Friday, 10 January 2014

Is it really that much more expensive to live in London versus Los Angeles?

An interesting project has been popping up on my news feed today. It's a new tool from expatistan comparing the cost of living in different cities (mainly from the perspective of the footloose professional class).

Comparing the two cities I've lived in most recently gave an interesting result:

The site says that it's designed as a tool to help you decide between different job offers around the world. You know your potential salaries and want to know which will give you a better standard of living. 

The standout category in this comparison is transportation with Los Angeles 54% cheaper than London. 

This is calculated by taking the average percentage difference to buy a:
  • Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TDI 140 CV 6 vel. (or equivalent), with no extras, new
  • 1 liter (1/4 gallon) of gas
  • Monthly ticket public transport
  • Taxi trip on a business day, basic tariff, 8 Km. (5 miles)

The car in London is actually 10% cheaper than in Los Angeles. However, London's petrol/gas is 55% more expensive. This is a fair point and reflects the much higher fuel tax in the UK. 

However, the monthly ticket on public transport is where the difference really kicks in. LA's monthly ticket comes out as the equivalent of £41 compared with £127 for London's. 

But that difference isn't the arbitrary choice of Transport for London. It actually represents the best reason to prefer London to LA. In most of London you can take public transport anywhere in fairly little time. Spending £127 means that you don't need to buy a Volkswagen Golf or a liter of gas at all. It's rarely worth owning a car if you live in central London. 

In LA, public transport is simply not a substitute for car ownership. The £41 doesn't pay for anywhere near as much transport in LA. 

And that's not even getting into the largest single expense for many US household: healthcare. 

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Why emotional intelligence leads to poorer job performance: a hypothesis

The Atlantic has an interesting summary of the recent literature focusing on the negative effects of emotional intelligence. Essentially, emotional intelligence not only allows for better interpersonal relations and cooperation but also a greater ability to manipulate others.

One of the most interesting examples that the article gives is that, in non-emotional work (data analysis or car repair rather than counselling or teaching), there is actually a negative correlation between emotional intelligence and job performance (see here for the review article). The Atlantic article proposes that emotional intelligence distracts people from their work in these types of jobs: people spend their time reading their colleagues rather than their spreadsheets.

I have an alternate explanation that should probably be considered. While emotional intelligence may not make you better at low emotion jobs, it probably makes you more likely to be promoted or hired (conditional on prior job performance). If this is the case, then the negative correlation is simply the result of selection into jobs on the basis of emotional intelligence (due to bosses liking the employee or good interview performance).

Essentially a person with low emotional intelligence needs to be better at their job than a person with high emotional intelligence to get hired for the same position. It certainly fits better with my anecdotal observations than people being distracted by their emotions (surely people with more emotional intelligence need to expend less energy on reading those around them).

This hypothesis is also compatible with the finding that emotional intelligence is associated with better job performance in emotional work. In emotional work, emotional intelligence is a good signal for job performance (indeed it may be better than formal indicators), so promoting someone based on it probably improves the job/employee fit.

I've not read the literature in much depth so I'd be interested to hear if this hypothesis has been tested somewhere.