Can Nate Silver Move Markets?

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight general election model was released today. Depending on the model, he gives Hillary Clinton between 73% and 80% chance of winning in November.

I was curious to see if Silver had so much clout that his prediction would move betting markets. Despite all the attention, the answer is no:

Screenshot 2016-06-29 20.30.16


The lack of movement could be because the odds were already closely aligned with Silver’s predictions., where I drew the graphic from, puts Hillary Clinton at 74% chance to win to Trump’s 22%. That is between the probabilities of the two FiveThirtyEight models.

But even if Silver’s models didn’t add any new information for bettors, there’s still reason they could move the market. In a way, Silver’s prediction* is an event in and of itself. It’s extensively covered by the media, often with references to Silver’s near perfect record of forecasting the 2008 and 2012 elections. Rather than predicting who wins, the FiveThirtyEight model could actually change who people plan to vote for if it influences their perceptions of who could win.

Political Scientists have demonstrated in numerous experiments that voters’ perceptions of who they think will win influences thier choice. People like to belong to the winning team. Giving Clinton an 80% chance of winning in November could create a self fulfilling prophecy, unintentionally influencing undecided voters and tipping the election toward Hillary.

That being said, Silver’s predictions weren’t exactly a surprise. Bettors could be considering the “Silver effect,” but already priced it in.

At the very least it seems that Silver didn’t include this possibility in his model. Maybe I’ll email him.

*It’s not really a “prediction” which is binary, but a probability based model. But go tell that to all the third party news outlets covering it.


Why We Should be More Concerned with Gun Suicides

Currently, we are seeing much discussion about increased gun control. This was spurred on by the mass shooting in Orlando. Whenever there is a mass shooting in this country, such as Sandy Hook or Virginia Tech, we see an increased call for gun control measures which are almost always defeated. These mass shootings are, without fail, highly publicized and covered by the media, which is what leads to the increased rhetoric for gun control. When there is a mass shooting, sales of guns usually increase because people believe that owning a gun will protect them from shooters. There always is this backlash to the call for more gun control.

However, while these gun control activists are well-intentioned, they often forget about where the majority of gun deaths are coming from. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2010, 61% of gun deaths in the U.S. were due to suicide, whereas only 35% were due to homicide. In 2010, 19,362 people in the U.S. died from gun suicide. Decreasing the amount of suicides should be as much of a reason for gun control as decreasing the amount of homicides, if not more. Much of gun control legislation is focused on preventing homicides but is ineffective against suicides, such as limiting assault weapons. Legislation that can attack both homicides and suicides can involve improving mental health or preventing people with mental health issues from obtaining guns.


Not only are most gun deaths suicides, but most suicides are through guns. In fact it more than doubles the second most frequent method, suffocation, at 50.9% compared to 24.8%.


One might argue that people will just find other ways to commit suicide. But this argument fails for the same reason it fails against trying to prevent homicides. No one is saying that gun control would get rid of half of all suicides, but on the margins it may make a difference and save lives, especially considering that guns are far and away the most common method of suicide. Having a gun in the house sometimes plants the idea of suicide in the victims mind. We should be trying to make it harder for people with mental health issues to commit suicide, and taking away the primary method of suicide may set up a barrier for some people.

However, the underlying way to prevent both suicides and homicides is mental health and socialization. While we do need gun control, it should be the last line of defense against these acts. But these methods are rarely as discussed as gun control when there is much more we can do on these fronts.

Perhaps the reason people don’t care more about gun suicides is that people are more afraid getting shot in a mass shooting than they are of committing suicide. Most people think that they have total control over whether or not they commit suicide, and so they fear the uncontrollable chance of getting shot by a murderer in comparison. However, the chances of getting caught in a mass shooting are astronomically lower than the chances of knowing someone who commits suicide. We often have no knowledge and no control over people we know contemplating suicide. And just because one doesn’t want to commit suicide today does not mean he or she will never want to do so. Probably most suicide victims did not always want to be.

The fact is that this lack of attention paid to suicide is founded in emotion, not rationality. Mainstream media likes to report mass shootings because they generate views and are shocking, and it’s good that people know about them. But we cannot allow ourselves to ignore the suicides in this country. We shouldn’t only talk about gun control when there is a mass shooting, but we should constantly be trying to solve this issue. These pushes for legislation frequently fail, as we’ve seen most recently with Paul Ryan refusing to put gun control legislation up for a vote. If suicide gun deaths were more well-known, arguments for gun control would be stronger as there would be more potential lives saved. We must also attack the root causes of homicides and suicides, which is a failure in socialization or mental health, and not be overly preoccupied with peripheral preventative measures such as gun control.

Gun Violence in Black and White

Gun Violence in Black and White

The rate of gun homicides has declined dramatically in the last 20 years. Here we observe this:

gun violence  urban gun

Vox author German Lopez dissects the typical liberal reaction to mass shootings, after the tragedy that recently occurred at UCLA. While Democratic voters are undoubtedly acting in good faith in wanting stricter gun laws right after mass shootings, these incidents represent about 1% of gun deaths. Two articles that I came across address how privilege renders many Americans numb to the stark reality of black victims of gun violence. The black-white gap in gun deaths is simply astounding as the statistics for the type of deaths are in reverse:

The data shows that 77% of white gun deaths are suicides, but 82% of black gun deaths are homicides. Black people are 13% of the population, but are over half the victims of gun homicide.  How could this public health crisis that has sparked such moral outrage remain for so long? And more daringly, why does discussion about gun control appear to be centered around white victims when black victims are a disproportionate share? (This is not to say white lives don’t matter, and no offense was intended as this is not what I’m implying)

There are several explanations, one of which seems to be the most obvious. White people are the majority, which I consider a fair reason. (To an extent) But more unfortunately, “black on black crime” is seen as an inner-city issue regarding culture. The famous line is often invoked by conservatives to counter arguments about racial inequality. As countless authors have demonstrated, it is a myth that black people don’t care about crime in their communities.

I think other answers, such as the perception of black gun violence being more complicated are more plausible. As evidenced by conservatives’ insincere use of “black on black crime”, talking about problems in the black community is difficult. Besides the explanations of poverty, unemployment, and general lack of opportunities, space maybe the best explanation. The combination of poverty and unemployment in a densely populated area (specifically urban) sounds like a recipe for disaster. The “culture of violence” theory posited by conservatives is broken down by research regarding income, unemployment, and geography.

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