Saturday 26 October 2013

Roundup: fat taxes, Japan stats and more.

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First: Ni Mhurchu's study doesn't show that food taxes and subsidies are more likely to benefit Maori and low income families, it shows instead that low-income groups are more responsive to changes in prices. If health is the only thing that matters, and if you set up taxes on tasty foods that are bad for health and subsidise bad-tasting ones that are good for health, those groups will respond more to the price measures. But that hardly means "benefit". It means "effect." To move from "are affected more" to "get more benefit" requires an assumption either that poor groups put a lot of value on health relative to other things in the utility function or that we are happy to force preferences upon them. For the various problems with fat taxes and the like, see here. But do expect that an incoming Labour/Green government will hang policy on this work. You'd need to be very careful in the offsetting benefit increases / tax cuts for low-income earners if you wanted to avoid the more typical incidence effects of sin taxes.

Second: I'd posted the other day on declining marriage in Japan. Another stat in the same survey showed surprisingly high fractions of young Japanese people who claim to abhor sexual contact. WashPost today points to seemingly contrary evidence: the proportion of Japanese never-married youths aged 18-34 who claim to be virgins has held steadyish for men and declined for women since the 1980s. But the rate of marriage has dropped precipitously. So a decent proportion of those who engage in sexual activities and who once got married now don't get married. It's then entirely possible for the graph here presented to be true, and for aggregate sexlessness also to have risen. Slate has some contrary arguments.

Third: You can now invest in professional athletes early in their careers. It would be interesting if professors could similarly invest in the future earnings of their students. I've a couple who I'd consider backing, if I weren't putting everything into the Uni Superfund and into paying off the mortgage.

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