Thursday, July 29, 2010

Econlinks: The search and matching edition

  • John Kennes has put together quite an impressive resource on the 'economics of search and matching' (on which he's giving a full course this Fall, in Aarhus: if you are a master/PhD student active/interested in the area, you really don't want to miss that). I have to admit I see myself several of those internet-accessible search and/or matching (and beyond) materials (e.g., many YouTube lectures) for the first time. Great job, John: hope you'll keep developing that site!

  • I've now read (airtravel is a great means for reducing your pile of must-read research papers) Jean-Marc Robin's paper "On the Dynamics of Unemployment and Wage Distributions", of which I've seen a very stimulating presentation at the EALE/SOLE conference from mid June, in London. I think this is indeed an interesting (if still subject to further empirical validation) alternative, building up from micro- to macro- modelling, to-- this is not entirely correct, but I will try to fit a catch-all term-- 'direct wage stickiness' models advanced over the recent years (and largely embraced since). While wage rigidity remains essentially the main culprit in explaining wage inequality dynamics patterns (varying cyclicality at different cuts in the wage distribution), the underlying mechanism is different than hitherto considered, a combination of worker heterogeneity and aggregate shocks to match productivity delivering both unemployment volatility and different renegotiation process of extreme, as opposed to intermediate, wage levels. Moreover, as Jean-Marc emphasizes in the conclusion of the paper, his benchmark suggests some straightforward, pretty exciting avenues for further research.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

NBER SI & ICA @ Boston

Mid July, terribly hot, Cambridge, serious Econ research: high time for the yearly NBER Summer Institute. Yesterday I attended an interesting second part of the EF&G Research Meeting, where in particular I'd single out Chetty's paper on bounding labour supply elasticities with optimization frictions (succeded by Rogerson's excellent discussion). From tomorrow onwards I'll look forward to the presentations of what a priori appear to be quite exciting papers within the Macro Perspectives Workshop.

If Economics is not your favourite dish and you really refuse to read any of the papers linked above: I've also discovered today a place in Boston to feast your eyes and spirit (every time I discover a few more such places in Cambridge/Boston and surroundings): the Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA). Those of you who enjoy(ed) London's Tate Modern or NY's MoMA will also be very fond of ICA, a smaller scale but equally fascinating place. These days it hosts for instance an exhibition of works by the Mexican artist Dr. Lakra. Several pieces therein are indeed freakishly good.

PS. As you know, New England is one of my top destinations, one chief rationale for that being its culinary delights. Stay tuned to find out -- research comes first, so foodies will have to wait somewhat-- what (else, besides the famous clam chowder) you should in no way miss tasting in Boston, and, crucially, where to do that.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Montreal, SED, and Pulp(o) Fiction

To start with the last item in the title, it wasn't to be for The Netherlands... a third World Cup final wasted. Mais, c'est la vie. However, even though I predicted wrongly the winner in the very last game, I still managed to eventually rank 411th among 497,206 participants worldwide, in the Castrol's FIFA World Cup Predictor Challenge. This simply states that 99,99% of success in such a football prediction competition can be ensured by good use of basic statistics plus priors updating after each game :-). The remaining unexplained part is the sole domain of Octopus (Pulpo) Paul, who can now retire in full glory.

The Society for Economic Dynamics Annual Meeting 2010. The SED Annual Meeting is by far the best conference (NB: this does not include more specialized workshops) I have ever participated in (this being my second time, after the SED 2008 at MIT): the average quality of the papers presented is high, while, crucially, there is no extreme quality variance (as, unfortunately, some European conferences tend to exhibit over and over, though you'd think they've had enough feedback on that by now). Excellent invited talks, some quite inspiring, by Bob Hall, Susan Athey (no slides online, but she surely was-- seems to me she always is-- the best orator), and Ellen McGrattan. Moreover, the organizers did a terrific job, while at the same time keeping conference fees to decent levels (another problem of many European conferences). Last, but not least, if you're interested in my SED presentation, you can download the slides here (the paper is being revised at the moment, so older versions you might find online might be too old).

Briefly on Montréal: definitely a city I could live in (to the extent I've experienced it in my week there), though I still might, slightly, prefer London and Chicago over it (unconditional reasoning, obviously). In particular, the Mile End and Plateau neighborhoods are true gems, with Old Montreal my next favourite. Oh, and I've discovered I can actually manage quite well in Québécois, which is probably the most exciting Franglais around. On the minus side: it is as hot and unbearable in the summer as Chicago right now (and I understand it goes cold extreme in the winter, again just as Chicago).

To get to what I find truly amazing in Montreal (neah, despite some being surprised at this, it is not the fact that most hotels have great open-air swimming pools on their top...), that is its dining scene-- again comparable to the food scenes in Chicago or London, for instance, in both variety and quality. There wasn't a lot of time available, but I could not in any way miss Restaurant Toqué!, which for the connaisseurs I would relate to Spiaggia in Chicago (in terms of food class, locale ambiance, and service), except that it is about half as expensive (hold your horses, that is still very far from cheap; but again, in my opinion, worth every penny). In particular, the way they combined what you might think are elements that simply cannot go together, in my "Cavatelli, morceaux de foie gras et huile de truffe blanche" is something bordering on sublime (preceded by wonderfully fresh-- yes, in Montreal-- oysters). The wine list is also impressive, with plenty of choice for any taste. Wrap it all up with a classy vintage port and you will know you have to come back. Talking about wine however, my favourite place in Montreal has to be Bu; it is precisely the wine bar concept with small, high quality, dishes, to pair with great wines, which I think is missing from most other places, including all of Eastern Europe, all of Scandinavia, and so on and so forth, in fact I yet have to discover such a place in Chicago (the latest such place that amazed me was a nice wine bar with tasty "montaditos" and good Spanish wines on offer, in Sevilla, Spain, where I will have to return as soon as possible). In any case, as my Romanian friends living in Montreal, whom I had the pleasure to meet after many years in that evening at the Bu, will surely testify, a Pierre Gaillard Condrieu (2003 in this case; there are also vintages I like better) is not something you will drink every day (or, every month, year etc., depending on the person), but you will remember its taste for long thereafter; and probably it wouldn't really matter what you pair it with, though my "Ravioli frais de mozarella di bufala, pesto et tomates séchées" seemed a perfect choice. Finally, to keep the list manageable, well worth mentioning is what I'd label the best tapas place in Québec (prove me wrong!), Tapeo Bar à Tapas. While it took me some effort to organize this, we did eventually manage a great dinner for no less than 10 persons (true, starting no sooner than 10 PM, nothing unlike a Spanish tapas time...), and I had the feeling there was eventually nobody left unsatisfied. All dishes were superlative (with perfect service, accomodating extremely demanding foodies....), my weaknesses being the octopus salad (sorry, Paul), and the calamari fritti.

PS. I also promise myself never to follow fellow conference go-ers into random (red) piano bars, where all you have on offer is Heineken, Cheval Blanc, (one) bad Chianti wine(s), and ad-hoc suspect-looking-cocktails, all that plus tone deaf live singing, when you are in a city such as Montreal, and you (ought to!) know that life is too short for conscious failures.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Hup Holland Hup!

With a very pertinent quote from my good old friend Robert, which best summarizes what needs to happen tomorrow (today, if you are on European soil):

Indeed, the defence is crucial, as is violence on the midfield. For the first time in years Holland has a pair of complete bastards in the midfield (De Jong and Van Bommel). They will have to break down the Brazilian attack while Sneijder finds space behind the Brazilian wing backs to launch Robben and Van Persie. Doesn't sound very traditional Dutch, right? But it will be the game plan tomorrow. Believe it or not, some people here are actually calling for an old fashion German style approach, which is causing some distress among the total football purists. Lets hope for the best.

Oh yeah, and the reason I have not posted for so long is that (as you obviously imagined...) I am very busy-- inter alia, have very impatient co-authors (they do have a point, though, and I have always liked challenges, hence all for the best this far)--, and have recently returned to Chicago from very interesting conferences in London (EALE-SOLE 2010; great organization by the UCL team of Richard, Steve & co) and in Skagen (Danish Microeconometric Network; admirably organized by Lars and Marianne). Following soon is SED at Montreal, with the greatest expectations. If I find the time, you'll read detailed criticisms and praises at some point.