Incarceration as a labor market outcome

by John Q on May 30, 2009

I wasn’t all that surprised that Bryan Caplan didn’t like my interpretation of our bet on EU and US unemployment rates, which was that the combined rates of unemployment and incarceration in the US would exceed those in the EU over the next ten years. I was, however, surprised by the vehemence with which libertarian-inclined* commenters here and at my blog objected to this interpretation.

A string of them echoed Caplan’s argument that

From a labor market perspective, though, Quiggin’s incarceration adjustment would only make sense if you thought that most or all of the people in jail would be unemployed if they were released.

Caplan has missed my main point. I’m not suggesting that incarceration is disguised unemployment (though obviously it reduces measured unemployment). Rather, I’m saying that, like unemployment, incarceration should be regarded as a (bad) labor market outcome. If you want to evaluate the performance of the labor market, you need to look at both.

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This is a follow-up to the distinctly non-sober but not wholly unuseful thread attached to my post on the Boston Review piece on Malhotra and Margalit’s survey research on anti-semitism and the financial crisis. The authors have asked for a chance to explain themselves, and their methodology, which has come in for a lot of criticism of an unavoidably speculative sort in comments to my post. Let’s hope this clears a few things up. Let’s try to be civil, shall we? The following is, obviously, not by me but by Malhotra and Margalit. And not edited by me in any way. – John Holbo

We are glad that our article generated thoughtful discussion, and we would be happy to address some of the questions people raised in the comments section. If our responses do not specifically address your particular comment, apologies in advance. Our goal here is to touch on some of the main issues. [click to continue…]

Biology and Breeding

by John Holbo on May 30, 2009

Hey, you know those psychedelic bio text images I posted about? Well, someone took an interest in the post and the images and went and did a bit of research on the textbook itself: [click to continue…]