The wallet experiment

The Reader’s Digest conducted an experiment attempting to measure how honest the world’s cities are. They “lost” 12 wallets in a variety of cities containing about $50 in the local currency and the contact information of the wallet’s owner. They then measured how many wallets were returned to the owner.

In this short post, I would like to highlight how little this experiment can really say about honesty across cities because of small sample size.

Continue reading


Success vs. quality: the case of TV shows

How long a TV show can stay on air is mostly determined by how many viewers tune in every night to watch it. Thus popular TV shows tend to be successful. But are these popular shows also critically acclaimed? Do people generally like high quality shows?

I investigate these questions in this post using a sample of TV shows that were aired on US national television channels (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC or the CW) and ended or were canceled between the 2005/2006 and 2014/2015 seasons.

Continue reading

A Cultural Distance Matrix

In this post I introduce a dataset that I developed recently. The dataset is simply a matrix of 77 countries of the world that shows how close each country pair is in terms of cultural values. Values are measured by answers to the World Values Survey.

The online version of the dataset can be found here, and you can download a .csv version here. The values of cultural distance have been normalized to be between 0 and 1, where 0 is complete agreement on all questions and 1 is complete disagreement on all questions.

Continue reading

Gun control revisited

Gun control is always a hot topic and I have written about it in the past (here and here). I find the topic fascinating and I do not try to hide the fact that the analyses in those previous two posts were somewhat inadequate. There are many ways to look at the data and this post will use a novel way. Instead of sophisticated econometric analysis, however, expect only some elementary but very informative mathematics.

My earlier posts had slight anti-gun control conclusions but there were, as always, uncertainties. In this post, I will try to compare crime data internationally to see if homicide by firearm rates in the U.S. can in some way be explained by higher gun ownership rates. I will also discuss some of the problems with my earlier models and with any regression you see with gun ownership rates.

Continue reading

Purchasing power or how much is your money worth?

Suppose that you earn $50,000 or its equivalent. How much is this amount exactly worth? What can you buy from it? The answer of course differs by country, matter of fact it differs by state and by city. The more you can buy from a dollar, the more purchasing power your money is said to have. Therefore, purchasing power is an important measure of economic well-being.

I have always argued that while GDP may be a good measure of economic activity, it doesn’t necessarily say that much about the quality of life. One very simple metric that I believe could shed more light on this question is simply quantifying how many “things” you can buy from an average salary in a given country. I will attempt to do just that in this post.

Continue reading

Which laptop brands can be considered premium?

In a previous post I looked at which features are important for a laptop’s price. This post uses the same data (a sample of the 101 most popular laptops from Amazon) and with it I try to find out which companies can sell their laptops at a premium compared to similar laptops of different brands.

I identify three brands, which stand out of the crowd. So which brands are so strong that they can afford to charge a significantly higher price than their competitors for similar set-ups? Read on to find out.

Continue reading

Hedonic pricing for laptops

I read an interesting article about hedonic pricing and I thought I’d try this out for some product. Hedonic pricing refers to breaking down a product into features and evaluating how much each of those features contribute to a product’s overall price. As a result, you’ll be able to see which features are valued most by consumers. This can help with pricing new products, but possibly it can also reveal in which area R&D activity should be concentrated.

In this post I’ll present the results of a simple hedonic pricing exercise I did for laptops. I evaluated the 101 most popular laptops (the first roughly 20 from each of the laptop price categories) on Amazon according to screen size, CPU, memory, hard drive size, GPU and two other features (1. does it have a touchscreen?, 2. is it a Mac?).

Continue reading