Assorted links

by on January 31, 2014 at 2:20 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. The Cato session on glamour, with Virginia Postrel, myself, and Sam Tanenhaus.

2. Does exposure to fast food diminish your happiness? (speculative) and electronic tongue can identify brands of beer.

3. Robot directing traffic in Congo.

4. The shaming culture that is China.

5. What worries Americans.

6. Social liberalism as class warfare, another home run post by Ross Douthat.

7. The book that lets you feel the protagonist’s pain.

dan1111 January 31, 2014 at 2:36 am

2. No it does not. Talk about the ultimate bias-confirming study (can you imagine a study that shows fast food increases happiness getting published anywhere?).

AgeOfDoubt January 31, 2014 at 4:16 am

How can you disagree with these very concrete scientific measurements?

“measured by both subjective perception of time passage and self-reports of impatience experienced during the music”

john personna January 31, 2014 at 8:47 am

This experiment may or may not establish a good baseline, but I really worry that opponents of self-reports are often just opponents of results. In many cases self-reports will be the only and best measures of success. (I am quite cozy here with a comforter, a laptop, and a fresh cup of coffee … but of course that is just a self-report.)

dan1111 January 31, 2014 at 10:07 am

I am not objecting to the self-reporting aspect. However, from the abstract (full text not freely available), this study seems problematic.

Study 1 that they describe seems hopelessly confounded, as many potentially significant factors will relate to the concentration of fast food restaurants in a neighborhood.

Studies 2 and 3 make no mention of being controlled. Are they comparing fast-food priming to priming with non-fast food? If not, then they aren’t showing anything about fast food in particular, contrary to their claims.

john personna January 31, 2014 at 12:03 pm

I haven’t read the full study either. I agree that the alternative to “fast food priming” would be of great importance.

Jan January 31, 2014 at 8:04 am

Of course we all know that fast food increases happiness in the short run. You know what they say about the long run.

Z January 31, 2014 at 8:38 am

So far the “long run” is saying the explosion of processed foods has corresponded with the rapid increase in life expectancy. The rise in average life spans is almost exclusively in the lower classes where “junk food” is most common. The fact is, the war on processed food is just another neo-Calvinist war on human happiness. If people like it, the lemon-sucking scolds will soon be making a case against it.

john personna January 31, 2014 at 8:50 am

Jan is funny. Yes, the short run. If the food is enough of a guilty craving the happiness might not even survive the last of the fries. Z is less funny, using strange correlations and no recognition that the people who eat more veg and less fast food in those areas will do best of all. Says science.

TMC January 31, 2014 at 11:41 am

I think you missed the point on both. Jan may be just saying ‘I’m no longer hungry’.
Z’s post is more about the study’s silly correlation/causation errors.

john personna January 31, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Maybe I was confused TMC, was this all rude humor?

“The fact is, the war on processed food is just another neo-Calvinist war on human happiness. If people like it, the lemon-sucking scolds will soon be making a case against it.”

Because I certainly know that there are people who would deny “nutrition” as a thing. I mean, stepping back, there was a time when “zen macrobiotic” was kinda cool. Its endpoint was the idea that you could ultimately live on meditation and rice. In fact, no matter how much meditation you do, you will die when you try to live on rice alone. “Nutrition” explains why. Somewhat similar to that, we have an idea that if you believe in the market strongly enough, you can live on fast food and never get a heart attack. In fact, greeters and regulars at “The Heart Attack Grill” drop like flies. Nutrition explains that too.

Related and interesting:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/body/microbiome-diversity/

Millian January 31, 2014 at 2:57 am

6. Here is one case where feminists are right. Most people telling women to marry are rich men, and the absence of women’s opinions shows in a debate that’s mostly about whether the benefits of literal patriarchy exceed the costs.

So Much For Subtlety January 31, 2014 at 3:07 am

WTF? Most of the people calling on anyone to marry are women. Do men give a damn? The problem has been that men do not want to take part in a brutally exploitative system. Benefits of literal patriarchy? I mean WTF?!! On what planet does this exist?

Most women still want to marry. Most of them seem to think they can party in their twenties and there will still be hunky millionaires-pretending-to-be-craftmen who are dying to marry them when they turn 38. There may well be. For some. Men were never that keen to get married and now they are all too often refusing to do so. No one is telling women what they need to know – to marry well they need to make it attractive to men. That means being nice. I know this is shocking news. So shocking no one is willing to say it. Because after all, all women know they can marry a man and if they are in the slightest little bit displeased, they have the entire structure of the State behind them to make a man support them in the style to which they would like to remain comfortable.

Patriarchy my a$$

Millian January 31, 2014 at 3:31 am

Calm down. Marriages in the era praised by Douthat/Cowen were different to today’s institution that you condemn. Men enjoyed domestic labour services, power over kids family alliances, relations without necessity of consent etc. That is to say, actual patriarchy. Men were thus unsurprisingly eager to pursue this one-sided transaction. Still, it sounds like your advice to women is also that their beliefs and behaviour are more wrong than men’s, which is at least honest of you even if self-serving.

So Much For Subtlety January 31, 2014 at 4:43 am

Men were still not all that willing to marry back in the day that Douhat praises either. But the social pressure was strong and sex outside marriage was limited. Men got to subsidise a woman in more or less idleness – remember that Gloria Steneim didn’t point out the value of those domestic services, but said that women were dying of boredom in the suburbs because they had nothing to do. She compared it to a concentration camp. Power over children? In the 1950s? Could they control their children’s marriages? Choices of profession? They got to pay a fortune to raise some very ungrateful brats as the Sixties proved. And got nothing whatsoever in return except some sense of satisfaction. Men could theoretically have sex if their wives did not consent. I doubt it happened much.

And no, they were not eager to enter into this relationship. Even in the 50s. Given virtually every piece of evidence we have from the 50s is that men were not happy to get married, but they did it because the women they loved demanded it.

I don’t see how anything I say is self-serving. But let’s work with this. Women still want to get married. They still need men to support them. Younger men in respectable and growing numbers are declining to do this. They are opting out. That means, due to simple supply and demand, women have to pony up more if they want a marriage. That could mean ponying up the cash – women are encouraged to marry down with poorer men that they will have to support. But it isn’t working because everyone knows that once the marriage contract is signed, the State will come down like a ton of bricks on the slightest hint of displeasure from the woman and the man can end up with what amounts to a sentence of forced labor.

The more that marriage is one sided in favor of women, the more men will decline to put their heads on the chopping board, the more that women will have to hand over before the marriage. There is nothing about me in that at all.

brickbats and adiabats January 31, 2014 at 9:06 am

“Men were never that keen to get married”

Speak for yourself, a$$.

CBBB January 31, 2014 at 10:26 am

” Most of them seem to think they can party in their twenties and there will still be hunky millionaires-pretending-to-be-craftmen who are dying to marry them when they turn 38. ”

I guess there must be some out there like this. Not most. Not by a long shot. This is typcial MR commentary BS.

Urso January 31, 2014 at 11:06 am

These folks have convinced themselves that they are a voice crying out in the wilderness speaking truths that others are “too afraid” to admit. Well there are two possibilities. One, other people secretly think they’re right but are afraid to say it out loud (even anonymously) because of fears of reprisal by PC thugs. Two, other people think they’re wrong. Occam’s Razor that one.

So Much For Subtlety January 31, 2014 at 5:08 pm

This is getting absurd. It is the dominant narrative. Women are always being told to put off marriage and work on a career safe in the knowledge that there will be some handsome man in their mid-thirties who will want to marry them. Whatever they have been doing. It has only been in recent times that a small number of women have very mildly pointed out that this is not true. Look at the fuss over the Princeton Mother letter. She proved a hell of a lot of women are deeply committed to the idea that they can f**k around in their twenties and still get that hunky handy man who happens to be a millionaire.

Or look at the dominant culture of our time – chick flicks. In the Fifties women who stuck with the marriage for the children were a trite cliche. Now we get Eat Pray Love. Where a woman manages to find a handsome man at the end of the rainbow.

We can quibble about “most” but if anyone is telling women out there otherwise, I am unaware of it.

CBBB January 31, 2014 at 9:52 pm

Hey you got some numbers for all these legions of women f**king around in their 20s and not looking for a long term relationship? Because I only seem to run across the types looking for these inconvenient long term relationships.

So Much For Subtlety February 1, 2014 at 1:38 am

I am sorry to hear that. But given how many people are talking about the “hooking up culture”, how could you have missed it?

Take a quick look at the comments here:

http://gawker.com/5992914/some-poor-kids-mom-wrote-a-letter-to-princetons-student-newspaper-begging-girls-to-date-her-son

A Mother said something perfectly sensible and reasonable. Look how ape sh!t the comments go. And look at what they are saying. They do, in fact, say that women should put off marriage until their thirties and sleep around.

The Original D February 1, 2014 at 10:57 pm

Something tells me that twenty-somethings are still more likely to sing along to Beyonce’s “Put a Ring On It” than spend a weekend reading Eat, Pray, Love.

dan1111 January 31, 2014 at 5:00 am

The argument for marriage is an argument that both men and women should marry, so “telling women to marry” is a strange way of putting it.

Social conservatives as a whole are not predominantly rich or male. I don’t think this criticism really holds. Nor is arguing for stronger marriage norms akin to supporting “literal patriarchy”. Most conservatives view marriage as a partnership between equals and are certainly not opposed to women having careers, etc. I see no indication that someone like Douthat wants a return to “literal patriarchy”.

Brian Donohue January 31, 2014 at 9:56 am

Rich men lose out in a society that supports a ‘traditional’ monogamous family structure:

http://www.rationaloptimist.com/blog/why-is-polygamy-declining.aspx

The ‘traditional’ family structure is a big win for lower status males- quite democratic.

But women get a lot out of this too. After all, we’re mammals. The mother-child bond is the defining characteristic of mammals. Males are often useless beyond fighting each other to determine fitness.

But humans show pair-bonding tendencies and associated relatively high levels of paternal investment. How is this not good for women?

CBBB January 31, 2014 at 10:16 am

It is always interesting that the social implications of the economic world people such as Cowen and Douhat want to see is so at odds with what their ideal society looks like from a social point of view.

Urso January 31, 2014 at 10:35 am

“Rich men lose out in a society that supports a ‘traditional’ monogamous family structure”
Then why do rich men opt in to the monogamous family structure at such high levels? Are they all idiots? I doubt it. More likely this author’s definition of “lose out” is incredibly cramped and incomplete, ‘spergy’ as one of my co-commentors would say.

Urso January 31, 2014 at 10:50 am

Why does this website hate line breaks?

Brian Donohue January 31, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Because the bow to social pressure, i.e. maybe they don’t call all the shots, as Millian suggests.

History is replete with examples of powerful men monopolizing women. In our society, it’s all on the down low. Look at the rough ride Hollande is getting, even in libertine France.

Urso January 31, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Do the social benefits to marriage not count? I think they do.

And doesn’t the Hollande example cut the other way? Talk about someone who’d have been a lot better sticking with monogamy.

The Original D February 1, 2014 at 11:00 pm

Michael Bloomberg and Elon Musk opted out of this arrangement, though I guess Bill Gates and Warren Buffet still carry the flag.

msgkings January 31, 2014 at 1:02 pm

Again the facts are as follows: married men live longer than unmarried men, and report themselves happier. Might be confounding factors but those are plain facts.

Melbourne January 31, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Are those “men who are still married”, or “men who have ever been married”?

msgkings January 31, 2014 at 4:18 pm

I’ve been asked that before and I don’t know, I’m sure some Googling could answer that. Those are the ‘confounding factors’ I mentioned.
I too am curious how the self-reported happiness of married, single, and divorced compares. But anecdotally it does seem a lot more men get divorced and remarry than women do.

Here’s a start: http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/married-people-happier-than-singles.htm

So Much For Subtlety January 31, 2014 at 3:02 am

4 What do you do in a country that is as large as China? No one is ever punished for anything except the sort of things the government cares about. Protesting for instance. But murder? No.

The internet has allowed people to form an on-line lynch mob. Some times they have just cause – they mention the nurse who was making money crushing kittens for the sexual pleasure of her viewers. Well, are we supposed to feel bad that she got fired?

The solution is to restore trust in the system by actually punishing criminals. Which ain’t going to happen any time soon.

dan1111 January 31, 2014 at 5:56 am

This analysis does not really explain “milk tea girl”, who was hounded for positive reasons. Also, other cases were over minor crimes (spitting on someone) or non-crimes (having an affair).

It appears to be more of a cultural phenomenon than a response to a vacuum of law and order.

8 January 31, 2014 at 6:39 am

It is exactly like what goes on with Twitter, such as the woman who was hounded for her Boston marathon Halloween costume.

Timothy January 31, 2014 at 11:39 am

It’s a general cultural phenom., not a Chinese one – details aside this is exactly the modus operandi of 4chan and Internet Feminist SJWs.

Jan January 31, 2014 at 6:20 am

What hell is BBC doing? I realize the motive is to raise awareness, but they are just perpetuating the problem of flesh searching by posting pictures of all the victims, with the exception of the kitten crush lady (who arguably is most deserving of the exposure.)

Matt January 31, 2014 at 6:53 am

The Far East generally are exhaustively documented by sociologists as being shame and respect cultures where people

- lack much emotional personal warmth and security

- are motivated by ingroup inclusion (to which there is a stronger positive response) and exclusion (to which there is a stronger negative response). people have a harder time telling other people to go hang when they’re being “included” in undesirable social situations.

- having strong norms of humility and have a prevention bias towards avoiding ingroup exclusion and respect demotion, rather than a self promotion bias

There are positives to this – individual sensitivity to social inclusion extends to the empathy that Far Eastern people have, and there is a focus on making sure others feel like they are part of social relationships as well.

There are also negatives – for instance, combine that with the specific history of Communist China, and this results is totally predictable. This isn’t really news. It’s just Chinese being Chinese.

C January 31, 2014 at 10:20 am

Recall though that when the bombings occured at the Boston Marathon there was much amateur sleuthing going in forums like Reddit … involving photos of recognizable individuals and speculations as to their guilt. All of it, of course, turned out to be incorrect. Yet the innocent people’s photos had been posted widely and reported in other venues like CNN and the WasthingtonPost. There is more breadth to this phenomenon than simply calling it an Asian cultural issue.

Matt January 31, 2014 at 11:00 am

Sure, yet that was a sporadic case, in response to requires a major stimulus and converged with fairly “important” investigation.

The cultural differences here are what interest us, more so for mass shaming (the angle of locating milk tea girl wasn’t really different than the american internet glomming onto the “really photogenic marathon runner” or whoever he was). Not the idea of people working together spontaneously in a online environment to locate knowledge and organize, which is, as you say, a broader and more cross cultural phenomenon.

Tmv January 31, 2014 at 8:43 pm

Have you heard of 60 Minutes or for that matter most other investigative reporting — it’s all about exposing suppose evil deeds that’s maybe criminal maybe not to large audience, mass shaming. And it predate internet.

Threre nothing about these sort of phenomenon that’s unique to “China”.

carlospln January 31, 2014 at 5:24 am

Glamour AND Tyler Cowen?

“Irony stands mute” Jozef Stalin

Matt January 31, 2014 at 6:13 am

6. Social liberalism as class warfare, another home run post by Ross Douthat. – See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/01/assorted-links-1043.html

C’mon conspiracy theories where reduced marriage rates and increased divorce rates are due to hypocritical personally restrained, publicly permissive “elites”? I doubtthat.

This idea of “social revolutions of the 1970s” contributing to decreased marriage is nonsense.

It is amazing what idiocy emerges from the conflation of the falling inequality era of the prosperous middle classes with the rising inequality gilded age of the plutocrats into one while viewing the post 1970s era as unique.

Income inequality probably contributes to the marriage and divorce rates by fairly simple mechanisms.
In an unequal society, women (and men) are more likely to hold off for Mr (or Miss) Right, and they’re more likely to divorce so that they can trade up.

Women and men are also going to be more reluctant to put themselves out there when there is more of a prospect of facing rejection due to not presenting the right image, financially (compared to a more equal era where it is simply more a question of chemisty).

And on the other side, very successful men (who have the free time) can at the margins occasionally take an “alpha” strategy where because there are so many available women they can simply shop around and defer commitment (but this is more rare)

More dating (but probably less promiscuity, except for a few people) and more single living, less marriage.

That’s obviously going to hit the poor harder, because a poor person is less likely to hit the financial and career success calculus that makes a potential partner willing to commit (even if they’re supported by a raft of transfers and taxes).

There is no way to “fix” this other than actually reducing real terms inequality, which may not be fixable.

Obviously Conservatives will have a deep problem admitting this – how are they going to deal with the dissonance that the plutocratic, all against all, “personal responsibility” focused “economically liberal” environment they favor eats away at the “socially traditional” values of marriage and stable family that they prefer?

They’re not going to, and so we get this utter nonsense blather about “liberal elites” once again, in a yet weirder and more insane mutation than is typical.

So Much For Subtlety January 31, 2014 at 6:32 am

C’mon conspiracy theories where reduced marriage rates and increased divorce rates are due to hypocritical personally restrained, publicly permissive “elites”? I doubtthat.

There is no sane way you can doubt that. That there is enormous public pressure to endorse divorce and a lack of restraint is flatly undeniable. When Clinton coped a lot of flak because he said, ever so mildly, that single parent families were not as good as two parent families? When everyone and their dog has campaigned to under mine marriage even further by supporting gay marriage? You go out in public and say every child deserves a mother and a father and you will see precisely how committed our elites are to public permissiveness.

Which they themselves ignore. The fact is our elites live in the 1950s. They live in suburbs with no Black people. They send their children to schools that have not even heard of new math. That sometimes cane even. They marry. They do not have children out of wedlock. But as Charles Murray said, they will not preach what they practice. They insist on social conservatism for themselves and their children while calling on everyone else to live the Rocky Horror Show lifestyle.

Matt January 31, 2014 at 7:03 am

Maybe they do say that. Frankly they can say what they like.

The fact of the matter is that if a woman chooses to be a single mother, or a man chooses to walk out on his wife, it’s not because of relaxed permissiveness (which contributes to a small effect, if at all), it’s because as individuals they think they can get a better deal, for them and the people they are “personally responsible”. And that’s because of a generally social climbing society, where individuals prioritize their own personal success over everything else, with large inequalities.

(To the extent that permissive vs responsible attitudes matter at all, it’s not because a woman thinks she doesn’t have personal responsibility that she can divorce her husband. It’s because she’s responsible for making her life better, and she can cast her husband aside if that’s necessary, as individuals are only responsible for themselves and their kids – the message of being totally responsible for your whole life having been continually spread. Equally, when she divorces her husband so that her kid can have a better life, that’s her taking part in the cult of taking on more “personal responsibility”. Of course, I do think it’s entirely possible that the smart, permissive socially liberal elites don’t drink the moronic kool-aid of neo-gilded age, neocon individual personal responsibility gospel.)

dan1111 January 31, 2014 at 7:33 am

“Personal responsibility” means responsibility for one’s own actions, not responsibility only to oneself. Leaving a marriage for selfish reasons is irresponsible. I know of no conservative who would consider such an act “personal responsibility”. Perhaps you actually don’t know enough about the “moronic kool-aid of neo-gilded age, neocon individual personal responsibility gospel” to effectively critique it.

Matt January 31, 2014 at 1:38 pm

You know of no Conservative who’d consider a woman divorcing her “deadbeat husband” (let’s say he’s a “junkie” for instance, Conservatives don’t like those) in favor of making her own way in the world as an act of taking personal responsibility for the way her own life, and her kids, works out? That by stopping him “mooching” off of her, she wouldn’t be furthering the cause of the almighty “personal responsibility” (the same way that starving the beast is great and all that)? Because that’s the way society has been taking personal responsibility.

Some folks seem quite capable of understanding the idea that when people are held personally responsible for sorting out their own healthcare (with no social insurance), they’ll both shop around and be risk averse and thus commitment averse, particularly in a environment which is unstable with lots of differentiated products.

But tell ‘em the same applies to spouses and romantic relationships, that during situations of high personality responsibility where they are lots of differentiated partners widening in quality they’ll both shop around (date promiscuously) and be commitment averse (low marriage, high divorce, for some folks dropping out of the dating and mating game entirely), and they can’t understand it.

dan1111 February 1, 2014 at 3:49 am

@Matt, there are extreme cases that are different. But I didn’t take you as referring only to those cases. Things like drug addiction and spousal abuse are not the primary drivers of the high divorce rate.

So Much For Subtlety January 31, 2014 at 5:17 pm

They can say what they like. Maybe they have a social obligation to the people who look up to them. Maybe not. I rather liked Angels With Dirty Faces myself. But by the same token I can call them hypocrites for pushing what they do not want for themselves on the poor, the weak and the defenseless.

As for social permissiveness, famously Charles Dickens wanted to leave his wife for a much younger woman. And did. But he paid a terrible social price for doing so. We have become much more permissive and one of the main consequences is no one shames a man for leaving his wife. There is limited shame even if he was an a$$ about it as with Newt Grinich. People are actually shame-adverse. Remove the shame and all sorts of behavior starts to come out. As the Left knows because it tries to shame racist and sexist language.

A woman who divorces her husband is not thinking of her child having a better life in virtually all cases. The children of divorce die five years earlier than normal children. She is thinking of herself. Which we no longer consider a matter that is shameful. We are more permissive.

But I do like your interesting use of the phrase “personal responsibility”. Given you are using it to mean almost exactly the opposite. Divorce is usually an escape from responsibility.

None of which changes the fact that if our elites love their neighborhoods and lifestyle so much, they should want it for all Americans. Why should the rest of America not look like their entirely White gated community?

Careless February 1, 2014 at 7:18 pm

That sometimes cane even.

lol. No.

lxm January 31, 2014 at 9:32 am

Obviously Conservatives will have a deep problem admitting this – how are they going to deal with the dissonance that the plutocratic, all against all, “personal responsibility” focused “economically liberal” environment they favor eats away at the “socially traditional” values of marriage and stable family that they prefer? “

Got that right! Business should be free of regulation/People should be highly regulated!

I found Douthat’s article patronizing. Kind of like the elites looking down on the rest and telling them what’s needed to live their lives.

I am sure the “non-elites” will find their way just fine without help from the “elites.”

I would also suggest that Douthat go have a conversation with David Brooks.

buddyglass January 31, 2014 at 9:45 am

Widely available birth control => women less uptight about having sex outside marriage => “you get to have sex now” no longer a big motivator for men to marry.

End of labor and education discrimination against women => women now able to acquire gainful employment => “so you can have a roof over your head and not have to keep living with your parents” no longer a big motivation for women to marry.

Decline in overt religiosity => less public shame heaped on couples who cohabit wile not married => “what will people think?” no longer a big motivator for couples to convert their monogamous sexual relationships into marriages.

Tommy January 31, 2014 at 10:36 am

Exactly. It’s not clear what specific adjustments Douthat wants us to make here.

Chris H January 31, 2014 at 1:01 pm

I’m not sure you or Matt actually understood the article. But to your particular points, if that is so why is there a class divide in promiscuous behaviors and marriage rates? Every one of those explanations should either predict no real class divide in libertine actions or that the wealthy should have seen the bigger drop in marriage.

With the rise of birth control, today that should not lead to a major class divide given birth control relative affordability and widespread use, but you should have seen elites dropping marriage first, but as the article and guys like Charles Murray have provided evidence that’s not what happened.

With the end of labor discrimination that effect relatively elite women more than the relatively poor. Poor women have pretty much always been a part of the economy while the 60s-70s were really about getting middle class and rich women into the workforce. Thus again, the decline in marriage should be happening the most with elites by this explanation, and the exact opposite of that is happening.

Finally, education, income, and religiosity are all positively correlated. America’s upper middle class and rich have tons of secular people and few devoutly religious people. If this is driving lower marriage rates, that data on the poor’s marriage, single motherhood, and abortion rates vs that of the rich is really weird.

I’m sure there are good critiques to be made on Douhat’s post, but these are not that.

buddyglass January 31, 2014 at 2:16 pm

“if that is so why is there a class divide in promiscuous behaviors and marriage rates?”

Is there? Both groups are promiscuous; the different is that the elites are responsible enough to avoid pregnancy (or more willing to end it when it occurs). Marriage rates have declined for all income groups over the last 40 years but, yes, the decline has been most precipitous among the poor.

“With the end of labor discrimination that effect relatively elite women more than the relatively poor. Poor women have pretty much always been a part of the economy while the 60s-70s were really about getting middle class and rich women into the workforce.”

Not sure I buy this. If you look back far enough (i.e. not just to the 1970s) what did poor young women do prior to getting married? Did they go get jobs and live outside the home, or did they live with their parents until marriage? Seems like the latter was fairly common for women who remained single. Then again, vastly fewer women remained single.

“Finally, education, income, and religiosity are all positively correlated. America’s upper middle class and rich have tons of secular people and few devoutly religious people.”

I was considering the decline of the “shame” angle to be a more cross-spectrum phenomenon than something limited to either the elite or the poor. You don’t get ostracized anymore for “shacking up”. In fact, people view a “strange” couples that refrain from living together (and/or having sex) prior to marriage.

Cyrus January 31, 2014 at 5:16 pm

Before say 1920, poor single women did unskilled labor much as they do today. There was more domestic service and less retail, but the point stands that subsidizing the idleness of virgin daughters is a mark of the bourgeoisie.

sourcreamus January 31, 2014 at 2:49 pm

The rationale for marriage has always been sex for the man, security for the woman, social approval for both, and a stable base to raise a family. All of these have changed except the last one. The difference is that the first three have very quickly and the last not until a family is started. Those with intelligence and can buck social convention and see the benefits to marriage. Those who live for the moment don’t and follow if it feels good do it. This means the upper classes get married and stay married and the lower classes don’t. Douthat’s point is that this is self perpetuating. The children of the rich grow up in stability while the children of the poor grow up in chaos. This then affects their future prospects. By taking away social disapproval as a reason to get married the upper classes have consigned the lower classes to stay poor.
It is impossible and unwise to try to put the toothpaste back in the tube with regards to birth control, and women in the workforce, but societal mores change all the time. They changed to approved out of wedlock birth and shacking up, they can change back.

DPG January 31, 2014 at 12:13 pm

You didn’t read the whole article because Douthat explicitly says at the end that there isn’t a conspiracy theory. He analogizes it to gated communities that allow the cities around them to decay. Elites may not intend for it to happen, but their insularity contributes to it regardless.

Sure, economic insecurity can cause people to delay or forego marriage. But I would suggest that viewing the decline in marriage as solely a function of increased wealth within the top .1% – 1% (which is the main driver of inequality), while ignoring factors such as no fault divorce, glorification of promiscuity in pop culture, feminist endorsement of single motherhood, decline of religiosity, and general ridicule of conservative mores, is an interpretation of post-1960s America that borders on “idiocy”, and is a form of economic determinism that some would say is “weirder and more insane” than most would be willing to endorse.

Michael January 31, 2014 at 7:53 pm

“C’mon conspiracy theories where reduced marriage rates and increased divorce rates are due to hypocritical personally restrained, publicly permissive “elites”? I doubtthat.”

Divorce rates are declining. Marriage is down too, but probably not in the upper income deciles.

Jan January 31, 2014 at 7:05 am

#5. I would note that just because people don’t list income inequality as their #1 concern doesn’t mean it is not a very significant concern. The “gap between rich and poor” is not the kind of answer that many people feel good listing as their top issue–it sounds jealous. However, I think that many consider it one of the root causes of other challenges that do appear higher up on the Gallup list.

When asked about it, 67% of people told Gallup they were dissatisfied with income inequality and seven in 10 Americans said the government should do a lot or something about it. http://www.gallup.com/poll/166904/dissatisfied-income-wealth-distribution.aspx

BC January 31, 2014 at 8:09 am

“The ‘gap between rich and poor’ is not the kind of answer that many people feel good listing as their top issue.”

There must be a lot of liberal politicians and activists that don’t feel very good.

Colin January 31, 2014 at 7:56 am

Somewhat surprised Tyler hasn’t highlighted Mankiw’s noting of Krugman’s epic goof earlier this week:

http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com/2014/01/does-income-inequality-increase.html

mulp January 31, 2014 at 10:06 am

5. What worries Americans

1. the government is blamed for making most people poorer while making the rich richer
2. the economy sucks because the rich aren’t spending all they get to create jobs and the poor get too little money to spend to create the jobs they would if they got a fraction of the money the rich get
3. the unemployed don’t get enough money to live while the rich have so much money they just drive up the prices of stuff the unemployed need to live but because it was built years ago, the rich driving up prices create no jobs
4. the rich get free health care from their employers because they get to decide who gets free health care, but the rich tell the poor to pay for health care out of their own pocket.

Nope, the American people are not concerned about the divide between the rich and poor.

The Tea Party sure seemed to me to be all about income inequality.

The description of the government response to the financial crisis leads one to believe that the rich were bailed out by government at the expense of the poor.

Economists condemning the government intervention generally imply that if bankruptcy were allowed to take place without government (ignoring only the Federal government can decide the winners and losers in bankruptcy per the Constitution) that the rich would be the only ones losing money in the banks and Wall Street because only the rich have bank accounts and own stocks and bonds, while the 90% save all their money directly with the US Treasury or Fed.

Thus bailing out the middle class who have emergency and retirement savings was seen as bailing out the rich, at the expense of the middle class and poor who entered 2008 mired in debt. Bankruptcy is the transfer of wealth from those who had wealth to those who borrowed that wealth and can’t return it, and would not happen without income inequality.

And the Tea Party protesting taxes too higher were not the rich, but the middle class and poor who blame the government for their being poor by taking their money to give it to the poorer.

dan1111 January 31, 2014 at 10:39 am

You are confusing your opinions with everyone’s opinions. Some people who have a general worry about the economy do see this in terms of income inequality, but not all do. Conservatives, generally speaking, do not.

There is a reason the Tea Partiers were not applauding Occupy Wall Street. If you don’t get that, then you haven’t understood your opponents’ position.

Marie January 31, 2014 at 11:07 am

That’s an interesting take, the Tea Party movement being based on a kick back about income inequality. I’ll have to think about that one.

Urso January 31, 2014 at 10:54 am

#5 – note that “economy in general” has risen steadily over the past year even though essentially every objective economic marker has improved over that time period. A running theme this week is stories about the increasing disconnect over how people feel like they’re doing, and how people actually are doing. Or, we are not as whatever as we thought we were.

Preston Sturgeon January 31, 2014 at 11:29 am

4. Douthat links to a Winship piece claiming that median income rose 25% between 1979 and 2007, adjusted for standard of living. Doesn’t that contradict the conventional Great Stagnation thesis?

Tyler Cowen January 31, 2014 at 4:11 pm

No.

bryan willman January 31, 2014 at 11:33 am

A mobility study also linked to from here points out that one strong factor, maybe the strongest, is the percentage of competent people around. Likely the same as what Douhat calls a “dense network” of adult authority figures. That is as much about the rate of good arrangements in the *community* as anything else.

I often think of it as the “good to bad example ratio” – if all the young men in the neighborhood, indeed every young man you ever met, have been or are in jail, for whatever reason, that cannot be a good thing, cannot be a good influence.

If your father is the only absent mystery man on the block, and your uncles, neighbors, the folks at the corner store, and basically everybody else you meet are positive sensible examples, can that NOT be a good thing for your development even if your own household is less than ideal?

sam January 31, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Regarding 6, in-class mating is here to stay, and Cinderella marriages are gone. Men simply won’t marry down (and hardly even date down), socio-economically, for three good reasons:

1: Divorce. My peers are afraid of getting serious with, and thus marrying, a woman of low earning potential, because of the potential for lifelong alimony. If one of us is dating a woman of significantly lower income, the rest of us will joke that she just wants half your stuff.

2: Attractiveness. While the cultural gaps between rich and poor are likely as large now as in the past, the appearance gaps are not. Low-SES women are much more likely to be overweight, and much more likely to have children. Now add to this the lifestyle issues (drugs, cigarettes, alcohol abuse, enormous tattoos, etc). It used to be that by dating down socio-economically you could date up in attractiveness. Now the well-off women are far more attractive than the poor ones.

3: Self-interest. Take away the above incentives to marry a pretty, poor girl, and all of a sudden the lifestyle afforded by marrying a partner of similar earnings looks quite attractive.

Why do male doctors marry female doctors? Because not only is the female doctor bringing in more money, she’s usually better looking than the receptionist, more interesting to talk to, better at running a household, and less likely to divorce you and talk half your stuff.

To tie it back to #5, it’s about inequality. The inequality in marriageability of women is far greater than it was forty years ago. To flip the script on the PUAs, there’s a small group of alpha females that everyone wants, and the rest of the beta females are left to wallow in misery and loneliness.

I’d say that no good will come of this, but I’m very much a part of this trend myself.

Marie January 31, 2014 at 6:30 pm

Do you consider yourself representative of the upper middle class male?

Do you find upper middle class women find that way of thinking attractive?

Timothy January 31, 2014 at 9:07 pm

I do not think all this assortative mating is driven solely by males.

Marie February 1, 2014 at 11:40 am

No, that’s why I’m curious if sam’s post is informative about female points of view also.

Paul January 31, 2014 at 10:56 pm

I would say that sam is making explicit behavior that upper middle class males engage in thoughtlessly. I would venture that most all men prefer to date women who are physically fitter, who do not have problems with drugs, alcohol and tobacco, who do not have children and bring with them all of the baggage of their relationship (or lack thereof) with their children’s father, etc. It is easier to trust someone who is more similar to yourself, for all sorts of reasons. It can also be more enjoyable to spend time with people similar to yourself, as their is often less misunderstanding and conflict involved. While it would be classist to assume that someone who is poor or working class is necessarily obese, or struggles with addiction, or brings too much baggage from past relationships, etc., I would argue that it is mendacious to hold that there is not a gradient along income/class lines. Poverty is hard and it scars people and communities. It would shocking in such an unequal countries as ours if the most desirable mates weren’t mostly also among the upper/upper middle class.

Also, the incentives (and behavior) of upper middle class women are exactly the same. So while they may find it distasteful for someone to actually come out and say something like sam’s post above, they are mostly all thinking/acting the same way.

Marie February 1, 2014 at 11:55 am

I don’t find it distasteful, I find it, strangely, maybe naive? Impractical? Less useful than it might seem?

There certainly are truths about populations, along class lines. But you marry an individual. From, of course, a population.

Each class has its stereotypical good and bad side, and we certainly are more comfortable hanging around someone whose evils match our own (we can both play them down) and whose virtues match our own (we can sit in front of reality TV and shake our heads together at how horrible “those” people are). Every class does that with every other class, which probably is the foundation of assortive mating — being able to make fun of other kinds of people together.

sam February 1, 2014 at 9:08 pm

Each class does have certain markers, good and bad, and one does indeed marry individuals and not classes. What matters in this case is probability. The illegitimacy and obesity rates in the bottom third of the income distribution are over fifty percent.

A individual slim, pretty, non-tattooed lower middle class woman with no children may have the same probability of marrying out today as a similar woman fifty years ago.

However: while fifty years ago, the overwhelming majority of lower-middle-class women would fit the above description, today the overwhelming majority of them do not.

Add to this the risk of increased losses in case of divorce from a low income spouse and the reward of the comfortable lifestyle afforded by a two-income household, and the probability of the Cinderella marriage happening in the population decreases greatly.

Inequality between women is now similar to inequality between men.

Marie February 2, 2014 at 10:54 am

Sam,

I don’t argue that if you want to cut out those criteria you find unattractive and problematic in a marriage (previous children, obesity, drug habit, tattoos) then it seems to make sense to cut out the class, the group, that has by far the highest rate of these things.

I think what you are missing is that your attitude towards marriage and the woman you may eventually wish to marry seems, frankly, corrupted, and that this corruption can be a larger problem in any one case than any of the problems you are seeking to avoid.

sam February 1, 2014 at 1:17 am

Upper middle class? Certainly not!

I’m middle-middle class, and divorce, obesity, and opportunism are discussed openly on bar stools in my economic group. This is especially true for those of us who come from poorer backgrounds and can contrast the stable health, employment, and marriage of our lower middle class upbringing to the current situation of the lower-middle and working class.

These issues certainly aren’t discussed by the upper middle class, because they are so obviously accepted as to be not worth comment. Of course, they hew even more closely to these principles. If you don’t believe me, find me in the NYT wedding section someone who is fat, hasn’t gone to college, or has an illegitimate child from a previous relationship.

Also, upper-middle-class people aren’t likely to run in to or fear people with drug, obesity, or baby-daddy issues. Their most plausible fear is that their kids will marry people of my socioeconomic class.

Marie February 1, 2014 at 11:38 am

I ask because I was wondering if there were more to your comment, and it looks like there is.

I won’t criticize, much of what you say is just prudence.

Mike W February 1, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Your description of the attitudes of middle-class males certainly does agree with the experience of my three sons now in their forties…all middle class.

“Their most plausible fear is that their kids will marry people of my socioeconomic class.”

My wife and I are upper-middle-class-from-working-class and that is our fear for our granddaughters.

Phill January 31, 2014 at 3:29 pm

It seems that Douthat brushes aside real, measurable concerns over quality of life driving aggregate social decisions so he can start bloviating about lifestyle preferences he dislikes.

>But what often passes unacknowledged — or gets actively undermined — is the idea that this goal is best achieved by treating sex and dating and mating with real caution, real care, real moral responsibility.

I’m a little concerned at the sheer disingenuousness of that position. Well, but what of the effect the liberal elite has on the MORAL FIBRE of our nation?!

What’s with this obsession with “moral standards” over ignoring actual living conditions? Your number of sexual partners doesn’t a priori determine your capacity to care for your kids and provide a loving home – your income does!

So Much For Subtlety January 31, 2014 at 6:42 pm

Actually both those last claims are absurd. Income has very little to do with whether or not you can provide a loving home or not. It is beyond the bounds of rational conservation to even say so. I expect everyone here knows poor but loving families – in fact most people here probably only have to go back a generation or two to have examples in their own family. While cold, rich families are hardly unknown – it is how the Left tried to paint Mitt Romney.

As for prior sexual partners, it should not matter. But it does it seems. Prior sexual partners is directly linked to your risk of divorce. Her prior partners.

Phill January 31, 2014 at 9:13 pm

It should surprise no one that sustaining bourgeois values requires bourgeois income.

Your moralizing benefits no one.

So Much For Subtlety February 1, 2014 at 1:32 am

Way to go changing the subject. It would have been nicer if you actually said something relevant.

Unless you’re asserting that the poor cannot love their children unless they can afford to send them to private school. Is that what you’re claiming?

Engineer February 1, 2014 at 2:56 pm

> It should surprise no one that sustaining bourgeois values requires bourgeois income.

As Douthat points out, Mormons, hasidim etc. provide counterexamples

chuck martel January 31, 2014 at 11:48 pm

“sustaining bourgeois values requires bourgeois income”
Platitude: a trite, meaningless, or prosaic statement, generally directed at quelling social, emotional, or cognitive unease.

Nathan W February 1, 2014 at 2:59 am

Concerns about government, the economy, unemployment and health care could all be anticipated to have some inequity dimension in the concern. For example, citizens of the DRC facing such governance, economic, employment and health care situations faced by the Americans reporting “concern” about these issues would likely feel themselves to be very well off relative to just about anyone else in the DRC.

Mike W February 1, 2014 at 12:11 pm

5. Is this really all that interesting. Mankiw turned a fairly meaningless poll into a political dig…ala Krugman.

Floccina February 1, 2014 at 7:43 pm

On #6 I say that both sides get it wrong. Women in the past were more likely to marry and say married to some real abusive drunken bums but today they have more options. A single woman today can live and have children without a husband because we are so rich.

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