Chart of the day

Love this set of charts on Crime from Pew Fact tank.  If you know one thing about crime rates in America, it should probably be the massive drop in the past couple decades:

Alas, pretty clear most people are mostly unaware:

That said, here’s an interesting fact about crime:

5) Most crimes are not reported to police, and most reported crimes are not solved. In its annual survey, BJS asks victims of crime whether they reported that crime to police. In 2016, only 42% of the violent crime tracked by BJS was reported to police. And in the much more common category of property crime, only about a third (36%) was reported. There are a variety of reasons crime might not be reported, including a feeling that police “would not or could not do anything to help” or that the crime is “a personal issue or too trivial to report,” according to BJS.

Most of the crimes that are reported to police, meanwhile, are not solved, at least using an FBI measure known as the “clearance rate.” That’s the share of cases each year that are closed, or “cleared,” through the arrest, charging and referral of a suspect for prosecution. In 2016, police nationwide cleared 46% of violent crimes that were reported to them. For property crimes, the national clearance rate was 18%.


Can women “have it all” even in Denmark?

If that means have generous family policies and long-term career earnings similar to men, the answer is a resounding no.  Jordan Weissman with a really interesting look (into the next Gender & Politics syllabus) at parental leave policies and wage gaps in Denmark and Sweden and what we can learn from them.  Here’s a key chart to start:

Whoa!  Damn, that’s dramatic.

Denmark isn’t the only plush, pro-family Scandinavian welfare state where having children still craters women’s earnings. A 2013 study of Swedish couples published in the Journal of Labor Economics found that during the 15 years after giving birth, the pay gap between men and women increased by 32 percentage points. In one of the most philosophically egalitarian nations on earth, mothers’ careers flounder, while fathers’ careers march on.

So, why can’t even Scandinavian women have it all?

Part of the answer may be a story about unintended consequences. If your goal is to help women get back to work and earn a paycheck the size of her male peers’, then providing free or dirt-cheap day care is unambiguously helpful. But generous child leave is more of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it allows women to stay at home and care for their infant without having to quit their job. At the same time, it keeps them out of the workforce for an extended period, which can set anyone back in their careers and possibly discourage them from returning to their old path.

That may especially be a problem for women chasing high-powered careers. Economists have found that women in countries with robust welfare states are more likely to work but less likely to end up in high-paid managerial positions. And while extensive paid leave policies may boost employment for females overall, there’s some evidence they may reduce the earnings of more educated women compared to men. (Once you’ve stepped off the corporate ladder, it can be hard to step back on.) In Denmark and Sweden, women have some of the highest labor-force participation rates in the world, but the labor markets are notoriously gender-segregated, with females much more likely to take jobs in the lower-paid, more flexible public sector.

“With some policies, we say if some is good, more is better, and it may be true,” Francine Blau, a labor economist at Cornell University and a leading expert on the gender wage gap, told me. “With parental leave, it may be true, but it’s complicated.”

Ultimately, the fairly clear conclusion is that Scandinavia does this much better than us, but that it is still so much about culture and gender roles, and not just public policy:

But much of this also likely boils down to cultural preferences. In their recent working paper, Kleven and his co-authors point out that around 60 percent of adults in Denmark and Sweden believe that women with school-age children should work part time. They also find that how much mothers work after giving birth seems to be influenced by their own upbringings. “In traditional families where the mother works very little compared to the father, their daughter incurs a larger child penalty when she eventually becomes a mother herself,” they write.

Tradition can be hard to budge. In Denmark, labor unions and fathers’ rights groups have actually advocated for a Swedish-style use-it-or-lose-it policy that would require dads to take more leave. Many men would apparently love an excuse to spend more time walking around Copenhagen in a BabyBjörn. But along with employers, they’ve run into opposition from mothers, who don’t want to lose their own time with the kids, even if it means they bear more domestic responsibility. This brings up a point that’s sometimes easy to overlook: In the end, many women may be happy to trade some of their career for a family life, especially when government policies make it into less of an all-or-nothing deal…

So what does all of this mean for the U.S., where we are woefully behind on parental leave and child care policy? To some degree, the situation in Denmark and Sweden—wealthy, progressive countries where cultural expectations are still driving some of the gender gap—suggests that there’s only so much public policy can do. As the authors of the Swedish couples study put it, “so long as family responsibilities are unequally shared, the gender gap is not likely to close and not even to narrow significantly.”

With all of that said, there are still good reasons to yearn for a dose of Nordic-style social democracy here in the states. It might not be a miracle cure for gender inequality. But paid leave and subsidized child care do make being a parent less of nightmare—especially if you do decide to try to balance work and children. Plus, the pay gap between men and women in Denmark and Sweden who choose to work full time is still smaller than it is in the U.S., meaning that they’re arguably closer to achieving equal pay for equal work than we are. It may not be utopia, but it’s better than here.

So, yeah, I’ll take what they’ve got in Denmark.  But, as much as anything these examples show how incredibly persistent the gender wage gap truly is.  That’s not going to disappear until we have a genuine revolution in our cultural conceptions of gender roles.

The reality of Steels and his dossier

Really liked this Politico piece from a former CIA operative on the “smearing of Christopher Steele.”  Lots of good stuff in here:

But Nunes was probably trying to confuse the issue and label Steele as a confidential source so that he can imply Steele broke some kind of law by misleading the FBI. Unfortunately for Nunes, there are no such laws. Sources come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, they’re bad people—criminals or gangsters. Like the rest of us, they all have biases. They even lie. There are no laws governing what a source can and cannot report, certainly not for foreign sources. If a source is bad, the managing agency can simply stop relying on him or her. Mistakes are the responsibility of the organization, not the source. It surely would have been a bonus for us at CIA if we could just blame our missteps on our sources. Further, despite the implications in Nunes’ memo, Steele had every right to speak to the press. Likewise, the FBI could sever its relationship at any time.

Nunes bases the bulk of his argument against Steele’s reporting on the fact that Steele commented in September 2016 to then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr that he was “desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” This is the only line in the Nunes memo that is in bold font. The clear implication is that Steele’s personal views should have invalidated any of his work on behalf of the FBI.

A professional intelligence service understands that all sources have individual biases. Being biased is hardly a disqualifier. If it were, we would have a tough time finding sources in most countries around the world. It is the job of a handling service to understand a source’s bias, perspective, access, motivations and reliability. It is standard stuff.

More importantly, I am not so certain that Steele’s comment reflects personal bias so much as informed opinion based on professional experience. [emphases mine] By September 2016, Steele had already reported on a damning criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. His sources had shared with him information related to financial wrongdoing, compromising personal behavior and even espionage. Rather than assuming it is some sort of inherent bias or hatred for Trump, I see Steele’s comments as those of an intelligence officer who trusts his sources and believes the information that he has been gathering. If I collected information from trusted and knowledgeable sources that Trump was potentially involved in a criminal conspiracy with Vladimir Putin, I’d be “biased” too. The fact that Steele believed so much in his reporting that he felt passionate about passing it to the FBI can be as much an argument for the defense as for Nunes’ prosecution…

In this regard the memo pretends that all of the allegations in the Steele reports are false. As I’ve written previously (“A Second Look at the Steele Dossier,” “The Steele Dossier in 2018: Everyone’s Favorite Weapon”), significant pieces of the dossier ring true. Even the recent Stormy Daniels saga is eerily similar to Steele’s reporting…

Whether or not Steele was an FBI source, the memo gives the impressionthat the U.S. Congress and White House were willing to smear those who take risks to give us information for political gain. I guarantee the British and others have raised the bar when it comes to passing intelligence to the U.S. And that is bad for all of us.



Oh, no, the stock market!

Or not.  Mostly I’m amused at all the media hyperventilating over this.  And the email I got from my financial adviser (yes, I have one of those) because all of his clients are freaking out.  I especially liked Neil Irwin’s Upshot take on how a variety of cognitive biases lead people to be overly-concerned.  And you know me, cognitive bias free ;-):

There is an important idea to keep in mind at a time like this: Take the long view.

This market decline so far has returned the market roughly to its level in mid-December, less than two months ago. The 7.8 percent drop in the Standard & Poor’s 500 over the last six trading days is similar in scale and speed to drops in January 2016 and August 2015, neither of which left lasting scars, and is short of the 10 percent drop that would qualify as a market correction.

But some common cognitive errors are making this sell-off seem more dramatic than it is. And the reasons behind it may be more benign than it seems at first glance.

Media coverage frequently emphasizes moves in the Dow Jones industrial average. But you probably developed your intuition for how to interpret those numbers at a time when the index was much lower.

The Dow fell by 1,175 points Monday, which represents a quite large 4.6 percent decline. But while it was the biggest single-day point decline, there were steeper percentage declines on several occasions during the global financial crisis and its aftermath, not to mention the 508- point drop in the Dow in 1987 that represented a 22.6 percent market crash.

At a minimum, update your mental calculus of what constitutes a “big” market swing. Even better, focus on percent changes rather than point swings in an arbitrarily constructed index.

But our perceptions are distorted by more than thinking of points rather than percentages. The last 18 months have been one of the least volatile periods for the stock market in modern times. Humans have a bias toward recency, an inclination to let recent experience shape our expectations for the future.

The S.&P. 500 did not decline by more than 2 percent on a single trading day in all of 2017, which helps explain why Friday’s 2.1 percent drop seemed so startling. (The percentage drop on Monday was a much rarer event, one that last occurred in 2011.)…

But regardless of which it becomes, it’s good for everyone’s mental health to look beyond the day’s headlines and focus instead on percentage changes instead of point changes — and on historical patterns and the “why” behind the day’s drop in the markets.

And, of course, one can’t help but have a little schadenfreude at Trump’s expense on the matter.

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