Democracy and corruption
13/12/2012, 12:01
Filed under: Culture, Politics, Sociology

In the early days of Quebec’s ongoing anti-corruption commission, a handful of nationwide experts were asked to comment on the breadth and extent of corruption and mafia influence in Canada. In the days that followed, a handful of headlines reiterated their message that dirty dealings might be just as prevalent in Ontario as it is in Quebec.

This morning the CBC reported on a Quebec developer that moved to Alberta some years ago to escape corruption only to be put out business for refusing to pay kickbacks.

Quebec’s anti-corruption commission, and the resultant resignations of a couple of the province’s most high profile mayors, has made Quebec the butt of any discussion of corruption in recent months. But to suggest that Quebec is the most corrupt province in Canada is probably going to far.

In all honesty, we just don’t know. Continue reading

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What is my PhD about?
27/11/2012, 15:51
Filed under: Economics, Myself, Sociology, Thought

Yesterday the Huffington Post published an article by CCPA Senior Economist David Macdonald on whether Generation Y is more hard done by than the generations that came before it. According to Macdonald, while some things have changed for better or worse, one shift has overwhelmed all of them: Millennials will confront greater risks over their life times than any living generation before them.

And yet, what is risk? Macdonald lists a handful of instances—unemployment insurance is less likely to cover you; students have to go into more debt; pensions are more vulnerable to market fluctuations; housing markets are more volatile—but doesn’t take care to define a general concept.

While risk is an idea with intuitive appeal, if you ask most folks what exactly it means, most would have a hard time giving a concise answer. In fact, it wouldn’t be easy for me either, and I study risk everyday.  Continue reading

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Support FSL Education
12/08/2012, 17:54
Filed under: Myself, Policy, Sociology

Marie-Hélène Lussier’s recent report is probably the first report that begins to tell a dastardly story about a growing underclass of anglophone Quebecers.

When I first arrived in Montreal some years ago, I initially worked as a nighttime grocery clerk at a Super C grocery store in Montreal’s NDG neighbourhood. A handful of my fellow workers from that period still stand out in my mind—a man that had taught himself fluent English by watching the Simpsons; a shift manager with little income but, due to his extraordinary abilities in financial management, owned his house and car, and was already putting college money away for his young chidlren; a man from the Congo who’s facial expression when I asked him about it told me that I should never ask about it again.

One day, another fellow, a young man from Barabados, told me that he planned to stick with Super C for a long time. He was pretty excited that he could eventually make up to 11 or 12 dollars an hour with them. I was a bit horrified by this—I’d been making 16 dollars an hour working in construction just before moving out East. 11 or 12 dollars was a couple dollars more than minimum wage at the time, but it was still a pittance. How could someone look forward to this, expect no more than this, plan for this?  Continue reading

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Anglophone Inequality in Quebec
10/08/2012, 17:52
Filed under: Economics, Sociology

Speaking of statistics conforming to my hunches, this study from demographer Marie-Hélène Lussier finds that most anlgophones in Quebec are not doing as well as their francophone counterparts. Unemployment and poverty rates are higher among the anglophone population, especially in Montreal.

However, on average, anglophones are doing better. How is this? Because there are some very rich anglophones. Median differences between the two populations are what you would expect. It turns out that inequality among anglophones in Quebec is very large. 

I have two portholes on the anglophone community in Montreal: first, through my positions at McGill University; second, through my cousin, a French as a second language teacher at an inner-city school in La Salle. Continue reading

Market failure and Yo Mama
27/06/2012, 13:03
Filed under: Economics, Policy, Sociology

Yesterday I wrote a post summarizing Anne-Marie Slaughter‘s latest article in The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” Today I’d like to return to an issue raised by the article and which I think is worth highlighting: while there are lots of good ethical/moral reasons to support a healthy work-life/family balance, it isn’t at all clear that this needs to be done at the expense of instrumental reasons like innovation, profit and growth.

In fact, when it comes to a healthy work-life balance and economic growth, we might be able to have our cake and eat it too.

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Why Women Still Can’t Have It All
26/06/2012, 11:27
Filed under: Economics, Policy, Sociology

Read Anne-Marie Slaughter‘s latest article in The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.”

According to Slaughter, the work-life/family balance we expect of highly successful women is impossible. What’s more, if the balance is impossible for society’s most accomplished women, how can we expect it to be possible for society’s less skilled and or privileged women?

In a similar vein as Barbara Einreich‘s “breast cancer doesn’t kill you because you didn’t stay positive enough, it kills you because it’s cancer!” Slaughter argues that regardless of whether people are “committed enough,” or “try hard enough,” we expect too much of working women with families: the reality of work in America is such that women, but also men, with children have to make difficult decisions between work and family if they wish to pursue workplace success.  Continue reading

Making sense of nonsense
13/06/2012, 22:15
Filed under: Ephemera, Myself, Sociology, Statistics, Thought

I’m as excited as all hell about Maxis‘ decision to develop the next SimCity, SimCity 5. The only thing that I’m a little worried about is that I’ll probably never have time to play it. I’m an adult now—work first, right.

But, I might have found a loophole. I’m pretty sure I can define work broadly enough (I’m a social scientist—this is a very slippery slope, but bear with me) to rationalize me getting my jollies following the game development.

Recently, the development team started talking openly about the simulation engine, and my soci senses are on the brink of orgasm. They are calling it “GlassBox.”

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