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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The replacements

The role of new media on teen sexual behaviors and fertility outcomes - the case of 16 and Pregnant

Jennifer Trudeau
Southern Economic Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
This essay investigates the 2009 premiere of 16 and Pregnant as a shock to teen information sets and potential influence on sexual activity and fertility. The program, chronicling teen pregnancy and providing educational links on sex/contraception, began a continuing stream of teen pregnancy reality shows. My conceptual framework considers how such programs alter the expected (dis)utility or perceived risk of becoming pregnant. I test for differential effects across ages, state-sex education requirements, and viewership levels in a quasi-difference-in-difference framework that controls for confounding effects of coincident contraception policy changes, the economy, and downward trends in teen fertility. The results indicate that while fertility declined across all adolescents in the postperiod, there are stronger effects among young teens in states without sex education mandates and higher viewership. Supporting evidence from the National Survey of Family Growth shows increased hormonal contraception use in the postperiod for young relative to older teens.

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Determinants of online sperm donor success: How women choose

Stephen Whyte & Benno Torgler
Applied Economics Letters, forthcoming

Abstract:
Because the worldwide demand for sperm donors is much higher than the actual supply available through fertility clinics, an informal online market has emerged for sperm donation. Very little empirical evidence exists, however, on this newly formed market and even less on the characteristics that lead to donor success. This article therefore explores the determinants of online sperm donors' selection success, which leads to the production of offspring via informal donation. We find that donor age and income play a significant role in donor success as measured by the number of times selected, even though there is no requirement for ongoing paternal investment. Donors with less extroverted and lively personality traits who are more intellectual, shy and systematic are more successful in realizing offspring via informal donation. These results contribute to both the economic literature on human behaviour and on large-scale decision-making.

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The Impact of Antiabortion Criminal Activities and State Abortion Policies on Abortion Providers in the United States

Marshall Medoff
Journal of Family and Economic Issues, December 2015, Pages 570-580

Abstract:
This study empirically examined whether acts of antiabortion criminal activities and restrictive state abortion laws had an impact on the number of abortion providers. Using a unique data set, the Feminist Majority Foundation's 2000 survey of antiabortion criminal acts directed at clinics, providers, healthcare workers and patients, the empirical results showed that acts of violence and harassment reduced the number of abortion providers offering abortion services. An increase in the likelihood of violence or harassment by 10 % reduced the number of abortion providers per 100,000 women of reproductive age by 5.6 and 3.7 %, respectively and the number of abortion providers per 100,000 pregnancies by 7.8 and 5.9 %, respectively. In addition, antiabortion criminal acts were more likely in states with greater economic participation by women, higher levels of sexual violence against women, and western states.

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Women's Awareness of Their Contraceptive Benefits Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Cynthia Chuang et al.
American Journal of Public Health, November 2015, Pages S713-S715

Abstract:
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mandates that there be no out-of-pocket cost for Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods. Among 987 privately insured reproductive aged Pennsylvania women, fewer than 5% were aware that their insurance covered tubal sterilization, and only 11% were aware that they had full coverage for an intrauterine device. For the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage mandate to affect effective contraception use and reduce unintended pregnancies, public awareness of the expanded benefits is essential.

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Socioeconomic Variation in the Effect of Economic Conditions on Marriage and Nonmarital Fertility in the United States: Evidence From the Great Recession

Daniel Schneider & Orestes Hastings
Demography, December 2015, Pages 1893-1915

Abstract:
The United States has become increasingly characterized by stark class divides in family structure. Poor women are less likely to marry than their more affluent counterparts but are far more likely to have a birth outside of marriage. Recent theoretical and qualitative work at the intersection of demography and cultural sociology suggests that these patterns are generated because poor women have high, nearly unattainable, economic standards for marriage but make a much weaker connection between economic standing and fertility decisions. We use the events of the Great Recession, leveraging variation in the severity of the crisis between years and across states, to examine how exposure to worse state-level economic conditions is related to poor women's likelihood of marriage and of having a nonmarital birth between 2008 and 2012. In accord with theory, we find that women of low socioeconomic status (SES) exposed to worse economic conditions are indeed somewhat less likely to marry. However, we also find that unmarried low-SES women exposed to worse economic conditions significantly reduce their fertility; economic standing is not disconnected from nonmarital fertility. Our results suggest that economic concerns were connected to fertility decisions for low-SES unmarried women during the Great Recession.

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Discordant Pregnancy Intentions in Couples and Rapid Repeat Pregnancy

Susan Cha et al.
American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, forthcoming

Objective: To examine the association between couple pregnancy intentions and rapid repeat pregnancy among women in the U.S.

Study Design: Data came from the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth. Multiparous women who cohabited with one husband/partner before conception of second pregnancy were included (N = 3,463). The outcome, rapid repeat pregnancy, was categorized as experiencing a second pregnancy within 24 months of the first pregnancy resolution, or 24+ months from the first pregnancy resolution. Maternal and paternal pregnancy intentions were categorized into four dyads: both intended (M+P+); maternal intended and paternal unintended (M+P-); maternal unintended and paternal intended (M-P+); both unintended (M-P-). Multiple logistic regression was conducted to determine the association between couple pregnancy intentions and rapid repeat pregnancy.

Results: Nearly half (49.4%) of women had rapid repeat pregnancy. Approximately 15% of respondents reported discordant couple pregnancy intentions and 22% maternal and paternal unintendedness. Compared to couples who both intended their pregnancy (M+P+), the odds of Rapid repeat pregnancy was higher when father intended pregnancy but not mothers (AOR=2.51, 95% CI=1.45 - 4.35) and lower if fathers did not intend pregnancy but mothers did (AOR=0.77, 95% CI=0.70 - 0.85). No difference was observed between concordant couple pregnancy intentions (M-P- vs. M+P+).

Conclusion: Findings highlight the important role of paternal intention in reproductive decisions. Study results suggest that rapid repeat pregnancy is strongly influenced by paternal rather than maternal pregnancy intentions. Clinicians and public health workers should involve partners in family planning discussions and counseling on optimal birth spacing.

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Cesarean sections and subsequent fertility

Karen Norberg & Juan Pantano
Journal of Population Economics, January 2016, Pages 5-37

Abstract:
Cesarean sections are rising all over the world and may, in some countries, soon become the most common delivery mode. A growing body of medical literature documents a robust fact: women undergoing cesarean sections end up having less children. Unlike most of the medical literature, which assumes that this association is mostly working through a physiological channel, we investigate a possible channel linking c-section and subsequent fertility through differences in maternal behavior after a c-section. Using several national and cross-national demographic data sources, we find evidence that maternal choice is playing an important role in shaping the negative association between cesarean section and subsequent fertility. In particular, we show that women are more likely to engage in active contraception after a cesarean delivery and conclude that intentional avoidance of subsequent pregnancies after a c-section seems to be responsible for part of the negative association between c-sections and subsequent fertility.

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Breakfast Skipping, Extreme Commutes, and the Sex Composition at Birth

Bhashkar Mazumder & Zachary Seeskin
Biodemography and Social Biology, Summer 2015, Pages 187-208

Abstract:
A growing body of literature has shown that environmental exposures in the period around conception can affect the sex ratio at birth through selective attrition that favors the survival of female conceptuses. Glucose availability is considered a key indicator of the fetal environment, and its absence as a result of meal skipping may inhibit male survival. We hypothesize that breakfast skipping during pregnancy may lead to a reduction in the fraction of male births. Using time use data from the United States we show that women with commute times of 90 minutes or longer are 20 percentage points more likely to skip breakfast. Using U.S. census data we show that women with commute times of 90 minutes or longer are 1.2 percentage points less likely to have a male child under the age of 2. Under some assumptions, this implies that routinely skipping breakfast around the time of conception leads to a 6 percentage point reduction in the probability of a male child. Skipping breakfast during pregnancy may therefore constitute a poor environment for fetal health more generally.

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Mental Health Diagnoses 3 Years After Receiving or Being Denied an Abortion in the United States

Antonia Biggs, John Neuhaus & Diana Foster
American Journal of Public Health, December 2015, Pages 2557-2563

Objectives: We set out to assess the occurrence of new depression and anxiety diagnoses in women 3 years after they sought an abortion.

Methods: We conducted semiannual telephone interviews of 956 women who sought abortions from 30 US facilities. Adjusted multivariable discrete-time logistic survival models examined whether the study group (women who obtained abortions just under a facility's gestational age limit, who were denied abortions and carried to term, who were denied abortions and did not carry to term, and who received first-trimester abortions) predicted depression or anxiety onset during seven 6-month time intervals.

Results: The 3-year cumulative probability of professionally diagnosed depression was 9% to 14%; for anxiety it was 10% to 15%, with no study group differences. Women in the first-trimester group and women denied abortions who did not give birth had greater odds of new self-diagnosed anxiety than did women who obtained abortions just under facility gestational limits.

Conclusions: Among women seeking abortions near facility gestational limits, those who obtained abortions were at no greater mental health risk than were women who carried an unwanted pregnancy to term.

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Comparative Advantage, International Trade, and Fertility

Quy-Toan Do, Andrei Levchenko & Claudio Raddatz
Journal of Development Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
We analyze theoretically and empirically the impact of comparative advantage in international trade on fertility. We build a model in which industries differ in the extent to which they use female relative to male labor, and countries are characterized by Ricardian comparative advantage in either female-labor or male-labor intensive goods. The main prediction of the model is that countries with comparative advantage in female-labor intensive goods are characterized by lower fertility. This is because female wages, and therefore the opportunity cost of children are higher in those countries. We demonstrate empirically that countries with comparative advantage in industries employing primarily women exhibit lower fertility. We use a geography-based instrument for trade patterns to isolate the causal effect of comparative advantage on fertility.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Monday, November 23, 2015

Dear leader

Deliver the Vote! Micromotives and Macrobehavior in Electoral Fraud

Ashlea Rundlett & Milan Svolik
American Political Science Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
Most election fraud is not conducted centrally by incumbents but rather locally by a machinery consisting of a multitude of political operatives. How does an incumbent ensure that his agents deliver fraud when needed and as much as is needed? We address this and related puzzles in the political organization of election fraud by studying the perverse consequences of two distinct incentive conflicts: the principal-agent problem between an incumbent and his local agents, and the collective action problem among the agents. Using the global game methodology, we show that these incentive conflicts result in a herd dynamic among the agents that tends to either oversupply or undersupply fraud, rarely delivering the amount of fraud that would be optimal from the incumbent's point of view. This equilibrium dynamic explains when and why electoral fraud fails to deliver incumbent victories, why incumbents who enjoy genuine popularity often engage in seemingly unnecessary fraud, and it predicts that the extent of fraud should be increasing in both the incumbent's genuine support and reported results across precincts. A statistical analysis of anomalies in precinct-level results from the 2011-12 Russian legislative and presidential elections supports our key claims.

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A Chinese resource curse? The human rights effects of oil export dependence on China versus the United States

Julia Bader & Ursula Daxecker
Journal of Peace Research, November 2015, Pages 774-790

Abstract:
Critiques of China's 'oil diplomacy' center on its alleged disregard for transparency and human rights, yet such claims ignore that the problematic relationship between resource extraction and human rights precedes Chinese market entry. This article explores whether human rights implications are more serious for states exporting oil to China compared to another major oil importer, the United States. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, we argue that oil export dependence on the USA affects human rights more negatively than dependence on China because of differences related to the timing of market entry. The United States established stable relationships with oil supplier states decades ago, creating dependencies that are sufficiently long-term for the implications of the resource curse to take hold, and taking place before human rights became part of the US foreign policy agenda. In comparison, China's late entry into global oil markets in the early 1990s meant that market access often required the provision of generous loan packages, which may help counteract the detrimental effects of oil dependence. Our empirical analysis examines the impact of oil export dependence on China versus the USA on human rights in supplier states for the 1992-2010 period. Results show that oil producing states dependent on exports to the USA exhibit lower human rights performance than those exporting to China. We also demonstrate that lower human rights performance for US exporters stems from long-term trends rather than short-term fluctuations in oil export dependence.

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International Terrorism and the Political Survival of Leaders

Johann Park & Valentina Bali
Journal of Conflict Resolution, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study examines whether transnational terrorist attacks impact the political survival of leaders. We argue that external security threats, such as those from transnational terrorist incidents, can undermine incumbent target governments by exposing foreign policy failures and damaging society's general well-being. Yet, terrorism may not destabilize democratic governments as a result of citizens rallying around their elected leaders in threatening times. Focusing on Archigos' survival leadership data and International Terrorism: Attributes of Terrorist Events' terrorism data for the 1968-2004 period, we find that autocrats who experience higher instances of transnational terrorist attacks are more likely to exit power. Democrats, however, are relatively secure to the destabilizing influence of transnational terrorism.

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Threats to Territorial Integrity, National Mass Schooling, and Linguistic Commonality

Keith Darden & Harris Mylonas
Comparative Political Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
Why are some countries more linguistically homogeneous than others? We posit that the international environment in which a state develops partially determines the extent of its linguistic commonality and national cohesion. Specifically, the presence of an external threat of territorial conquest or externally supported secession leads governing elites to have stronger incentives to pursue nation-building strategies to generate national cohesion, often leading to the cultivation of a common national language through mass schooling. Comparing cases with similar levels of initial linguistic heterogeneity, state capacity, and development, but in different international environments, we find that states that did not face external threats to their territorial integrity were more likely to outsource education and other tools for constructing identity to missionaries or other groups, or not to invest in assimilation at all, leading to higher ethnic heterogeneity. States developing in high threat environments were more likely to invest in nation-building strategies to homogenize their populations.

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The Unintended Consequences of Internet Diffusion: Evidence from Malaysia

Luke Miner
Journal of Public Economics, December 2015, Pages 66-78

Abstract:
Can the introduction of the Internet undermine incumbent power in a semi-authoritarian regime? I examine this question using evidence from Malaysia, where the incumbent coalition lost its 40-year monopoly on power in 2008. I develop a novel methodology for measuring Internet penetration, matching IP addresses with physical locations, and apply it to the 2004 to 2008 period in Malaysia. Using distance to the backbone to instrument for endogenous Internet penetration, I find that Internet exposure accounts for 6.6 points, nearly half the swing against the incumbent party in 2008. I find limited evidence of increased turnover, and no evidence of an effect on turnout.

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Improving Electoral Integrity with Information and Communications Technology

Michael Callen et al.
Journal of Experimental Political Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Irregularities plague elections in developing democracies. The international community spends hundreds of millions of dollars on election observation, with little robust evidence that it consistently improves electoral integrity. We conducted a randomized control trial to measure the effect of an intervention to detect and deter electoral irregularities employing a nation-wide sample of polling stations in Uganda using scalable information and communications technology (ICT). In treatment stations, researchers delivered letters to polling officials stating that tallies would be photographed using smartphones and compared against official results. Compared to stations with no letters, the letters increased the frequency of posted tallies by polling center managers in compliance with the law; decreased the number of sequential digits found on tallies - a fraud indicator; and decreased the vote share for the incumbent president in some specifications. Our results demonstrate that a cost-effective citizen and ICT intervention can improve electoral integrity in emerging democracies.

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The conditioning effect of protest history on the emulation of nonviolent conflict

Alex Braithwaite, Jessica Maves Braithwaite & Jeffrey Kucik
Journal of Peace Research, November 2015, Pages 697-711

Abstract:
Violent domestic conflicts spread between countries via spillover effects and the desire to emulate events abroad. Herein, we extend this emulation logic to the potential for the contagion of nonviolent conflicts. The spread of predominantly nonviolent pro-democracy mobilizations across the globe in the mid-to-late 1980s, the wave of protests in former Soviet states during the Color revolutions in the 2000s, and the eruption of nonviolent movements across the Middle East and North Africa during the Arab Spring in the early 2010s each suggest that the observation of collective action abroad encourages a desire to emulate among potential challengers to domestic autocrats. However, the need to emulate varies. Potential challengers with a recent history of protest at home are less dependent (than are those without similar experience) upon foreign exemplars to mobilize the participants and generate the resources required to make emulation practicable. By contrast, where the domestic experience of protest is absent, opposition movements are more reliant upon emulation of foreign exemplars. We test the implications of this logic using a series of multivariate logistic regression analyses. Our tests employ data on nonviolent civil resistance mobilizations that occurred across the global population of autocratic states between 1946 and 2006. These tests, along with post-estimation analysis, provide evidence consistent with our conditional logic of emulation.

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Too good to be true? United Nations peacebuilding and the democratization of war-torn states

Janina Isabel Steinert & Sonja Grimm
Conflict Management and Peace Science, November 2015, Pages 513-535

Abstract:
This article examines the effectiveness of UN peacebuilding missions in democratizing war-torn states, emphasizing those missions that include democracy promotion components in their mandates. Based on a multinominal logistic regression, we reveal that democratization is significantly more likely if a UN peacebuilding mission is deployed. Furthermore, regimes categorized as more liberal at the outset have an increased risk of revealing antidemocratization trends over the post-war period. Oil wealth impedes democratization and clear victory of one conflict party makes regime transitions more likely, yet in both directions. Descriptive statistics suggest that an increase in the mission's capacities may be conducive to democratization.

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Aid Is Not Oil: Donor Utility, Heterogeneous Aid, and the Aid-Democratization Relationship

Sarah Blodgett Bermeo
International Organization, forthcoming

Abstract:
Recent articles conclude that foreign aid, like other nontax resources, inhibits political change in authoritarian regimes. This article challenges both the negative political effects of aid and the similarity of aid to other resources. It develops a model incorporating changing donor preferences and the heterogeneity of foreign aid. Consistent with the model's predictions, an empirical test for the period 1973-2010 shows that, on average, the negative relationship between aid and the likelihood of democratic change is confined to the Cold War period. However, in the post-Cold War period, nondemocratic recipients of particular strategic importance can still use aid to thwart change. The relationship between oil revenue and democratic change does not follow the same pattern over time or across recipients. This supports the conclusion that aid has different properties than other, fungible, resources.

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Does foreign aid harm political institutions?

Sam Jones & Finn Tarp
Journal of Development Economics, January 2016, Pages 266-281

Abstract:
The notion that foreign aid harms the institutions of recipient governments remains prevalent. We combine new disaggregated aid data and various metrics of political institutions to re-examine this relationship. Long run cross-section and alternative dynamic panel estimators show a small positive net effect of total aid on political institutions. Distinguishing between types of aid according to their frequency domain and stated objectives, we find this aggregate net effect is driven primarily by the positive contribution of more stable inflows of 'governance aid'. We conclude the data do not support the view that aid has had a systematic negative effect on political institutions.

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What We Can Learn From the Early History of Sovereign Debt

David Stasavage
Explorations in Economic History, forthcoming

Abstract:
Many people believe that the early development of sovereign debt depended on institutions, but there are two very different ways of presenting this narrative and two very different conclusions one might draw for sovereign debt today. According to the first, this was an impartial story involving executive constraints, shared governance, increased monitoring, and increased transparency - in other words things that sound unambiguously good. According to the second narrative this was a story of distributive politics. States had the best access to credit when institutions gave government creditors privileged access to decision making while restricting the influence of those who paid the taxes to reimburse debts. This was a situation where institutions fostered commitment, but at a cost, and sometimes they may not even have been welfare enhancing. In this paper I present evidence from seven centuries of European history, and I suggest that available data support the distributive politics interpretation. I then draw implications for how we think about the politics of sovereign debt today.

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Extremism in revolutionary movements

Mehdi Shadmehr
Games and Economic Behavior, November 2015, Pages 97-121

Abstract:
A revolutionary entrepreneur strategically chooses the revolutionary agenda to maximize the likelihood of revolution. Citizens have different preferences and can contribute varying degrees of support. We show: (1) Extremists exert a disproportionate influence over the revolutionary agenda; (2) Depending on the structure of repression, more severe repression can moderate or radicalize the revolutionary agenda. Specifically, increases in the "minimum punishment" (marginal cost of revolutionary effort at its minimum) radicalize the revolutionary agenda. This presents the elite with a tradeoff between extreme but unlikely revolutions and moderate but likely ones. (3) Competition between revolutionary entrepreneurs can radicalize the revolutionary agenda.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Best of times, worst of times

More Happiness for Young People and Less for Mature Adults: Time Period Differences in Subjective Well-Being in the United States, 1972-2014

Jean Twenge, Ryne Sherman & Sonja Lyubomirsky
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Are Americans happier, or less happy, than they used to be? The answer may depend on life stage. We examined indicators of subjective well-being (SWB) in four nationally representative samples of U.S. adolescents (aged 13-18 years, n = 1.27 million) and adults (aged 18-96 years, n = 54,172). Recent adolescents reported greater happiness and life satisfaction than their predecessors, and adults over age 30 were less happy in recent years. Among adults, the previously established positive correlation between age and happiness has dwindled, disappearing by the early 2010s. Mixed-effects analyses primarily demonstrated time period rather than generational effects. The effect of time period on SWB is about d = |.13| in most age groups, about the size of reported links between SWB and objective health, marital status, being a parent, and volunteering.

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Entering adulthood in a recession tempers later narcissism - But only in men

Marius Leckelt et al.
Journal of Research in Personality, February 2016, Pages 8-11

Abstract:
In a recent study, Bianchi (2014) showed that macroeconomic conditions (i.e. average unemployment rate) during the years of emerging adulthood (ages 18-25) are inversely related to adult narcissism. Fletcher (2015) called into question the robustness of the results and Grijalva et al. (2015) presented meta-analytic support for real gender differences in narcissism. Here we report combined results from five studies (N = 11,394) showing that the average unemployment rate during emerging adulthood indeed tempers later narcissism - but only in men.

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Testing the bargaining vs. inclusive fitness models of suicidal behavior against the ethnographic record

Kristen Syme, Zachary Garfield & Edward Hagen
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Suicide causes more deaths than all wars and homicides combined. Despite over a century of research on this puzzling and tragic behavior, and a recent increase in the number of treatments and intervention programs, it remains a global scourge. There is abundant research on suicidality in Western populations, but research on suicide among non-Western peoples is limited. Most notably, few studies analyze suicidality within small scale, non-industrial societies. Using ethnographic data from 53 cultures, this study tests two evolutionary theories of suicidal behavior: (1) deCatanzaro's inclusive fitness model, which proposes that successful suicide would increase the inclusive fitness of individuals with low reproductive potential who are a burden on kin, and (2) the bargaining model, which proposes that suicide attempts are a costly signal of need, with completed suicides an unfortunate byproduct. These models were operationalized into two sets of variables, which were used to code 474 textual accounts of suicide extracted from the Probability Sample of the Human Relations Area Files. Results indicate limited support for the inclusive fitness model, which might apply primarily to older adults in harsh environments, and widespread support for most elements of the bargaining model, especially among younger healthy adolescents and adults.

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The (In)visibility of Psychodiagnosticians' Expertise

Michael Schulte-Mecklenbeck, Nanon Spaanjaars & Cilia Witteman
Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study investigates decision making in mental health care. Specifically, it compares the diagnostic decision outcomes (i.e., the quality of diagnoses) and the diagnostic decision process (i.e., pre-decisional information acquisition patterns) of novice and experienced clinical psychologists. Participants' eye movements were recorded while they completed diagnostic tasks, classifying mental disorders. In line with previous research, our findings indicate that diagnosticians' performance is not related to their clinical experience. Eye-tracking data provide corroborative evidence for this result from the process perspective: experience does not predict changes in cue inspection patterns. For future research into expertise in this domain, it is advisable to track individual differences between clinicians rather than study differences on the group level.

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Salivary Cortisol Levels and Depressive Symptomatology in Consumers and Nonconsumers of Self-Help Books: A Pilot Study

Catherine Raymond et al.
Neural Plasticity, 2015

Abstract:
The self-help industry generates billions of dollars yearly in North America. Despite the popularity of this movement, there has been surprisingly little research assessing the characteristics of self-help books consumers, and whether this consumption is associated with physiological and/or psychological markers of stress. The goal of this pilot study was to perform the first psychoneuroendocrine analysis of consumers of self-help books in comparison to nonconsumers. We tested diurnal and reactive salivary cortisol levels, personality, and depressive symptoms in 32 consumers and nonconsumers of self-help books. In an explorative secondary analysis, we also split consumers of self-help books as a function of their preference for problem-focused versus growth-oriented self-help books. The results showed that while consumers of growth-oriented self-help books presented increased cortisol reactivity to a psychosocial stressor compared to other groups, consumers of problem-focused self-help books presented higher depressive symptomatology. The results of this pilot study show that consumers with preference for either problem-focused or growth-oriented self-help books present different physiological and psychological markers of stress when compared to nonconsumers of self-help books. This preliminary study underlines the need for additional research on this issue in order to determine the impact the self-help book industry may have on consumers' stress.

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Mitochondrial functions modulate neuroendocrine, metabolic, inflammatory, and transcriptional responses to acute psychological stress

Martin Picard et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Abstract:
The experience of psychological stress triggers neuroendocrine, inflammatory, metabolic, and transcriptional perturbations that ultimately predispose to disease. However, the subcellular determinants of this integrated, multisystemic stress response have not been defined. Central to stress adaptation is cellular energetics, involving mitochondrial energy production and oxidative stress. We therefore hypothesized that abnormal mitochondrial functions would differentially modulate the organism's multisystemic response to psychological stress. By mutating or deleting mitochondrial genes encoded in the mtDNA [NADH dehydrogenase 6 (ND6) and cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI)] or nuclear DNA [adenine nucleotide translocator 1 (ANT1) and nicotinamide nucleotide transhydrogenase (NNT)], we selectively impaired mitochondrial respiratory chain function, energy exchange, and mitochondrial redox balance in mice. The resulting impact on physiological reactivity and recovery from restraint stress were then characterized. We show that mitochondrial dysfunctions altered the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, sympathetic adrenal-medullary activation and catecholamine levels, the inflammatory cytokine IL-6, circulating metabolites, and hippocampal gene expression responses to stress. Each mitochondrial defect generated a distinct whole-body stress-response signature. These results demonstrate the role of mitochondrial energetics and redox balance as modulators of key pathophysiological perturbations previously linked to disease. This work establishes mitochondria as stress-response modulators, with implications for understanding the mechanisms of stress pathophysiology and mitochondrial diseases.

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Age of Trauma Onset and HPA Axis Dysregulation Among Trauma-Exposed Youth

Kate Ryan Kuhlman et al.
Journal of Traumatic Stress, forthcoming

Abstract:
The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) is a pathway through which childhood trauma may increase risk for negative health outcomes. The HPA axis is sensitive to stress throughout development; however, few studies have examined whether timing of exposure to childhood trauma is related to differences in later HPA axis functioning. Therefore, we examined the association between age of first trauma and HPA axis functioning among adolescents, and whether these associations varied by sex. Parents of 97 youth (aged 9-16 years) completed the Early Trauma Inventory (ETI), and youth completed the Socially-Evaluated Cold-Pressor Task (SECPT). We measured salivary cortisol response to the SECPT, the cortisol awakening response, and diurnal regulation at home across 2 consecutive weekdays. Exposure to trauma during infancy related to delayed cortisol recovery from peak responses to acute stress, d = 0.23 to 0.42. Timing of trauma exposure related to diverging patterns of diurnal cortisol regulation for males, d = 0.55, and females, d = 0.57. Therefore, the HPA axis may be susceptible to developing acute stress dysregulation when exposed to trauma during infancy, whereas the consequences within circadian cortisol regulation may occur in the context of later trauma exposure and vary by sex. Further investigations are warranted to characterize HPA axis sensitivity to exposure to childhood trauma across child development.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Anger management

The Association between Mental Health and Violence among a Nationally Representative Sample of College Students from the United States

Joseph Schwartz, Kevin Beaver & J.C. Barnes
PLoS ONE, October 2015

Objectives: Recent violent attacks on college campuses in the United States have sparked discussions regarding the prevalence of psychiatric disorders and the perpetration of violence among college students. While previous studies have examined the potential association between mental health problems and violent behavior, the overall pattern of findings flowing from this literature remain mixed and no previous studies have examined such associations among college students.

Methods: The current study makes use of a nationally representative sample of 3,929 college students from the National Epidemiologic Study on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) to examine the prevalence of seven violent behaviors and 19 psychiatric disorder diagnoses tapping mood, anxiety, personality, and substance use disorders. Associations between individual and composite psychiatric disorder diagnoses and violent behaviors were also examined. Additional analyses were adjusted for the comorbidity of multiple psychiatric diagnoses.

Results: The results revealed that college students were less likely to have engaged in violent behavior relative to the non-student sample, but a substantial portion of college students had engaged in violent behavior. Age- and sex-standardized prevalence rates indicated that more than 21% of college students reported at least one violent act. In addition, more than 36% of college students had at least one diagnosable psychiatric disorder. Finally, the prevalence of one or more psychiatric disorders significantly increased the odds of violent behavior within the college student sample.

Conclusions: These findings indicate that violence and psychiatric disorders are prevalent on college campuses in the United States, though perhaps less so than in the general population. In addition, college students who have diagnosable psychiatric disorders are significantly more likely to engage in various forms of violent behavior.

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Genetic and environmental influences on being expelled and suspended from school

Kevin Beaver et al.
Personality and Individual Differences, February 2016, Pages 214-218

Abstract:
There has been a significant amount of interest in understanding some of the key issues related to school suspensions and expulsions. One of the more intriguing and studied of these issues has to do with factors that contribute to variation in school disciplinary sanctions. To date, however, no research has examined the genetic architecture to either suspensions or expulsions. The current study addresses this gap in the literature by analyzing a sample of twin pairs drawn from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health). The results of the analyses revealed that shared and nonshared environmental factors accounted for the variation in suspensions. Genetic influences, in contrast, were the dominant source of variation for expulsions. We conclude by discussing the implications of our findings and avenues for future research.

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Friend to friend: A randomized trial for urban African American relationally aggressive girls

Stephen Leff et al.
Psychology of Violence, October 2015, Pages 433-443

Objective: To determine the effectiveness of the Friend to Friend (F2F) aggression prevention program through a clinical trial with urban African American girls.

Method: A randomized parallel-group study design was conducted comparing the effectiveness of F2F to an attention control condition (called Homework, Study Skills, and Organization, HSO) among relationally aggressive girls from 6 urban low-income elementary schools. Analyses of covariance were utilized for comparing posttest measurements from the 2 conditions while adjusting for pretest measurements. To further explore program outcomes, we examined whether the significant intervention effects were maintained from posttest to follow-up among girls in the F2F group.

Results: Results suggest that aggressive girls in F2F decreased their levels of relational aggression and increased their knowledge of social problem solving skills in comparison with similar girls randomized to HSO. Each of these findings was maintained at the 1-year follow-up.

Conclusion: The F2F Program, a culturally adapted group intervention addressing multiple forms of aggression, appears to have promise for decreasing relational aggression and improving knowledge of problem solving skills for urban high risk aggressive girls, with results that are maintained 1 year after treatment.

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The Role of Perceived Peer Norms in the Relationship Between Media Violence Exposure and Adolescents' Aggression

Karin Fikkers et al.
Media Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study investigates the role of a social context variable, perceived peer norms, in the relationship between media violence exposure and adolescents' aggressive behavior. This was informed by a need to better understand whether, how, and for whom, media violence exposure may affect aggression. Three hypotheses were tested with peer norms as moderator, as mediator, and as both moderator and mediator in the relationship between media violence and aggression. A two-wave longitudinal survey measured media violence exposure, perceived descriptive and injunctive norms, and aggressive behavior among 943 adolescents (aged 10-14, 50.4% girls). Results provided support only for the moderated-mediation model. The indirect effect of media violence on aggression via perceived peer approval of aggression (i.e., injunctive norms) was moderated by perceived prevalence of peer aggression (i.e., descriptive norms). Specifically, media violence indirectly increased aggressive behavior for adolescents who perceived more peer aggression, but decreased aggression for adolescents who perceived less peer aggression. Implications for future research into media violence effects are discussed.

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Racial Discrimination, Weakened School Bonds, and Problematic Behaviors: Testing a Theory of African American Offending

James Unnever, Francis Cullen & J.C. Barnes
Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, forthcoming

Objectives: This article examines a core hypothesis of Unnever and Gabbidon's theory that racial discrimination should diminish the ability of African American youths to build strong bonds with their school, which in turn should increase their likelihood of engaging in problematic behaviors over time. Their thesis further argues that these relationships should persist after controlling for affectional ties with parents and other covariates.

Methods: This hypothesis is assessed using data from two cohorts included within the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods, Longitudinal Cohort Study.

Results: The results show that racial discrimination predicts changes in problematic behaviors from wave 1 to wave 3 and weakens the attachment that African American youths have with their teachers and their commitment to their education while controlling for affectional ties to parents and other covariates.

Conclusions: The results lend support to Unnever and Gabbidon's thesis that a holistic understanding of African Americans' offending must be grounded in their everyday experiences with what it means to be Black in a racialized society.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Friday, November 20, 2015

Unusual suspects

Randomized controlled field trials of predictive policing

George Mohler et al.
Journal of the American Statistical Association, forthcoming

Abstract:
The concentration of police resources in stable crime hotspots has proven effective in reducing crime, but the extent to which police can disrupt dynamically changing crime hotspots is unknown. Police must be able to anticipate the future location of dynamic hotspots to disrupt them. Here we report results of two randomized controlled trials of near real-time Epidemic Type Aftershock Sequence (ETAS) crime forecasting, one trial within three divisions of the Los Angeles Police Department and the other trial within two divisions of the Kent Police Department (UK). We investigate the extent to which i) ETAS models of short term crime risk outperform existing best practice of hotspot maps produced by dedicated crime analysts, ii) police officers in the field can dynamically patrol predicted hotspots given limited resources, and iii) crime can be reduced by predictive policing algorithms under realistic law enforcement resource constraints. While previous hotspot policing experiments fix treatment and control hotspots throughout the experimental period, we use a novel experimental design to allow treatment and control hotspots to change dynamically over the course of the experiment. Our results show that ETAS models predict 1.4-2.2 times as much crime compared to a dedicated crime analyst using existing criminal intelligence and hotspot mapping practice. Police patrols using ETAS forecasts led to a average 7.4% reduction in crime volume as a function of patrol time, whereas patrols based upon analyst predictions showed no significant effect. Dynamic police patrol in response to ETAS crime forecasts can disrupt opportunities for crime and lead to real crime reductions.

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Do Stop, Question, and Frisk Practices Deter Crime? Evidence at Microunits of Space and Time

David Weisburd et al.
Criminology & Public Policy, forthcoming

Abstract:
Existing studies examining the crime impacts of stop, question, and frisks (SQFs) have focused on large geographic areas. Weisburd, Telep, and Lawton (2014) suggested that SQFs in New York City (NYC) were highly concentrated at crime hot spots, implying that a microlevel unit of analysis may be more appropriate. The current study aims to address the limitations of prior studies by exploring the impact of SQFs on daily and weekly crime incidents in NYC at a microgeographic level. The findings suggest that SQFs produce a significant yet modest deterrent effect on crime.

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A Multi-Level Bayesian Analysis of Racial Bias in Police Shootings at the County-Level in the United States, 2011–2014

Cody Ross
PLoS ONE, November 2015

Abstract:
A geographically-resolved, multi-level Bayesian model is used to analyze the data presented in the U.S. Police-Shooting Database (USPSD) in order to investigate the extent of racial bias in the shooting of American civilians by police officers in recent years. In contrast to previous work that relied on the FBI’s Supplemental Homicide Reports that were constructed from self-reported cases of police-involved homicide, this data set is less likely to be biased by police reporting practices. County-specific relative risk outcomes of being shot by police are estimated as a function of the interaction of: 1) whether suspects/civilians were armed or unarmed, and 2) the race/ethnicity of the suspects/civilians. The results provide evidence of a significant bias in the killing of unarmed black Americans relative to unarmed white Americans, in that the probability of being {black, unarmed, and shot by police} is about 3.49 times the probability of being {white, unarmed, and shot by police} on average. Furthermore, the results of multi-level modeling show that there exists significant heterogeneity across counties in the extent of racial bias in police shootings, with some counties showing relative risk ratios of 20 to 1 or more. Finally, analysis of police shooting data as a function of county-level predictors suggests that racial bias in police shootings is most likely to emerge in police departments in larger metropolitan counties with low median incomes and a sizable portion of black residents, especially when there is high financial inequality in that county. There is no relationship between county-level racial bias in police shootings and crime rates (even race-specific crime rates), meaning that the racial bias observed in police shootings in this data set is not explainable as a response to local-level crime rates.

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Stereotyping? Evidence from Reactions to Police Deaths

Heather Sarsons
Harvard Working Paper, November 2015

Abstract:
Stereotypes lead people to over-react to information that confirms their priors and under-react to information that goes against their priors. I test a model of stereotyping using data on police officer assaults. I match data from the New York City Stop, Question, and Frisk program to data on police deaths to test whether police officers have different responses to shootings depending on the shooter's race. I find that when an officer is shot by a white civilian, there is no change in frisk, arrest, or use of force patterns. However, when an officer is shot by a black civilian, frisking and use of force against black civilians increases dramatically. I test alternative explanations such as rational updating, retaliation, and demographic segregation.

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Risk, Race, & Recidivism: Predictive Bias and Disparate Impact

Jennifer Skeem & Christopher Lowenkamp
University of California Working Paper, November 2015

Abstract:
One way to unwind mass incarceration without compromising public safety is to use risk assessment instruments in sentencing and corrections. These instruments figure prominently in current reforms, but controversy has begun to swirl around their use. The principal concern is that benefits in crime control will be offset by costs in social justice — a disparate and adverse effect on racial minorities and the poor. Based on a sample of 34,794 federal offenders, we empirically examine the relationships among race (Black vs. White), actuarial risk assessment (the Post Conviction Risk Assessment [PCRA]), and re-arrest (for any/violent crime). First, application of well-established principles of psychological science revealed no real evidence of test bias for the PCRA — the instrument strongly predicts re-arrest for both Black and White offenders and a given score has essentially the same meaning — i.e., same probability of recidivism — across groups. Second, Black offenders obtain modestly higher average scores on the PCRA than White offenders (d = .43; appx. 27% non-overlap in groups’ scores). So some applications of the PCRA could create disparate impact — which is defined by moral rather than empirical criteria. Third, most (69%) of the racial difference in PCRA scores is attributable to criminal history — which strongly predicts recidivism for both groups and is embedded in sentencing guidelines. Finally, criminal history is not a proxy for race — instead, it fully mediates the otherwise weak relationship between race and re-arrest. Data may be more helpful than rhetoric, if the goal is to improve practice at this opportune moment in history.

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Modeling the community-level effects of male incarceration on the sexual partnerships of men and women

Andrea Knittel et al.
Social Science & Medicine, forthcoming

Abstract:
Men who have been incarcerated experience substantial changes in their sexual behavior after release from jail and prison, and high rates of incarceration may change sexual relationship patterns at a community level. Few studies, however, address how rates of incarceration affect community patterns of sexual behavior, and the implications of those patterns for HIV and STD risk. We describe a “proof of principle” computational model that tests whether rates of male incarceration could, in part, explain observed population-level differences in patterns of sexual behavior between communities with high rates of incarceration and those without. This validated agent-based model of sexual partnership among 20-25 year old heterosexual urban residents in the United States uses an algorithm that incarcerates male agents and then releases them back into the agent community. The results from these model experiments suggest that at rates of incarceration similar to those observed for urban African American men, incarceration can cause an increase in the number of partners at the community level. The results suggest that reducing incarceration and creating a more open criminal justice system that supports the maintenance of inmates’ relationships to reduce instability of partnerships for men who are incarcerated may have important sexual health and public health implications. Incarceration is one of many social forces that affect sexual decision-making, and incarceration rates may have substantial effects on community-level HIV and STD risks.

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The impact of on-officer video cameras on police–citizen contacts: Findings from a controlled experiment in Mesa, AZ

Justin Ready & Jacob Young
Journal of Experimental Criminology, September 2015, Pages 445-458

Objectives: On-officer video camera (OVC) technology in policing is developing at a rapid pace. Large agencies are beginning to adopt the technology on a limited basis, and a number of cities across the United States have required their police departments to adopt the technology for all first responders. However, researchers have just begun to examine the effects of OVC technology on citizen complaints, officers’ attitudes, and police–citizen contacts.

Methods: This study examines officer behavior and perceptions of camera technology among 100 line officers in the Mesa Police Department during police–citizen encounters over a 10-month period. Experimental data from 3698 field contact reports were analyzed to determine whether being assigned to wear an OVC influences officer behavior and perceptions of OVC technology.

Results: Bivariate and multilevel logistic regression analyses indicate that officers assigned to wear a camera were less likely to perform stop-and-frisks and make arrests, but were more likely to give citations and initiate encounters. Officers were also more likely to report OVCs as being helpful if they wore a camera and in situations where they issued a warning or citation, performed a stop-and-frisk, and made an arrest.

Conclusions: Our results provide important insights into the consequences of OVCs on police behavior and suggest that officers are more proactive with this technology without increasing their use of invasive strategies that may threaten the legitimacy of the organization.

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Law & Order, CSI, and NCIS: The Association Between Exposure to Crime Drama Franchises, Rape Myth Acceptance, and Sexual Consent Negotiation Among College Students

Stacey Hust et al.
Journal of Health Communication, December 2015, Pages 1369-1381

Abstract:
Previous research has identified that exposure to the crime drama genre lowers rape myth acceptance and increases sexual assault prevention behaviors such as bystander intervention. However, recent content analyses have revealed marked differences in the portrayal of sexual violence within the top three crime drama franchises. Using a survey of 313 college freshmen, this study explores the influence of exposure to the three most popular crime drama franchises: Law & Order, CSI, and NCIS. Findings indicate that exposure to the Law & Order franchise is associated with decreased rape myth acceptance and increased intentions to adhere to expressions of sexual consent and refuse unwanted sexual activity; whereas exposure to the CSI franchise is associated with decreased intentions to seek consent and decreased intentions to adhere to expressions of sexual consent. Exposure to the NCIS franchise was associated with decreased intentions to refuse unwanted sexual activity. These results indicate that exposure to the specific content of each crime drama franchise may have differential results on sexual consent negotiation behaviors.

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How Do Right-To-Carry Laws Affect Crime Rates? Coping With Ambiguity Using Bounded-Variation Assumptions

Charles Manski & John Pepper
NBER Working Paper, November 2015

Abstract:
Despite dozens of studies, research on crime in the United States has struggled to reach consensus about the impact of right-to-carry (RTC) gun laws. Empirical results are highly sensitive to seemingly minor variations in the data and model. How then should research proceed? We think that policy analysis is most useful if researchers perform inference under a spectrum of assumptions of varying identifying power, recognizing the tension between the strength of assumptions and their credibility. With this in mind, we formalize and apply a class of assumptions that flexibly restrict the degree to which policy outcomes may vary across time and space. Our bounded variation assumptions weaken in various respects the invariance assumptions commonly made by researchers who assume that certain features of treatment response are constant across space or time. Using bounded variation assumptions, we present empirical analysis of the effect of RTC laws on violent and property crimes. We allow the effects to vary across crimes, years and states. To keep the analysis manageable, we focus on drawing inferences for three states – Virginia, Maryland, and Illinois. We find there are no simple answers; empirical findings are sensitive to assumptions, and vary over crimes, years, and states. With some assumptions, the data do not reveal whether RTC laws increase or decrease the crime rate. With others, RTC laws are found to increase some crimes, decrease other crimes, and have effects that vary over time for others.

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A structural analysis of U.S. drunk driving policy

Darren Grant
International Review of Law and Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
The expected penalty for drunk driving can and does vary by blood alcohol content. This paper outlines the schedule of penalties that best achieves two key social objectives, efficacy and efficiency (subject to constraints), shows how the associated optimality conditions can be implemented with available data to analyze policy ex ante or ex post, and then uses these findings to assess four fundamental features of current U.S. drunk driving policy. Large penalties at very high alcohol concentrations are supported, but not reductions in per se blood alcohol thresholds, the most significant recent change in policy.

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Minor Physical Anomalies as a Window into the Prenatal Origins of Pedophilia

Fiona Dyshniku et al.
Archives of Sexual Behavior, November 2015, Pages 2151-2159

Abstract:
Evidence is steadily accumulating to support a neurodevelopmental basis for pedophilia. This includes increased incidence of non-right-handedness, which is a result primarily of prenatal neural development and solidified very early in life. Minor physical anomalies (MPAs; superficial deviations from typical morphological development, such as un-detached earlobes) also develop only prenatally, suggesting them as another potential marker of atypical physiological development during the prenatal period among pedophiles. This study administered the Waldrop Physical Anomaly Scale to assess the prevalence of MPAs in a clinical sample of men referred for assessment following a sexual assault, or another illegal or clinically significant sexual behavior. Significant associations emerged between MPA indices and indicators of pedophilia, including penile responses to depictions of children, number of child victims, and possession of child pornography. Moreover, greater sexual attraction to children was associated with an elevated craniofacial-to-peripheral anomalies ratio. The overall sample demonstrated a greater number of MPAs relative to prior samples of individuals with schizophrenia as well as to healthy controls.

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The Complexity of Hate Crime and Bias Activity: Variation across Contexts and Types of Bias

Andrew Gladfelter, Brendan Lantz & Barry Ruback
Justice Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract:
Are racially-motivated hate crimes, non-criminal bias incidents, and general forms of crime associated with the same structural factors? If so, then social disorganization, a powerful structural correlate of general crime, should predict rates of hate incidents. However, tests of social disorganization’s effects on racially-motivated hate crime yield inconsistent results. This study uses data from the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) to explore such inconsistencies. Specifically, we assess the effects of social disorganization across contexts and types of bias motivation using bias incidents over 12 years. The results suggest that (a) social disorganization, particularly residential instability, is robustly correlated with rates of both hate crime and other prejudicial conduct, and that (b) the interactive effects of social disorganization help explain variations in incident rates by motivation type. Specifically, anti-black incidents are most frequent in unstable, homogeneous (i.e. white) and advantaged communities, while anti-white incidents are most frequent in unstable, disadvantaged communities.

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Does Prison Crowding Predict Higher Rates of Substance Use Related Parole Violations? A Recurrent Events Multi-Level Survival Analysis

Michael Ruderman, Deirdra Wilson & Savanna Reid
PLoS ONE, October 2015

Objective: This administrative data-linkage cohort study examines the association between prison crowding and the rate of post-release parole violations in a random sample of prisoners released with parole conditions in California, for an observation period of two years (January 2003 through December 2004).

Methods: Rates of parole violation for parolees exposed to high and medium levels of prison crowding were compared to parolees with low prison crowding exposure. Hazard ratios (HRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated using a Cox model for recurrent events. Our dataset included 13070 parolees in California, combining individual level parolee data with aggregate level crowding data for multilevel analysis.

Results: Comparing parolees exposed to high crowding with those exposed to low crowding, the effect sizes from greatest to least were absconding violations (HR 3.56 95% CI: 3.05–4.17), drug violations (HR 2.44 95% CI: 2.00–2.98), non-violent violations (HR 2.14 95% CI: 1.73–2.64), violent and serious violations (HR 1.88 95% CI: 1.45–2.43), and technical violations (HR 1.86 95% CI: 1.37–2.53).

Conclusions: Prison crowding predicted higher rates of parole violations after release from prison. The effect was magnitude-dependent and particularly strong for drug charges. Further research into whether adverse prison experiences, such as crowding, are associated with recidivism and drug use in particular may be warranted.

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Locked and not Loaded: First Time Offenders and State Ignition Interlock Programs

Darin Ullman
International Review of Law and Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Alcohol-related fatal crashes are a costly public safety concern. Using vehicular fatality data and geographical variations across the United States, I examine the effectiveness of mandatory Ignition Interlock Programs for first time offenders in preventing fatal alcohol-related accidents. I observe that the program is most effective when it is applied to a broader cross-section of first time offenders. Specifically, states that adopt ignition interlock laws that require participation of first time offenders, with blood alcohol levels of .08 or higher, see fatal accidents involving a drunk driver decrease by 9%. The results provide evidence in support of current and future policy legislation that first time offenders should participate in ignition interlock programs, which will reduce alcohol-related fatal accidents and generate large benefits to society.

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Under the Cover of Darkness: How Ambient Light Influences Criminal Activity

Jennifer Doleac & Nicholas Sanders
Review of Economics and Statistics, forthcoming

Abstract:
We exploit daylight saving time (DST) as an exogenous shock to daylight, using both the discontinuous nature of the policy and the 2007 extension of DST, to consider the impact of light on criminal activity. Regression discontinuity estimates show a 7% decrease in robberies following the shift to DST. As expected, effects are largest during the hours directly affected by the shift in daylight. We discuss our findings within the context of criminal decision making and labor supply, and estimate that the 2007 DST extension resulted in $59 million in annual social cost savings from avoided robberies.

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Childhood Adversities and Resistant Behaviors Toward Law Enforcement Officers in a National Sample of State and Federal Inmates

Phillip Marotta
Police Quarterly, December 2015, Pages 414-441

Abstract:
An overwhelming body of literature points to a relationship between experiencing adversity during childhood and later violence in adulthood. This study addresses a gap in existing research by testing of the impact of four prior childhood adversities on resistant behaviors toward law enforcement officers. A four-level ordinal dependent variable measuring passive resistance, verbal resistance, police action resistance, and physical resistance was created using data from the nationally representative, 2004 Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities. A generalized ordinal logistic regression model tested the effects of childhood adversities on resistant behaviors toward law enforcement officers. Physical victimization during childhood and adulthood predicted resistant behaviors toward law enforcement officers above and beyond the effects of prior victimization during only childhood and only adulthood. This study found a strong association between prior physical victimization, foster care involvement, and resistant behaviors after adjusting for demographic, situational, and criminal background variables.

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Exploring the sanction–crime relationship through a lens of procedural justice

Megan Bears Augustyn & Jeffrey Ward
Journal of Criminal Justice, November–December 2015, Pages 470–479

Purpose: Research overwhelmingly explores “kinds of people” as moderators of the sanction–crime relationship (Piquero et al., 2011). This work, on the other hand, focuses on the sanction experience and draws upon the procedural justice doctrine and key ideas in Sherman's (1993, 2014) defiance theory to test whether individual evaluations of procedural justice condition the effect of legal sanctions on subsequent criminal behavior.

Methods: Using a sample of serious adolescent offenders, generalized linear regression models with interaction terms are employed to test whether the effect of legal sanctions on involvement, variety, and frequency of offending is conditioned by procedural justice. Significant interaction effects of legal sanction and procedural justice are illustrated with graphical methods.

Results: Results suggest that evaluations of procedural justice condition the sanction–crime relationship. Sanctions lead to a higher likelihood of offending among individuals with low evaluations of procedural justice. However, among those with higher evaluations of procedural justice, there is no significant relationship between sanctions and subsequent offending.

Conclusion: Increasing perceptions of procedural justice reduces unintended consequences of sanctioning experiences. In an era of heightened focus on interactions between citizens and criminal justice professionals, enhancing procedural justice is not only ethical but also protects against deviance amplification processes.

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Desistance and Legitimacy: The Impact of Offender Notification Meetings on Recidivism among High Risk Offenders

Danielle Wallace et al.
Justice Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract:
Legitimacy-based approaches to crime prevention assume that individuals will comply with the law when they believe that the law and its agents are legitimate and act in ways that are “fair” and “just.” Currently, legitimacy-based programs are shown to lower aggregate levels of crime; yet, no study has investigated whether such programs influence individual offending. Using quasi-experimental design and survival analyses, this study evaluates the effectiveness of one such program — Chicago’s Project Safe Neighborhoods’ (PSN) Offender Notification Forums — at reducing individual recidivism among a population of returning prisoners. Results suggest that involvement in PSN significantly reduces the risk of subsequent incarceration and is associated with significantly longer intervals that offenders remain on the street and out of prison. As the first study to provide individual-level evidence promoting legitimacy-based interventions on patterns of individual offending, out study suggests these interventions can and do reduce rates of recidivism.

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Citizens’ reactions to hot spots policing: Impacts on perceptions of crime, disorder, safety and police

Jerry Ratcliffe et al.
Journal of Experimental Criminology, September 2015, Pages 393-417

Objectives: We explore whether the use of foot patrol, problem-oriented policing and offender-focused policing at violent crime hot spots negatively impacted the community’s perceptions of crime and disorder, perceived safety, satisfaction with police and their perceptions of procedural justice.

Methods: We report on a repeated cross-sectional survey that was mailed before and after the deployment of concentrated police interventions in 60 small areas of Philadelphia, PA, as part of the Philadelphia Policing Tactics Experiment. Eighty-one violent crime hot spots were randomly allocated to one of three treatments (20 each), or to a control assignment (21). Impacts on the community via seven scales were analyzed using OLS models with orthogonal contrast-coded treatment variables and demographic covariates.

Results: The OLS models estimating changes in the community’s opinions from pre- to post-intervention uncovered no statistically significant changes on any of the dependent variables relative to control locations, irrespective of the treatment type. Even though one experimental treatment condition (offender-focused) reported statistically significant violent crime reductions, the police activity that generated the crime reduction did not noticeably change community perceptions of crime and disorder, perceived safety, satisfaction with police or procedural justice.

Conclusions: As implemented in Philadelphia, none of the policing tactics had measurable changes in resident perception within the communities that were targeted. The results do not support the suggestion that hot spots policing negatively impacts the community. At the same time, no positive benefits were generated.

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Cross-border homicide impacts on economic activity in El Paso

Pedro Niño et al.
Empirical Economics, December 2015, Pages 1543-1559

Abstract:
Drug-related homicides in Ciudad Juárez drastically increased beginning in 2008. Few studies have been carried out which assess the economic impacts of crime and homicides. Furthermore, the existing literature generally lacks regional assessment efforts. Because of geographical proximity and close economic ties, this paper reviews some of the potential impacts the Ciudad Juárez homicides may have on the El Paso regional economy. A time series data approach is employed to quantify links between organized crime homicides in Ciudad Juárez and economic conditions in El Paso as measured by the metropolitan business cycle index and total nonagricultural employment. Findings indicate that fluctuations in the number of Ciudad Juárez homicides impact both variables in statistically significant manners at multiple time lags.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Thursday, November 19, 2015

You make the call

Consistency, accuracy, and fairness: A study of discretionary penalties in the NFL

Kevin Snyder & Michael Lopez
Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, forthcoming

Abstract:
Prior studies of referee behavior focus on identifying a bias in when certain calls are made [Kovash, Kenneth, & Levitt, Steven (2009). "Professionals do not play minimax: evidence from Major League Baseball and the National Football League (No. w15347)." National Bureau of Economic Research; Rosen, Peter A. and Rick L. Wilson. 2007. "An Analysis of the Defense First Strategy in College Football Overtime Games." Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports 3(2):1-17; Alamar, Benjamin. 2010. "Measuring Risk in NFL Playcalling." Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports 6:11.]. We extend this research by evaluating the consistency of specific discretionary penalties in professional football. In doing so, all NFL plays from 2002 to 2012 are considered, isolating the occurrence of holding and pass interference calls. Even after accounting for game and play specific variables, including team characteristics, type of play, and the game's score, we find the likelihood of both penalty types follows a quadratic trend, low at the beginning and ends of the game, but high in the middle. We suggest that these penalties are uniquely called with higher levels of discretion, in an attempt by referees to imply fairness in the flow of the game.

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Less is more? Think again! A cognitive fluency-based more-less asymmetry in comparative communication

Vera Hoorens & Susanne Bruckmüller
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, November 2015, Pages 753-766

Abstract:
Differences between groups, individuals, or objects can be framed in multiple ways. One can, for instance, say that men generally earn more than women or that women generally earn less than men. Showing that these logically equivalent expressions are not psychologically equivalent, we demonstrate a robust more-less asymmetry in the use of and responses to comparative statements. More specifically, we show that people use "more than" statements more often than "less than" statements (Study 1); like "more than" statements better (Studies 2 and 3), agree more with opinions expressed through "more than" statements (Studies 4 and 5), and are more likely to consider factual "more than" statements to be true (Study 6). Supporting a cognitive fluency explanation, a manipulation that makes people expect disfluency while processing "less than" statements reduces this otherwise robust more-less asymmetry (Study 7). By combining comparative framing effects with cognitive fluency, the present research brings together 2 research fields in social cognition, shedding new light on both.

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Framing Effects On Physicians' Judgment And Decision Making

Thanh Bui, Heather Krieger & Jennifer Blumenthal-Barby
Psychological Reports, October 2015, Pages 508-522

Abstract:
This study aimed to assess physicians' susceptibility to framing effects in clinical judgment and decision making. A survey was administered online to 159 general internists in the United States. Participants were randomized into two groups, in which clinical scenarios varied in their framings: frequency vs percentage, with cost information vs without, female patient vs male patient, and mortality vs survival. Results showed that physicians' recommendations for patients in hypothetical scenarios were significantly different when the predicted probability of the outcomes was presented in frequency versus percentage form and when it was presented in mortality rate vs survival rate of the same magnitude. Physicians' recommendations were not different for other framing effects.

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Overcoming Algorithm Aversion: People Will Use Algorithms If They Can (Even Slightly) Modify Them

Berkeley Dietvorst, Joseph Simmons & Cade Massey
University of Pennsylvania Working Paper, June 2015

Abstract:
Although evidence-based algorithms consistently outperform human forecasters, people consistently fail to use them, especially after learning that they are imperfect. In this paper, we investigate how algorithm aversion might be overcome. In incentivized forecasting tasks, we find that people are considerably more likely to choose to use an algorithm, and thus perform better, when they can modify its forecasts. Importantly, this is true even when they are severely restricted in the modifications they can make. In fact, people's decision to use an algorithm is insensitive to the magnitude of the modifications they are able to make. Additionally, we find that giving people the freedom to modify an algorithm makes people feel more satisfied with the forecasting process, more tolerant of errors, more likely to believe that the algorithm is superior, and more likely to choose to use an algorithm to make subsequent forecasts. This research suggests that one may be able to overcome algorithm aversion by giving people just a slight amount of control over the algorithm's forecasts.

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Is Age Really Cruel to Experts? Compensatory Effects of Activity

Nemanja Vaci, Bartosz Gula & Merim Bilalić
Psychology and Aging, forthcoming

Abstract:
Age-related decline may not be as pronounced in complex activities as it is in basic cognitive processes, but ability deterioration with age is difficult to deny. However, studies disagree on whether age is kinder to more able people than it is to their less able peers. In this article, we investigated the "age is kinder to the more able" hypothesis by using a chess database that contains activity records for both beginners and world-class players. The descriptive data suggested that the skill function across age captures the 3 phases as described in Simonton's model of career trajectories: initial rise to the peak of performance, postpeak decline, and eventual stabilization of decline. We therefore modeled the data with a linear mixed-effect model using the cubic function that captures 3 phases. The results show that age may be kind to the more able in a subtler manner than has previously been assumed. After reaching the peak at around 38 years, the more able players deteriorated more quickly. Their decline, however, started to slow down at around 52 years, earlier than for less able players (57 years). Both the decline and its stabilization were significantly influenced by activity. The more players engaged in playing tournaments, the less they declined and the earlier they started to stabilize. The best experts may not be immune to aging, but their previously acquired expertise and current activity enable them to maintain high levels of skill even at an advanced age.

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Goal-Oriented Training Affects Decision-Making Processes in Virtual and Simulated Fire and Rescue Environments

Sabrina Cohen-Hatton & R.C. Honey
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, forthcoming

Abstract:
Decisions made by operational commanders at emergency incidents have been characterized as involving a period of information gathering followed by courses of action that are often generated without explicit plan formulation. We examined the efficacy of goal-oriented training in engendering explicit planning that would enable better communication at emergency incidents. While standard training mirrored current operational guidance, goal-oriented training incorporated "decision controls" that highlighted the importance of evaluating goals, anticipated consequences, and risk/benefit analyses once a potential course of action has been identified. In Experiment 1, 3 scenarios (a house fire, road traffic collision, and skip fire) were presented in a virtual environment, and in Experiment 2 they were recreated on the fireground. In Experiment 3, the house fire was recreated as a "live burn," and incident commanders and their crews responded to this scenario as an emergency incident. In all experiments, groups given standard training showed the reported tendency to move directly from information gathering to action, whereas those given goal-oriented training were more likely to develop explicit plans and show anticipatory situational awareness. These results indicate that training can be readily modified to promote explicit plan formulation that could facilitate plan sharing between incident commanders and their teams.

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Understanding overconfidence: Theories of intelligence, preferential attention, and distorted self-assessment

Joyce Ehrlinger, Ainsley Mitchum & Carol Dweck
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Knowing what we don't yet know is critical for learning. Nonetheless, people typically overestimate their prowess - but is this true of everyone? Three studies examined who shows overconfidence and why. Study 1 demonstrated that participants with an entity (fixed) theory of intelligence, those known to avoid negative information, showed significantly more overconfidence than those with more incremental (malleable) theories. In Study 2, participants who were taught an entity theory of intelligence allocated less attention to difficult problems than those taught an incremental theory. Participants in this entity condition also displayed more overconfidence than those in the incremental condition, and this difference in overconfidence was mediated by the observed bias in attention to difficult problems. Finally, in Study 3, directing participants' attention to difficult aspects of the task reduced the overconfidence of those with more entity views of intelligence. Implications for reducing biased self-assessments that can interfere with learning were discussed.

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The Effects of Social Context and Acute Stress on Decision Making Under Uncertainty

Oriel FeldmanHall et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Uncertainty preferences are typically studied in neutral, nonsocial contexts. This approach, however, fails to capture the dynamic factors that influence choices under uncertainty in the real world. Our goal was twofold: to test whether uncertainty valuation is similar across social and nonsocial contexts, and to investigate the effects of acute stress on uncertainty preferences. Subjects completed matched gambling and trust games following either a control or a stress manipulation. Those who were not under stress exhibited no differences between the amount of money gambled and the amount of money entrusted to partners. In comparison, stressed subjects gambled more money but entrusted less money to partners. We further found that irrespective of stress, subjects were highly attuned to irrelevant feedback in the nonsocial, gambling context, believing that every loss led to a greater chance of winning (the gamblers' fallacy). However, when deciding to trust a stranger, control subjects behaved rationally, treating each new interaction as independent. Stress compromised this adaptive behavior, increasing sensitivity to irrelevant social feedback.

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Mental skills training with basic combat training soldiers: A group-randomized trial

Amy Adler et al.
Journal of Applied Psychology, November 2015, Pages 1752-1764

Abstract:
Cognitive skills training has been linked to greater skills, self-efficacy, and performance. Although research in a variety of organizational settings has demonstrated training efficacy, few studies have assessed cognitive skills training using rigorous, longitudinal, randomized trials with active controls. The present study examined cognitive skills training in a high-risk occupation by randomizing 48 platoons (N = 2,432 soldiers) in basic combat training to either (a) mental skills training or (b) an active comparison condition (military history). Surveys were conducted at baseline and 3 times across the 10-week course. Multilevel mixed-effects models revealed that soldiers in the mental skills training condition reported greater use of a range of cognitive skills and increased confidence relative to those in the control condition. Soldiers in the mental skills training condition also performed better on obstacle course events, rappelling, physical fitness, and initial weapons qualification scores, although effects were generally moderated by gender and previous experience. Overall, effects were small; however, given the rigor of the design, the findings clearly contribute to the broader literature by providing supporting evidence that cognitive training skills can enhance performance in occupational and sports settings. Future research should address gender and experience to determine the need for targeting such training appropriately.

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The Evolutionary Logic of Honoring Sunk Costs

Mukesh Eswaran & Hugh Neary
Economic Inquiry, forthcoming

Abstract:
Although economics claims that sunk costs should not figure in current decision-making, there is ample evidence to suggest that people squander resources by honoring bygones. We argue that such wastage of resources was tolerated in our evolutionary past by Nature because it served fitness-enhancing functions. In this study, we propose and model one such function. We demonstrate how the honoring of sunk costs could have arisen as a commitment device that Nature found expedient for scenarios where conflicts over temptations between the emotional and rational centers of the brain might sabotage long-term investments. By applying this idea to the self-concept, we argue that this model provides a rationale for cognitive dissonance, a well-established phenomenon in social psychology.

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Seasonal affective disorder and seasoned art auction prices: New evidence from old masters

Doron Kliger et al.
Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, December 2015, Pages 74-84

Abstract:
Psychological evidence predicts that environmental conditions such as seasons and weather are associated with mood and the finance literature has documented links between them and daily stock market returns. In this paper we examine how these conditions affect art auction prices in England during 1756-1909. We find that the amount of daylight on the auction day has a significant positive effect on selling prices in all our model specifications. In addition, we find in some specifications direct positive effects stemming from the hours of sunshine during the day, precipitation, temperatures, and whether daylight hours are getting longer or shorter.

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The Selective Laziness of Reasoning

Emmanuel Trouche et al.
Cognitive Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Reasoning research suggests that people use more stringent criteria when they evaluate others' arguments than when they produce arguments themselves. To demonstrate this "selective laziness," we used a choice blindness manipulation. In two experiments, participants had to produce a series of arguments in response to reasoning problems, and they were then asked to evaluate other people's arguments about the same problems. Unknown to the participants, in one of the trials, they were presented with their own argument as if it was someone else's. Among those participants who accepted the manipulation and thus thought they were evaluating someone else's argument, more than half (56% and 58%) rejected the arguments that were in fact their own. Moreover, participants were more likely to reject their own arguments for invalid than for valid answers. This demonstrates that people are more critical of other people's arguments than of their own, without being overly critical: They are better able to tell valid from invalid arguments when the arguments are someone else's rather than their own.

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Infectious Cognition: Risk Perception Affects Socially Shared Retrieval-Induced Forgetting of Medical Information

Alin Coman & Jessica Berry
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
When speakers selectively retrieve previously learned information, listeners often concurrently, and covertly, retrieve their memories of that information. This concurrent retrieval typically enhances memory for mentioned information (the rehearsal effect) and impairs memory for unmentioned but related information (socially shared retrieval-induced forgetting, SSRIF), relative to memory for unmentioned and unrelated information. Building on research showing that anxiety leads to increased attention to threat-relevant information, we explored whether concurrent retrieval is facilitated in high-anxiety real-world contexts. Participants first learned category-exemplar facts about meningococcal disease. Following a manipulation of perceived risk of infection (low vs. high risk), they listened to a mock radio show in which some of the facts were selectively practiced. Final recall tests showed that the rehearsal effect was equivalent between the two risk conditions, but SSRIF was significantly larger in the high-risk than in the low-risk condition. Thus, the tendency to exaggerate consequences of news events was found to have deleterious consequences.

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We are more selfish than we think: The endowment effect and reward processing within the human medial-frontal cortex

Cameron Hassall et al.
Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Perceived ownership has been shown to impact a variety of cognitive processes: attention, memory, and - more recently - reward processing. In the present experiment we examined whether or not perceived ownership would interact with the construct of value - the relative worth of an object. Participants completed a simple gambling game in which they either gambled for themselves or for another while electroencephalographic data were recorded. In a key manipulation, gambles for oneself or for another were for either small or large rewards. We tested the hypothesis that value affects the neural response to self-gamble outcomes, but not other-gamble outcomes. Our experimental data revealed that while participants learned the correct response option for both self and other gambles, the reward positivity evoked by wins was impacted by value only when gambling for oneself. Importantly, our findings provide additional evidence for a self-ownership bias in cognitive processing, and further demonstrate the insensitivity of the medial-frontal reward system to gambles for another.

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The Use of Uncertainty Forecasts in Complex Decision Tasks and Various Weather Conditions

Susan Joslyn & Margaret Grounds
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, forthcoming

Abstract:
Recent research on weather-related decision-making suggests that the inclusion of numeric uncertainty estimates in weather forecasts improves decision quality over single value forecasts or specific advice. However, it is unclear if the benefit of uncertainty estimates extends to more complex decision tasks, presumably requiring greater cognitive effort, or to tasks in which the decision is clear-cut, perhaps making the additional uncertainty information unnecessary. In the present research, participants completed a task in which they used single value weather forecasts, either alone, with freeze probabilities, advice, or both, to decide whether to apply salt to roads in winter to prevent icing or to withhold salt and risk a penalty. Participants completed either a simple binary choice version of the task or a complex version with 3 response options and accompanying rules for application. Some participants were shown forecasts near the freezing point, such that the need for salt was ambiguous, whereas other participants were shown forecasts well below the freezing point. Results suggest that participants with uncertainty estimates did better overall, and neither the task complexity nor the coldness of the forecasts reduced that advantage. However, unexpectedly colder forecasts lead to poorer decisions and an advantage for specific advice.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Not in my backyard

Environmental Law and the End of the New Deal Order

Paul Sabin
Law and History Review, November 2015, Pages 965-1003

Abstract:
"I don't think there was ever a field of law which developed as explosively and dramatically as environmental law," David Sive, a pioneering environmental lawyer, declared in a 1982 interview. "It was the great romance." Along with new state and federal regulatory agencies and more than a dozen major environmental statutes passed in the 1970s, fledgling public interest environmental law firms emerged as a major force in national politics. The most prominent organizations, founded between 1967 and 1971, included the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund. Public Advocates and the Center for Law in the Public Interest, two California-based firms founded during these same years, also initiated key litigation. These small but powerful legal organizations - all predominantly funded by the Ford Foundation - quickly achieved landmark victories that helped to define the early successes of modern environmentalism. They delayed the Alaskan pipeline for more than 3 years, defeated a Disney resort proposed for the Sierra Nevada mountains, and helped push the pesticide DDT off the market in the United States. The organizations also foiled myriad plans for highways, airports, and power plants and pressed agencies to implement new environmental laws in the 1979s.

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Polluting politics

Louis-Philippe Beland & Vincent Boucher
Economics Letters, December 2015, Pages 176-181

Abstract:
This paper estimates the causal impact of Democratic vs Republican governors on pollution. Using a regression discontinuity design, gubernatorial election data, and air quality data from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we find that air pollution is lower under Democratic governors.

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Geographic Dispersion of Economic Shocks: Evidence from the Fracking Revolution

James Feyrer, Erin Mansur & Bruce Sacerdote
NBER Working Paper, October 2015

Abstract:
The combining of horizontal drilling and hydrofracturing unleashed a boom in oil and natural gas production in the US. This technological shift interacts with local geology to create an exogenous shock to county income and employment. We measure the effects of these shocks within the county where production occurs and track their geographic propagation. Every million dollars of oil and gas extracted produces $66,000 in wage income, $61,000 in royalty payments, and 0.78 jobs within the county. Outside the immediate county but within the region, the economic impacts are over three times larger. Within 100 miles of the new production, one million dollars generates $243,000 in wages, $117,000 in royalties, and 2.49 jobs. Thus, over a third of the fracking revenue stays within the regional economy. Our results suggest new oil and gas extraction led to an increase in aggregate US employment of 725,000 and a 0.5 percent decrease in the unemployment rate during the Great Recession.

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Air Quality and Error Quantity: Impacts of Ambient Air Quality on Worker Productivity and Decision-Making

James Archsmith
University of California Working Paper, October 2015

Abstract:
Air quality improvements mandated under the Clean Air Act Amendments have resulted in measurable productivity gains for US workers. The mechanisms driving improvements in productivity, however, are poorly understood. Using an expansive panel dataset of worker decisions that can be objectively assessed ex post, I identify the causal impact of air quality on the accuracy of worker decisions. In contrast to previous research, I observe the same individual performing the same difficult task in numerous locations and across time allowing me to disentangle the effects of multiple, correlated pollutants. I find exposure to elevated levels of carbon monoxide (CO) above 1 ppm, far below the EPA standard for acute exposure, leads to an additional 3.1 incorrect decisions per 100 choices or a 0.14 standard deviation reduction in the likelihood of making a correct decision. Extrapolating to a population of similar workers, exposure to ambient CO levels above 1 ppm could lead to productivity losses in the United States in between $920 million and $5.2 billion per year. Other local criteria pollutants generally have no measurable effect. These results emphasize the impacts even low levels of ambient pollution may have on worker cognition and present an additional area for consideration when designing air quality standards.

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Organizational Responses to Public and Private Politics: An Analysis of Climate Change Activists and U.S. Oil and Gas Firms

Shon Hiatt, Jake Grandy & Brandon Lee
Organization Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
We explore how activists' public and private politics elicit different organizational responses. Using data on U.S. petroleum companies from 1982 to 2010, we investigate how climate change activists serving as witnesses at congressional hearings and engaging in firm protests influenced firms' internal and external responses. We find that public politics induced internally focused practice adoption, whereas private politics induced externally focused framing activities. We also find that private and public politics had an interaction effect: as firms faced more private political pressure, they were less likely to respond to public political pressures; similarly, as firms faced greater public political pressure, they were less likely to respond to private political pressures. The results suggest that activists can have a significant impact on firm behavior depending on the mix of private and public political tactics they engage in. We discuss the implications of our study for social movement research, organization theory, and nonmarket strategy.

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As the Wind Blows: The Effects of Long-Term Exposure to Air Pollution on Mortality

Michael Anderson
NBER Working Paper, September 2015

Abstract:
There is strong evidence that short-run fluctuations in air pollution negatively impact infant health and contemporaneous adult health, but there is less evidence on the causal link between long-term exposure to air pollution and increased adult mortality. This project estimates the impact of long-term exposure to air pollution on mortality by leveraging quasi-random variation in pollution levels generated by wind patterns near major highways. We combine geocoded data on the residence of every decedent in Los Angeles over three years, high-frequency wind data, and Census Short Form data. Using these data, we estimate the effect of downwind exposure to highway-generated pollutants on the age-specific mortality rate by using bearing to the nearest major highway as an instrument for pollution exposure. We find that doubling the percentage of time spent downwind of a highway increases mortality among individuals 75 and older by 3.6 to 6.8 percent. These estimates are robust and economically significant.

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Do energy prices influence investment in energy efficiency? Evidence from energy star appliances

Grant Jacobsen
Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, November 2015, Pages 94-106

Abstract:
I examine whether electricity prices influence the likelihood that consumers purchase high efficiency appliances by using state-year panel data on electricity prices and the proportion of sales of new appliances that involve high efficiency "Energy Star" models. I find no evidence that electricity prices affect the propensity for consumers to choose high efficiency appliances. Point estimates are extremely small and precisely estimated. The findings suggest that price-based energy policies may be limited in the extent to which they increase investment in residential energy efficiency, which has been considered one of the lowest cost opportunities for reducing carbon emissions.

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Impacts of Being Downwind of a Coal-Fired Power Plant on Infant Health at Birth: Evidence from the Precedent-Setting Portland Rule

Muzhe Yang & Shin-Yi Chou
NBER Working Paper, November 2015

Abstract:
We conduct the first study on the impacts of prenatal exposure to a uniquely identified large polluter, a coal-fired power plant located near the border of two states, on the birth outcomes of the downwind state. For mothers who live as far as 20 to 40 miles away but downwind of the power plant, being exposed to power plant emissions, in particular sulfur dioxide, during the first month of pregnancy could increase the likelihood of having full-term babies but with low birth weight, an indicator of slow fetal growth, by as much as 42 percent. This adverse impact could be driven by reactive sulfur species-induced intrauterine oxidative stress, arising from maternal exposure to emissions of sulfur dioxide, whose travelling from the emission source to the downwind region has been confirmed in the Portland Rule. In light of EPA's continual efforts in regulating power plant emissions, our study is aimed at broadening the scope of cross-border pollution analysis by taking into account adverse infant heath impacts from upwind polluters, which can burden the downwind states disproportionately.

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Unconventional Natural Gas Development and Birth Outcomes in Pennsylvania, USA

Joan Casey et al.
Epidemiology, forthcoming

Background: Unconventional natural gas development has expanded rapidly. In Pennsylvania, the number of producing wells increased from 0 in 2005 to 3,689 in 2013. Few publications have focused on unconventional natural gas development and birth outcomes.

Methods: We performed a retrospective cohort study using electronic health record data on 9,384 mothers linked to 10,946 neonates in the Geisinger Health System from January 2009 to January 2013. We estimated cumulative exposure to unconventional natural gas development activity with an inverse-distance squared model that incorporated distance to the mother's home; dates and durations of well pad development, drilling, and hydraulic fracturing; and production volume during the pregnancy. We used multilevel linear and logistic regression models to examine associations between activity index quartile and term birth weight, preterm birth, low 5-minute Apgar score and small size for gestational age birth, while controlling for potential confounding variables.

Results: In adjusted models, there was an association between unconventional natural gas development activity and preterm birth that increased across quartiles, with a fourth quartile odds ratio of 1.4 (95% confidence interval = 1.0, 1.9). There were no associations of activity with Apgar score, small for gestational age birth, or term birth weight (after adjustment for year). In a posthoc analysis, there was an association with physician-recorded high-risk pregnancy identified from the problem list (fourth vs. first quartile, 1.3 [95% confidence interval = 1.1, 1.7]).

Conclusion: Prenatal residential exposure to unconventional natural gas development activity was associated with two pregnancy outcomes, adding to evidence that unconventional natural gas development may impact health.

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Does Water Quality Improve When a Safe Drinking Water Act Violation Is Issued? A Study of the Effectiveness of the SDWA in California

Katherine Grooms
B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, forthcoming

Abstract:
The Safe Drinking Water Act addresses harmful contaminants in drinking water by providing states the authority to monitor public water systems, notify the public of exceedances above allowable levels, and cite persistent violators. Violating water systems are subject to intense regulatory and public scrutiny. The response of contaminant levels to violation status has not been explored empirically. This paper addresses this relationship through an event study using data on arsenic and nitrate levels in California. I find that violation status has a significant positive effect on nitrate levels post-violation, but no effect on arsenic levels. I also examine the effect of the 2006 arsenic Maximum Contaminant Level revision, finding a discontinuity in contaminant levels at revision. These results suggest that while public disclosure may deter systems from violating, once they go into violation the Public Notification Rule is not effective at encouraging a return to compliance.

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Reproductive outcome and survival of common bottlenose dolphins sampled in Barataria Bay, Louisiana, USA, following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Suzanne Lane et al.
Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 7 November 2015

Abstract:
Common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) inhabit bays, sounds and estuaries across the Gulf of Mexico. Following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, studies were initiated to assess potential effects on these ecologically important apex predators. A previous study reported disease conditions, including lung disease and impaired stress response, for 32 dolphins that were temporarily captured and given health assessments in Barataria Bay, Louisiana, USA. Ten of the sampled dolphins were determined to be pregnant, with expected due dates the following spring or summer. Here, we report findings after 47 months of follow-up monitoring of those sampled dolphins. Only 20% (95% CI: 2.50-55.6%) of the pregnant dolphins produced viable calves, as compared with a previously reported pregnancy success rate of 83% in a reference population. Fifty-seven per cent of pregnant females that did not successfully produce a calf had been previously diagnosed with moderate-severe lung disease. In addition, the estimated annual survival rate of the sampled cohort was low (86.8%, 95% CI: 80.0-92.7%) as compared with survival rates of 95.1% and 96.2% from two other previously studied bottlenose dolphin populations. Our findings confirm low reproductive success and high mortality in dolphins from a heavily oiled estuary when compared with other populations. Follow-up studies are needed to better understand the potential recovery of dolphins in Barataria Bay and, by extension, other Gulf coastal regions impacted by the spill.

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Who benefits from environmental policy? An environmental justice analysis of air quality change in Britain, 2001-2011

Gordon Mitchell, Paul Norman & Karen Mullin
Environmental Research Letters, October 2015

Abstract:
Air quality in Great Britain has improved in recent years, but not enough to prevent the European Commission (EC) taking legal action for non-compliance with limit values. Air quality is a national public health concern, with disease burden associated with current air quality estimated at 29 000 premature deaths per year due to fine particulates, with a further burden due to NO2. National small-area analyses showed that in 2001 poor air quality was much more prevalent in socio-economically deprived areas. We extend this social distribution of air quality analysis to consider how the distribution changed over the following decade (2001-2011), a period when significant efforts to meet EC air quality directive limits have been made, and air quality has improved. We find air quality improvement is greatest in the least deprived areas, whilst the most deprived areas bear a disproportionate and rising share of declining air quality including non-compliance with air quality standards. We discuss the implications for health inequalities, progress towards environmental justice, and compatibility of social justice and environmental sustainability objectives.

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Pollution and Mortality in the 19th Century

Walker Hanlon
NBER Working Paper, October 2015

Abstract:
Mortality was extremely high in the industrial cities of the 19th century, but little is known about the role played by pollution in generating this pattern, due largely to a lack of direct pollution measures. I overcome this problem by combining data on the local composition of industries in Britain with information on the intensity with which industries used polluting inputs. Using this new measure, I show that pollution had a strong impact on mortality as far back as the 1850s. Industrial pollution explains 30-40% of the relationship between mortality and population density in 1851-60, and nearly 60% of this relationship in 1900. Growing industrial coal use from 1851-1900 reduced life expectancy by at least 0.57 years. A back-of-the envelope estimate suggests that the value of this loss of life, expressed as a one-time cost, was equal to at least 0.33-1.00 of annual GDP in 1900. Overall, these results show that industrial pollution was a major cause of mortality in the 19th century, particularly in urban areas, and that industrial growth during this period came at a substantial cost to health.

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The contribution of outdoor air pollution sources to premature mortality on a global scale

Jos Lelieveld et al.
Nature, 17 September 2015, Pages 367-371

Abstract:
Assessment of the global burden of disease is based on epidemiological cohort studies that connect premature mortality to a wide range of causes, including the long-term health impacts of ozone and fine particulate matter with a diameter smaller than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5). It has proved difficult to quantify premature mortality related to air pollution, notably in regions where air quality is not monitored, and also because the toxicity of particles from various sources may vary. Here we use a global atmospheric chemistry model to investigate the link between premature mortality and seven emission source categories in urban and rural environments. In accord with the global burden of disease for 2010, we calculate that outdoor air pollution, mostly by PM2.5, leads to 3.3 (95 per cent confidence interval 1.61-4.81) million premature deaths per year worldwide, predominantly in Asia. We primarily assume that all particles are equally toxic, but also include a sensitivity study that accounts for differential toxicity. We find that emissions from residential energy use such as heating and cooking, prevalent in India and China, have the largest impact on premature mortality globally, being even more dominant if carbonaceous particles are assumed to be most toxic. Whereas in much of the USA and in a few other countries emissions from traffic and power generation are important, in eastern USA, Europe, Russia and East Asia agricultural emissions make the largest relative contribution to PM2.5, with the estimate of overall health impact depending on assumptions regarding particle toxicity. Model projections based on a business-as-usual emission scenario indicate that the contribution of outdoor air pollution to premature mortality could double by 2050.

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Chinese Yellow Dust and Korean Infant Health

Deokrye Baek, Duha Altindag & Naci Mocan
NBER Working Paper, October 2015

Abstract:
Naturally-occurring yellow sand outbreaks, which are produced by winds flowing to Korea from China and Mongolia, create air pollution. Although there is seasonal pattern of this phenomenon, there exists substantial variation in its timing, strength and location from year to year. Thus, exposure to the intensity of air pollution exhibits significant randomness and unpredictability. To warn residents about air pollution in general, and about these dust storms in particular, Korean authorities issue different types of public alerts. Using birth certificate data on more than 1.5 million babies born between 2003 and 2011, we investigate the impact of air pollution, and the avoidance behavior triggered by pollution alerts on various birth outcomes. We find that exposure to air pollution during pregnancy has a significant negative impact on birth weight, the gestation weeks of the baby, and the propensity of the baby being low weight. Public alerts about air quality during pregnancy have a separate positive effect on fetal health. We show that Korean women do not time their pregnancy according to expected yellow dust exposure, and that educated women's pregnancy timing is not different from those who are less-educated. The results provide evidence for the effectiveness of pollution alert systems in promoting public health. They also underline the importance of taking into account individuals' avoidance behavior when estimating the impact of air quality on birth outcomes. Specifically, we show that the estimated impact of air pollution on infant health is reduced by half when the preventive effect of public health warnings is not accounted for.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

For love or money

How the Other Half Lived: Marriage and Emancipation in the Age of the Pill

Lena Edlund & Cecilia Machado
European Economic Review, November 2015, Pages 295-309

Abstract:
The contraceptive Pill was FDA approved in 1960. However, it would be another decade before young unmarried women had full access. In the meantime, marriage constituted a way to the Pill. The later 1960s/early 1970s also saw a convergence on 18 as the minimum age of marriage, many states lowering it from 21. Exploiting these law changes, we find that a lowered minimum age precipitated marriage, delayed marital fertility, and improved women's educational and occupational outcomes. Marriage easing credit constraints combined with the contraceptive properties of the Pill form the hypothesized pathway.

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Change in the Stability of Marital and Cohabiting Unions Following the Birth of a Child

Kelly Musick & Katherine Michelmore
Demography, October 2015, Pages 1463-1485

Abstract:
The share of births to cohabiting couples has increased dramatically in recent decades. How we evaluate the implications of these increases depends critically on change in the stability of cohabiting families. This study examines change over time in the stability of U.S. couples who have a child together, drawing on data from the 1995 and 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG). We parse out the extent to which change in the stability of cohabiting and married families reflects change in couples' behavior versus shifts in the characteristics of those who cohabit, carefully accounting for trajectories of cohabitation and marriage around the couple's first birth. Multivariate event history models provide evidence of a weakening association between cohabitation and instability given that marriage occurs at some point before or after the couple's first birth. The more recent data show statistically indistinguishable separation risks for couples who have a birth in marriage without ever cohabiting, those who cohabit and then have a birth in marriage, and those who have a birth in cohabitation and then marry. Cohabiting unions with children are significantly less stable when de-coupled from marriage, although the parents in this group also differ most from others on observed (and likely, unobserved) characteristics.

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Credit Scores and Committed Relationships

Jane Dokko, Geng Li & Jessica Hayes
Federal Reserve Working Paper, August 2015

Abstract:
This paper presents novel evidence on the role of credit scores in the dynamics of committed relationships. We document substantial positive assortative matching with respect to credit scores, even when controlling for other socioeconomic and demographic characteristics. As a result, individual-level differences in access to credit are largely preserved at the household level. Moreover, we find that the couples' average level of and the match quality in credit scores, measured at the time of relationship formation, are highly predictive of subsequent separations. This result arises, in part, because initial credit scores and match quality predict subsequent credit usage and financial distress, which in turn are correlated with relationship dissolution. Credit scores and match quality appear predictive of subsequent separations even beyond these credit channels, suggesting that credit scores reveal an individual's relationship skill and level of commitment. We present ancillary evidence supporting the interpretation of this skill as trustworthiness.

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Financial implications of relationship breakdown: Does marriage matter?

Hayley Fisher & Hamish Low
Review of Economics of the Household, December 2015, Pages 735-769

Abstract:
In raw data in the UK, the income loss on separation for women who were cohabiting is less than the loss for those who were married. Cohabitants lose less even after controlling for observable characteristics including age and the number of children. This difference is not explained by differences in access to benefits or labor supply responses after separation. In contrast, there is no difference in the change in household income experienced by cohabiting and married men who do better on average than both groups of women. We show that the difference for women arises because of differences in the use of family support networks: cohabitants' standard of living falls by less because they are more likely to live with other adults, particularly their family, following separation, even after controlling for age and children. Divorced women do not return to living with their extended families. The greater legal protection offered by marriage does not appear to translate into economic protection.

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Personal Standards for Judging Aggression by a Relationship Partner: How Much Aggression Is Too Much?

Ximena Arriaga, Nicole Capezza & Christine Daly
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
What determines whether people tolerate partner aggression? This research examined how norms, relationship experiences, and commitment predict personal standards for judging aggressive acts by a partner. Studies 1a and 1b (n = 689) revealed that experiencing aggression in a current relationship and greater commitment predicted greater tolerance for common partner aggression. Study 2 longitudinally tracked individuals who had never experienced partner aggression (n = 52). Once aggression occurred, individuals adopted more tolerant standards, but only if they were highly committed. Study 3 involved experimentally manipulating the relevance of partner aggression among individuals who reported current partner aggression (n = 73); they were more tolerant of aggressive acts imagined to occur by their partner (vs. the same acts by a stranger), but only if they were highly committed. Personal standards for judging partner aggression are dynamic. They shift toward greater tolerance when committed people experience aggression in a current relationship.

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No evidence that polygynous marriage is a harmful cultural practice in northern Tanzania

David Lawson et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 10 November 2015, Pages 13827-13832

Abstract:
Polygyny is cross-culturally common and a topic of considerable academic and policy interest, often deemed a harmful cultural practice serving the interests of men contrary to those of women and children. Supporting this view, large-scale studies of national African demographic surveys consistently demonstrate that poor child health outcomes are concentrated in polygynous households. Negative population-level associations between polygyny and well-being have also been reported, consistent with the hypothesis that modern transitions to socially imposed monogamy are driven by cultural group selection. We challenge the consensus view that polygyny is harmful, drawing on multilevel data from 56 ethnically diverse Tanzanian villages. We first demonstrate the vulnerability of aggregated data to confounding between ecological and individual determinants of health; while across villages polygyny is associated with poor child health and low food security, such relationships are absent or reversed within villages, particularly when children and fathers are coresident. We then provide data indicating that the costs of sharing a husband are offset by greater wealth (land and livestock) of polygynous households. These results are consistent with models of polygyny based on female choice. Finally, we show that village-level negative associations between polygyny prevalence, food security, and child health are fully accounted for by underlying differences in ecological vulnerability (rainfall) and socioeconomic marginalization (access to education). We highlight the need for improved, culturally sensitive measurement tools and appropriate scales of analysis in studies of polygyny and other purportedly harmful practices and discuss the relevance of our results to theoretical accounts of marriage and contemporary population policy.

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Compensatory Relationship Enhancement: An Identity Motivated Response to Relationship Threat

Emilie Auger, Stefani Hurley & John Lydon
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
The motivation-management model suggests that people are equipped with a variety of motivated strategies to mitigate against relationship threats such as conflicts of interests and partner transgressions. We propose that such strategies are more likely to be enacted when the nature of the threat is calibrated with the motivational basis for relationship maintenance. We examine how value dissimilarity may pose an identity threat that triggers reaffirming and bolstering one's positive views of the partner and the relationship, namely, compensatory relationship enhancement. We experimentally manipulated feedback to dating couples about value similarity regarding a possible pregnancy decision (similar vs. control vs. dissimilar) and assessed relationship evaluations pre- and postmanipulation. Using multilevel modeling, we found that individuals highly identified with their relationship increased their baseline positive relationship evaluations in response to the threat of value dissimilarity.

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What effects do macroeconomic conditions have on the time couples with children spend together?

Melinda Sandler Morrill & Sabrina Wulff Pabilonia
Review of Economics of the Household, December 2015, Pages 791-814

Abstract:
Using data from the 2003-2010 American Time Use Survey combined with U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data on state-level unemployment rates, we examine how couple time together is affected by macroeconomic conditions. We find a U-shaped relationship between the unemployment rate and the time that couples who have children spend together, with the lowest amount of time together occurring when unemployment rates are around 9 %. We explore how these patterns are related to the timing of work. Our evidence suggests mothers' work hours are shifted from standard daytime hours to weekend hours, consistent with difficulty in aligning work schedules at moderately high unemployment rates.

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Can't Wait Any Longer? Separation Periods, Divorce and Remarriage

Ho-Po Crystal Wong
West Virginia University Working Paper, October 2015

Abstract:
Since the end of 1990s increasingly more states propose to introduce or lengthen waiting periods required for divorce as a policy tool to strengthen marriage and discourage divorce. I make use of the variation in the timing of states that shortened their separation requirement for divorce during the period of the liberalization of divorce to analyze the effects of the length of separation period on divorce and remarriage. I find that divorce rates rose when states shortened their waiting period but the remarriage rates among the older age cohorts were also increased by the shortened separation period, particularly for women. To the extent that remarriage is an important route for women impoverished by divorce to recover their economic and emotional wellbeing, the results suggest that while introducing a cooling-off period for divorce might allow for preservation of some marriages, a lengthy separation period might also worsen the remarriage prospects of divorced women.

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Do You Get Where I'm Coming From?: Perceived Understanding Buffers Against the Negative Impact of Conflict on Relationship Satisfaction

Amie Gordon & Serena Chen
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Conflict can have damaging effects on relationship health. But is all conflict detrimental? Across 7 studies, we tested the overarching hypothesis that conflict in close relationships is only detrimental when people do not feel their thoughts, feelings, and point of view are understood by their relationship partners. Supporting this, conflict was negatively associated with relationship satisfaction among participants who perceived their romantic partner as less understanding, but not among those who felt more understood by their partners. This was true cross-sectionally (Study 1), experimentally (Studies 2, 3, 6a, and 6b), in daily life (Study 4), and for both members of couples pre- to postconflict conversation in the laboratory (Study 5). The buffering effects of feeling understood could not be explained by people who felt more understood being more understanding themselves, having more general positive perceptions of their partners, fighting about less important or different types of issues, engaging in more pleasant conflict conversations, or being more satisfied with their relationships before the conflict. Perceived understanding was positively associated with conflict resolution, but this did not explain the benefits of feeling understood. Evidence from Studies 6a and 6b suggests that feeling understood during conflict may buffer against reduced relationship satisfaction in part because it strengthens the relationship and signals that one's partner is invested. Overall, these studies suggest that perceived understanding may be a critical buffer against the potentially detrimental effects of relationship conflict.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Monday, November 16, 2015

Philosophers and welders

The Value of Postsecondary Credentials in the Labor Market: An Experimental Study

David Deming et al.
American Economic Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
We study employers' perceptions of the value of postsecondary degrees using a field experiment. We randomly assign the sector and selectivity of institutions to fictitious resumes and apply to real vacancy postings for business and health jobs on a large online job board. We find that a business bachelor's degree from a for-profit "online" institution is 22 percent less likely to receive a callback than one from a nonselective public institution. In applications to health jobs, we find that for-profit credentials receive fewer callbacks unless the job requires an external quality indicator such as an occupational license.

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The Long-Run Effects of Universal Pre-K on Criminal Activity

Alexander Smith
U.S. Military Academy Working Paper, September 2015

Abstract:
While Pre-K enrollment has expanded rapidly over the last decade, there is little evidence to date regarding the long-run effects of statewide universal preschool programs, only studies of programs targeted at more at-risk populations (e.g. Head Start and Perry Preschool) that are often more resource-intensive. I estimate the impact of Oklahoma’s universal prekindergarten program (UPK) on later criminal activity, an outcome that accounted for 40-65% of the large estimated long-run benefits of Perry Preschool. I assemble data on criminal charges in the state of Oklahoma and identify the effect of UPK availability using a regression discontinuity design that leverages the birthdate cutoff for UPK in the program’s first year of implementation. I find significant negative impacts of UPK availability on the likelihood that black children are later charged with a crime at age 18 or 19 of 7 percentage points for misdemeanors and 5 percentage points for felonies. I find no impact on the likelihood of later charges for white children. The results suggest that universal Pre-K can, like more targeted programs, have dramatic effects on later criminal outcomes, but these effects are concentrated among more at-risk populations.

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State appropriations and undergraduate borrowing: More debt, less money

Samuel Raisanen & Kathryn Birkeland
Applied Economics Letters, forthcoming

Abstract:
When state appropriations decrease, public universities respond by raising tuition. Students borrow more in response to both tuition increases and appropriation cuts. This article investigates the feedback of how borrowing and tuition influence state appropriations. Using a panel data set of 450 four-year public universities from 1999 to 2012, we employ three-stage least squares techniques to control for the endogeneity between state appropriations, tuition and student borrowing. There is evidence that state policy-makers respond to increases in university tuition and student borrowing by decreasing future appropriation levels. After controlling for the effect of appropriations on tuition and borrowing, a one-dollar increase in student borrowing reduces state appropriations per student by $0.06, and a one-dollar increase in tuition results in a decrease of $0.45 in state appropriations per student. When universities increase tuition for reasons other than a reduction in state appropriations, policy-makers respond with a significant cut in future appropriations which could signal an incentive strategy.

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Research Design Meets Market Design: Using Centralized Assignment for Impact Evaluation

Atila Abdulkadiroglu et al.
NBER Working Paper, November 2015

Abstract:
A growing number of school districts use centralized assignment mechanisms to allocate school seats in a manner that reflects student preferences and school priorities. Many of these assignment schemes use lotteries to ration seats when schools are oversubscribed. The resulting random assignment opens the door to credible quasi-experimental research designs for the evaluation of school effectiveness. Yet the question of how best to separate the lottery-generated variation integral to such designs from non-random preferences and priorities remains open. This paper develops easily-implemented empirical strategies that fully exploit the random assignment embedded in the widely-used deferred acceptance mechanism and its variants. We use these methods to evaluate charter schools in Denver, one of a growing number of districts that integrate charter and traditional public schools in a unified assignment system. The resulting estimates show large achievement gains from charter school attendance. Our approach expands the scope for impact evaluation by maximizing the number of students and schools that can be studied using random assignment. We also show how to use DA to identify causal effects in models with multiple school sectors.

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Left Behind? Citizen Responsiveness to Government Performance Information

John Holbein
American Political Science Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
Do citizens respond to policy-based information signals about government performance? Using multiple big datasets — which link for the first time large-scale school administrative records and individual validated voting behavior — I show that citizens react to exogenous school failure signals provided by No Child Left Behind. These signals cause a noticeable increase in turnout in local school board elections and increase the competitiveness of these races. Additionally, I present evidence that school failure signals cause citizens to vote with their feet by exiting failing schools: suggesting that exit plays an underexplored role in democratic accountability. However, performance signals elicit a response unequally, with failure primarily mobilizing high propensity citizens and encouraging exit among those who are white, affluent, and more likely to vote. Hence, while performance signals spur a response, they do so only for a select few, leaving many others behind.

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The Gift of Time? School Starting Age and Mental Health

Thomas Dee & Hans Henrik Sievertsen
NBER Working Paper, October 2015

Abstract:
In many developed countries, children now begin their formal schooling at an older age. However, a growing body of empirical studies provides little evidence that such schooling delays improve educational and economic outcomes. This study presents new evidence on whether school starting age influences student outcomes by relying on linked Danish survey and register data that include several distinct, widely used, and validated measures of mental health that are reported out-of-school among similarly aged children. We estimate the causal effects of delayed school enrollment using a "fuzzy" regression-discontinuity design based on exact dates of birth and the fact that, in Denmark, children typically enroll in school during the calendar year in which they turn six. We find that a one-year delay in the start of school dramatically reduces inattention/hyperactivity at age 7 (effect size = -0.7), a measure of self regulation with strong negative links to student achievement. We also find that this large and targeted effect persists at age 11. However, the estimated effects of school starting age on other mental-health constructs, which have weaker links to subsequent student achievement, are smaller and less persistent.

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A Quality-Preserving Increase in Four-Year College Attendance

Robert Archibald, David Feldman & Peter McHenry
Journal of Human Capital, Fall 2015, Pages 265-297

Abstract:
We use the National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972 and the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 data sets to evaluate changes in the college matching process. Rising attendance rates at 4-year institutions have not decreased average preparedness of college goers or of college graduates, and further attendance gains are possible before diminishing returns set in. We use multinomial logit models to demonstrate that measures of likely success (grade point average) became more predictive of college attendance over time, while other student characteristics such as race and parents’ education became less predictive. Our evidence suggests that schools have become better at sorting while students have efficiently responded to changes in the return to higher education.

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Catching Cheating Students

Steven Levitt & Ming-Jen Lin
NBER Working Paper, October 2015

Abstract:
We develop a simple algorithm for detecting exam cheating between students who copy off one another’s exam. When this algorithm is applied to exams in a general science course at a top university, we find strong evidence of cheating by at least 10 percent of the students. Students studying together cannot explain our findings. Matching incorrect answers prove to be a stronger indicator of cheating than matching correct answers. When seating locations are randomly assigned, and monitoring is increased, cheating virtually disappears.

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How Well Aligned Are Textbooks to the Common Core Standards in Mathematics?

Morgan Polikoff
American Educational Research Journal, December 2015, Pages 1185-1211

Abstract:
Research has identified a number of problems limiting the implementation of content standards in the classroom. Curriculum materials may be among the most important influences on teachers’ instruction. As new standards roll out, there is skepticism about the alignment of “Common Core–aligned” curriculum materials to the standards. This analysis is the first to investigate claims of alignment in the context of fourth-grade mathematics using the only widely used alignment tool capable of estimating the alignment of curriculum materials with the standards. The results indicate substantial areas of misalignment; in particular, the textbooks studied systematically overemphasize procedures and memorization relative to the standards, among other weaknesses. The findings challenge publishers’ alignment claims and motivate further research on curriculum alignment.

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Ignorance Is Bliss: Information Sources and Attitudes About School Choices in New Orleans

Celeste Lay
Urban Affairs Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans eliminated default neighborhood schools and began to require parents to choose a school for their child. There are many new schools and a new enrollment process, making accurate and comprehensive information essential. Is one’s information source related to satisfaction in their choices? Psychological theories suggest that more information may not always be better; people can be overwhelmed and actually make suboptimal choices. I show that a greater reliance on comprehensive sources is related to less confidence that one’s child got into their top choice school, while those parents who use shortcuts, such as social networks and/or school advertising, are more satisfied that they made the right choice. Information sources are not, however, related to the likelihood of enrolling one’s child in a high performing school. Rather, the school performance score is predicted by race and socioeconomic class.

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Evaluating Public Programs with Close Substitutes: The Case of Head Start

Patrick Kline & Christopher Walters
NBER Working Paper, October 2015

Abstract:
This paper empirically evaluates the cost-effectiveness of Head Start, the largest early-childhood education program in the United States. Using data from the Head Start Impact Study (HSIS), we show that Head Start draws roughly a third of its participants from competing preschool programs that receive public funds. This both attenuates measured experimental impacts on test scores and reduces the program's net budgetary costs. A calibration exercise indicates that accounting for the public savings associated with reduced enrollment in other subsidized preschools substantially increases estimates of Head Start's rate of return, defined as the after-tax lifetime earnings generated by an extra dollar of public spending. Control function estimation of a semi-parametric selection model reveals substantial heterogeneity in Head Start's test score impacts with respect to counterfactual care alternatives as well as observed and unobserved child characteristics. Head Start is about as effective at raising test scores as competing preschools and its impacts are greater on children from families less likely to participate in the program. Expanding Head Start to new populations is therefore likely to boost the program's rate of return, provided that the proposed technology for increasing enrollment is not too costly.

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What makes education positional? Institutions, overeducation and the competition for jobs

Valentina Di Stasio, Thijs Bol & Herman Van de Werfhorst
Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, forthcoming

Abstract:
We compare three theoretical models for the relationship between schooling and labor market outcomes. On the one hand, the job competition model, which views education as a positional good with relative value on the labor market; on the other hand, the human capital and the social closure models, which view the value of education as absolute but differ in their expectations about returns to years of education above what required for the job. We analyze European countries using data from the European Social Survey (2010), and investigate the incidence of overeducation and the returns to years of overeducation in order to distinguish between the three theoretical models. We then relate these theoretical perspectives to institutions of the education system and of labor market coordination. Our empirical results indicate that education is more likely to function as a positional good in countries with weakly developed vocational education systems, where individuals have an incentive to acquire higher levels of education in order to stay ahead of the labor queue. However, no convincing support was found for the relationship we hypothesized between wage coordination and returns to years of overeducation.

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A New Measure of College Quality to Study the Effects of College Sector and Peers on Degree Attainment

Jonathan Smith & Kevin Stange
NBER Working Paper, October 2015

Abstract:
Students starting at a two-year college are much less likely to graduate with a college degree than similar students who start at a four-year college but the sources of this attainment gap are largely unexplained. In this paper we simultaneously investigate the attainment consequences of sector choice and peer quality among over 3 million recent high school graduates. This analysis is enabled by data on all PSAT test-takers between 2004 and 2006 from which we develop a novel measure of peer ability for most two-year and four-year colleges in the United States - the average PSAT of enrolled students. We document substantial variation in average peer quality at two-year colleges across and within states and non-trivial overlap across sectors, neither of which has previously been documented. We find that half the gap in bachelor’s attainment rates between students who start at two-year versus four-year institutions is explained by differences in peers, leaving room for structural barriers to transferring between institutions to also play an important role. Also, having better peers is associated with higher attainment in both sectors, though its effects are quite a bit larger in the four-year sector. Thus, the allocation of students between and within sectors, some of which is driven by state policy decisions, has important consequences for the educational attainment of the nation’s workforce.

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What about the Non-Completers? The Labor Market Returns to Progress in Community College

Clive Belfield, Marc Scott & Matthew Zeidenberg
Economics of Education Review, December 2015, Pages 142–156

Abstract:
Despite copious research on the labor market returns to college, very little has adequately modeled the pathways of non-completers or compared their outcomes with those of award-holders. In this paper, we present a novel method for linking non-completers with completers according to their program of study. We use this method to calculate the labor market returns to programs of study, accounting for those who obtain an award and those who do not. We use a large dataset of community college transcripts matched with earnings data. We find that different classification systems – by algorithm, intent or goal – yield very different enrollment patterns across programs. Importantly, these classifications make a substantial difference to earnings patterns. Returns vary by program completion and by program non-completion. Consequently, combining completers and non-completers yields a new pattern of returns. We find that the variance in returns by subject of study is reduced when we combine data on completers and non-completers. In particular, the large returns to nursing awards are substantially lower when we account for the probability of completing a nursing program and the returns to not completing a nursing program. In addition, progression per se does not lead to higher earnings for non-completers: progressing further in a nursing program is no different from accumulating general college credits. If validated, these findings have significant implications for policies on program choice and on student retention policies.

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Math at home adds up to achievement in school

Talia Berkowitz et al.
Science, 9 October 2015, Pages 196-198

Abstract:
With a randomized field experiment of 587 first-graders, we tested an educational intervention designed to promote interactions between children and parents relating to math. We predicted that increasing math activities at home would increase children’s math achievement at school. We tested this prediction by having children engage in math story time with their parents. The intervention, short numerical story problems delivered through an iPad app, significantly increased children’s math achievement across the school year compared to a reading (control) group, especially for children whose parents are habitually anxious about math. Brief, high-quality parent-child interactions about math at home help break the intergenerational cycle of low math achievement.

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The Returns to Higher Education for Marginal Students: Evidence from Colorado Welfare Recipients

Lesley Turner
Economics of Education Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
I estimate the impact of community college credits and credentials on the labor market outcomes of several cohorts of current and former welfare recipients. Using an individual fixed effects approach, I find that women who attend college after entering welfare experience large and significant earnings gains. These returns are driven by credential receipt and when sub-associate’s degree credentials are unobservable, positive earnings gains will be inappropriately attributed to college attendance alone.

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Intended College Attendance: Evidence from an Experiment on College Returns and Costs

Zachary Bleemer & Basit Zafar
Federal Reserve Working Paper, September 2015

Abstract:
Despite a robust college premium, college attendance rates in the United States have remained stagnant and exhibit a substantial socioeconomic gradient. We focus on information gaps — specifically, incomplete information about college benefits and costs — as a potential explanation for these patterns. For this purpose, we conduct an information experiment about college returns and costs embedded within a representative survey of U.S. household heads. We show that, at the baseline, perceptions of college costs and benefits are severely and systematically biased: 75 percent of our respondents underestimate college returns (defined as the average earnings of a college graduate relative to a non-college worker in the population), while 61 percent report net public college costs that exceed actual net costs. There is also substantial heterogeneity in beliefs, with evidence of larger biases among lower-income and non-college households. We also elicit respondents’ intended likelihood of their pre-college-age children attending college, and the likelihood of respondents recommending college for a friend’s child, the two main behavioral outcomes of interest. Respondents are then randomly exposed to one of two information treatments, which respectively provide objective information about “college returns” and “college costs.” We find a significant impact on intended college attendance for individuals in the returns experiment: intended college attendance expectations increase by about 0.2 of the standard deviation in the baseline likelihood. Importantly, as a result of the college returns information intervention, gaps in intended college attendance by household income or parents’ education persist but decline by 20 to 30 percent. Notably, the effect of information persists in the medium-term, two months after the intervention. We find, however, no impact of the cost information treatment on college attendance expectations.

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Housing Booms and Busts, Labor Market Opportunities, and College Attendance

Kerwin Kofi Charles, Erik Hurst & Matthew Notowidigdo
NBER Working Paper, September 2015

Abstract:
We study how the recent national housing boom and bust affected college enrollment and attainment during the 2000s. We exploit cross-city variation in local housing booms, and use a variety of data sources and empirical methods, including models that use plausibly exogenous variation in housing demand identified by sharp structural breaks in local housing prices. We show that the housing boom improved labor market opportunities for young men and women, thereby raising their opportunity cost of college-going. According to standard human capital theories, this effect should have reduced college-going overall, but especially for persons at the margin of attendance. We find that the boom substantially lowered college enrollment and attainment for both young men and women, with the effects concentrated at two-year colleges. We find that the positive employment and wage effects of the boom were generally undone during the bust. However, attainment for the particular cohorts of college-going age during the housing boom remain persistently low after the end of the bust, suggesting that reduced educational attainment may be an enduring effect of the housing cycle. We estimate that the housing boom explains roughly 30 percent of the recent slowdown in college attainment.

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Does Salient Financial Information Affect Academic Performance and Borrowing Behavior Among College Students?

Maximilian Schmeiser, Christiana Stoddard & Carly Urban
Federal Reserve Working Paper, September 2015

Abstract:
The rising incidence and amount of student loan debt among young adults has significant implications for their economic well-being. However, students are generally provided little information on how to finance postsecondary education and how much to borrow. This paper studies how information can change student loan behavior among college students. We exploit a natural experiment across two large public colleges in which some students at one institution above a specific loan amount received "Know Your Debt" letters with information about their student loan debt, suggestions on how to manage their debt, and incentivized offers for one-on-one financial counseling, while the remainder did not. Using a difference-in-difference-in-difference strategy and a rich administrative dataset on individual-level academic records and financial aid packages, we find that students receiving the letters borrow an average of $1,360 less in the subsequent semester -- a reduction of one-third. This reduction in borrowing does not adversely affect academic performance. In fact, those who receive the intervention take more credits and have higher GPAs in the subsequent semester.

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Achievement Effects of Individual Performance Incentives in a Teacher Merit Pay Tournament

Margaret Brehm, Scott Imberman & Michael Lovenheim
NBER Working Paper, September 2015

Abstract:
This paper estimates the effect of the individual incentives teachers face in a teacher-based value-added merit pay tournament on student achievement. We first build an illustrative model in which teachers use proximity to an award threshold to update their information about their own ability, which informs their expected marginal return to effort. The model predicts that those who are closer to an award cutoff in a given year will increase effort and thus will have higher achievement gains in the subsequent year. However, if value-added scores are too noisy, teachers will not respond. Using administrative teacher-student linked data, we test this prediction employing a method akin to the bunching estimator of Saez (2010). Specifically, we examine whether teachers who are proximal to a cutoff in one year exhibit excess gains in test score growth in the next year. Our results show consistent evidence that teachers do not respond to the incentives they face under this program. In line with our model, we argue that a likely reason for the lack of responsiveness is that the value-added measures used to determine awards were too noisy to provide informative feedback about one's ability. This highlights the importance of value-added precision in the design of incentive pay systems.

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Classroom Age Composition and the School Readiness of 3- and 4-Year-Olds in the Head Start Program

Arya Ansari, Kelly Purtell & Elizabeth Gershoff
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
The federal Head Start program, designed to improve the school readiness of children from low-income families, often serves 3- and 4-year-olds in the same classrooms. Given the developmental differences between 3- and 4-year-olds, it is unknown whether educating them together in the same classrooms benefits one group, both, or neither. Using data from the Family and Child Experiences Survey 2009 cohort, this study used a peer-effects framework to examine the associations between mixed-age classrooms and the school readiness of a nationally representative sample of newly enrolled 3-year-olds (n = 1,644) and 4-year-olds (n = 1,185) in the Head Start program. Results revealed that 4-year-olds displayed fewer gains in academic skills during the preschool year when they were enrolled in classrooms with more 3-year-olds; effect sizes corresponded to 4 to 5 months of academic development. In contrast, classroom age composition was not consistently associated with 3-year-olds’ school readiness.

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Where Does Voucher Funding Go? How Large-Scale Subsidy Programs Affect Private-School Revenue, Enrollment, and Prices

Daniel Hungerman & Kevin Rinz
NBER Working Paper, October 2015

Abstract:
Using a new dataset constructed from nonprofit tax-returns, this paper explores how vouchers and other large-scale programs subsidizing private school attendance have affected the fiscal outcomes of private schools and the affordability of a private education. We find that subsidy programs created a large transfer of public funding to private schools, suggesting that every dollar of funding increased revenue by a dollar or more. Turning to the incidence of subsidies and the impact of subsidies on enrollment, our findings depend on the type of program introduced, with programs restricting eligibility to certain groups of students creating relatively large enrollment gains and small price increases compared to unrestricted programs. We calculate elasticities of demand and supply for private schools, and discuss welfare effects.

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Helping Head Start Parents Promote Their Children's Kindergarten Adjustment: The Research-Based Developmentally Informed Parent Program

Karen Bierman et al.
Child Development, November/December 2015, Pages 1877–1891

Abstract:
Head Start enhances school readiness during preschool, but effects diminish after children transition into kindergarten. Designed to promote sustained gains, the Research-based Developmentally Informed (REDI) Parent program (REDI-P) provided home visits before and after the kindergarten transition, giving parents evidence-based learning games, interactive stories, and guided pretend play to use with their children. To evaluate impact, two hundred 4-year-old children in Head Start REDI classrooms were randomly assigned to REDI-P or a comparison condition (mail-home math games). Beyond the effects of the classroom program, REDI-P promoted significant improvements in child literacy skills, academic performance, self-directed learning, and social competence, demonstrating the utility of the approach in promoting gains in cognitive and social-emotional skills evident after the transition into kindergarten.

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The Effect of Multi-Track Year-Round Academic Calendars on Property Values: Evidence from district imposed school calendar conversions

Brooks Depro & Kathryn Rouse
Economics of Education Review, December 2015, Pages 157–171

Abstract:
Multi-track year-round school calendars allow a school to make continual use of its building over a calendar year by rotating students on separate tracks. Homeowners may a have a preference or distaste for year-round calendars for a variety of reasons, ranging from perceived academic effects to family home and work life disruptions. If households do favor one school calendar relative to another, they may have to pay an additional amount to move to a house with a different calendar. In this paper, we test this possibility. We exploit a natural experiment setting to examine how multi-track year-round calendars influence Wake County, NC residential housing prices. School assignment zone and school fixed effects are included to control for unobserved neighborhood and school characteristics that might be correlated with year-round calendars and housing prices. Our preferred estimates suggest year-round calendars are associated with a statistically significant price penalty of between one and a half to two percent.

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School Segregation, Charter Schools, and Access to Quality Education

John Logan & Julia Burdick-Will
Journal of Urban Affairs, forthcoming

Abstract:
Race, class, neighborhood, and school quality are all highly interrelated in the U.S. educational system. In the last decade a new factor has come into play, the option of attending a charter school. We offer a comprehensive analysis of the disparities among public schools attended by white, black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American children in 2010–2011, including all districts in which charter schools existed. We compare schools in terms of poverty concentration, racial composition, and standardized test scores, and we also examine how attending a charter or non-charter school affects these differences. Black and Hispanic (and to a lesser extent Native American and Asian) students attend elementary and high schools with higher rates of poverty than white students. Especially for whites and Asians, attending a charter school means lower exposure to poverty. Children's own race and the poverty and charter status of their schools affect the test scores and racial isolation of schools that children attend in complex combinations. Most intriguing, attending a charter school means attending a better-performing school in high-poverty areas but a lower performing school in low-poverty areas. Yet even in the best case the positive effect of attending a charter school only slightly offsets the disadvantages of black and Hispanic students.

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Do Charter Schools Crowd Out Private School Enrollment? Evidence from Michigan

Rajashri Chakrabarti & Joydeep Roy
Journal of Urban Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Charter schools have been one of the most important dimensions of recent school reform measures in the United States. Though there have been numerous studies on the effects of charter schools, these have mostly been confined to analyzing their effects on student achievement, student demographic composition, parental satisfaction, and the competitive effects on traditional public schools. This study departs from the existing literature by investigating the effect of charter schools on enrollment in private schools. To investigate this issue empirically, we focus on the state of Michigan where there was a significant spread of charter schools in the nineties. Using data on private school enrollment from biennial NCES private school surveys, and using a fixed effects as well as an instrumental variables strategy that exploits exogenous variation from Michigan charter law, we investigate the effect of charter school penetration on private school enrollment. We do not find any causal evidence that charter schools led to a decline in enrollment in the private schools. Further, we do not find evidence that enrollments in Catholic or other religious schools were affected differently from those in non-religious private schools. Our results are robust to a variety of sensitivity checks.

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Applicant Extracurricular Involvement Predicts Creativity Better Than Traditional Admissions Factors

Katherine Cotter, Jean Pretz & James Kaufman
Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, forthcoming

Abstract:
Researchers are challenging college admissions to shift practices to become more inclusive and to consider a range of abilities, including creativity. Admissions counselors must examine limited information and then maximize what they learn. How can admissions counselors use existing data to identify creative students? Research suggests that creative individuals tend to be more involved in extracurricular activities and that those involved in creative activities tend to be more involved in extracurricular activities overall. We expected that extracurricular involvement would predict creativity better than traditional admissions factors alone. Participants were 232 applicants to an undergraduate program recruited by the admissions office who completed online supplements. Data on SAT scores, high school rank, and extracurricular involvement were obtained from admissions files. Creativity was measured through a divergent thinking task, a self-assessment, a rated photo caption, and a rated essay about a student’s dream project. Involvement in art clubs significantly predicted caption creativity, explaining twice as much variance as traditional factors alone. Arts club membership, but not traditional admissions factors, explained a significant amount of variance in self-reported performance creativity (i.e., writing, acting, music, etc.). Curiously, intensity of participation in academic clubs was negatively related to divergent thinking creativity. These findings demonstrate that extracurricular activities reveal valuable information about applicants’ creativity that traditional admission factors do not.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Sunday, November 15, 2015

I mind

Functional connectome fingerprinting: Identifying individuals using patterns of brain connectivity

Emily Finn et al.
Nature Neuroscience, November 2015, Pages 1664-1671

Abstract:
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies typically collapse data from many subjects, but brain functional organization varies between individuals. Here we establish that this individual variability is both robust and reliable, using data from the Human Connectome Project to demonstrate that functional connectivity profiles act as a 'fingerprint' that can accurately identify subjects from a large group. Identification was successful across scan sessions and even between task and rest conditions, indicating that an individual's connectivity profile is intrinsic, and can be used to distinguish that individual regardless of how the brain is engaged during imaging. Characteristic connectivity patterns were distributed throughout the brain, but the frontoparietal network emerged as most distinctive. Furthermore, we show that connectivity profiles predict levels of fluid intelligence: the same networks that were most discriminating of individuals were also most predictive of cognitive behavior. Results indicate the potential to draw inferences about single subjects on the basis of functional connectivity fMRI.

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Physical Activity Benefits Creativity: Squeezing a Ball for Enhancing Creativity

JongHan Kim
Creativity Research Journal, Fall 2015, Pages 328-333

Abstract:
Studies in embodied cognition show that physical sensations, such as touch and movement, influence cognitive processes. Two studies were conducted to test whether squeezing a soft versus a hard ball facilitates different types of creativity. Squeezing a malleable ball would increase divergent creativity by catalyzing multiple or alternative ideas, whereas squeezing a hard ball would increase convergent creativity by facilitating only a single correct response. In Study 1, participants squeezed either a hard ball or a soft ball while completing the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT), a divergent creativity test. The same procedures were used in Study 2 except that the TTCT was replaced with the Remote Associates Test, a convergent creativity test. Participants who squeezed a soft ball generated more original and diverse ideas (Study 1), whereas participants who squeezed a hard ball were better at coming up with a single correct answer (Study 2).

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Pupil Diameter Tracks the Exploration-Exploitation Trade-off during Analogical Reasoning and Explains Individual Differences in Fluid Intelligence

Taylor Hayes & Alexander Petrov
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, forthcoming

Abstract:
The ability to adaptively shift between exploration and exploitation control states is critical for optimizing behavioral performance. Converging evidence from primate electrophysiology and computational neural modeling has suggested that this ability may be mediated by the broad noradrenergic projections emanating from the locus coeruleus (LC) [Aston-Jones, G., & Cohen, J. D. An integrative theory of locus coeruleus-norepinephrine function: Adaptive gain and optimal performance. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 28, 403-450, 2005]. There is also evidence that pupil diameter covaries systematically with LC activity. Although imperfect and indirect, this link makes pupillometry a useful tool for studying the locus coeruleus noradrenergic system in humans and in high-level tasks. Here, we present a novel paradigm that examines how the pupillary response during exploration and exploitation covaries with individual differences in fluid intelligence during analogical reasoning on Raven's Advanced Progressive Matrices. Pupillometry was used as a noninvasive proxy for LC activity, and concurrent think-aloud verbal protocols were used to identify exploratory and exploitative solution periods. This novel combination of pupillometry and verbal protocols from 40 participants revealed a decrease in pupil diameter during exploitation and an increase during exploration. The temporal dynamics of the pupillary response was characterized by a steep increase during the transition to exploratory periods, sustained dilation for many seconds afterward, and followed by gradual return to baseline. Moreover, the individual differences in the relative magnitude of pupillary dilation accounted for 16% of the variance in Advanced Progressive Matrices scores. Assuming that pupil diameter is a valid index of LC activity, these results establish promising preliminary connections between the literature on locus coeruleus noradrenergic-mediated cognitive control and the literature on analogical reasoning and fluid intelligence.

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Language and Memory Improvements following tDCS of Left Lateral Prefrontal Cortex

Erika Hussey et al.
PLoS ONE, November 2015

Abstract:
Recent research demonstrates that performance on executive-control measures can be enhanced through brain stimulation of lateral prefrontal regions. Separate psycholinguistic work emphasizes the importance of left lateral prefrontal cortex executive-control resources during sentence processing, especially when readers must override early, incorrect interpretations when faced with temporary ambiguity. Using transcranial direct current stimulation, we tested whether stimulation of left lateral prefrontal cortex had discriminate effects on language and memory conditions that rely on executive-control (versus cases with minimal executive-control demands, even in the face of task difficulty). Participants were randomly assigned to receive Anodal, Cathodal, or Sham stimulation of left lateral prefrontal cortex while they (1) processed ambiguous and unambiguous sentences in a word-by-word self-paced reading task and (2) performed an n-back memory task that, on some trials, contained interference lure items reputed to require executive-control. Across both tasks, we parametrically manipulated executive-control demands and task difficulty. Our results revealed that the Anodal group outperformed the remaining groups on (1) the sentence processing conditions requiring executive-control, and (2) only the most complex n-back conditions, regardless of executive-control demands. Together, these findings add to the mounting evidence for the selective causal role of left lateral prefrontal cortex for executive-control tasks in the language domain. Moreover, we provide the first evidence suggesting that brain stimulation is a promising method to mitigate processing demands encountered during online sentence processing.

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Stimulating Creativity: Modulation of Convergent and Divergent Thinking by Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS)

Sharon Zmigrod, Lorenza Colzato & Bernhard Hommel
Creativity Research Journal, Fall 2015, Pages 353-360

Abstract:
Creativity has been conceptualized as involving 2 distinct components; divergent thinking, the search for multiple solutions to a single problem, and convergent thinking, the quest for a single solution either through an analytical process or the experience of insight. Studies have demonstrated that these abilities can be improved by cognitive stimulation, mood, and meditation. This investigation examined whether convergent and divergent thinking can be enhanced by noninvasive transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). In different sessions, participants received bilateral stimulation over the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex-DLPFC (Experiment1) and over the posterior parietal cortex-PPC (Experiment2), while performing the Compound Remote Associative task (CRA) assessing convergent thinking and the Alternative Uses Task (AUT) assessing divergent thinking. In Experiment1, anodal-left cathodal-right stimulation over the DLPFC significantly enhanced CRA performance. In Experiment2, stimulations over the PPC significantly increased insight solutions and decreased analytical solutions compared to the no stimulation condition. These findings provide direct evidence for the role of the left DLPFC in convergent and divergent thinking and a mediating role of the PPC in problem-solving behavior, presumably through attentional processes. From a methodological perspective, brain stimulation can be used as a tool to modulate and to explore components of creativity.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 08:00:00 AM


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