Eric Crampton

Dr Eric Crampton joined the New Zealand Initiative as Head of Research in August, 2014. He served as Lecturer and Senior Lecturer in Economics at the Department of Economics & Finance at the University of Canterbury from November 2003 until July 2014. The Dismal Science syndicates some of his blog posts from Offsetting Behaviour. Eric is on Twitter @ericcrampton

23 and NZ: Genetic testing results restricted - The Dismal Science

Sep 06, 2016

I knew that genetic testing service 23andMe was having FDA trouble in the US: the FDA restricted 23andMe from providing health advice based on its genetic tests except where the FDA approved the specific tests. As Gizmodo put it, you’re getting less service for more money, but with an FDA seal of approval on those tests you can get. I didn’t know that 23andMe was self-censoring in other jurisdictions absent positive government approval. And New Zealand is consequently a censored regime. Angry at @23andMe – we bought 2 new kits and they no longer show medical information, only genealogy. Avoid. — Lance Wiggs (@lancewiggs) September 4, 2016 @lancewiggs @EricCrampton Quite unfortunate, but the approach now is one of positive clearance of the service by country, and there are many — Alex … Read More

Lincoln-Canterbury merger: What’s in it for Canterbury? - The Dismal Science

Sep 04, 2016

In all the talk about a merger being the potential salvation for Lincoln University, I’ve yet to see anybody explain why Canterbury would want to merge with them. Canterbury merged with the old Christchurch teacher’s college while I was there. That college had a a bit of a commerce faculty; I think some of the folks who had there been employed wound up helping out in Foundation Studies – the remedial ed part of the university. If I recall correctly, nobody was particularly keen on assimilating it into Canterbury’s commerce faculty. Lincoln has a strong agricultural school, but its cash cow had been (at least by reputation) a business school serving, in part, international grad students of a quality bar lower than Canterbury would have admitted. Lincoln’s agricultural school ranks well worldwide; nothing else there does. Canterbury … Read More

Alcohol and mortality, yet again - The Dismal Science

Sep 02, 2016

In a recent Dominion Post editorial Doug Sellman’s right about one thing: alcohol consumption does increase your risk of cancer. But unless your family history of cancer gives you a lot more to worry about than your family history of heart disease, you should be looking at the stats on all-source mortality rather than the stats for any particular disorder. The latest American Journal of Public Health has a pile of articles looking at results from the Nurses’ Heath Study. That study’s followed 120,000 nurses over decades. I’ve previously noted findings from that study showing that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with more successful ageing. In this month’s edition, Mostofsky, Mukamal, et al look over alcohol consumption and a wide range of disorders, along with all-source mortality. The findings (keeping in mind that a standard drink is 10 grams): … Read More

Crowdfunding for feel-good public goods - The Dismal Science

Sep 02, 2016

I endorse much of what Mike Dickison says in the Wanganui Chronicle: ONE way for us to preserve the natural heritage of our country is to put our money where our mouth is and buy it. This is done all the time privately by landowners setting aside parts of their own property as a QEII covenant, protected against future development. The public version of this was the Givealittle campaign to purchase Awaroa Beach for over $2 million and add it to Abel Tasman National Park. Overseas, rainforests in developing countries have been saved by paying locals to not cut it down, or buying them and turning them into reserves. Perhaps, rather than use legislation or treaties to preserve nature, we could harness the free market. I’d caveat the rainforests one with that payment for the preservation should go to … Read More

Tertiary crystal balls - The Dismal Science

Aug 06, 2016

Two weekends ago, I contributed to a panel session run at the Tertiary Education Union’s conference. My notes are copied below, cross-posted from The Sandpit. Interestingly, a few days later, Labour proposed something that sounds close to what I here suggested; I hope that they’re planning on using the available data appropriately. Notes for address to the Tertiary Education Union’s conference, Voices from Tertiary Education, 23 July 2016. Dr Eric Crampton, Head of Research, The New Zealand Initiative Check against delivery. I’d like to thank the TEU for inviting me onto today’s panel. I’m sometimes a token free-market diversity addendum to these kinds of panels, but the TEU has done a great job in having a really diverse set of commenters on our panel’s assigned topic, “A look at the educational needs of society and the … Read More

Moderate drinking linked to cancer risk: NZ study reviewed - The Dismal Science

Jun 28, 2016

University of Otago has come out with another study on cancer risks from moderate drinking. I just can’t get too excited about these. Moderate alcohol consumption reduces your risk of some stuff and increases your risk of other stuff. On net, drinking about a standard drink per day reduces your risk of dying of anything by about 15% relative to baseline. Drinking more than about four standard drinks per day increases your risk of dying relative to baseline. And it’s not like they get that number from adding up all the bad things and netting out the good things: they just look at alcohol consumption and who died, then run the risk curves correcting for as much as they can. So it doesn’t really matter whether cancer turns out to be much worse or less bad than expected. However … Read More

Stoned driving - The Dismal Science

Jun 20, 2016

It’s hard to get a good read on the risks of driving while stoned. It matters because it’s one of the less crazy objections to marijuana legalisation.  If penalising driving while stoned is hard, if it is risky and if consumption increases under legalisation – that could be a cost of legalisation. Existing estimates are a bit of a problem. Studies finding associations can fail to account properly for alcohol use, or for that cannabis in the system does not necessarily indicate recent use. There are blood tests that can more reliably indicate acute intoxication, and saliva tests, but urine tests don’t say much about recent use. Ole Rogeberg and Rune Elvik look back at a couple of meta-studies and tries to make sense of things. They go back and properly account for how different studies measured drug use, … Read More

90 Days - The Dismal Science

Jun 20, 2016

Motu’s had a look at the effects of the 90 day trial legislation. Under that legislation, employers could hire employees on a trial basis and dismiss them relatively easily within that 90 day window. Supporters of it expected it to encourage employment of riskier employees; opponents expected substantial churn: that employers would somehow figure it made sense to hire people for three months, fire, rinse and repeat. The Motu study The Motu study, undertaken by Nathan Chappell and Isabella Sin, two fine Canterbury economics graduates, uses a beautiful little natural experiment. Firms smaller than 20 employees were allowed to use the provision; those over it were not. At least for a time. Afterwards, it extended. But you had a nice little period in which there was a discontinuity at 20 employees. They then looked at hiring data in for firms … Read More

E-cigarettes to tobacco: exploring the relationship between risky activities - The Dismal Science

Jun 16, 2016

Suppose you observed that kids who tried some risky-looking novel activity X were more likely to go on to try some other risky activity Y. Should you conclude that X leads to Y, or that kids who are risk-, sensation-, or novelty-seeking will exhibit that on more than one margin? Cohort selection effects matter: the ones who try X aren’t a random sample from the population. A few years ago, the Dunedin Longitudinal Survey found that early use of marijuana correlated with problems down the track; Ole Rogeberg argued, and further evidence later showed, that that was all selection effects. The kinds of kids who try marijuana early are not the same as other kids and would have different outcomes even if they didn’t use marijuana. E-cigarettes to tobacco Out this week in Pediatrics: a study showing that kids who … Read More

Soda taxes when discount brands exist - The Dismal Science

Jun 15, 2016

Which of the following sounds more like the real world? In world A, you walk down the grocery aisle. You want to buy some soda. You see that the price of your favourite brand of soda has gone up. You decide not to buy any soda and you consequently drink less soda. In world B, you walk down the same aisle with the same intention. On seeing that the price of your favourite brand of soda has gone up, you look around to see if it’s available at a lower price point in cases of cans, or if a different comparable brand is available, or you give the discount brand a second look. Or, you decide to hold off that week because you still have some stored in the cupboard from last time it was on special and you can … Read More