don’t Fall Fest.

The Economics of Obesity

I will be participating in the “Weight of the Fox Valley Summit” this week, ostensibly to talk about the economics of obesity.  Economists, of course, get their fingers in a lot of pies, and so this turns out to be a very broad ranging topic.  For example, this USDA Economic Research Service workshop includes topics from why have Americans become more obese to labor market impacts of obesity, to what you might expect — implications for health insurance and economic costs of obesity.

I haven’t published in this area, but I did spend a year working with colleagues and students at Carnegie Mellon on a database charting obesity in the American population, so I have some idea of the basic issues.  For those of you interested in an introduction, as always I recommend you go through the back issues of the Journal of Economic Perspectives to see what the profession has been up to.  As per usual, you don’t have to go back very far to find some work by some top scholars in the area:

Jay Bhattacharya and Neeraj Sood (2011) “Who Pays for Obesity,” Journal of Economic Perspectives, 25(1): 139-158

David M. Cutler, Edward L. Glaeser, and Jesse M. Shapiro (2003) “Why Have Americans Become More Obese?” Journal of Economic Perspectives 17(3): 93-118.

Those should provide a reasonable, readable introduction to the economics literature on the topic, chock full of references to the primary research.

Another good source for a rough approximation is the EconTalk archive.  I learned a lot listening to Russ Roberts interview Darius Lakdawalla.  Here’s a nice cite on differential costs, with the surprising finding that the overweight and obese might actually live longer than “normal” weight folks, but spend a higher proportion of their years battling diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and osteoarthritis.   The authors estimate an additional $40,000 in lifetime medical expenses for the obese compared to someone with normal weight.  Here’s that cite:

Darius Lakdawalla, Dana Goldman, Baoping Shang, The Health And Cost Consequences Of Obesity Among The Future ElderlyHealth Affairs (2005)

American Capitalism as A Delicious Milkshake

One of the greatest films you are ever likely to see about the intensity, competition and dynamism in American capitalism, There Will be Blood, is the midnight movie tonight in the Warch Campus Cinema.  As I watched the movie, I marveled at how all of those people and resources made their way into the middle of backwater nowhere within days of identifying a promising play. If you are a night owl type, I recommend you stroll over and see it.

As for the famous “milkshake” reference, that has to do with the “fugitive” nature of petroleum.  Indeed, as I tell my students, oil is more like buffalo, and gold is more like cows.  Gary Libecap has written extensively on oil field unitization as a solution to the “milkshake” problem.  Indeed, yours truly knows a thing or two about how this all played out.

Economics Colloquium, February 5 at 11:15

.

Waiting for Godot, and for Corporate Social Responsibility?

David Gerard

Lawrence University

Milton Friedman famously wrote ‘The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits,’ and ever since (and probably even before) the economics profession has been scratching its collective head wondering whether this is indeed our professional consensus.  In this talk, I put on the ‘mainstream economist’ hat and give an overview of some of the central issues in organizational economics, and the implications of this literature on the balancing of corporate profits and other (potentially) desirable social objectives. 

The target length for the talk is 40 minutes.

Tuesday, February 5

Steitz Hall 102

11:15a.m. – 12 p.m.

Update:  Looks like we made the front page.

The College Wage Premium — the VORP addendum

Welcome to those of you who found the site via the Lawrence Today piece on the value (over replacement) of the liberal education.  As promised, this post explains what is going on Figure 3.5 from Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee’s Atlantic Monthly piece, “Why Workers are Losing the War Against Machines.”  This is a really nice discussion that touches on the future of labor markets for skilled and unskilled workers, and I will use Brynjolfsson and McAfee’s e-book in my intro class during winter term.

The original source is Figure 4a of Daron Acemoglu and David Autor’s “Skills, Tasks and Technologies: Implications for Employment and Earnings,” a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) that will find a home in the Handbook of Labor Economics  (the authors’ PowerPoint presentation can be found here).

At one level, the story is transparent. You can see over time that the wage premium for people with college degrees and graduate degrees have grown substantially, while high school graduates and dropouts actually seem to be losing ground since the early 1970s.  That is the basic message.

The purpose of this post is simply to unpack the elements of this particular characterization of “changes in wages” to give an idea of how some truly great economists have addressed the problem.  I hope that you will see why this characterization is likely to be more compelling than the plotting of raw data that we often spattered about these days.

Continue reading The College Wage Premium — the VORP addendum

Dispatch from Down Under

I am just returning from the 12th Conference of the Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory at the University of Queensland, which was very successful in that a great many economic theorists from all over the world got together and presented their work. I presented my recent work on falsifiability, complexity, and revealed preference in a session devoted to revealed preference theory.

One of the sessions was a panel discussion on the question “What Can Theory Tell Us About the Financial Crisis?” (My comments below may reflect my (mis)interpretations.) The moderator, Rohan Pitchford (Australian National University) foreshadowed some of the comments to come by stating at the outset that the panelists should feel free to turn that question around, asking what the financial crisis can tell us about economic theory. Some of the comments made were expected—for example, that theory has, of course had everything about the crisis figured out, just take a look at (Name, Year), and (Name, Year), and (Name, Year)… you get the picture. Even granting that (Name, Year) were all brilliant, this is hardly answering the question in a satisfactory way. Another point, often said, but not without reason, is that one should not expect economic theorists to be able to predict when a crisis would take place, and predicting that there would be one (some time) is hardly news. In fact, if the crisis could be predicted correctly, it is often repeated, it wouldn’t take place! And if it did, (some) economic theorists would be very rich.

But some of the panelists made some interesting points.  Continue reading Dispatch from Down Under

Economics Colloquium, May 15 at 11:10

Prospects for US Electricity Generation: Carbon Capture &/or Natural Gas

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 David Gerard

Lawrence University

What will be the technology of the future for US electricity generation? Although  carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) has the potential for steep reductions in CO2 emissions, CCS faces many potential regulatory hurdles and public acceptance issues. Moreover, the technology is expensive – both in terms of additional capital costs and the additional fuel needed to capture, compress and transport the CO2.  I talk through some of my recently published work that assesses the decision to build new natural gas and coal-fired plants given future market and regulatory uncertainty, particularly uncertainty about future natural gas and carbon prices. I conclude that  CCS will not be commercially viable without beaucoup public financial support or outright mandates. I finish with some speculation on how the current fracking boom will affect energy and electricity markets. It appears that it will be natural gas all the way down as the principal source of new added generation capacity.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tuesday, May 15

Steitz Hall 102

 11:10 a.m.

The talk will draw heavily on:

Fischbeck, P. S., Gerard, D. and McCoy, S. T. (2012), Sensitivity analysis of the build decision for carbon capture and sequestration projects. Greenhouse Gas Sci Technol, 2: 36–45. Available at  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ghg.1270/full

Morgan et al., (2009) “Commercial Considerations,” Chapter 9 in Carbon Capture and Sequestration: Framing Issues for Regulation. An Interim Report of the CCSReg Project. Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University. Available at: http://www.ccsreg.org/pdf/CCSReg_3_9.pdf

Gerard D., Wilson E.J. (2009) Environmental bonds and the challenge of long-term carbon sequestration, Journal of Environmental Management, 90(2):1097-1105. Available at https://www2.hhh.umn.edu/publications/2159/document.pdf