Monday, April 9, 2007

Speed Dating Answers

I had to post about this. The economist Tim Hartford, in his [Dear Economist] Financial Times gig, was asked by a woman if "the One" right man was out there. His reply was based on a study of speed dating data - punchline at the end if you're too bored with this (bold type is mine):
First, marriage offers economies of scale in production, particularly production of children. Husband and wife can each specialise in different skills, according to their comparative advantage. I fail to see why you cannot realise these economies of scale with almost anyone. Second, there are economies of scale in consumption. One garden will do, so will one kitchen.

The real question, then, is whether you can stand the person you marry enough to enjoy these efficiencies. Here, economics had little to say until a recent breakthrough by the economists Michele Belot and Marco Francesconi. They examined data from a speed-dating company, and discovered, unsurprisingly, that women like tall, rich, well-educated men. Men like slim, educated women who do not smoke.

The more intriguing finding emerged when pickings were scarce. Women ”ticked” about 10 per cent of men as worthy of further investigation, regardless of the quality of a particular crop. If the men were short and poor, then the women lowered their standards, and still picked 10 per cent. The men, too, abandoned unrealistic ambitions. They ”ticked” about a quarter of the women, regardless of quality. This happened even though each could have a complimentary speed date another time if he or she found no one they liked.

My conclusion: even when there is little to be lost from maintaining standards, people are very quick to lower them. My advice: do likewise.

I am now going to say this to the single women I know - I can claim it as the 'analytical' assessment.

Here (pdf) is the paper that is cited, which I won't have time to read through. I also found another article about this.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Seder Lessons: When $11.5M Won't Buy You $8.5M

My family has a new tradition - Chabad sponsored seders in Orange County for one of the two nights. As a small, outsider, not-especially-social group, our foursome usually gets our own table.

This year however, the Rabbi sat another gentleman at our table - a Christian (more on that in a bit) realtor named Bob Lawrence, who owns the Hudson Valley Realty Company. He was a nice, polite man, but he was not shy, and quickly began talking about how he has been in the news. A quick Google search verifies this.

The story revolves around Camp LaGuardia, a massive homeless shelter in Orange County, where New York City housed many homeless people. Of course, this was hugely unpopular in that community, which fought back, and won, as Camp LaGuardia was recently closed. New York City sold the property to Orange County for $8.5M.

According to Bob Lawrence, Orange County is now refusing a $11.5M offer for that same property, the reason for which is alluded to in a seemingly unrelated point in the Times Herald-Record article:
Lawrence's client has been an issue of quiet speculation. Some believe his buyer is somehow related to the Village of Kiryas Joel, a claim he disputed yesterday.

"This is not KJ," he said, referring to the densely populated Hasidic Jewish community. "My client is not part of KJ."

Why bring up Kiryas Joel? It is a Hasidic village upstate, which is, frankly, HUGELY unpopular by the other residents of the area. This has led to many clashes. The Wikipedia article does a good job of fleshing them out - disputes over water, sewage, taxation, and voting fraud. There was also a Supreme Court battle, which began over the funding for educating disabled children, but which rested on the legality of funding the schools themselves (the decision - no, state funding of religious schools is not allowed. Scalia, Thomas, and Rehnquist dissented).

Back to Lawrence's point - he says that the only reason Orange County won't deal with him is because he has dealt with Kiryas Joel before, and because of antisemitism generally. He claims that the first question he was asked by reporters, at the press conference he held on the subject, was if his client was Jewish. He refused to answer. The second question was why hold the press conference - to which he replied because of the first question. He says he sees similar antisemitism in many of his real estate dealings, in the press upstate. I admit, I was kind of shocked to hear all this, but don't know what to make of it. More on this is coming - I was talking to him shortly after an hour and a half interview he had with the Record.

Beyond the above, there was some interesting banter. Lawrence is meeting with Donald Trump in the next couple weeks. He mentioned his affinity to Jewish people derives from his religious beliefs, solidly Christian, unlike Catholics, whose belief in Purgatory precludes them from Christianity (I didn't really push to question him more on this point). He even mentioned that atheists admit God, when they say they don't believe in him (as I sat there quietly).

All in all, an interesting seder. This will probably spawn a few follow-ups.