Category: Data Source

Does housing wealth make people more complacent?

It seems so:

I propose the status quo bias hypothesis, which predicts that housing wealth increases preference for status quo arrangements with respect to Social Security. I contrast the status quo bias hypothesis with the claim that housing wealth reduces support for social insurance, and test the hypothesis in two empirical studies. A survey experiment finds that homeowners informed about high historical home price appreciation (HPA) are about 8 percentage points more likely to prefer existing Social Security arrangements to privatized retirement accounts, compared to those informed about low historical HPA. Observational data from the 2000-2004 ANES panel show that homeowners who experience higher HPA are about 11 percentage points more likely to prefer status quo levels of spending on Social Security than those in the bottom HPA quartile. No significant HPA effects are observed among renters, and for other domains of social insurance among homeowners. The evidence suggests that housing wealth’s conservatizing effect should be interpreted as a status quo preference, rather than opposition to redistributive social policies.

That is from Weihuang Wong, via the excellent Kevin Lewis.

The Cultural Divide

That is the title of a new and very important paper by Klaus Desmet and Romain Wacziarg, here is the abstract:

This paper conducts a systematic quantitative study of cultural convergence and divergence in the United States over time. Using the General Social Survey (1972-2016), we assess whether cultural values have grown more or less heterogeneous, both overall and between groups. Groups are defined according to 11 identity cleavages such as gender, religion, ethnic origin, family income quintiles, geographic region, education levels, etc. We find some evidence of greater overall heterogeneity after 1993 when averaging over all available values, yet on many issues heterogeneity changes little. The level of between-group heterogeneity is extremely small: the United States is very pluralistic in terms of cultural attitudes and values, but this diversity is not primarily the result of cultural divides between groups. On average across cleavages and values, we find evidence of falling between-group heterogeneity from 1972 to the late 1990s, and growing divides thereafter…

This, from the paper, is also illuminating:

For some questions, such as several questions on sexual behavior and public policies, there is growing social consensus. For others, such as questions on gun laws and confidence in some civic institutions, we find growing disagreements. Some of these dynamics can be understood as transitions from one end of the belief spectrum to the other. For instance, on the issue of marijuana legalization, attitudes have moved from generalized disagreement to majority agreement, so heterogeneity rose and is now falling. Overall, we find some evidence of a systematic tendency toward greater heterogeneity after 1993 when averaging over all available memes, yet on many issues heterogeneity changes little.

By the way, “urbanicity” shows “declining levels of cultural fixation,” contrary to what you often read.

Overall I take this to be an optimistic set of results.

Dematerialization: Humanity’s Biggest Surprise

Andrew McAfee argues that the Earth Day environmentalists correctly diagnosed the problem, a worsening environment, but were wrong about the solution, degrowth. In fact, the drive to reduce costs by making better use of resources has led to a dramatic decrease in resource use even as production has increased, a dematerialization. Poverty not prosperity is the enemy of the environment.

I love this talk for many reasons not the least of which is that Andrew has put all his data online.

 

Are more productive companies higher up?

Tall commercial buildings dominate city skylines. Nevertheless, despite decades of research on commercial real estate and horizontal patterns of urban development, vertical patterns have been largely ignored. We document that high productivity companies locate higher up, with less productive offices lower down and retail at ground level. These patterns reflect tradeoffs between street access and vertical amenities. Vertical rent gradients are non-monotonic, independent of nearby employment, and large. Doubling zipcode employment is associated with a 10.7% increase in rent, consistent with the presence of agglomeration economies. Moving up one floor has the same effect on rent as adding roughly 3,500 workers to a zipcode.

That is by Crocker H. Liu, Stuart S. Rosenthal, and William C. Strange, via the excellent Kevin Lewis.  I do get why the ground floor companies would have lower productivity, because they may be walk-in service sector outlets.  But otherwise, why might this relationship hold?  Is it that everyone wants to better view and the power office?  Is being “high up” high status per se?

Who gets the gains from innovation?

In this paper we merge individual income data, firm-level data, patenting data, and IQ data in Finland over the period 1988–2012 to analyze the returns to invention for inventors and their coworkers or stakeholders within the same firm. We find that: (i) inventors collect only 8 percent of the total private return from invention; (ii) entrepreneurs get over 44 percent of the total gains; (iii) bluecollar workers get about 26 percent of the gains and the rest goes to white-collar workers. Moreover, entrepreneurs start with significant negative returns prior to the patent application, but their returns subsequently become highly positive.

That is by Philippe Aghion, Ufuk Akcigit, Ari Hyytinen, andd Otto Toivanen in the new AER.  Via Ben Southwood.

Low-skilled immigration seems to boost support for Republicans

In this paper we study the impact of immigration to the United States on the vote for the Republican Party by analyzing county-level data on election outcomes between 1990 and 2010. Our main contribution is to separate the effect of high-skilled and low-skilled immigrants, by exploiting the different geography and timing of the inflows of these two groups of immigrants. We find that an increase in the first type of immigrants decreases the share of the Republican vote, while an inflow of the second type increases it. These effects are mainly due to the local impact of immigrants on votes of U.S. citizens and they seem independent of the country of origin of immigrants. We also find that the pro-Republican impact of low-skilled immigrants is stronger in low-skilled and non-urban counties. This is consistent with citizens’ political preferences shifting towards the Republican Party in places where low-skilled immigrants are more likely to be perceived as competition in the labor market and for public resources.

Here is the NBER paper by Anna Maria Mayda, Giovanni Peri, and Walter Steingress.

Data on incels

But whatever the direct effect of education on never-married men, the primary cause of the rise in sexlessness is simply the increasing delay of marriage. The delay in marriage has numerous causes, of course, but probably the most powerful driver of marital timing also relates to education. Men and women are much less likely to get married while attending school, and across times and countries, an increase in the years of schooling is associated with later age of marriage, though more-educated people do tend to get married eventually. Thus, as more and more schooling becomes necessary for a good middle-class job, marriage gets pushed later and later, leaving more young people (men and women!) companionless and lonely.

The rise of young male sexlessness isn’t about Chads and Stacies; it isn’t primarily about Tinder or Bumble; it’s not mostly about attitudinal shifts in what women want from relationships; and it’s not mainly about some new war between the sexes. It’s mostly about people spending more years in school and spending more years living at home. But that’s not actually a story about some change in sexual politics; instead, it’s a story about the modern knowledge economy, and to some extent exorbitant housing costs. As such, it’s no surprise that rising sexlessness is being observed in many countries. This, in turn, suggests that finding a solution to help young people pair up may not be as easy.

That is from Lyman Stone, there are useful charts and graphs at the link.

Elite competitors live longer, even in chess

The survival rates of GMs at 30 and 60 years since GM title achievement were 87% and 15%, respectively. The life expectancy of GMs at the age of 30 years (which is near the average age when they attained a GM title) was 53.6 ([95% CI]: 47.7–58.5) years, which is significantly greater than the overall weighted mean life expectancy of 45.9 years for the general population. Compared to Eastern Europe, GMs in North America (HR [95% CI]: 0.51 [0.29–0.88]) and Western Europe (HR [95% CI]: 0.53 [0.34–0.83]) had a longer lifespan. The RS analysis showed that both GMs and OMs had a significant survival advantage over the general population, and there was no statistically significant difference in the RS of GMs (RS [95% CI]: 1.14 [1.08–1.20]) compared to OMs: (RS [95% CI]: 1.09 [1.07–1.11]) at 30 years.

Elite chess players live longer than the general population and have a similar survival advantage to elite competitors in physical sports.

That is from An Tran-Duy, David C. Smerdon, and Philip M. Clarke, via a loyal MR reader.

How many atheists are there?

One crucible for theories of religion is their ability to predict and explain the patterns of belief and disbelief. Yet, religious nonbelief is often heavily stigmatized, potentially leading many atheists to refrain from outing themselves even in anonymous polls. We used the unmatched count technique and Bayesian estimation to indirectly estimate atheist prevalence in two nationally representative samples of 2,000 U.S. adults apiece. Widely cited telephone polls (e.g., Gallup, Pew) suggest U.S. atheist prevalence of only 3–11%. In contrast, our most credible indirect estimate is 26% (albeit with considerable estimate and method uncertainty). Our data and model predict that atheist prevalence exceeds 11% with greater than .99 probability and exceeds 20% with roughly .8 probability. Prevalence estimates of 11% were even less credible than estimates of 40%, and all intermediate estimates were more credible. Some popular theoretical approaches to religious cognition may require heavy revision to accommodate actual levels of religious disbelief.

That is from Will M. Gervais and Maxine B. Naije, via someone on Twitter I think (God only knows).

Does higher education change non-cognitive skills?

There is a new study on this very important question:

We examine the effect of university education on students’ non-cognitive skills (NCS) using high-quality Australian longitudinal data. To isolate the skill-building effects of tertiary education, we follow the education decisions and NCS—proxied by the Big Five personality traits—of 575 adolescents over eight years. Estimating a standard skill production function, we demonstrate a robust positive relationship between university education and extraversion, and agreeableness for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The effects are likely to operate through exposure to university life rather than through degree-specific curricula or university-specific teaching quality. As extraversion and agreeableness are associated with socially beneficial behaviours, we propose that university education may have important non-market returns.

That is from Sonja C. Kassenboehmer, Felix Leung, and Stefanie Schurer in the new Oxford Economic Papers.  Here is a much older, non-gated version.

These results seem broadly consistent with the 1960s “schooling of society,” conformist, Marxian critiques of education.  It is striking that higher education does not have more of a notable, measurable impact on either openness or conscientiousness.

In passing, I would like to note that I am not crazy about the term “non-cognitive” in this context.

*The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After 50*

I was very happy to have blurbed this new and wonderful book by Jonathan Rauch, here is one adapted excerpt:

Like adolescence, the happiness dip at midlife is developmentally predictable, and can be aggravated by isolation, confusion, and self-defeating thought patterns. Like adolescence, it can lead to crisis, but it is not, in and of itself, a crisis. Rather, like adolescence, it generally leads to a happier stage. In short, although adolescence and the trough of the happiness curve are not at all the same biologically, emotionally, or socially, both transitions are commonplace and nonpathological. But one of them has a supportive social environment, whereas the other has … red sports cars.

You can order the book here.

When do men change their last names upon getting married?

Of the 877 men, only 27, or 3 percent, changed their name. Of those, 25 dropped their last name to take their wife’s and two hyphenated their last name. Among the 97 percent who kept their name, 87 percent said their wife took their last name, 4 percent said their wife hyphenated her surname while they made no change, and 6 percent said that neither changed their name. No respondents reported creating a new last name.

The study, published online in May in the Journal of Family Issues, looked at whether a man’s level of education—both his own and relative to his wife’s—influences the likelihood that he chooses a nontraditional surname in marriage.

It found that among men with less than a high school degree, 10.3 percent reported changing their surname. Among men with a high school degree but no college, it was 3.6 percent, and among men with any college, only 2 percent. None of the men surveyed who had an advanced degree changed their name.

Here is the article, via the excellent Samir Varma.  And here is news on Patri.

How do people actually behave when faced with trolley problems?

The poor mice!:

Scholars have been using hypothetical dilemmas to investigate moral decision making for decades. However, whether people’s responses to these dilemmas truly reflect the decisions they would make in real life is unclear. In the current study, participants had to make the real-life decision to administer an electroshock (that they did not know was bogus) to a single mouse or allow five other mice to receive the shock. Our results indicate that responses to hypothetical dilemmas are not predictive of real-life dilemma behavior, but they are predictive of affective and cognitive aspects of the real-life decision. Furthermore, participants were twice as likely to refrain from shocking the single mouse when confronted with a hypothetical versus the real version of the dilemma. We argue that hypothetical-dilemma research, while valuable for understanding moral cognition, has little predictive value for actual behavior and that future studies should investigate actual moral behavior along with the hypothetical scenarios dominating the field.

Here is the paper by Dries H. Bostyn, Sybren Sevenhant, and Arne Roets.

It seems to me that Kant lived a life in accord with his actual doctrines, as did Socrates.  But most philosophers?  Most economists for that matter?  It would be interesting if there was an app that recorded your life, and then wrote up the corresponding moral doctrine in book form.  Or in the case of the economists, it could write out your utility function and adherence to the principle of maximizing expected utility.  Or not.

Hat tip goes to Dina Pomeranz.

Does aversion to change predict support for Donald Trump?

Donald Trump won the American presidency in 2016 by overperforming expectations in upper Midwest states, surprising even Republican political elites. We argue that attitudes toward social change were an underappreciated dividing line between supporters of Trump and Hillary Clinton as well as between Republicans at the mass and elite levels. We introduce a concept and measure of aversion to (or acceptance of) social diversification and value change, assess the prevalence of these attitudes in the mass public and among political elites, and demonstrate its effects on support for Trump. Our research uses paired surveys of Michigan’s adult population and community of political elites in the Fall of 2016. Aversion to social change is strongly predictive of support for Trump at the mass level, even among racial minorities. But attitudes are far more accepting of social change among elites than the public and aversion to social change is not a factor explaining elite Trump support. If elites were as averse to social change as the electorate—and if that attitude mattered to their vote choice—they might have been as supportive of Trump. Views of social change were not as strongly related to congressional voting choices.

That is from Matt Grossman and Daniel Thaler.

Germany fact of the day

Germany recorded an almost 10 per cent drop in crime last year to its lowest level since the early 1990s despite perceptions that the arrival of more than a million asylum seekers would lead to a rise in offences.

…Overall, violent crime was down by 1.7 per cent last year, the Interior Ministry said, although refugees and asylum seekers were proportionately over-represented in sexual assault cases.

Here is the (gated) Times of London piece.  Ahem…

For the pointer I thank a loyal MR reader.