Friday, June 17, 2016

Data on US Trade Surpluses in Services

The graph below is from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

In this election season when one of the candidates continues to insinuate that all the other countries are taking advantage of the US regarding trade, it is helpful to have some data.  Below is Tim Taylor's comment on the graph (from his blog "Conversable Economist"):

"A fair number of Americans and politicians argue that a trade deficit is in large part a result of unfair trade practices by other countries. Essentially all actual economists disagree with that claim. Economists instead see trade deficits are arising from broad patterns of national production, consumption, and saving. A low-saving economy like the US consumes more than it produces--which it can do by running a trade deficit and importing more than it exports. A high-saving economy produces more than it consumers--which it can do by running a trade surplus and exporting more than it imports. Unfair trade practices can certainly restrict overall flows of trade, but they aren't a main cause of trade deficits and surpluses."

Friday, June 3, 2016

Graduation Rates and Student income

There is an interesting piece on the New York Times (The Upshot) about the relationship between graduation rates and low income students.  The graph below is from the essay.  It relates graduation rates (six year rates) with the percentage of students receiving Pell grants.

The authors of the study discussed state:

Colleges that have high graduation rates tend to be more selective and tend to have students who are more affluent and more academically prepared. Colleges with lower graduation rates tend to admit a higher percentage of students with Pell grants, which usually go to lower-income students.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

President tenures and jobs

Political arguments about principles and ideas are always part of America's ongoing discussion about the role of  government, the purpose of the Federal Reserve, etc.  I get that.  But the extent to which President Obama's tenure has been a kind of "fact free" zone regarding these debates is disturbing.  The CalculatedRisk blog provides us with some data which is often ignored (see

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

States and Federal Aid

The graph below is from and shows the degree to which states rely on Federal aid.  The post says:

Mississippi, for instance, relied on federal assistance for 42.9 percent of its revenue in FY 2013, the largest share in the country. Also on the high end are Louisiana (41.9 percent), Tennessee (39.5 percent), South Dakota (39.0 percent), and Missouri (38.2 percent). States with heavy reliance on federal grants-in-aid tend to have a combination of modest tax collections (reducing the denominator) and sizable low income populations (correlating with greater per capita reliance on Medicaid, housing assistance, and other low income and poverty relief programming, and with a greater share of federal education support).

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Maybe a New Year will bring a new result

I suppose it is too much to expect that in an election year (why would it be different??) some sanity would come back to fiscal policy.  That is, with all the GOP candidates promising to cut taxes, .... and continue to ignore the issues like infrastructure, there probably isn't much chance of a change.  The graph below ought to cause at least a reconsideration.  The graph is "Net Government Investment as a percentage of Net Domestic Product (annual data), 1959-2014" and is from  One can hope.  The authors say:

Switzerland is an amazing place, not least the skiing, the chocolate, and the punctual trains. The latter is part of the country’s exquisitely maintained infrastructure: there are no potholes, and no deferred maintenance of train tracks, tunnels, airports, or public buildings. Few countries go so far, but many can take a lesson: it pays to maintain infrastructure at least so that it doesn’t fail.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Data on Millennials and economic progress

From Zillow we have the following data:

"Some people are born lucky, lucky enough to have parents able to help finance their higher education. And some people are doubly lucky, lucky enough to have parents able to help finance both their higher education and a down payment to buy a home."  That's the way Zillow puts it.  Economists have known this for a long time, but the rest of us have to learn it.  I still encounter the myth of the "self-made person" on a daily basis.