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

Not-so-sweet advice - The Dismal Science

Sep 14, 2018

Imagine that you were the Chief Science Adviser for a Ministry. You need to produce a short briefing note to the new government for some issue in your Ministry’s remit. Your Ministry had, just a couple weeks earlier, released a comprehensive report on the topic that your Ministry had commissioned from a top economics consultancy. Your Ministry had had the report since August, but had only just released it. What the hell must be going through your head if your briefing note to the Prime Minister via the office of the government’s Chief Science Adviser presents the opposite conclusion to the commissioned study and doesn’t even mention that the commissioned study exists?! So Peter Gluckman was on Radio New Zealand a while back. He talked about mounting evidence for sugar taxes. I’d heard him on the radio and wondered what … Read More

Vacancy rates - The Dismal Science

Sep 03, 2018

Sitting at my desk in Wellington, it’s easier for me to tell you the housing rental market vacancy rate for any city in Canada than it is for me to tell you the rental market vacancy rate anywhere in New Zealand, Wellington included. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC – a government outfit) has stats on the vacancy rate in every metropolitan region from 1992 through 2016. I don’t know if they’ve stopped producing the series – the last update was March 2017. In New Zealand, the best I’m aware of is disjointed stats from the different real estate companies about vacancy rates for the properties they handle. Why does it matter to know? In Canada’s stats, we can see that the 2016 vacancy rate in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan was 10.3% while it was less than 1% in every … Read More

Non-serious students, one serious problem - The Dismal Science

Aug 29, 2018

John Gerritsen at RNZ picks up last week’s NBER study on how the PISA rankings would change were students to take the test more seriously and rounds up some local reaction: Michael Johnston, senior lecturer in education at Victoria University, said the study’s assumption that New Zealand students were not trying hard enough if they left questions unanswered might not be correct. Dr Johnston said it might be a by-product of the NCEA assessment system. “In NCEA students can opt out of certain standards and certain aspects of assessment and still get credits for what they do, whereas in most other countries that’s not true,” he said. “So if our students are used to that way of thinking about assessment then perhaps that’s why they show up as being more likely to be what the researchers call non-serious.” … Read More

Low stakes PISA - The Dismal Science

Aug 24, 2018

New Zealand’s low PISA rank seems, in part, due to Kiwi students not taking the test very seriously. Akyol, Krishna and Wang develop a measure checking whether a student is taking the PISA test seriously (leaving questions blank while having time left, for example), and see whether it affects country rankings compared to simulations where children take the test seriously. [HT: Marginal Revolution]. New Zealand’s PISA rank is 17th for the year they’re checking. In a simulated world in which students in every country took PISA seriously, New Zealand’s ranking would rise to 13th. If New Zealand students stayed as they are but all other countries moved to take PISA seriously, we’d fall to 26th in the simulations. And if only New Zealand moved to have all students take PISA seriously, we’d rise to 10th. The change for … Read More

A simple landfill calculation - The Dismal Science

Aug 21, 2018

That this one comes up so often speaks poorly of our basic numeracy and sense of scale. There’s basically no chance that landfills expand to take up any substantial part of the country. This is the kind of back-of-the-envelope thing that everybody should be able to do in their head. Kate Valley services Christchurch. It has 1000 hectares total, only a tiny part (37 hectares) of which is actual landfill – the rest is forest buffer and the like. But let’s call it 1000 hectares. It has a 35 year life expectancy. The Christchurch area is about half a million people. Let’s keep all the numbers round to make life easier – we’re looking for order of magnitude stuff here really. If Kate Valley can handle 500,000 people’s trash in a 1000 hectares for 35 years, then it … Read More

Bag Ban: read the appendix - The Dismal Science

Aug 13, 2018

The Ministry for the Environment’s consultation document on banning plastic bags is out. The key table, or at least the most interesting table, is in the appendix. It shows, from a Danish study, the number of times a reusable shopping bag would have to be reused to have less environmental impact than current disposable bags. Source: Ministry for the Environment. 2018. Proposed mandatory phase out of single-use plastic shopping bags: Consultation document.  The consultation document provides no cost-benefit assessment, but Question 8 asks those making submissions to assess whether the benefits might outweigh the costs. I can only speak for our own household, but I doubt we’re that we’re that atypical. We have a few reusable bags at home. The ones we have get reused a lot, because we use them on planned trips to the store. But most … Read More

Alcohol in pregnancy stats - The Dismal Science

Aug 01, 2018

Radio New Zealand reports on a new iteration of the Growing Up in New Zealand study looking at maternal alcohol use during pregnancy. I have been unable to find the cited study, so we’ll go with RNZ’s reporting for now: The lead researcher of a new study that has found nearly a quarter of women drink alcohol during the first three months of pregnancy says the findings prove more needs to be done. The findings were part of the Growing Up in New Zealand study following nearly 7000 children from birth until they are aged 21. The study found while 71 percent of women drank alcohol before becoming pregnant, 23 percent continued through the first trimester and 13 percent continued to drink further into pregnancy. It concluded drinking was common in New Zealand women, particularly among Pākehā and Māori, … Read More

Tobacco harm reduction - The Dismal Science

Jul 24, 2018

It’s great that the Ministry of Health’s latest Health and Independence Report points to the benefits of vaping. But there’s still work to do here.  The report notes that smoking is most prevalent in poorer communities and that while smoking rates have been declining, there’s no way that current trends get the government to its preferred <5% smoking rates by 2025. And the report points to how e-cigarettes might help: E-cigarettes: an option to help smokers to quit Although the best thing smokers can do for their health is to quit smoking completely, the Ministry of Health considers that e-cigarettes have the potential to contribute to the Smokefree 2025 goal and could disrupt the significant inequities that are present. How much e-cigarettes can help improve public health depends on the extent to which they are a route out of … Read More

Alcohol harms and the NZ reforms - The Dismal Science

Jun 12, 2018

Man, I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up. The Science Media Centre pointed me to reporting on some new work look at what’s happened consequent to National’s Sale & Supply of Alcohol Act 2012. It always felt like a spot where some really good work could be done. Different locales implemented different district licensing plans at different times, so you could run a panel study looking at how different measures worked in different places. But that isn’t what this is. And what it is… well, let’s go through it. So the Science Media Centre points to this Newsroom piece by Farah Hancock. It doesn’t start well. Alcohol industry appeals have “muted” potential benefits of legislation aimed at reducing the estimated $14.5 million a day cost of alcohol harm, a new study finds. Massey University research shows the only … Read More

Regulatory Catch-22? - The Dismal Science

May 25, 2018

Last month’s court decision, and subsequent MoH position statement, mean that heat-not-burn tobacco products are legal to sell in New Zealand.  But the MoH position statement said that other tobacco control regulations will apply to reduced-risk tobacco and tobacco-derived products, barring the ban on indoor use in workplaces. Therefore, the same SFEA regulatory controls apply to smoked tobacco, heated tobacco and vaping products that are manufactured from tobacco. This includes the ban on sales to minors and restrictions on advertising. The ban on smoking in indoor workplaces, early childhood centres and schools only applies to smoking. It does not apply to vaping or products that are not smoked, such as heated tobacco products. Individual employers and business owners decide whether or not to include vaping in their smokefree policies. This could be reasonably read as meaning that MoH intends … Read More