Berkeley in the News

Berkeley in the News is a daily selection of articles and commentaries in the news media that mention UC Berkeley. The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect the official policies or positions of the campus.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

1. Field's Top Young Scholar Asks, Why Don't More Women Study Economics?
Chronicle of Higher Education (*requires registration)

Economics professor Emi Nakamura, known for her research on price "stickiness" and the economic effects of government spending, won the John Bates Clark Medal this past May. The annual award from the American Economic Association recognizes the best American economists under the age of 40. Cited for her data-oriented, empirical approach to macroeconomics, she was the fourth woman to win the price since it was introduced in 1947. In an interview, she discusses her background and research, collaborations with her husband, Jón Steinsson, also an economics professor at Berkeley, and her perspective on the economics field's gender imbalance. Asked how she'd advise a president of the U.S. to govern differently, she replies: "One crucial thing to remember right now is how important the institution of the Federal Reserve is. People forget what a remarkable victory we've had when it comes to inflation. Back in 1980, inflation was over 10 percent, and there was a general sense that it was very hard to lower inflation. There are still many countries in the world where this is the case. But in the United States, inflation over the last 30 or 40 years fell dramatically, and now it been very stable, around 2 percent for many years. This is an enormous victory. My sense is that it has a lot to do with the fact that the Federal Reserve is such a strong institution, and quite an apolitical institution, supported by both Democrats and Republicans. This institution took a really long time to build up. This is something we have to really be careful about not destroying, because it takes a long time to get it back." For more on Professor Nakamura, see our press release at Berkeley News.
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2. Analysis: The surprising holes in our knowledge of America's homeless population
Washington Post (*requires registration)

As officials from the Trump administration look into solving the nation's homelessness problem, this analysis looks at some of the complex issues involved, beginning with how the populations are counted -- or missed. "While we can't reasonably expect to count every homeless person in the country, sociologists and economists can often follow smaller populations very closely within the confines of a carefully designed experiment," says doctoral public policy student Krista Ruffini. "From these studies, we can learn important lessons about the characteristics of homeless populations and how best to serve them, lessons which can then be applied in similar communities nationwide." Along with researchers from Notre Dame, Ruffini recently reviewed hundreds of articles on the costs, causes and solutions to homelessness, and wrote a working paper on their findings for the National Bureau of Economic Research. Regarding their findings on rent and homelessness, Ruffini says: "Higher rents are correlated with higher rates of homelessness, which we might expect. ... But we found little correlation between rising rents and rising homelessness, making it hard to attribute changes in homelessness -- including the increases in NYC and LA -- to changes in housing prices alone."
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3. You're Right. You're Spending More Time Sitting on That Plane.
New York Times (*requires registration)

Explaining why it takes more time to fly across country today than it did 30 years ago, civil and environmental engineering professor Mark Hansen, a specialist in transportation engineering and co-director of the Berkeley-based National Center of Excellence in Aviation Operations Research (NEXTOR), says: "Airlines set schedules based on assumed flight times, while actual flight times are highly variable. ... They could assume higher flight times, but this also has costs, including lower aircraft utilization, higher crew pay and more early flights. ... A particular challenge is that capacity varies depending on weather conditions ... and airlines tend to schedule assuming good conditions, so when conditions are not good (e.g. low visibility or thunderstorms), delays result." In an F.A.A.-commissioned study he led nearly 10 years ago, the researchers found that delays cost the economy more than $32 billion, with passengers bearing the brunt of half those costs, based on time lost and food and accommodations. They also found that about half of the $8.3 billion cost of delays to airlines for crew, fuel, and maintenance expenses was attributable to padded flight schedules.
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4. Letters to the Editor: World Auto Industry Is Becoming Socialized
Wall Street Journal (*requires registration)

Responding to the editorial "Progressive Antitrust Paradox," (Sept. 11), adjunct public policy professor emeritus Stephen Maurer writes: "You complain that California has organized a cartel to boost electric-car production and that the auto makers have joined it. But the point of antitrust law is (or should be) to preserve competition and keep prices near the cost of production. Building more electric cars could well force up prices, but the agreement will do nothing to force up margins. ... The real difficulty is that California wants to overrule federal policy, but that is a problem for federalism. Trying to fix things through the Sherman Antitrust Act will cause no end of mischief."
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5. Does Hispanic Heritage Month Need a Rebrand?
New York Times (*requires registration)

In a commentary about how Hispanic Heritage Month "has been reduced to ... a month when brands pander to us, hoping to convince us to spend our last few centavos," the author starts with an evaluation of the month's name. For background, she consults associate sociology Professor G. Cristina Mora, author of Making Hispanics: How Activists, Bureaucrats, and Media Constructed a New American. Professor Mora says the term Hispanic emerged both as a "fight for recognition" and an "administrative quandary" after the 1970 census significantly undercounted Latinx populations. The Census Bureau formed a Spanish Origin Advisory Committee that included activists, academics and civic leaders to address the issue, and ultimately the group decided that "Hispanic" was the English-language parallel to the New Mexican term "Hispano," and that it was a term that could encompass dozens of nationalities, races, and identities. "Hispanic became the imperfect compromise," Professor Mora says, and the census category was established in 1980.
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6. Malcolm Gladwell tells us how anger fueled his darkest book yet
San Francisco Chronicle (*requires registration)

In an interview about his new book, Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don't Know, author Malcolm Gladwell is asked: "How did the wave of high-profile cases of police killings that began in 2014 influence your decision to write this book?" He responds: "Those two years of police shootings really did have an effect on me, and I found the reaction to them problematic. I read a remarkable book ('When Police Kill'), an analysis of civilian deaths by police officers by (UC Berkeley) criminologist Franklin Zimring. His best estimate is that more than a thousand civilians die every year at the hands of police in this country. On a per capita basis, that's way, way out of line with other Western democracies. It's a systemic problem. Yes, it matters what the attitude of the individual police officer is, but this is happening in a broader context as a result of a philosophy of policing. ... That got me thinking that there's something in these incidents that reflects more broadly on this general difficulty we have in society with strangers. If I have a problematic confrontation with a stranger, there are no consequences. But if a police officer does, there are real consequences. So maybe what they're experiencing is the thin end of the wedge of this problem that we're all complicit in."
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7. Chilean Start-Up, 'Wheel the World,' Broadens Horizons for Disabled
New York Times (*requires registration)

Wheel the World, a Chilean startup co-founded by Haas Business alum Álvaro Silberstein, has arranged trips to some of the world's biggest adventure destinations for some 900 people who wouldn't normally be able to travel there because of their disabilities. The trips have included scuba diving off Easter Island, ziplining in Costa Rica, and treks along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru. The startup hopes to expand its list of destinations from 16 to 150 by 2020. "We realized that with the right equipment and the right information, we can help people with disabilities have these kind of experiences, to open their minds to see that we are capable of anything," Silberstein says. "There are many initiatives to make tourism more accessible because it's a gigantic opportunity; in just the United States and Europe, $72 billion is spent on tourism by disabled people each year." For more on Wheel the World, see our press release from 2017 at Berkeley News.
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