Assignment 5:Why do drug dealers still live with their moms?

Chapter 3 of Freakanomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner posed the question “Why do drug dealers still live with their moms?” Throughout the chapter they explain the story of Sudhir Venkatesh, who was able to form relationships and collect data on a Chicago street gang. The argument made in this chapter is that the promise of upward mobility in a hierarchical system lowers the opportunity cost of participating in the system.

In the case of the lower ranked drug dealers, or the foot soldiers (and the rank-and-file members), the promise of one day being at the top of the hierarchy like JT lowers the opportunity cost (the lower pay and the higher probability of being arrested, wounded or killed than other forgone forms of employment).

This idea is shown throughout the chapter. On page 101 the typical fate of a gang member within four years including the high averaged number of times arrested (5.9) and the 1 in 4 chance of being killed. These statistics in comparison to statistic on page 100, which states that the top men, just 2.2% of the gang, take home more than half of the money are such a striking contrast. The exact salary that J.T. collected, shared on page 99, of $8500 a month, which would work out to $850 an hour, which when compared to the meager salaries of his officers ($7) and his foot soldiers ($3.30). This in addition to the poverty statistics of this area where 56% of the neighborhood’s children live below the poverty line in relation to the national average of 14% (Pg. 102).

Though I have placed these statistics completely out of order I feel like it was fine. I like that they opened the statistic with a few lines and then discussed it further after. For the small source of data that there is on this example specifically, I feel like it is as accurate as we can get about this profession. In terms of the risk that these men face, I’m actually shocked that the risk aren’t higher. I don’t think the statistics took away from the narrative, I think they gave the narrative some perspective.


Assignment 4: My Research

For my research paper and presentation I would really like to look in to the idea of higher education being an equalizer in society. In other words, I would really like to look in to whether or not education education significantly promotes upward mobility in different groups within society.

I think this topic has always been of great interest to me as a child of immigrant parents. I was always told that education was the tool to the American Dream. The idea that an American education would propel future generations into the upper class was a hope and dream my parents and family packed in their suitcases and brought with them from South America. Now seeing the significant debt that many college graduates face, as well as the debt our country faces, I wonder if the old immigrants tale of the “Great Equalizer” is still relevant today and how relevant it was for different groups in society.

So far I have found data that talks about the returns to education of different demographic groups. Going forward, I would like to find additional information on the debt students face after graduation and how that plays out for different demographic groups. I would also like some further information on the barriers and movements between social class (lower/working, middle and upper).

Assignment #3: Traps and Resolutions?

Immediately after reading the title of the Slate article “How to Make Better New Years Resolutions: Vow To Do Less, Not More”, I did not think of the connection of New Year Revolutions to poverty traps. After reading the article it completely makes sense to me. My ideas of poverty traps did not change, but I did make a lot of connections between the two readings. Specifically, I connected the point of the experiment, which allowed the participants to borrow time from future rounds, to the Indonesian woman Ibu Emptat talked about “Poor Economics” who borrowed as an extremely high rate to pay for her husbands medical needs. It was not that she was horrible at managing her loans or her finances but she was affected by the emergence of her husbands health and their financial constraints. She was forced to “tunnel” rather than look at the bigger issue the loan would cause her family’s finances down the line.

Which goes in to how difficult it is to view a Health Trap. In her circumstance the “Health Poverty Trap” had more to do with the debt that can burden and trap a family in poverty. We do see a bit of this in America as well.  In other circumstances there was an issue with the perception people had about what types of medications were valuable. Other times it was an issue with the availability of Health Care provision. I don’t think that just defining something as a “Trap” is realistic because not everyone who is suffering from poverty will be suffering in the exact same way.

I am interested in seeing the actual data that Shafir and Mullainathan collected during their experiment but I would like to see if it would hold up with real life data or longitudinal studies of the poor and rich globally.

Assignment #2: Poverty Traps

After Reading the first few chapters of Poor Economics, I can say that I do like the approach that the authors take to present their arguments. They seem to start with a debate that others have started to have about the World’s poor and what keeps them poor. They then define what the argument actually means in further detail. Then they present both sides of the argument and also meld in some statistics or some information from some on-the-ground Randomized Control Trials. The trials usually share information that, I feel, is not common to many people.

I like that they are not arguing whether they should or should not help the poor, but rather what is the best way at looking at the issues the poor are facing. I think that having this focus allows the authors to have a more critical analysis and not just be eager to accept or dismiss a theory about how to help the poor.

The authors present the data as a way to analyze both sides of the arguments. In the case of the proposed hunger trap, which is suggested to mean an inadequate caloric intake brought on my poverty that could decrease the productivity of a worker that results in a low income that would continue the cycle, the authors state that food represents 36-79% of consumption among rural extremely poor and 53-74% for their urban counterparts. They deepen the statistics by saying that if there was and an increase in income the increase to food spending would not be $1 to $1 and the even with the current level of spending on food the maximum caloric potential was not met. These statistics do not fit in line with the S-curve that was presented in chapter on and continuously revisited in chapter 2 and 3.

I do believe these statistics based on personal experience, because I myself am not always rational and I know that I probably do not reach the maximum nutrition potential for my buck. That is because sometime I rather go with what tastes good to me. I do believe that nutrition is a large problem and it does hinder the extremely poor but I do believe that some poor are trapped by being human and wanting food that they like, more than being trapped by not having access to calories.

Assignment 1: What Is Blogging?

I like to think of blogging as writing a journal in the new world of technology and social media. Similar to “journaling”, blogging provides a platform for students, writers, scholars and even people like my grandmother to share ideas, experiences, observations or commentate on society or an event, among other things.

That being said it is important to note that my experience with blogging is very menial.  I conduct a personal blog on tumblr that has a simple format and serves all the purposes that I listed above. It allows me the freedom and ease to express myself, ideas and perceptions of everyday life.

Other non-personal blogs also seem to fit these criteria. To some extent even academic blogs fit this mold.  In my experience, writers have a tendency to express their ideas through their work.  I think that what sets blogging apart from typical literary pieces is the community that it creates. For example, in blog formats to which I have become familiar, authors express ideas through public posts and allow their readers to offer personal comments/feedback.  The comments can spark a back and forth dialogue between readers or even the readers and the author. Hence the development of a sense of community.

There is a social aspect in blogging that is not found in other writing forms. Readers can show their support by “liking” posts.  In addition, they can also comment and share post to other various forms of social media.

I have encountered a few Economics and Statistics related blogs that coincide with the ideas I have about blogging.

The first of these blogs is Calculated Risk. It is updated multiple times a day ranging anywhere between 2 to 10 post per day. The second is Econometric Sense, which is updated either once every day or every few days. The third is, which is updated a few times every day.

The author of the Calculated Risk blog focuses on getting the most up-to-date information. It is very informative but it still serves as a forum for expressive opinions and a community development similar to most blogs.  Out of the three blogs I have looked at he presents the most graphic representation of data. I think it’s interesting to note that Calculated Risk has the largest following. The author of Econometric Sense seems to comment on the ideas of other sources of information and give his opinion on different aspects of other people’s findings or arguments.   Andrew Gelman’s blog tends to commentate on the past and the present. He seems prompted by the opinions of others and shares his ideas on those topics. Although I hold a limited knowledge in the different topics covered in these blogs, I like how often the blogs are updated and the variety of opinions that are represented.