Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Opportunity Cost

The Minnesota Golden Gophers have a new $250 M. stadium (the article has a nice picture of fiscal-conservative wannabe Tim Pawlenty sporting a Gophers sweatshirt and a little bit of mullet-action going on while he signs the bill - priceless!). Whoopee. The great state of Minnesota paid almost 40% of the bill, which amounts to $10.25 M. per year for the next 25 years. Given that there is a negative net economic impact from public dollars spent on sports stadiums, how stupid was this? Well, at current tuition rates, that could have funded about 586.5 full-ride one-year in-state scholarships (including room and board). Blech. Here are the votes.

Careful about "incentives"

Monday, July 6, 2009

Free Exchange's Interactive Graphic of the Day

Tip to FE on this, and NYT for putting it up. This graph gets kudos for explaining the economy for 2 reasons:
1) if you just look at the first page of the thing, it's hilarious, because it's supposed to be about the economic situation and what it looks like is a three-year olds scribble. I could have stopped there and been delighted, but,
2) going through the interactive phases actually shows something informative (trust me), but you do have to be patient and look at what you're seeing carefully - industrial output and leading indicators.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

"Look" signs

A few years ago there were a couple of pedestrian deaths caused by motorists near the University of Illinois. There were two legal responses to this: (1) reduced speed limits to 15 right around campus; and (2) signs at intersections saying you must yield to pedestrians (even in zones where speed limits weren't reduced). (1) was probably not a bad idea , but (2) never made much sense to me and predictably caused more confusion, not less (not to mention there were still a couple of pedestrians hit in the year or so following the posting of the signs).

First, the "yield to pedestrians" signs did was make less clear who had the right of way between a car on the street and a pedestrian who had not yet actually entered the crosswalk. Smart pedestrians will still pause when there is approaching traffic because her incentives are well-defined. But forgetting that relatively minor confusion, it created a Pelzman Effect and you would increasingly see dumb (sometimes intoxicated) undergrads wandering out into intersections without care, and sometimes talking on their cellphones.

U of I sent out surveys and I said then what I'll say now: They should have put up signs warning pedestrians to look both ways before entering the intersection. It's so simple we teach it to kindergartners. Anyway, they have such signs painted on the crosswalks in Vancouver (where I attended a conference last week) for pedestrians that say "LOOK ->." Maybe their health care system isn't what we want, but their attitude towards dummies who don't pay attention in traffic is admirable.

More nerdy stats stuff

Poor statistical communication, or lying with statistics?