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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Economic history of Chicago: Part I

I am in the early stages of working on my first book. The book will examine all things Al Capone through an economist's lens (Gangster Spirits). Clearly such a book must provide context: the economic and social setting of Chicago and the US in the 1920's and 1930's.

Luckily others before me collated socioeconomic data from various government agencies for Chicago from the mid-19th century through the late 20th century. I have been cleaning and merging these databases and using some basic statistics to flesh out the stories of the era.

Below is a look at the relationship between the economy (as measured by the unemployment rate) and the marriage and divorce rates in Cook County.

The earliest date available for the marriage and divorce rates at the county level is 1890. County level unemployment data is not available until 1990, so the national metric is used. For the periods that national and county level data is available (monthly, 1990-2015) the national unemployment rate explains 92% of the variation in the Cook County unemployment rate, so the national measure is assumed to be a strong proxy for the county level measure in the period shown in the chart above.

The graph suggests a couple of things:
1) marriage and divorce rates "move" together contemporaneously in Cook County
2) marriage and divorce rates appear to move cyclically (inversely with unemployment)

Correlation coefficients provide additional support for these observations. The correlation coefficients between the unemployment rate and the Cook County marriage and divorce rates are -0.42 and -0.27, respectively. That between the marriage and divorce rates in Cook County is 0.33.

Finally, two simple linear regressions generate the following estimates:

The sample size for each regression is 84 and all estimated coefficients are statistically significant at the 0.05 level or better. The negative signs for the marginal effects support point #2. The values are interpreted as:
a) for each percentage point increase in the unemployment rate, the Cook County divorce rate falls by 0.07 percentage points.
b) for each percentage point increase in the unemployment rate, the Cook County marriage rate falls by 0.16 percentage points.

This negative relationship is supported by other research done at the state level.

Why? First lets look at the divorce rate. As the economy worsens, couples are less likely to divorce in Cook County. Perhaps hard economic times is associated with couples bonding together and fighting for their marriage. Or...its too damn expensive (explicitly and implicitly) to get a divorce.

The marriage rate estimates can be explained similarly. When times are tough, getting married is financially less attractive. Additionally, people could be spending more time looking for a job and a way to get by than looking for a mate.

During Prohibition and the heyday of Al Capone the average values for unemployment, and Cook County marriage and divorce rates were 8.6, 11.8, and 2.4, respectively. Compare these values to their pre-Prohibition values (1890-1919): 6.7, 16.5, and 1.2.

Of course more robust analysis is required, but it appears that Prohibition was a period of higher unemployment and divorce rates and lower marriage rates than previously experienced by Cook County residents.

Do you see any other patterns or have other explanations for the estimates and trends shown above?


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Fall season recap, winter/spring goals

The fall season is over and I am happy to report that things continued in the positive direction and that MAlice was showing up at races again. My key races this fall were the USATF Masters 12K National Championships and the Wrightsville Beach 5k Turkey Trot.

I did several races along the way including the Great Race 10K in Pittsburgh (1st Master (only because the first over 40 woman was one of the overall winners:)), the Vinton Fall Festival 5K (2nd female, 1st master, 19:19), and the Runway 5k in Charlotte (3rd female, 1st master, 18:52). Other than the Vinton Fall Festival where I felt flat, the races went very well. At the Runway 5K I got to "catch up" with my William and Mary team mate Laurie on the cool down. She is as sweet as ever and it felt like old times chatting away and sharing laughs. (She just ran a blistering 1:13.48 at the Jax Half Marathon last weekend as she prepares for the third Olympic Marathon Trials in February.)
Laurie Knowles and me after the 5K

At the USATF Masters National Championships in Alexandria, VA I finished 6th overall and 5th in my age group between two masters rock stars: Alisa Harvey and Cassandra Hinkiel. This was my first Masters National Championship and the atmosphere was electric. I negative splitted the race going through the mile in 6:32, 5K in 19:56, 8K 31:45, 10K in 39:47, and finishing in 47:31 (6:23/mile pace). Needless to say I was all smiles for days. I competed, I pushed when it hurt, and used positive self-talk in the tough miles. You can see the Masters results here.
Last 400 meters in the 12K (Photo: Clay Shaw)
My workouts and confidence remained strong heading into the final race of the season: the Wrightsville Beach Turkey Trot 5k. A fun race on Thanksgiving morning, fast course, lots of Without Limits friends, and a great calorie burner heading into holiday eating. I will admit to being nervous prior the race given several fast ladies were toeing the line. That lasted until the gun went off. Then I competed. I ran with the pack although I got out kicked at the end to finish second on gun time (18:43) although first with chip time (18:40...that's the time (not the place) that I am taking!) That is the fastest road 5K that I have run in at least 4 years, so I was very happy.

My plan for the winter and spring is to work on strength and endurance (both in running and swimming) through the Quintiles Half Marathon in March (with some indoor mile-5K races) and then go for some outdoor track PRs in the 1500-5K. My resolution is to consistently strength train 2-3 times per week, an important element to success in both running and swimming, but one that I frequently neglect more than I should. Masters studette Sonja Friend-Uhl gave me some great training tips and reading that I will incorporate to keep this 41-year-young body moving fast!

Speaking of 41...Erin Hogston joined me for 41 x 400 meters on December 24 (my 41st birthday)!

What are your plans for the winter and spring?