Posts Posts by: "Paul Frijters"

Eugenics got a bad name after the second world war. It got associated with pseudo-scientific theories under which people at the bottom of the societal ladder were branded as hopelessly deficient for supposedly inalterable biological reasons. Societies’ less successful were, quite literally, seen as ‘untermensch’ (under-people) and the ‘science’ of heritable poverty, height…(Read More)

For 14 months, Australia has had an electronic national health register. It has almost nothing in it, but the hope is that in years to come (when lots of people have registered) it will start to have all the information on someone’s health that floats around in the health industry. This includes discharge summaries…(Read More)

I was looking for evidence recently that tradies in Australia have become amongst the highest paid groups, which would means a profound change in relative rewards in that it would mean that smart young men could then rationally choose not to bother with university but simply become a tradesman. Doing so, I came across an…(Read More)

Suppose you wanted to believe, as I do, that intelligence and vague ‘racial groups’ are, on the whole, unrelated from a long-run perspective. What would you then have to believe about genetics and IQ, as well as the long-run effects of socio-economic circumstances on IQ to rationalise the overwhelming evidence that there…(Read More)

In previous elections, I either gave a list of mistakes I wanted the next government to avoid, or policies they could follow. Some of the mistakes I flagged in 2007 were indeed made, and about half of a preferred policy was implemented, no doubt entirely unrelated to my advice. In this election I want to…(Read More)

The tragic situation in Egypt is so complex and unpredictable that one can find many opinions on what various groups and people in Egypt should do, but precious few predictions by ‘experts’ on what is actually going to happen. You can rest assured that whatever does actually happen will be seen as the ‘obvious’ way…(Read More)

As you may know over the last few years I have been arguing for a reduction in the price of common generic medications in Australia. Due to policy shortcomings, Australia currently pays some of the highest prices in the world for many of its generic medications. For example, a recent chapter of a CEDA report…(Read More)

With the next Australian election only a few weeks away, now is a good time to say which economic micro and macro policies you think a next government can/should implement. Around and in between past elections I gave you my list of things to do and things not to do (see here and here…(Read More)

Hurt and truth


One of the more odd rules of social interaction is that the person in pain gets to own the truth and those without pain adjust. Think for instance about the words used to describe undesired traits that some people have to bear their whole life, such as low intelligence or high BMI. As they are…(Read More)

I have a dataset of about 20,000 Chinese adults, a random sample of the population in 2008-2010 from all over China. Guess how many per 1000 adult women in that dataset say they have had children without being married? If you posed the question in Australia or the US, you should expect something…(Read More)

Just back from the 2013 Labour Econometrics Workshop at the Melbourne Institute. Lot of interesting papers, including this one of Cesur and Ulker on the enormous reduction in infant mortality that followed switches at the household level from coal to gas in Turkey. They find that s one percent increase in the uptake of natural…(Read More)

Have a look at the graph below, taken from, which conveys the stylised fact that greater economic development leads populations to eat more meat. The graph shows that total meat consumption in China increased from 10 million tonnes in 1980 to around 70 now, a 7-fold increase, and making the…(Read More)

The journal ‘Agenda’, the policy journal of the College of Business and Economics at The Australian National University just released a piece of mine called ‘Universities as Royal Courts’. One can download it free of charge (just click on the link). It continues my long-running attempt of trying to explain to the Australian online…(Read More)

The obesity epidemic is not just one of the greatest (mental) health problems of our time, set to become a more prevalent problem than hunger and more expensive to health systems than smoking, but it is also spawning new magical beliefs. Given that nearly a third of the elderly population of Anglo-Saxon is obese…(Read More)

Vote buying is a recurring theme in elections in ‘emerging democracies’. There are strong allegations it happened in the 2006 and 2012 Mexican elections. US elections normally have some party accusing the other of vote-buying (through offering free food at election stations). You get stories on vote-buying from around the world though, ranging…(Read More)

I was travelling through Los Angeles, New York, and Washington the last two weeks in a book-promotion tour. It was my first real visit to the US so I was collecting impressions on the people and the culture there. Some loose impressions from my egalitarian (Dutch/Australian) perspective about the Los Angeles area: Infectious…(Read More)

My co-author in Houston put a joint working paper online about experiments in China. The abstract: We compare the characteristics and regression coefficients between the participants in a field experiment in China and the survey population from which they were recruited. The experimental participants were more educated, younger, more likely to be male, more…(Read More)

The Muslim brotherhood in Egypt is currently feeling the full force of the repression apparatus of the military and economic elite. Sad to say, but the torture chambers will be busy at this very moment, demoralising the elected government and its core supporters. A sad week. It’s been about 18 months since I last…(Read More)

Greetings from Washington where we did two launches on ‘An Economic Theory of Greed, Love, Groups and Networks’. The launches went very well, thanks for asking. Due to its success, the book has gone kindle. I was just alerted to the video that UNSW put out on a discussion we had with Tim Harcourt (the…(Read More)

I just read Andrew Leigh’s new book that he will launch July 1st in Canberra, July 2nd in Melbourne, and July 3rd in Sydney. I encourage you to attend one of these because it’s a ‘good yarn’. In this new book, Andrew makes a plea for an egalitarian Australia that values mateship and…(Read More)

Scandals about politicians lying are a staple of our media, with the politician Mal Brough saga being the latest installment in Australia. At a dinner with others of his party there was a ‘mock-menu’ that included sexists jokes, made up by the restaurant owner. His protestations that he didn’t know about it or…(Read More)

In three previous parts, I posed the puzzle of the measured increase in mental health problems (depression, anxiety, and obesity) across the Western world since the 1950s and briefly discussed the pros and cons of the main cultural explanation doing the round. Here I want to discuss the mainstream ‘economic explanation’. The mainstream economic explanation…(Read More)

In the two previous parts, I posed the puzzle of the measured increase in mental health problems (depression, anxiety, and obesity in particular) across the Western world since the 1950s and in Anglo-Saxon countries in particular. Here, I take it as given that this is real (and not just a measurement issue) and will…(Read More)

Last week, I posed the puzzle of the decline in mental health from around 1950 till now in most Western countries (with some countries showing a plateau since the 90s). I was talking in particular about the increase in depression, anxiety, and obesity. One of the reactions (by Andrew Norton in particular) was on the…(Read More)

Here’s a true modern puzzle for you: why is the rate of mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and obesity, increasing in the US, Australia, urban China, and most Western countries? Which mental health problems again? Depression, anxiety, and obesity are the big growth areas. And, yes, I view obesity as a mental health…(Read More)

By Robert Slonim, Professor, University of Sydney School of Economics Blood shortages remain a large global public health concern with shortages worldwide, often severe in developing countries, and seasonal shortages remain common in many developed countries. With less than 10 percent of the population donating in developing countries, and much less in less wealthy countries…(Read More)

As I said a few months ago, tax evasion is the big cliff in terms of the future of the EU project. It was thus fascinating to see the tax evasion games played out at the latest ‘summit’ In Brussels yesterday. To understand what really goes on at these summits, imagine yourself to be the…(Read More)

With the Gonski reforms expected to be rolled out across Australia in the coming 5 years, it is handy to reflect on what actually are the basic challenges for school reform in Australia. A view of the underlying issues helps one to judge the likely outcomes of the current reforms and others one might think…(Read More)