Tyler Cowen’s Average Is Over On Econtalk Podcast

Tyler Cowen is interviewed by Russ Roberts on the latest EconTalk podcast.

The subject of the interview is Tyler Cowen’s latest book Average Is Over.

If you’re interested in his thoughts on income inequality and how humans can complement machines, it’s well worth a listen. I particularly like the idea that people will self-select into lower rent areas of their home country or immigrate to countries with a lower cost of living if they find themselves not able to earn as much labour market income as they used to.

Within New Zealand, I would expect many cash poor baby boomers to be selling their real estate holdings in order to maintain their standard of living. They’ll buy cheaper houses within a few hours drive of key provincial centres. As long as they have enough disposable income to fly to see grandkids or whatever, it won’t be as big of an imposition as some might make it out to be.

He has some interesting thoughts on how young women are outcompeting many young men on conscientiousness:

Well, one thing we are going to get very good at in the future–you see it now–is just measuring quality. So, whether it’s doctors, lawyers, economics professors, there’s always a randomized control trial now; there are always numerical ratings. Everything has a Yelp rating or an Amazon rating or something. And we all know these are highly imperfect but basically they are still better than not being informed at all. So it’s like in the future there’s a credit score for everything. So people who test well young I think will have a lot more invested in them early in their lives, early in their careers; and they’ll have a head start. And another way to think of this is, I think, within 5 years the world’s best education will be available online and it will be free. Arguably that’s already the case. But the question is: Who is there to learn from this? It’s the people who are disciplined and conscientious, which is still distinct from just raw intelligence. Now, if you ask the question if you compare men to women on average which group is less conscientious, I think you have to hand that one to the men. At least the lower tail of the distribution. So I think we already see in higher education and many other areas women doing better. And not just better because there is less prejudice. They are just outright doing better and out-competing the men. And I think that trend will be magnified by this increase value for conscientiousness.

It would be interesting to test this at New Zealand universities. How are the GPA distributions different between male and female graduates? Without discussing specific labour market skills employers are looking for I’m not convinced this approach would yield any interesting conclusions.

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