Philosophical Intuitions and Demographic Differences

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 02/12/2019 - 8:23pm in

Philosophers are disagreeing over what lessons should be learned from the growing body of work on the interplay between demographics and philosophical intuitions.

Jarke van Wijk – Myriahedral Polyconic Projection Map

In a recent article in Epistemology & Philosophy of Science, Joshua Knobe (Yale) argues that philosophical intuitions are “robust across demographic differences”:

Work in experimental philosophy is often concerned with intuitions about seemingly abstruse issues, such as the nature of the true self or whether the universe is governed by deterministic laws. There was every reason to expect that such intuitions would differ radically between demographic groups. Yet actual research on the topic has yielded a surprising result. Again and again, studies find that effects observed within one demographic group can also be found in a variety of others.

He acknowledges that some differences of philosophical intuitions have been shown across different demographic groups, but then goes over some of the studies to show “the shocking degree to which demographic factors do not impact people’s philosophical intuitions.”

Edouard Machery (Pittsburgh) and Stephen Stich (Rutgers), who are co-principal investigators (with H. Clark Barrett of UCLA) of the Geography of Philosophy Project, have written a reply to Professor Knobe. They argue, among other things, that his conclusion is based on a selective sample of the existing literature, and that a look at more studies shows that the main lesson of them is that there is significant variation in philosophical intuitions across different demographic groups.

What follows are brief presentations of their views by the principals in this dispute. First, we hear from Professors Machery and Stich:

What if philosophical intuitions (however those are characterized) depend on who you are? if men and women tend to have different moral intuitions? if people in East Asia assign free will and responsibility differently from anyone else in the world? if Americans and East Asians have robustly different semantic intuitions? if epistemic intuitions vary systematically between philosophers and non-philosophers?  if people with different personality traits have different intuitions about who has free will?

For more than fifteen years experimental philosophers have examined these possibilities empirically, and have argued that if actual such differences would have dramatic implications for the practice of philosophy (see, e.g., Machery’s Philosophy Within Its Proper Bounds).

But not all experimental philosophers agree about the extent to which philosophical intuitions vary across demographic groups. In “Philosophical Intuitions Are Surprisingly Robust Across Demographic Differences” Joshua Knobe has argued that there is surprisingly little variation in philosophical intuitions across demographic groups. He goes on to suggest that many of these philosophical intuitions may be innate.

We disagree vigorously! In our opinion, there is already substantial, if still incomplete, evidence that philosophical intuitions vary across demographic groups. In our response, we identify 90 studies, with more than 75,000 participants, reporting demographic differences in philosophical intuitions!

In our current project, the Geography of Philosophy, we are also investigating the existence of deep, systematic differences in intuitions about knowledge, understanding, and wisdom all over the world, in both industrialized and small-scale societies.

More important, we believe that it would be a disaster if Knobe’s well-justified reputation as the leading experimental philosopher convinced philosophers, psychologists, and anthropologists that OUR intuitions (i.e., the intuitions of educated, white, wealthy, western people) are human intuitions. 

Our full response can be found here, and the list of studies it’s based on here.

Here is Professor Knobe’s reply:

I am grateful to Machery and Stich for their very helpful paper—definitely an extremely valuable contribution to the literature on this topic—and I’m delighted to have an opportunity to continue the conversation here.  

The basic form of the claim I am defending is not that experimental philosophy has failed to find evidence of something (e.g., that it has failed to find evidence of differences between demographic groups). Rather, the claim is that experimental philosophy successfully has found evidence for something genuinely striking and important. It has found evidence that philosophical intuitions are surprisingly robust across demographic groups. 

My defense of this claim consists of two parts.

First, I review the evidence for robustness. In studies on Western adults, experimental philosophy research has uncovered various intricate, quirky and highly unexpected patterns in people’s intuitions. Experimental philosophers have then asked whether those same patterns also arise in people from other cultures and in very young children. Again and again, the answer has turned out to be yes. The very same patterns that experimental philosophy research has uncovered in Western adults also emerge in these other populations. This is an extremely surprising result, which clearly cries out for explanation.

Second, I look at the studies Machery and Stich cite as evidence of differences in philosophical intuition between demographic groups. Many of these studies are not concerned with demographic differences in the usual sense (culture, age, gender, etc.) but rather with individual differences in personality or cognitive style. Machery and Stich are completely right to say that philosophical intuition are affected by these other individual differences, but I had never meant to call that claim into question. Other studies do in fact show statistically significant differences in intuition between participants from different cultures. These are exactly the right studies to be considering, and I am grateful to Machery and Stich for drawing attention to them. I argue that a closer examination of those studies reveals that, despite the statistically significant differences, those very studies actually provide evidence of an extremely surprising degree robustness across cultures.

At this point, there is really a lot of evidence for robustness. Readers may disagree with some of the claims I make in this paper, but clearly, we are now very far past the point where it could make sense just to ignore the evidence of robustness and focus only on evidence of difference.

My paper is here. Looking forward to continuing the discussion!

Thanks to Professors Knobe, Machery, and Stich for their remarks.

Discussion welcome.

The post Philosophical Intuitions and Demographic Differences appeared first on Daily Nous.

Ten things to know about the 2019-20 Alberta budget

I’ve just written a ‘top 10’ overview of the recent Alberta budget. Points raised in the post include the following:

-The budget lays out a four-year strategy of spending cuts, letting population growth and inflation do much of the heavy lifting.

-After one accounts for both population growth and inflation, annual provincial spending in Alberta by 2022 is projected to be 16.2% lower than it was last year.

-Alberta remains Canada’s lowest-taxed province. It also remains the only province without a provincial sales tax.

The full blog post can be read here.

Ten things to know about the 2019-20 Alberta budget

I’ve just written a ‘top 10’ overview of the recent Alberta budget. Points raised in the post include the following:

-The budget lays out a four-year strategy of spending cuts, letting population growth and inflation do much of the heavy lifting.

-After one accounts for both population growth and inflation, annual provincial spending in Alberta by 2022 is projected to be 16.2% lower than it was last year.

-Alberta remains Canada’s lowest-taxed province. It also remains the only province without a provincial sales tax.

The full blog post can be read here.

Generation X Faces a Bleak, Impoverished Old Age

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 22/10/2019 - 4:03am in

Image result for old man dumpster

            In 1991 the demographers Neil Howe and William Strauss published their awkwardly-titled tome “13th Gen,” about Generation X—the Americans born between 1961 and 1981. If Xers had paid attention they would have committed suicide.

            “Child poverty, employment, wages, home ownership, arrest records — in every category, this generation, the 13th since the American Revolution, is doing worse than the generation that came before,” New York Times book critic Andrew Leonard wrote at the time. “Indeed, for the first time since the Civil War, the authors of ‘13th Gen’ keep reminding us, young people are unlikely to surpass the affluence of their parents.”

            Tellingly, the Times titled Leonard’s review “The Boomers’ Babies” as though their relationship to The Only Generation That Mattered at the time was their status as offspring. Which, equally tellingly, was incorrect. Most Xers’ parents belong to the Silent Generation that came of age in the 1940s and 1950s, not the Boom.

            As Gen Xers passed through each stage of life, Mssrs. Howe and Strauss predicted, they would find themselves living through the worst possible time to be whatever age they happened to be. They attended secondary schools turned threadbare by budget cuts. As they entered young adulthood the government restored draft registration and abolished financial aid grants for college. When “13th Gen”came out the oldest Xers were in their late 20s, in the middle of a deep recession that decimated their job prospects and made it impossible for them to pay off their student loans or save for retirement.

            The trend continued. The oldest Xers are in their late 50s but 47% have nothing saved for retirement; only 13% have more than $100,000.

            Though frequently mocked by corporate journalists, Howe and Strauss have proven prescient, not least because they coined the word “Millennials.” If anything, demographic fate has become even unkinder to Gen X, now ages 36 to 56. Under “normal” circumstances, these Americans would be dominating businesses and cultural institutions.

            Instead, political power and cultural influence have neatly leapfrogged from the ubiquitous Baby Boomers to their actual children, the Millennials.

            Silicon Valley is one barometer. Tech is the nation’s most dynamic sector. The Valley wields influence disproportionate to its quarter of a million employees. Tech is militantly, brutally, cartoon-villainously ageist. People over 35–the “olds,” Millennials call us—need not apply.

            Five years ago, I wrote: “The median American worker is age 42. The median age at Facebook, Google, AOL and Zynga, on the other hand, is 30 or younger. Twitter, which recently got hosed in an age discrimination lawsuit, has a median age of 28.” Silicon Valley hasn’t done anything to reverse this dismal record.

            Google just settled another age discrimination lawsuit. But they haven’t learned anything.

            Brazen ageism sticks out even more in a PC culture where discrimination against women, ethnic minorities, LGBTQA people and others prompts horror, as it should. Young people who don’t tolerate ethnic slurs call older folks slow, out-of-touch and stupid—remarks all the more baseless since they increasingly segregate themselves into dorm-like apartment complexes and hipster bars where they don’t encounter anyone older than 40.

            “Google in 2014 began publishing diversity statistics and vowed to hire more women, minorities, and LGBTQ workers. But Google didn’t include diversity statistics for age in its diversity report, or even reference age. Incredibly, age remains invisible in Google’s 2019 diversity report,” marvels employment discrimination attorney Patricia Barnes.  

            Meanwhile, coverage of generational issues in mainstream media has deteriorated beyond the Howe-Strauss model of consistent discrimination to downright Orwellian: being “disappeared.” In articles and broadcasts conflicts between age groups lists the combatants as Boomers versus Millennials, or more broadly, between Boomers and Millennials and the generation after, Generation Z. Generation Xers aren’t mentioned. They—we—no longer exist. Which, considering why Gen Z is called that—first came X, Millennials were Y, then Z—is really weird.

            True to “13th Gen” the book, America’s invisible generation is heading into its final chapter, old age, at yet another awful time to be that age.

            The Boomers will shuffle off into the sunset, Social Security and Medicare benefits intact. Gen Xers stare into the abyss, bleakly contemplating starvation and dying of diseases for which they can’t afford medical treatment as the political system moves closer to granting corporate conservatives one of the dearest items on their agenda: abolishing or privatizing—which, if you’re poor, is jargon for eliminating—Social Security.

            “Out With the Old, In With the Young,” an opinion essay by 40-year-old Gen Astra Taylor in the New York Times, provides a glimpse at how the ruling classes plan to take away government entitlement programs from Generation X: by disempowering them politically.

            Taylor makes some good points. “From age limits on voting and eligibility for office, to the way House districts are drawn, to the problem of money in politics, our modern political system is stacked against the young,” she writes. Unlike adults, teenagers are forced to learn about the politics and history in school. They should be allowed to vote. Why should someone be able to drive, vote and join the military at age 18 but have to be 30 or older to serve in the Senate?

            But Taylor’s piece is riddled with ageist assumptions such as the notion that younger people care more about climate change than older ones. She promulgates the disappearing of Generation X: “The boomers who came of age in the 1950s and ’60s benefited from boom times while Millennials and Generation Z have been dogged by the aftermath of the mortgage meltdown, an underwhelming recovery and Gilded Age levels of inequality.” “Generation X” does not appear in her piece—yet we’re the post-Boomers who got screwed first.

            “Age-based inequities “and “the geographic biases of the American electoral system,” Taylor complains, hasten “the coming gerontocracy.” What she fails to see is that the gerontocracy is already here. The “olds” control power over big business and its pet politicians now—not because they’re elderly but because they’re Boomers.

            The fortunes of an age group ebb and flow as different generations pass through it. When I was a kid in the 1970s, many older people were so poor they ate pet food. Now they are Boomers. Boomers are many, so they have power, thus they are rich. As throughout human history, the rich and powerful make things work for themselves.

            The corollary is, Taylor doesn’t understand that as Boomers die and Xers replace them in nursing homes—or not, since they won’t be able to afford them—the elderly will become a dispossessed, disadvantaged, consistently screwed-over age group, just as Xers were as kids, young adults and during middle age. Taylor and her Millennial allies will be killing a gerontocracy that will already be dead.

            As Millennials ascend and age into their 40s, they’ll join the call to get rid of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid so they can save on their taxes. Propaganda like Taylor’s will support the movement to disenfranchise the elderly.

            Used to be, the olds voted in vast numbers to protect their political interests. Xers will be wandering the streets, dumpster-diving and dying a dog’s death, with no address to enter on a voter registration card.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

Women and the “Philosophical Personality” (guest post by Christina Easton)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/10/2019 - 11:37pm in

“Research suggests that there is a cognitive task on which philosophers tend to perform better than non-philosophers and men tend to perform better than women.” Does this explain the gender gap in philosophy?

In the following guest post*Christina Easton, a philosophy Ph.D. student at the London School of Economics and Political Science, takes up this question.

Sarah Morris, “Science and Technology”

Women and the “Philosophical Personality”
by Christina Easton

Research suggests that there is a cognitive task on which philosophers tend to perform better than non-philosophers and men tend to perform better than women. In my open access article (forthcoming in Synthese), I discuss what we should make of this. Could the factors underlying the gender gap on this cognitive task partially explain the Philosophy gender gap, and if so, what are the implications for the discipline?

The Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT), proposed by Shane Frederick in 2005, consists of 3 questions that invite an intuitive, wrong answer. Answering the questions correctly is said to indicate a disposition to overcome impulsive, intuitive thought with effortful, rational reflection. Performance on the CRT has been linked with the dual-process model of decision making. ‘System 1’ operates quickly and automatically, giving us the immediate, wrong answers to the CRT questions. ‘System 2’ involves slower, more deliberate and effortful thinking; it ‘supervises’ the thoughts and actions being ‘suggested’ by System 1. Thus, if System 2 is activated in response to a CRT question, it can override System 1 to give the right answer. According to Daniel Kahneman, performing poorly on the CRT indicates a “lazy” System 2 that relies on System 1 to do the work.

Since careful, rational reflection is what philosophers do as a day job, you would expect philosophers to do well on this test—and you’d be right. In a study involving 4472 participants, Livengood et al. (2010) found a positive correlation between CRT score and philosophical training. The authors suggest that the CRT tracks “an important facet of philosophical personality”; “philosophers are less likely to blindly accept their intuitions and more likely to submit those intuitions to scrutiny”.

More surprisingly—and awkwardly—it has been consistently found that women tend to do worse than men on this test. A 2016 study was typical in finding that women are more likely to answer all three questions incorrectly and that the average CRT score of men is significantly higher than women (1.12 vs. 0.58). Frederick suggests that the test maps “something that men have more of” and concludes that “men are more likely to reflect on their answers and less inclined to go with their intuitive responses”.

So, the research appears to be telling us two things: Women tend to perform worse on the CRT than men, and philosophers tend to perform better than non-philosophers. Confronted with a further fact—that there is a significant gender imbalance in Philosophy—a natural (perhaps ‘intuitive’!) conclusion might present itself: Perhaps women are less likely to possess the aspect of the ideal philosophical personality tracked by the CRT, and this contributes to the gender imbalance in Philosophy. Call this the ‘Quick Conclusion’.

Though unpalatable, the Quick Conclusion would help explain why Philosophy is less gender-balanced than most disciplines. It fits with the Livengood et al. finding that the opposite pattern can be found in Psychology (a field where women are significantly over-represented): those with more psychological training tend to exhibit lower CRT scores. A defender of the Quick Conclusion might hypothesize that whilst women trickled into Psychology as the negative effects of discrimination were gradually overcome, a matching trend did not happen in Philosophy because additional obstacles remained present. It also fits with the emphasis in Philosophy on careful use and scrutiny of intuitions. Perhaps we might see the practice of Philosophy as a kind of ‘hyper-exercise’ of System 2, in order to scrutinize, justify and in some cases, override the intuitions provided by System 1. In that case, if women are more inclined to go with their intuitions than employ System 2 processes, then perhaps this amounts to being less inclined to philosophical thinking.

Whether this is right has important implications. It’s become pretty much accepted that it is right to engage in actions aimed at re-balancing Philosophy. The Quick Conclusion might be seen to imply that this is at best misguided, and at worst, unjust.

I think that is false. In my paper, I discuss four reasons to question the Quick Conclusion:

Does the CRT track what it is claimed to track?

Firstly, we can ask whether the CRT tracks what it is claimed it tracks. Researchers talk about the CRT as measuring a kind of rationality—‘reflectivity’—a trait that seems key to the ideal philosophical personality. But there is good reason to think the CRT might measure other traits instead, such as mathematical abilities or confidence. Take confidence, for example. A 2016 study found that when controlling for different levels of ‘maths confidence’, gender differences on the CRT disappear. The researchers conclude that “men perform better on the CRT because they are more confident in their quantitative abilities”.

This fits with the wider picture given by research on confidence, which suggests that women tend to have lower levels of self-confidence than men. Confidence helps in Philosophy: exude conviction as you argue for your conclusion and ‘bat away’ your opponents, and you’re more likely to convince people. (Check out the posts by Weinberg and Larvor on this subject.) Perhaps women’s poorer performance on the CRT tracks their high anxiety and low confidence, and these traits affect their levels of participation in Philosophy?

Is the trait tracked by the CRT something we should value in philosophers?

Whatever the CRT tracks, this is something that women tend to have less of than men and philosophers tend to have in abundance. So, we can raise a second question asking why we should think that the CRT tracks something that we should value in philosophers. The Livengood study measured who philosophers are, not who they should be. The fact that some norm exists amongst philosophers does not, in itself, tell us that this trait is an asset to philosophizing. Imagine that there was evidence suggesting that philosophers are more likely to exhibit social awkwardness than non-philosophers (hard, I know!). It would be wrong to conclude from this that social awkwardness is part of the ideal philosophical personality! This trait is irrelevant (or even detrimental) to good philosophizing.

However, we probably shouldn’t press too hard with the idea that there is nothing of value in what is tested by the CRT: the person who does badly in the CRT gets the wrong answers, and philosophers are after right answers!

How important is this trait to good philosophizing?

So, as a third response, we might concede that the CRT tracks something of value, but argue that it is only one small part of the skills that contribute to good philosophizing. Imagine a test used to assess physical fitness for the military that has press-ups as the key element. Since women tend to have lower levels of arm strength than men, they might find it harder to pass this test. But it would be wrong to conclude that the women who fail this test are ‘physically unfit’, for arm strength is just one small part of physical fitness. In the same way, we might allow that the CRT tracks one aspect of rationality that women tend to have less of, but without drawing any conclusions about overall levels of rationality. Given the precise nature of the CRT questions, set against the range of virtues and skills that we might plausibly postulate as part of the ideal philosophical personality, we probably need not hang too much on whatever the CRT tracks.

How should we understand the causal story?

Lastly, even if we were to accept that women tend to lack some trait that is important for good philosophizing, this doesn’t mean we should shrug our shoulders and accept that there’s a natural imbalance in Philosophy that will always be present. Other factors will also contribute—perhaps sexist hiring practices, or negative stereotypes—leading to the ‘perfect storm’ that is the large gender imbalance. And it seems likely that if we altered some of these other factors, this would affect the CRT factor too.

Take as an example a stereotype designating women as ‘intuitive and illogical’. This stereotype might make women less likely to imagine themselves as philosophers, directly contributing to women leaving the discipline. But the stereotype might also contribute by a more indirect route. It might, for example, have the effect that adults are less likely to give girls toys that develop logic, with the consequence that girls have fewer opportunities to develop skills at whatever the CRT tracks.

If this were the case, women’s poorer performance on the CRT is indicative not of an innate difference in aptitude, but of contingent structural norms and cultural practices that would lessen or disappear in a fairer, more equal society. This suggests far more wide-reaching action is needed than simply making changes within the discipline of Philosophy. It points to the need for continued action to rectify entrenched structural injustices.

I conclude that the factor(s) underlying the gender gap in the CRT might have some explanatory power for the gender gap in Philosophy—but that will be one part of a bigger story. Importantly, even if the Quick Conclusion were true, it wouldn’t exonerate Philosophy departments of the need to put in place much-needed strategies for promoting gender diversity. Rather, we should continue to look at what obstacles are present to women’s participation in Philosophy. Even simple interventions, such as giving more explicit encouragement to undergraduates or emphasizing the importance of effort rather than ‘brilliance’, might partially stem the flow out of Philosophy’s leaky pipeline.

Related: “In Philosophy Departments, More Women Faculty Means More Women Students Earning PhDs“; “Visualization of Gender Distribution in Philosophy Research Topics“; “What Proportion of Philosophy Majors Are Women?“; “Why Women Choose To Continue Studying Philosophy — Or Not“; “Are Women Philosophers Underrepresented in Top Ethics Journals?“; “Women in Philosophy Journals: New Data“; “Why Do Undergraduate Women Stop Studying Philosophy?“; “Is Philosophy Too “Stupid” For Women?“; “Women in Philosophy: A Case for Optimism

The post Women and the “Philosophical Personality” (guest post by Christina Easton) appeared first on Daily Nous.

What does population ageing mean for net foreign asset positions?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/10/2019 - 7:00pm in

Noëmie Lisack, Rana Sajedi and Gregory Thwaites

How sound is the argument that current account balances are driven by demographics? Our multi-country lifecycle model explains 20% of the variation in observed net foreign asset positions among advanced economies through differences in population age structure. These positions should expand further as countries continue to age at varying speeds.

Persistent current account surpluses and deficits have made the headlines over the past few years. While many have highlighted the role of policy actions that can potentially lead to imbalances, structural characteristics can also explain large external positions in line with countries’ fundamentals. One such characteristic is the population age structure and its evolution. For instance, Germany mentions its relatively faster ageing population as a potential explanation for its large surplus. In 2018, the IMF revamped, among other things, the way that demographics are taken into account in its External Balance Assessment framework.

Is the link between demographics and a country’s external balance theoretically sound? How quantitatively important is this mechanism for explaining observed current accounts, and the resulting accumulation of net foreign asset (NFA) positions, in advanced economies?

Asymmetric ageing across countries

In a previous blog post, we described the effects of ageing in advanced economies highlighting that, as populations get older, wealth and capital increase and hence interest rates decline. This demographic trend is common to all advanced economies, but different countries are ageing at different speeds. While the old-age dependency ratio – the ratio of over 65 year-olds to 20-64 year-olds – is projected to rise above 60% on aggregate, this number reaches 75% in Japan, against 55% in the US, by 2100 (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Old-age dependency ratios across advanced economies

Source: UN Population Statistics (projections based on median-fertility scenario).

Theoretical implications for capital flows

How do these differences affect the current accounts of these open economies? Assuming no frictions in capital flows, one global interest rate would prevail ensuring that household wealth equals capital in the global aggregate economy. However, that will not necessarily imply that country-level domestic wealth and capital are equal. Capital flows can take place if a country’s domestic wealth differs from its capital stock. Put differently, the global interest rate determines the financing cost for firms and hence the capital that they demand; whether all this capital is supplied domestically will depend on the ageing of domestic households relative to the aggregate.

Concretely, consider the US, which is ageing more slowly than the average. Since ageing is putting less upward pressure on domestic US savings, the global real interest rate is below the interest rate that would hypothetically arise were the US a closed economy, all else equal. Hence, at the global interest rate, US household wealth is below US firms’ desired capital level. This leads to capital inflows into the US, as foreign households supply capital to US firms, and hence to a negative NFA position for the US. The opposite is true for a country ageing faster than the average, such as Japan or Germany, which would experience capital outflows leading to a positive NFA position.

From ageing asymmetries to external positions

To quantify this effect, in our working paper, we develop a multi-country overlapping-generations model, solved separately for each country. All countries are considered symmetric, except for differences in their population age structure over time. Firms and households in each country take the global interest rate path as given to decide how much capital to use and how much to save, respectively. This setup gives us a model-implied NFA position over time for each advanced economy, which is driven only by demographic differences.

Comparing the 2015 model-implied NFA/GDP ratio to the data gives a broad idea of the relevance of demographics for external positions. The variation in model-implied NFA positions across advanced economies captures around 20% of the variation observed in the data (Figure 2). Demographic differences thus play a significant role in determining NFA positions, though naturally there are other important factors as well. The model clearly does not capture the large liabilities of Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain, which in 2015 were driven by cyclical and fiscal factors, nor the large assets of Norway, driven by their position as an oil exporter. The fitted line is also slightly shallower than the 45-degree line, showing that the model tends to imply larger NFA positions than in the data, reflecting the existence of capital flow frictions in the real world that are not captured in the model.

Figure 2: Model-implied vs. observed net foreign assets (%GDP)

Note: NFA is Net Foreign Assets, grey line is the 45-degree line. Source: IMF IFS.

Expanding future external positions

Using the UN projections for demographic trends, our model can also give us predictions for external positions in the future. For this exercise, we capture the degree of ageing using the high-wealth ratio (HWR) – the ratio of over 50 year-olds to 20-49 year-olds. This ratio is most relevant for the effect of ageing on household wealth, because it measures the ratio of households in the ‘high-wealth’ period of life relative to those in the ‘low-wealth’ period.

We consider how the model-implied NFA positions change as countries age (Figure 3). In line with the intuition laid out above, countries with more advanced ageing have higher NFA positions and countries with less advanced ageing have larger negative NFA positions. Going from 2015 to 2030, the HWR rises in all countries, as they all age. As this happens, the model predicts an increasing dispersion of NFA positions as countries continue to age at different speeds. We would therefore expect a large amount of capital flows between countries and widening external positions in the future.

Figure 3: Model-implied net foreign assets vs high-wealth ratio, 2015 and 2030

Note: High-Wealth Ratio: ratio of over 50 year-olds to 20-49 year-olds. The fitted lines use all 23 advanced economies in our sample.

Overall, large NFA positions do not necessarily mean large imbalances, after taking into account country-specific structural factors. Indeed, our model shows that demographics can be a significant factor driving persistently large external positions. Based on the model, the impact of population ageing is expected to persist and even expand over time, as population age structures are expected to further diverge.

This post was also published in French on the Banque de France’s blog Bloc-notes Éco.

Rana Sajedi works in the Bank’s research hub, Noëmie Lisack is a research economist at the Banque de France and Gregory Thwaites is Research Director at Founders Pledge.

If you want to get in touch, please email us at or leave a comment below.

Comments will only appear once approved by a moderator, and are only published where a full name is supplied. Bank Underground is a blog for Bank of England staff to share views that challenge – or support – prevailing policy orthodoxies. The views expressed here are those of the authors, and are not necessarily those of the Bank of England, or its policy committees.

The use of homeless shelters by Indigenous peoples in Canada

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 04/10/2019 - 10:33pm in

I’ve written a blog post about the use of homeless shelters by Indigenous peoples in Canada. The post is inspired by recently-accessed, internal analysis done by staff at Employment and Social Development Canada.

One point raised in the blog post is that there is no clear indication from the presentation of the analysis that Indigenous peoples or groups were engaged in any way in the analysis (aside from the fact that their data was used). Another is that Toronto had to be omitted from the analysis because the City of Toronto lacks Indigenous identity data on persons who use the city’s homeless shelters.

The blog post can be accessed here.

The use of homeless shelters by Indigenous peoples in Canada

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 04/10/2019 - 10:33pm in

I’ve written a blog post about the use of homeless shelters by Indigenous peoples in Canada. The post is inspired by recently-accessed, internal analysis done by staff at Employment and Social Development Canada.

One point raised in the blog post is that there is no clear indication from the presentation of the analysis that Indigenous peoples or groups were engaged in any way in the analysis (aside from the fact that their data was used). Another is that Toronto had to be omitted from the analysis because the City of Toronto lacks Indigenous identity data on persons who use the city’s homeless shelters.

The blog post can be accessed here.

Graduate Students on Diversity and Inclusivity in Philosophy (guest post by Carolyn Dicey Jennings)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/09/2019 - 2:56pm in

The following is a guest post* by Carolyn Dicey Jennings, associate professor of philosophy and cognitive science at University of California, Merced, and creator of Academic Placement Data and Analysis (APDA).

Graduate Students on Diversity and Inclusivity in Philosophy
by Carolyn Dicey Jennings

Many philosophers recognize that the field has a “gender problem,” and maybe even a “race problem,” but I have come to believe that it has a diversity problem. This is because I helped lead a survey that revealed problems for women, those who identify as non-binary, racial and ethnic minorities, those from a low socioeconomic background, those with military or veteran status, LGBTQ philosophers, and those with disabilities. Graduate students from these backgrounds are underrepresented, find themselves less comfortable in philosophy, find philosophy less welcoming, are less likely to recommend their graduate program, are less satisfied with the research preparation, teaching preparation, and financial support of their graduate program, and are less interested in an academic career. This is a problem not only for reasons of equity and inclusion in philosophy, but also because diversity improves collective performance—philosophy is worse off as an academic discipline so long as it has this diversity problem. Fortunately, the participants in our survey provided some insight on how we might move forward, especially favoring increased representation from these groups among faculty and graduate students, at conferences and workshops, on syllabi, and in publications.

Some background: In 2018 three groups came together to run a survey on diversity and inclusivity: the Graduate Student Council of the APA, the Data Task Force of the APA, and the Academic Placement Data and Analysis team. We provided a preliminary report to the APA in 2018, and this summer I wrote and delivered the final report, available here. That report is around 12,500 words, so I thought it would be useful to provide a summary of some of the findings in this blog post.

To start, I made a few simple infographics that help to see the problem of underrepresentation for three of the groups mentioned above: womenracial and ethnic minorities, and those from a low socioeconomic background:

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Diversity and Inclusivity in Philosophy

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Diversity and Inclusivity in Philosophy

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Diversity and Inclusivity in Philosophy


As is illustrated by these charts, philosophy does not only have a smaller proportion of graduate students from these groups than the general population, but it also compares poorly to doctoral students overall. (We also found this to be true for veterans or members of the military.) As we know, the obsession with “genius” is correlated with a lower proportion of women and Black/African Americans across disciplines, and philosophy is especially obsessed with genius. Yet, philosophy also has a lower proportion of Asians than other doctoral programs, which cannot be explained this way. Further, I don’t know of a stereotype or bias regarding innate intelligence when it comes to socioeconomic status. It is hard for me to imagine a shared characteristic between these many different groups that is more significant than the fact that they have been historically marginalized.

So it is worth asking: what is it about philosophy that it includes fewer of those from historically marginalized groups? Is there anything we can do to fix the problem? I don’t have an answer to the first of these questions, but there have been numerous hypotheses on gender and race in philosophy that may apply to issues of diversity, more generally (see, e.g., Antony 2012Cherry & Schwitzgebel 2016Thompson 2017). A new possibility I have considered, but haven’t tested, is that the sheer variety of topics and methods in philosophy leads philosophers to seek demographic unity in order to maintain a sense of cohesion. If that’s right, we might expect programs with a narrower focus to be better platforms for inclusivity. I would like to explore this idea further, and I welcome feedback from others on how to do so. Clearly, more work needs to be done to determine the source(s) of this problem, but if this is one of the causal factors then a direct focus on community building will be key.

On the second question, our participants provided many good ideas. The most popular idea is to simply increase the diversity of the discipline, wherever possible. Other ideas include training and behavior, institutional support, and funding. Take, for example, these two public comments on training and behavior (emphasis mine):

I think this survey is a great start. Many of the steps the APA has taken under the leadership of Amy Ferrer have been excellent. I think the biggest challenges lie in the [graduate] programs themselves. It might help if the APA could offer training and certificates in areas of professional conduct for graduate students and faculty. Also, I think the APA should have stronger connections with Deans and Administrators in graduate education. This way if a graduate student reported something, the university could take appropriate action. Many students from underrepresented groups endure the discrimination and hostility in silence. They need to feel they have a place to go. For example, I was the victim of an assault by a visiting faculty member at a conference at my university. After graduation, I finally told my adviser. She told me she wished I had told her sooner. Title IX has helped in this area, but much work still needs to be done in PhD programs.

More and better funding for members of underrepresented groups (including class). More climate training sessions held within individual departments. Changes to core philosophical curriculum to include more areas outside of LEMM and Ethics (Feminism, Race, Indigenous Philosophy, Disability Studies, East Asian/South Asian Philosophy, Africana Philosophy, etc) or even using articles that talk about core philosophical concepts with reference to more diverse examples and cases. Implementing hand/finger etiquette in Q&A sessions (where a hand is a new question and a finger is a followup on the question originally asked). Bystander training for chairs at conference sessions so the chairs can intervene in instances of disrespect and abuse—they could also be trained to prioritize certain identities of interlocutors if the Q&A is dominated by white men. This could be communicated through an advice to chairs pamphlet. Having diversity coordinators/advisors (or designated allies) within departments who can aid underrepresented graduate students if they are experiencing problems throughout their degree. Open conversations about depression and mental illness in graduate programs in philosophy—perhaps running mental health seminars with the help of university health programmes.

The comments from participants in our survey contain a wealth of ideas, and the report is just a start to summarizing them. (I will also be providing public comments in my weekly blog posts on individual programs, here.) Beyond reading and digesting the report, my hope is that philosophy programs will take a hard look at these multiple dimensions of diversity and assess the measures they are taking to address them. Clearly, we all need to do much better to ensure the success of philosophy as a discipline.

The post Graduate Students on Diversity and Inclusivity in Philosophy (guest post by Carolyn Dicey Jennings) appeared first on Daily Nous.

Ten things to know about this year’s Alberta Alternative Budget

The Alberta Alternative Budget (AAB) is an annual exercise whose working group consists of researchers, economists, and members of civil society (full disclosure: I’m the Editor). Our general mandate is to create a progressive vision for Alberta to boost economic growth and reduce income inequality. This year’s document was released today, and here are 10 things to know:

  1. The NDP government of Rachel Notley government made important advances with respect to childcare, but much remains to be done. Specifically, the Notley government introduced a $25/day childcare pilot project and increased the provincial childcare budget by 27% since taking office. However, gender equality and women’s labour market participation in Alberta could be improved even further with universal childcare. This year’s AAB proposes that important steps be taken to get that done by investing an additional $1.65 billion in childcare over the next year.
  2. More than 80% of Alberta’s Kindergarten through Grade 3 classes currently exceed the provincial government’s own class size targets. What’s more, almost half of the province’s Grade 4 through Grade 12 classes exceed the government’s class size targets. And in high schools across the province, roughly half of all core subject classes exceed the Alberta Commission on Learning (ACOL) targets set in 2003. The AAB therefore recommends substantial increases in spending on k-12 education while also recommending that Alberta’s provincial government reduce funding for private schools (which are currently subsidized at higher rates than those in any other province).
  3. When it comes to gender and public policy, Alberta has a long way to go. Women in Alberta face the largest employment gender gap of any province. They are over-represented in lower-paying careers and their hourly pay for full-time work is only 80 cents on a man’s dollar. Further, Alberta lacks pay equity legislation. The AAB recommends that the annual budget of Alberta’s Ministry for Status of Women be increased by 30%, and that the provincial government create a pay equity task force to both investigate the reasons and propose solutions for the large gender pay gaps across industries and occupations in the province.
  4. There are nearly 6,000 reported cases of wage theft (i.e., unpaid wages) in Alberta each year. Further, in 2017/18, only 41% of wage-theft complaints were resolved within 180 days. And it’s generally accepted that formal wage-theft claims represent a small fraction of all instances of wage theft. The AAB therefore proposes that 75 additional employment standards officers be hired in the province, in order to prevent and remedy wage theft.
  5. One in 5 Alberta workers will be injured on the job this year; one in 11 seriously. This year’s AAB will therefore invest an additional $70 million in enforcement of Alberta’s occupational health and safety laws in order to make workplaces safer.
  6. Tuition fees as a share of university operating revenue have roughly tripled in Alberta over the last 30 years. The Notley government did freeze tuition fees in 2015, and recently introduced legislation that would tie tuition fee increases to inflation; but those measures alone don’t cut it. The AAB proposes a five-year ‘phase out’ of tuition fees, starting with a 20% reduction in tuition fees for all post-secondary students, including international students.
  7. Alberta still has, by far, the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio of any province. Alberta’s net debt-to-GDP ratio for 2018-19 is projected to be 6.5%. The next lowest is British Columbia’s, which stands at 15.2%. Though Alberta’s net debt-to-GDP ratio has risen quite quickly since the slump in oil prices, it’s hard to make the claim that the province is living beyond its means.
  8. Albertans collectively are taxed less than residents of any other province. According to Alberta Treasury Board and Finance, if Alberta’s provincial government adopted a tax structures similar to the next lowest-taxed province in the country (British Columbia), Alberta would generate an additional $8.7 billion in annual revenue.
  9. Alberta remains the only Canadian province without a provincial sales tax. The AAB Working Group estimates that the implementation of a 5% provincial sales tax in Alberta would generate approximately $5 billion in new revenue annually. What’s more, even after the implementation of this tax, Alberta would remain Canada’s lowest-taxed province!
  10. This year’s AAB further proposes that a new provincial sales tax be harmonized with the federal Goods and Services tax. The federal government already collects a 5% sales tax in the form of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Following the lead of several other provinces, we propose that Alberta introduce a Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), which would allow the province to generate its own share of the revenue collected by the federal GST. Introducing a 5% provincial portion of a HST would still leave Alberta with a combined HST of 10%.

In Sum. In addition to providing a costed-out public policy alternative to the status quo in Alberta, each AAB chapter also provides a primer on the public policy topic in question. I think the document makes for excellent reading for researchers, educators, students and non-profit leaders. The media release, along with a link to the full document, can be found here.