do economists make (health) policy? aca edition

The influence of economists on policymaking is a topic of perennial interest to sociologists, and one I’ve spent a fair bit of time trying to understand. One of the arguments Beth Berman and I stress in our review piece on the subject is the importance of institutional position inside the policymaking apparatus. Economic ideas dominate certain federal agencies because economists (and MPPs trained by economists, etc.) staff those agencies. Academic economists have a clear route towards policy influence through their counterparts inside the government.

A new paper by Glied and Miller (G&M) on the role of health economics in the drafting of the Affordable Care Act offers a nice illustration of this argument (h/t to The Incidental Economist, the best health economics/policy blog around). Continue reading “do economists make (health) policy? aca edition”

use the asa app with this one weird trick!

This year, the ASA meetings will have an app with more features than you can shake a stick at. If you are a careful planner and be sure to log in when browsing the online program, you can add sessions to your schedule, and they will automatically download to a calendar feature on your app.

There are also maps of each floor of the hotels, so it will be much easier to find your way around. I haven’t tried it yet, but it even boasts a feature to give you directions to a particular room. If you know the author of a paper at the session you are heading to next, you can search for their name, find the session, and click a button to take you straight to the map of the hotel rooms to find your way.

All this and more, but you can’t get to any of it unless you login to the Members Only section of the ASA website. Continue reading “use the asa app with this one weird trick!”

blog party: twelfth time’s a charm!

As July comes to a close, sociologists set their sites on the impending annual meetings. Apart from scrambling to finish our papers, and struggling to figure out which panels we are supposed to attend, the most important part of prepping for ASA is deciding where to drink. In furtherance of that last goal, we at the Scatterplot party planning committee are delighted to announce the twelfth annual blog party, the can’t miss event of the blogger social season! Details:

The 12th Annual Blog Get-Together

Sunday, Aug 23 at 6:30pm

Brando’s Speakeasy

343 S. Dearborn Street, a short walk from the Hilton and Palmer House

Brando’s features classic cocktails and an impressive list of silly looking ‘tinis guaranteed to appeal to the Andrew Perrin demographic. So come join us! As Tina put it last year, “All blog writers, commenters, and readers are welcome, as are folks-who-used-to-write-but-don’t-so-much-anymore-you-know-how-it-goes, lurkers, tweeters, and assorted people who simply would like to come. Please recall that well-behaved sociology faculty will generously purchase a beverage or two for a thirsty graduate student. We may be awkward, but we don’t need to be that awkward.”

ask a scatterbrain: managing workflow.

As I have admitted before, I am a terrible electronic file-keeper. If I was to count up the minutes I have wasted in the last 15 years searching for files that should have been easy to find or typing and retyping Stata code that would have (and should have) been a simple do-file or doing web searches for things that I read that I thought I wanted to include in lectures or powerpoints or articles but couldn’t place, I fear I would discover many months of my life wasted as a result of my organizational ineptitude.

For a long while, these bad habits only affected me (and the occasional collaborator). It was my wasted time and effort. Now, though, expectations are changing and this type of disorganization can make or break a career. I think about my dissertation data and related files, strewn about floppy disks and disparate folders, and I feel both shame and fear. Continue reading “ask a scatterbrain: managing workflow.”

why does college cost so much?

If you read popular coverage of higher ed, one of the biggest recurring questions is “why does college cost so much?” There’s no really good answer to this question, in part because it’s poorly phrased. Higher ed is a big field containing several different organizational populations that look very different when it comes to costs and revenues (and student bodies, etc.). The chapters by Scott and Ruef & Nag in this edited volume do a nice job of laying out some of the contours of that diversity. Applying that basic insight suggests that the question “why does college cost so much?” might have very different answers for public research universities, community colleges, private liberal arts schools, the elite research universities, for-profits, etc. The relative weight of the various popular explanations (including administrative bloat, Baumol’s cost disease, lavish expenditures on amenities, higher levels of federal financial aid, and declines in state support) may differ radically.
Continue reading “why does college cost so much?”

southern heritage and hate can’t be independent factors

L.J. Zigerell, a political scientist and frequent commenter here, has a new post on The Monkey Cage about attitudes towards the Confederate Flag among Southern Whites. Zigerell runs some regressions on attitudes data from 1994 and 2004 to show how attitudes towards the South in general and attitudes towards racial minorities predict support for the flag. Zigerell finds that even controlling for responses to racial attitudes, attitudes towards the South predict support for the flag. Here’s the conclusion:

Nevertheless, the results from these two surveys suggest a more qualified conclusion about the correlates of support for the Confederate battle flag. Surely racial attitudes reflect one such factor, but Southern heritage appears to be another.

This strikes me as wrong in an important way, but I’m curious if you all agree. Specifically, to me this conclusion rests on a “variables” conception of “heritage” and “hate”, where “heritage” means “responses to questions about love of the South” and “hate” means “responses to questions about attitudes towards racial minorities”. But that seems, well, wrong. It requires begging the question (in the sense of assuming the answer) that “Southern heritage” is a distinct thing that is separate from racism. But it isn’t. That’s not what racism is or how racism works. Zigerell adds some reasonable caveats about the age of the data, but I think misses this larger problem. The regression produces sensible seeming output, but the underlying constructs simply don’t make sense.

What do you all think?