Another fabrication from John Lott

John Lott, in the National Review Online writes:

Nor does it really matter that the only academic research on the impact of trigger locks on crime finds that states that require guns be locked up and unloaded face a five-percent increase in murder and a 12 percent increase in rape. Criminals are more likely to attack people in their homes, and those attacks are more likely to be successful. Since the potential of armed victims deters criminals, storing a gun locked and unloaded actually encourages crime.

Lott falsely claims that his own paper with Whitley is the only academic research on the topic. But he knows this isn’t true. A peer reviewed article in JAMA by Cummings et al found:

Laws that make gun owners responsible for storing firearms in a manner that makes them inaccessible to children were in effect for at least 1 year in 12 states from 1990 through 1994. Among children younger than 15 years, unintentional shooting deaths were reduced by 23% (95% confidence interval, 6%-37%) during the years covered by these laws. This estimate was based on within-state comparisons adjusted for national trends in unintentional firearm-related mortality. Gun-related homicide and suicide showed modest declines, but these were not statistically significant.

Now Lott is well aware of the Cummings paper. In the working paper he linked, he used Cummings’ data in his analysis, but misrepresented the paper when he wrote that Cummings only considered accidental deaths. Then, in The Bias Against Guns he misrepresented the paper again when he wrote:

they did not use fixed year effects which would have allowed them to test whether the safe storage states were experiencing a drop relative to the rest of the country.

But Cummings did use fixed year effects. They wrote:

To control for national trends over time in firearm mortality rates, all states were included in the analysis, and 15 indicator variables were used to represent each calendar year. Categories of age, sex, and race were examined as potential confounders.

When I pointed this out, Lott responded with:

We had been unable to replicate their claimed results using fixed effects and the only way we could get something similar was without fixed effects. It really shouldn’t have been that difficult for us to confirm what they found since we were used their dates for the laws.

This is not credible. If you couldn’t replicate their findings, why not say so, instead of writing something (“they did not use fixed effects”) you knew to be false. And it doesn’t seem to have been that hard to replicate Cummings’ results — these researchers had no difficulties.

In the light of all this, is it plausible that Lott just forgot all about the Cummings study?

The NRO article describes Lott as “senior research scientist at the University of Maryland”. Which is true, but they don’t mention that he is now a research scientist in the Computer Science Department. At least one Maryland student is not impressed

Lott works here now. He is a Senior Research Scientist over in A.V. Williams. Who knows why we decided to pick him up, but I imagine it has something to do with his friend Jim Purtilo of our computer science department. Purtilo has a website where he defends Lott to the hilt; he warns readers to “be not only careful to check the assertions they find on the web, but also the quality and policies of the source as well.” Purtilo’s star example? The Wikipedia entry for Dr. John Lott.

Comments

  1. #1 Ian Gould
    January 22, 2008

    Oh and Ben the “essential liberty” quote was specifically disowned by Franklin. It comes from a book which he published (but did not write) in 1759.

    Let’s note that, that’s well before the revolution and during the period when Franklin was the main proponent of a negotiated settlement with the British crown.

    Franklin lived long enough to see the Bill of rights enacted but indicated that he had unspecified misgivings about it.

    You might be interested though in what Ben had to say about the problems facing black Americans:

    “Attention to emancipated black people, it is therefore to be hoped, will become a branch of our national policy; but, as far as we contribute to promote this emancipation, so far that attention is evidently a serious duty incumbent on us, and which we mean to discharge to the best of our judgment and abilities.

    To instruct, to advise, to qualify those, who have been restored to freedom, for the exercise and enjoyment of civil liberty, to promote in them habits of industry, to furnish them with employments suited to their age, sex, talents, and other circumstances, and to procure their children an education calculated for their future situation in life; these are the great outlines of the annexed plan, which we have adopted, and which we conceive will essentially promote the public good, and the happiness of these our hitherto too much neglected fellow-creatures.”

    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/An_Address_to_the_Public

    Ben Franklin, father of affirmative action.

  2. #2 Ian Gould
    January 22, 2008

    “Wonderful places, thanks to “the projects” and the liberals who put them there.”

    Yeah because they were paradise on Earth before the projects.

  3. #3 ben
    January 23, 2008

    Yeah because they were paradise on Earth before the projects.

    No, they sucked. They were frequently populated by immigrants who did not fit in culturally, were poor, and had little other place to go. But they had incentive to leave! It typically took three generations or so, but they eventually integrated into society and moved on up, hard as it was. The new immigrants were uniformly discriminated against, and rightly so, since their habits and folkways did not fit in with mainstream America.

    Now what do we have? We have the projects, we have scads of single moms, sons raised without fathers, we have the “hip-hop” culture, and all the rest. Instead of “tough-love” we gave an entire group of people minuscule freebies, just adequate to live at a sub-human level, but enough to do so with any number of children and with no expectation that anyone would better themselves. We have an ingrained inner-city culture that is a national disaster. Wonderful! Who was it who said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions?

    And yes, I know that about the Franklin quote. The wiki page about it indicated that he did not write the book, but that it is likely that the quote is in fact from Franklin.

  4. #4 SG
    January 23, 2008

    Come on Ben, you didn’t even address my point. I said “Also, of course, it could be that the murder rate is independent of the gun ownership rate because there are so many guns in the US.”

    and you said

    Well, I guess that’s one way to put it. Did you notice that the handgun supply has more than tripled since the ’60′s, but the rates of homicide haven’t followed?

    which is not an answer.

    Also you still haven’t told me how the UK and Australia are culturally dissimilar from the US, in some way which makes US whites twice as likely to commit murder as the average Australian.

  5. #5 Ian Gould
    January 23, 2008

    “No, they sucked. They were frequently populated by immigrants who did not fit in culturally, were poor, and had little other place to go. But they had incentive to leave! It typically took three generations or so, but they eventually integrated into society and moved on up, hard as it was.”

    Except Ben that there were black ghettoes from the pre-civil war period onwards.

    so even in the absence of the evil government something was preventing the blacks from following the same path as the other groups.

    I guess it was “cultural factors”.

  6. #6 Ian Gould
    January 23, 2008

    “The new immigrants were uniformly discriminated against, and rightly so,…”

    That’s statement you might want to reconsider.

  7. #7 David Marjanović
    January 23, 2008

    What’s a “pumpgun”? A pump shotgun?

    Probably. Must be one of those English words in German that don’t really exist in English.

    Often claimed, but never substantiated. The “Blood in the streets” mantra never seems to pan out, I wonder if that’s because it’s not true?

    You mean there’s no blood in the streets in Iraq?

    Don’t forget this graphic, David:

    Please supply some context. Where do the data come from? Is it realistic that the handgun supply stayed exactly constant from 1919 to 1943? Also, nobody has ever claimed that the availability of guns is the only influence on the number of crimes.

    I also notice you didn’t answer several of my questions.

    just adequate to live at a sub-human level

    Which reminds me: even the highest of the minimum wages in the USA are ridiculous at best. Seven whole dollars an hour? Or even 7.15? In Europe they are more like 10 $/h, tendency slowly rising. You worry so much about “incentive to work” — and that in the country where people can have three jobs and still be poor (with Fearless Flightsuit saying that’s just great). Get your priorities straight.

  8. #8 ben
    January 23, 2008

    That’s statement you might want to reconsider.

    I do not. Prejudice is one thing, but discrimination is another all together. My great grandparents were immigrants and experienced the same thing. Once they learned to be Americans, there was no problem. That’s the way it works here.

    That’s a far cry better than a place like Germany, for example, where no matter what you do, you are never a German.

  9. #9 ben
    January 23, 2008

    Notice David that that is the handgun supply rate, not the total supply.

    Which reminds me: even the highest of the minimum wages in the USA are ridiculous at best. Seven whole dollars an hour? Or even 7.15? In Europe they are more like 10 $/h, tendency slowly rising.

    Right, where they have substantially higher unemployment.

    Did you know that, according to Thomas Sowell, that Americans who start out in the bottom 10% of income earners have a better chance of ending up in the top 10% of income earners than they do of staying in the bottom 10%? That’s fairly interesting.

    Sure, minimum wage is low, I earned it myself for a long time when I was young. But most people don’t stay there.

  10. #10 dhogaza
    January 23, 2008

    Right, where they have substantially higher unemployment.

    Depends on the country, and how you measure it.

    Don’t get started on one of your “taxes in canada are 3x higher than in the US” rants here. They tend to expose your lack of knowledge in a most embarrassing fashion.

  11. #11 ben
    January 23, 2008

    I just read that France and Germany have high unemployment. It’s true, that might be measured differently than in the USA. I don’t know.

  12. #12 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 23, 2008

    Have to agree with Ben on this one. The minimum wage is one of those issues where the mere name of the issue seems to cause false thinking about it. (You’re against the minimum? You capitalist bastard! I suppose people should be paid nothing at all!)

    The fact is, the minimum wage doesn’t help the poor. All it does is raise the rate of unemployment for teenaged and other entry-level workers. If someone is making $100,000.00 per year on a small business, and is paying four people $20,000.00 each, and the government suddenly mandates that he pay them $25,000.00 each — is he going to wipe out his own income to pay them? Extreme example, but you see my point. He’ll either fire someone or cut their hours, and he’ll look as hard as he can for ways to get the job done with less labor.

    The minimum wage is essentially a massive political fraud — a way for politicians to look like they’re helping the poor without actually having to spend any money. 90% of economists know it’s a bad idea, but 90% of the public thinks it’s a great idea, so it will always be around. Except in some unlikely future where everybody understands how markets work.

  13. #13 ben
    January 23, 2008

    On the other hand, I have seen examples where a higher minimum wage was beneficial to employers. That just meant that the employers weren’t being very good entrepreneurs, and were paying to little for the work that was to be done.

    Kinda like at one of my favorite restaurants in Vancouver. It used to be that on Saturday and Sunday morning, the establishment was full of teenagers who sat around smoking and drinking coffee, without ordering much food, trying to shake their hangovers.

    The province instituted a smoking ban, and nearly over night, the restaurant patronage on weekend mornings changed to families ordering big breakfasts. Then the smoking ban was overturned in court. The restaurant in question kept their own ban in place.

  14. #14 Ian Gould
    January 23, 2008

    “I do not. Prejudice is one thing, but discrimination is another all together.”

    So what sort of discrimination against migrants do you think is fine: denying them jobs; denying them a place to live; banning them from schools and colleges; using physical violence to stop them voting; lynchings (happened to plenty of Asians and Mexicans in the 19th century)>

    “Did you know that, according to Thomas Sowell, that Americans who start out in the bottom 10% of income earners have a better chance of ending up in the top 10% of income earners than they do of staying in the bottom 10%? That’s fairly interesting.”

    Yeah until you realise that the people in the bottom 10% of “income earners” who move up into the top 10% are virtually all minors from upper middle class or upper class families working part time jobs in high school.

  15. #15 dhogaza
    January 23, 2008

    I just read that France and Germany have high unemployment. It’s true, that might be measured differently than in the USA. I don’t know.

    Germany’s still recovering from the equivalent of our Reconstruction after our Civil War. Figures for (the former) Western Germany are much better than for (the former) Eastern Germany.

    And if you want to argue that 20 years is long enough for them to figure it out … why is the south in the US still economically depressed vs. the rest of the country?

    Barton’s attempt to chip in supports my thinking that he’s a rather un-Christian born-again “Christian”, which I’m sure adds to my credentials of being an “anti-Christian bigot”.

    (hint, there are plenty of examples which tend to argue against the “raising the minimum wage hurts workers” argument).

  16. #16 dhogaza
    January 23, 2008

    If someone is making $100,000.00 per year on a small business, and is paying four people $20,000.00 each, and the government suddenly mandates that he pay them $25,000.00 each — is he going to wipe out his own income to pay them? Extreme example, but you see my point. He’ll either fire someone or cut their hours, and he’ll look as hard as he can for ways to get the job done with less labor.

    Many problems with this.

    For one thing, the owner might raise prices. Typically, wages are a small proportion of price, so a 25% raise in wage isn’t going to translate into anything like a 25% raise in price.

    Perhaps the most important point … your premise is based upon the assumption that some of those hires aren’t necessary, that the owner hasn’t previously optimised their business.

    If true, the owner should fire someone regardless of any increase in minimum wage. They’re not actually needed to maintain the income of the business.

    If all businesses are working at optimum efficiency, raising wages should cause a general increase in price, which might lead to a reduction in sales.

    Or might not. The American economic revolution was built on unions in hard industries like steel and automobiles winning their members sound middle-class wages. Wages which allowed them to buy a lot more.

    Pay workers more money means workers have more money to buy with. That’s been shown to work here in the US and elsewhere.

  17. #17 dhogaza
    January 23, 2008

    And I just have to say that it’s interesting that two of our born-again xtians types are here supporting the “fuck the poor” arguments of business against raising minimum wage.

  18. #18 ben
    January 23, 2008

    So what sort of discrimination against migrants do you think is fine: denying them jobs; denying them a place to live; banning them from schools and colleges; using physical violence to stop them voting; lynchings (happened to plenty of Asians and Mexicans in the 19th century)

    Anything from the private sector is fair game. If you own a company and want to bar people from working there for any reason, it should be your right to do so. It is also my right not to associate with such companies if I dislike their practices. The government, on the other hand, must treat all citizens the same. All legal immigrants must be treated according to the law. Same with illegal immigrants, as the law applies to them.

    Pay workers more money means workers have more money to buy with. That’s been shown to work here in the US and elsewhere.

    Typically that happens when there is not enough labor to go around, and industries have to compete with each other for workers. Asian economic miracle anyone?

  19. #19 SG
    January 23, 2008

    Ben, Australia has a minimum wage higher than the US, and lower unemployment with 16 years of uninterrupted economic growth. Also we don’t imprison our poor or siphon our unemployment figures away through a bloated military.

    I think your minimum wage argument is typical libertard reductionism.

    On the other hand, you still haven’t explained how the US and the UK are culturally dissimilar to the US. Why do Australians of all colours commit half as many murders as good, white Americans?

  20. #20 ben
    January 24, 2008

    Ben, Australia has a minimum wage higher than the US, and lower unemployment with 16 years of uninterrupted economic growth.

    Sounds like Australia is a frickin’ utopia!

    Also we don’t imprison our poor or siphon our unemployment figures away through a bloated military.

    And Americans do imprison their poor? Just for being poor? Now, I agree that our “war on some drugs” is stupid, and that a lot of folks are imprisoned for drug crimes and that that is dumb, but I was poor when I was a kid, I lived with quite a few poor people, and the only guy I ever saw go to jail was one who sexually molested a mentally handicapped teenager. So I really don’t know what the hell you are talking about.

    On the other hand, you still haven’t explained how the US and the UK are culturally dissimilar to the US.

    From this website:

    Likewise, historical evidence refutes attributing differential international violence rates to differences in gun laws rather than to socio-institutional and cultural differences. People who attribute low violence rates in Europe to banning guns are apparently unaware that low rates long preceded the gun bans.[139] In fact, stringent gun laws first appeared in the United States, not Europe–despite which, high American crime rates persisted and grew.[140] Ever-growing violence in various American states from the 1810s on led those states to pioneer ever-more-severe gun controls.[141] But in Europe, where violence was falling, or was not even deemed an important problem, gun controls varied from lax to non-existent. During the 19th century in England, for instance, crime fell from its high in the late 1700s to its idyllic low in the early 1900s–yet the only gun control was that police could not carry guns.[142]

    Why do Australians of all colours commit half as many murders as good, white Americans?

    I know very little about Australia, so I don’t know.

    And here’s something for all you “Bush Lied, People Died” folks out there:

    It seems to me that it is much harder to establish that someone is lying than it is to establish that they are in error since you must prove that knew what they said was wrong as well as showing that it was wrong.

    From our own Mr. Tim Lambert. Please remember that when you hear someone blah blah about Bush lying about WMD’s etc.

  21. #21 SG
    January 24, 2008

    Ben, your quote doesn’t answer my question at all. That quote says that the difference in murder rates between Europe and the US is socio-cultural, not due to gun control, and then adduces evidence to that effect. Cool, we get that: we are arguing about the socio-cultural differences.

    You claim that Michael Moore’s theory of the socio-cultural differences is wrong, and you first offered the race-difference theory, but now we have boiled it down to the white people. White Americans are more murderous than Australians of any colour. If you can’t present a socio-cultural reason (as the article suggests) for this difference, you are hardly going to convince anyone about the uselessness of gun control, are you? So what is the difference? If you can’t suggest a better theory than Michael MOore’s, can I accept Michael Moore’s theory? Come on, you must have a manifesto…

    As for your other points, whether or not Australia is a utopia it seems to have some things to say about your arguments against the minimum wage.

    As for locking up the poor, I didn’t say they were locked up for being poor. The US has the highest rate of incarceration of the developed world, and the burden of incarceration falls disproportionately on the poor. Thus, a large pool of poor americans are not in the unemployment statistics. This is not the case in Australia.

    As for Bush lied, people died: I really can’t be bothered arguing over such a transparent idea.

  22. #22 ben
    January 24, 2008

    You claim that Michael Moore’s theory of the socio-cultural differences is wrong, and you first offered the race-difference theory, but now we have boiled it down to the white people.

    No I did not. I showed an example where people of highly similar cultures but vastly different gun ownership rates showed effectively no difference in homicide rates.

    So what is the difference?

    Between Americans and Australians? I have no idea.

    If you can’t suggest a better theory than Michael MOore’s, can I accept Michael Moore’s theory?

    I can tell you why Moore’s conjecture is wrong, which I think I already did. He claims that the high murder rate is because whitey is scaredie-poo, which results in us running amok and shooting peaceable black folks. It’s a lie. Why would you believe such garbage?

    America has a long history of violence. Many of the immigrant groups that came here had a long history of violence, including my own: the Scottish, the Irish, the Scotch-Irish, the Russians, the Ukrainians etc. I count at least two of those in my own ethnic background.

  23. #23 Ian Gould
    January 24, 2008

    “Sounds like Australia is a frickin’ utopia!”

    Fuckin’ A!

    SG forgot to mention universal medical care.

    One of my business partners didn’t feel well the other day. He went to the 24-hour medical clinic across the road but he would have had to wait an hour for a doctor.

    so instead he hopped in his car, drove about half a mile to the Mater Hospital. got seen within ten minutes was diagnosed as having a kidney stone.

    He passed it the next day but still wasn’t feeling well so the doctors decided to keep him in all week-end. In his private airconditioned room he surfed the net, watched cable TV (including the free movies on demand service) and chose his meals from an ala carte menu.

    He has private insurance but it costs him far less than comparable insurance in the US and the government lets him write the premiums off against tax.

    People think we hate or resent Americans. We don’t.

    We are however beginning to pity them.

  24. #24 ben
    January 24, 2008

    He has private insurance but it costs him far less than comparable insurance in the US and the government lets him write the premiums off against tax.

    Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about, yeah!

    People think we hate or resent Americans. We don’t.

    Who are these people? I don’t know any.

    We are however beginning to pity them.

    With Hillary running for president, and having a reasonable shot at it, I don’t blame you, I’m pitying myself for that one.

    On the other hand, I pity your firearms laws. What’s with banning handguns over .38 caliber? Are those particularly deadly? I agree with Tim that your pre-1996 gun laws were far better than what you have now.

    If you’d just add a provision for legal concealed carry of handguns, I’d consider that pretty darn good.

  25. #25 SG
    January 24, 2008

    Ben, you offered the explanation that Australian and American whites are culturally dissimilar a little while back, before comment 120. Your comment 120 is a response to my request for an explanation.

    You also didn’t show “an example where people of highly similar cultures but vastly different gun ownership rates showed effectively no difference in homicide rates.” Australia has half the rate of US whites. I want you to explain why this is a socio-cultural difference not a gun-ownership difference. To do so you have to explain the cultural differences between the two nations.

    You touched on one reason – a long history of violence. But Australia and the US are more similar than different in this regard. We both have histories of genocide of indigenous peoples, we both have been in the same wars, both nations have a history of frontier culture which is fast and loose with the law. The main difference is that Australian sports are violent, while US sports are poncy. Australia also, I think, has a higher assault rate than the US (or similar). So I don’t think that explanation works.

    Ian Gould touched on another one, which is what I was referring to earlier when I asked if maybe Moore’s thesis from Columbine dovetails into Sicko. We have universal health care and you don’t.

    And waht’s with asking if a handgun over 0.38 calibre is particularly deadly? All guns are designed to kill – they are all particularly deadly.

  26. #26 Ian Gould
    January 24, 2008

    “What’s with banning handguns over .38 caliber? ”

    Virtually all handguns are banned here as far as the general public are concerned.

    The exceptions are, for example, private security guards; target shooters (who have to store their weapons at a gun club); and collectors.

    That’s been the case for decades.

  27. #27 David Marjanović
    January 24, 2008

    The minimum wage is essentially a massive political fraud — a way for politicians to look like they’re helping the poor without actually having to spend any money. 90% of economists know it’s a bad idea, but 90% of the public thinks it’s a great idea, so it will always be around. Except in some unlikely future where everybody understands how markets work.

    In other words, Europe is trapped in an utter catastrophe. Where is it? I can’t see it when I look around myself.

    Did you know that [...] Americans who start out in the bottom 10% of income earners have a better chance of ending up in the top 10% of income earners than they do of staying in the bottom 10%? That’s fairly interesting.

    And what is the chance of someone in the second-lowest 10 % falling into the lowest 10 %? The USA is the place where you can hire people and fire people. In the rest of the First World both of these are much more difficult (producing a complex assortment of advantages and disadvantages, of course).

    Sounds like Australia is a frickin’ utopia!

    That’s called an argument from personal incredulity. :-)

    And here’s something for all you “Bush Lied, People Died” folks out there:

    It seems to me that it is much harder to establish that someone is lying than it is to establish that they are in error since you must prove that knew what they said was wrong as well as showing that it was wrong.

    From our own Mr. Tim Lambert. Please remember that when you hear someone blah blah about Bush lying about WMD’s etc.

    If Fearless Flightsuit really was so stupid as to believe Iraq had WMD, after all those UN inspections which he cut off by saying “go out, I’m coming and making war”, he’s incompetent to be president.

    Is that what you wanted to say? (Because I’m sure most of us here already agree with that, though for different reasons.)

    America has a long history of violence. Many of the immigrant groups that came here had a long history of violence

    In the Germanic-speaking parts of Europe people used to regularly kill each other when they quarrelled. Then came Christianity. On churches of the 10th and 11th century, you can find Cain & Abel over and over and over. It worked and resulted in a population explosion, which is the reason for why e. g. German is today spoken in Berlin.

    No, it’s not all in the genes. Go look for another excuse.

    People think we hate or resent Americans. We don’t.

    We are however beginning to pity them.

    Well said.

    The main difference is that Australian sports are violent, while US sports are poncy.

    From an Australian perspective, hah! :-D From a European one, American Football (as opposed to football, i. e. soccer) is pretty violent, too — I mean when it’s played according to the rules.

    If you’d just add a provision for legal concealed carry of handguns, I’d consider that pretty darn good.

    What would you need that for? For allaying your paranoia?

  28. #28 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 24, 2008

    dhogaza comments:

    [[Barton's attempt to chip in supports my thinking that he's a rather un-Christian born-again "Christian", which I'm sure adds to my credentials of being an "anti-Christian bigot".]]

    See the logic? I can’t just disagree with him on an issue. The fact that I disagree makes me a bad person.

    [[(hint, there are plenty of examples which tend to argue against the "raising the minimum wage hurts workers" argument).]]

    There are plenty of examples of badly sited land temperature stations and places with records of recent cooling, too. What is anecdotal evidence worth, exactly?

    Labor services are something employers can buy. If you raise the price of those services, how will it affect how much they buy?

    A. They’ll buy more.

    B. They’ll buy the same amount.

    C. They’ll buy less.

    The numerical answer is left as an exercise for the student.

    ]]

  29. #29 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 24, 2008

    dhogaza, continuing the ad hominem, adds:

    [[And I just have to say that it's interesting that two of our born-again xtians types are here supporting the "fuck the poor" arguments of business against raising minimum wage.]]

    Yeah, that’s my attitude, fuck the poor. Just out of curiosity, dhogaza, when’s the last time you served dinner in a homeless shelter?

  30. #30 SG
    January 24, 2008

    charity doesn’t prove anything Barton, except perhaps a certain sort of condescension.

  31. #31 Ian Gould
    January 24, 2008

    “Labor services are something employers can buy. If you raise the price of those services, how will it affect how much they buy?

    A. They’ll buy more.

    B. They’ll buy the same amount.

    C. They’ll buy less.

    The numerical answer is left as an exercise for the student.”

    You’ve never actually studied economics have you?

  32. #32 Ian Gould
    January 24, 2008

    To return to the Ben’s “public housing + welfare = crime” thesis.

    I have to ask how it is that Britain and France with far more public housing and far more generous welfare provisions seem not to have experienced this.

    Britain had millions of people (many if not most of them either Afro-Caribean or South Asian) living for decades in apartment tower blocks as bad as anything in the US. But somehow they never took to murdering each other at the rates found in the US.

    France STILL has millions of young unemployed people of North African or sub-saharan African ancestry living in massive public housing projects.

    When they get pissed off as they did a year or two back, the burn cars and smash shop windows, they don’t resort to murder.

    Say Ben ever stop to think that maybe those nebulous “cultural reasons” are as much or more to do with the culture of mainstream America?

  33. #33 sod
    January 24, 2008

    Yeah until you realise that the people in the bottom 10% of “income earners” who move up into the top 10% are virtually all minors from upper middle class or upper class families working part time jobs in high school.

    agreed.

    i googled this a little, and there is pretty horrible stuff on the net on this one.

    “how to lie with statistics” at its best.

    i love this NYTimes poll:

    http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/national/20050515_CLASS_GRAPHIC/index_03.html

    50% think they moved up in class, 40% they they stayed the same.

    that s great. extinction of the poor!

  34. #34 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 24, 2008

    Ian Gould posts:

    [[You've never actually studied economics have you?]]

    Econ minor, University of Pittsburgh.

    The question stands. If you increase the price of labor services, by raising the minimum wage or by any other means, will employers buy

    A) more
    B) the same amount, or
    C) less

    of them? Answer the question, please.

  35. #35 elspi
    January 24, 2008

    BPL
    When Walmart moves into an area the price of labor drops by about 20%.

    You believe for some reason (faith based economics?) that the labor market is a perfect market (one that maximizes utility, where no player in the market is able to affect the price)
    THIS IS KNOWN TO BE FALSE (see above).
    What we have is closer to a monopoly, and so the government stepping in to enforce a minimum wage increases utility rather than decreasing it.

    As for you question, we already for a fact that when in the past minimum wage has been increased employers hire more or the same amount.

  36. #36 Ian Gould
    January 24, 2008

    Barton, assuming you were awake during your micro-economics classes you should know the correct answer is in fact:

    D. There is insufficient data to give a meaningful answer.

    For example, is this a situation where the employers are colluding to hold down wages in order to maximise profits?

    What is the competitive structure of the market?

    Is there important competition?

    Have some employers been engaging in free rider behaviour by hiring away trained staff from competitors rather than investing in training their own staff from scratch?

    There is actual real empirical evidence of cases where raising the basic wage has resulted in an increase in employment.

  37. #37 Ian Gould
    January 24, 2008

    “Important competition” shoudl of course read “import competition”?

  38. #38 dhogaza
    January 25, 2008

    Barton …

    There are plenty of examples of badly sited land temperature stations and places with records of recent cooling, too. What is anecdotal evidence worth, exactly?

    As Ian points out, I wasn’t speaking of anecdotal evidence. Neither exactly nor inexactly.

    Yeah, that’s my attitude, fuck the poor. Just out of curiosity, dhogaza, when’s the last time you served dinner in a homeless shelter?

    I haven’t, but for most of my adult life I’ve only worked part-time, generally about 1/2 FTE, with the vast majority of the rest of my time going as volunteer labor to NGOs.

    And you? Have you quit beating your wife, yet?

  39. #39 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 25, 2008

    elspi posts:

    [[As for you question, we already for a fact that when in the past minimum wage has been increased employers hire more or the same amount.]]

    No, elspi, we do not have such evidence at all. I happen to have done the relevant regressions myself. Teenage unemployment is very positively correlated to the minimum wage and the minimum wage Granger-causes it. The empirical fact, completely non-controversial in the economics community, is that the minimum wage increases unemployment for teens and entry-level job seekers. It’s only the public at large that thinks differently.

    If you like I’ll post the numbers. It’s been a while since I did the analysis, so my numbers cut off in the ’80s or so, but if I can find more recent ones I’ll update the analysis.

    I used to support the minimum wage myself — until I did the math.

  40. #40 Ian Gould posts:
    January 25, 2008

    Ian Gould posts:

    [[Barton, assuming you were awake during your micro-economics classes you should know the correct answer is in fact:

    D. There is insufficient data to give a meaningful answer.]]

    Is there? Let’s check the numbers and see. This is something that should interest a lot of the people here who are capable of doing serious statistical work.

  41. #41 Ian Gould
    January 25, 2008

    You may have misunderstood my answer Barton.

    My point isn’t “no-one knows” my point is that any one of the three scenarios you mention may occur depending on the specific circumstances.

    For a rough-and-ready and as usual for Wikipedia slightly suspect summary of the arguments and evidence go here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimum_wage#Debate_over_consequences

  42. #42 ben
    January 25, 2008

    I’ll defer to Nobel Laureate economist Milton Friedman on the minimum wage issue

    Another set of government measures enforcing wage rates are minimum wage laws. These laws are defended as a way to help low-income people. In fact, they hurt low-income people. The source of pressure for them is demonstrated by the people who testify before Congress in favor of a higher minimum wage. They are not representatives of the poor people. They are mostly representatives of organized labor, of the AFL-CIO and other labor organizations. No member of their unions works for a wage anywhere close to the legal minimum. Despite all the rhetoric about helping the poor, they favor an even higher minium wage as a way to protect the members of their unions from competition.

    The minimum wage law requires employers to discriminate against persons with low skills. No one describes it that way, but that is in fact what it is. Take a poorly educated teenager with little skill whose services are worth, say, only $2.00/hr. He or she might be eager to work for that wage in order to acquire greater skills that would permit a beetter job. The law says that such a person may be hired only if the employer is willing to pay him or her (in 1979) $2.90/hr. Unless an employer is willing to add 90 cents in charity to the $2.00 that the person’s services are worth, the teenager will not be employed. It has always been a mystery to us why a young person is better off unemployed from a job that would pay $2.90/hr than employed at a job that does pay $2.00/hr.

    The high rate of unemployment among teenagers, and especially black teenagers, is both a scandal and a serious source of social unrest. Yet it is largely a result of minimum wage laws.

    That’s from Free to Choose, 1980. I think I’ll take Milton’s word over yours, Ian.

  43. #43 elspi
    January 25, 2008

    “Labor services are something employers can buy. If you raise the price of those services, how will it affect how much they buy?”

    “Teenage unemployment is very positively correlated to the minimum wage and the minimum wage Granger-causes it”

    “unemployment for teens and entry-level job seekers”

    I didn’t know that we were playing on the moving-goal-post field.
    The numbers that I have seen show a decrease in unemployment (not statistically significant) after a increase in min. wage.

  44. #44 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 25, 2008

    Well, here are the numbers, elspi.

    I regressed U1619 on U, Min, and Inf for the years 1948-2007 (N = 60), where the terms mean:

    U1619 — unemployment among people aged 16-19.
    U — the general civilian unemployment rate.
    Min — the nominal minimum wage.
    Inf — the inflation rate, measured by the CPI-U.

    I got the regression equation

    U1619 = 3.81 + 1.81 U + 0.576 Min + 0.00259 Inf

    Student’s t for the coefficients was 7.04, 18.7, 6.95 and 0.0550, respectively. 90% of variance was accounted for and the regression as a whole was significant, by F test, at the level 0 followed by 27 nines after the decimal point. (Spurious regression? You be the judge!) You will note that the minimum wage term is positive and significant at way past the 99% level; the teen unemployment rate increases by about 0.6 percentage points for each dollar’s increase in the minimum wage. For every million teenagers that’s 6,000 jobs lost.

    Let me know if you want the raw figures. I got it all from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those who suspect the regression may want to perform the usual tests for integration and cointegration.

  45. #45 elspi
    January 25, 2008

    BLP
    I am willing to concede that a min wage hike causes unemployment to rise in the 16-19yr range. But that wasn’t the original question.
    DOES A MIN. WAGE HIKE CAUSE A RISE IN UNEMPLOYMENT across the board. That is where this started and that is what you need to address.

    One of the problems with no (or a low) min. wage is that older people (who are better paid) are fired and replace with teenagers at min wage. So rather than convincing me that raising the min. wage is bad, you are convincing me that it is good.

    I have found (from personal experience) that it is much easier to live in your parent’s basement when you are 17 than when you are 30 (and married with 3 kids).

  46. #46 Ian Gould
    January 26, 2008

    “That’s from Free to Choose, 1980. I think I’ll take Milton’s word over yours, Ian.”

    You’re are also taking his work over close to thirty years of empirical research in economics – including observing the effect of Thatcher’s abolition of minimum wages in Britain and their reinstatement under Blair.

    But then the essence of religious conviction is to prefer scripture over mere fact.

  47. #47 ben
    January 26, 2008

    You’re are also taking his work over close to thirty years of empirical research in economics – including observing the effect of Thatcher’s abolition of minimum wages in Britain and their reinstatement under Blair.

    First off, Britain did not have a blanket minimum wage under Thatcher, IIRC. Some trades in Britain had minimum wages set by the national government, and it was these laws that were repealed. Then Blair instituted national minimum wage laws later.

    But then the essence of religious conviction is to prefer scripture over mere fact.

    You and I both know that there is no evidence that minimum wage law changes alone in Britain between the pre-Thatcher era and the post-Blair era were the cause of whatever changes occurred in their economic conditions. Those changes in minimum wage laws did not occur in a vacuum, and for all you or I know, the economic advancement of Britain might have even occurred in spite of them. Usually you are smarter than that.

  48. #48 Ian Gould
    January 27, 2008

    You may note Ben the word “including” in my last post.

    There’s also the famous and even more directly relevant study in New Jersey which showed increased employment in the fast food industry after an increase in the basic wage there. You can find the citation and a discussion (pro and con) in the wikipedia article I cited earlier.

  49. #49 SG
    January 27, 2008

    Hey Ben, if you can claim that the minimum wage is responsible for increased unemployment without taking into account any other effects, why can’t Ian make the opposite statement without taking into account other effects? You can’t make a strong, blanket statement about a policy’s effects and then start demanding consideration of confounders when someone gives you evidence to the contrary.

    Barton I think U1619 and U are collinear. Also it’s possible that U and M are not independent, U and Inf are collinear (isn’t it a fundamental economic law that U and Inf have a linear relation?), and probably Inf and M are not independent. I would suspect some sort of structural equation model would be a better approach to the problem you describe, particularly if government policy is such that the minimum wage only increases at times of low inflation or low unemployment. But I’m sure this has been described in detail in the published literature by now…

  50. #50 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 27, 2008

    SG posts:

    [[Barton I think U1619 and U are collinear. Also it's possible that U and M are not independent, U and Inf are collinear (isn't it a fundamental economic law that U and Inf have a linear relation?), ]]

    When you have multicolinearity in your independent variables, it shows up in insignificant t-statistics, which is clearly not the case here except for Inf. And no, there’s no fundamental law that U and Inf have a linear relation. If you’re thinking of the Phillips curve, the old linear model had to be thrown out when stagflation turned up in the ’70s. It works short-term, but the curve itself shifts position with time, and can go in either direction depending on what the economy is doing.

  51. #51 SG
    January 27, 2008

    But there is a fundamental law that they’re correlated right? Perhaps dependent on a third instrumental variable? And there’s no reason to think that the minimum wage fixing policy isn’t also dependent on some third instrumental variable which is influencing economic growth and government policy. Not to mention that the minimum wage mostly increases as a result of increasing costs of living, i.e. it is conditional on all the past values of inflation. It’s not like it’s a fundamental variable on its own.

    The obvious third variable which would be related to all 3 variables would be spending on education. More education spending means less young people in the workforce, more competition for their labour, higher basic youth wages and more flexibility to increase the minimum wage. Inflation is dependent on things like government spending and education spending, and the available workforce. So I think you need to use an SEM for this. I’m sure there’s already a literature on this, and I suspect Ian is familiar with it. It’s not the sort of theory you can dismiss (against a run of real-world examples) with a trivial OLS regression in a blog comment.

  52. #52 dhogaza
    January 28, 2008

    When Oregon increased its minimum wage a few years back, while Washington did not, fast-food and similar, minimum-wage paying businesses in Vancouver WA had to raise their wages because kids were skipping across the river to Portland, OR for part-time minimum wage jobs.

    If BPL and Ben and the like are right, why wouldn’t the increased unemployment in Portland that they predict would result from a higher minimum wage lead to the job flow running the other way?

  53. #53 ben
    January 29, 2008

    If BPL and Ben and the like are right, why wouldn’t the increased unemployment in Portland that they predict would result from a higher minimum wage lead to the job flow running the other way?

    They also result in higher prices. If the market will bear those prices, then it means two things: the producer was undercharging for the products they sell, and they were also underpaying for labor.

    I don’t think it’s the government’s place to tell private business owners how to run their business. I know the folks here don’t agree, and never seem to mind government intrusion into private life. There’s a balance somewhere in the middle, I’m not sure where it is. I err to the side of individual freedom.

  54. #54 dhogaza
    January 29, 2008

    I don’t think it’s the government’s place to tell private business owners how to run their business.

    Yes, we know you believe that. We know you believe that government shouldn’t, for instance, tell business that they have to provide a safe workplace, because after all, history tells us that without regulation, workers will boycott those that don’t.

    And, oh, if only government would butt out of environmental issues, business would do the right thing, would never pollute, never endanger species, etc.

    What’s your address, Ben? I want to build a 10,000 hog farm in your lap.

  55. #55 dhogaza
    January 29, 2008

    They also result in higher prices.

    So what do you think the percentage of the cost of a BigMac is attributable to burger-flippin’ minimum wage labor at your local McDonald’s? 3%? 5%? And a 10% raise in wages will raise the cost by what fraction of a percent, exactly?

  56. #56 Ian Gould
    January 29, 2008

    “the producer was undercharging for the products they sell, and they were also underpaying for labor.”

    Bingo, Ben finally gets it.

    Guess what Ben, this isn’t an isolated case, it happens very frequently.

    Thing is the employer who wants to pay his staff more (for purely utilitarian reasons like attracting and retained better staff) can’t if his compettor is undercutting him on price.

  57. #57 SG
    January 29, 2008

    btw Barton, I doubt you’re still reading this, but in case you are, I thought I’d just mention that your prior regression model is completely in error. The data you are using is serially correlated, so you need to difference the series and then apply at least an ARIMA model. It’s likely that between 50 and 100% of the “increase” in youth unemployment due to the change in the minimum wage can be predicted by the month or year before.

    Just thought I’d add that for completeness.

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