Archive 2013

Career Lesbians Eric Crampton Dec 12

First, a short summary on the gender wage gap. Men on average earn more than women. When we correct for differences in education, work experience, industry, and time outside of the workforce, the differences are much smaller but they do not disappear entirely. There's been a lot of work done on that women often choose professions or jobs that provide less in salary but more in non-pecuniary benefits like more generous leave, easier flex-time arrangements, or fewer expectations to work more than a 40 hour week. These differences in choices can result in differences in observed pay packets even in the absence of any wage discrimination. See the posts linked at the end for some of the evidence.

One hypothesis that's intrigued me: while wage regressions will adjust for number of children, and find that having kids hurts women's wages, they don't really account for employers' forward looking expectations of job separation or time out of work due to fertility. If an employer is weighing up two job applicants, one of whom, statistically, has a much higher chance of taking 3-12 months off on maternity leave sometime in the next three or four years, then the employer might shy away from offering the kinds of jobs that require strong job attachment - the same kinds of jobs that lead to progression through the ranks and to the upper echelons of industry. Worse, this can easily lead to the kind of bad equilibrium that Glen Loury posits for human capital acquisition across races: if you expect that employers will reckon you'll drop out of the labour force to have kids and that you'll have a hard time getting to the top because of it, why make the human capital investments that would be necessary to do it?

Occupational segregation arguments then start having more force: women are disporportionately employed in industries with lower skill depreciation rates and lower penalties for temporary workplace separation, or in the public sector, not only because those sectors are friendlier to families but also because making investments to go into other industries are riskier where you can't credibly signal that you won't separate from the workforce.

My Masters student, Hayden Skilling, presented his thesis to the Department on Tuesday. Lesbians earn more than heterosexual women. Some of this is due to occupational choice, some of it is due to having had fewer kids. But some of it also seems due to that lesbians are less likely to have children than are heterosexual women. Hayden shows this in a few ways. First, the age patterning of realised fertility outcomes among lesbians and heterosexual women explains some of the wage gap between lesbians and heterosexual women after correcting for a host of other variables in Census and ACS data. Second, state-level policies that differentially affect fertility by sexual orientation also affect the wage gap between lesbians and heterosexual women in the predicted direction. For example, mandatory insurance coverage for IVF makes it easier for heterosexual couples to have kids; where the insurance coverage typically requires conception failure subsequent to an extended period of natural attempted conception, married heterosexual couples will be at an advantage. Similarly, legislation making it easier for homosexual couples to form stable legal recognized couples make it easier for them to have or jointly adopt children. Both of these affect the wage gap in the predicted ways.

I'll be blogging more of Hayden's work after he's given me the final draft. In the meantime, here's another great piece of evidence supportive of the basic hypothesis we've been exploring. Tobias Schmidt points me to this piece over at IZA. Stijn Baert at Ghent ran an audit study where Belgian employers were sent vitae for homosexual and heterosexual women. Apparently it's not uncommon in Belgium not only to list your marital status but also your partner's name on your vita. This is great because it lets them provide a signal of sexual orientation that doesn't simultaneously signal, for lack of a better word, stroppiness: membership in a gay rights organisation as an "other interest".

They found that there was no discrimination against homosexual women in general but that younger lesbians are more likely to get positive callbacks from potential employers than are young heterosexual women. They also expect this is due to employers' expectations about fertility.

If an important part of the pay gap is employers' expectations about the costs of employees' fertility decisions, then optimal policies to address the pay gap and optimal policies to support family formation will vary. For starters, we should be reticent to impose costs on employers who hire women who then go on to form families.


Student housing Eric Crampton Dec 12

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A very welcome press release from the University of Canterbury:
The University of Canterbury (UC) announced today it plans to take some pressure off the Christchurch housing market by building accommodation for students in partnership with the private sector.
Construction is expected to start next year on a new 240 bed hall of residence, to be completed in time for the 2015 intake.
"We will be talking to neighbours and interested parties about the project as it advances and, to help Christchurch, we are keen to provide more accommodation in future on the Dovedale campus as the University continues to contribute to the rebuild.
"Other temporary and medium term accommodation projects are also being progressed on and off campus.
"We have already spent $180 million in our campus remediation and we expect to spend $1.1 billion revamping our campus over the next 10 years.’’
Dr Carr said as student numbers were likely to rise to pre-quake levels by 2017, there was an urgent need to take positive action in the best interest of the city.
UC is also looking into short term housing options for up to 72 students on Ilam Fields for the 2014 academic year.
All accommodation developments will be undertaken within Christchurch City Council planning requirements. The University already provides 1949 halls of residence beds. Applications for 2014 are higher than in recent years.
"An extra 140 beds have already become available in the halls for next year after the relocation of the College of Business and Law back to the remediated School of Law building.  However, applications to enrol from new to UC international students have increased by over 600 or nearly 50 percent compared to this time last year and applications from out of town new to UC students have also increased,’’ Dr Carr said.
A big part of the University's current financial distress has been due to housing availability. Construction workers and displaced families outbid students for flats, so students head elsewhere.

I wonder if anybody here has done a full accounting of the costs of the decision to temporarily turn some of the student apartments into staff offices; I'd expect every one of those converted flats represented a lost first year student, with continuing effects for the next two years. The Economics Department here, being a rather collegial bunch, decided to stay in the open plan temporary barracks-style offices here on Kirkwood Oval. We move to the remediated and repurposed law building next week.

I look forward to again having an office and space for all the books that have been in temporary storage since 2011. I also look forward to the University's being able to accommodate a robust student intake.

Jedi Truth [Updated!] Eric Crampton Dec 11

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Lots of folks are reporting on the rise in the number of Kiwis reporting "No religion" in the latest Census. Where "No religion" used to outnumber any single Christian denomination, we now almost outnumber the combined Christian variants. As there are also adherents to other religions in New Zealand, Christians are now a very slight minority.

But nobody yet has reported on that we have no clue how we're faring on the Jedi Gap. Recall that New Zealand had 20,000 Jedi in the 2006 Census. In the 2013 Census, we see that we have 19,000 Sikhs, 18,000 Jehova's Witnesses, and almost 15,000 Seventh Day Adventists. But no listing for Jedi.

Maybe the number of self-identified Jedi were too small for Census to list them. But we have 6 adherents to the "Commonwealth Covenant Church", "Japanese Religion not elsewhere categorised" gets 15, and so too do "Tenrikyo" and "Chinese religions not elsewhere categorised". I would bet that there were more than 6 Jedi.

Over 28,000 Kiwis' answers were deemed "Response Outside Scope"; another 16,000 were classed as "Religion Unidentifiable". 225 were "Other religions not elsewhere categorised"

Maybe there's some strategic military reason for seeking to bury our Jedi numbers into those other categories.

As I noted back in May when Canada munged its Census such that they could no longer reliably identify Jedi numbers:
Recall that New Zealand had 20,000 Jedi in 2006; we have yet to see figures from the 2013 Census. Our Census remains mandatory. While we know that while Jedi will not lie, they may refrain from identifying themselves as Jedi if it's voluntary.

This has important national defence implications. While New Zealand has been able to cut defence spending down to trivial levels, trusting in its strong cohort of Jedi in case of any emergency, Canada cannot really tell whether they really need the Joint Strike Fighter because of dwindling Jedi numbers, or whether the Jedi just failed to complete the voluntary forms.

It also has implications for ongoing negotiations in the Trans-Pacific Trade talks. If Canada can no longer rely on Jedi mind tricks to defend supply management in dairy, perhaps New Zealand's Jedi will be able to push us towards free trade.

Our daughter, born on Star Wars Day three years ago, is one of the Jedi in the 2013 New Zealand Census.
I hope that the Census stops hiding the truth about our Jedi numbers.

UPDATE: Statistics NZ emailed in response to my data request; it seems that the Herald also asked for Jedi data. 19,089 people wrote "Jedi" in response to question 18, "What is your religion?"

I had also asked whether it would be tough to get cross-tabs out showing whether Jedi were more or less eduacted than others, their relative income, number of younglings and the like. Getting that data looks like it would be a bit tougher, as it's codefile data. But it also sounds like somebody at another University requested Jedi data even before the Census came out. So stay tuned.

Big employment data revisions ahead? Shamubeel Eaqub Dec 11

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The Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) data has been volatile recently. It is survey based and is usually benchmarked to Census data. Sampling is also affected by Census results. The latest Census data suggest some big revisions ahead for many of the published HLFS indicators, including employment.


Intercensal employment growth (compounding rate) in the Census and HLFS aren’t the same, but the difference looks awfully big this time around (perhaps because the Census was delayed by two years due to the Christchurch earthquakes).

A rough and ready ‘taper’ to make the HLFS and Census consistent could mean that the level of employment looks very different after revisions next year. The regional estimates will also change considerably.



I am reiterating from yesterday, but comprehensive data  from the Census give us a better understanding of the economy and rebase surveys and other measures to reduce errors. Any attempts to discontinue the Census should carefully consider the many costs of not doing it.

Pandemics and public health Eric Crampton Dec 11

Gordon Tullock had two standard lines for the (many) anarchists in our grad programme. One was that government was needed to mandate interconnection between private roads. The other was that we need government to enforce quarantines during pandemics.

And so it's great that Otago's Nick Wilson has been doing some work on pandemic preparedness. The Press reports on his work on the topic; here's his blog post. In the 1918 influenza pandemic, some communities remained clear with strict internal entry controls. He also recommends closing the borders and emptying communal living facilities in advance of a pandemic hitting New Zealand, depending on the pandemic's seriousness.

If "closing the borders" does not imply shutting down international trade, it's pretty plausible that this could pass cost-benefit for a sufficiently serious pandemic. If the flu (or other) virus can only survive outside the body for n days, then continue to allow ships to offload shipping containers, put them into holding areas, then release them post-quarantine. It'll be a big costly hassle, but potentially better than losing a reasonable fraction of the population. If it means shutting the border to trade entirely, well, the "how serious a pandemic" hurdle gets much higher. Were some version of ebola to come out with a week-long incubation period, followed by a few days' high infectiousness, followed by death, then temporary autarky wouldn't seem so bad by comparison.

It would be a fun (but likely infeasible) honours project to work out some ballpark numbers on expected mortality rates sufficient to justify different pandemic quarantine levels, ranging from nurses / health checks for incoming flights at the airport, to quarantine facilities for incoming visitors, to the complete sealing of the borders. I expect that working out the likely real costs of some of these measures would be a bit beyond the scope of an honours project. But it also seems the kind of thing where the government should have set plans: if the combination of communicability and morbidity hits different thresholds, then different measures get rolled out.

Politicians vs policy analysts James Zuccollo Dec 10

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Jonathan Portes has an interesting post on the Department of Work and Pensions’ analysis of Mandatory Work Activity. Jonathan does a great job summarising the research and it’s fantastic to see good evaluation coming out of the Department. The political headline of the post is less positive: “DWP analysis shows mandatory work activity is largely ineffective. Government is therefore extending it…”. The implication is that, whatever the evaluation shows, the Government is committed to the policy.

Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms have not been universally welcomed.

That sad state of affairs is not unusual: many studies have been unable to link bureaucrats’ cost-benefit analyses with any change in regulatory efficiency. Researchers have clearly struggled to understand why the effect of CBA within government has been so small. Despite decades of effort in the UK to improve impact assessment, the research tends to find that it is done poorly and largely ignored in the final decision. The recommended medicine is usually more of the same, which seems unlikely to yield significant gains.

One possibility is that policy analysts and politicians view regulation through a different lens. For an analyst every new regulation is an experiment to be evaluated and assessed. It is nigh on impossible to know the effect of many policies before they are implemented so abandoning a policy that is not working should not be viewed as failure. Rather, it is the successful application of a philosophy of experimentation to improve regulation. The analyst is committed not to any particular policy, but to the process of iterative assessment and improvement.

By contrast, a politician must publicly commit to a specific policy and stake their reputation on it. If the policy fails then they personally suffer huge reputational damage. They are committed to the policy, not the process, so it is difficult for them to pay serious heed to negative evaluations of flagship policies. It is easy to blame politicians but that will not change the incentives they face. Perhaps we should look at the political system and ask why it forces them to commit to particular policies, come what may.

Excellent presentations at the GEN conference Donal Dec 10

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Yesterday* we had a cracker of an annual conference from the Government Economics Network.
There have been individual star turns at previous conferences - notably Harvard Professor Raj Chetty's 2011 presentation, "The long term impact of teachers", which is one of the best, if not the outright best, economics speeches I've ever listened to (links here if you haven't come across it before) - but this year's conference had the highest overall standard of the three conferences run so far.
Professor John FitzGerald led off with "Contributions of economic analysis to policy making success and failures". John had the perfect professional background to talk to this, having spent a dozen years in Ireland's Department of Finance (he and I were colleagues there in 1976,  and I knew him socially around the Dublin traps in any event) before moving to Dublin's Economic and Social Research Institute (the ESRI). There's nothing he doesn't know about the use of economic analysis for policy in Ireland (where there were especially serious and instructive mistakes made), the UK and across the EU, and it showed. He'd evidently also put in some time thinking about how his ideas would be relevant to New Zealand's circumstances. Keep an eye out for his speaking notes when they go up on the GEN website - they're well worth reading. One of the guys sitting near me had brought along a copy of John's ESRI working paper, 'Restoring Credibility in Policy Making in Ireland', which gives you a flavour of some of his ideas (as well as taking you through the near-death experience of the Irish economy).
John is one of the most articulate speakers you could hope to listen to - as Kim Hill, who was compering events, said, we'd have listened to him reading the phone directory - and it showed the value of choosing speakers with high communications ability.
Professor Anthony Scott of Melbourne  University's Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research followed him, on "The role of financial incentives in improving performance in health care". This was good stuff, too, though the state of play (as he summarised it) is that there are few rigorous studies of the links between incentives and changes in medics' behaviours (though what there is, seems to say that well-designed incentives can be material) and less again on the links between medics' behaviours and ultimate health outcomes. One point I took away is that it can often be a good policy idea to incentivise improvements in quality, rather than achievement of absolute standards of quality. Absolute standards can throw superfluous rewards at the top performers (who are already over the absolute threshold) but be beyond the practical reach of the worst or the most dysfunctional performers. Improvements, though, can be made by anyone.
If there was a drop-off during the day, it was the panel discussion on "Future strategies - how can enhanced economic analyses help shape more effective policies?". Panel discussions are always a bit of a risk, and this one just didn't fizz. Maybe there wasn't much more to say on this after John's presentation, maybe it was just one of those things where the conversation didn't get its own momentum going, but it any event, despite everyone's efforts, I don't think it gelled.
But then things picked up again with two terrific presentations on methodology.
Dr David McKenzie, lead economist at the Development Research Group within the World Bank's Finance and Private Sector Development Unit, gave a presentation on "The value and use of randomized experiments to learn about employment and productivity policies" which first went through the rationale for randomised experiments and then showed us how three had worked out in practice. One was the randomised use of wage subsidy vouchers for women graduates of community colleges in Jordan (ineffective - employment temporarily picked up while the subsides were available, and then dropped back to square one). One was randomised access to vocational training courses in Turkey (marginally effective on employment - it worked when the courses were provided by private sector trainers who faced stiff competition in the training market. Funny, that). And the third was randomised introduction of modern management practices into Indian textile manufacturing (very effective - a 20% increase in total factor productivity relative to a control group).
And we finished up with Professor Adam Jaffe, Director of Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, talking about "Regression discontinuity made easy" (according to the conference flyer - I think he headed his actual speech with something else which I didn't keep a note of, but the topic was the same in any event). You'd have to think this would be one of the more forbidding presentations, right up there with "Oxidative Phosphorylation For Beginners", and would be a tough challenge either to deliver or to listen to. It turned out to be a marvel of exposition - the most technical of topics laid out with an lucid explanation of how it works; why, when and how you could use it; and a comparison between it and randomised experiments, so it happily dovetailed with David McKenzie's presentation.
This was a really good day all round. Full marks to the organising sub-committee in particular, and to GEN's executive in general.

Editor's note: this post appeared originally at EconomicsNZ on 4 December. Editor's further note: while I do not envy anyone in Wellington their crazy earthquake risk, I do envy them the GEN seminars.

Crowded house Eric Crampton Dec 10

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Christchurch districts that experienced bigger increases in house prices from 2008 through 2013, the dates of easily available QV data, also experienced larger increases in the proportion of census households reporting two or more families living in the same household. This isn't particularly surprising. Where housing supply is inflexible due to Council regulatory constraints, increases in the number of families, whether due to kids reaching adulthood, immigration, or divorce have to be accommodated somehow. That somehow is multiple families living in the same household.

On Friday last week, the Christchurch Press called the University looking for a few folks to provide them commentary on the Census, released this Tuesday. Stephen and I put together the following as op-ed. The Press decided to turn it into a news story instead; the story appeared here. But our original piece is below.
Census 2013 focus: The hidden cost of housing regulation
Eric Crampton & Stephen Hickson

More Kiwi families are having to double-up as housing supply has failed to respond to demand pressures. The Census tells us how many families live in each household. In 2006, fewer than 40,000 households, or about 2.8 percent of all households, included two or more families living together. In 2013, that figure rose to just over 51,000 households, or about 3.4 percent of the total. Had the proportion of multifamily households stayed at the 2006 level, 9,100 fewer households would have had two or more families bunking together.
Economists call this an increase in the intensity of housing use. It’s one of the ways that people can respond to increases in housing costs. When housing gets more expensive, people buy less of it. One way of buying less housing is to share a house with one or two other families. The pattern of increased housing intensity suggests that cost pressures are behind it.
We paired district-level housing intensity increases between the two Censuses with Quotable Value data on residential house values from November 2008, the earliest month in their freely available data series March 2009 and March 2013, the month of the census.* The increase in two-or-more families living in the same household is strongly related to house price increases within each district (for the statistically minded, the correlation coefficient is 0.66). This is just a first cut as the Census has only just been released. But it is informative.

Selected Territorial Authority AreasNumber of households with 2 or more families, 2006 Number of households with 2 or more families, 2013 Percentage increase in multifamily households Percentage increase in QV property value, November 2008 – March 2013
Far North 546 639 17% -14.5%
Whangarei 648 672 3.7% -9.9%
Auckland Area 19977 27042 35.4% 22%
Waikato 612 684 11.8% 2.5%
Rotorua 744 735 -1.2% -2.8%
Napier 426 459 7.7% 0%
Wellington City 1215 1659 36.5% 5.4%
Nelson 216 303 40.3% 9.1%
Grey 51 39 -23.5% -10.1%
Waimakariri 225 420 86.7% 26.4%
Christchurch 2295 3132 36.5% 19.7%
Selwyn 204 369 80.9% 30.5%
Dunedin 519 621 19.7% 10.2%
Southland 75 81 8% -5.4%

We see this as one of the hidden costs of New Zealand’s very rigid approach to town planning. City Councils make it hard not only to expand housing supply out into the suburbs but also to increase density within town limits. When it’s hard for housing supply to respond as population increases, prices of existing houses increase. This brings supply and demand back into line, but by forcing families to make some pretty costly decisions by bunking together. Until Councils start taking housing supply seriously, expect the situation to worsen.
I emphasized to the reporter that demand side measures to try to hit housing prices really don't help. If we have fewer houses than families that want to be in houses, then we're going to have multiple families in a household regardless of any measures we might put in affecting house prices. Those measures can affect the price at which the market clears but don't really change which families wind up in which houses. Worse, where some measures targeted at demand can reduce building, they can make things worse.

* Looking back at it, Stephen had pulled QV data running March 09 through March 13. The latter is the month of the census; the former is the first March in the QV data. While November 2008 would be earlier, we then risk getting seasonal / month effects mixed in with things.

More binge drinking reports Eric Crampton Dec 09

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StatsChat reports on local hype about increased hazardous drinking among women.

A Canadian alcoholism activist is in New Zealand promoting a book. It looks like Alcohol Healthwatch has used the book tour as a hook for a report on female drinking habits in New Zealand. I was a bit surprised to see reporting on big increases in female binge drinking; there's really nothing there in the Ministry of Health data.

Granny Tut-Tut (who recently complained about Key's Nanny State) reported:
Women's alcohol consumption is on the increase, and "we don't really know why", they said, something which was hindered by "gaping holes" in the available research and data. However, they said key target areas for the Government should be pricing, how the alcohol industry markets its products, and availability.
If you don't know why something's increasing, I'm not sure you're well placed for recommending policy interventions. But what's the evidence for increasing female consumption?

 The AHW paper on which the news stories are based says the following:
One recent survey reported that between 1996 and 2012 the rate of hazardous drinking among women remained relatively stable at around 12% of drinkers25. However, other surveys indicate that women of all ages have increased their alcohol intake in the last two decades, and this has been most marked in younger women26 27 28.. The proportion of female secondary students who were current drinkers dropped significantly from 68.5% in the first Youth 2000 survey, to 45.5% in 201229 30. This is consistent with results from the New Zealand Health Survey, where the proportion of 16 to 17-year-old young women drinkers significantly reduced from 79% in 2006/7 to 59% in 2011/1231 32. However, of those secondary students who did drink, 28% had five to nine drinks in an average session in 2001, and 30% in 201233 34. About 10% usually had 10 or more drinks a session in 2012.
Ok. So we have a great big reduction in the proportion of young women who drink and a tiny increase in consumption among those who do drink. Is that our crisis? Seriously? Let's look at their cited sources on increased intake among younger women.

Footnote 25 is the MoH data linked above.

Footnote 26 is Fergusson et al. It is a survey piece offering no independent evidence on time trends. They cite only the Law Commission report on that there's any increasing trend in drinking among young women.

Footnote 27 is Freyer et al's ALAC monitor report 2009-2010. This is a fun one. They specifically say "Comparisons between years should only be made between 2005-06 and 2008-09. Comparisons with 2009-10 should not be made because of a change in the way "Moderate Drinkers" and "Binge Drinkers" has been defined. So keeping that in mind, what do they say about female heavy drinking?
  • There was a substantial drop in the proportion of binge drinkers who were women. In 2005-2006, 55% of all binge drinkers were women; in 2008-09, 31% of binge drinkers were women.
  • Some stats on all youth drinkers first. Table 8 shows a slight increase in youth non-drinkers and, among drinkers, a slight increase in the proportion counted as binge drinkers. Table 10 shows that a decreasing proportion of youth drinkers report having consumed 5+ drinks on the last occasion, though the difference isn't statistically significant. Table 11 shows that the mean number of drinks consumed by youth drinkers has been stable. Table 12 shows that the mean number of drinks consumed by binge drinkers at the last session has had no change from 05-06 through 08-09. Further, Table 14 shows a slight increase in the median age of drinking initiation, though it's still sometime between the 14th and 15th birthdays in both years.
  • Table 15 shows that the proportion of youth drinkers who were female increased from 48% to 51%, but the difference was not statistically significant. An increasing (but not statistically significant) proportion of moderate youth drinkers were female; a stable proportion of binge drinkers were female. 
I can't see any increasing drinking trend among women in the Freyer et al data. Maybe there are unpublished results providing cross-tabs by gender of the trends among all adult drinkers reported in tables 2-4, and maybe those show some kind of crisis among female drinkers, but they're not published and they're not here cited that way either.

Footnote 28 is Huckle et al's summary of trends out of SHORE data. What did they find?

  • At page 44 they note a statistically decreasing trend in drinking prevalence among women both in the past 12 months and from 1995 to 2011, though the difference is very small. The number of past-year drinkers reduced from 85% to 83%.  
  • At page 45 they find, among drinkers, an increase in drinking frequency. Women reported drinking 57 times per year in 1995 and 82 times per year in 2011. In Figure 3, they show that women aged 16-24 years showed the smallest change - eyeballing the picture, the trend for that cohort is entirely flat. Women aged 55-65 showed the largest increase in drinking frequency. However, at page 48 they find that the quantity consumed per drinking occasion went up by a quarter, from 30 ml to 37.5 ml. Young women's consumption increased from 1995 to 2000, declined through 2008, then increased again in 2011, making for a flat overall trend 2000-2011 after an increase from 1995-2000.
  • At page 49 they have the stats on heavy per-session consumption, with a five 15mL drink lower bound. I'll quote: "The proportion of young female drinkers consuming 5+ drinks at least once a week increased from 19% to 28% between 1995 and 2011 (and this was a statistically significant increase). Most of this increase, however, occurred between 1995 and 2000." The SHORE data is pretty much flat from 2000 through 2011; 2011 looks to be slightly below 2000. 
On the whole, the SHORE data is consistent with an increase in heavier drinking among younger women from 1995 to 2000 and a flat trend since then. I would be exceptionally hesitant to describe this as an increase "in the last two decades" because the increase, such as it was, was entirely from 1995-2000. The phrasing makes it sound like we have this increasing trend instead of a level shift. 

So, let's weigh this all up then. Alcohol Healthwatch says that while the MoH data shows stable rates of hazardous drinking among women, three other sources show "women of all ages have increased their alcohol intake in the last two decades, and this has been most marked in younger women". I can't see that their cites support that statement. One shows no significant trend, one just cites the Law Commission, and the last one shows an increase from 1995-2000 and a flat trend since then.

Read and judge for yourself. I can't see that there's any big crisis here.

A few other notes:
  • At page 6, they say that evidence around safe or beneficial levels of consumption has been contested, citing Corrao on cancer. Corrao also was the author of a metastudy showing the cardioprotective effects of alcohol consumption. As always, it ought to be all-source mortality that counts, not any particular condition. 
  • At page 6 they cite BERL saying alcohol causes $5.3b in health and social problem. Note that BERL retracted that figure for a smaller one after I told them that they couldn't count drinkers' excise taxes as a social harm. The other problems in that report were very large.
  • At page 8, they cite a study of residence hall students at Waikato as being representative of drinking habits among all tertiary students. At least where I went to undergrad, the residence hall students drank substantially more than the students who lived at home or elsewhere. Maybe it's different here.
  • At page 9 they claim that 44% of women aged 55-70 drink hazardously. The study they cite uses a lower AUDIT threshold than is standard. Further, the same study says that only 16% of women in that age category engaged in binge drinking over the prior year. Ahem.
  • Their measure of the prevalence of drinking in pregnancy comes from 2001; there've been a lot of public health campaigns since then.
  • Page 9 gives a pile of ethnic differences in drinking and cites trends from 1996 to 2006 but ignores all of the trend data in the 2011 MoH survey. 
The standard disclaimer on alcohol posts now applies. But it didn't apply to these prior posts:

The coming disintermediation Eric Crampton Dec 09

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The great Eli Dourado shows the way:
What’s even more exciting is the next generation of disintermediating technologies. Bitcoin could displace some financial institutions—to varying degrees, banks, the Federal Reserve, Western Union, and credit card companies.Mesh networks could solve the last-mile problem of Internet service delivery, which tends to be monopolized or at least concentrated. 3D printers could disintermediate supply chains. 3D chemical printers could disintermediate drug companies and the FDA.
Delivery drones like Amazon Prime Air‘s arguably disrupt package delivery services, though not entirely because FedEx and UPS will still run drone-utilizing distribution networks. More importantly, delivery drones disintermediate the real estate market for small businesses. It will no longer be important, if you run a local business, to have a storefront in a prime location. Your customers can order online and items can be delivered to them in half an hour straight from the factory or artisanal workshop. It could be the Etsyfication of the economy.
If information, electricity, money, and production all get disintermediated, what is left? If these trends continue, the future will be one in which human interaction is unmediated, and to a surprising degree, unregulable. It will be difficult to stop a willing buyer and seller from transacting. Information about the proposed transaction might not be censorable. Payment via Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies can’t be stopped. Production and delivery of the item may be difficult or impossible to detect and intercept.
Intermediaries are often used by governments as points of control. As we shed intermediaries, it may become possible to live one’s entire life without any particular authority even knowing that one exists. I doubt that we’ll ever get that far in the process, because using non-abusive intermediaries often makes economic sense. But for the next few decades, at least, I expect the trend to continue and the world to get a lot more interesting.
I've wondered when we'd start getting chemical printers; I love that they're in progress.

The printers are far from certain as yet, but it's worth thinking through a few of the implications. The various commenters at SciBlogs who reckoned it entirely right and good that the FDA stomp all over 23andMe may be more than a bit worried about the pharmaceutical implications of chemical printers. They're right that 23andMe didn't pay obeisances to the FDA; I don't think they ever should have had to. But it's irrelevant where people will be able to route around the regulatory blockages. Something like 23andMe will start running out of Singapore or China if the US kills it. If chemical printers are banned in the ban-things regimes, they'll get developed elsewhere. And they'll either be printed here or people will sneak them in.

And then, oh and then.

Whether or not you think ChemPrinters are a great thing (I think they're a great thing), if you think they're likely to emerge, here are a few implications:
  • Drug patents won't much work anymore. Sure, Pharma will try for DRM restrictions on chemical printers to ban their production of patented chemicals, but it will be no more effective than DRM restrictions on other media in the longer term. 
  • If you try to force things back through the regulated channels by having doctors report on patients who are given prescriptions that never get filled, you risk hastening the disintermediation of medicine. What do I mean? Online self-diagnosis via improved versions of Doctor Google. 
  • If you want that new pharmacological compounds be developed, you need to move to a prize system rather than patents. Set a prize for "compound that effectively (as defined) treats X (as defined) with no more than Y costs in side effects (as defined)", pay the developer directly on proof of effectiveness. This is probably worth doing anyway as it would at least help some new antibiotics and new vaccines to get developed.
    • Update, thanks to Ryan: Note that in this world, we will need new antibiotics faster than in the current world. And things are looking very bad indeed on that front in the current world. Where chemical printers are ubiquitous and easy, there will be plenty of clowns who decide to jump straight to the compounds that kill the resistant bugs. And then we'll get quicker resistance development. I don't see any easy way to prevent such uses. While I think it's great that people will be able to route around those who make it hard to get E, the same tech will also make it easy to get around the gatekeepers who help to prevent antibiotic resistance.
  • If you want compounds to have gone through at least some safety checks, you need to cut down the costs of going through any approval process. Otherwise, people will just start printing whatever compounds they think might help. That whole deal where dying people have to fight to be allowed to try experimental drugs before they're approved? Well, they'll print their way around that nonsense whether you like it or not.
  • Hey, Peter Dunne. Guess what. I'm gonna print me some pseudoephedrine. I don't want methamphetamine. I want cold medicine that works. First we get the ChemPrinters. Then we get the inks. Then we get the cold relief....
There's still better than even odds that the ban-things countries will be able to make it very hard to have your own ChemPrinter. If they can ban pseudoephedrine because it's a potential precursor to meth, they can ban ChemPrinter ink cartridges. And think of the DHS's reaction when somebody puts up a recipe for printing plastic explosives. 

But I'm hopeful. At worst, we get ink cartridges that can be filled at home, more complicated ChemPrinters, and users buying elements of the periodic table. One chance in four within the next two decades? Even odds within the next three?

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