How Bad at Math Are You Really?

Many if not most people do not like math. They will tell you they are “not a math person.” Perhaps you are one of these people. You took exactly as much math in school as they made you, and not ε more!

The problem with being “not a math person” is that math people enjoy a significant earnings premium over non-math people. Take a look at this list of the highest earning degrees (source):

  1. Petroleum Engineering
  2. Systems Engineering
  3. Chemical Engineering
  4. Actuarial Science
  5. Computer Science & Engineering
  6. Nuclear Engineering
  7. Electronics & Communications Engineering
  8. Electrical & Computer Engineering
  9. Computer Engineering
  10. Aeronautical Engineering
  11. Computer Science & Mathematics
  12. Physics & Mathematics
  13. Electrical Engineering
  14. Applied Mathematics

Continue reading How Bad at Math Are You Really?

Medicine, Entrepreneurship, and Health Policy with Ray March

What follows is an edited transcript of my discussion with Ray March about the economics of medicine and health insurance. We had a fascinating and far-reaching discussion about health care policy, both in the United States and Canada, as well as some cases of entrepreneurship in the medical sector.

This includes a slightly awkward discussion of the development of sexual pharmacology, the early experiments with nitrates and Viagra, and the, uhhh, “firmness” those drugs produce. Enjoy!


Petersen: My guest today is Ray March of Texas Tech University. Ray, welcome to Economics Detective Radio.

March: Thanks for having me.

Petersen: So our topic today is the economics of medicine. Ray’s research concerns entrepreneurship and regulation in medicine. Let’s start by talking about this idea of entrepreneurship in medicine.

The medical field isn’t like Silicon Valley. You can’t just launch a pharmaceutical company out of your parents’ garage. In fact, the whole field is tightly regulated and controlled by the government both in the United States and Canada, other countries. So how do people in the medical field still manage to be entrepreneurial?

March: Entrepreneurship is fundamentally a question about how do I find resources I have now and put them towards their best use and that will help me turn a profit and therefore we have market signals. You’re right to point out medicine is a much more regulated area compared to other service industries but what makes medicine entrepreneurial is that there’s always a void to discover, there’s always a need to find better uses and better cures or better ways to treat patients. Continue reading Medicine, Entrepreneurship, and Health Policy with Ray March

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Early Modern London, Wages, and the Industrial Revolution

What follows is an edited transcript of my conversation with Judy Stephenson. We discuss her work on the economic history of the Industrial Revolution, particularly as it pertains to early modern London.


Petersen: You’re listening to Economics Detective Radio. My guest today is Judy Stephenson of Oxford University’s Wadham college. Judy, welcome to Economics Detective Radio.

Stephenson: Thank you very much. It’s nice to be here.

Petersen: So, our topic for today is economic history. Specifically we’ll be looking at some interesting research Judy has done on wage rates in the early modern period in London. This period is particularly interesting because it’s the start of the Industrial Revolution which leads to a dramatic increase in the growth living standards and of technology and that trend of course is what has shaped our modern world and made it different from the world of the past. So, it’s very important of course to understand this period if we want to understand the world as it is now. So Judy, start by giving us historical background. What was the world like in the period you study?

Stephenson: Well, I work mostly on researching London, so urban environments. And London is very developed in this period between about 1600 and 1800. And London becomes the biggest city in the world during this period and as the biggest city in the world it’s hugely vibrant, some of the largest merchant houses in the world are there, banking is advanced and developing. Most of the occupations of London are tertiary or service sector, even at this early date. Continue reading Early Modern London, Wages, and the Industrial Revolution

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Wrongful Convictions, Exoneration, and Criminal Justice with Samuel Gross

What follows is an edited transcript of my conversation with Samuel Gross.


Petersen: You’re listening to Economics Detective Radio. My guest today is Samuel Gross of the University of Michigan Law School. Sam, welcome to Economics Detective Radio.

Gross: Great to be here.

Petersen: So our topic for today is criminal justice, in particular, we’re going to be looking at the issue of wrongful conviction. Dr. Gross was part of the establishment of the National Registry of Exonerations which has provided valuable data in this area. So let’s start by talking about the registry. What is it? How was it developed? And what was your part in it?

Gross: I’m the founder of the registry. It was created because after doing work on false convictions and exonerations for half a dozen years it became clear that the only way to get any sort of systematic information on exonerations that have occurred in the United States would be to put together the wherewithal to collect that information directly because nobody else was doing it. There’s no official system for gathering information on exonerations or for that matter a single legal definition of what is an exoneration. And from there this project just took off on its own and became what’s now a lasting institution that’s in the process of handing over to other people to run. Continue reading Wrongful Convictions, Exoneration, and Criminal Justice with Samuel Gross

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The Basic Income Guarantee, Freedom, and the Welfare State with Otto Lehto

What follows is an edited transcript of my conversation with Otto Lehto.


Petersen: You’re listening to Economics Detective Radio. My guest today is Otto Lehto of King’s College London. He is formerly the chair of Finland’s Basic Income Network. Otto, welcome to Economics Detective Radio.

Lehto: Oh it’s my pleasure to be here.

Petersen: So our topic for today is the basic income guarantee. Otto, you approach this idea from the perspective of political philosophy, so let’s start by discussing that. How about we start by talking about two of the major figures in political philosophy: John Rawls and Robert Nozick. What do each of them have to say about the welfare state and where do your views diverge from theirs?

Lehto: That is a good point to start indeed, although it is I think a bit lamentable that we have to start from those two figures because they have dominated the discussion so much during the last 50 years. In fact, it’s very hard to have a conversation outside the boundaries set by those two figures, but they’re both geniuses. They set the stage for the discussion, certainly in philosophy but also in public policy in many respects. Continue reading The Basic Income Guarantee, Freedom, and the Welfare State with Otto Lehto

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Supersonic Flight, Technology, and the Overland Ban with Sam Hammond

What follows is an edited transcript of my conversation with Sam Hammond.


Petersen: My guest today is Sam Hammond. He’s a policy analyst at the Niskanen Center. Sam, welcome to Economics Detective Radio.

Hammond: Hi!

Petersen: Our topic today is supersonic air travel.

Sam has written an article titled “Make America Boom Again” along with co-author Eli Dourado which revisits the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s ban on supersonic flight over the United States. So Sam let’s start at the very start. Let’s start by talking about the history of flight. How do we get from the Wright brothers to supersonic flight?

Hammond: Well I think the most notable thing about the early history of aviation is how quickly and how rapidly we innovated. So the Wright brothers flew their initial voyage, their milestone flight in 1903 at seven miles per hour and within forty years we were already breaking the speed of sound. And actually very shortly after that not only were we breaking the speed of sound within military jets but we were on the cusp of commercializing it through the Concorde. Continue reading Supersonic Flight, Technology, and the Overland Ban with Sam Hammond

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Understanding the Karni Belief-Revelation Mechanism

Suppose you wanted to find out someone’s subjective belief in the likelihood of a given event. Your first instinct might be to offer them betting odds on the event. If they would accept odds of 2:1 but no lower, you might conclude that they believe the event to have a 33.3% chance of occurring.

This would be correct if the person you’re offering the bet to is risk neutral. But if they’re risk averse, they might actually believe the event has a 50% likelihood of occurring, and they just require more favourable odds to compensate them for accepting risk.

Luckily, there’s a better way to elicit subjective probabilities. It comes from Karni (2009), a short paper published in Econometrica.* Continue reading Understanding the Karni Belief-Revelation Mechanism

The Second Ehrlich-Simon Wager with Joanna Szurmak

Today’s interview features Joanna Szurmak of the University of Toronto. Our topic for today is the second proposed bet between Paul Ehrlich and Julian Simon. Joanna has written a paper titled “Care to Wager Again? An Appraisal of Paul Ehrlich’s Counter-Bet Offer to Julian Simon” along with coauthors Vincent Geloso and Pierre Desrochers, both former guests of this show. We mentioned the original Simon-Ehrlich bet briefly in my conversation with Steve Horwitz, but in this episode we talk about it in more detail.

Julian Simon had a cornucopian vision of development and humanity. In his view, things are getting better as we develop new ideas for improving our lives and our world. Paul Ehrlich has precisely the opposite vision. He has been predicting environmental catastrophe since the 1960s. Continue reading The Second Ehrlich-Simon Wager with Joanna Szurmak

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Garrett M. Petersen's blog about markets, institutions, and ideas.