The Southern Barbarians

The Southern Barbarians are actually quite hospitable, once you can find them. Walking through the beautifully lit streets of the French Concession, the address for the Southern Barbarians led me to one of the innumerable plazas that dot Shanghai.

It was late by Shanghai standards. The hustle bustle on the streets was slowly dying away. The address took me to the a deserted but glittering Shanghai plaza or shopping arcade. There was no sign of the barbarians. I walked the length and the breath of the plaza but there was a very little sign of life. Right at the back of the plaza, in an alley that was much seedier than the rest of the plaza, there were three rows of chefs standing in attention and being lectured by what looked like their stern and serious leader. Their faces had a sincere expression with a hint of alarm. It looked like they were being given a dressing down, which required privacy and so I turned back. Walking around Shanghai, it is not uncommon to see employees standing in attention listening to their respective leaders. I have no idea what wisdom was being imparted but the whole scenario certainly looked like it was in a martial tradition.

I finally found the caretaker and showed him the address I had. He pointed me back in the direction of the lined up chef and so I had no choice to head back to the courtyard. As I was plucking up courage to interrupt the leader and ask him about the address, an angelic girl emerged from the dark shadows. She was unmistakably as tourist. It took a lot of effort to reach the Southern Barbarians. But it was all worth it.

Southern Barbarians specialise in the cuisine from Yunnan. Yunnan is one of the southern most provinces of China and borders Burma, Vietnam and Laos. The vegetarian component in the menu was remarkable. I orders spicy yunanese roots against the advice of the waiter. The roots very crunchy with a slight hint of woodiness. They were certainly spicy and very refreshing to eat. Next came pomegranate flowers with garlic chives. I had never imagined that pomegranate flowers could be so tasty. The flowers very green and crunchy. They had been very lightly sautéed. The result was pure bliss. The meal was finished off with a generous portion of a wild mushroom hotpot. The mushrooms were plump and varied and the hotpot hot and comforting. It was a bit on the bland side allowing me to fully appreciate the variety of wild mushrooms in the hotpot.

Southern Barbarians
2F Area E
56 Life Art Space 169 Jinxian Lu
near Maoming Nanlu
Tel.: 1362 1797 634

Spatial Peer Effects Among Children

First day of the Econometric society World Congress meeting. Interesting paper by Helmers and Patnam this morning. The paper tries to disentangle peer effect of and common (covariate) effects on children’s reading and writing achievements. The paper was interesting because it was using networks to disentangle these effects and not through the usual experimental framework. It is a neat idea. Using the Young Lives survey from Andhra Pradesh, the paper maps spatial (strictly geographic networks). Then it uses the networks to identify the the clusters. Certain individuals have multiple links within the clusters whereas certain other individuals are linked to the cluster through just one link. This variation allows the authors to identify the peer effect. They also look at the insurance component of the peer group. For this, in a really neat trick, they use idiosyncratic shocks are IVs.

The paper is very useful and shows us that we can use observation data and social network maps to disentangle various effects. Of course, it takes the spatial network as given. It may (may not be) be a reasonable assumption. After all, there may be some strategic relocation by the household. The other caveat is that it does not map the network completely. The network mapped (or the information available) is only for the children’s spatial peer network. The paper is not able to distinguish the effects that run through the children’s peer network from the effects that run through the adult’s network. In spite of these caveats, I really like the paper, not for what it is right now, but more for what it maybe lead to.

Looking forward to John Moore’s presidential address this afternoon. The title of the talk is contagious iliquidity. Very topical and may have a flavour of his credit cycles paper. I am sure it is vintage John Moore stuff. Entertaining with lots of stories involving red and blue stuff. More on Moore later on in the evening.

Christian Helmers and Manasa Patnam. Does the Rotten Child Spoil His Companion? Spatial Peer Effects Among Children in Rural India