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August 05, 2006

Comments

Of course, since Ivy admission is zero sum, might it in fact be better for society if the rent-seeking of Ivy admission is only as extreme as today, rather than as extreme as it would be if people knew the truth?

That Forbes report about the greater longevity of Oscar-winning directors is amusing, but the sample set is obviously small, and I suspect there's no statistical significance.

So by sending your kids to a state school, maybe you aren't just ruining their career prospects, you're actually condemning them to an earlier death.

LOL. No pressure.

Those "studies" are terrible.

The "Oscar Winners Live Longer" doesn't correct for selection bias.

Consider two directors who had similar career trajectories, and each would win the Oscar at their 65th birthday. One dies at age 60, the other at age 70. The one who lives longer will win an oscar, creating the correlation suggested here. It's not causal though.

The more recent study has a serious endogeneity problem. It's been argued that health causes social status. Switching the dependent and independent variables doesn't constitute a new finding.

Software that runs regressions does not a statistician make.

One thing about Oscars and life expectancy has been proven. If you win a "lifetime achievement" Oscar, you shouldn't bother buying any unripe tomatoes, if you catch my drift.

Thanks, HS! Next time my dad pisses me off, I'm mailing this to him.

Note, though, that the article says that Oscar-winning *writers* live almost four years *less* than those only nominated, possibly because the (assumed) financial security allows them to indulge their unhealthy lifestyles.

Most of the same studies showing class correlates with longevity show that less unequal countries have less variance in longevity. (We're talking Eurocommies, not Burma)

"Most of the same studies showing class correlates with longevity show that less unequal countries have less variance in longevity."

Yes, Ive seen many studies like this, saying that inequality itself reduces longevity for lower classes (regardless of the income level of the country). Its a strange finding indeed, unless you rationalize it by saying that lower income people are stressed out at falling behind. But, surely, you could argue that upper incomes have (by construction) led more stressful lives too perhaps, so it remains rather strange; which makes me think theres something else going on.

"Being successful seems to have a mysterious beneficial effect on the human body."

Oh, it's been well-described. Stress weakens your immune system, and having your employer rub your nose in your lowly status every day while living in an overcrowded home and having to commute hours to work is one hell of a stressor.

I do find it odd that higher-status people would feel more stressed in a more unequal society; it must be fun to kick the proles around. Perhaps the high degree of competition and insecurity plays a role; you wouldn't have seen this sort of thing in the Middle Ages, I suppose, although there social classes were getting different levels of nutrition and exposure to bubonic plague.


It seems likely that in unequal societies the competition to remain on top is much harsher and the potential fall much more painful. The downside of that may be greater than the fun that some may get from being farther on top.
Also, being around sick people would mean more exposure to germs.
Also, if social mobility is high, even high status people may have had low status youths with consequent damage.
Another thought. In a more winner-take-all society there may be less general benevolence between members of the society. This might be reflected in more violent crime or more carelessness such as careless driving, bad engineering, or especially bad medical care. When doctors become doctors out of a desire to maximize their incomes rather than in response to a "calling" this is surely bad for everyone, quite possibly VERY bad. Empirically, although individual medical treatments may be tested double blind and supported by strong evidence, the aggregate life expectancy benefit of all medicine as actually practiced is, on or anywhere near the margin, zero.
I recommend reading Robin Hanson's papers "He who would pay the piper must know the tune" and "do we buy medicine to show that we care"

"When doctors become doctors out of a desire to maximize their incomes rather than in response to a "calling" this is surely bad for everyone, quite possibly VERY bad. Empirically, although individual medical treatments may be tested double blind and supported by strong evidence, the aggregate life expectancy benefit of all medicine as actually practiced is, on or anywhere near the margin, zero."

The problem is less with modern medicine itself than its focus on treatment instead of prevention, particularly here in America where you get paid a lot for every cardiac catheterization. Focusing on prevention means doctors lose money, so it tends to get less attention.

Technically, if marginal life expectancy for each new bit of medical care is zero, wouldn't that mean we're giving just the right amount? (This is from the econ examples where you assume returns are a downward-facing parabola and the local maximum is the global one. I can think of mathematical examples where this isn't true, and probably quite a few in real life as well)

SFG,
No. If you valued life expectancy over all other things, you would spend on health until marginal returns are zero, and only then would you spend on other things. This is obviously not what's going on. Also, michael vassar claims it's not just true on the margin, but "anywhere near the margin." That's pure waste, unless the purpose is to show allegience to your family or to doctors.

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