Friday, March 26, 2021

A Response to David Cross': Why America Sucks at Everything

A Response to David Cross: Why America Sucks at Everything

1. Anyone who sites life expectancy as an indicator of poor healthcare has not been following the data.

It is very hard to compare life expectancy across nations but, Life expectancy in the USA, net of homicides, accidents and drug OD's is probably higher in the USA than Denmark. That is because Healthcare beyond the cheap basics, that everyone gets (vaccinations, antibiotics, trauma care), has very little effect on Life Expectancy (which BTW should be current average life length) and USAers are a bit wild. More and better police would have a bigger effect on Life expectancy than Single payer would. (Look up the Rand health insurance experiment)

2. The income life expectancy gradient is steeper in Canada than in the USA.
Indeed, the health-income gradient is slightly steeper
Now as I said above I think (and most people who study it agree) that healthcare beyond the cheap stuff (vaccinations, antibiotics, trauma care) that everyone gets, has little effect on Life expectancy BUT some of those who believe it does a significant effect, say that the health-income gradient is slightly steeper in Canada than the USA because in the USA the people in the system look at a low SES person and see dollar signs but in Canada they just see a low SES person who, in their mind probably brought it on themselves. (As much as good people should and often do resists that thinking, we are all subject to BTW.)

Monday, March 15, 2021

Important Statistics and Frequently Wrong Perceptions

I plan to periodically update this post as I see more in formation.

I recently read the the following:

55% of Democrats think Russia "tampered with vote tallies to get Donald Trump elected." (page 163) and 59% of Republicans believe that "millions of illegal votes were cast in the election." (page 161)
Here is some information on Democrats and Republicans perception of each other. 

Which got me thinking about people's beliefs verses some of the most measurable statistics.

Global Poverty Is on the Decline, But Almost No One Believes It
Did you know that, in the past 30 years, the percentage of people in the world who live in extreme poverty has decreased by more than half? If you said no—if you thought the number had gone up; that more people, not less, live in extreme poverty—you aren’t alone. According to a recent Barna Group survey, done in partnership with Compassion International and the new book Hope Rising by Dr. Scott Todd, more than eight in 10 Americans (84%) are unaware global poverty has reduced so drastically. More than two-thirds (67%) say they thought global poverty was on the rise over the past three decades.

Global Poverty has dropped by 50% but,  Ask most people about global poverty, and chances are that they’ll say it is unchanged or getting worse. A survey released late last year found that 92 per cent of Americans believe the share of the world population in extreme poverty has either increased or stayed the same over the last two decades. 

Americans generally overestimate, to a significant degree, the percentage of the U.S. population that is either black or Hispanic. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 12.3% of the U.S. population is black, and 12.5% is Hispanic. Gallup Poll results from March 26-28, however, show that slightly less than one in 10 Americans can accurately identify that the population of either blacks or Hispanics in this country falls between 10% and 14%. The typical American estimates the percentages of blacks and Hispanics in this country to be more than twice as high as they actually are.
On average, Americans say that 33% of the U.S. population is black. In fact, a majority of Americans (56%) estimate that the percentage of blacks in this country stands at 30% or higher. As many as 17% of Americans say the percentage of blacks is 50% or greater. Only 7% accurately state that the percentage of blacks falls between 10% and 14% of the entire population.

People say that the rich should pay more taxes but when asked what the top marginal tax rate should be they say 30%.   The top tax rate in 2018 is 37%.

More on that here:

What is the maximum percentage of a person’s income that should go to taxes – that is, all taxes, state, federal, and local?” The mean percentage for 2009 was 15.6 percent, up slightly from 14.7 percent in 2007. A plurality of those polled, 42 percent, felt that the maximum income tax rate should be between 10 and 19 percent. In 2007, a whopping 47 percent of those polled said that the maximum income tax rate should be between 10 and 19 percent.

Of course concerning the above most people greatly underestimate how much the rich earn.

And from here:

The two most commonly cited sources of crime statistics in the U.S. both show a substantial decline in the violent crime rate since it peaked in the early 1990s. One is an annual report by the FBI of serious crimes reported to police in approximately 18,000 jurisdictions around the country. The other is an annual survey of more than 90,000 households conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which asks Americans ages 12 and older whether they were victims of crime, regardless of whether they reported those crimes to the police.

Public perceptions about crime in the U.S. often don’t align with the data. Opinion surveys regularly find that Americans believe crime is up nationally, even when the data show it is down. In 17 Gallup surveys conducted since 1993, at least six-in-ten Americans said there was more crime in the U.S. compared with the year before, despite the generally downward trend in national violent and property crime rates during much of that period.
This is an enormous gap between what the average person believes and reality:
The American public estimates on average that 23% of Americans are gay or lesbian, little changed from Americans' 25% estimate in 2011, and only slightly higher than separate 2002 estimates of the gay and lesbian population. These estimates are many times higher than the 3.8% of the adult population who identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in Gallup Daily tracking in the first four months of this year.

For these below I don't have poll data to show we are off but I think we are:

On Abortion people seem to not understand how much it fell. See here.
As for abortion, pregnant women—married or single—are less likely to obtain an abortion than they were before the Roe v Wade decision. That decline also reflects the declining stigma around unwed childbearing and a drop in unintended pregnancy. Since at least the early 1980s, a rising share of births from nonmarital pregnancies are from pregnancies that were intentional; today, half of births from nonmarital pregnancies are intended.

Modality of Monogamy

Figure 1: Men’s Reported Lifetime Number of Opposite-Sex Partnersmen.jpg

Figure 2: Women’s Reported Number of Lifetime Opposite-Sex Partners



More on that here and here, and yes many of your high school and college friends were lying.

I just saw this one on twitter. Evidently women think women are murdered more than men but in reality men are murdered much more than women.

The vast majority of immigrants in the U.S. are in the country legally – but fewer than half of Americans know that’s the case. 

Everybody Always Thinks Inflation Is Higher Than It Really Is

Prices for U.S. consumers rose by just 1.4 percent over the past year, according to the consumer price index numbers released this morning. In other words, inflation is very low.

St. Louis Fed
If this comes as a surprise, don't be surprised. In study after study, in country after country, economists have found that consumers overestimate inflation.
    Also from the same article:
But gas accounts for only 5 percent of the average household's budget, while groceries make up 9 percent.

Corporate profits...

Asked what do you think the average profit margin is, the average USAer says30%. In reality it's about 8%.

Hispanic immigrants:

"But now look at the negative stereotypes on the right. 62 percent (!!) of whites stereotyped Latinos as being "mostly illegal immigrants"! (Which of course is not even remotely close to the truth.)"  Economist Noah Smith
          Best estimates are less that 25%

Crazy Tweet:

Wow, this totally wrong tweet got 187K likes and 64K retweets!

It is so wrong that it is actually funny.
How are retirees doing:
Ok, America: The results are in. To recap, the question asked current retirees to describe how well they are managing financially. 51% of you thought that 30% or more described their financial situation as "Finding it hard to get by."
The real answer: 6%.

Public opinion:
A good thread on the subject of Public opinion here
People in every country are happier than people think: In every single country, the average estimate of happiness is far lower than actual reported happiness. Every single country!

Women POTUS:
Seventy-four percent of respondents claimed they’re comfortable with a woman president. But only 33 percent believe their neighbors are, and a middling 57 percent said their spouse or immediate family are.

What Republicans and Democrats believe about each other:

Republicans believe that only half of Democrats are “proud to be American.” Actually, 8 out of 10 are. 
Republicans also believe that only 3 in 10 Democrats oppose open borders. Actually, 7 in 10 do. 
Democrats believe that only half of Republicans favor "properly controlled" immigration. Actually, 8 out of 10 do.  
Democrats also believe that only half of Republicans believe that racism still exists. Actually, 8 out of 10 do.

Poll: Americans underestimate how many people pay zero income taxes

The poll gave respondents four options -- 39 percent said that only 11 percent of Americans pay zero or negative income tax, and 31 percent said that only 27 percent pay zero or negative income tax. Only 21 percent got it right -- right now, around 45 percent pay no federal income tax.

Here is a chart of people guesses about school spending verses reality:

Here is a chart of a religion poll:

Here is quote from Russ Roberts. Keeping mind these are college students.

I look at economics, economics data. The public perception, say--my favorite example of this would be what percentage of the public earns the minimum, of the workforce, earns the minimum wage or less?

When I would survey journalists, the median answer would be 20%. Pretty consistently by the way. The actual answer at the time was about 2%. And that's way off, by people who are supposed to be educated. These aren't arts critics by the way.
 What actions do people think will reduce Global Warming.

From Twitter in August 2020:

New national survey asked respondents to guess average teacher salary Average Guess: $42,816 Average Actual: $61,018 Average teacher salaries are 43% higher than people's estimates.

The same national survey asked respondents to guess how much we spend on K-12 education Average Guess: $8,140 Average Actual: $14,504 We spend 78% more than people think.

Also From Twitter in August 2020:
'Lived experiences' aside for the moment, empirical numbers DO matter. When I ask Black students/buddies how many unarmed Black men they think are killed annually by police, the 1st answer is ALWAYS 2-3,000. Hearing that the figure is "nine" causes a paradigm shift in thinking.


How Informed are Americans about Race and Policing?

1. The available data on police shootings of unarmed Black men is incomplete; however, existing data indicate that somewhere between 13-27 unarmed black men were killed by police in 2019. Adjusted for the number of law enforcement agencies that have yet to provide data, this number may be higher, perhaps between 60-100.  

• Yet, over half (53.5%) of those reporting “very liberal” political views estimated that 1,000 or more unarmed Black men were killed, a likely error of at least an order of magnitude(see Figure 1). 

2.The available data suggest that 24.9% of people killed by police in 2019 were Black. However, across the political spectrum, survey participants overestimated this number. 

• Those who reported being “liberal” or “very liberal” were particularly inaccurate, estimating the proportion to be 56% and 60%, respectively(see Figure 2) 

More from Wilfred Reilly 

A recent report by the heterodox but respected Skeptic Research Center found that 31 percent of individuals who identify politically as very liberal believe that “about 1,000” unarmed black men were killed by police just during 2019, and another 14 percent believe that “about 10,000” such men were killed. Conservatives did a bit better, but, among ordinary mainstream liberals, the equivalent figures were 27 percent and almost 7 percent.

To put these astonishing (if hypothetical) figures in context, the total number of specifically unarmed, specifically black citizens killed by American police during the year in question was 13, as per the Washington Post. Similar extreme confusion surrounded perceptions of the percentage of police-shooting victims who happen to be black: This number was estimated at 60 percent by leftists and extreme liberals, 56 percent by liberals, 46 percent by moderates, and 38 percent even by conservatives. In fact, the actual figure, taking into account the full data set of racially identified and non-identified cases compiled by the Post, seems to be about 25 percent. When our fellow citizens riot and burn whole cities, or left and right fight viciously in the streets, the passions driving this regrettable violence are literally more likely to stem from fiction and fantasy than fact.

From Eric Kaufmann 

Eight in 10 African-American survey respondents believe that young black men are more likely to be shot to death by the police than to die in a traffic accident; one in 10 disagrees. Among a highly educated sample of liberal whites, more than six in 10 agreed. In reality, considerably more young African-American men die in car accidents than are shot to death by police.


Black respondents in a 2005 survey said that the U.S. was 38% black rather than the actual 12%, and Hispanics said that the country was 39% Hispanic rather than 13%.[16]


In terms of racial discrimination, a 2019 study asked people how many résumés a black person would have to send out to get a callback from an employer if a white applicant gets one callback for every 10 applications. It found that Democrats thought that a black person would have to send 26 résumés to get one callback, while Republicans said 17. The correct answer was 15. Overall, blacks were not significantly more likely than whites to overestimate discrimination: partisanship, rather than race, is what apparently led to misperceptions.[17]


These results echo those that recently found that only about a fifth of liberals but close to half of conservatives gave the right answer to a question on how many unarmed black men were killed by police in 2019. Fully 54% of “very liberal” Americans thought that more than 1,000 were killed compared with the actual figure of between 13 and 27.[33]

It's not just USAers:

Britons overstate the proportion of Muslims in their country by a factor of four, according to a new survey by Ipsos Mori that reveals public understanding of the numbers behind the daily news in 14 countries.


The actual percentage of Muslims in the UK is 5%, but those surveyed by Ipsos Mori said they thought it was 21%.


But each country has its blind spots. Germans think teen pregnancy is 35 times worse than it is (0.4% of girls aged 15-19 give birth each year there). South Koreans believe their life expectancy is 89 (it’s actually 80) and Spain is the only country to underestimate its youth unemployment rate, which stands at a pretty extreme 56%.

More Funding for the NHS (in the UK)

"If you asked if people agree “The NHS needs reform more than it needs extra money” then people agree by 43% to 23%. However, if you ask if people agree with the opposite statement, that “The NHS needs extra money more than it needs reform”, then people also agree, by 53% to 20%"om/archiebland/status/1161197265555509248?s=20

An interesting article on the subject here.


Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Over Performance in One Area

Thought experiment:

If you had 2 demographically similar cities of 300K residents.

  • City A is sports crazy and on average produces 4 professional football and/or basketball players each year.
  • City B is not sports crazy and on average produces 1 professional football and/or basketball players every 5 years.

 Which city do you expect to produce more successful people in areas other than sports?

Worst Case vaccine Discussion

This is from here. I consider this the most important information for covid vaccine hesitant people to hear.


And let us recall the big boogeymen of failed vaccines past: using a completely different process over 60 years ago Cutter Labs failed to inactivate polio and just injected it straight into kids (i.e. a failure mode not physically possible with current technology), some weird autoimmune interactions in the 1970s gave us 1/100,000 rates of GBS (i.e. not even a rounding error in the Covid death toll), ADE in dengue vaccines in the Philippines (maybe, the official lookback could not definitely tell if a couple of dozen kids died from ADE induced by the vaccine or if that was just dengue being its normal malevolent self), and a small increase in bowel obstruction with rotavirus (1/12,000, only seen in one variant and not observed in other rotavirus vaccines). We could have had all of them in the Covid vaccines and they would still be an order of magnitude safer than the status quo. And they would still be an order of magnitude safer than the status quo for the under 50 crowd.

Yes, I get it, there is some tail risk that somewhere out there might be something new we have never seen before. I cannot tell you that I have absolutely zero uncertainty that something completely new will rear its ugly head here; but that same uncertainty exists for the status quo. Will lockdowns lead to delayed mental health issues? I don’t know, but the indicators I see right now are not pretty. Does shafting childrens’ educations for more and more months have lifelong impacts on things like suicide risk, IVDU, CAD, and the rest? Cannot say for certain, but I see no reason why it doesn’t unless you have an extremely dim view of education’s ability to impact on life outcomes. Delayed cancer screenings, deferred elective surgeries … the uncertainty in the NPIs easily dwarfs that of the vaccines.

Minimum Wage

Assorted thoughts about a minimum wage increase:

  • USA voters have decided that we should do most of our charity through government, presumably to force everyone to ante-up so it seems that we should not push caring for the workers with the worst options on to those who are already doing something we want, which is hiring the workers with the fewest options. If they are making a killing hiring those workers we have progressive taxation to get some of t back. Of course only in the short run the increase will be paid for by employers and in the long run by those who buy from those employers.
  • Someone in favor of increasing the minimum wage says:

I would gladly pay more for a burger if it meant that the people behind the counter don't have to sleep in their cars to get by.

In a free to subdivide and build areas, people making $7.25 live in small cheap apartments and mobile homes (not bad really I lived in one).

In a supply constrained areas how much will be captured by landlords?

  • I kind of want them to do it but all at once with a few months of the law passing, that way we can get some good data.

Of course I think it will be better for me because:
1. I will not get laid off.
2. I prefer the experience at In-N-Out to Popeye's but the food is much better at Popeye's, and I think a $15/hr MW would cause the worst employees to be laid off a Popeye's improving the experience.

  • Steelmaning the other side: 
Interesting MW question:
If all the employers in industries with over 30% of employees earning less than $15/hr could vote on the $15MW, would they vote for it thinking as long as my competition must also pay it we'll all raise our prices and be in the same position?