how many, indeed?

October 23, 2012

From class to news to research question. So, this morning in class I taught an article using the network scale-up method. It’s a great technique that’s been used to explore a number of interesting questions (e.g., war casualties, and HIV/AIDS).

I came back from that class to this article pointing to a debate on voter ID laws, and I couldn’t help but think that there has to be a meaningful way to throw this method at this question to estimate plausible bounds for the actual potential impact of these laws. And furthermore, it seems especially important because people without IDs are likely quite hard to accurately enumerate on there own (as are those who’ve engaged in voter fraud).

So, has this study already been published and i just missed it? Else, does someone have the data we’d need for that? I’m hoping it’s a solved question, as i assume its something it would be better to have known a few months ago than a few weeks from now. Anywho, just puzzling over a salient question that linked together some events from my day.


Just Give Them the Money

March 11, 2010

In the 1950’s and 1960’s, a Michigan town used urban renewal projects to destroy black neighborhoods.  Today, they are compensating some surviving victims by building them affordable housing. Though it is obviously coming too late, this may seem the most fitting and just response.  Unfortunately, it isn’t the best way to help people.

Michigan doesn’t need to build new low-income housing, they don’t have enough people for the housing they’ve got which results in it falling into disrepair.  A major reason the economy is so messed up is that we, as a society, invested too much of our scarce resources in housing.  This just exacerbates it.

What they should have done, is taken the money they used to build housing and just give it to the people they were trying to help.  They’ll spend it more wisely than we would on their behalf.  For insight into how, and why, government has historically liked to control aid to the poor, I recommend Viviana Zelizer.  The work I’m most familiar with is The Social Meaning of Money but it could be that some of her other work is even more relevant.

In hindsight, how would you have prevented the financial crisis?

January 7, 2010

Arnold Kling was asked:

With regard to the recent financial crisis and current economic recession – if you were given the power to go back in time and change only one thing in an effort to prevent the crisis and recession, what year would you choose, and what one thing would you change?

He answers here. You also might want to check out his new book with Nick Schulz called Poverty to Prosperity: intanigible Assets, Hidden Liabilities and The Lasting Triumph over Scarcity.  Much of it consists of interviews with highly noted economists.  I’ve only had the chance to read a few chapters so far but I’ll definitely look at it again when I have a little more time.

Which Mathematics to Teach?

November 4, 2009

In 2002, Paul Lockhart wrote an article about the state of mathematics education called A Mathematician’s Lament.  Lockhart argues passionately that what children are typically taught is neither useful nor interesting.  He believes children would get far more from emulating what mathematicians actually do, unstructured mathematical exploration and proofs.  One of the problems, Lockhart acknowledges, is that many math teachers don’t understand or appreciate what he calls “real math,” leaving them unable to teach it.  While I agree we need to improve our math teaching, and I agree that exposing many more children to “real math” is a good idea, I think Lockhart is at once too optimistic and too pessimistic. Read the rest of this entry »