Empiricism • Et. Seq: The Harvard Law School Library Blog

If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns…

Not true. Turns out outlaws get their guns from states with lax or no gun control laws.

The Movement of Illegal Guns in America, a study released today by the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition, documents the link between gun laws and interstate gun trafficking. The study finds that the 10 states with the least control of sales supply 57% of the handguns recovered in crimes in other states. West Virginia supplies the most; the District of Columbia none. The study also finds that the less a state regulates handguns, the greater the incidence of death by handgun in that state. The coalition’s Trace Data Center collects, analyzes and distributes gun trace data and related reports released by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). See the Washington Post (registration required) for more coverage.

Psst…need a cheap credit card for the holidays?

In the thriving internet underground economy, a credit card with CVV2 number will cost you between 10¢ and $25, even cheaper if you buy in bulk.

As detailed in Symantec’s Report on the Underground Economy released today, credit card information is the most advertised category of goods and services. Symantec calculates the potential worth of all credit cards advertised during the reporting period, July 2007 through June 2008, to be $5.3 billion based on an average observed credit limit of more than $4,000 per stolen credit card. The report notes, “The underground economy has matured into a global market with the same supply and demand pressures and responses of any other economy. There are a great many servers and channels available to advertisers to market their wares, which they do, and often.” For more information see C|Net News and the Symantec Press Release.

Does Spam Work?

Sometimes during my morning spam deletion ritual, in which I remove dozens of emails, mostly for products that I am not biologically able to benefit from, I wonder (as perhaps you do, too): does spam actually work for the spammer? Do people actually buy these misspelled drugs and dubious “enhancement devices”?
imagePhoto credit:Benny Yap/Creative Commons

At last, a team of researchers has taken on the question and produced some empirical data in this report: Spamalytics: An Empirical Analysis of Spam Marketing Conversion. (Apparently “conversion” is the term for when spam actually produces a sale or other desired result.) Bottom line – the data collected in this study indicates that, no, it doesn’t work very well. According to the study:

After 26 days, and almost 350 million e-mail messages, only 28 sales resulted — a conversion rate of well under 0.00001%. Of these, all but one were for male-enhancement products and the average purchase price was close to $100. Taken together, these conversions would have resulted in revenues of $2,731.88—a bit over $100 a day for the measurement period or $140 per day for periods when the campaign was active.

And the good news is that spam, while cheaper than mass-mailings, is costly enough that such meagre profits may not sustain the spammers for too long. Now, if we can just get this data out to the spammers. If only there was some way to get a message to thousands of people with a single click…

And, don’t forget that, you, too, can do empirical analysis – with help from our new statistical consulting service!

The family that surfs together stays together…

Looking for information on how internet use affects family life?

Read Networked Families, a new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, and discover, “Some 52% of internet users who live with a spouse and one or more children go online with another person at least a few times a week. Another 34% of such families have shared screen moments at least occasionally.”

Looking for more information? Try the HLS Library’s Data Search Engine.

United Nations Statistics Division Launches New Data Portal

The United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) has launched UNdata: a data portal offering a “single entry point” for UN statistical information and searchable datasets.

Quickly access UNdata by entering keywords in the search box or browsing by topical area.

Use the UNdata Glossary to find definitions of terms used within the databases. Use the UNdata Wiki to find information about each UNdata source including links to a source’s homepage and databases, contact links, descriptions of the methodology used, and glossaries of terms, when available. Click the More link to access the Undata Advanced search, Explorer and Country profiles.

UNdata is replacing the United Nations Common Database (UNCDB) which will be discontinued this summer. The UNCDB series are currently available through UNdata under the new name Key Global Indicators.

SDC Platinum 3.0

Thomson Reuters SDC Platinum 3.0 is now available for download and installation.

Thomson Reuters encourages users of versions 2.3b and earlier to upgrade to take advantage of the many new features and enhancements offered by version 3.0. See the HLSL SDC Platinum download & installation page for detailed instructions. (HLS email username and password required)

Thomson Reuters SDC Platinum is a software-based tool for analyzing corporate finance and capital markets transaction information. We have subscribed to the SDC Platinum Global New Issues and Mergers & Acquisitions databases. Interested in finding out more about data resources available to you? See HLSL Data Resources for a listing of data resources useful for legal research.

Constitutional Theory

Stanley Fish has an opinion piece in the New York Times for January 27, 2008 entitled “Does Constitutional Theory Matter?” In this essay he discusses a new book by Sotirios Barber and James Fleming called Constitutional interpretation : the basic questions, which is on reserve at Langdell. This is what PrawfBlawg thinks about the essay.

How is Crime Measured?

A new Congressional Research Service report discusses “How Crime in the United States is Measured“.

Crime data collected through the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), the National
Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), and the National Crime Victimization
Survey (NCVS) are used by Congress to inform policy decisions and allocate federal
criminal justice funding to states. As such, it is important to understand how each
program collects and reports crime data, and the limitations associated with the data.
This report reviews (1) the history of the UCR, the NIBRS, and the NCVS; (2)
the methods each program uses to collect crime data; and (3) the limitations of the
data collected by each program. The report then compares the similarities and
differences of UCR and NCVS data. It concludes by reviewing issues related to the
NIBRS and the NCVS.

U.N. Launches MDG Monitor, a New Anti-Poverty Site

The United Nations recently announced MDG Monitor, “a pioneering online site that tracks progress towards decreasing global poverty by 2015, a global campaign known as the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs.”

The new site, developed in partnership with Google and Cisco Systems, provides the most current data available as well as bird’s-eye views of global efforts to fight poverty. See the press releases from the United Nations Development Programme and Google for more information.

Building a Better Legal Profession

Skadden: D. Choate, Hall: C+. Ropes & Gray: B-. Looking at a law firm? Check its report card first.

Building a Better Legal Profession, a grassroots movement begun by law students at Stanford, wants law students, law schools, and law firm clients to exercise their market power by engaging only those firms demonstrating a commitment to demographic diversity, pro bono participation and billable hour reforms. BBLP has created diversity rankings and diversity report cards to draw attention to differences between law firms. BBLP produces statistics on law firms employing more than 100 attorneys in six major markets: New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Boston, Northern California and Southern California-LA. The BBLP Diversity Rankings cover five groups underrepresented in the legal profession: women, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and openly lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered individuals (LGBT). BBLP obtained its data from the National Association for Legal Career Professionals directory of law firm employment statistics. See the New York Times for recent news coverage (registration required).

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