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Archive: August 2006

Comparisons of Social Outcomes in the US and Europe

Back in June, Ben Zipperer and I wrote a paper that compares a broad range of social and economic outcomes across the 20 or so richest countries in the world. You probably won't be surprised to hear that the United States does poorly when it comes to most of the social indicators, including economic inequality, poverty, health, education, and incarceration. But, you may be surprised that economists consistently find that the United States has the lowest level of economic mobility among the world's rich countries. That's right, economic mobility is substantially greater in Europe than it is in the United States.

Some new papers on old topics

Over the last few months of very light posting activity, I've released a few new papers on old, familiar topics.

The first is another in the series of papers with David Howell, Dean Baker, and Andrew Glyn, on the role of labor-market institutions in explaining high unemployment rates in some of the countries in Europe. You can download a copy of the new paper, which will appear soon in the online journal Capitalism and Society, here.

The second paper, with Dean Baker, takes another look at problems with the Current Population Survey (CPS), the nation's most important source of labor-market data. In an earlier paper, which I mentioned here back on February 1 ("Missing Inaction"), we estimated that the CPS might be overstating employment in the United States by about 1.4 percentage points --just a little less than the decline in employment during the last two recessions, so not a small amount. The reason is that a lot of economically marginalized people don't appear to be answering the survey. In the new paper, Dean and I extend the analysis to show that the problem has been getting worse over time and therefore may be masking deteriorations in the state of the labor market, the national poverty rate, and the official estimates of health-insurance coverage.

If you're not afraid to download a half-hour long, 51 megabyte mp3 file, you can hear me talking about the CPS paper earlier today on KPFA, the Pacifica Radio affiliate in Berkeley, California.

Skype under Ubuntu and Fedora Core 5

Skype logo

I recently signed up for computer-to-computer and computer-to-telephone service using Skype. Initially, I installed the prepared installation packages for Fedora Core 3 --on two machines running Fedora Core 5-- and for Debian (including Ubuntu) on a laptop running Ubuntu 6.06. The telephone and chat connections worked just fine. But in both cases, the Skype software would refuse to connect a call once an earlier call had not gone through properly. So, if I called and got through to a human or an answering machine, I could make another call. But, if the call didn't go through to the phone or if I hung up before someone answered, I couldn't make any subsequent phone calls unless I exited Skype and started it over again.

So, I decided to uninstall the not-quite-right pre-packaged versions and, instead, download and install the static binary tar file, which did the trick. It is a little more work to install it, but I recommend it if you want to run the most recent, stable version of Skype under either Fedora Core 5 or Ubuntu 6.06.

Basically, I followed the directions posted on the LinuxWeblog. Here is what I did in more detail than is available there.

First, open a terminal and create a directory where you will download. I created a skype directory in my home directory. Once you've created the directory, change directory so you're in it.

$ mkdir /home/john/skype
$ cd /home/john/skype

Next, download the most recent version of the static binary tar file. (As of today, the most recent version is: skype-, but you can check here for any updates.)

$ wget http://download.skype.com/linux/skype-

Now, untar the file. To do that, you'll need to be root. To become root in GNU/Linux, you typically type su at the terminal prompt and then enter the root password after the terminal asks you for it. With Ubuntu, however, you use the sudo command. So, I've done the next few lines two ways. Pick the one that corresponds to the flavor of GNU/Linux you're running. Following the procedure below will install Skype as a subdirectory in the /opt directory. (The $ indicates a standard user prompt; the # indicates a prompt with root privileges.)

Fedora Core 5:

$ su
Password: [enter your root password]
# tar -C /opt -xvjf skype-


$ sudo tar -C /opt -xvjf skype-
Password: [enter your root password]

The next-to-last step is to create some symbolic links, so that Skype will run properly when you call it. You still need to be root to do this.

Fedora Core 5:

# ln -s /opt/skype- /opt/skype
# ln -s /opt/skype/skype /usr/bin/skype


$ sudo ln -s /opt/skype- /opt/skype
$ sudo ln -s /opt/skype/skype /usr/bin/skype

Finally, if you'd like, you can install launcher for Skype on your desktop. (Do this as a regular user, not root.)

Fedora Core 5:

# exit
$ cp /opt/skype/skype.desktop ~/Desktop


$ cp /opt/skype/skype.desktop ~/Desktop

At this point, you should be all set to use Skype. Two other quick points. First, you may need to enter the software that controls sound-related hardware and unmute the microphone on your computer. Second, to make computer-to-telephone calls on Skype, even what are currently free calls to telephone numbers in the United States, you have to have a positive balance on your Skype account. You can call computer-to-computer, or use the Skype chat feature, for free without having to have a positive balance.