This is Jacob Vigdor's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following Jacob Vigdor's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
Jacob Vigdor
Recent Activity
Rent control was never designed to solve the kind of affordability crises we're seeing today. Continue reading
Posted Apr 18, 2019 at The Perfect and the Free
Today I launched a new website,, "Public Access Peer Review for the Social Sciences." Here are the problems it seeks to solve. Historically, there were three fundamental rationales for academic journals. They disseminated work, they signaled the quality of work, and they subjected manuscripts to an editorial process that in theory improved them. Technology has rendered the dissemination function obsolete. In fact, by placing papers behind paywalls, academic journals often inhibit rather than promote the dissemination of research. Quality signaling is now and has always been imperfect. Editorial decisions hinge on two basic questions: whether the research is competently... Continue reading
Posted Jan 21, 2019 at The Perfect and the Free
This is a brief extension to the series of posts drawing upon my experiences as a member of a University-level promotion and tenure committee. In that role I reviewed about 200 tenure dossiers, including those of a few economists. So if you practice the dismal science, here are a few notes for you. Everything in my earlier post about getting tenure applies. That post is intended to be pan-disciplinary. Don't be alarmed if your CV shows no publications for 2-3 years after you completed your doctorate. That's completely normal given how long it takes to push an article through to... Continue reading
Posted Jan 18, 2019 at The Perfect and the Free
In 2003 Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez introduced one of the more famous graphs in modern economics. Since updated to 2017, it looks like this: Described verbally, the graph shows the time series of income inequality in the United states over a century, measured as the percent of all income accruing to those in the top 10% of the distribution. Once upon a time, this share was quite high. It dropped dramatically during World War II, a phenomenon often attributed to wartime wage and price controls. It then remained at a relatively steady and low level until sometime right around... Continue reading
Posted Jan 17, 2019 at The Perfect and the Free
Ten years ago I received a call from the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division. They were in the midst of pretrial proceedings involving a prominent landlord in the Los Angeles area, who stood accused of ethnic discrimination in his apartment buildings. I had published a few studies on racial and ethnic segregation in American cities; discrimination is a prominent theme in this work. I agreed to assist the DOJ in their investigation. My assistance consisted almost entirely of writing a rebuttal to an expert witness report the landlord had commissioned, which attempted to make the argument that the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 16, 2019 at The Perfect and the Free
Five years ago I wrote a series of blog posts reflecting on my time as a member of Duke's committee on Appointments, Promotions, and Tenure. This committee drew a collection of senior scholars from across campus to review tenure and promotion dossiers for both internal and external candidates in almost every corner of the university. These posts included some thoughts on the institution of tenure itself, some advice for assistant professors, some advice for newly tenured professors, and some advice for scholars playing the role of an external letter writer. This fifth entry in the series is inspired by the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 4, 2018 at The Perfect and the Free
Graduate student employees at the University of Washington are on strike today. Represented by the United Auto Workers local 4121, the students have formed a picket line not far from my office window. I can hear cars honking their horns in support, each honk arousing a cheer from the strikers. I've written before about the quirky nature of accounting in graduate education. There's another quirk that pertains to their employment. Suppose I, as a University faculty member, wish to hire a graduate student for research assistant work. This happens all the time, and RA work is a key component of... Continue reading
Posted May 15, 2018 at The Perfect and the Free
[This post originally appeared on May 11th, 2018 when Seattle's City Council was considering levying an Employee Hours Tax to fund services and housing for the homeless. Since then, the Council approved that tax unanimously and subsequently voted to repeal it before it took effect, in the face of a petition campaign that threatened to overturn the tax by ballot initiative.] It’s very hard, as a public finance economist, to sit and watch elected officials complain about the regressivity of Washington’s tax regime out of one side of their mouth and propose to levy yet another regressive tax out of... Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2018 at The Perfect and the Free
Once there was a wealthy miser who lived outside a crowded town. Many of the townspeople worked for the miser -- more and more of them, in fact. The miser angered the townspeople. The miser collected money from far and wide, most of it from people who lived in distant lands far from the town. The townspeople who worked for the miser were handsomely paid, and their wages in turn were spent in boutiques and taverns their neighbors owned, keeping many of them fed, clothed, and sheltered. But the miser also kept much of the money he collected to himself.... Continue reading
Posted May 4, 2018 at The Perfect and the Free
Think about the sales tax for a moment and I suspect you'll agree with the following two statements: The sales tax is regressive, meaning that lower-income families devote the highest share of their income to paying the tax. The root cause being that low-income families spend almost all of what they earn on taxable goods and services, while higher-income families save quite a bit. When you buy something, you pay the tax. These two statements imply a third. If you believe them, you also believe this: The person who "pays" a tax is not necessarily the person who hands the... Continue reading
Posted May 1, 2018 at The Perfect and the Free
For about a decade, beginning in high school, I played bass in a string of rock bands. It was in this context that I learned much about being creative in a group setting. The debates and conversations in rehearsal spaces -- garages, basements, even a musty attic -- over how to make a song sound better presaged conversations in offices and seminar rooms about how to make research more convincing. I also learned quite a bit about rhythm guitar. The lead guitarist is like the vocalist, flashy, attention-grabbing. The rhythm guitarist holds everything together. A bandmate once counseled me to... Continue reading
Posted Nov 19, 2017 at The Perfect and the Free
A few years ago, I was assigned the task of directing a Ph.D. program. Working with doctoral students was fantastic. Working with the bureaucracy assigned to oversee graduate training was... interesting. Once a year I'd have a meeting in the office of the Dean of the Graduate School, to go over what was essentially a profit/loss statement for the program I directed. It would be just as accurate to call it more simply a loss statement, as doctoral training is a money-losing proposition. Students typically don't pay tuition, and they receive stipends (typically in exchange for work as research assistants... Continue reading
Posted Nov 17, 2017 at The Perfect and the Free
This is going to be one of the dullest posts ever, but if you have ever been faced with the need to archive hundreds or thousands of emails on a short time schedule you'll want to read on. I'm an employee of the State of Washington. As such, my communications with students, colleagues, and others are subject to public records requests under state law (RCW 42.56). It's recently come to my attention that many of my colleagues at the University of Washington have struggled to compile records in response to public records requests. Given that most communication takes place by... Continue reading
Posted Jul 17, 2017 at The Perfect and the Free
Here is the scene. The American administration, having wound down a military entanglement in a distant part of the world, hopes to head off a humanitarian crisis by admitting refugees. The governor of a large state, who happens to represent the opposing political party, has expressed opposition to the plan. The domestic economy is on shaky ground; the governor's sentiments are echoed by Senators and activists affiliated with the same party. Among other things, opponents of the refugees worry that they pose a threat to Americans and will not assimilate into society. This scene played out in 1975. The refugees... Continue reading
Posted Dec 14, 2015 at The Perfect and the Free
What's the right tool to ensure that an expensive city can be home to at least some low-to-moderate income families? Could it be ... public housing? Continue reading
Posted Apr 24, 2015 at The Perfect and the Free
Demographics, not changes in policy, explain why students have more nonwhite classmates. Continue reading
Posted May 20, 2014 at The Perfect and the Free
Immigration expands the American economy, preserving and creating jobs. Continue reading
Posted May 6, 2014 at The Perfect and the Free
When it comes to grading students, would failure by any other name smell sweeter? Continue reading
Posted May 5, 2014 at The Perfect and the Free
As originally conceived, race-based preferences in college admissions were seen as a means of redressing past wrongs. Conceived in this manner, affirmative action was bound to lead to a debate regarding whether wrongs had been addressed "enough." This debate was bound to be rancorous for two basic reasons. First, there is no way to objectively determine whether past wrongs have been addressed "enough." Second, while the parties to the argument might appeal to universal principles the plain fact is that they also have a self-interest in the outcome. You might bring nothing to the debate but principle, but you can't... Continue reading
Posted Apr 25, 2014 at The Perfect and the Free
True or false: business owners are too dumb to figure out that they can earn more profits by paying higher wages. Continue reading
Posted Feb 28, 2014 at The Perfect and the Free
Even assuming no effect of the minimum wage on employment, the Earned Income Tax Credit helps society's vulnerable households more efficiently and more progressively. Continue reading
Posted Feb 20, 2014 at The Perfect and the Free
NC Governor Pat McCrory, along with leaders of the NC General Assembly, announced this morning that they intend to raise the state minimum teacher salary from $30,800 to $35,000 over the next two years. This announcement comes in response to a chorus of calls to increase teacher compensation in North Carolina, which has languished in the years since the 2008 recession. Many of these calls make reference to average teacher compensation, and any AP statistics student should be able to tell you that there's more than one way to raise the average. You could take the $200 million the General... Continue reading
Posted Feb 10, 2014 at The Perfect and the Free
Applying the lessons of Hiroshima, New Orleans, and Port-au-Prince to the Phillipine typhoon disaster. Continue reading
Posted Nov 13, 2013 at The Perfect and the Free
They're thinking about raising the train tracks in downtown Durham, NC, and putting fill dirt underneath. What if we tinkered with part of that plan? Continue reading
Posted Oct 22, 2013 at The Perfect and the Free
What differentiates a good tenure letter from a bad tenure letter? Hint: it's not whether the letter is positive or negative. Continue reading
Posted Oct 2, 2013 at The Perfect and the Free