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Poverty, Crime and Causality

Posted on July 8th, 2017 at 16:19 by John Sinteur in category: News

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The authors found (no surprise to anyone) that kids born into the lowest income twentieth percentile of the population are far more likely to get convicted of violent criminal activity or become substance abusers. But, by accounting for changes in a family’s income over time and how that affected (or didn’t) criminality and substance abuse outcomes of siblings and cousins, the authors were able to conclude that a family’s income was not associated with violent criminal activity or substance abuse except insofar as income was being driven by some other unobserved factor(s) that itself was associated with negative outcomes. That unobserved factor (or factors) runs in families.

The authors are not as clear as I’d like in describing the data adjustment, and the process they use is not one I have employed myself at any point.  But if I understand the limited description of the process correctly, they are basically noting that a kid in a 60th percentile income family is no less likely to become a criminal than his younger brother will be several years later when the family has dropped to below the 20th percentile of income.   Furthermore, within each income level, crime tends to run in families.

To take the paper’s findings a bit further, there is a serious implication here: it isn’t so much that poverty drives people into crime, but that families whose members have a tendency toward criminal behavior have an increased likelihood of ending up poor. Perhaps those who lack empathy are both more likely to commit crimes and less willing or able to behave in ways that allow them to get and retain good jobs. Of course, some of the smarter criminals can fake empathy enough to do quite well for themselves. It is also important to note that most poor people are not criminal. Nevertheless, the reason crime correlates with poverty is not that poverty leads to crime, but rather that for a not insignificant piece of the population, criminal tendencies is associated with traits that increase a person’s likelihood of being in poverty.


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EU Parliament calls for longer lifetime for products

Posted on July 8th, 2017 at 16:16 by John Sinteur in category: News

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Europe’s Parliament called on the Commission, Member States and producers Tuesday to take measures to ensure consumers can enjoy durable, high-quality products that can be repaired and upgraded.

At their plenary session in Strasbourg, MEPs said tangible goods and software should be easier to repair and update, and made a plea to tackle built-in obsolescence and make spare parts affordable.

77 per cent of EU consumers would rather repair their goods than buy new ones, according to a 2014 Eurobarometer survey, but they ultimately have to replace or discard them because they are discouraged by the cost of repairs and the level of service provided.

“We must reinstate the reparability of all products put on the market,” said Parliament’s rapporteur Pascal Durand MEP: “We have to make sure that batteries are no longer glued into a product, but are screwed in so that we do not have to throw away a phone when the battery breaks down. We need to make sure that consumers are aware of how long the products last and how they can be repaired”.


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I shared my toddler’s hospital bill on Twitter. First came supporters — then death threats.

Posted on July 8th, 2017 at 6:48 by John Sinteur in category: News

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At first, the comments were almost entirely supportive. With the exception of the guy who thought that Ethan should have been more personally responsible (in utero, I guess, although I’ve never been sure how best to explain that concept to an 8-week-old fetus), the vast majority of people were either in shock at just how high the lines on the bill had added up or else they were staunchly on our side. People were ready to fight for a kid they’d never met, and they were sharing their stories with me in the hopes that I’d fight for their children too.

But as more and more people saw the original tweet, the tide seemed to shift. I was still seeing lots of people on our side, but as articles were churned out and shared, it was clear that people weren’t reading much past the headlines. They came at me swinging, picking fights I’d never asked for. They called me ungrateful, a thief, a lazy mooch, an attention whore.

The attacks became increasingly personal and increasingly violent. Strangers were telling me it would have been cheaper to make a new kid, as if anyone in the history of the world could ever replace this bright light of mine, the boy who loves animals and can’t keep himself from kissing babies and always wants to sleep with one arm wrapped around my neck.

 

This poster (from around 1938) reads: “60,000 Reichsmark is what this person suffering from a hereditary defect costs the People’s community during his lifetime. Fellow citizen, that is your money too. Read ‘New People


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Comments:

  1. Oh, those “Death Panels”? What was that about, then?

    “The love of money is the root of all evil.”