Today’s selection of articles:
- “The age that women have babies: how a gap divides America“, by Quoctrung Bui & Claire Cain Miller (NY Times, 2018-08-04). The data are great, the article’s analysis, not so much. Does the article imply (assert?) that younger pregnancies, compared to older ones, tend to put their children down a path to poverty? If so, the implication (assertion?) seems to fail to control for the (allegedly) relevant confounding factors highlighted throughout the article: parents’ education, politics, and wealth. The article acknowledges that values differ among people, but it seems to value education, career, and independence above all else. While these may be the authors’ values, or yours or mine, they might not be everyone’s.
- “The stock market is shrinking. That’s a problem for everyone.“, by Jeff Sommer (NY Times, 2018-08-04). The U.S. stock market is “shrinking” when measured by the number of listed companies. The profits are also increasingly localizing to the largest companies (by earnings). I disagree with the second sentence of the article’s title. As the article discusses briefly at the end, private companies today are waiting longer to go public. The article cites the difficulty of accurately assessing the finances of private companies as a cause for this delay: This uncertainty about a start-up’s finances, the article alleges, makes it harder for the start-up to obtain funding, thus delaying its growth and IPO. I question this logic, and suspect that the author has it backward: Start-ups have greater access to capital than ever before, in the form of venture capital from wealthy individuals and private equity firms, so start-ups are happy to take the cash infusions and remain private for longer, rather than go public and submit to the scrutiny and command of shareholders. Which position has more credibility might be reasonably assessed, at first blush, by investigating the market value of companies upon IPO, today versus in years past. Should the second hypothesis has merit, that’s the real problem: Wealthy individuals have access to the most lucrative (and risky, yes) investment opportunities, and artificial moats prevent more than 95% of Americans from accessing the same. (As of 2016, approximately 3.5% of Americans were millionaires.) The wealth gap in America is widening. Could it be, in part, that the rules of the financial game are written for precisely this end?
- “Autoplay videos are not going away. Here’s how to fight them.“, by Brian X. Chen (NY Times, 2018-08-01). Well, at least the sound is (mostly) going away. Slowly.
- “Americans are terrible at small talk“, by Maeve Higgins (NY Times, 2018-08-03). I’m not a fan of small talk, but I’m sympathetic to parts of this article.
- “Where boys outperform girls in math: rich, white and suburban districts“, by Claire Cain Miller & Kevin Quealy (NY Times, 2018-06-13). Highly informative graphic. Says Sean Reardon, Professor of Poverty and Inequality in Education, Stanford University,
It could be about some set of expectations, it could be messages kids get early on or it could be how they’re treated in school.