Good study on drivers’ poor behavior toward black male pedestrians from Dr. Kimberly Kahn , Tara Goddard @GoddardTara @TRECpdx

On the Black Lives Matter themes in the world a new report from PSU’s TREC shows that, like Donald Trump, drivers are nasty to black men, too. Here’s the report–it’s free, but you will have to register with TREC, which you should do so that you can get their updates and serve as a reviewer for them.

Nice little field experiment done here. Here’s the summary from the abstract:

Specifically, this study investigates the roles of 1) pedestrian race, 2) pedestrian gender, 3) crosswalk design (unmarked intersection crosswalk vs. marked crosswalk), and 4) drivers’ identity characteristics (male vs. female, White vs. minority) on drivers’ yielding behavior with pedestrians. A controlled field experiment in which Black and White male and female pedestrians crossed the street at two different types of crosswalks (unmarked vs. marked) was conducted, while trained coders marked drivers’ yielding behavior. Results indicated that overall stopping rates were very low at the unmarked crosswalk, and few differences emerged based on pedestrian race and gender. When the crosswalk became marked, stopping rates greatly increased; however, treatment was less equitable. Drivers were less likely to stop for Black and male pedestrians, and when they did stop, they were more likely to stop closer to Black male and Black female pedestrians. These effects occurred regardless of drivers’ race and gender.

So basically, drivers are rude and trying to kill everybody relatively equally at unmarked crosswalks.

Well done, drivers. Jeez.

Marked crosswalks have, as we know, a positive effect on drivers’ yielding behavior, but drivers treated black male pedestrians with less care than everybody else in the experiment:

Ppms trec pdx edu media project files NITC 869 Racial Bias in Drivers Yielding Behavior 5YnmTku pdf

It’s hard to assign race based on visuals in studies, and yet people do it all the time in everyday life.

So yeah, this sucks. It’s a nice study; go read it. The follow up with focus groups, too. This is just a report on a small grant so the publications will have more detail. It would be nice to see this study scaled up through funding via NIH. The exercise of observing crosswalk behavior would be nice for a class exercise.

What do we gain from calling the Vegas shooting a terrorist act?

I had a good comment from one of my students about framing mental illness in the aftermath of mass violence, and I did a bad job in class of responding to it. (I sucked in class in general this week.) Her point: people who have mental illnesses are much more likely to be victims rather than perpetrators of violence. That gets drowned out in the narrative around shooters: he snapped, he was mentally ill, he was crazy. I pointed out that Republicans at least pretend to care about mental illness in the aftermath of mass shootings as a way to deflect responsibility doing anything rational on gun policy, and I always hope we might get some gains there even if it’s from the wrong reasoning. She persisted on her point; she was right and I wrong. One of the problems with age, I suspect, is too much willingness to gain policy ground even on specious assumptions. Ends-means stuff.

In that vein, I’ve been following the discussions around the Vegas shooter, and the inevitable critiques that arise over the way white and male privilege creates cover for white male violence: he was a “lone wolf” instead of a terrorist. The resistance to this narrative makes sense to me: the double standards of privilege don’t deserve to stand, and every group has its violent-minded discontents with grievances against the world who, unfortunately, can hurt many people. Denying that part of whiteness, let alone the systemic violence of white supremacist institutions, perpetuates dangerous illusions about who is violent and who isn’t.

So equality in term usage makes sense to me, but there are to me some useful conceptual distinctions between terrorism and mass shootings. In terms of damage done, I doubt it really matters much about whether the shooter is an “individual malcontent” or part of an organized group, non-state-sponosered with an articulated political goal, but I think it does matter in terms of policy (as opposed to state-sponsored acts of violence.) I remember reading a very thoughtful piece from a woman of color (and I can’t freaking find it now, damn it) challenging the terrorist label with Dylan Roof and questioning the demands that he be labeled a terrorist: given how unreflective Americans are when that label comes out, why would we want to promulgate it in any context?

I don’t know. I don’t buy that somebody like the Vegas shooter “isn’t political” even if he didn’t issue some creepy manifesto. Mass shootings are attacks on the body politic. And just because he’s not with some organization that has a name and a manifesto, he is supported by an encompassing ecology of violence for white men in the US.

The reason I am thinking about this problem and how badly I handled my student’s point is that I think they are outgrowths of the same problems with the individualistic narratives that Americans indulge in. Whatever the problem, whether it’s mental illness or white violence, whatever attempt we might make to resource and address the problem, it’s always possible for people to discount systematic interventions by laying blame on individual moral turpitude. “Evil” says Donald Trump, not “evil” enabled and made infinitely worse with excruciatingly poor gun policies and a culture of male violence so thick you can’t turn away from it.

Again, I dunno. I’d love to hear answers either way.

It’s time to require gun owners to carry liability insurance

I am a mess today because I underestimated how much VT trauma the Vegas shootings would bring up for me, so please be kind to me in what is likely to be an intemperate post.

Since the NRA and little boy culture in the United States have made owning a gun into a subculture, and you have to be entitled to be able to consume semi-automatic weapons because it’s so cool, they go BANG BANG BANG and who cares if other people die because of your self-indulgence so that we can’t make getting these idiotic weapons hard as hell, let’s just make sure whoever buys anything more powerful than a revolver or a rifle has to buy lifetime liability insurance at point of sale in order to cover the deaths they cause.

Including guns purchased at gun shows.

So every time our excruciatingly stupid public policy around guns causes another set of mass deaths, idiot people cite cars. Well, Uh, cars cause deaths so let’s ban them, huhhhhhhh huhhhhhhh huhhhhhh? Sure, I’ll accept the analogy, but let’s complete it: we know full well cars are dangerous and it’s illegal to operate one without liability insurance.

The same needs to be true of guns, since we’re not banning assault because the NRA.

We’ve got people lining up to sue the *hotel that the Vegas shooter shot from* because that super well-compensated hotel staff whose entire job involves kissing consumers’ butts didn’t use their x-ray eyes to know that a guy with a lot of luggage was carrying guns and demand he open his bags. Instead,we should have people lined up to sue the company who made the AR-15 with such a crappy design that you can modify it so readily to shoot even faster.

Hey, you don’t like the catalytic converter in your car? Go modify it. Don’t like the air bag? Go disable it. Don’t like your advanced braking system? Go modify it?

You don’t know how to do that? (The one is much easier than the others.) That’s right. BECAUSE INSURANCE COMPANIES AND ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATORS DON’T WANT YOU TO. If we had insurance companies on the hook for guns rather than FREAKING HOTELS, anything like the AR-15 would be designed up the wazoo to keep idiots from doing idiot things that were going to cost the insurance company money, and you’d have to be an experienced machinist and welder to modify it rather than just some numbnut with an internet kit. Oh, and no, there would be no internet kit because whoever was out selling those would get sued, too, probably by the original gun maker because there is no way that any insurance company would insure you on a gun that any Johnny Putz could hack open and do whatever he wanted to with it.

With liability insurance for guns, you get some insurance companies on the hook for paying for this carnage, long after the original shooter leaves his mortal coil and we’d have another powerful industrial lobby in legislation instead of just the NRA, with the opposite interests as the NRA.

Yes, this is what American politics has come to. I don’t like it. But I can work with it.

Oh, oh, you say that you can’t afford insurance with your very expensive gun? Well, according to the same party that is devoted to protecting your gun rights, poor people don’t deserve health care so I assume that they also don’t deserve to have guns if they haven’t saved prudentially for a gun, or had the American Consumer God bless with them money blessings because they are so deserving and special. Go get a third job if you want a semiautomatic and the liability insurance it requires. That’s what a right-living American would do.

Regional average rents are kinda noininformative

At the risk of engaging in what Scott Breyer dubbed on Fboo as “tedious overthinking” (😑😑😑😑 like that ever stopped me), I need to say something: regional average rents and average land prices do not really show us all that much of policy significance. People cite them, and it makes me wiggly because measures of central tendency only indicate trends if there are well-behaved, stable distributions. We really don’t know what’s happening to the bottom of the distribution unless we have the standard deviation; without stable distributions, it’s possible for average rents to stay the same, or even go down, while the rents at the bottom go up. It’s an embarrassing empirical mistake, and I’m tired of watching smart people toss out average rents or vacancy rates without caveating their discussions appropriately. The reason people do this is that averages are often all that’s available; unit data are expensive to obtain, and the companies that have these data tend not to let you have them unless you give them gobs of cash. But data constraints are no excuse for poor discussion, bad framing, and overstatement.

First off, usual disclaimer: lowering supply constraints is extremely important, particularly in US coastal cities. So if you plan to ‘splain supply to me again, don’t.

Yesterday I saw somebody claim that the Inland Empire still had higher than the national average rents, so there must be some housing shortage there. I suspect there may a mismatch between the vacant units available and what people are looking for/can afford there, but comparing a given place to the national average…people, look, some data points have to be above the average–it’s a mathematical requirement of the measure. All locations in the US are not made equal in terms of economic productivity, so even if there were absolutely no supply constraints anywhere, and absolutely all units were exactly identical, we would still have a distribution of rents in order to construct an average from.

Unless you are building in Lake Wobegone.

Housing and location markets are segmented, with asymmetries in the ability to move across segments; in markets with supply constraints (and even with unregulated land markets, supply is likely to lag demand with urbanization), those in higher segments of the market generally have greater ability to move down (downward raiding) than those in lower-priced segments have to move up, unless wages are growing sufficiently fast in the lower segments relative to the upper segments. This is not what has happened, in general, over the last few decades: wages at the top have grown in real terms, those at the bottom have stayed stagnant or decreased in real terms.

Market Urbanism also featured a nice modeling exercise illustrating some of these problems here if you want to play with it, including some thoughts about length of adjustment periods. I could parse out my problems with the assumptions in the model, but every model has its assumptions and issues, and this discussion lays out its assumptions fairly. It’s a toy model with representative consumers, and it doesn’t claim to be anything else.

The distribution can change in ways that really disguise important rental differences. Here are two distributions of average rents by zip code in (west and a bit of south) LA versus the lower-end rents recorded in those various zip codes. As you can imagine, there is likely to be quite some difference in building units for the average market rate in some of these locations versus others in the short term, and there is nothing wrong with that–it’s normal market functioning–but there is something wrong with assuming those on the low end of the market will do fine if you change rents in the short term or that movement in average rent, even if it’s the direction we want, is enlightening about what is going on on the bottom.

Plot Zoom

I got these from this map on Zumper. It’s not perfect by a long shot, but’s worth looking at for my point. This turned out to be a nice distribution so that we can see a global average out of the averages.

What we’d really like to know are how many units there are in each of these zones at each price level because equally weighting these zip codes is wrong. We’re just illustrating here, so we have to live with inaccuracy.

We can also show how the rent gradient in LA behaves going west to east, from Santa Monica to downtown:

Gradient ai 100 RGB GPU Preview

One thing I do like about average rents as a metric: if there is sufficient spread in the data to see a credible distribution (this is not true everywhere), I think it could be a good strategy to have a graduated regulatory structure where once rents or land values get more than one standard deviation from the median, it triggers an automatic upzone in the zip code of some kind. I think that would change the incentive structure quite a bit for landowners.

Just as a note: if somebody plans to send me the nice Sightline piece that inspired Scott’s summary above, a) I’ve read it, and it’s quite nice to explore what is going internationally, but b) it’s not a causal analysis and b) please also don’t confuse six decades of good, comprehensive housing and social policy (Germany) with plunking down large new projects in lower income American neighborhoods and expecting anybody to believe we would have the same outcomes. Most of the western liberal democracies that do a better job with land use than us also do a better job of social policy more generally. I’m sure that lower supply constraints is absolutely part of the solution, but it’s probably fighting less of an uphill battle in places where society assumes some financial risks for its members rather than having individuals bear them (and then wonder why individuals are extremely risk averse about home asset values).

Sometimes I miss my home so much I can barely breathe

I am an economic migrant to the city, like lots of other people around the world. I grew up in very rural location in northeast Iowa, with rolling hills, farms, and small towns. My early life was spent on a working farm. This makes me pretty unusual among academics. But being a migrant, however, to the city from rural areas puts me in a big 20th and 21st century global cohort.

I’m thinking about this today because I had a convo with one of my undergrads yesterday about what he’s going to do when he finished at USC. He says most people from his home country stay in Los Angeles to work after they graduate. But he feels called home. He’s just not sure he can find a job there, and he wanted to toss ideas around with me about what’s possible. I told him the truth: the opportunities are in the cities, they are easier to find. If you want to stay home, you have to make the opportunities, they are harder to come by, but there are rewards to home. Further truth: this was the first time I told a student that I left my home to chase my career, and while I have been very, very fortunate, and I am happy, when I think of my home my breath catches in my chest and I can barely breathe I ache for it so much.

Reality bites. What I long for is no longer there; I never fit in my town (I never fit anywhere), and I love California and everything about its troubled progressivism, and I can’t stand the short-sighted, hard-hearted, dim-witted Republican twats that appear to have a stranglehold on the Iowa state GOP, rather than the genteel, hard-working, and careful-minded GOP I remember from my youth.

But I still hurt, and my beloved adopted home of California, as interesting as it is, and as good as it has been to me, isn’t the landscape that still calls to me from across the miles.

It is national poetry day today, and along with these thoughts, I got John Browder’s obituary this morning. John was one of my colleagues at Virginia Tech; he was very sweet to me when I was fresh out, and he shall be missed. All of this has got me thinking about Elizabeth Bishop’s One Art:

One Art
BY ELIZABETH BISHOP
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art” from The Complete Poems 1926-1979. Copyright © 1979, 1983 by Alice Helen Methfessel.

Go listen to WHIV-LP (@whivfm) Human Rights and Social Justice Radio

When Liana Elliott and fabulous partner MarkAlain Dery met me for dinner one night right before she graduated from our MPL program here at Price, they told me they were working on a radio project in New Orleans. I thought it was an interesting idea, but I didn’t quite get it and–I have to admit–I thought it was an idea they would try and let go. After all, MarkAlain is an infectious disease doctor, which is a demanding job, and Liana was going to be graduating and trying to build a career in public service in New Orleans. This, too, is a demanding job, especially when you are just starting out. Putting together a radio station is itself a really demanding job. How could they do it all?

BECAUSE THEY ARE SUPERHEROES THAT’S HOW. I should have realized. Liana was a star in a our planning program when she was here–of course she did all that and more. She recently talked about the station and her work with USC alumni magazine, and of course, everything she told me about that night when she was still a student is happening, and happening brilliantly. How do you manage 70 volunteers and hold down a high-profile public policy job? See superhero comment.

So I have been accused of humble-bragging and self-mythologizing on this blog (because God forbid a woman be proud of herself, that needs undermining, fo sure, and boy do some of y’all have a low standard for mythology if my rather prosaic practice background qualifies), this time out I AM STRAIGHT-UP BRAGGING Y’ALL because LOOK AT WHAT LIANA SAID about MEEEEEEE:

Lisa Schweitzer is one of my personal heroes. She is unapologetically smart, witty, insightful and genuinely caring. Dr. Schweitzer’s “Planning Theory” class remains one of the hardest classes I have ever taken, and one of my all-time favorites. I hope I grow up to be even just a fraction of her awesomeness.

IN YOUR FACE! IN YOUR FACE!!! Ha! Somebody fabulous thinks I’m fabulous, and if that’s not a big ego rush, I dunno what is.

Honestly, I can’t be one of her personal heroes because she’s one of *my* personal heroes! How can that be?

I can’t tell you how proud of I am to have been one of her teachers. Her whole cohort of MPL grads that year were great, and she was tops in *that* group, which was hard. And this wonderful update has me smiling. Of course, she did it all. What’s next? I can’t wait to find out.

She also notes that that David Sloane guy teaches a great community health class (for sure) and that TJ McCarthy is probably one of the most gifted instructors we have. She has good taste.

Tune into the radio, even if you don’t got time for all this self-congratulation.