Call for Papers: Highly skilled migrants and brain waste in the labour market

It’s this time of the year where Marco and I send out the call for papers for the annual IMISCOE conference, 2-4 July in Barcelona. It’s already our fifth edition this time!

We are seeking innovative quantitative papers that examine the (different) reasons and consequences of brain waste, including contributions to better measurement of skills mismatch, either in vertical or horizontal terms. Possible research questions are the propensity of immigrants to become self-employed as a result of mismatch, their propensity to (re-) migrate due to mismatch, or their likelihood to send remittances. We particularly welcome papers that fully account for the gender dimension of brain waste.

Deadline: 3 December 2017.

Understanding p-hacking through Yahtzee?

P-values are hard enough to understand — the appear ‘magically’ on the screen — so how can we best communicate the problem of p-hacking? How about using Yahtzee as an analogy to explain the intuition of p-hacking?

In Yahtzee, players roll five dice to make predetermined combinations (e.g. three of a kind, full house). They are allowed three turns, and can lock dice. Important for the analogy, players decide which of combination they want to use for their round after the three turns. (“I threw these dice, let’s see what combination fits best…”) This is what adds an element of strategy to the game, and players can optimize their expected (average) points.

Compare this with pre-registration (according to Wikipedia, this is actually a variant of the Yahtzee variant Yatzy — or is Yahtzee a variant of Yatzy? Whatever.). This means players choose a predetermined combination before throwing their dice. (“Now I’m going to try a full house. Let’s see if the dice play along…”)

If the implications are not clear enough, we can play a couple of rounds to see which way we get higher scores. Clearly, the Yahtzee-way leads to (significantly?) more points — and a much smaller likelihood to end up with 0 points because we failed to get say that full house we announced before throwing the dice. Sadly, though, p-values are designed for the forced Yatzy variant.

Image: cc-by by Joe King

Education as a Career?

Here’s an idea I’ve had a while back: There are still too many places where children are not going to school, and even if there is free education available to children, parents may prefer or need the short-term gain from sending their children to work instead. What if we paid parents for sending their children to go to school rather than simply provided free education? What if parents were paid if their children learn how to read and write, what if their children being in the top 10% would yield a bonus payment? What if we financially award progress towards getting a job rather than presence at school? We’d obviously change the incentives, but would it work to allow talented children to concentrate on school work? My hunch is that the incentives need not be that big, but perhaps it would lead to unintended consequences like that those who do not get paid would drop out of school because school becomes about external motivation rather than internal motivation.

Review your journals

Shouldn’t we know more about the journals we submit to? When starting out in academia, I found it quite difficult to judge journals: who reads which journals, what kinds of research is appreciated by which journals, etc. Most journals advertise their impact factors, but that’s probably not the most important information. SciRev is probably the most useful service out there for this (beyond senior colleagues), giving information on the time journals take to make a decision (which of course greatly depends on the reviewers, but also what they let the reviewers get away with), the number of reviewer reports, and some subjective quality score. Some reviews justify their score in a couple of words. What would be even better is if SciRev made its non-profit objectives clearer (it’s run by the SciRev Foundation), user-contributed information on the journals, and perhaps a forum to discuss the scope of journals. Submitting reviews is very easy, by the way!

Now Published: How attitudes towards immigrants are shaped by residential context

Sjoerdje van Heerden and I have just learned that our paper “How Attitudes towards Immigrants Are Shaped by Residential Context: The Role of Neighbourhood Dynamics, Immigrant Visibility, and Areal Attachment” is now available at Urban Studies. This is the first publication coming out of the SNIS project on attitudes to foreigners.

In the paper, we check whether we can find any evidence for the ‘defended neighbourhood’ thesis, using panel data from the Netherlands and fixed-effect models. It turns out, we find no evidence of such effects in the Netherlands in recent years. The analysis looks at how proportional changes in residential context are associated with changes in attitudes towards immigrants. Following the reasoning that the majority population need to perceive immigrants, we paid particular attention to immigrant visibility. What is more, the unit of analysis is the neighbourhood, as close as possible as people experience it. We have put a lot of thought in choosing the right level, and went with the four-digit postcodes in the Netherlands. From what we gather, this largely corresponds to the perception of neighbourhoods people have, and not an artificial unit that happens to be ‘available’ in the data.

Following the ‘defended neighbourhood’ hypothesis, we focus on proportional change, not absolute numbers as researchers typically do when using cross-sectional data. A larger change in the proportion of immigrant residents is associated with more positive views on immigrants among natives — not what a defended neighbourhood would look like. Indeed, it is particularly a change in the proportion of visible non-Western immigrants that is associated with changes in attitudes.

Heerden, Sjoerdje van, and Didier Ruedin. 2017. “How Attitudes towards Immigrants Are Shaped by Residential Context: The Role of Neighbourhood Dynamics, Immigrant Visibility, and Areal Attachment.” Urban Studies Online First.