Links: Unmarried moms and ignoring incentives, higher education and competence, Moleskine’s IPO, Victoria’s Secret, and more!

* “The New Unmarried Moms: We’ve reduced teen pregnancy, but now childbearing outside wedlock is exploding among 20-somethings,” which is interesting but ignores some of the really powerful social factors at work. A lot of women are willing to sleep with fun-loving bad boys over dutiful workers; consequently, we probably shouldn’t be surprised that men modify their behavior in response. In addition, as Philip Greenspun says in “Another reason to feel like a failure: Scientists say that women are easy to get into bed:”

At lower paternal income levels, a variety of forms of government assistance will provide the single mother with roughly $45,000 per year in tax-free benefits, depending on the state (see this chart). That is more than the average American worker’s take-home pay. At higher paternal income levels, court-ordered child support payments may provide the non-working single mother with a substantially higher (tax-free) income than working at an average wage.

In other words, the financial consequences of having a child often aren’t dire and in some cases may actually be a net financial improvement. Note that I’m not trying to make a normative statement about whether this is good or bad: I am trying to observe how people respond to incentives.

* Great news: we’re (slowly) moving toward a world where education looks at competency, not hours with ass-in-seat. This is flying under the radar of the national press but is hugely important.

_MG_9736-1* Moleskine’s IPO; if the company is this profitable, why aren’t more companies getting into the notebook biz? Rhodia’s Webnotebook is my favorite, despite some flaws.

* Get LED lightbulbs.

Buzz Bissinger’s extraordinary story of shopping and (a little bit of) sex. I thought it would be boring but laughed a lot.

* “The Shadowy Residents of One Hyde Park—And How the Super-Wealthy Are Hiding Their Money.” I don’t think I’d want to live in a $5M+ apartment even if I had the money for it.

* How marriage changes relationships and gender dynamics; actual title includes the phrase “the boob test.” See also the first link in this post.

* How to think like the next generation, by Penelope Trunk; as usual overstated but still useful.

* 11 solutions to the Fermi Paradox.

* “Victoria’s Secret Sells to High School Girls. So What?” Sample: “Apparently, you can fill out applications to major universities or have boys see you in your underpants, but you can’t do both.”

* A Man’s “C-Card:” Commitment.

Starbucks and instant coffee: Signs of ill times?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Starbucks will now sell instant coffee. This is more than a little bit strange, since the company has spent 25 years implicitly and explicitly arguing that hot brown water, sometimes combined with milk, should be a necessary luxury for modern life, and ideally costing $2 – $3 because of the fine ingredients and the whole process around making it. But if you don’t need the fine ingredients and long process, why pay $2?

The WSJ article says, “It’s worth noting that the last time instant coffee made any sort of splash was when Nescafé came to market in 1938—as though we really needed yet another indication that the economy is languishing in dreary pseudo-depression.” Good point: and we know what happened in the years after 1938.

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