Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Why mansions are artificially cheap

That is the title of an excellent blog post by Jaap Weel. In a nutshell, because zoning regulations prevent them from being converted into a a higher valued uses. He compares to this home on a one acre lot that sold for $6 million in Atherton

to 350 unit mixed use condo on a 1.6 acre lot 2 miles further up the peninsula in Redwood City that would fetch hundreds of millions.

If one could convert the mansion into condos, the value of the property could easily increase tenfold.
But the zoning code mandates single-unit buildings with a floor area ratio below 18% on lots of at least 1 acre, so $6m it is. Quite the bargain.

Zoning - keeping assets in low valued uses.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Trucking Costs

One little tidbit in this WSJ story on Tyson's earnings has to do with them passing on to customers the rising MC of trucking transport:
Short-term prices to secure some big rigs have jumped 20% as a result, and long-term shipping contract rates are projected to climb between 5% and 8% this year.

This provides an opportunity to test the relative competitiveness of various downstream industries. We know that the simple pricing rule is (P-MC)/P = 1/|e|. In a more competitive industry, firm's demand curves are more elastic. At one extreme 1/|e| = 1 for a monopolist and at the other, 1/|e| is zero for a perfectly competitive industry. For the former, P should rise with 0.5*MC and for the latter P should rise with 1.0*MC (the math is left as an exercise for the reader). So, for different industries and firms, is the "pass through rate" closer to 0.5 or 1.0?

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Management matters

in exactly the way that economists would predict, both across countries:

Income differences between rich and poor countries remain staggering, and these inequalities are in good part due to unexplained productivity gaps , ..., US productivity is more than 30 times larger than some sub-Saharan African countries. In practical terms, this means it would take a Liberian worker a month to produce what an American worker makes in a day, even if they had access to the same capital equipment and materials.
and across firms within a country:

This huge productivity spread between countries is mirrored by large productivity differences within countries. Output per worker is four times as great, and TFP twice as large, for the top 10% of US establishments compared to the bottom 10%, even within a narrowly defined industry like cement or cardboard box production (Syverson 2011). And such cross-firm differences appear even greater for developing countries (Hsieh and Klenow 2009).

A new survey relates these differences to management practices:
we rated companies on their use of 18 practices, ranging from poor to non-existent at the low end (for example, “performance measures tracked do not indicate directly if overall business objectives are being met”) to very sophisticated at the high end (“performance is continuously tracked and communicated, both formally and informally, to all staff using a range of visual management tools”)...
The large, persistent gaps in basic managerial practices that we document are associated with large, persistent differences in firm performance. Better-managed firms are more productive, grow at a faster pace, and are less likely to die. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

7% gender pay gap for Uber drivers

The flexibility of the gig economy was supposed to eliminate the gender pay gap.  At Uber it didn't:
 ...the entire gender gap is caused by three factors: experience on the platform (learning-by-doing), preferences over where/when to work, and preferences for driving speed. This suggests that, as the gig economy grows and brings more flexibility in employment, women’s relatively high opportunity cost of non-paid-work time and gender-based preference differences can perpetuate a gender earnings gap even in the absence of discrimination.
HT:  Peter Klein