Category: Data Source

Who commits suicide?

In one of the largest studies on suicide ever conducted, researchers found that men with especially low scores on intelligence tests are two to three times more likely than others to kill themselves. Men with low IQ scores and only a primary education were no more likely to kill themselves than men with high IQ scores and a higher level of education. But men with low IQ scores and higher education were at a greater risk of suicide. And men with low IQ scores and highly educated parents were at the highest risk of all.

Could the problem be the high expectations of parents?  Or is this proxying for some other relevant variable?  Here is the story.

Where do new names come from?

…it isn’t famous people who drive the name game.  It is the family just a few blocks over, the one with the bigger house and newer car.  The kind of families that were the first to call their daughters Amber or Heather and are now calling them Lauren or Madison.  The kind of families that used to name their sons Justin or Brandon and are now calling them Alexander or Benjamin.  Parents are reluctant to poach a name from someone too near — family members or close friends — but many parents, whether they realize it or not, like the sound of names that sound "successful."

But as a high-end name is adopted en masse, high-end parents begin to abandon it.  Eventually, it is considered so common that even lower-end parents may not want it, whereby it falls out of the rotation entirely.  The lower-end parents, meanwhile, go looking for the next name that the upper-end parents have broken in.

That is from Steve Levitt’s Freakonomics, with Steven Dubner, here is my previous post on this excellent book.  Here is the CD version of the book.  Levitt, by the way, picks "Aviva" as a girl’s name ready to "break out," but even I wouldn’t name my kid after an insurance company.

Cheap talk?

Teenagers who take virginity pledges — public
declarations to abstain from sex — are almost as likely to be infected
with a sexually transmitted disease as those who never made the pledge,
an eight-year study released yesterday found.

Although young people who sign a virginity pledge
delay the initiation of sexual activity, marry at younger ages and have
fewer sexual partners, they are also less likely to use condoms and
more likely to experiment with oral and anal sex, said the researchers
from Yale and Columbia universities.

Here is the story.  Here is the pledge:

"Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my
family, those I date, and my future mate to be sexually pure until the
day I enter marriage."

Who stays up the latest?

The Portuguese, it turns out.  3/4 of them stay up past midnight.  Next in the night owl rankings come Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong, Spain, Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia, in that order.

And how about the earliest risers?  91 percent of Indonesia is up before 7 a.m..  Then come Vietnam, Philippines, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Japan (hey, they stay up late too; 41 percent catch less than six hours), India, Finland, and Norway.

The biggest snoozers?  The Australians — 31 percent of them sleep more than nine hours a day, or lie very badly.  As always, we are sampling only those who can and do respond to the survey.  The study was by Nielsen, here is one summary.

Gas prices around the world

The price of gas varies around the world, due to the vagaries of exchange rates but mostly because of taxes and subsidies.  Assuming your car gets 35 miles per gallon, here is how far $20 of gas will take you in various countries around the world:

Germany: 127 miles

Japan: 147 miles

United States: 342 miles

China: 385 miles

Saudi Arabia: 771 miles

Venezuela: 4,624 miles

The data are from Foreign Policy, March/April 2005, p.18.  Here is a related data set.

Where are Asia’s “Missing Women”?

In Business Week Robert Barro writes:

In 1990 my Harvard colleague Amartya Sen caused a stir by observing…that excess female mortality in China, India, and other Asian countries meant that there were 100 million women fewer in the world than there should be.  The presumption was that the excess mortality came from discrimination against women by men and governments…[this] shockingly large number became a symbol of discrimination against women in developing countries.  Many people think the reason is abortion and the killing of newborn girls.  But new research suggests another reason.  Harvard economist Emily Oster, in her PhD thesis "Hepatitis B and the Case of the Missing Women" suggests that biology explains a good deal of the missing-women puzzle…

Oster argues that this calculation overlooked something crucial — unusually high male-female birth ratios in Asia years before abortion became widespread…Oster sees the high incidence of the hepatitis B virus (HBV) as a major culprit. There is much evidence that parents infected by HBV are more likely to have male children.

In fact carriers of hepatitis B can have boy-girl ratios as high as 1.55. Oster argues that this factor explains 75% percent of the gender gap in China, albeit only 17% in India.  For Asia as a whole, 46% of the gap can be explained.

Here is Oster’s home page.  Here is the paper.

China facts of the day

Percentage of Chinese workers who have no pension, private or public: Eighty percent (kind of puts our social security dilemmas in context, no?)

Expected ratio of workers to retirees, circa 2030: Two-to-one

Projected shortfall of the Chinese national pension system by 2033: $53.3 billion

Those are all reasons why China may be an overvalued economy; see Business Week, 31 January, p.47 for more information.

Addendum: Daniel Drezner offers his India fact of the day.

Sexy women

In a recent survey across 10 countries, British women proved to have the least faith in themselves – or more precisely in the way they look. Only one in five said they saw themselves as attractive, while only one in 50 described themselves as "sexy".

Here is the story, and more detail here.  The women with the most confidence in their looks are, not surprisingly, the Brazilians.

Thanks to for the pointer.  While we are on the topic, Daniel Akst directs my attention to more:    

US researchers got 149 men and women to rate the attractiveness of a series of recorded voices.  They found the most appealing voices belonged to people who had sex at an earlierage, had more sexual partners and were more prone to infidelity.  The team at the University of Albany also said there was a link between the attractiveness of the voice and body.  In the study, men with broad shoulders and narrow hips, which are related to testosterone and growth, also tended to have attractive voices.  In women voice attractiveness, which was rated between one and 10 in the study, was linked to a narrow waist and broad hips.  Report co-author Gordon Gallup, from the author Gordon Gallup, from the New York university’s department of psychology, said: "In short, ratings of voice attractiveness are correlated with promiscuity in both men and women.

Is French taxation progressive?

…French social policy is not overwhelmingly redistributive, and it is not financed with progressive income taxes, as in Denmark and Sweden, nor is it financed with a mix of progressive income taxes and payroll taxes, as in Germany, Canada, and Britain.  As in other corporatist/continental consrevative welfare states, French social spending is financed with a mix of regressive payroll taxes, regressive sales taxes, and, for a little over a decade, a smaller "general social contribution" tax…

From the 1950s until roughly 1980 France was the leader in income inequality among OECD nations….in France the top 20% of income earners received 24% of transfer payments and the bottom 20% of earners only 18%.  By 1991 French social policy was slightly more progressive, but French manual workers "remain[ed] in virtually the same relative position…"

…France remains a highly stratified society in both the social and economic sense.  The wealthiest 10% of the French income ladder are 50% richer than their Swedish counterparts and the upper quarter of the French income ladder is not brought down by the tax system the way it is in Denmark, Sweden, and Germany…today many of France’s wealthy citizens occupy privileged spots at the core of the "welfare state."  This is one of the key reasons they tend to support it.

That is from Timothy Smith’s recent and excellent France in Crisis: Welfare, Inequality, and Globalization since 1980.  The tale is told from a center-left perspective, and yes he also explains what the French get right.  Highly recommended, it is the best book I know on the contemporary French economy and polity.