Archive for the ‘mere empirics’ Category

will the texas primary stop the #bern?

The Obama strategy in 2008 had a plan A and a plan B. Plan A was to knock out Hillary with big victories in Iowa and New Hampshire. Didn’t work. Plan B was to pad the delegate lead by exploiting small state caucuses and minimizing the damage in Hillary friendly places like New York. That worked, especially since the Hillary campaign was simply incompetent.

Sanders has a similar plan. His Plan A, the early knock out, almost worked. I suspect that Bernie might have even won the popular vote in Iowa, given that the Iowa Democratic Party is refusing to release vote tallies as they did in previous years. So Bernie is on to Plan B. That means he has to accomplish two things:

  • Max out caucus states.
  • Minimize losses in large primary states.

This is the list of remaining states in February and Super Tuesday and delegate totals for Democrats according to US election central:

  • Alabama 60
  • American Samoa caucus 10
  • Arkansas 37
  • Colorado caucus 79
  • Georgia 116
  • Massachusetts 116
  • Minnesota caucus 93
  • Nevada 43
  • Oklahoma 42
  • South Carolina 59
  • Tennessee 76
  • Texas 252
  • Vermont 26
  • Virginia 110

You will notice that Bernie has at least three easy states: Vermont, Massachusetts, and probably Minnesota. Then, it gets really hard, really fast. This is not because Hillary will magically become a great campaigner, but the fundamentals favor Hillary.

There are two reasons. First, you win Southern states in the Democratic primary by doing well among Black voters. South Carolina (Feb 27) will be the first test of how well Bernie can move these voters. If he comes up short in South Carolina, it’s bad news because you have more Southern states coming up real fast  such as Alabama and Georgia on Super Tuesday and other Southern states soon after that. Second, in March, you will see the types of big states that Hillary dominated in 2008 because of superior name recognition, such as Texas (51% for HRC in 2008), New York (57%), California (51%), Ohio (53%), and Pennsylvania (54%).

Is it impossible for Bernie to win the nomination? Of course not, but he needs to really dominate outside of the establishment friendly mega-states like Ohio and California. That means an immediate and massive turn around in the Black vote, a wipe out in the caucus states, and some strategy for containing the losses from the big states, which even challenged Obama. That sounds really hard to me.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

February 11, 2016 at 12:01 am

does piketty replicate?

Ever since the publication of Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century, there’s been a lot of debate about the theory and empirical work. One strand of the discussion focuses on how Piketty handles the data. A number of critics have argued that the main results are sensitive to choices made in the data analysis (e.g., see this working paper). The trends in inequality reported by Piketty are amplified by how he handles the data.

Perhaps the strongest criticism in this vein is made by UC Riverside’s Richard Sutch, who has a working paper claiming that some of Piketty’s major empirical points are simply unreliable. The abstract:

Here I examine only Piketty’s U.S. data for the period 1810 to 2010 for the top ten percent and the top one percent of the wealth distribution. I conclude that Piketty’s data for the wealth share of the top ten percent for the period 1870-1970 are unreliable. The values he reported are manufactured from the observations for the top one percent inflated by a constant 36 percentage points. Piketty’s data for the top one percent of the distribution for the nineteenth century (1810-1910) are also unreliable. They are based on a single mid-century observation that provides no guidance about the antebellum trend and only very tenuous information about trends in inequality during the Gilded Age. The values Piketty reported for the twentieth-century (1910-2010) are based on more solid ground, but have the disadvantage of muting the marked rise of inequality during the Roaring Twenties and the decline associated with the Great Depression. The reversal of the decline in inequality during the 1960s and 1970s and subsequent sharp rise in the 1980s is hidden by a fifteen-year straight-line interpolation. This neglect of the shorter-run changes is unfortunate because it makes it difficult to discern the impact of policy changes (income and estate tax rates) and shifts in the structure and performance of the economy (depression, inflation, executive compensation) on changes in wealth inequality.

From inside the working paper, an attempt to replicate Piketty’s estimate of intergenerational wealth transfer among the wealthy:

The first available data point based on an SCF survey is for 1962. As reported by Wolff the top one percent of the wealth distribution held 33.4 percent of total wealth that year [Wolff 1994: Table 4, 153; and Wolff 2014: Table 2, 50]. Without explanation Piketty adjusted this downward to 31.4 by subtracting 2 percentage points. Piketty’s adjusted number is represented by the cross plotted for 1962 in Figure 1. Chris Giles, a reporter for the Financial Times, described this procedure as “seemingly arbitrary” [Giles 2014].9 In a follow-up response to Giles, Piketty failed to explain this adjustment [Piketty 2014c “Addendum”].

There is a bit of a mystery as to where the 1.2 and 1.25 multipliers used to adjust the Kopczuk-Saez estimates upward came from. The spreadsheet that generated the data (TS10.1DetailsUS) suggests that Piketty was influenced in this choice by the inflation factor that would be required to bring the solid line up to reach his adjusted SCF estimate for 1962. Piketty did not explain why the adjustment multiplier jumps from 1.2 to 1.25 in 1930.

This comes up quite a bit, according to Sutch. There is reasonable data and then Piketty makes adjustments that are odd or simply unexplained. It is also important to note that Sutch is not trying to make inequality in the data go away. He notes that Piketty is likely under-reporting early 20th century inequality while over-reporting the more recent increase in inequality.

A lot of Piketty’s argument comes from international comparisons and longitudinal studies with historical data. I have a lot of sympathy for Piketty. Data is imperfect, collected irregularly, and prone to error. So I am slow to  criticize. Still, given that Piketty’s theory is now one of the major contenders in the study of global inequality, we want the answer to be robust.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

February 10, 2016 at 12:01 am

the cuban victory in the republican party

A number of writers noticed that we overlooked an important bit of news last week during the Iowa caucus – two Latinos and a Black man took 60% of the Iowa GOP caucus. At the very least, this is newsworthy and merits explanation.

Here’s how we should understand the rise of Rubio and Cruz. The basic elements of minority party politics are as follows:

  • African Americans started in the GOP but moved to the Democratic party.
  • Groups that were forcibly assimilated into the US tend to go Democrat – Native Americans, Mexicans, Filipinos.
  • Groups that benefited from Cold War politics tend to lean GOP more than others – Vietnamese, Cubans.
  • Other voluntary migrants vary but if they are harassed or repressed they lean Democrat.

Using these rules of thumb, it is easy to see how Cruz and Rubio make a path to the top of the GOP. They are Cubans, who have influence in the GOP, especially in Florida. They are also from states with strong GOP parties – Florida and Texas. As many folks have noted, they downplay their ethnic background as well and kowtow to the anti-immigration crowd. Briefly, Rubio endorsed some sort of compromise on immigration but walked that back.

The rise of these two candidates does not represent a big swing of Latino voters to the GOP – that would only happen if large numbers of Mexicans defect from the GOP. It does however reflect an opening made possible by the complex history of US foreign relations. In the messy world of Cold War politics, the US chose to favor Cubans and, decades later, their children are steps away from the White House. And oddly, Castro might be alive to see it!

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

February 8, 2016 at 12:01 am

#bern toast

As of 10:45 pm, Hillary Clinton maintains a slim lead over Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Iowa Caucus. In terms of absolute performance, Sanders fans should be happy. When all votes are tallied, Sanders will either win the caucus or lose by a very slim margin. That means that Sanders will continue. He’ll win New Hampshire and make it to Super Tuesday and probably win a few more states.

However, in terms of winning the nomination, this is tough for Sanders. The reason is that Clinton is the party’s candidate and about 45% of voters in the Democratic party are extremely comfortable with her. They will only defect in sufficiently large numbers if they see that she is indeed crumbling and they need an unambiguous signal. If 2008 is any guide, Hilary can reliably depend on 40% – no matter what happens. Even after it was abundantly clear in 2008 that Clinton did not have a reasonable chance at catching Obama in the delegate count, she still kept winning big states like California, Pennsylvania and Ohio – by large margins (but not enough to make up for earlier losses).

Adding to the problem for Sanders is that Obama’s strategy – maxing out caucus states – only works once. Clinton’s campaign simply wasn’t prepared for it and they weren’t prepared for a campaign that went beyond Super Tuesday. They are prepared this time, poorly perhaps, but prepared. The close race in Iowa shows it.

Here’s the bottom line. When you fight the party’s candidate, you need to seriously knock them down to break the view that they are invincible. Obama did that with a completely unexpected 8% victory. A near miss or narrow victory by Sanders does not do that, so it will be very, very hard to trigger a mass migration that needs to happen over the next month for a Sanders win.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street 

Written by fabiorojas

February 2, 2016 at 4:01 am

racial biases for low and higher performing students

Former BGS Yasmiyn Irizarry’s research on how teachers treat students of different races is featured in Scientific American’s podcast. From the Social Science Research article:

Education scholars document notable racial differences in teachers’ perceptions of students’ academic skills. Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort, this study advances research on teacher perceptions by investigating whether racial differences in teachers’ evaluations of first grade students’ overall literacy skills vary for high, average, and low performing students. Results highlight both the overall accuracy of teachers’ perceptions, and the extent and nature of possible inaccuracies, as demonstrated by remaining racial gaps net literacy test performance. Racial differences in teachers’ perceptions of Black, non-White Latino, and Asian students (compared to White students) exist net teacher and school characteristics and vary considerably across literacy skill levels. Skill specific literacy assessments appear to explain the remaining racial gap for Asian students, but not for Black and non-White Latino students. Implications of these findings for education scholarship, gifted education, and the achievement gap are discussed.

Check it out.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street 

Written by fabiorojas

January 15, 2016 at 12:01 am

naming your ethnographic informants: a talk by colin jerolmack

It is rare that I sit through a talk and just agree with about 99% of it. That is what happened when Colin Jerolmack visited IU last week and gave a talk about naming people and locations in ethnography. The argument is simple: the standard practice of masking people and places should not be the default for ethnography. Instead, the presumption should be naming people. Fake names should be the exception not the rule.

Colin’s paper, co-authored with Michigan’s Alex Murphy, makes the following points against masking:

  • Promising anonymity is not honest. A lot of ethnographies can be hacked pretty quickly.
  • Masking people deprives them of the benefit of having their names listed in print. In most cases, people appreciate seeing their names in a book or article. Once in a while, people get a specific pay off from being in a book (e.g., one of Colin’s informants lists his appearance in a book on his website selling pigeons).
  • In practice, most respondents are not worried about privacy. They are concerned about how they are portrayed. Colin and Murphy use evidence from Annette Lareau’s follow up from her study. Some folks were angry about what she said about them, not the level of privacy.
  • Masking suppresses the voices of research subject. It is very hard to dispute an anonymous characterization of yourself.
  • Masking prevents accumulation of knowledge. Follow ups, return visits, verification, and longitudinal studies are made impossible. Colin has a nice example from his current research. He happens to be doing field work in an area that is covered in an earlier book. He wants to compare, but the IRB prevents that.
  • Access is not as restricted as you might think. If a journalists can write on Amazon, the White House and ISIS using real names and places, an academic ethnographer can at least ask if the respondent wants to use their name.

Now, you shouldn’t misrepresent Jerolmack and Murphy’s argument. They are not against anonymity in all cases. Rather, they want identification to be the default. If you really need anonymity, so be it. But at least seriously consider identification as your first option.

I’ll conclude with a few thoughts as someone who has done some field work and often uses qualitative methods. In general, when I interview people, I have a specific protocol where I ask people at the end whether they want their name used. In my black power project, I interviewed 19 people and 12 gave me permission to use names. And this includes activists who did some controversial things and spoke about some sensitive issues.  Of course, for public records, I used names. For the antiwar project, we also gave the option of going public or remaining anonymous. Most people used their name and we used names for all people speaking in public (for an example of our fieldwork, see here and yes, names were used). In both projects, the locations are well known, whether they are contemporary or historical. So overall, I feel that identification is a fairly intuitive default. I hope that other sociologists seriously consider this position.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street



Written by fabiorojas

December 18, 2015 at 12:01 am

Posted in fabio, mere empirics

explaining a possible trump win

I still think that Trump is very, very unlikely to win the GOP nomination. But with about 60 days left till the Iowa Caucus, it looks like Trump will last longer than I thought. Real Clear Politics still shows him getting in the high 20%s in national polls, winning in New Hampshire, and still hanging on to a lead over Ted Cruz in Iowa.  At the very least, Trump will make it to Super Tuesday.

The question is why. As I noted before, the dominant political science model of presidential nominations is that party elites choose candidates. Once they choose and publicly endorse, the rank and file move to the candidates, cash contributions and support flows, and only those candidates with elite support can afford to wage a serious campaign.

But this is not an “iron law.” It is a summary of a complicated process that frequently occurs in American politics. Thus, if the conditions that enable elites to guide nominations do not hold, other processes may occur. So what is the “background” that makes elite selection of party nominees possible?

My answer: Elites can guide elections because candidates are cash poor and need the help of parties who can do voter registration, publicity, and legal work. If you  buy this argument, then it is easy to see that a candidate can go solo if they have their own money (like a real estate empire) or publicity (a long career in books and television). Thus, Trump is a very rare person who has the potential bypass the normal party process.

But of course, will he actually do it? The following needs to happen:

  • Since New Hampshire tends to vote for “local candidates,” Trump (a New York candidate) will likely take that state without much effort. To win Iowa, he needs to have a superior ground game where he out-mobilizes Ted Cruz, who is often favored by evangelicals.
  • South Carolina is probably irrelevant. He’ll win it if he’s already won New Hampshire and Iowa. If he splits, he’ll be cruising to Super Tuesday anyway, win or lose. If he loses both, he’s probably out anyway.
  • Super Tuesday has 16 states. By this point, all candidates with any serious followings have dropped out, which means Rubio/Cruz vs. Trump. That means the establishment has its machine going in an attempt to stop Trump.
  • Super Tuesday has a lot of states that look Trump unfriendly on paper: small caucus states (like Wyoming and Alaska) or Southern states (Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia) that might go for Southerners like Rubio or Cruz.
  • Ideologically, Trump must simply keep going down the same road – extreme anti-foreigner/Muslim prejudice plus more middle of the road stances on issues like social security and taxes. This appeals to the xenophobic “middle American radical” that is now squarely inside the GOP.

Ironically, a Trump win will likely mirror Obama’s 2008 primary win: out hustle the establishment candidate in caucus states and stand out on a single issue that the base cares about (immigrants for Trump, Iraq for Obama).

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

December 8, 2015 at 12:01 am


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