Comments on economics, mystery fiction, drama, and art.

Monday, August 21, 2006

A bona-fide occupational qualification?

A woman who had taught Sunday school for 54 years at a Baptist church in Watertown, NY, has been fired, because the the minister's interpretation of a passage in the Bible.

Two questions arise here. Was this an employment situation? (Was she being paid or receiving benefits, for example?)

And, if it was, would gender qualify as a bona fide occupational qualification in this case? Not being a labor lawyer, I don't know, but I'd be surprised if it were.

The Collapse of Gary, IN

I'm just starting a look at the changes over time in retail and service activity in Gary, Indiana, which is still the largest city in northwest Indiana. In 1950, about 40% of the population of Lake County lived in Gary, and they earned about 35% of the total income earned by Lake County residents. In 1952 (the year of the economic census), about 35% of retail activity (stores, sales, employment, payrolls) were also in Gary.

Fast-forward to 2002 (the most recent economic census). In 2000, about 21% of Lake County's population was in Gary, and residents of Gary received about 16% of the total income in Lake County. But in 2002, only about 12% of the retail stores in Lake County were located in Gary, and they accounted for about 8.2% of the sales, 9.5% of the employment, and 7.8% of the retail payroll in Lake County.

Only in the "gasoline stations" category did Gary have anything approaching a share or retail activity even approaching its share of population (or income) (about 19% of stores, sales, employment, and payroll). And that's probably because there are 5 interstate highway exits located in Gary.

More as the research progresses.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Izturis and Cedeno

The Chicago Cubs tradd Greg Maddux to the Los Angeles Dodgers, getting Cesar Izturis in return; they also traded Todd Walker to San Diego. Their current plan is apparently to play Ronnie Cedeno at second base. Where they'll hit is unclear, but Izturis batted second last night and Cedeno did notplay (he pinch hit).

So far in their careers, Izturis shows up as a better fielder than Cedeno (data at shortstop only. Ozzie Smith shown for comparison purposes; Smith's numbers are per game; I couldn't find his innings played at shortstop. But Ozzie is clearly superior to either--and superior offensively, too. But, then, he is in the Hall of Fame, so what'd I expect? Also for comparison, Cal Ripken averaged 4.2 TC/G, including his time at third base.):

.................................Izturis..........Cedeno..........O. Smith
TC/9 Innings...........4.49...............4.25...............5.14


Over a 162-game season, Izturis has made about 20 more put-outs and 34 more assists than Cedeno. This is not insignificant.

Also, in their careers, they are essentially equal as hitters--Izturis (and his 2004 season begins to look like a fluke at this point) with a career line (BA/OBA/SA/OPS) of .261/.295/.340/.635 to Cedeno's .263/.293/.345/.638--that's about as identical as you're going to see, I think. Cedeno is 23, Izturis is 26, so Cedeno might have more room to develop, while Izturis is nearing his peak. Neither is much of a stolen base threat. Izuris is 59SB/33CS (but only 34/24outside 2004), while Cedeno is 7/7.

So the Cubs apparently plan to play two on-base sinks regularly, with one batting at the top of the order. I suppose they could play 33-year-old Neifi Perez at second (.269/.299/.379/.678 offensively, with good fielding stats at second--a total of 5.69 TC/9 at second). But that's another on-base sink.

So for Maddux, the Cubs got an older, better defensive version of Cedeno's offense, and they now have three middle infielders on their roster who can't hit for average or for power or get on base. And they gave up Todd Walker, who, whateve his defensive shortcomings, has a career line of .289/.348/.437/.785 offensively, but substantively less defensively (compared with Perez, he's made almost 140 fewer plays per 162 full games at second in his career).

I'm not sure I think this made the Cubs better as a team. Maybe better defensively, but at a clear offensive cost, and probably, at least for the balance of this year, at a cost in starting pitching. I'm also not sure it made them a better team down the road.

What's Happening to Labor Force Participation of Older Males?

An interesting article in Sunday's New York Times reports on a number of older (over 55) males who, having lost their jobs and, believing that the available jobs aren't worth it, have essentially withdrawn from the labor force. Reading it, I wondered whether what we have here is anecdote or data. So I looked at the labor force participation rate for men, ages 55 - 64. The most recent monthly data are for June 2006, and the Labor Force Participation Rate was 69.7%.

Now, that's lower than it used to be (the LFPR was 85.1% in June 1968, for example)--but it's higher than it's been since 1983, when the LFPR for this group was 70.4%. In fact, the LFPR (in June) for men ages 55 - 64 bottomed out in 1994, at 64.6% and has increased fairly steadily since. So maybe we've got anecdote here. But, on looking again at the article, it appears that the Times' reporters spoke to white men. So maybe this is a pehnomenon affecting white men, and not African-American men.

Well, apparently not. For white men ages 55 - 64, the June 2006 LFPR was 70.9%, its highest (June) level since 1982. For these men, the LFPR fell until 1994 (the same for all men)--to 65.5%, and since 1994, it has increased, albeit irregularly. But maybe this is a phenomenon confined to married men.

Again, apparently not. Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't post a labor force participation rate for married, white men ages 55 - 64, it does post the size of the labor force. Now, the labor force for this group of men has been increasing fairly steadily since 1989, but that's been primarily a result of growing population in this age group. Recently, the number of married white men ages 55 - 64 in the labor force in June has been increasing by about 250,000 per year, and the increase between June 2005 and June 2006 (up 285,000--more than the 276,000 increase from 2004 to 2005, or the 223,000 increase from 2003 to 2004) is in line with the recent past. Or maybe they should have been talking to African-American men.

Probably not. The June LFPR for African-American men ages 55 - 64 is below its recent peak (June 2005, at 60.6%), but the June 2006 LFPR (58.8%) is higher than any other year since (again) 1994 (59.9%). For African-American men ages 55 - 64, the LFPR bottomed out in June 1999 (at 51.4%) and has increased pretty steadily ever since. Well, what about Hispanics?

Ah, no. The LFPR for Hispanic Males, ages 55 - 64, was 70.3%, just below its June 2005 recent peak of 70.5%, but higher than any other year since 1998.

So it's an interesting article, and the stories about the individuals are compelling. But, right now, it looks like anecdote to me.