Currently browsing posts filed under "Jennifer Doleac ’03"

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Dangers of Lead

Interesting article from Jennifer Doleac ’03 about the dangers of lead.

A recent investigation by Reuters found that lead exposure affects kids in communities across the country — not just in high-profile cities like
Flint, Michigan. This is worrisome, because elevated blood lead levels in kids have been linked to an array of developmental delays and behavioral problems. More ominously, this could also increase crime. Kevin Drum and others
have argued that lead exposure caused the high crime rates during the 1980s and early 1990s. There has been suggestive evidence of such a link for decades, though it hasn’t gained much traction in research or policy circles. But the case that lead exposure causes crime recently became much stronger.

Read the whole (scary) thing.

Although Jen is (rightly) concerned with national policy, we at EphBlog care about local issues first. Are children in Williamstown and/or the Berkshires exposed to too much lead? How does that exposure vary across the region? What might be done about it? Another great topic for a senior thesis.

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Ban The Box

From The Economist:

For the first time in decades, America and Europe are now releasing more prisoners than they are locking up. One way to ensure those ex-cons do not wind up back behind bars is to help them find work. But a body of new research suggests one increasingly popular way to promote this has worrying unintended consequences.

Forcing job applicants to declare they have a criminal record—whether or not it is relevant to the post—allows employers to filter out ex-convicts, it is argued, and prevents them finding the sort of work that would help them stay out of prison. So activists across the world have called for “ban-the-box” laws, which prohibit employers from inquiring about criminal histories prior to job interviews or offers.


A paper by Jennifer Doleac [’03] of the University of Virginia and Benjamin Hansen of the University of Oregon, published on August 1st, looked at the impact of introducing ban-the-box policies on labour-market data from America’s population census. It found that withholding criminal-record data from employers encouraged them to treat certain minority groups as if they were more likely to have criminal pasts.

Read the whole thing. Doleac is EphBlog’s favorite (non-Williams-employed) economist. Recall our discussion of her thesis more than 10 years ago.

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Credentialism

Sad to see EphBlog favorite Jennifer Doleac ’03 participate in this sort of mindless credentialism.

actual

Doleac retweeted this post so, presumably, her pretensions with regard to the term “economist” applies to “historians” as well. Perhaps we should introduce her to some of her fellow Ephs!

How about historian Michael Beschloss ’77, who not only lacks a Ph.D. in history. He wasn’t even a history major at Williams! If Doleac isn’t going to complain when Williams College itself calls Beschloss a “historian”, then she has no business complaining when other people call non-econ Ph.D.’s “economists.”

How about Dan Drezner ’90, called an “economist” by NPR? Does Doelac not think that we should listen to Drezner about economics because his Ph.D. is in political science?

True Ephs judge people by the quality of their work. You are what you do. You are not (just) the fancy letters after your name on your CV.

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ShotSpotter

Interesting new research (pdf) from Jennifer Doleac ’03.

Criminal activity is often selectively underreported, which can make it difficult to understand public safety problems and devise effective policy strategies to address them. However, new surveillance technologies are facilitating the collection of more accurate data on crime. In this paper, we describe data on gunfire incidents, recorded using a tool called ShotSpotter.

Read the whole thing.

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Tweets About “Why a Harvard Professor Has Mixed Feelings When Students Take Jobs in Finance”

For reference, here are the two Eph tweets referenced in David Dudley Field’s post on the New York Times article, immediately prior to this posting.

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Why a Harvard Professor is Clueless about “Public Service”

Jennifer Doleac ’03 and Arthur Levitt ’52 both tweeted about this New York Times article: “Why a Harvard Professor Has Mixed Feelings When Students Take Jobs in Finance”

This is a bittersweet time on campus. Seniors are beginning to find jobs, and while their enthusiasm is infectious, some of their choices give me pause.

Many of the best students are not going to research cancer, teach and inspire the next generation, or embark on careers in public service. Instead, large numbers are becoming traders, brokers and bankers. At Harvard in 2014, nearly one in five students who took a job went to finance. For economics majors, the number was closer to one in two. I can’t help wondering: Is this the best use of talent?

I suspect that this prejudice is common among the Williams faculty as well. Exploring it would make for an interesting Record article.

In the meantime, this view is absurd because it is impossible to make meaningful moral judgments about job choice between categories as broad as “public service” and “finance.”

First, I am not claiming that moral judgments are impossible. Consider two jobs that many people might reasonable judge as morally suspect:

  • Congressional staff who arrange for lobbyists to write big checks so that her boss will support their favorite tax loopholes.
  • Running the NSA computers which record all our phone conversations.

But notice what those jobs have in common? They are “public service,” positions in which your boss is the US Government. Does the author, Sendhil Mullainathan, “pause” when his students take jobs like these? Or are all public service jobs, by definition, morally praiseworthy?

Second, consider two (well paid) jobs in “finance.”

  • Protect online bank accounts from hackers and thieves.
  • Design better (cheaper) index funds.

Does Mullainathan experience “bittersweet” emotions when his students take jobs like these? I hope not!

Third, think about all the jobs that are the same in “public service” and in “finance.” Example:

Doing asset allocation at Calpers. Why is working for Calpers at job X more praiseworthy than working at Fidelity or Wellington or Vanguard and doing job X? Hint: It’s not, unless you think that California retirees are, as a class, more morally praiseworthy than people who invest with Vanguard.

Now, obviously, there are jobs in public service that are morally praise-worthy and jobs in finance that are morally suspect, but Mullainathan is only confusing his readers — and misleading himself? — when he claims that such broad categories provide meaningful evidence for moral judgment.

And don’t even get me started about the largely parasitic existence led by the public relations staff — oops, I mean the tenured faculty! — of the $30+ billion Harvard Hedge Fund, LLC . . .

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Rape (?) at UVA

The most prominent Eph on the this-happened side of the Rolling Stone story about a horrific rape at UVA is Jennifer Doleac ’03. See our discussion on Tuesday. The most prominent Eph on the this-may-not-have-happened side is former Williams professor KC Johnson. Johnson covers some of the same ground as other skeptics, but, even more compellingly, he brings his encyclopedic knowledge about the Duke Lacrosse Hoax to bear:

In the end, Rolling Stone’s message is “trust us.” Erdely vouches for Jackie’s credibility, and that’s good enough for the magazine. But that editorial style requires readers to take a hard look at Erdely’s credibility. And in that task, more troubling questions emerge.

But then there’s the person Erdely describes “attorney Wendy Murphy, who has filed Title IX complaints and lawsuits against schools including UVA.”

While Erdely elects not to inform her readers, Murphy has a past as a commenter on high-profile campus rape cases. In the lacrosse case, she repeatedly misstated (and on some occasions simply made up) “facts” designed to make the lacrosse players look guilty. To take a few examples, Murphy (on national TV) wildly claimed, “I bet one or more of the players was, you know, molested or something as a child.” She later asserted, “I never, ever met a false rape claim, by the way.” Murphy falsely stated, “All the photographs showing how really fine [lacrosse accuser Crystal Mangum] was when she left scene were doctored, where the date stamp was actually fraudulent.” The attorney falsely told a national TV audience that “all” of the lacrosse players took the Fifth Amendment. (None of them had, and three had voluntarily given statements to police without their attorneys present.) Murphy fantasized about non-existent “broomstick DNA” and the “torn genitalia” of the accuser.

What does it say about Erdely’s credibility—upon which, in the end, the story relies—that she is willing to uncritically quote from a charlatan like Murphy, all while not informing readers of her source’s grievous misstatements of facts on a previous high-profile allegation of campus sexual assault?

Nothing good. Either Erdley is foolish for not understanding/researching Murphy’s background or (even worse?) she is purposely misleading her readers but not providing us with this crucial information.

By the way, if there are other Ephs writing about this issue, please leave links in our comments.

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Rape at UVA

Jennifer Doleac ’03, an Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Economics Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy University of Virginia, is a long time EphBlog favorite, mainly because of her excellent senior thesis about predicting student achievement at Williams. She is currently involved in issues of campus safety at UVA, now much in the news because of this Rolling Stone story about an horrific gang rape at UVA two years ago. Jennifer tweeted:

doleac

The problem is that, more and more, people are questioning the truth of the Rolling Stone story.

Would readers be interested in more coverage of this topic?

In any event, this should be another occasion for Adam Falk, and everyone else in the Williams administration, to thank John Sawyer ’39 for getting rid of fraternities from Williams 50 years ago.

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