Expectation, epidemics and the social network

As the final master project, I set "social network" as one key word, not surprisingly. Then I need a context to apply to.

Actually I began to think about the topic from last Christmas. However, things were not going as well as I expected. A few months later I posted a notice on my chinese blog and was looking for someone to collaborate on this. Unfortunately, not that ideal either.

Now there is only one month left for me to work on it. Moreover, I also noticed that the 4th Chinese R conference is going to take place on the 28th of May. Well, since social network is one topic on the list, I really want to go back and see what's going on. Ideally, if I can finish the paper by 21th of May, and I can also find a funding for this trip, I would like to go back to China for a few days and give a speech... Well, then time is pretty tight, and I don't know even where I can ask for money. Does UPF or BGSE have a flyout funding? Any helpful informaion?

Well... a little off topic. This time, we found several great papers to follow. Before, I was only reading Jackson's book on social and economics networks, so I knew nothing about health. Interestingly, there are more people from sociology who are working on social network. Checked out some demographic journals,  tons of relevant papers appear.

However, although we have got enough idea now and it seems to have a possible way, still there are a lot of questions remained. As I wrote down a year before, my idea is concentrated around "information". In particular, here I want to try to stress the importance of information on expectation. From the context's view, when it comes to health, people tend to be either over optimistic or passive,  and as a result, the risk is either overestimated or underestimated. From the common sense, if people do not hold a nearly correct expectation, then for sure, their behaviors  will diverge from the optimal path. This time, I want to find out the way to model this process, and further, check the validity of the model by some empirical methods.

Maybe now, most challenges lie in the concern of time. Somehow luckily, I only have two courses to take this semester, which ensures more free time for me to work on a project. But still, I don't know how much I can finish. Things are going more and more stressful.

Among all issues related to (public) health, this time we may pick some epidemics, and a good choice should be HIV/AIDS. HIV has become such a hot topic in recent years, and as a sexual disease, it does have a lose link to social network, or specifically, sexual network, including the homosexual and heterosexual ones. Moreover, the risk perceptions of HIV/AIDS will also influence or even determine corresponding sexual behaviors - that's may be a reason why there are so many public targeted education in countries all around the world.

Hopefully I was not too optimistic this time (otherwise for me, I cannot follow the optimal path as well ^_^), and also, not too ambitious. Learning by doing, that's how we will benefit from this project.

Fresh Economics History

This term I'm taking "International Economics History" - although there is the word "international economics" in the title of the course, actually it is all about growth. Remember last time when I went to  Barcelona GSE “Trobada” VIII, the teacher, Davide Cantoni, stands out among all speakers... so impressed! Well, now I can say that I have waited for this course for half a year, haha!

Yesterday I also went to his seminar (partly for the free sandwich~), it was

Date: 06/04/2011
Speaker: Davide Cantoni (UPF)
Title: Clueless? The Impact of Television on Consumption Behavior (with Leo Bursztyn)

as well as another following seminar on economics history today

Date: 07/04/2011
Speaker: James Fenske (Oxford)
Title: Ecology, trade and states in pre-colonial Africa

From this two seminars, I can feel that a fresh trend of econometrics-based economics history is blooming. Recall that this year's job market star from UPF, Peter Koudijs, who writes a paper "The Boats that did not sail. News, Trading and Asset Price Volatility in a Natural Experiment", is focusing on analyze and provide insights of modern economic research from the historical view. I think that is how people should (re)define economics history now. The traditional economics history, e.g. what I learned in China at the undergraduate level, is all about how the economic theories evolve. From the ancestor Adam Smith, to the recent mainstream guys, that's what the course can tell me. In contrast, the economics history course I'm learning now is all about how to support your theory from the historical view - which reminds me the famous Chinese saying that “History is a mirror that reflects the vicissitude of life (以史为镜,可以知兴替)”。BTW, I'm a kind of feeling now that China can really draw people's eyeballs. Today in another class, the professor quoted Confucius'

By three methods we may learn wisdom:  First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.

Well, I really need to search for it...and it turns out to be


Oh well... OK, if it means that.... I'm pretty confused now.

Davide Canton's speech was about an natural experiment, the reunion of west and east Germany, and its influence on television signals. Pretty interesting idea and nice paper. On the other hand, James Fenske shows me how to utilize the modern econometrics methods with historical evidence and from then on, how can it provide insights to those unclear questions in economic theories. Notable, he is such a careful research! Have a look at his robustness check part - so impressive!

By three methods we may learn wisdom:
First, by reflection, which is noblest;
Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and
third by experience, which is the bitterest.

That's Tirole

You know you will not be able to understand some big guys' speech, but you still want to torture yourself and see them. That's exactly what I did last night for Tirole. Well, not until last night had I realized how bad my micro foundation was and how poor my knowledge of finance was.

It was one of the "Barcelona GSE Lecture Series", and

Prof. Jean Tirole (Toulouse School of Economics)

"Regulating systemic risk"

Hence, with the words "risk" and "regulation", you can imagine what he was talking about. I knew so little about finance, and then it became a disaster for me to stay there. In contrast, a friend who sat besides me was really enjoying the lecture and benefited a lot - he is a Ph.D in Econ/Finance. That's fair~

Anyway, it is a little out of my initial expectation but fair, that in UPF, the traditional Macro school, I have touched more macro compared to micro, although I was so interested in micro. Maybe it is a good thing that I do not need to close myself within a narrow room. Who knows? You can never go back and do something different. Whatever I have archived, I appreciate.

Barcelona GSE Lecture Serie"Barcelona GSE Lecture Series

Heckman's talk on inequity

Today, I was so luck to have enjoyed Heckman's speech. As usual, the information is attached here:

MOVE Distinguished Visitor Lecture
Speaker: James Heckman
Date: March 24, 2011

Heckman is well-known for the development of theoretical and empirical models of human development and lifecycle skill formation, with a special emphasis on the economics of early childhood education.

To be honest, I know Heckman because of his famous contribution to theoretical econometrics - actually, I just learned Heckman two-step estimation this month... Then he came here, and I got the chance to see the "real" version. Out of my expectation, he is such a good speaker! I concentrated on his speech for two continuous hours without a second to relax. OMG... I thought he was a technical guy - from the typical impression he should not care about anything else but math... However, I was totally wrong! He also works a lot on applications and empirical works which reflects the responsibility of a real economist. Like today, he talked about inequity. Although he was going to "sell" his academic idea, it was so good and so intuitive that can really convince you what is going on in the real world. So fresh, and comes to you with tons of inspirations.  Nice~

Tomorrow the more academic-targeted workshop will take place in UAB. Last time when I went to MOVE's workshop, there were only 20 people in a very big lecture hall and some of them were even sleeping... This time, from today's observation, I think there will be over 100 people tomorrow, and a big proportion of them will be brilliant researchers. It should be impressive. The basic info is attached here:

ICREA-MOVE Conference on Family Economics

Program Committee:Pierre-Andre Chiappori, Christopher Flinn, Jeremy Greenwood, Nezih Guner and James Heckman
Local organization: Nezih Guner
Date: March 25-26, 2011
: Campus de Bellaterra-UAB

It is so nice to enjoy this kind of high-quality workshop here in Barcelona. Fortunately, I think the school here, as well as those nice organizers, really encourage students to take part in these kinds of seminars. Therefore, most time I can just walk in the conference room and pick a seat without registering in advance. Thank them so much for tolerating me -_-||

Oh one thing at last. Yesterday dear Ghazala also offered a seminar on her own research, which focused on gender difference in the labor market:

Date: 23/03/2011
Speaker: Ghazala Azmat and Rosa Ferrer (UPF)
Title: Gender Inequality, Performance Pay and Young Professionals

Since it was her, it had no reason to be not good.Meanwhile, the active audiences were impressive as they had always been.

Moreover, today there was also another Chinese professor who talked about his economic history research,

Date: 24/03/2011
Speaker: Debin Ma (LSE)
Title: Rock, Scissors, Paper: the Problem of Incentives and Information in Traditional Chinese State and the Origin of Great Divergence

I did not have enough time for this presentation, since the time was a little conflicted with Heckman's speech. However, I stayed there for half an hour and got the basic idea what was going on. It seemed that he was talking about the popular issue "Great Divergence (中文相当于李约瑟之谜)", and reminded me the time when I read Kenneth Pomeranz (彭慕兰)'s book last year:

  • Kenneth Pomeranz, The great divergence: China, Europe, and the making of the modern world economy (Princeton University Press, 2001).

When it comes to China, I cannot just stand there and say "I do not care", right? But the Great Divergence is not only a question on China, but also for the whole world. Institution or technology? All of us are curious which one drives the economy to grow on earth...