Economist 8/11/15

  1. There is ample circumstantial evidence of the damage Uber has wrought on New York’s yellow-cab industry. The average price of one of the city’s 13,771 medallions (licenses to drive taxis) has fallen from an average of $1m during the summer of 2014 to $690,000 over the past three months, an aggregate loss of some $4 billion of value.The best news for the Uber camp is that the advent of its service has coincided with a significant increase in the total number of rides in New York. Although Uber has not shared statistics for 2013, a leak to Business Insider last year revealed an average of 140,000 Uber trips per week in the city during December 2013. Assuming a steady compound growth rate during the past two years, that suggests that there were 333,000 Uber rides in June 2013. Adding that to the 14.4m yellow-cab trips that month yields a total of 14.7m. In contrast, by the same month of this year, the combined sum for Uber plus traditional taxis was 15.8m. This 7.5% increase in two years makes clear that the market is not zero-sum.However, the figures also suggest that the majority of Uber’s growth has come from substituting for taxis rather than from complementing them. While Uber expanded approximately tenfold over the past two years, from a bit over an estimated 300,000 rides in June 2013 to 3.5m in June 2015, yellow cabs’ hail volume has fallen by 2.1m during the same period.
  2. A recent spike in the number of migrants in Calais attempting to clamber onto trains or lorries bound for Britain has spooked politicians on both sides of the water. Fences have been erected and extra police dispatched. The estimated 3,000 people in the camp amount to between 1% and 2% of the illegal immigrants who have reached the European Union by sea this year alone. The few hundred that try (and usually fail) to sneak across the Channel each night pale next to the numbers of illegal immigrants in Britain who have overstayed their visas. But the dramatic images suggest that politicians are not in control of their own borders, a message toxic enough to force changes in government policy.many migrants will take big risks to reach one European country over another.As they slipped through rich countries with an obligation to consider asylum claims, refugees in effect became economic migrants.
  3. THE civil war in Yemen, in which a Saudi-backed coalition has been battling Iranian-supported Houthi rebels, took a new twist this week. On August 2nd the coalition landed at least one armoured brigade at the southern port of Aden.Two days later, bombarded from the air and heavily outgunned, the Houthis had fled into the surrounding hills and pro-government forces were back in charge of the strategically important base.Despite official claims that the Saudi and UAE forces are only there to help train local anti-Houthi fighters, there is little doubt that the high-tech weaponry is being operated by professionals. They are being helped by tribal fighters who support the internationally-backed government that the Houthis drove out.
  4. DO FRIENDS of the opposite gender distract teenagers, hampering their academic performance? It may seem obvious, at least to paranoid parents, and yet it is hard to prove. Simple analysis of a survey of American schoolchildren conducted in 1995, for example, suggests no link between the proportion of a girl’s friends who were boys and her grades. Boys with lots of female friends actually achieved better results than those with fewer.A new paper* by Andrew Hill of the University of South Carolina, however, digs deeper into the data, and comes to a different result.He finds that for every 10% more children of the opposite sex among a student’s friends, his or her grade-point average (GPA) declines by 0.1 (GPAs range from 0 to 4).Below the age of 16, the effects are restricted to science and maths, but beyond 16 they spill over to English and history as well. Girls seem to be more prone to distraction, though Mr Hill cannot muster the statistical power to be certain. This tentative result is consistent with other studies that find that girls gain more from moving to single-sex schools.

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