Sunday, March 6, 2011

Random Thoughts from the Road

I spent all night driving from College Station to Nashville on the first leg of Baby Benjamin's meet his great-grandparents tour.  Here are the three (semi-professional) thoughts that cropped up somewhere in Arkansas between coffees 5 and 6.  I present them merely to memorialize my mental wanderings.

1. Has Social Security contributed to the rising divorce rate?  Before Social Security, many more adult children (proportionally) must have had to live with or near their parents to help take care of them in retirement.  Having grandparents nearby means a great deal of actual and moral support for parenthood, stronger family ties, and a handy source of disapproval if you get out of line.  Having grandparents at a distance, attenuates those things, and probably (indirectly) decreases the stability of marriages.  If Social Security's subsidies for elderly independence increase retirees' propensity to live away from adult children, and if the presence of nearby parents decreases the propensity of divorce, then it may be the case that Social Security has had the unintended consequence of contributing to higher divorce rates.

2. Is my bodyweight an integrated or autoregressive time series?  Logically, it must be integrated.  If I lose a pound between time t and time t+1, then to be one pound heavier at time t+2 than I was at t, I need to have gained two pounds.  Any pound gain or lost is an enduring change in the time series.  The series *must* have a permanent memory (though not necessarily a trend), like a batting average.  Yet, my experience is that my weight is autoregressive--at least in the short run.  If I somehow manage to cut a few pounds, they reappear; if I pack on a few pounds, they usually drop off without much fuss.  The deviations from my equilibrium weight seem to decay over time.  What I am I missing?

3. What is the relationship between the performance of a university's athletic programs and the reputation of its academic programs?  Positive?  Maybe, winning teams draw students, entice potential donors, and actually produce better academic programs increasing evaluations of those programs.  Maybe excellence in athletics rubs off an impressionistic evaluations of other areas.  Negative?  Maybe scholars and academics regard sports-centric schools as fundamentally unserious institutions.  Maybe winning on the field casts the school as an institution built around dumb jocks.  No effect?  People are good at separating the academic reputation of schools from other factors.

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