What We’re Reading

College admissions:

With a tsunami of applicants who are qualified on the surface, what matters at this point are the elements that differentiate students and the chances that they will ultimately choose Davidson—what admissions officers call LTE, likelihood to enroll. The more these admissions officers dissect an applicant’s intentions now, the better Davidson will fare in April, when students have to decide among the many schools that accept them. It’s another way that a college’s agenda—in this case, boosting its yield rate, the share of admitted students who choose to enroll—shapes admissions decisions.

City endurance:

In World War II, the U.S. firebombed Tokyo and other major Japanese cities, obliterating much of the economy. But within about a decade and a half, most had essentially recovered, and in another 15 or so years, local companies and workforces were challenging the U.S. for the commanding heights of key global industries like automobiles and electronics. In an influential 2002 paper, Donald Davis and David Weinstein, both professors at Columbia University, said the Japanese recovery showed that long-lived cities undergoing great temporary shock tend to bounce back. Such cities, Davis and Weinstein asserted, have an almost innate persistence that confounds outside shocks.

Building:

The Chicago fire enabled the rise of skyscrapers in three major ways. First, it made land available for new buildings. The fire may have destroyed the business district, but the railway system remained intact, creating ideal conditions for new construction. So much capital flowed into Chicago that downtown real-estate prices actually rose in the first 12 months after the fire. “The 1871 fire wiped out the rich business heart of the city, and so there was lots of money and motivation to rebuild immediately,” Julius L. Jones, an assistant curator at the Chicago History Museum, told me. “It might have been different if the fire had just wiped out poor areas and left the banks and business offices alone.” What’s more, he said, the city used the debris from the fire to extend the shoreline into Lake Michigan and create more land.

Escaping poverty:

[We] find that, if the program pushes individuals above a threshold level of initial assets, then they escape poverty, but, if it does not, they slide back into poverty…Our findings imply that large one-off transfers that enable people to take on more productive occupations can help alleviate persistent poverty.

Commuting:

Workers who once commuted by car but now work from home are saving a total of $758 million per day, according to research from freelancing platform Upwork. Over the months since the pandemic hit the US, that figure amounts to a cumulative $90 billion.

Growth:

Unlike in real estate or in professional sports, in the stock market people seem to get mad when high-growth companies are selling at premium valuations. They get almost indignant about it. How dare you, sir!

I don’t understand it. You’re not better than someone who is willing to pay 20x revenues for Zoom. Or 100x earnings for Netflix. Or 500x thin air for Roku. Finding bargains is not more respectable than paying up for growth. Both endeavors have their risks and rewards.

Have a good weekend. Stay safe.


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