Sunday, 19 February 2017

And for Sunday I start with maps (big time suck) and end with Marc Bolan

The Map Room
via Marcus Zillman

The Map Room is a weblog about maps, curated and composed by map connoisseur Jonathan Crowe. Readers will find frequently updated posts on everything from the use of maps in fantasy novels to election maps to multilingual maps of India.
Entries are short - usually less than 100 words – and packed with links to fascinating and informative sites from around the web. After readers have scrolled down the page and taken in all the latest from Mr. Crowe, they may like to explore the categories of Archives, Fantasy Maps, Publications, and Reviews.
Archives date back to 2003 and include hundreds of entries. They can be scouted by month or by subject (Antique Maps, Environment, GPS, Transit, and about two dozen other). There is also an excellent tag function, where readers can find everything from NASA to 3D Printing to refugees.
This will be added to Reference Resources Subject Tracer™.
From The Scout Report, Copyright Internet Scout 1994-2016.

Oh the side trails that one can go down on the Internet!
The Library of Congress’s map blog, Worlds Revealed, has begun a series of posts about imaginary maps. “We’ll be exploring all of these types of maps and imaginary worlds this summer. Come revisit the Hundred Acre Wood and the other worlds of your favorite children’s stories, spend some time in medieval Europe, and run from White Walkers in Game of Thrones.” So far we have an introduction and a look at maps from the European Middle Ages and Renaissance, with Tolkien’s map of Middle-earth next on the schedule. [WMS]
I give up or I will never get anything done!! But I tell you that the Hundred Acre Wood map is superb.

Insects are conscious, according to study
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder

“Brain scans of insects appear to indicate that they have the capacity to be conscious and show egocentrico, apparently indicating that they have such a thing as subjective experience.” That's the finding of study written by Andrew B Barron and Colin Klein, and published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.
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Ghetto: The Shared History of a Word
via 3 Quarks Daily: Adam Kirsch in Tablet
Today most Americans would be surprised to learn that the original ghettos were inhabited by Jews. That is the experience Mitchell Duneier relates in his new book Ghetto: The Invention of a Place, the History of an Idea, when it comes to teaching his own students at Princeton about the history of the ghetto. For the last 70 years, Duneier shows, the word “ghetto” has for Americans become exclusively associated with poor black neighborhoods, especially in big cities like New York and Chicago. Few people know that, for centuries before America even existed, Jews in many European cities were legally confined to walled neighborhoods known as ghettos. (“Ghetto” is the Italian word for “foundry”; the first Jewish enclave in Venice was located on the same island as a foundry, and the word came to refer to the neighborhood by extension.)
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BT Archives: making a collaborative resource
via The National Archives Blog by James Fleming
It’s difficult to overstate the impact of the First World War on people across the globe; from the significant political consequences, to the military and medical legacies, the effect of the First World War on the development of society can still be seen today. Among the various technological developments to medical and military equipment is the impression the war had on British telecommunications and the technological strides that were made as a result.
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War and Peace on screen
via OUP Blog by Amy Mandelker
I’m 15 years old and I have just thrown up in the lavatory at the movie theater. Shaking too hard to reach the paper towels, I need to hide out there for the entire intermission of the third instalment of Sergei Bondarchuk’s epic 1967 film adaptation of War and Peace. In its uncut version, the film is almost 9 hours long, requiring four separate screenings of almost 3 hours each, shown on two consecutive weekends of two nights each.
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What Killed off the Neanderthals? You Might Not Like the Answer
via Big Think by Philip Berry
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Beginning about 400,000 years ago, Neanderthals began moving across Europe and Western Asia. They roamed widely for hundreds of thousands of years. Then something happened about 45,000 years ago. That’s when a new, invasive species turned up on the scene, homo sapiens—our direct ancestors. This group began migrating across Africa and into Europe. Waves of them came and spread out. The next bit has been a mystery to modern science. 5,000 years later, the Neanderthals disappeared. No one knows why. But a new discovery has us one step closer to a definitive answer.
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Mourning, memory, and performance
via OUP Blog by Laurie Maguire
There is a wonderful Christopher Rush novel, Will (2007), in which Shakespeare says that what he does best is death: “I do deaths you see. And I can do the deaths of children. Their lips were four red roses on a stalk… – that sort of thing.” From the death of young Rutland in 2 Henry VI to the unexpected death of Mamillius in The Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare’s plays are full of loss.
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The Mad Dogs of London: A Tale of Rabies
via The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice
L0048997 A mad dog on the run in a London street: citizens attack it
There was panic on the streets of London in 1760, and the city’s newspapers weren’t helping the situation. Hundreds of column inches, for week upon week, were full of terrifying reports about an outbreak of attacks by rabid dogs. Armchair experts even wrote letters to newspaper editors offering advice and hypotheses on the causes and prevention of rabies (or “hydrophobia” as contemporaries called it).
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Bosch Mania
via 3 Quarks Daily: Morgan Meis in The Easel
This year [2016] is shaping up to be downright Boschian. We are speaking here of Hieronymus Bosch, the painter. 2016 happens to mark the five-hundred-year anniversary of Bosch’s death. So, Bosch’s home and eponymous town, Den Bosch (or, more correctly but much harder to say, ‘s-Hertogenbosch), has assembled the largest retrospective of Bosch’s work ever to be exhibited. The exhibit (Jheronimus Bosch – Visions of a Genius) is at the Noordbrabants Museum through May 8th. Such is public demand to see the show that this normally sedate regional museum has extended its opening hours until past midnight. And Bosch mania will not end there. The Prado in Madrid, for example, is hosting its own blockbuster Bosch exhibit beginning at the end of May and running into September. The crowds at the Noordbrabants Museum and the activity in the global press suggests that Bosch is more relevant, more interesting to the public mind than ever. Bosch mania is set to peak at the same time as the heat of the Northern summer, with festival events scheduled throughout the summer.
Continue reading and discover what, like me, you missed.

The Cognitive Origins of Religion
via Big Think by Derek Beres
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To understand the human brain we often turn to neuroscientists and psychologists. Two decades ago, Professor of Archaeology Steven Mithen decided to explore the origins of our nervous system (and much more) through his field of study. Besides popularizing the term ‘cognitive fluidity’, in his landmark book, The Prehistory of the Mind: The Cognitive Origins of Art, Religion, and Science, Mithen speculated on exactly how primates evolved to the current iteration of the brain.
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Marc Bolan of T. Rex hosted a glam rock TV music show in the 1970s, and it was awesome
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder
Marc Bolan
I didn't know glam rock icon Marc Bolan hosted a music TV show in the 1970s. It was called simply MARC, and judging from this sixth (and final) episode, it was terrific.
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Saturday, 18 February 2017

Start with biological age and end with a brave new world. An eclectic mix.

Your Birth Date Is Arbitrary – It’s Your Biological Age That Matters
via Big Think by Philip Berry
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In a study published in the journal Molecular Cell, researchers discovered rapid aging in HIV patients. Biologist Trey Ideker and his team at the University of California, San Diego made this discovery, finding that these patients were susceptible to age-related diseases such as osteoporosis, heart disease, and dementia five years earlier than their non-infected peers. Researchers aren’t sure whether it is anti-retroviral drug treatments or the virus itself that causes this. But some aspect seems to speed up their biological age. So what is one’s biological age, and how is it different from the chronological kind?
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Paying for the privilege: a new Shakespeare discovery
via The National Archives Blog by Adrian Ailes
One third of a pound does not go far today – it’s not even a small child’s pocket money. But in 1603, it helped Shakespeare secure his future.
Six shillings and eight pence is what Shakespeare’s company of actors, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, were charged for the first stage of a bureaucratic process to gain a licence granting them the patronage of the new king, James I; henceforth, the company would be known as the King’s Men. It was expensive – at the time, actors in London were normally paid less than one shilling a day – but it was to prove a wise investment.
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Locations From Harry Potter That You Can See in Real Life
via MakeUseOf by Dave LeClair
Are you a huge fan of Harry Potter? Have you read all the books and seen all the movies multiple times each? What better way is there to truly express your love of all things Hogwarts than by actually going there, or at least going to place on which it’s based.
Check out the infographic here

Inner Earth Is Teeming With Exotic Forms of Life
via 3 Quarks Daily: Sandeep Ravindran in Smithsonian
Ancient bacteria from nearly two miles below Earth's surface: that's what first drew Tullis Onstott to begin his search for life in the most unlikely of places. The geomicrobiologist had just attended a 1992 U.S. Department of Energy meeting about rocks estimated to be more than 200 million years old—older than most dinosaurs. These prehistoric rocks had been unearthed from a gas exploration well, and they turned out to be teeming with bacteria. “That was pretty amazing to me,” says Princeton University's Onstott. “The idea that these bacteria had been living in these Triassic rocks since they were deposited at a time prior to the age of the dinosaurs, that idea caught my fancy,” he says. These rocks were among the first substantial evidence that life existed miles underground, and they jumpstarted researchers’ efforts to study life in the so-called deep subsurface. Over the past 20 years, Onstott and others have found that there is a greater variety of life in a lot more inhospitable places than anyone had imagined.
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Sheldon Museum of Art
Back in April of last year Research Buzz said that the Sheldon Museum of Art was digitizing its collection and that the work should be finished in late fall.
Intrigued I had to go and look and I found a treasure trove.
Look for yourself

Psycho thrillers: five movies that teach us how the mind works
Power, violence, death and reality … the movies can teach us plenty about life’s big issues. From the Godfather to Groundhog Day, five psychologists pick the films that tell us what makes humans tick
via 3 Quarks Daily: Catherine Shoard, Philippa Perry, Steven Pinker, Dacher Keltner, Sue Blackmore and Susan Greenfield in The Guardian
films and the mind
Read it here

New Shakespeare discovery reveals fee for royal favour
via The National Archives Blog by Dr Adrian Ailes
Archivists at The National Archives have discovered a 400-year-old document which reveals a new insight into how Shakespeare’s acting company rose to become royal favourites, known as the King’s Men.
It has long been known that Shakespeare and his colleagues acted as the Lord Chamberlain’s Men under Elizabeth I, and that King James I and VI made them the King’s Men after he came to the English throne in 1603.
What was not known until now was how much Shakespeare paid to receive this privilege.
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The Science Behind Why Freddie Mercury's Voice Was So Damned Compelling
via Big Think by Brandon Weber
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Scientists have studied the voice and vocals of one of the greats of pop music, Freddie Mercury of the band Queen. And the results?
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Fun “perpetual motion” gizmo made from office supplies
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder
I was wondering how this “swing thing” kept going. I had to make the video full screen to see the power source. Very cool!
Watch it for yourself

Is it a brave new world if you're a woman?
via 3 Quarks Daily by Sarah Firisen
There’s never been a better, safer, healthier, fairer time to be a woman than right now. On the other hand, the bar was set pretty low for most of history. Yes, we are no longer chattel, the property of our fathers and husbands. We can vote, hell one of us is probably on track to be the leader of the free world come January. But in reality, there have been other major female leaders before: Margaret Thatcher, what about Queen Elizabeth I in the 16th century, how much did she do to advance the cause of women in England? How much did either of them do, either in terms of policy or as icons who caused a major shift in public attitude and behavior?
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Friday, 17 February 2017

Should governments of OECD countries worry about graduate underemployment?

an article by Francis Green and Golo Henseke (UCL Institute of Education) published in Oxford Review of Economic Policy Volume 32 Number 4 (Winter 2016)


To assess potential public concerns, this paper examines theory and evidence surrounding graduate educational underemployment (overeducation) in this era of mass higher education. Using a new, validated, index of graduate jobs, we find that the prevalence of graduate underemployment across 21 countries is correlated with the aggregate supply-demand imbalance, but not with indicators of labour market flexibility.

Underemployment’s association with lower job satisfaction and pay is widespread. Yet in most countries there are external benefits (social trust, volunteering, and political efficacy) associated with higher education, even for those who are underemployed.

Taken together with existing studies we find that, in this era of mass higher education participation, under-employment is a useful indicator of the extent of macroeconomic disequilibrium in the graduate labour market.

We conclude that governments should monitor graduate underemployment, but that higher education policy should be based on social returns and should recall higher education’s wider purposes.

JEL Classification: I23, I28, J2, J3, J4

Full text (PDF)

A Study into Breaches of Youth Justice Orders and the Young People Who Breach Them

an article by Laurie D. Grandi (Middlesex University, London, UK) and Joanna R. Adler (affiliation(s) unknown) published in Youth Justice Volume 16 Issue 3 (2016)


This study concerns the incidence and aetiology of breach of youth community sentences.

A between-groups archival study compared those who breached with those who did not, on socio-demographic and criminogenic factors. Breachers were a minority, likely to breach repeatedly and were similar to those who re-offended.

Whether they breach or re-offend may depend on something other than the characteristics of the Order and the young person’s situation. Youth Justice Professionals should be mindful of the identified areas of need and responsivity when considering compliance.

The impact of acute health shocks on the labour supply of older workers: Evidence from sixteen European countries

an article by Elisabetta Trevisan (University of Padua, Italy and Netspar, Tilburg, The Netherlands) and Francesca Zantomio (Ca' Foscari University Venice, Italy) published in Labour Economics Volume 43 (December 2016)

  • Experiencing a first acute health shock doubles the risk of labour market exit.
  • Conditional on remaining in work, men increase hours worked, women do not.
  • Stroke causes the largest LMP response, followed by cancer, and then infarction.
  • Men’s response is driven by impairment, women’s by preferences and finances.
  • Access to disability benefits drives cross-country heterogeneity in LMP response.

We investigate the consequences of experiencing an acute health shock, namely the first onset of myocardial infarction, stroke or cancer, on the labour supply of older workers in Europe. Despite its policy relevance to social security sustainability, the question has not yet been empirically addressed in the European context.

We combine data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing and the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe and cover sixteen European countries, representative of different institutional settings, in the years spanning from 2002 to 2013.

The empirical strategy builds on the availability of an extremely rich set of health and labour market information as well as of panel data.

To remove the potential confounding bias, a selection on observables strategy is adopted, while the longitudinal dimension of data allows controlling for time invariant unobservables. Implementation is based on a combination of stratification and propensity score matching methods.

Results reveal that experiencing an acute health shock on average doubles the risk of an older worker leaving the labour market, and is accompanied by a deterioration in physical functioning and mental health, as well as by a reduction in perceived life expectancy.

Men’s labour market response appears driven by the onset of impairment acting as a barrier to work. In the case of women, preferences for leisure and financial constraints seem to play a prominent role. Heterogeneity in behavioural responses across countries – with the largest labour supply reductions observed in the Nordic and Eastern countries, and England – are suggestive of a relevant role played by social security generosity.

JEL Classification: J22, J18, I10, C14

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Watching the watchers: conducting ethnographic research on covert police investigation in the United Kingdom

an article by Shane Mac Giollabhuí (University of Dublin, Republic of Ireland), Benjamin Goold (University of British Columbia, Canada) and Bethan Loftus (University of Manchester, UK) published in Qualitative Research Volume 16 Issue 6 (December 2016)


It has long been claimed that the police are the most visible symbol of the criminal justice system (Bittner, 1974). There is, however, a significant strand of policing – covert investigation that relies routinely on methods of deception – that resists public revelation (Ross, 2008).

The growing importance of covert police investigation has profound implications for the relationship between citizen and the state in a democratic society, but it is relatively unexplored by police researchers.

In this article, we describe the methodology of the first ethnographic study of how the introduction of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2000) – a piece of ‘enabling’ legislation that regulates the conditions under which law enforcement agencies can intervene in the privacy of individuals – has effected the conduct of covert police investigation in the United Kingdom.

We describe our ethnographic experience in the ‘secret world’ of covert policing, which is familiar in many respects to ethnographers of uniformed officers, but which also differed significantly.

We contend that the organizing principle of surveillance – the imperative to maintain the secrecy of an operation – had a marked impact on our ethnographic experience, which eroded significantly our status as non-participant observers and altered out reflexive experience by activating the ‘usefulness’ of our gender.

Full text (PDF)

The delicate balance of ‘build to rent’

a blog post by Lindsay Judge for Resolution Foundation

How times change. Twenty five year ago less than one in ten families rented their home from a private landlord; today that figure stands at close to one in five. Renting is no longer the tenure of just the footloose and fancy-free who prize the flexibility that it offers. The private rented sector (PRS) is increasingly a place where families settle down, bring up their children and build a home.

But here’s the rub: the PRS in the UK is not well-suited to this new task. In contrast to many of our continental neighbours and the US, our PRS is highly fragmented and unprofessional. Renting out property is a side-line for most UK landlords: recent research has shown, for example, that over 60 per cent own a single unit while just 7 per cent own five or more. The result? Too often a low quality home, with limited security of tenure, and a high price tag.

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Local networks for local interactions: Four reasons why and a way forward

an article by Panayotis Antoniadis (Nethood) published in First Monday Volume 21 Number 12 (December 2016)


This paper frames the role of community (wireless) networks, and other forms of grassroots DIY networking models, as complementary to the Internet communication infrastructures hosting local services for facilitating local interactions, as drivers for a more convivial and sustainable life in the city.

Today, only a few Internet-based global corporations mediate our everyday online interactions, without respecting our rights to privacy, freedom of expression and self-determination; they depend for their own sustainability on the exploitation of the immense collected information and design power toward private, commercial and political objectives.

But when communication is meant to take place between people in physical proximity, local community networks can provide an alternative infrastructure owned and designed by those concerned.

The paper analyses four key reasons, practical, social, political, and scientific, why such DIY networks should be considered as a viable complementary infrastructure for local communications even when Internet access is available.

Through analogies with other relevant domains of local action, namely complementary currencies and cooperative housing, I conclude by addressing the dichotomy between local action and global coordination. I advocate for the co-creation of convivial ICT tools for building local communities, or better hybrid spaces of local cooperation, which are larger in size than the small in “small is beautiful” and smaller, but in many cases more diverse, than recent imaginaries of the “multitude”.

Full text (HTML)

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Caring About and For the Cuts: a Case Study of the Gendered Dimension of Austerity and Anti-austerity Activism

an article by Emma Craddock (Nottingham University, University Park, Nottingham, UK) published in Gender, Work and Organization Volume 24 Number 1 (January 2017)


Austerity is a feminist issue, given its disproportionate impact on women. Within Nottingham there has been a strong resistance to austerity.

However, the key local anti-austerity groups neglect this gendered dimension, resulting in women forming their own community groups to provide practical support to women affected by the cuts.

This article explores this feminist response to austerity, raising the question of why this gendered dimension is not visible within key local anti-austerity movements. It seeks to answer this question by drawing on data from semi-structured interviews with activists, paying close attention to the gendered barriers and exclusions to activism that exist.

In particular, this article explores the complex relationship between care and activism that underlies many of these barriers.

Finally, it offers some potential solutions to this key problem.

Full text (PDF)

Social Work Grand Challenges and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals: Linking Social Work and Women’s Health

an article by Annalise John (MSW), Elizabeth Gamarra (MSW), Melissa Bird (University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA), Rachel L. Wright (Appalachian State University, Boone, USA) and Caren J. Frost (PhD, MPH) published in International Journal of Social Work Volume 3 Number 2 (2017)


The health of women is a crucial component to family and community well-being. However, social work scholars have not been very engaged in research pertaining to the health needs of women. With the Grand Challenges of Social Work becoming a major element for national discussion and with the revision of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SGD) in 2015, we wondered how connected the 12 Grand Challenges and the 17 SDGs were.

We searched the social work literature from 2005 to present to identify what salient publications were available about women’s health and then connected them to the current themes of the Grand Challenges and SDGs.

There are no more articles to review in the social work literature.

Using a feminist social work framework, we summarize the topics covered in these articles and define a call to action for more scholarly work on women’s health in the context of current national and global conversations about this social justice issue.

Full text (PDF)

A new kind of steganography schemes for image

an article by Zhihai Zhuo (Beijing Information Science and Technology University, China) and Ning Zhong (China Youth University of Political Studies, Beijing, China) published in International Journal of Electronic Security and Digital Forensics Voume 9 Number 1 (2017)


Message security is more and more important in our modern life. As encryption arousing suspicion easily, steganography which aims at hiding secret message in a cover and has little influence on the cover becomes popular. There are many steganography algorithms having been proposed.

Most of them are based on binary, but binary sequence is longer than ternary sequence of a same decimal sequence. In this paper, to have a shorter sequence to represent secret message and protect it, we propose a new method to deal with secret message and get a binary sequence, a ternary sequence and a quaternary sequence.

For the ternary sequence and quaternary sequence, we propose a ternary JSteg method and a quaternary JSteg method; this method can keep the histogram characters. So for same secret message, our method will have less influence on the cover.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Valorised but not valued? Affective remuneration, social reproduction and feminist politics beyond the crisis

an article by Emma Dowling (Middlesex University, London, UK) published in British Politics Volume 11 Issue 4 (December 2016)


This paper proposes an analytical distinction between modes of valorising and modes of valuing social reproduction to suggest that a conflict between these two opposing modes lies at the heart of an on-going crisis of social reproduction in the face of purported economic recovery, where unpaid reproductive labour constitutes a source of surplus value.

A systemic imperative to expand markets in the pursuit of profitability goes hand in hand with a devaluation of social reproduction, either by making this work invisible or by externalising its cost.

This article analyses the specificities of this process in the context of contemporary Britain and investigates the role of the state, focusing on volunteering and new forms of ‘affective remuneration’ linked to financialisation and the connection between social reproduction and wealth extraction.

In conclusion, the paper outlines the contours of possible counter-practices informed by a feminist politics.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Is it better to invest in hard or soft skills?

an article by Jiří Balcar (VSB – Technical University of Ostrava, Czech Republic) published in The Economic and Labour Relations Review Volume 27 Issue 4 (2016)


Increasing awareness of the productive potential of soft skills has sparked a discussion of their systematic and purposeful development. However, education systems pay only limited attention to this topic in most countries and remain focused on the development of hard skills.

Is this approach rational or inadequate?

This article provides new evidence on different aspects of the wage returns to soft skills (as an approximation of their productivity), and thereby contributes significantly to the discussion of the role of educational institutions in their development. It provides evidence that soft skills are as productive as hard skills.

Moreover, it suggests that the productivity of hard skills stems from their combination with soft skills.

These conclusions do not correspond to the fact that the value of education is intermediated mainly by hard skills, resulting in unequal development of soft and hard skills in schools.

While concluding that education systems should pay more attention to soft skills development, the analysis recognises that this attention should be differentiated according to employers’ needs, owing to substantial differences in the value of soft skills across economic sectors.

It is also noteworthy that while significant gender differences in returns to hard skills were identified, wage returns to soft skills appear gender neutral.

JEL Classification: J24, J31, J71

Full text (PDF)

Will more higher education improve economic growth?

an article by Eric A. Hanushek (Stanford University, USA) published in Oxford Review of Economic Policy Volume 32 Issue 4 (November 2016)


Calls for expanded university education are frequently based on arguments that more graduates will lead to faster growth. Empirical analysis does not, however, support this general proposition.

Differences in cognitive skills – the knowledge capital of countries – can explain most of the differences in growth rates across countries, but just adding more years of schooling without increasing cognitive skills historically has had little systematic influence on growth.

JEL classification: O4, I2

Job Anxiety, Work-Related Psychological Illness and Workplace Performance

an article by Melanie K. Jones (Sheffield University), Paul L. Latreille (Sheffield University and IZA) and Peter J. Sloane (Swansea University; National Institute of Labour Studies, Flinders University; and IZA) published in the British Journal of Industrial Relations Volume 54 Issue 4 (December 2016)


This article uses matched employee-employer data from the British Workplace Employment Relations Survey to examine the relationship between employee psychological health and workplace performance in 2004 and 2011.

Using two measures of work-related psychological health – namely employee-reported job anxiety and manager-reported workforce stress, depression and anxiety – we find a positive relationship between psychological ill-health and absence, but not quits.

The association between psychological ill-health and labour productivity is less clear, with estimates sensitive to sector, time period and the measure of psychological health. The 2004–2011 panel is further used to explore the extent to which change in psychological health is related to change in performance.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Ten more weird and wonderful stories for your Sunday delectation

The Triumph of Piero
via 3 Quarks Daily: Willibald Sauerländer at the New York Review of Books
Piero della Francesca: Virgin of Mercy, the center panel of the Misericordia Polyptych, 1445–1462
Museo Civico, Sansepolcro/Erich Lessing/Art Resource

Piero della Francesca: Virgin of Mercy, the center panel of the Misericordia Polyptych, 1445–1462
I really do not know which paragraph of the review to use to highlight it.

Please read for yourself.

‘Not a fair trial’: Edward Ashford’s petitions for mercy
via The National Archives Blog by Briony Paxman
Working on the many thousands of petitions for clemency in record series HO 17 can be a sobering experience. We find accounts of families torn apart by transportation, descriptions of upsetting crimes, stories of individuals driven to criminal acts in desperate circumstances, and sometimes we come across unsettling accounts of someone who appears to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Edward Ashford is just such a case. I have chosen to focus on him for this blog because his petitions provide an unusually detailed account of how events overtook him, and his life was turned upside down: a trip to a fair led to an accusation of theft and the prospect of never seeing his family again.
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Bird genomes contain 'fossils' of parasites that now infect humans
via 3 Quarks Daily: From PhysOrg
Bird genomes contain 'fossils' of parasites that now infect humans
In rare instances, DNA is known to have jumped from one species to another. If a parasite's DNA jumps to its host's genome, it could leave evidence of that parasitic interaction that could be found millions of years later — a DNA 'fossil' of sorts. An international research team led from Uppsala University has discovered a new type of so-called transposable element that occurred in the genomes of certain birds and nematodes. The results are published in Nature Communications. Dr. Alexander Suh at Uppsala University is an expert on the small stretches of DNA that tend to jump from one place to another, called transposable elements. Working with a team from eleven institutions in five countries, the researchers discovered a new type of transposable element that occurred in certain bird genomes but not others. By searching DNA databases, the team discovered that the only other animals that shared the new transposable element were nematode worms that are parasites of humans and other mammals.
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Shakespeare's Not-So Sceptered Isle
via OUP Blog by Marisa R. Cull
In 2012, when the world tuned in for the opening ceremony of London’s Olympic Games, they were witness in part to a performance of one of Shakespeare’s most famed speeches, delivered by one of today’s most revered Shakespearean actors. Kenneth Branagh, dressed as English engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, offered these lines in the spirit of the ceremony’s larger theme, “The Isles of Wonder”:
Be not afeard: the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometimes voices,
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
I cried to dream again.
In isolation, as part of a larger tribute to the British Isles, the speech has a powerful effect. But of course Shakespeare is often misleading out of context. At this particular moment in The Tempest, set not in Britain but on a remote isle long associated with the “New World,” the island “monster” Caliban tries to calm the nerves of his fractious guests, who have sought first to subdue him and use his knowledge of the island to help them colonize it. For readers who come to sympathize with Caliban, the moment is poignant – a tribute to a homeland over which he has no control, on which he has been held as a prisoner and slave.
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What an Anti-Memory Is and How It Frees Your Mind
via Big Think by Laurie Vazquez
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Neuroscientists at Oxford just discovered how your brain moves memories into long-term storage. It’s called an anti-memory, and it’s more helpful than it sounds.
Memories, at their most basic, are electrical impulses. But what happens if those impulses are always firing? Would they overload your brain the same way that running too many programs on your computer would fry its RAM? The answer is yes. Scientists think that these overly excited neurons could be the culprits behind conditions like epilepsy, schizophrenia, and autism. The balancing agent that keeps that from happening are anti-memories.
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The brutality of Islamist terrorism has many precedents
via 3 Quarks Daily: John Gray at Lapham's Quarterly
For those who find the rise of ISIS baffling, much of the past century can only be retro­gression from modern life. Even the regime that committed a crime with no precedent in history must be regarded as an example of atavism: the Nazi state has often been described as having taken Europe back to the Dark Ages. Certainly the Nazis exploited a medieval Christian demonology in their persecution and genocide of Jews, but Nazism also invoked a modern pseudoscience of race to legitimate these atrocities. Invoking a type of faux Darwinism, Nazi racism could have emerged only in a time shaped by science. Nazism was modern not just in its methods of killing but also in its way of thinking.
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How Our Minds Were Once Shaped By Poetry
via Big Think by Jag Bhalla
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Few now sing the praises of when poetry shaped us. Its history of molding minds is almost lost (it lasted till prose, and its logic, could last). That’s the unsung pretext of Plato’s poetry ban.
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Portraits of Buffalo Bill’s “Show Indians”
via Boing Boing by Jason Weisberger
Charging Thunder
Photographer Gertrude Käsebier received permission from Buffalo Bill Cody to photograph the native tribes people in his Wild West Show. This collection, from the Library of Congress, is wonderful.
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No place like home
via 3 Quarks Daily: Lyndsey Stonebridge in Eurozine
The end of the Second World War was as bad as the beginning. In Europe displaced persons filled old camps and necessitated new ones, as new political frontiers were drawn across the continent. More people waited on more boats and at more borders. As India and Pakistan took shape out of the ashes of British colonial rule in 1947, millions more found themselves forced on to the road. In 1948 the creation of Israel pushed out a new generation of refugees, the Palestinians, soon to become the first permanently stateless people of modern times. More followed from China, Tibet, Burma, Bangladesh and North Korea; the misfortunes multiplied, from land to land, continent to continent.
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10 surprising facts about Ancient Egyptian art and architecture
via OUP Blog by Christina Riggs
Ancient Egyptian art dates all the way back to 3000BC and provides us with an understanding of ancient Egyptian socioeconomic structures and belief systems. The Ancient Egyptians also developed an array of diverse architectural structures and monuments, from temples to the pyramids that are still a major tourist attraction today. But how much do you know about Ancient Egyptian art and architecture? Christina Riggs, author of Ancient Egyptian Art and Architecture: A Very Short Introduction, tells us ten things we need to know about Ancient Egyptian art and architecture:
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Saturday, 11 February 2017

A "voluptuous" process through to climate change and how wine might be affected

How ink is made: a voluptuous process revealed in a mouth-watering video
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder

Ayun Halliday of Open Culture wrote about this luscious ink-making video. As depicted above, ink making is as voluptuous a process as making a high end candy bar. Having grown up around the printing floor of a daily newspaper, I know that ink’s pungent aroma is the opposite of chocolate-y, but my mouth still started to water. Was it the commercial-ready classical soundtrack or hearing Chief Ink Maker Peter Welfare comparing the pigment’s gooey “vehicle” to honey? I won’t be dipping my tongue in the ink pot any time soon, but the multistep four color process by which powdered cyan, magenta, yellow, and black hues become press-bound ink proved far more sensual than expected.
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Disbelief in Belief
via 3 Quarks Daily by Maarten Boudry
A man walking in the forest at night arrives at a house with lights burning inside. Looking through the window, he sees people jumping frantically and flailing about. Poor fellows, thinks the man: they are having seizures, or they must be terribly ill, or they have become insane. What the man doesn't hear is the music playing inside. The people are dancing and singing for a wedding. Gershom Gorenberg recounts this Jewish-Chassidic parable in his splendid book The End of Days on the danger of apocalyptic belief systems. Its morale? If you don't hear the music of faith, you will conclude that the dancers are out of their mind.
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Anything to Get the Shot: Itinerant Photographers
via Picture This by Kristi Finefield
County fair, tintype booth of Miss. F.B. Johnston, May 1903. Photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston, May 1903.
“Look! Look!! Look!!! Tintypes. Cheap. Beautiful. Lasting.” The sign posted by the entrance to an elaborate temporary booth at a 1903 county fair sums up in a handful of words much of the appeal of the simple tintype portrait photograph.
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Why We Have Different Blood Types
via Big Think by Natalie Shoemaker
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I still remember when my mother told me I had O- blood. She said it meant I was a universal donor—anyone could receive my blood, but I could only take O- blood in return. I’ll admit feeling prideful of this distinction — as if I've been selected for a duty to help others. It’s a fact I’ve never questioned until recently. After all, what’s the evolutionary advantage for having such different blood types? It certainly doesn’t do us any favours when receiving a transfusion of a blood not of your type could very well kill you.
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Man’s Pest Friend
via Arts & Letters Daily: Steve Donoghue in Open Letter Monthly, an Arts and Literature Review
What is a Dog?
By Raymond Coppinger and Lorna Coppinger (University of Chicago Press, 2016)
Look at the pictures in any issue of the National Geographic going back a hundred years, and you’ll see them. They’ll never be the actual subject of the photo, but behind every gap-toothed old sage in Kathmandu, behind every flirting young couple in Zanzibar, behind every struggling family in Ecuador, behind every black-eyed bush elder on the outskirts of the Amazon, behind every hunched team of Arctic explorers rimed in hoarfrost, behind every strutting Texas rodeo star … eating or sleeping or slinking or just standing incuriously in countless hundreds of photos will be dogs: scrappy, dun-colored pi dogs, village dogs, feral dogs, dump dogs.
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How to construct a bow and arrows using only primitive stone tools
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder

I've been avidly watching these Primitive Technology videos. The fellow who makes the videos lives in "Far North Queensland, Australia," and so far has made a hut with a kiln-fired tiled roof, underfloor heating and mud pile walls, baskets, a stone hatchet, charcoal, and a sling using only his hands on primitive stone tools. In his latest video, he builds a bow and some arrows.
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The revolutionary science of eighteenth century France
Steve Jones’ new book is an ingenious tour of scientific innovation in the age of the guillotine.
via New Statesman by Ruth Scurr
In his introduction to No Need for Geniuses the geneticist Steve Jones claims to be indulging in “what the French call, in an inelegant but precise phrase, vulgarisation scientifique”. What follows is an ingenious guidebook to the scientific past of Paris, written in lucid, erudite prose that is certainly not vulgar in the English sense.
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Second North American Viking site suspected
via Boing Boing by Rob Beschizza

L'Anse Aux Meadows was the first, and until now the only site widely accepted as evidence of Viking settlement in the Americas. But then there were two – maybe.
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I searched for “newfoundland viking settlement to try for an update but could find nothing later than April/May of 2016

Horse Poop Helps Unravel the Mystery of Hannibal's Route Through the Alps
via 3 Quarks Daily: Jason Daley in Smithsonian Magazine
In 218 B.C. the Carthaginian general Hannibal led an army of 30,000 soldiers, 15,000 horses and mules and 37 war elephants across the Alps into Italy, a bold move that led to one of the greatest victories of the Second Punic War with Rome. It placed Hannibal in the pantheon of legendary ancient generals like Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar.
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Does climate change spell the end of fine wine?
via OUP Blog by Orley Ashenfelter and Karl Storchmann
Fine wine is an agricultural product with characteristics that make it especially sensitive to a changing climate. The quality and quantity of wine, and thus prices and revenues, are extremely sensitive to the weather where the grapes were grown. Depending on weather conditions, the prices for wines produced by the same winemaker from fruit grown on the same plot of land can vary by a factor of 20 or more from year to year. Similarly, prices for wines from the same grape type vary enormously, with wines from more conducive climates fetching a much higher price.
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Friday, 10 February 2017

Career choice and unemployment length: A study of graduates from a South African university

an article by Precious Mncayi and Steven Henry Dunga (North-West University, South Africa) published in Industry and Higher Education Volume 30 Number 6 (December 2016)


Graduate unemployment is especially problematic in a country where much emphasis is placed on furthering academic studies for economic and personal rewards. This article investigates the relationship between career choice and unemployment length among graduates from a South African university.

Data were collected by means of a survey questionnaire distributed to graduates in the university’s alumni database. An analysis of variance model was estimated and various descriptive analyses and an ordinary least squares regression were employed.

The study finds that the specific majors held by graduates not only influence employment status but also the time taken to find employment. Although human resources, industrial psychology, labour relations management, public administration, public management and politics remain the most popular majors, many graduates in these areas have to wait a long time before securing a job.

In light of their findings, the authors recommend that university courses should be as practically oriented as possible in order to help graduates in the job market and consequently to make the transition from education to work an easier one.

For their part, graduates need to ensure that they make wise and informed career choices. The government needs to put into effect direct interventions that will enhance and augment teaching and learning throughout the educational system, bearing in mind that the choice to study a certain discipline may be affected by many factors, some of which are beyond the control of the student, such as the quality of school education or socio-economic background. 

Full text (PDF)

Do maternal health problems influence child's worrying status? Evidence from the British Cohort Study

an article by Xianhua Dai (Wuhan Institute of Technology, People’s Republic of China), Wolfgang Karl Härdle (Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Germany and Singapore Management University) and Keming Yu (Brunel University, Uxbridge, UK)


Conventional methods apply symmetric prior distributions such as a normal distribution or a Laplace distribution for regression coefficients, which may be suitable for median regression and exhibit no robustness to outliers. This work develops a quantile regression on linear panel data model without heterogeneity from a Bayesian point of view, i.e. upon a location-scale mixture representation of the asymmetric Laplace error distribution, and provides how the posterior distribution is summarized using Markov chain Monte Carlo methods.

Applying this approach to the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS) data, it finds that a different maternal health problem has different influence on child’s worrying status at different quantiles. In addition, applying stochastic search variable selection for maternal health problems to the 1970 BCS data, it finds that maternal nervous breakdown, among the 25 maternal health problems, contributes most to influence the child’s worrying status.

JEL Classification: C11, C38, C63

Training as a social purpose: are economic and social benefits delivered?

an article by Allan Butler (Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester, UK) and Matt Lobley (University of Exeter, UK) published in International Journal of Training and Development Volume 20 Issue 4 (December 2016)


This paper reports original research which measures the social and economic impact of training and skills development on individuals who participated in training provided by social purpose, nonprofit organizations. An implicit policy assumption is that such organizations contribute to social and economic regeneration.

Examining the costs and benefits of training to trainees, an adapted Return on Investment methodology measures any economic benefit, while an Index of Social Benefit measures changes in individual well-being.

The results demonstrate that while changes to both the economic and social well-being of trainees occur, it does not necessarily relate solely to the training they received.

Instead, changes reflect other, often complex, aspects of trainees’ lives, although training may facilitate change.

Furthermore, social purpose, nonprofit organizations need to evince the socioeconomic benefits of their training programmes to secure future funding, public or private, but proving their successful delivery may be difficult to determine.

How universities boost economic growth

a paper by Anna Valero (research economist in CEP’s growth programme) and John Van Reenen (professor of economics at MIT and formerly director of CEP) published in CentrePiece Volume 21 Issue 3 (Winter 2016) Paper No CEPCP488


The expansion of higher education has helped to fuel economic growth around the world, according to research by Anna Valero and John Van Reenen.

Analysing data on 15,000 universities in 78 countries for the period since 1950, they find that there is a strong positive impact of university expansion on regional economic growth. Doubling the number of universities in a region raises future GDP per capita by 4%.

Focusing on the immediate challenges for the UK, they note that the benefits of university expansion far outweigh the costs, but Brexit poses significant risks.

Until now, UK universities have thrived in a climate of openness to international students, academics and collaboration.

JEL Classification: I23, I25, J24, O10, O31

Full paper

This paper summarises The Economic Impact of Universities: Evidence from Across the Globe by Anna Valero and John Van Reenen, CEP Discussion Paper No. 1444, August 2016

Full text (PDF 83pp)

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Wage inequality, skill inequality, and employment: evidence and policy lessons from PIAAC

an article by Sonja Jovicic (University of Wuppertal, Germany) published in IZA Journal of European Labor Studies Volume 5 Article 21 (2016)


This paper investigates international differences in wage inequality and skills and whether a compressed wage distribution is associated with high unemployment across core OECD countries.

Wage dispersion and wage structure are widely debated among policymakers; compressed wage structure is often perceived as an important cause of high unemployment.

Firstly, this paper examines differences in wage dispersion across OECD countries and their link to skill dispersion. Some countries that have more compressed (dispersed) wage structures simultaneously have more compressed (dispersed) skill structures as well, and skill differences explain part of the differences in wage dispersion.

However, even when accounted for skills, some countries have a more compressed wage structure, most likely caused by labor market institutions. We do not find an effect of wage compression on the labor market performance in the low-skill sector.

Based on the Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) survey of adult skills for core OECD countries, this paper cannot confirm the skill compression nor wage compression hypotheses.

Rather than insisting on the deregulation of labor market institutions and reductions in public welfare policy as the main policy recommendations to achieve higher employment (and higher wage inequality), policymakers should reconsider aggregate demand deficiency and the variation in macroeconomic policies as potential explanations for the employment differences across countries.

JEL Classification: J31, J24, E24

University students’ unions: changing functions, a UK and comparative perspective

an article by Lu Guan Lingnan (Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, People's Republic of China) and Michael Cole and Frank Worthington (University of Liverpool, UK) published in Studies in Higher Education Volume 41, 2016 - Issue 12


In this article, we consider the functions of students’ unions (SUs) through a UK case study.

First, a functional classification of educational representation; wider representation; delivery of commercial services and faciliating a student community is outlined.

Second, we specify a theoretical framework in terms of neo-liberalism and therapeutic ideas of education.

Third, we discuss recent SU functional changes.

Fourth, we interpret those changes through the theories outlined above.

Our contribution to scholarship is threefold; first we study the evolution of UK SUs. Second, we apply theory to interpret these changes. Third, we generate findings that could be applied to develop a comparative international literature.

Volume of retail trade down by 0.3% in euro area

Eurostat news release 24/2017 – 3 February 2017

In December 2016 compared with November 2016, the seasonally adjusted volume of retail trade fell by 0.3% in the euro area (EA19) and by 0.8% in the EU28, according to estimates from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.

In November the retail trade volume decreased by 0.6% in the euro area and by 0.1% in the EU28.

In December 2016 compared with December 2015 the calendar adjusted retail sales index increased by 1.1% in the euro area and by 2.3% in the EU28.

The average retail trade for the year 2016, compared with 2015, rose by 1.8% in the euro area and by 2.8% in the EU28.

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Wednesday, 8 February 2017

How Large are Earnings Penalties for Self-Employed and Informal Wage Workers?

an article by T. H. Gindling and Nadwa Mossaad (UMBC, Baltimore, MD, USA) and David Newhouse (Poverty and Equity Global Practice, World Bank, Washington, DC, USA) published in IZA Journal of Labor & Development Volume 5 Article 20 (2016)


This paper examines the earnings penalties and premiums associated with different types of employment in 73 countries.

Workers are divided into four categories: non-professional own-account workers, employers and own-account professionals, informal wage employees, and formal wage employees.

Approximately half of the workers in low income countries are non-professional own-account workers, and the majority of the rest are informal employees. Fewer than 10 percent are formal employees, and only 2 percent of workers in low income countries are employers or own-account professionals. As per capita gross domestic product increases across countries, there are large net shifts from non-professional own-account work into formal wage employment. Across all regions and income levels, non-professional own-account workers and informal wage employees face an earnings penalty compared with formal wage employees.

But in low income countries, this earnings penalty is small, and non-professional own-account workers earn a positive premium relative to all wage employees. Earnings penalties for non-professional own-account workers tend to increase with gross domestic product and are largest for female workers in high income countries. On average, employers and own-account professionals earn a premium compared to employees, although there are important differences across countries and between men and women.

In terms of regional differences, earnings premiums for employers and professionals are largest for men in middle income Latin American countries. On the other hand, women employers and professionals do not earn a statistically significant premium compared to employees in any region of the world.

These results are consistent with compensating wage differentials and firm quasi-rents playing important roles in explaining cross-country variation in earnings penalties, and raise questions about the extent to which the unskilled self-employed are rationed out of formal wage work in low income countries.

JEL Classification: J31, O17

Full text (PDF)

Hazel’s comment:
Lots of tables and figures to get your teeth into here. I'd almost forgotten how much I enjoyed doing that.

Does free childcare help parents work?

Institute for Fiscal Studies Briefing Note (BN189)

Free part-time childcare places for all 3- and 4-year-olds in England were introduced in the early 2000s. The government is now planning to extend this offer from 15 to 30 hours per week (still for 38 weeks of the year) for children in working families from September 2017. One of the aims of the policy is to enable parents to work more – but is it likely to achieve this aim?

This briefing note draws on the findings of a new IFS working paper, Free childcare and parents’ labour supply: is more better?, by Mike Brewer, Sarah Cattan, Claire Crawford and Birgitta Rabe, to try to answer this question.

In this new work, the researchers compared what happened to the labour market outcomes of mothers and fathers as their children moved from being entitled to a free part-time nursery place (offering 15 hours of free childcare per week) to a full-time place at primary school (which effectively offers parents 30–35 hours of free childcare per week).

The research found no evidence that the work patterns of mothers with younger children, or those of fathers, were affected. There was evidence of an effect for mothers whose youngest child became eligible for free full-time care, but this was still relatively small: at the end of the first year of entitlement to free full-time care, mothers whose youngest child was eligible were found to be 5.7 percentage points more likely to be in the labour force and 3.5 percentage points more likely to be in work than mothers whose youngest child was at the end of their first year of part-time entitlement. This was equivalent to around 12,000 more mothers in work each year.

Should we infer from these results that the planned increase in entitlement to free care from 15 to 30 hours per week for 3- and 4-year-olds in working families in England will have a similarly small effect on parents’ labour supply?

There are some reasons to think that the effects identified by the researchers might be smaller than the future impact of this policy: for example, the researchers examined the effects of moving to a very rigid form of full-time childcare – that delivered during school hours and only during term time – while the plans for the new policy suggest that the additional hours of free care could be taken more flexibly, across fewer than 5 days per week and more than 38 weeks per year. The fact that the additional hours are only available to working parents may also encourage more parents to move into work in order to become entitled to the extra care.

But there are also reasons to think that the effects of the new policy might be smaller than those identified by the researchers: 30 hours is slightly less than the number of hours per week that children spend in school, and more mothers are in work now than they were at the time of the study.

Overall, it is difficult to judge what effect the proposed extension of free care from 15 to 30 hours per week for 3- and 4-year-olds in working families in England will have on parental labour supply, but the recent research conducted in England – together with the balance of evidence from the international literature – suggests that it is only likely to increase parental employment slightly.

Of course, the provision of additional free childcare is also likely to reduce the amount parents spend on childcare. But it will probably do so by far less than the amount the government will spend providing the extra care, because many parents use informal care (for which they do not have to pay) rather than paying for formal care to meet their childcare needs.

Full text (PDF 20pp)

Gender unemployment gaps in the EU: blame the family

an article by Alena Bičáková CERGE-EI (Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute) Czechia published in IZA Journal of European Labor Studies Volume 5 Article 22 (2016)


There are considerable differences in gender unemployment gaps across the EU. We use labor force survey data on 21 countries to perform a series of data decompositions and show that the cross-country variation in gender unemployment gaps is primarily driven by the differences in female labor force participation behavior after childbirth, namely, the family leave duration and the subsequent attachment of women to the labor force.

Further, in countries where a high share of women permanently withdraw from the labor force after childbirth, the size of gender differences in unemployment strongly correlates with the Eurobarometer measure of perceived overall gender discrimination.

Our findings suggest that family leave policies and institutions that facilitate the leave to work transition and the work-family balance are crucial to tackle the gender differences in unemployment in countries where the female unemployment rate exceeds that of men.

JEL Classification:  J13, J21, J70

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Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Traditional and digital personal learning environment in experiences of university students

an article by Irena Pulak (Jesuit University of Philosophy and Education 'Ignatianum', Cracow, Poland) published in International Journal of Continuing Engineering Education and Life-Long Learning Volume 26 Number 4 (2016)


The article showcases results of the research of university students’ experiences in the field of creating the individual learning environment.

Contemporary learning environments can be built both in the traditional and virtual spaces. They consist of information resources, means of transportation and tools for collecting, processing and cleaning up data, administering and presenting in various, often multimedia forms.

Educational institutions in the formal education framework as well as during informal education where the student individually designs and organises their learning environment can create individual experiences of the personal learning environment.

The ability of creating the individual learning environment, tailored to specific needs, is a significant factor contributing to starting lifelong learning.

Governance In The Labour Supply Chain

an article by Michael Hepburn via ICSA published on the Mondaq blog

Workers in the ‘gig’ economy present new employment law obligations for organisations

A gig economy is an environment in which temporary positions are common and organisations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements. The trend towards a gig economy is well under way.

In the summer, the ongoing Uber case was the first of, perhaps, many gig economy examples of workers taking a services company to employment tribunal over employment rights.

With so many new technology services in the delivery, transport and other sectors using new business models it is perhaps no surprise that UK employment law for the individuals involved is uncertain.

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Work–Family Role Conflict and Well-Being Among Women and Men

an article by Liat Kulik and Sagit Shilo-Levin (Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel) and Gabriel Liberman (Data-Graph Research & Statistical Consulting, Holon, Israel published in Journal of Career Assessment Volume 24 Issue 4 (November 2016)


The main goal of the present study was to examine gender differences in the variables that explain the experience of role conflict and well-being among Jewish working mothers versus working fathers in Israel (n = 611).

The unique contribution of the study lies in its integrative approach to examining the experience of two types of role conflict: work interferes with family (WIF) and family interferes with work (FIW). The explanatory variables included sense of overload, perceived social support, and gender role ideology.

The findings revealed that for women, both FIW and WIF conflict correlated negatively with well-being, whereas for men, a negative correlation with well-being was found only in the case of FIW conflict.

Contrary to expectations, social support contributed more to mitigating negative affect among men than among women. On the whole, the findings highlight the changes that men have experienced in the work–family system.

Full text (PDF)

Monday, 6 February 2017

Long-term consequences of workplace bullying on sickness absence

an article by Tine L. Mundbjerg Eriksen (Aarhus University, Denmark), Annie Hogh (University of Copenhagen, Denmark) and Åse Marie Hansen (University of Copenhagen, Denmark and The National Research Centre for the Working Environment, Copenhagen, Denmark) published in Labour Economics Volume 43 (December 2016)

  • Gender does not explain exposure to bullying once we include workplace fixed effects.
  • We find that, bullying only increases women's long-term sickness absence.
  • The findings are robust to personality and work environment characteristics.
  • We analyze explanations such as health, turnover, and labor force participation.
  • Results indicate that women's health deteriorates, while men leave the labor force.


Bullying in workplaces is a problem thought to harm individual productivity. This paper investigates whether being exposed to bullying in the workplace increases long-term sickness absence. We analyze employees from a selection of workplaces from The Bullying Cohort Study conducted in Denmark in 2006.

The Negative Acts Questionnaire-Revised was used to avoid bias related to self-labeling as being bullied. We account for important confounders, such as historical information on sickness absence and mental health, obtained through rich registry data. Our results show that gender does not significantly explain exposure to bullying and that exposure to bullying is associated with negative immediate self-reported health for both genders.

We also find, however, that only bullied females have higher, persistent increases in long-term sickness absence and adverse long-term health. This suggests that men and women have different coping strategies. We investigate plausible explanations for this and find that the differences cannot be explained by, for example, turnover or lack of employment.

Although insignificant, our results nonetheless indicate that men are twice as likely to leave the labor force immediately after exposure to bullying.

JEL classification: J15, J24, J81

Unemployment and Domestic Violence: Theory and Evidence

an article by Dan Anderberg, Jonathan Wadsworth and Tanya Wilson (Royal Holloway, University of London) and Helmut Rainer (University of Munich and Ifo Institute) published in The Economic Journal Volume 126 Issue 597 (November 2016)


Does rising unemployment really increase domestic violence as many commentators expect? The contribution of this article is to examine how changes in unemployment affect the incidence of domestic abuse.

Theory predicts that male and female unemployment have opposite-signed effects on domestic abuse: an increase in male unemployment decreases the incidence of intimate partner violence, while an increase in female unemployment increases domestic abuse.

Combining data on intimate partner violence from the British Crime Survey with locally disaggregated labour market data from the UK’s Annual Population Survey, we find strong evidence in support of the theoretical prediction.

A Comparison of Strengths and Interests Protocols in Career Assessment and Counseling

an article by Rhea L. Owens (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada), Thomas C. Motl (Psychologist) and Thomas S. Krieshok (University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, USA) published in Journal of Career Assessment Volume 24 Issue 4 (November 2016)


This study examined the relative performance of three career counseling protocols: a strengths-based protocol, an interest-based protocol, and a protocol that combined strengths and interests.

Outcome measures included career exploration, occupational engagement, career decision self-efficacy, hope, positive and negative affect, and life satisfaction pre- and post-intervention. The participants consisted of 82 undergraduate students enrolled in a career and life-planning course. Each participant received a career counseling intervention and a Strong Interest Inventory (SII), StrengthsFinder, or both the SII and StrengthsFinder interpretation.

While all three groups showed significant gains from pre-test to post-test on most outcomes, results suggest the interests protocol (IP) was the most effective approach when considering the conservation of resources.

However, results also merit further exploration of the combined protocol (CP; strengths plus interests) given the greatest gains were achieved by this approach on all but one construct, though not significantly different from the IP. Implications are discussed.

Full text (PDF)

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Ten items spanning from 17th century Spain to sending a nanocraft to Alpha Centauri

Still Tilting at Windmills
On the 400th anniversary of Cervantes’s death, Spain struggles to honor its literary heritage
via Arts & Letters Daily: Stephen Phelan in Boston Review
Still Tilting at Windmills
Actors portraying Sancho Panza, left, and Miguel de Cervantes take a break from entertaining tourists in Alcalá de Henares, Spain, the Don Quixote author’s birthplace.
On a recent [early 2016?] Saturday morning, I caught The Cervantes Train from Madrid’s Atocha Station. Don Quixote greeted me on the platform. He was dressed pretty much as described in the novel that made him immortal: a lesser nobleman of La Mancha from the early seventeenth century, passing for a knight in flimsy (cardboard) armor, and carrying the (padded foam) lance with which he tilts at windmills.
He spoke in the Old Castillian vernacular that made it comically tricky for the book’s other characters to understand him—even more so for today’s Spanish speakers, and that much harder for non-fluent foreigners like me. “I’m sorry,” he said, when I informed him that I am Irish. “I am not familiar with your barbarous tongue.”

10 facts about the “king of instruments”
via OUP Blog by Victoria Davis
The organ is a complex, powerful instrument. Its history is involved and wide-ranging, and throughout the years it has commanded respect as it leaves its listeners in awe. To celebrate the organ, we compiled a list of 10 facts you may or may not know about this magnificent instrument.
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The Anomaly of Barbarism
The brutality of Islamist terrorism has many precedents
via Arts & Letters Daily: John Gray in Lapham’s Quarterly
The rise of ISIS is intensely unsettling to the liberal West, and not just because of the capacity the jihadist group has demonstrated to launch a mass-casualty terrorist attack in a major European city. The group’s advance confounds the predominant Western view of the world. For the current generation of liberal thinkers, modern history is a story of the march of civilization. There have been moments of regression, some of them atrocious, but these are only relapses into the barbarism of the past, interrupting a course of development that is essentially benign. For anyone who thinks in this way, ISIS can only be a mysterious and disastrous anomaly.
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After we make peace with robots doing all the work, will our lives have meaning?
via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow

Philosopher John Danaher’s new paper “Will life be worth living in a world without work? Technological Unemployment and the Meaning of Life” assumes that after the robots take all our jobs, and after the economic justice of figuring out how to share the productivity games [gains?] can be equitably shared among the robot-owning investor class and the robot-displaced 99%, there will still be a burning question: what will give our life meaning?
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How legal history shapes the present
via OUP Blog by Alfred. L Brophy
The field of “legal history” studies the relationship that “law” and legal institutions have to the society that surrounds them. “Law” means everything from local regulations and rules promulgated by administrative agencies, to statutes and court decisions. Legal history is interested in how “law” and legal institutions operate and how they change over time in reaction to changing economic, social, and political conditions. It looks at people who are “governed” by law, as well as how those people try to influence law and legal actors. Thus, the field covers such diverse topics as the Roman law of wills, the social and economic conditions that brought down feudalism, the legal ideas motivating the American Revolution, the way that slave patrols kept the slave system in place, the legal regulation of business in the early 20th century, right up through the Black Power movement’s critique of the US criminal justice system.
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Our ancestors may have mated more than once with mysterious ancient humans
via 3 Quarks Daily: Lizzie Wade in Science
It looked like an ordinary finger bone. But when researchers sequenced its DNA in 2010, they uncovered the existence of a group of ancient humans no one had seen before: the Denisovans. Then came an even bigger surprise. Some modern humans also carry Denisovan DNA, meaning that at some point in the ancient past, Denisovans and modern humans mated and had children. Now, a new study concludes that all that free love had some dark consequences, including male offspring that were likely sterile.
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Climate and the inequality of nations
via OUP Blog by Thomas Barnebeck Andersen, Carl-Johan Dalgaard, and Pablo Selaya
Countries grow richer as one moves away from the equator, and the same is generally true if one looks at differences among regions within countries. However, this was not always the case: research has shown that in 1500 C.E., for example, there was no such positive link between latitude and prosperity. Can these irregularities be explained?
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In 1862, a South Carolina slave stole a Confederate ship and sailed it to the Union navy
via Boing Boing Futility Closet

In 1862, slave Robert Smalls was working as a pilot aboard a Confederate transport ship in Charleston, S.C., when he siezed a unique chance to escape. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll follow his daring predawn journey, which rescued 17 people from slavery and changed the course of South Carolina history.
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The Sound of Silence
Jean Sibelius and the symphony that never was
via Arts & Letters Daily: Sudip Bose in The |American Scholar

Jean and Aino Sibelius with Margaret, Catherine, and Heidi at Ainola in the fall of 1915. (Public Domain via the Finnish Club of Helsinki)
From 1904 until his death in 1957, the composer Jean Sibelius lived some 20 miles north of Helsinki, in a rural villa built of timber and stone on the shores of Lake Tuusula. He called the house Ainola, after his wife, Aino. Surrounded by fields and birch forests, it befitted the isolation of Sibelius’s later years, when Finland’s most revered musician became a withdrawn, reclusive figure. From about 1933 onward, he published no music of any significance, nothing but a few trifles and arrangements. Yet he continued to wage a turbulent artistic struggle with himself as he attempted, over the course of several years, to write his Eighth Symphony.
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Steven Hawking wants to send tiny ‘nanocraft&dsquo; space probes to Alpha Centauri
via Boing Boing by Xeni Jardin

Alpha Centauri, the closest star system to Earth’s solar system.
[European Southern Observatory]
“Today, we commit to this next great leap into the cosmos”, Stephen Hawking said today [12 April 2016] in New York. “Because we are human, and our nature is to fly.”
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Saturday, 4 February 2017

From "lost" London to Mycenaean culture via another eight stories

Tube map of “lost” London
via Boing Boing by Rob Beschizza

London is a ghost of all the things that were once there, and The Lost London Tube Map shows off some of the most famous forgotten landmarks. Biscuit Town and Bedlam are long gone, but others (like Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens) are still around to be rediscovered.
Fascinating. Take care looking at the narrative and then linking to x and then y as these can lead you down some lovely byways. You will suddenly find that an hour has passed very pleasantly.
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A Revolutionary Discovery in China
via 3 Quarks Daily: Ian Johnson in the New York Review of Books
An eighteenth-century painting showing Emperor Qin Shi Huang of the Qin dynasty ‘burning all the books and throwing scholars into a ravine’ in order to stamp out ideological nonconformity after the unification of China in 221 BCE. ‘For over two millennia,’ Ian Johnson writes, ‘all our knowledge of China’s great philosophical schools was limited to texts revised after the Qin unification.’ Now a trove of recently discovered ancient documents, written on strips of bamboo, ‘is helping to reshape our understanding of China’s contentious past.’ Illustration from Henri Bertin’s album The History of the Lives of the Chinese Emperors.
As Beijing prepared to host the 2008 Olympics, a small drama was unfolding in Hong Kong. Two years earlier, middlemen had come into possession of a batch of waterlogged manuscripts that had been unearthed by tomb robbers in south-central China. The documents had been smuggled to Hong Kong and were lying in a vault, waiting for a buyer.
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Prostitution: The world's oldest public policy issue
via OUP Blog by Bruce Elmslie
Ever since the first arrangements were made for the exchange of some form of money for some form of sex, buying (or selling) sex has raised thorny issues for society’s rulers and governments. The Israelites condemned it, believing it would encourage men to seek sex outside marriage (Proverbs 23:27–28). Throughout much of European history, the profession was legal and often a source of tax revenue. The ancient Greeks and Roman used prostitution as a cash cow. It was unregulated in Britain until the Reformation, when it was criminalized. The question of how best to regulate prostitution is still with us, as evidenced by the plethora of policies across the world, from laissez-faire to outright prohibition. The Economist magazine thought the issue important enough to devote a cover to its own free trade position on prostitution (9–11 August 2014).
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A European Union?
via 3 Quarks Daily: Gavin Jacobson in The Nation

In December 1930, Stefan Zweig began writing a biography of Marie Antoinette. He was living in Salzburg, Austria, having moved there from Vienna in 1919 after World War I. He was almost 50 and at the height of his literary fame, living comfortably on the Kapuzinerberg in a large yellow villa crowned with turrets and ringed by high walls. When he wasn’t writing, he was traveling to Berlin or Paris, calling on the artistic celebrities of the day like a modern Boswell. When in Vienna, he went to the opera or lounged in cafés with Sigmund Freud and Arthur Schnitzler. It was a good life lived in the gloaming of interwar Europe.
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The trick of the lock: Dorothy L. Sayers and the invention of the voice print
via OUP Blog by Mike Goldsmith
Pre-eminent among writers of mystery stories is, in my opinion, Dorothy L. Sayers. She is ingenious, witty, original – and scientific too, including themes like the fourth dimension, electroplating, and the acoustics of bells in some of her best stories. She is also the inventor of the voice-activated lock, which her hero Lord Peter Wimsey deploys in the 1928 short story ‘The Adventurous Exploit of the Cave of Ali Baba’ (in the collection Lord Peter Views the Body).
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Read Gene Wilder's feedback on Willy Wonka costume concepts for the 1971 film
via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz

After Gene Wilder saw early sketches of his costume for the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, he had some strong opinions to share with director Mel Stuart.
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Saladin's Islamic State
via OUP Blog by Philip A. Mackowiak
Aleppo, Mosul, Tikrit, Acre… Until just a few years ago, these names meant little to the average American. Now they are all too familiar, as are the atrocities being committed there in the name of religion. Eight hundred years ago the situation in that region was much the same, except then, Christians were committing acts of cruelty no less numerous or shocking than Muslims. Both did so during the course of Holy Wars that came to be known as “the Crusades.”
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Why Are So Many Animals Homosexual?
via 3 Quarks Daily: Brandon Keim in Nautilus
Few creatures can boast of devotions so deep as greylag geese. Most are monogamous; many spend their decade-long adult lives with the same goose, side-by-side in constant communication, taking another partner only if the first should die. It’s a remarkable degree of fidelity, and it includes relationships of a sort that some humans consider unnatural.
Quite a few greylags, you see, are gay. As many as 20 percent by some accounts. That number might be high: It includes those males who first take a male partner but later pair with a female, or whose first bond is with a female, but after she dies, takes up with a gander. That said, plenty more are exclusively homosexual from beginning to end.
Which raises the question: Why?
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The 1946 Story That Predicted How Crazy the Internet Could Get
via Stephen’s Lighthouse: Shaun Nichols at The Register also the Computer History Museum
Astounding Science Fiction
“You often hear people say things like, “no science fiction writer could have predicted the Internet,” when they’re talking about science fiction’s lack of predictive power. But actually, writer Murray Leinster did get a lot right about the Internet, in the 1946 story “A Logic Named Joe”.
In Leinster’s story, everyone has a device in their house called a “Logic”, and it provides whatever kind of information you want. Each “Logic” is connected to a “tank” that contains tons of data. But one “Logic,” named Joe, gets too smart and starts to become dangerous—not by trying to wipe out the human race, but by giving us too much information. Including how to poison your spouse without getting caught, how to cover up a drinking binge, and how to rob a bank. Soon other “Logics” all over the city are providing forbidden knowledge, and society is breaking down.
Read about it in The Register

Ancient Greek and Egyptian interactions
via OUP Blog by Ian Rutherford
“You Greeks are children.” That’s what an Egyptian priest is supposed to have said to a visiting Greek in the 6th century BC. And in a sense he was right. We think of Ancient Greece as, well, “ancient”, and it is now known to go back to Mycenaean culture of the second half of the 2nd millennium BC. But Egyptian civilisation is much earlier than that: in the mid 2nd millennium BC it was at its height (the “New Kingdom”), but its origins go right into the 3rd millennium BC or even earlier.
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