Why University of Illinois and City College tuition should be slashed. According to a summary of the new book Risky Behavior Among Youth by Jonathan Gruber (“Poverty Research News,” September-October), teenagers are not pathological risk takers who ignore economic incentives. “For example, teen smoking and marijuana use decisions are found to be sensitive to the prices of these substances; teen pregnancy risk falls as the incidence of AIDS rises (raising the risk of unprotected sex) and as welfare benefits fall (lowering the potential value of support for an out-of-wedlock child)….Finally, state college tuition policy is an important determinant in the decision to drop out of high school; when state tuition is low, individuals are more likely to complete high school, as the cost of continuing education is reduced.”

Downstate dispatch: immigrants make Beardstown livable. “Before the [Mexican] population came, Beardstown was a small, dying town,” says insurance agent Kevin Kleinschmidt, referring to the immigrant families who’ve come to take jobs in the local meat-packing plant (Illinois Issues, September). “Five, six years ago, you could go down to the square. It would be deserted. Now it’s bustling all day long.”

Friday Night Finches — are you ready for some bird feeding? Eldon Greij writes in the suburban-based “Bird’s-Eye reView” (September-October), “More people feed birds than watch football or baseball or any other sport, or participate in any other outdoor activity. Bird feeding is in. More than 50 million Americans already have season tickets.”

The good news. A year of technical courses at a community college raises earnings of displaced workers about 5 percent. The bad news. Sixty percent of 21,000 displaced workers in a 1990-’94 Washington state study left school before the end of the first quarter (“Research Summary: The Returns of Going Back to School for Displaced Workers,” by Robert LaLonde, www.harrisschool.uchicago.edu).

Missile “defense”–it won’t work politically either. Writing in the journal International Security (Summer), University of Chicago political scientist Charles Glaser and Steve Fetter of the University of Maryland argue that a national missile defense “would increase U.S. security only if the United States could deploy an effective system without seriously damaging its relations with Russia and China.” Unless Russia and China can be mollified, missile defense will simply provoke them to beef up their missile attack systems, leading to an arms race and less security for the U.S. than before (a summary of the report is at www.harrisschool.uchicago.edu).

Flattery from the easily impressed. The organization Zero Population Growth has given Chicago a B grade in its “Kid-Friendly Cities Report Card 2001.” This would be better news if any city had received a grade lower than a C minus.

The doctors’ drug habit. Percentage of sore throats that can be treated with antibiotics: about 11. Percentage of sore throats for which antibiotics were prescribed in a survey of more than 2,000 adults who went to their doctor complaining of a sore throat from 1989 to 1999: 73 (Journal of the American Medical Association, September 12).

That snap you heard was the word “community” being stretched past the breaking point. The Chicago Housing Authority’s newly approved plan for the ABLA homes will include what the agency calls “a mixed-income community” of 1,467 CHA units, 845 affordable-housing units, and 966 market-rate units. But Gail Mansfield reports in the September 7 issue of the “Near West/South Gazette” that 383 of the CHA units will not be located on the current ABLA site. CHA deputy director of communications Francisco Arcaute “said the reason for so many of the units being located away from the ABLA site is that ‘We don’t want to resegregate public housing residents.’ He added that the 383 units ‘will still be part of ABLA,’ although he said the CHA does not know where in the city of Chicago the apartments will be located, and whether a scattered-site or single-development approach will be used.”