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Friday, January 24, 2014

On the ballot

Estimating Habit Formation in Voting

Thomas Fujiwara, Kyle Meng & Tom Vogl
NBER Working Paper, December 2013

Abstract:
We estimate habit formation in voting - the effect of past on current turnout - by exploiting transitory voting cost shocks. Using county-level data on U.S. presidential elections from 1952-2012, we find that precipitation on current and past election days reduces voter turnout. Our estimates imply that a 1-point decrease in past turnout lowers current turnout by 0.7-0.9 points. Consistent with a dynamic extension of the Downsian framework, current precipitation has stronger effects following previous rainy elections. Further analyses suggest that this habit formation operates by reinforcing the intrinsic satisfaction associated with voting.

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Reconsidering the "Palin Effect" in the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election

Edward Burmila & Josh Ryan
Political Research Quarterly, December 2013, Pages 952-959

Abstract:
"The 'Palin Effect' in the U.S. 2008 Presidential Election" analyzes the effect of Sarah Palin on presidential vote choice. Two of the substantive conclusions are (1) Palin cost McCain votes among independents and moderates, and (2) Palin had the largest effect on vote choice of any recent vice-presidential nominee. Our analysis shows that the data do not support these findings. We find that respondent evaluations of Palin have a positive effect on McCain vote choice, even among independents and moderates, and Palin's effect on the election outcome is comparable with ten of the last fifteen vice-presidential nominees.

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Gendered Campaign Strategies in U.S. Elections

Jason Harold Windett
American Politics Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
This research examines the impact of gender on gubernatorial and senate candidates' issue prioritization. I argue that women running for statewide office prefer to play against gender stereotypes in their issue priorities at the outset of their campaigns, so they do not appear as a strictly "female" candidate. Instead, women will only run a "gendered campaign" in response to male candidates doing so first. I put forth a dynamic theory of gendered interaction that asserts that male candidates facing female opponents will attempt to force women to campaign on stereotypical "feminine issues." The campaign interaction between male and female candidates for office puts women in a precarious situation in which they must decide whether to respond to their male opponent or continue their "masculine" campaign strategy. I demonstrate that the gender of candidates directly influences the types of issues and strategies that each candidate pursues on the campaign trail.

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From an Honored Value to a Harmful Choice: How Presidential Candidates Have Discussed Electoral Participation (1948-2012)

Sharon Jarvis & Soo-Hye Han
American Behavioral Scientist, December 2013, Pages 1650-1662

Abstract:
This article analyzes how Barack Obama and Mitt Romney discussed electoral participation in campaign 2012 and compares their statements to those made by presidential nominees over the past 16 elections. Findings show that, overall, presidential candidates have depicted voting as a choice (not a right, duty, or value) and as harmful and divisive (as opposed to helpful or honorable). The data also reveal significant differences over the years, as candidates in the 1950s and 1960s were more likely to talk about voting as a value than transpires today and as candidates prior to the 1980s largely refrained from describing voting as a negative act. The article concludes by addressing how the campaign process has sharpened and politicized discussions of electoral participation over the years and what these shifts might mean for the contemporary campaign context.

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Broadband Internet and Political Behavior: Evidence from the United States

Ahmed Jaber
Cornell Working Paper, November 2013

Abstract:
This paper examines the effect of the introduction of broadband Internet on voting and campaign donations in the 2000s. To identify the effect of broadband, I use an instrumental variable strategy based on geographic terrain attributes which affected the cost of building cable infrastructure. I find that broadband has led to a large increase in voter turnout in presidential elections, as well as an increase in the total amount donated to political campaigns. Consistent with the hypothesis that Democrats have a stronger online presence, I also find a large effect on Democratic vote share in presidential elections. Evidence suggests the existence of both direct and indirect channels for the broadband effect. In particular, I find that broadband availability is associated with greater political knowledge, an increase in online (but not offline) donations, and the promotion of liberal values.

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Alien Abduction and Voter Impersonation in the 2012 US General Election: Evidence from a Survey List Experiment

John Ahlquist, Kenneth Mayer & Simon Jackman
University of Wisconsin Working Paper, October 2013

Abstract:
State legislatures around the United States have entertained - and passed - laws requiring voters to present various forms of state-issued identification in order to cast ballots. Proponents argue that such laws protect the integrity of the electoral process, sometimes claiming that fraudulent voting is widespread. We report the results of a survey list experiment fielded immediately after the 2012 US general election designed to measure the prevalence of one specific type of voter fraud most relevant to voter ID laws: voter impersonation. We find no evidence of voter impersonation, even in the states most contested in the Presidential campaign. We also find that states with strict voter ID laws and states with same-day voter registration are no different from others in the (non) existence of voter impersonation. To address possible "lower bound" problems with our conclusions we run both parallel and subsequent experiments to calibrate our findings. These ancillary list experiments indicate that the lower bound on the population reporting voter impersonation is nearly identical with the proportion of the population reporting abduction by extraterrestrials. Based on this evidence, strict voter ID requirements address a problem that did not exist in the 2012 US election. Effort designed to improve American election infrastructure and security would be better directed toward other initiatives.

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The Role of Call Quality in Voter Mobilization: Implications for Electoral Outcomes and Experimental Design

Christopher Mann & Casey Klofstad
Political Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
We demonstrate the centrality of high quality personal interactions for successfully overcoming the collective action problem of voter mobilization, and highlight the need for attention to treatment quality before making substantive inferences from field experiments. We exploit natural variation in the quality of voter mobilization phone calls across call centers to examine how call quality affects voter mobilization in a large-scale field experiment conducted during the 2010 Election. High quality calls (from call centers specializing in calling related to politics) produced significant increases in turnout. In contrast, low quality calls (from multi-purpose commercial call centers) failed to increase turnout. Furthermore, we offer caution about using higher contact rates as an indication of delivery quality. Our treatment conditions with higher contact rates had no impact on turnout, suggesting an unfavorable trade-off between quantity of contacts and call quality.

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The Resurgent American Voter, 1996-2012

Michael Martinez
University of Florida Working Paper, December 2013

Abstract:
Sparked both by normative concerns and a classic empirical puzzle, scholars developed and tested a variety of explanations for the turnout decline in the US between 1960 and 1988. More than a decade of research eventually showed that the sources of the decline in turnout were multifaceted: it stemmed in various degrees from declines in partisanship, political efficacy and newspaper reading, mobilization, and changes in the age distribution in the electorate with lower rates of participation in younger cohorts. Turnout slid to 52.8% of the voting eligible population in 1992, surged briefly in 1992 to 58.1%, then bottomed out at 51.7% in 1996. Since then, turnout increased in three consecutive presidential elections, reaching an estimated 61.4% in 2008, but dropped back to 58.2% in 2012. Using pooled cross-sectional data from the American National Election Studies, I find that demographic and electoral reform variables account for little of the increase in turnout since 1996, while perceptions of partisan differences and renewed importance of voter mobilization do account for substantial portions of the increase.

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Forecasting Elections with Non-Representative Polls

Wei Wang et al.
Columbia University Working Paper, September 2013

Abstract:
Election forecasts have traditionally been based on representative polls, in which randomly sampled individuals are asked for whom they intend to vote. While representative polling has historically proven to be quite effective, it comes at considerable financial and time costs. Moreover, as response rates have declined over the past several decades, the statistical benefits of representative sampling have diminished. In this paper, we show that with proper statistical adjustment, non-representative polls can be used to generate accurate election forecasts, and often faster and at less expense than traditional survey methods. We demonstrate this approach by creating forecasts from a novel and highly non-representative survey dataset: a series of daily voter intention polls for the 2012 presidential election conducted on the Xbox gaming platform. After adjusting the Xbox responses via multilevel regression and poststratification, we obtain estimates in line with forecasts from leading poll analysts, which were based on aggregating hundreds of traditional polls conducted during the election cycle. We conclude by arguing that non-representative polling shows promise not only for election forecasting, but also for measuring public opinion on a broad range of social, economic and cultural issues.

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Pretty Faces, Marginal Races: Predicting Election Outcomes using Trait Assessments of British Parliamentary Candidates

Kyle Mattes & Caitlin Milazzo
Electoral Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
The conventional wisdom on Western European politics leads us to believe that all the "action" lies with parties, because the unified parliamentary delegations in Western Europe draw voters' attention to parties' policies and images. Though British elections take place under a single member district plurality system, British parties, like their continental counterparts, are highly centralised and feature disciplined parliamentary delegations. Despite the strong ties between British candidates and their parties, we demonstrate that perceptions of candidates' personal attributes can be used to predict general election outcomes. Using a computer-based survey where subjects are asked to evaluate real British candidates using only rapidly determined first impressions of facial images, we successfully predict outcomes from the 2010 general election. Moreover, we find that perceptions of candidates' relative attractiveness are particularly useful for predicting outcomes in marginal constituencies.

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The neuroeconomics of voting: Neural evidence of different sources of utility in voting

Ivo Bischoff et al.
Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics, December 2013, Pages 215-235

Abstract:
Which motives drive the decision of a voter to approve or reject a policy proposal? The Public Choice literature distinguishes between instrumental and expressive voting motives. We investigated the importance of these motives by analyzing the patterns of neural activity in different voting situations. We conducted a functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment that investigates neural activation at the moment of voting and used the altruism scale proposed by Tankersley, Stowe, and Huettell (2007) to differentiate between altruists and nonaltruists. Nonaltruists showed neural activation patterns that were consistent with expressive voting motives. Among nonaltruists, we also observed activation patterns that point at egoistic instrumental motives. Both results are in line with the corresponding Public Choice literature. On the other hand, we found no evidence for expressive voting motives among altruists. Their neural activation pattern was generally much less conclusive with respect to the underlying motives.

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Strategic Voting in a U.S. Senate Election

Seth McKee & M.V. Hood
Political Behavior, December 2013, Pages 729-751

Abstract:
Due to the strength of its two-party system, the opportunity for voters to strategically defect in favor of third party or independent candidates is rare in high profile American elections. Indeed, it has been almost a century since a third party candidate finished better than one of the major party presidential nominees - in 1912 Bull Moose Progressive Teddy Roosevelt finished ahead of Republican William H. Taft. In this study we examine strategic voting in a U.S. Senate election where the independent candidate also finished above one of the major party nominees. In the 2010 Florida Senate contest the sitting Governor Charlie Crist shed his Republican label in order to compete in the general election since he was certain to lose in the GOP primary to Marco Rubio, the eventual winner. Crist finished second by taking a substantial share of votes away from the third place candidate, Democrat Kendrick Meek. Because this type of contest seldom occurs, in American politics there is scant empirical research on strategic voting under these conditions. We employ an unobtrusive survey of a large sample of registered Floridians in order to assess the likelihood of strategic voting among respondents who preferred the Democrat Kendrick Meek. For voters who sincerely preferred the Democrat, a significant portion defected in favor of the Independent Charlie Crist if they expected him to finish ahead of Meek. Additionally, we find that after a major news story broke, in which former President Bill Clinton allegedly advised Meek to drop out of the race so that Crist might win, respondents surveyed after this event were more likely to vote strategically in favor of Crist. Our study clearly demonstrates the importance of political context. Under the appropriate conditions, we find a high likelihood of strategic voting.

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Do Voting Rights Notification Laws Increase Ex-Felon Turnout?

Marc Meredith & Michael Morse
ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, January 2014, Pages 220-249

Abstract:
Previous research documents widespread confusion about who can and cannot vote among people who have come into contact with the criminal justice system. This research, and considerable activism drawing attention to the issue, has spurred a number of state legislatures to pass laws requiring the states to notify ex-felons about their voting rights. The purpose of this article is to better understand the policy processes that produce these notification laws and to assess whether the laws affect ex-felons' registration and turnout rates. Data on discharges from the correctional system and voter files are merged from three states that have recently passed notification laws: New Mexico, New York, and North Carolina. Our findings show little evidence of an increase in ex-felon registration or turnout after notification laws are implemented.

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The Elements of Political Persuasion: Content, Charisma, and Cue

Torun Dewan, Macartan Humphreys & Daniel Rubenson
Economic Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
Political campaigns employ multiple strategies to persuade voters to support them. We analyse the effects of the components of these strategies using data from a field experiment that randomly assigned canvassers to districts, as well as messaging and endorsement conditions. We find evidence for a strong overall campaign effect and show effects for both message-based and endorsement-based campaigns. However, we find little evidence that canvassers varied according to their persuasive ability or that endorser identity matters. Overall the results suggest a surprisingly muted role for idiosyncratic features of prospective persuaders.

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Madam Senator: Growth in Women's State Senate Representation, 1978-2010

Matthew Painter
Sociological Spectrum, November/December 2013, Pages 584-603

Abstract:
Using a dataset of women state senators from all 50 states (1978-2010) and latent growth curve analysis, this article tests two longitudinal theories of the growth of women's political representation over time. Gender salience theory posits that women increase their political representation when they explicitly campaign on their gender. Political climate theory argues that women fare better electorally during periods when domestic issues predominate as opposed to international issues. Results provide support for gender salience theory, but the evidence is too mixed for political climate theory to provide a plausible explanation for the growth in women's state-level political representation. By political party, results suggest that Democratic women were generally advantaged over Republican women; however, Republican women exclusively benefited in the 1992 and 2010 elections. This article concludes with an assessment of the two longitudinal theories and what they may tell us more broadly about women in politics.

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Does Sex Encourage Commitment? The Impact of Candidate Choices on the Time-to-Decision

Sarah Fulton & Heather Ondercin
Political Behavior, December 2013, Pages 665-686

Abstract:
The sex of a congressional candidate can influence voting choices, but does candidate sex also influence the timing of those choices? This paper examines that question in light of other information that voters weigh in making their decisions. Using a national survey from the 2006 election, and a unique dataset of political informants, we find that the sex of the candidate conveys ideological information that permits voters to make swifter judgments. Additionally, it reduces the probability of a delayed decision by supplying information helpful to the choice between candidates - even in the absence of ideology. In fact, the impact of candidate sex rivals other variables that are traditionally used to explain the time-to-decision. Consistent with the literature on sex stereotypes, we find a stronger influence for Democratic than Republican female candidates.

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Funny, Ha-Ha: The Impact of User-Generated Political Satire on Political Attitudes

Leslie Rill & Christopher Cardiel
American Behavioral Scientist, December 2013, Pages 1738-1756

Abstract:
The 2012 election season provided increased opportunities for the collaboration among citizens, new media, and democracy. The "social media election" saw a rise in online user-generated political content posted to YouTube. These videos, often satirical in nature, were viewed by millions, making the potential impacts from this new form of political communication deserving of inquiry. Using experimental design, this study explored the relationship between user-generated political satire and "normative" political attitudes. The results revealed that viewing satirical representations of political candidates did not affect individuals' level of political cynicism or political information efficacy; however, perceptions of candidate credibility and favorability were altered.

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Compulsory versus voluntary voting: An experimental study

Sourav Bhattacharya, John Duffy & Sun-Tak Kim
Games and Economic Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
We report on an experiment comparing compulsory and voluntary voting institutions in a voting game with common preferences. Rational choice theory predicts sharp differences in voter behavior between these two institutions. If voting is compulsory, then voters may find it rational to vote insincerely, i.e., against their private information. If voting is voluntary so that abstention is allowed, then sincere voting in accordance with a voter?s private information is always rational while participation may become strategic. We find strong support for these theoretical predictions in our experimental data. Moreover, voters adapt their decisions to the voting institution in place in such a way as to make the group decision accuracy differences between the two voting institutions negligible. The latter finding may serve to rationalize the co-existence of compulsory and voluntary voting institutions in nature.

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The Looks of a Leader: Competent and Trustworthy, but Not Dominant

Fang Fang Chen, Yiming Jing & Jeong Min Lee
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, March 2014, Pages 27-33

Abstract:
The aim of this paper is twofold: to uncover the conditions under which trustworthiness influences social judgment and to examine the possible double edged sword nature of social dominance in deciding social outcomes. In three studies, participants evaluated the personality traits of political candidates based on inferences from their faces. Perceptions of these traits were then used to predict actual election results and the subjective voting support of the participants. Trustworthiness increased the chances of winning actual elections, but only for those who were judged as competent. The expected double-edged sword effect of dominance was found: on the one hand, dominance predicted winning of actual elections indirectly via competence; on the other hand, dominance predicted losing elections directly once its positive connection with competence was controlled. A different picture emerged with respect to the subjective voting support of the participants: all traits predicted the likelihood of winning.

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The Minnesota Multi-Investigator 2012 Presidential Election Panel Study

Philip Chen et al.
Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, forthcoming

Abstract:
In an analysis of the 2012 presidential election, we sought to optimize two key desiderata in capturing campaign effects: establishing causality and measuring dynamic (i.e., intraindividual) change over time. We first report the results of three survey-experiments embedded within a three-wave survey panel design. Each experiment was focused on a substantive area of electoral concern. Our results suggest, among other findings, that retrospective evaluations exerted a stronger influence on vote choice in the referendum (vs. the choice) frame; that among White respondents, racial animosity strongly predicted economic evaluations for knowledgeable Republicans who were led to believe that positive economic developments were the result of actions taken by the Obama administration; and that information-seeking bias is a contingent phenomenon, one depending jointly on the opportunity and motivation to selectively tune in to congenial information. Lastly, we demonstrate how the panel design also allowed us to (1) examine the reliability and stability of a variety of election-related implicit attitudes, and to assess their impact on candidate evaluation; and (2) determine the causal impact of perceptions of candidates' traits and respondents' policy preferences on electoral preferences, and vice versa, an area of research long plagued by concerns about endogeneity.

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Political knowledge reduces hindsight memory distortion in election judgements

Dustin Calvillo & Abraham Rutchick
Journal of Cognitive Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Hindsight bias occurs when outcome information biases judgements. Previous studies have demonstrated hindsight bias in judgements of election outcomes, but few studies have examined the role of domain knowledge in hindsight bias. The present study examined the relationship between political knowledge and hindsight bias using both memory and hypothetical designs. Participants answered political knowledge questions and some made predictions before the 2012 US Presidential Election. After the election, participants were provided with the outcomes. Those who made predictions were asked to recall them, whereas those who did not make predictions were asked what they would have predicted. Both groups demonstrated hindsight bias: their recalled or hypothetical predictions were closer to the election results than participants' actual predictions. Political knowledge was negatively correlated with hindsight bias in recalled predictions but not significantly correlated with hindsight bias in hypothetical predictions. These findings help elucidate the role of domain knowledge in hindsight bias.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Parental guidance suggested

“That’s Not Just Beautiful — That’s Incredibly Beautiful!”: The Adverse Impact of Inflated Praise on Children With Low Self-Esteem

Eddie Brummelman et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
In current Western society, children are often lavished with inflated praise (e.g., “You made an incredibly beautiful drawing!”). Inflated praise is often given in an attempt to raise children’s self-esteem. An experiment (Study 1) and naturalistic study (Study 2) found that adults are especially inclined to give inflated praise to children with low self-esteem. This inclination may backfire, however. Inflated praise might convey to children that they should continue to meet very high standards — a message that might discourage children with low self-esteem from taking on challenges. Another experiment (Study 3) found that inflated praise decreases challenge seeking in children with low self-esteem and has the opposite effect on children with high self-esteem. These findings show that inflated praise, although well intended, may cause children with low self-esteem to avoid crucial learning experiences.

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The Motherhood Penalty at Midlife: Long-Term Effects of Children on Women's Careers

Joan Kahn, Javier García-Manglano & Suzanne Bianchi
Journal of Marriage and Family, February 2014, Pages 56–72

Abstract:
The authors build on prior research on the motherhood wage penalty to examine whether the career penalties faced by mothers change over the life course. They broaden the focus beyond wages to also consider labor force participation and occupational status and use data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Young Women to model the changing impact of motherhood as women age from their 20s to their 50s (n = 4,730). They found that motherhood is “costly” to women's careers, but the effects on all 3 labor force outcomes attenuate at older ages. Children reduce women's labor force participation, but this effect is strongest when women are younger and is eliminated by the 40s and 50s. Mothers also seem able to regain ground in terms of occupational status. The wage penalty for having children varies by parity, persisting across the life course only for women who have 3 or more children.

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Housing Affordability And Investments In Children

Sandra Newman & Scott Holupka
Journal of Housing Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper uses the 2004-2009 Consumer Expenditure Surveys to examine whether housing affordability affects expenditures on children in families with income at or below 200 percent of the poverty line. After accounting for selection using propensity score matching, estimating effects using nonlinear GLM, and performing sensitivity tests, we find that child enrichment expenditures have an inverted U-shaped relationship with housing cost burden, our measure of housing affordability. This result is similar to the concave pattern of the association between housing cost burden and measures of children’s cognitive achievement in reading and math. Thus, child expenditures, particularly for enrichment, may be one mechanism by which housing affordability affects children’s cognitive outcomes. The inflection point for enrichment spending occurs at roughly the 30 percent housing cost-to-income ratio, the longstanding rule-of-thumb for defining housing affordability.

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Evaluative and hedonic wellbeing among those with and without children at home

Angus Deaton & Arthur Stone
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Abstract:
We document and interpret differences in life evaluation and in hedonic experience between those who live with children and those who do not; most previous literature has concluded that those with children have worse lives. For a sample of 1.8 million Americans of all ages, and without controls for other circumstances, we find little difference in subjective wellbeing between people with and without children. Among those most likely to be parents, life evaluation and all hedonic experiences except stress are markedly better among those living with a child. However, within this group, people who live with children are more likely to be married, richer, better educated, more religious, and healthier, all of which have well-documented positive associations with evaluative and hedonic wellbeing. With statistical controls for these background factors, the presence of a child has a small negative association with life evaluation, although it is associated with more of both positive and negative hedonics. These patterns are replicated in the English-speaking countries of the world, but not in other regions. We argue that the causal effect of children on parental wellbeing, which is the target for most of the literature, is not well defined. Instead, we interpret our rich-country results within a theory of children and wellbeing in which adults sort into parenthood according to their preferences. In poor, high-fertility countries, we find evidence that at least some people have children even when it diminishes their personal wellbeing.

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Universal Child Care, Maternal Employment, and Children’s Long-Run Outcomes: Evidence from the U.S. Lanham Act of 1940

Chris Herbst
Arizona State University Working Paper, December 2013

Abstract:
This paper provides a comprehensive analysis of the Lanham Act of 1940, a heavily-subsidized and universal child care program that was administered throughout the U.S. during World War II. I begin by estimating the impact of the Lanham Act on maternal employment using 1940 and 1950 Census data in a difference-in-difference-in-differences framework. The evidence suggests that mothers’ paid work increased substantially following the introduction of the child care program. I then study the implications of the Lanham Act for children’s long-run outcomes related to educational attainment, family formation, and labor market participation. Using Census data from 1970 to 1990, I assess well-being in a lifecycle framework by tracking cohorts of treated individuals throughout their prime working years. Results from difference-in-differences models suggest that the Lanham Act had strong and persistent positive effects on well-being, equivalent to a 0.36 standard deviation increase in a summary index of adult outcomes. In addition, a supplementary analysis of distributional effects shows that the benefits of the Lanham Act accrued largely to the most economically disadvantaged adults. Together, these findings shed light on the design of contemporary child care systems that balance the twin goals of increasing parental employment and enhancing child well-being.

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The formation of secure new attachments by children who were maltreated: An observational study of adolescents in foster care

Michelle Joseph et al.
Development and Psychopathology, February 2014, Pages 67-80

Abstract:
Children who were maltreated and enter foster care are at risk for maladjustment and relationship disturbances with foster carers. A popular hypothesis is that prior attachment relationships with abusive birth parents are internalized and carried forward to impair the child's subsequent attachment relationships. However, the empirical base for this model is limited, especially in adolescence. We examined the attachment patterns of 62 adolescents with their birth parents and their foster parents; we compared them to a comparison sample of 50 adolescents in normal-risk families. Attachment was assessed using the Child Attachment Interview; adolescent–parent interaction quality was assessed from direct observation; disruptive behavior symptoms were assessed from multiple informants. Whereas nearly all of the adolescents in foster families exhibited insecure attachments to their birth mothers (90%) and birth fathers (100%), nearly one-half were classified as having a secure attachment with their foster mother (46%) and father (49%); rates of secure attachment toward foster parents did not differ significantly from the rate in comparison families. Within the foster care sample, attachment security to the foster mother was predicted from current observed relationship quality and the duration of current placement. In addition, attachment quality in foster adolescents was associated with fewer disruptive behavior symptoms, and this association was equally strong in foster and comparison families. Our findings demonstrate that there is substantial potential for maltreated children to change and develop subsequent secure attachments in adolescence.

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Does Family Instability Make Girls Fat? Gender Differences Between Instability and Weight

Daphne Hernandez et al.
Journal of Marriage and Family, February 2014, Pages 175–190

Abstract:
Data from the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth and the Young Adult file were used to explore the relationship between the number of family structure transitions experienced from birth to age 18 and weight status in young adulthood. This was done by testing both linear risk and threshold effect models by gender (N = 3,447). The findings suggest that a linear risk approach best describes the relationship between family instability during childhood and weight status in young adulthood. Specifically, the cumulative family structure transitions children experienced from birth to age 18 place females, but not males, at greater risk for being overweight/obese in young adulthood. Sensitivity analyses indicated that cumulative family structure instability — and not formations or dissolutions separately — drove the main results. Birth order did not affect the findings. Increasing children's support systems during times of instability may reduce female children's risk of being overweight/obese as young adults.

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Early Adverse Environments and Genetic Influences on Age at First Sex: Evidence for Gene × Environment Interaction

Marie Carlson, Jane Mendle & Paige Harden
Developmental Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Youth who experience adverse environments in early life initiate sexual activity at a younger age, on average, than those from more advantaged circumstances. Evolutionary theorists have posited that ecological stress precipitates earlier reproductive and sexual onset, but it is unclear how stressful environments interact with genetic influences on age at first sex. Using a sample of 1,244 pairs of twins and non-twin full siblings from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, the present study tested for gene-by-environment interactions (G × E) on age at first sex (AFS). Multivariate interaction models indicated that genetic influences on AFS were suppressed among low-socioeconomic-status (SES) and ethnic-minority compared with higher SES and ethnic-majority youth. Father absence did not uniquely moderate genetic influences on AFS. These results are broadly consistent with previous findings that genetic influences are minimized among individuals whose environments are characterized by elevated risk; however, future research would benefit from samples with larger numbers of individuals at the very low end of the SES spectrum.

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Fostering relations: First sex and marital timings for children raised by kin and non-kin carers

Paula Sheppard et al.
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Kinship fostering is generally preferred to non-kin fostering by policy makers in the U.S. and elsewhere. Researchers and policy makers alike tend to provide several proximate reasons for why this may be, generally neglecting an ultimate evolutionary framework. However, kin selection theory predicts that in the absence of genetically related parents, care from kin will result in the most similar life history outcomes. In low-fertility settings, parents typically favour increased investment in embodied capital and thus delayed reproductive life history strategy. Using archival data from the original Kinsey survey, collected in the U.S. from 1938 to 1963, we used survival analyses to compare the effects of living with kin and non-kin fosterers in childhood on timings of first sex and marriage. Our results support a kin selection hypothesis showing that while fostered children have accelerated life histories compared to children from “intact families”, kin fosterers buffer children from early sexual and reproductive behaviours, compared to children cared for by non-kin.

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Family Learning Environment and Early Literacy: A Comparison of Bilingual and Monolingual Children

Li Feng, Yunwei Gai & Xiaoning Chen
Economics of Education Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
Early research on literacy development usually focuses on children in preschool or kindergarten. Few studies have examined the early literacy of bilingual children. This study examines its relationship with different family learning environments (e.g. book availability), and family learning activities (e.g. reading books, telling stories, and singing songs) of bilingual and monolingual children from 9 months of age to kindergarten entry. The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort was used as the analysis sample. We included 1,200 bilingual children and 5,350 English monolingual children. We uncover that bilingual children generally lag behind in both resources and frequency of family learning activities. Using various decomposition techniques, we show that early reading score differences between bilingual and monolingual children can be explained by differences in resources and early family learning environments.

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The Effects of Paid Family Leave in California on Labor Market Outcomes

Charles Baum & Christopher Ruhm
NBER Working Paper, December 2013

Abstract:
Using data from the 1997 cohort of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY-97), we examine the effects of California’s first in the nation government-mandated paid family leave program (CA-PFL) on mothers’ and fathers’ use of leave during the period surrounding child birth, and on the timing of mothers’ return to work, the probability of eventually returning to pre-childbirth jobs, and subsequent labor market outcomes. Our results show that CA-PFL raised leave-taking by around 2.4 weeks for the average mother and just under one week for the average father. The timing of the increased leave use – immediately after birth for men and around the time that temporary disability insurance benefits are exhausted for women – is consistent with causal effects of CA-PFL. Rights to paid leave are also associated with higher work and employment probabilities for mothers nine to twelve months after birth, possibly because they increase job continuity among those with relatively weak labor force attachments. We also find positive effects of California’s program on hours and weeks of work during their child’s second year of life and possibly also on wages.

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Who Was Helping? The Scope for Female Cooperative Breeding in Early Homo

Adrian Viliami Bell, Katie Hinde & Lesley Newson
PLoS ONE, December 2013

Abstract:
Derived aspects of our human life history, such as short interbirth intervals and altricial newborns, have been attributed to male provisioning of nutrient-rich meat within monogamous relationships. However, many primatologists and anthropologists have questioned the relative importance of pair-bonding and biparental care, pointing to evidence that cooperative breeding better characterizes human reproductive and child-care relationships. We present a mathematical model with empirically-informed parameter ranges showing that natural selection favors cooperation among mothers over a wide range of conditions. In contrast, our analysis provides a far more narrow range of support for selection favoring male coalition-based monogamy over more promiscuous independent males, suggesting that provisioning within monogamous relationships may fall short of explaining the evolution of Homo life history. Rather, broader cooperative networks within and between the sexes provide the primary basis for our unique life history.

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Variation in Associations Between Family Dinners and Adolescent Well-Being

Ann Meier & Kelly Musick
Journal of Marriage and Family, February 2014, Pages 13–23

Abstract:
Empirical evidence and conventional wisdom suggest that family dinners are associated with positive outcomes for youth. Recent research using fixed-effects models as a more stringent test of causality suggests a more limited role of family meals in protecting children from risk. Estimates of average effects, however, may mask important variation in the link between family meals and well-being; in particular, family meals may be more or less helpful based on the quality of family relationships. Using 2 waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (N = 17,977), this study extended recent work to find that family dinners have little benefit when parent–child relationships are weak but contribute to fewer depressive symptoms and less delinquency among adolescents when family relationships are strong. The findings highlight the importance of attending to variation when assessing what helps and what hurts in families.

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Breastfeeding and trajectories of children's cognitive development

Jin Huang et al.
Developmental Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
The aim of this study was to examine the association of breastfeeding practices with the growth trajectories of children's cognitive development. We used data from the Child Development Supplement (CDS) of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) with variables on presence and duration of breastfeeding and standardized test scores obtained during three different panel waves (N = 2681). After adjusting for covariates we found that breastfed children had higher test scores but that breastfed and non-breastfed children had similar growth trajectories in test scores over time. The results indicate that breastfeeding has an important association with test scores, and that subsequent schooling and other experiences during adolescence do not eliminate the breastfeeding gap that appears in very early childhood.

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The Effects of Breastfeeding Exclusivity on Early Childhood Outcomes

Jade Marcus Jenkins & Michael Foster
American Journal of Public Health, February 2014, Pages S128-S135

Objectives: We examined the relationship between breastfeeding exclusivity and duration and children’s health and cognitive outcomes at ages 2 and 4 years.

Methods: We used the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Birth Cohort, a nationally representative sample of 10 700 children born in the United States in 2001. Parent interviews and child assessments were conducted in measurement waves at 9 months, 2 years, 4 years, and in kindergarten, with the focus on ages 2 and 4 years. We employed propensity scores as a means of adjusting for confounding involving observed characteristics.

Results: Outcome analyses using propensity scores showed some small effects of breastfeeding on key outcomes at age 4 years but not at age 2 years. Effects appeared to be concentrated in reading and cognitive outcomes. Overall, we found no consistent evidence for dosage effects of breastfeeding exclusivity. Our sensitivity analyses revealed that a small amount of unobserved confounding could be responsible for the resulting benefits.

Conclusions: Our study revealed little or no effect of breastfeeding exclusivity and duration on key child outcomes.

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Children of surrogate mothers: Psychological well-being, family relationships and experiences of surrogacy

V. Jadva & S. Imrie
Human Reproduction, January 2014, Pages 90-96

Study question: What impact does surrogacy have on the surrogates' own children?

Particiapnts/materials, setting, methods: Participants whose mother had been a surrogate 5–15 years prior to interview and who were aged over 12 years were eligible to take part. Thirty-six participants (14 male and 22 female) aged 12–25 years were interviewed (response rate = 52%). Questionnaires assessing psychological health and family functioning were administered.

Main results and the role of chance: Forty-four per cent (15) of participants' mothers had undergone gestational surrogacy, 39% (14) had used their own egg (genetic surrogacy) and 19% (7) had completed both types of surrogacy. Most surrogates' children (86%, 31) had a positive view of their mother's surrogacy. Forty-seven per cent (17) of children were in contact with the surrogacy child and all reported good relationships with him/her. Forty per cent (14) of children referred to the child as a sibling or half-sibling and this did not differ between genetic and gestational surrogacy. Most children (89%, 32), reported a positive view of family life, with all enjoying spending time with their mother. Mean scores on the questionnaire assessments of psychological health and self-esteem were within the normal range and did not differ by surrogacy type.

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Broadband in the Labor Market: The Impact of Residential High Speed Internet on Married Women's Labor Force Participation

Lisa Dettling
Federal Reserve Working Paper, September 2013

Abstract:
This paper investigates how high-speed home Internet has impacted married women's labor force participation. I estimate the net effect of individual Internet usage on labor supply using an instrumental variables strategy which exploits cross-state variation in supply-side constraints to residential broadband Internet access. Results indicate that married women who use the Internet are more likely to participate in the labor force. The average effects mask substantial heterogeneity and increases in participation are concentrated on women with higher levels of education and children. The results suggest home Internet facilitates work-family balance for highly educated women.

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Proceed With Caution? Parents' Union Dissolution and Children's Educational Achievement

Wendy Sigle-Rushton et al.
Journal of Marriage and Family, February 2014, Pages 161–174

Abstract:
Using high-quality Norwegian register data on 49,879 children from 23,655 families, the authors estimated sibling fixed-effects models to explore whether children who are younger at the time of a parental union dissolution perform less well academically, as measured by their grades at age 16, than their older siblings who have spent more time living with both biological parents. Results from a baseline model suggest a positive age gradient that is consistent with findings in some of the extant family structure literature. Once birth order is taken into account, the gradient reverses. When analyses also control for grade inflation by adding year of birth to the model, only those children who experience a dissolution just prior to receiving their grades appear relatively disadvantaged. The results illustrate the need to specify and interpret sibling fixed-effects model with great care.

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“My Baby & Me”: Effects of an Early, Comprehensive Parenting Intervention on At-Risk Mothers and Their Children

Cathy Guttentag et al.
Developmental Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study examined the efficacy of a multimodule parenting intervention, “My Baby & Me,” that began prenatally and continued until children reached 2.5 years of age. The intervention targeted specific parenting skills designed to alter trajectories of maternal and child development. Of 361 high-risk mothers (193 adolescents, 168 adults) enrolled across 4 states, half were randomly assigned to the high-intensity (HI) home visitation coaching program (55 sessions), and half to a low-intensity (LI) condition that included monthly phone calls from a coach, printed informational materials, and community resource referrals. Videotaped observations of mother–child play were coded at 5 time points for multiple maternal and child behaviors and skills. Compared to mothers in the LI group, mothers in the HI group showed higher levels of contingent responsiveness, higher quality verbal stimulation, and more verbal scaffolding by 30 months, with higher levels of warmth and greater decreases in physical intrusiveness and negativity when their children were 24 months. By 30 months, children in the HI group showed more rapid increases and higher levels of engagement with the environment, expressive language skills, and social engagement, as well as more complex toy play and fewer problem behaviors than those in the LI group. Gains in maternal responsive behaviors mediated the effects of the intervention on child outcomes. Results were comparable for adolescent and adult mothers. A strong theoretical framework, consistent focus on maternal responsiveness, high dosage, and trusting relationships with coaches are thought to explain the positive outcomes.

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Developmental trajectory from early responses to transgressions to future antisocial behavior: Evidence for the role of the parent–child relationship from two longitudinal studies

Sanghag Kim et al.
Development and Psychopathology, February 2014, Pages 93-109

Abstract:
Parent–child relationships are critical in development, but much remains to be learned about the mechanisms of their impact. We examined the early parent–child relationship as a moderator of the developmental trajectory from children's affective and behavioral responses to transgressions to future antisocial, externalizing behavior problems in the Family Study (102 community mothers, fathers, and infants, followed through age 8) and the Play Study (186 low-income, diverse mothers and toddlers, followed for 10 months). The relationship quality was indexed by attachment security in the Family Study and maternal responsiveness in the Play Study. Responses to transgressions (tense discomfort and reparation) were observed in laboratory mishaps wherein children believed they had damaged a valued object. Antisocial outcomes were rated by parents. In both studies, early relationships moderated the future developmental trajectory: diminished tense discomfort predicted more antisocial outcomes, but only in insecure or unresponsive relationships. That risk was defused in secure or responsive relationships. Moderated mediation analyses in the Family Study indicated that the links between diminished tense discomfort and future antisocial behavior in insecure parent–child dyads were mediated by stronger discipline pressure from parents. By indirectly influencing future developmental sequelae, early relationships may increase or decrease the probability that the parent–child dyad will embark on a path toward antisocial outcomes.

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Survival of Offspring who Experience Early Parental Death: Early Life Conditions and Later-Life Mortality

Ken Smith et al.
Social Science & Medicine, forthcoming

Abstract:
We examine the influences of a set of early life conditions (ELCs) on all-cause and cause-specific mortality among elderly individuals, with special attention to one of the most dramatic early events in a child's, adolescent's, or even young adult's life, the death of a parent. The foremost question is, once controlling for prevailing (and potentially confounding) conditions early in life (family history of longevity, paternal characteristics (SES, age at time of birth, sibship size, and religious affiliation)), is a parental death associated with enduring mortality risks after age 65? The years following parental death may initiate new circumstances through which the adverse effects of paternal death operate. Here we consider the offspring's marital status (whether married; whether and when widowed), adult socioeconomic status, fertility, and later life health status. Adult health status is based on the Charlson Co-Morbidity Index, a construct that summarizes nearly all serious illnesses afflicting older individuals that relies on Medicare data. The data are based on linkages between the Utah Population Database and Medicare claims that hold medical diagnoses data. We show that offspring whose parents died when they were children, but especially when they were adolescents/young adults, have modest but significant mortality risks after age 65. What are striking are the weak mediating influences of later-life comorbidities, marital status, fertility and adult socioeconomic status since controls for these do little to alter the overall association. No beneficial effects of the surviving parent's remarriage were detected. Overall, we show the persistence of the effects of early life loss on later-life mortality and indicate the difficulties in addressing challenges at young ages.

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Parental misperception of youngest child size

Jordy Kaufman et al.
Current Biology, 16 December 2013, Pages R1085-R1086

Abstract:
After the birth of a second child many parents report that their first child appears to grow suddenly and substantially larger. Why is this? One possibility is that this is simply a contrast effect that stems from comparing the older sibling to the new baby: “everything looks big compared to a newborn”. But, such reports could be the result of a far more interesting biopsychological phenomenon. More specifically, we hypothesized that human parents are subject to a kind of ‘baby illusion’ under which they routinely misperceive their youngest child as smaller than he/she really is, regardless of the child’s age. Then, when a new baby is born, this illusion ceases and the parent sees, for the first time, the erstwhile youngest at its true size. By this account the apparent growth results from the mismatch of the parent’s now accurate perception with the stored memories of earlier misperceptions. Here we report that the baby illusion is a real and commonly occurring effect that recasts our understanding of how infantile features motivate parental caregiving.

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The impact of attachment on preschool children’s preference for parent-resembling faces — A possible link to sexual imprinting

F. Kocsor, P. Gyuris & T. Bereczkei
Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, December 2013, Pages 171-183

Abstract:
One possible form of how children use parental models in their social relations would be if children showed more willingness to make friends with peers resembling their parents. To test this possibility, composite faces created from 3 to 6 year old children’s photos were transformed to resemble facial images of their parents. The children were asked to show which one of the two same-sex transforms they find more appealing: the familial or the control face. Children who lived in emotional proximity to their parents, and in particular to their mothers, were attracted more to father-resembling faces than to unfamiliar ones. These results suggest that childhood experiences influence face preferences. This bias may affect social decisions later in adulthood, and could help to explain preferences for parent-resembling mates.

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Empirically probing the quantity–quality model

Emla Fitzsimons & Bansi Malde
Journal of Population Economics, January 2014, Pages 33-68

Abstract:
This paper etimates the causal effects of family size on girls’ education in Mexico, exploiting prenatal son preference as a source of random variation in the propensity to have more children within an instrumental variables framework. It finds no evidence of family size having an adverse effect on education. The paper then weakens the identification assumption and allows for the possibility that the instrument is invalid. It finds that the effects of family size on girls’ schooling remain extremely modest at most. Families that are relatively large compensate for reduced per-child resources by increasing maternal labour supply.

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The role of skin conductance level reactivity in the impact of children’s exposure to interparental conflict on their attention performance

Martina Zemp, Guy Bodenmann & Mark Cummings
Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, February 2014, Pages 1–12

Abstract:
Previous research suggests that undermining of attention performance might be one decisive underlying mechanism in the link between marital conflict and children’s academic maladjustment, but little is known about specific risk patterns in this regard. This study examines, in an experimental approach, the role of children’s history of interparental discord and skin conductance level reactivity (SCLR) as moderators in the link between analogue marital conflict exposure and children’s attention. The attention performance of 57 children, aged 11 to 13 years, was assessed prior to and immediately after a 1-min video exposure to either (a) a couple conflict or (b) a neutral condition. SCLR was measured continuously throughout the stimulus presentation. Results indicated that children’s family background of interparental conflict and their physiological reactivity moderated the influence of the experimental stimulus on children’s short-term attention performance. Lower SCLR served as a protective factor in children from high-conflict homes exposed to the couple conflict. The current study advances the body of knowledge in this field by identifying risk patterns for the development of attention problems in children in relation to marital conflict exposure.

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Child Diurnal Cortisol Rhythms, Parenting Quality, and Externalizing Behaviors in Preadolescence

Christina Gamache Martin et al.
Psychoneuroendocrinology, February 2014, Pages 170–180

Abstract:
This study examined a neurobiologically–informed model of the emergence of child externalizing behaviors in an ethnically diverse community sample of 232 9–12 year old children. Replicating extensive prior research, our analyses revealed that parents’ inconsistent discipline and poor quality monitoring were predictive of child externalizing behavior. In addition, poor parental monitoring, but not inconsistent discipline, was associated with children having a significantly flatter morning–to–evening cortisol slope, which was in turn, related to higher levels of externalizing behaviors. An indirect effect of parental monitoring on externalizing behaviors, through child diurnal cortisol rhythms, was also supported. These findings highlight the role of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis and its hormonal end product, cortisol, in the relationship between the caregiving environment and the development of externalizing behaviors.

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The bonnie baby: Experimentally manipulated temperament affects perceived cuteness and motivation to view infant faces

Christine Parsons et al.
Developmental Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Attractive individuals are perceived as having various positive personality qualities. Positive personality qualities can in turn increase perceived attractiveness. However, the developmental origins of the link between attractiveness and personality are not understood. This is important because infant attractiveness (‘cuteness’) elicits caregiving from adults, and infant personality (‘temperament’) shapes caregiving behaviour. While research suggests that adults have more positive attitudes towards cuter infants, it is not known whether positive infant temperament can increase the perception of infant cuteness. We investigated the impact of experimentally established infant temperament on adults' perception of cuteness and desire to view individual faces. At baseline, adults rated the cuteness of, and keypressed to view, images of unfamiliar infants with neutral facial expressions. Training required adults to learn about an infant's ‘temperament’, through repeated pairing of the neutral infant face with positive or negative facial expressions and vocalizations. Adults then re-rated the original neutral infant faces. Post-training, there were significant changes from baseline: infants who were mostly happy were perceived as cuter and adults expended greater effort to view them. Infants who were mostly sad were not perceived as cuter and adults expended less effort to view them. Our results suggest that temperament has clear consequences for how adults perceive ‘bonnie’ babies. Perception of infant cuteness is not based on physical facial features alone, and is modifiable through experience.

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Implementation and Randomized Controlled Trial Evaluation of Universal Postnatal Nurse Home Visiting

Kenneth Dodge et al.
American Journal of Public Health, February 2014, Pages S136-S143

Objectives: We evaluated whether a brief, universal, postnatal nurse home-visiting intervention can be implemented with high penetration and fidelity, prevent emergency health care services, and promote positive parenting by infant age 6 months.

Methods: Durham Connects is a manualized 4- to 7-session program to assess family needs and connect parents with community resources to improve infant health and well-being. All 4777 resident births in Durham, North Carolina, between July 1, 2009, and December 31, 2010, were randomly assigned to intervention and control conditions. A random, representative subset of 549 families received blinded interviews for impact evaluation.

Results: Of all families, 80% initiated participation; adherence was 84%. Hospital records indicated that Durham Connects infants had 59% fewer infant emergency medical care episodes than did control infants. Durham Connects mothers reported fewer infant emergency care episodes and more community connections, more positive parenting behaviors, participation in higher quality out-of-home child care, and lower rates of anxiety than control mothers. Blinded observers reported higher quality home environments for Durham Connects than for control families.

Conclusions: A brief universal home-visiting program implemented with high penetration and fidelity can lower costly emergency medical care and improve family outcomes.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Size matters

Why are educated adults slim — causation or selection?

Paul von Hippel & Jamie Lynch
Social Science & Medicine, forthcoming

Abstract:
More educated adults tend to have lower body mass index (BMI) and a lower risk of overweight and obesity. We contrast two explanations for this education gradient in BMI. One explanation is selection: adolescents with high BMI are less likely to plan for, attend, and complete higher levels of education. An alternative explanation is causation: higher education confers lifelong social, economic, and psychological benefits that help adults to restrain BMI growth. We test the relative importance of selection and causation using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997 cohort (NLSY97), which tracks BMI from adolescence (age 15) through young adulthood (age 29). Ordinal regression models confirm the selection hypothesis that high-BMI adolescents are less likely to complete higher levels of education. Selection has primarily to do with the fact that high-BMI adolescents tend to come from socioeconomically disadvantaged families and tend to have low grades and test scores. Among high-BMI girls there is also some evidence that educational attainment is limited by bullying, pessimism, poor health, and early pregnancy. About half the selection of high-BMI girls out of higher education remains unexplained. Fixed-effects models control for selection and suggest that the causal effect of education on BMI, though significant, accounts for only one-quarter of the mean BMI differences between more and less educated adults at age 29. Among young adults, it appears that most of the education gradient in BMI is due to selection.

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Increasing socioeconomic disparities in adolescent obesity

Carl Frederick, Kaisa Snellman & Robert Putnam
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Abstract:
Recent reports suggest that the rapid growth in youth obesity seen in the 1980s and 1990s has plateaued. We examine changes in obesity among US adolescents aged 12–17 y by socioeconomic background using data from two nationally representative health surveys, the 1988–2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys and the 2003–2011 National Survey of Children’s Health. Although the overall obesity prevalence stabilized, this trend masks a growing socioeconomic gradient: The prevalence of obesity among high-socioeconomic status adolescents has decreased in recent years, whereas the prevalence of obesity among their low-socioeconomic status peers has continued to increase. Additional analyses suggest that socioeconomic differences in the levels of physical activity, as well as differences in calorie intake, may have contributed to the growing obesity gradient.

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Financial Hardship and Obesity

Susan Averett & Julie Smith
Economics & Human Biology, forthcoming

Abstract:
There is a substantial correlation between household debt and health. Individuals with less healthy lifestyles are more likely to hold debt, yet there is little evidence as to whether this is merely a correlation or if financial hardship actually causes obesity. In this paper, we use data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health to test whether financial hardship affects body weight. We divide our sample into two groups: men and women, explore two different types of financial hardship: holding credit card debt and having trouble paying bills, and three outcomes: overweight, obese and Body Mass Index (BMI). We use a variety of econometric techniques: Ordinary Least Squares, Propensity Score Matching, Sibling Fixed Effects, and Instrumental Variables to investigate the relationship that exists between financial hardship and body weight. In addition, we conduct several robustness checks. Although our OLS and PSM results indicate a correlation between financial hardship and body weight these results appear to be largely driven by unobservables. Our IV results suggest that there is no causal relationship between credit card debt and overweight or obesity for either men or women. However, we find suggestive evidence that having trouble paying bills may be a cause of obesity for women.

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Pass the popcorn: “Obesogenic” behaviors and stigma in children's movies

Elizabeth Throop et al.
Obesity, forthcoming

Objective: To determine the prevalence of obesity-related behaviors and attitudes in children's movies.

Design and Methods: A mixed-methods study of the top-grossing G- and PG-rated movies, 2006-2010 (4 per year) was performed. For each 10-min movie segment, the following were assessed: 1) prevalence of key nutrition and physical activity behaviors corresponding to the American Academy of Pediatrics obesity prevention recommendations for families; 2) prevalence of weight stigma; 3) assessment as healthy, unhealthy, or neutral; 3) free-text interpretations of stigma.

Results: Agreement between coders was >85% (Cohen's kappa = 0.7), good for binary responses. Segments with food depicted: exaggerated portion size (26%); unhealthy snacks (51%); sugar-sweetened beverages (19%). Screen time was also prevalent (40% of movies showed television; 35% computer; 20% video games). Unhealthy segments outnumbered healthy segments 2:1. Most (70%) of the movies included weight-related stigmatizing content (e.g., “That fat butt! Flabby arms! And this ridiculous belly!”).

Conclusions: These popular children's movies had significant “obesogenic” content, and most contained weight-based stigma. They present a mixed message to children, promoting unhealthy behaviors while stigmatizing the behaviors' possible effects. Further research is needed to determine the effects of such messages on children.

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Influencing Food Choices by Training: Evidence for Modulation of Frontoparietal Control Signals

Tom Schonberg et al.
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, February 2014, Pages 247-268

Abstract:
To overcome unhealthy behaviors, one must be able to make better choices. Changing food preferences is an important strategy in addressing the obesity epidemic and its accompanying public health risks. However, little is known about how food preferences can be effectively affected and what neural systems support such changes. In this study, we investigated a novel extensive training paradigm where participants chose from specific pairs of palatable junk food items and were rewarded for choosing the items with lower subjective value over higher value ones. In a later probe phase, when choices were made for real consumption, participants chose the lower-valued item more often in the trained pairs compared with untrained pairs. We replicated the behavioral results in an independent sample of participants while they were scanned with fMRI. We found that, as training progressed, there was decreased recruitment of regions that have been previously associated with cognitive control, specifically the left dorsolateral pFC and bilateral parietal cortices. Furthermore, we found that connectivity of the left dorsolateral pFC was greater with primary motor regions by the end of training for choices of lower-valued items that required exertion of self-control, suggesting a formation of a stronger stimulus–response association. These findings demonstrate that it is possible to influence food choices through training and that this training is associated with a decreasing need for top–down frontoparietal control. The results suggest that training paradigms may be promising as the basis for interventions to influence real-world food preferences.

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Spatial Mobility and Environmental Effects on Obesity

Zhenxiang Zhao, Robert Kaestner & Xin Xu
Economics & Human Biology, forthcoming

Abstract:
In this paper, we used a randomized experiment, the Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing Demonstration (MTO) study, to assess whether several environmental attributes are causes of obesity. To accomplish our objective, we linked the MTO data with several external data sources that provide information on potential determinants of obesity including food prices, restaurant and food store availability, physical activity facility availability, the prevalence of crime and population density. We find that the environmental factors we examined are unable to explain the observed decrease in obesity associated with the MTO experiment among low-income minority women.

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Overweight People Have Low Levels of Implicit Weight Bias, but Overweight Nations Have High Levels of Implicit Weight Bias

Maddalena Marini et al.
PLoS ONE, December 2013

Abstract:
Although a greater degree of personal obesity is associated with weaker negativity toward overweight people on both explicit (i.e., self-report) and implicit (i.e., indirect behavioral) measures, overweight people still prefer thin people on average. We investigated whether the national and cultural context – particularly the national prevalence of obesity – predicts attitudes toward overweight people independent of personal identity and weight status. Data were collected from a total sample of 338,121 citizens from 71 nations in 22 different languages on the Project Implicit website (https://implicit.harvard.edu/) between May 2006 and October 2010. We investigated the relationship of the explicit and implicit weight bias with the obesity both at the individual (i.e., across individuals) and national (i.e., across nations) level. Explicit weight bias was assessed with self-reported preference between overweight and thin people; implicit weight bias was measured with the Implicit Association Test (IAT). The national estimates of explicit and implicit weight bias were obtained by averaging the individual scores for each nation. Obesity at the individual level was defined as Body Mass Index (BMI) scores, whereas obesity at the national level was defined as three national weight indicators (national BMI, national percentage of overweight and underweight people) obtained from publicly available databases. Across individuals, greater degree of obesity was associated with weaker implicit negativity toward overweight people compared to thin people. Across nations, in contrast, a greater degree of national obesity was associated with stronger implicit negativity toward overweight people compared to thin people. This result indicates a different relationship between obesity and implicit weight bias at the individual and national levels.

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Body-mass index and mortality risk in US blacks compared to whites

Chandra Jackson et al.
Obesity, forthcoming

Objective: To compare body-mass index (BMI)-related mortality risk in US Blacks vs. Whites as the relationship appears to differ across race/ethnicity groups.

Design and Methods: We pooled cross-sectional surveys of nationally representative samples of 11,934 Blacks and 59,741 Whites aged 35-75 in the National Health Interview Survey from 1997-2002 with no history of cardiovascular disease or cancer. Mortality follow-up was available through 2006. BMI was calculated from self-reported height and weight. We used adjusted Cox regression analysis to adjust for potential confounders.

Results: Over 9 years of follow-up, there were 4,303 deaths (1,205 among never smokers). Age-adjusted mortality rates were higher in Blacks compared to Whites at BMI < 25 kg/m2 and showed no increase at higher levels of BMI. In men, adjusted hazard ratios for all-cause death rose in a similar fashion across upper BMI quintiles in Blacks and Whites; in women, however, BMI was positively associated with mortality risk in Whites, but inversely associated in Blacks (p interaction = 0.01). Racial disparities were amplified in subsidiary analyses that introduced a 12-month lag for mortality or focused on CVD mortality.

Conclusions: The relationship of elevated BMI to mortality appears weaker in US Blacks than in Whites, especially among women.

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Body mass index and mortality among blacks and whites adults in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial

Qian Xiao et al.
Obesity, January 2014, Pages 260–268

Objective: In a large prospective cohort, we examined the relationship of body mass index (BMI) with mortality among blacks and compared the results to those among whites in this population.

Design and Methods: The study population consisted of 7,446 non-Hispanic black and 130,598 white participants, ages 49-78 at enrollment, in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial. BMI at baseline, BMI at age 20, and BMI change were calculated using self-reported and recalled height and weight. Relative risks were stratified by race and sex and adjusted for age, education, marital status, and smoking.

Results: During follow-up, 1,495 black and 18,236 white participants died (mean = 13 years). Clear J-shaped associations between BMI and mortality were observed among white men and women. Among black men and women, the bottoms of these curves were flatter, and increasing risks of death with greater BMI were observed only at higher BMI levels (≥35.0). Associations for BMI at age 20 and BMI change also appeared to be stronger in magnitude in whites versus blacks, and these racial differences appeared to be more pronounced among women.

Conclusion: Our results suggest that BMI may be more weakly associated with mortality in blacks, particularly black women, than in whites.

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Social Relationships and Longitudinal Changes in Body Mass Index and Waist Circumference: The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study

Kiarri Kershaw et al.
American Journal of Epidemiology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Few studies have examined longitudinal associations between close social relationships and weight change. Using data from 3,074 participants in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study who were examined in 2000, 2005, and 2010 (at ages 33–45 years in 2000), we estimated separate logistic regression random-effects models to assess whether patterns of exposure to supportive and negative relationships were associated with 10% or greater increases in body mass index (BMI) (weight (kg)/height (m)2) and waist circumference. Linear regression random-effects modeling was used to examine associations of social relationships with mean changes in BMI and waist circumference. Participants with persistently high supportive relationships were significantly less likely to increase their BMI values and waist circumference by 10% or greater compared with those with persistently low supportive relationships after adjustment for sociodemographic characteristics, baseline BMI/waist circumference, depressive symptoms, and health behaviors. Persistently high negative relationships were associated with higher likelihood of 10% or greater increases in waist circumference (odds ratio = 1.62, 95% confidence interval: 1.15, 2.29) and marginally higher BMI increases (odds ratio = 1.50, 95% confidence interval: 1.00, 2.24) compared with participants with persistently low negative relationships. Increasingly negative relationships were associated with increases in waist circumference only. These findings suggest that supportive relationships may minimize weight gain, and that adverse relationships may contribute to weight gain, particularly via central fat accumulation.

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Accumulation of childhood poverty on young adult overweight or obese status: Race/ethnicity and gender disparities

Daphne Hernandez & Emily Pressler
Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, forthcoming

Background: Childhood poverty is positively correlated with overweight status during childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Repeated exposure of childhood poverty could contribute to race/ethnicity and gender disparities in young adult overweight/obese (OV/OB) weight status.

Methods: Young adults born between 1980 and 1990 who participated in the Young Adult file of the 1979 National Longitudinal Study of Youth were examined (N=3901). The accumulation of childhood poverty is captured via poverty exposure from each survey year from the prenatal year through age 18 years. Body mass index was calculated and categorised into the reference criteria for adults outlined by the Center for Disease Control. Logistic regression models were stratified by race/ethnicity and included a term interacting poverty and gender, along with a number of covariates, including various longitudinal socioeconomic status measures and indicators for the intergenerational transmission of economic disadvantage and body weight.

Results: Reoccurring exposure to childhood poverty was positively related to OV/OB for white, black and Hispanic young adult women and inversely related for white young adult men. A direct relationship between the accumulation of childhood poverty and OV/OB was not found for black and Hispanic young adult men.

Conclusions: Helping families move out of poverty may improve the long-term health status of white, black and Hispanic female children as young adults. Community area interventions designed to change impoverished community environments and assist low-income families reduce family level correlates of poverty may help to reduce the weight disparities observed in young adulthood.

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The association of fast food consumption with poor dietary outcomes and obesity among children: Is it the fast food or the remainder of the diet?

Jennifer Poti, Kiyah Duffey & Barry Popkin
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 2014, Pages 162-171

Background: Although fast food consumption has been linked to adverse health outcomes, the relative contribution of fast food itself compared with the rest of the diet to these associations remains unclear.

Objective: Our objective was to compare the independent associations with overweight/obesity or dietary outcomes for fast food consumption compared with dietary pattern for the remainder of intake.

Design: This cross-sectional analysis studied 4466 US children aged 2–18 y from NHANES 2007–2010. Cluster analysis identified 2 dietary patterns for the non–fast food remainder of intake: Western (50.3%) and Prudent. Multivariable-adjusted linear and logistic regression models examined the association between fast food consumption and dietary pattern for the remainder of intake and estimated their independent associations with overweight/obesity and dietary outcomes.

Results: Half of US children consumed fast food: 39.5% low-consumers (≤30% of energy from fast food) and 10.5% high-consumers (>30% of energy). Consuming a Western dietary pattern for the remainder of intake was more likely among fast food low-consumers (OR: 1.51; 95% CI: 1.24, 1.85) and high-consumers (OR: 2.21; 95% CI: 1.60, 3.05) than among nonconsumers. The remainder of diet was independently associated with overweight/obesity (β: 5.9; 95% CI: 1.3, 10.5), whereas fast food consumption was not, and the remainder of diet had stronger associations with poor total intake than did fast food consumption.

Conclusions: Outside the fast food restaurant, fast food consumers ate Western diets, which might have stronger associations with overweight/obesity and poor dietary outcomes than fast food consumption itself. Our findings support the need for prospective studies and randomized trials to confirm these hypotheses.

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Using Incentives to Encourage Healthy Eating in Children

David Just & Joseph Price
Journal of Human Resources, Fall 2013, Pages 855-872

Abstract:
There is growing interest in the situations in which incentives have a significant effect on positive behaviors, particularly in children. Using a randomized field experiment, we find that incentives increase the fraction of children eating a serving of fruits or vegetables during lunch by 80% and reduces the amount of waste by 33%. At schools with a larger fraction of low-income children, the increase in the fraction of children who eat a serving of fruits or vegetables is even larger, indicating that incentives successfully target the children who are likely to benefit the most from the increased consumption.

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A randomized trial comparing two approaches to weight loss: Differences in weight loss maintenance

Robert Carels et al.
Journal of Health Psychology, February 2014, Pages 296-311

Abstract:
This study compared treatment outcomes for a new weight loss program that emphasized reducing unhealthy relationships with food, body image dissatisfaction, and internalized weight bias (New Perspectives) to a weight loss program that emphasizes environmental modification and habit formation and disruption (Transforming Your Life). Fifty-nine overweight and obese adults (body mass index ≥ 27 kg/m2) were randomly assigned to either a 12-week New Perspectives or Transforming Your Life intervention. Despite equivalent outcomes at the end of treatment, the Transforming Your Life participants were significantly more effective at maintaining their weight loss than New Perspectives participants during the 6-month no-treatment follow-up period.

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Is overweight and class I obesity associated with increased health claims costs?

Truls Østbye et al.
Obesity, forthcoming

Objectives: Evaluate the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and health claims costs over the last decade, assess the strength and nature of the relationship between BMI and costs, and identify comorbidities that may drive any increased costs.

Design and Methods: Using 2001-2011 claims data for employees participating in annual health appraisals, annual paid claims costs were calculated. One-part negative binomial models were fit to evaluate the relationship between BMI and costs, controlling for age, gender, race/ethnicity, and calendar year period.

Results: The relationship between increasing BMI and increasing health claims costs is gradual and starts already at a BMI of 19. The nature of the relationship did not change notably over time. The most important obesity-related comorbidities, expressed as percent increase in cost per BMI unit, was cardiovascular disease (males 10.53, 95% CI [6.46, 14.77], females 4.27, 95% CI [1.25, 7.38), while cardiovascular agents (7.23, 95% CI [6.08, 8.39]) were the most important driver of pharmacy costs.

Conclusion: In contrast to recent evidence relating to effects on mortality, we observed a gradual increase in health claims costs starting at the low end of the recommended BMI range.

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The Stress of Stigma: Exploring the Effect of Weight Stigma on Cortisol Reactivity

Natasha Schvey, Rebecca Puhl & Kelly Brownell
Psychosomatic Medicine, forthcoming

Objective: To determine the physiological impact of exposure to weight stigma by examining alterations in salivary cortisol among lean and overweight women.

Methods: Participants were 123 lean and overweight adult women (mean body mass index = 26.99 [7.91] kg/m2). Participants’ salivary cortisol was assessed both before and after either a weight stigmatizing or a neutral video. Participants completed self-report measures of mood and reactions to the video. Height and weight were obtained at the conclusion of the study.

Results: Participants in the stigmatizing condition exhibited significantly greater cortisol reactivity when compared with those in the neutral condition, irrespective of weight status (Pillai trace = 0.077; F(1,85) = 7.22, p = .009). Lean and overweight women in the stigmatizing condition were equally likely to find the video upsetting and were equally likely to report that they would rather not see obese individuals depicted in a stigmatizing manner in the media.

Conclusions: Exposure to weight-stigmatizing stimuli was associated with greater cortisol reactivity among lean and overweight women. These findings highlight the potentially harmful physiological consequences of exposure to weight stigma.

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Increased Scalp Hair Cortisol Concentrations in Obese Children

Margriet Veldhorst et al.
Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, January 2014, Pages 285-290

Context: Pathologically increased cortisol exposure induces obesity, but it is not known whether relatively high cortisol within the physiological range is related to childhood obesity.

Objective: The aim of the study was to compare hair cortisol concentrations between obese and normal-weight children.

Design: We performed an observational case-control study.

Participants: Twenty obese children (body mass index-SD score [BMI-SDS] > 2.3) and 20 age- and sex-matched normal-weight children (BMI-SDS < 1.1) aged 8–12 years were recruited.

Main Outcome Measures: Scalp hair samples from the posterior vertex were collected, and hair cortisol concentrations were measured using ELISA. Body weight, height, and waist circumference were measured. From the obese children, additional data on blood pressure and blood lipid concentrations were collected.

Results: In both groups, five boys and 15 girls were included; their mean age was 10.8 ± 1.3 vs 10.8 ± 1.2 years (obese vs normal weight; not significant). Body weight, BMI, BMI-SDS, and waist circumference were higher in the obese children compared with the normal-weight children (69.8 ± 17.2 vs 35.5 ± 7.2 kg; 29.6 ± 4.9 vs 16.4 ± 1.6 kg/m2; 3.4 ± 0.5 vs −0.2 ± 0.8 SDS; 94 ± 13 vs 62 ± 6 cm; P < .001 all). Hair cortisol concentration was higher in obese than normal-weight children (median [interquartile range], 25 [17, 32] vs 17 [13, 21] pg/mg; P < .05).

Conclusions: Hair cortisol concentration, a measure for long-term cortisol exposure, was higher in obese children than normal-weight children. This suggests long-term activation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis in obese children and may provide a novel target for treatment of obesity in children.

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Implicit and explicit weight bias in a national sample of 4732 medical students: The medical student CHANGES study

Sean Phelan et al.
Obesity, forthcoming

Objective: To examine the magnitude of explicit and implicit weight biases compared to biases against other groups; and identify student factors predicting bias in a large national sample of medical students.

Design and Methods: A web-based survey was completed by 4732 1st year medical students from 49 medical schools as part of a longitudinal study of medical education. The survey included a validated measure of implicit weight bias, the implicit association test, and 2 measures of explicit bias: a feeling thermometer and the anti-fat attitudes test.

Results: A majority of students exhibited implicit (74%) and explicit (67%) weight bias. Implicit weight bias scores were comparable to reported bias against racial minorities. Explicit attitudes were more negative toward obese people than toward racial minorities, gays, lesbians, and poor people. In multivariate regression models, implicit and explicit weight bias was predicted by lower BMI, male sex, and non-Black race. Either implicit or explicit bias was also predicted by age, SES, country of birth, and specialty choice.

Conclusions: Implicit and explicit weight bias is common among 1st year medical students, and varies across student factors. Future research should assess implications of biases and test interventions to reduce their impact.

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Portion size me: Plate-size induced consumption norms and win-win solutions for reducing food intake and waste

Brian Wansink & Koert van Ittersum
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, December 2013, Pages 320-332

Abstract:
Research on the self-serving of food has empirically ignored the role that visual consumption norms play in determining how much food we serve on different sized dinnerware. We contend that dinnerware provides a visual anchor of an appropriate fill-level, which in turn, serves as a consumption norm (Study 1). The trouble with these dinnerware-suggested consumption norms is that they vary directly with dinnerware size — Study 2 shows Chinese buffet diners with large plates served 52% more, ate 45% more, and wasted 135% more food than those with smaller plates. Moreover, education does not appear effective in reducing such biases. Even a 60-min, interactive, multimedia warning on the dangers of using large plates had seemingly no impact on 209 health conference attendees, who subsequently served nearly twice as much food when given a large buffet plate 2 hr later (Study 3). These findings suggest that people may have a visual plate-fill level — perhaps 70% full — that they anchor on when determining the appropriate consumption norm and serving themselves. Study 4 suggests that the Delboeuf illusion offers an explanation why people do not fully adjust away from this fill-level anchor and continue to be biased across a large range of dishware sizes. These findings have surprisingly wide-ranging win–win implications for the welfare of consumers as well as for food service managers, restaurateurs, packaged goods managers, and public policy officials.

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The Effect of Prices on Nutrition: Comparing the Impact of Product- and Nutrient-Specific Taxes

Matthew Harding & Michael Lovenheim
NBER Working Paper, January 2014

Abstract:
This paper provides an analysis of the role of prices in determining food purchases and nutrition using very detailed transaction-level observations for a large, nationally-representative sample of US consumers over the period 2002-2007. Using product- specific nutritional information, we develop a new method of partitioning the product space into relevant nutritional clusters that define a set of nutritionally-bundled goods, which parsimoniously characterize consumer choice sets. We then estimate a large utility-derived demand system over this joint product-nutrient space that allows us to calculate price and expenditure elasticities. Using our structural demand estimates, we simulate the role of product taxes on soda, sugar-sweetened beverages, packaged meals, and snacks, and nutrient taxes on fat, salt, and sugar. We find that a 20% nutrient tax has a significantly larger impact on nutrition than an equivalent product tax, due to the fact that these are broader-based taxes. However, the costs of these taxes in terms of consumer utility are not higher. A sugar tax in particular is a powerful tool to induce healthier nutritive bundles among consumers.

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Life Years Lost Associated with Obesity-Related Diseases for U.S. Non-Smoking Adults

Su-Hsin Chang, Lisa Pollack & Graham Colditz
PLoS ONE, June 2013

Abstract:
The objectives of this paper are to predict life years lost associated with obesity-related diseases (ORDs) for U.S. non-smoking adults, and to examine the relationship between those ORDs and mortality. Data from the National Health Interview Survey, 1997–2000, were used. We employed mixed proportional hazard models to estimate the association between those ORDs and mortality and used simulations to project life years lost associated with the ORDs. We found that obesity-attributable comorbidities are associated with large decreases in life years and increases in mortality rates. The life years lost associated with ORDs is more marked for younger adults than older adults, for blacks than whites, for males than females, and for the more obese than the less obese. Using U.S. non-smoking adults aged 40 to 49 years as an example to illustrate percentage of the life years lost associated with ORDs, we found that the mean life years lost associated with ORDs for U.S. non-smoking black males aged 40 to 49 years with a body mass index above 40 kg/m2 was 5.43 years, which translates to a 7.5% reduction in total life years. White males of the same age range and same degree of obesity lost 5.23 life years on average – a 6.8% reduction in total life years, followed by black females (5.04 years, a 6.5% reduction in life years), and white females (4.7 years, a 5.8% reduction in life years). Overall, ORDs increased chances of dying and lessened life years by 0.2 to 11.7 years depending on gender, race, BMI classification, and age.

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The Neighborhood Energy Balance Equation: Does Neighborhood Food Retail Environment + Physical Activity Environment = Obesity? The CARDIA Study

Janne Boone-Heinonen et al.
PLoS ONE, December 2013

Background: Recent obesity prevention initiatives focus on healthy neighborhood design, but most research examines neighborhood food retail and physical activity (PA) environments in isolation. We estimated joint, interactive, and cumulative impacts of neighborhood food retail and PA environment characteristics on body mass index (BMI) throughout early adulthood.

Methods and Findings: We used cohort data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study [n=4,092; Year 7 (24-42 years, 1992-1993) followed over 5 exams through Year 25 (2010-2011); 12,921 person-exam observations], with linked time-varying geographic information system-derived neighborhood environment measures. Using regression with fixed effects for individuals, we modeled time-lagged BMI as a function of food and PA resource density (counts per population) and neighborhood development intensity (a composite density score). We controlled for neighborhood poverty, individual-level sociodemographics, and BMI in the prior exam; and included significant interactions between neighborhood measures and by sex. Using model coefficients, we simulated BMI reductions in response to single and combined neighborhood improvements. Simulated increase in supermarket density (from 25th to 75th percentile) predicted inter-exam reduction in BMI of 0.09 kg/m2 [estimate (95% CI): -0.09 (-0.16, -0.02)]. Increasing commercial PA facility density predicted BMI reductions up to 0.22 kg/m2 in men, with variation across other neighborhood features [estimate (95% CI) range: -0.14 (-0.29, 0.01) to -0.22 (-0.37, -0.08)]. Simultaneous increases in supermarket and commercial PA facility density predicted inter-exam BMI reductions up to 0.31 kg/m2 in men [estimate (95% CI) range: -0.23 (-0.39, -0.06) to -0.31 (-0.47, -0.15)] but not women. Reduced fast food restaurant and convenience store density and increased public PA facility density and neighborhood development intensity did not predict reductions in BMI.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that improvements in neighborhood food retail or PA environments may accumulate to reduce BMI, but some neighborhood changes may be less beneficial to women.

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Demand for food-away-from-home: A multiple-discrete–continuous extreme value model

Timothy Richards & Lisa Mancino
European Review of Agricultural Economics, February 2014, Pages 111-133

Abstract:
Policymakers have suggested the use of taxes to raise the relative cost of buying fast food. Yet, little is known of the structure of demand for food-away-from-home (FAFH) in general. This study provides estimates of the price-elasticity of demand for four different types of FAFH using a new data set from NPD, Inc. and an econometric approach that accounts for the multiple-discrete–continuous nature of FAFH demand. We find that cross-price elasticities of demand are small, so consumers are unwilling to substitute between food-at-home and any type of FAFH or among types of FAFH. Therefore, taxing fast food may be effective in reducing the number of fast food visits and shifting consumption to at-home meals.

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Using crowdsourcing to compare temporal, social temporal, and probability discounting among obese and non-obese individuals

Warren Bickel et al.
Appetite, forthcoming

Abstract:
Previous research comparing obese and non-obese samples on the delayed discounting procedure has produced mixed results. The aim of the current study was to clarify these discrepant findings by comparing a variety of temporal discounting measures in a large sample of internet users (n = 1163) obtained from a crowdsourcing service, Amazon Mechanical Turk (AMT). Measures of temporal, social–temporal (a combination of standard and social temporal), and probability discounting were obtained. Significant differences were obtained on all discounting measures except probability discounting, but the obtained effect sizes were small. These data suggest that larger-N studies will be more likely to detect differences between obese and non-obese samples, and may afford the opportunity, in future studies, to decompose a large obese sample into different subgroups to examine the effect of other relevant measures, such as the reinforcing value of food, on discounting.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Here and there

Does Travel Broaden the Mind? Breadth of Foreign Experiences Increases Generalized Trust

Jiyin Cao, Adam Galinsky & William Maddux
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Five studies examined the effect of breadth and depth of foreign experiences on generalized trust. Study 1 found that the breadth (number of countries traveled) but not the depth (amount of time spent traveling) of foreign travel experiences predicted trust behavior in a decision-making game. Studies 2 and 3 established a causal effect on generalized trust by experimentally manipulating a focus on the breadth versus depth of foreign experiences. Study 4 used a longitudinal design to establish that broad foreign travel experiences increased generalized trust. Study 5 explored the underlying processes and found that a focus on the differences rather than the similarities among the countries visited was critical in producing greater generalized trust. Across five studies, using various methods (correlational, lab experiment, and longitudinal), samples (United States and Chinese) and operationalizations (trust game and generalized trust scale), we found a robust relationship between the breadth of foreign travel experiences and generalized trust.

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Individualism and the cultural roots of management practices

André van Hoorn
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, forthcoming

Abstract:
We study the cultural foundations of management practices, which are increasingly recognized as important determinants of firm performance. This research closes the loop on two developing literatures, one seeking cultural explanations for economic development and the other seeking to account for differences in firm performance from differences in how firms are managed. Theoretically, we expect individualist culture to improve management practices because it formalizes the labor relation. Results show that higher individualism is strongly associated with more sophisticated management practices. Several robustness checks confirm our findings. In a direct test, culture is a much more important determinant of management practices than are key formal institutions. Moreover, a formal test shows that management practices are indeed an important mediator in the empirical link between culture and per-capita income. The evidence presented in this paper moves us forward in opening up the black box of culture-performance linkages, helping us to understand better the channels through which culture can affect economic prosperity.

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A Very Economic Elite: The Case of the Danish Top CEOs

Christoph Houman Ellersgaard, Anton Grau Larsen & Martin Munk
Sociology, December 2013, Pages 1051-1071

Abstract:
Although the business elites in western societies have a very privileged social background in common, there are substantial differences in the reproduction mechanisms and social trajectories leading to a position within this elite group. These differences are explored by comparing the career paths of the top 100 CEOs in Britain, France, Germany and Denmark. In France and Britain, this reproduction is mediated through degrees from elite universities. In Germany, the principle of admission is the incorporated cultural capital acquired through an exclusive bourgeois origin combined with any university degree. Elite universities also hold little importance for Danish top CEOs, partly due to the institutions’ historic decline; instead, reproduction is mediated through time spent in the economic field, placing the case of the Danish CEOs between that of their British and German counterparts. Specific trajectories of Danish executives, in particular sales people, are identified using Multiple Correspondence Analysis and cluster analysis.

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Do Only Fools Smile at Strangers? Cultural Differences in Social Perception of Intelligence of Smiling Individuals

Kuba Krys et al.
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, February 2014, Pages 314-321

Abstract:
Studies on social perception reveal that on many dimensions, smiling individuals are perceived more positively in comparison with non-smiling individuals. The experiment carried out in seven countries (China, Germany, Iran, Norway, Poland, USA, and the Republic of South Africa) showed that in some cultures, smiling individuals may be perceived less favorably than non-smiling individuals. We compared ratings of intelligence made by participants viewing photos of smiling and non-smiling people. The results showed that smiling individuals were perceived as more intelligent in Germany and in China; smiling individuals were perceived as less intelligent than the (same) non-smiling individuals in Iran. We suggest that the obtained effects can be explained by the cultural diversity within the dimension of uncertainty avoidance described in the GLOBE (Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness) project by House, Hanges, Javidan, Dorfman, and Gupta.

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Why do Firms (not) Hedge? - Novel Evidence on Cultural Influence

Martin Lievenbrück & Thomas Schmid
Journal of Corporate Finance, April 2014, Pages 92–106

Abstract:
We examine whether cultural differences between countries help explaining firms’ hedging decisions. For this, we manually collect data on the hedging behavior of worldwide energy utilities. The analysis reveals a strong impact of a country’s long-term orientation, which reduces the probability for hedging and the hedged volume. The only other factor with a consistently higher economic impact is firm size. Furthermore, hedging with options is less common in countries with a high level of masculinity. Overall, the results reveal that culture has a strong impact on the hedging behavior of firms. This influence is not captured by other country-specific factors such as economic development or the legal framework.

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Cross-border media and nationalism: Evidence from Serbian radio in Croatia

Stefano DellaVigna et al.
American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
How do nationalistic media affect animosity between ethnic groups? We consider one of Europe’s deadliest conflicts since WWII: the Serbo-Croatian conflict. We show that, after a decade of peace, cross-border nationalistic Serbian radio triggers ethnic hatred towards Serbs in Croatia. Mostly attracted by non-political content, many Croats listen to Serbian public radio (intended for Serbs in Serbia) whenever signal is available. As a result, the vote for extreme nationalist parties is higher, and ethnically offensive graffiti are more common, in Croatian villages with Serbian radio reception. A laboratory experiment confirms that Serbian radio exposure causes anti-Serbian sentiment among Croats.

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Expanding Opportunities by Opening Your Mind: Multicultural Engagement Predicts Job Market Success Through Longitudinal Increases in Integrative Complexity

William Maddux et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
A longitudinal study found that the psychological approach individuals take when immersed in a general multicultural environment can predict subsequent career success. Using a culturally diverse sample, we found that “multicultural engagement” — the extent to which students adapted to and learned about new cultures — during a highly international 10-month master of business administration (MBA) program predicted the number of job offers students received after the program, even when controlling for important personality/demographic variables. Furthermore, multicultural engagement predicted an increase in integrative complexity over the course of the 10-month program, and this increase in integrative complexity mediated the effect of multicultural engagement on job market success. This study demonstrates that even when individuals are exposed to the same multicultural environment, it is their psychological approach and engagement with different cultures that determines growth in integrative complexity and tangible increases in professional opportunities.

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5,535 Hours of Impact: Effects of Olympic Media on Nationalism Attitudes

Andrew Billings, Kenon Brown & Natalie Brown
Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Fall 2013, Pages 579-595

Abstract:
Past studies have shown how international events such as the Olympic broadcast tend to favor athletes from a home nation in terms of both the amount of time devoted and the descriptions ascribed to home-nation athletes. This study highlights the ramifications of this focus on nationalism within the 2012 London Olympic telecast. A survey of 342 respondents at three different points in time (immediately before the Olympics, immediately after, and one month after) was conducted to determine the relationship between Olympic media exposure and nationalistic attitudes. Results showed that heavy viewers of the Olympics displayed significantly higher levels of nationalism, patriotism, internationalism and smugness than light viewers of Olympic media. Moreover, regarding differences between measurements before and after the Olympics, only smugness increased over time. Theoretical extrapolations of cultivation effects are offered, as are directions for future research.

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From Pride to Smugness and the Nationalism Between: Olympic Media Consumption Effects on Nationalism Across the Globe

Andrew Billings et al.
Mass Communication and Society, November/December 2013, Pages 910-932

Abstract:
To measure relationships between Olympic media viewing and nation-based attitudes, 6 nations (Australia, Bulgaria, China, the Netherlands, Slovenia, and the United States) were surveyed in the 5 days immediately after the 2012 London Olympics. A total of 1,025 respondents answered questions pertaining to four measures of nationalism: patriotism, nationalism, internationalism, and smugness. The amount of Olympic viewing resulted in significantly higher scores for patriotism, nationalism, and smugness, but not internationalism. In addition, differences by nation are reported, revealing considerable differences in nationalism measures among the 6 nations studied; for instance, the United States was the lowest of the 6 nations regarding internationalism yet highest of the 6 nations regarding smugness. Conclusions related to theory and the role of Olympic media content are offered.

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Cultural Variation in the Minimal Group Effect

Carl Falk, Steven Heine & Kosuke Takemura
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, February 2014, Pages 265-281

Abstract:
The minimal group effect (MGE) is one of the most robust psychological findings in studies of intergroup conflict, yet there is little evidence comparing its magnitude across cultures. Recent evidence suggests that the MGE is due in part to a projection of one’s own perceived characteristics onto the novel in-group. Because of cultural variability in self-enhancement motivations, we thus expected that those from East Asian cultures would exhibit a diminished MGE relative to Westerners. A large and diverse sample of Japanese and American participants completed a traditional minimal group study. American participants were more likely to show an in-group bias in group identification, perceived group intelligence, perceived group personality traits, and resource allocation. Furthermore, these cultural differences were partially mediated by self-esteem. We discuss the implication of these findings for theories of intergroup conflict and suggest multiple directions for future cross-cultural research on the MGE.

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Cultural determinants of status: Implications for workplace evaluations and behaviors

Carlos Torelli et al.
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, January 2014, Pages 34–48

Abstract:
Status is a valued workplace resource that facilitates career success, yet little is known regarding whether and how cultural orientation affects status attainment. We integrate status characteristics theory with the literature on individualism and collectivism and propose a cultural patterning in the determinants of status. Four studies (N = 379) demonstrate that cultural orientation influences the tendency to view high status individuals as competent versus warm (Study 1), uncover cultural differences in both individuals’ tendency to engage in competence and warmth behaviors to attain workplace status (Study 2) and evaluators’ tendency to ascribe status to individuals who demonstrate competence versus warmth (Study 3), and verify that cultural differences in the effects of competence and warmth on status perceptions, and in turn performance evaluations, generalize to real world interdependent groups (Study 4). Our findings advance theory on the cultural contingencies of status attainment and have implications for managing diversity at work.

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Psychopathological symptoms in two generations of the same family: A cross-cultural comparison

Cecilia Essau et al.
Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, December 2013, Pages 2017-2026

Purpose: The main aims of the present study were to compare the frequency and correlates of psychopathological symptoms in two generations of the same family in Japan and in England.

Methods: The sample included 689 adolescents and one of their parents/guardians. All participants completed a set of questionnaires to measure psychopathological symptoms, self-construals, and perceived social support.

Results: In both parent and adolescent data, the Japanese sample reported significantly lower psychopathological symptoms than the English sample. The relationship between parental and adolescent psychopathology was significant in England, but not in Japan. In both countries, perceived social support and independent self-construal were generally associated with less psychopathological symptoms, and interdependent self-construal was associated with more symptoms. Additionally, in England, a significant interaction effect was found between social support and the self-construals. Participants with low independent and high interdependent self-construal had elevated levels of psychopathological symptoms when perceived social support was low.

Conclusions: The present study illustrates the importance of culture in the transmission of psychopathological symptoms across different generations in the same family.

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International Variation in Sin Stocks and its Effects on Equity Valuation

Larry Fauver & Michael McDonald
Journal of Corporate Finance, April 2014, Pages 173–187

Abstract:
We examine the impact of differences in time varying social views towards sin stocks across G20 nations on firm valuation and excess returns. Sin stocks have an 8% lower equity valuation in countries where society is strongly against such industries. After controlling for other factors, sin stocks have excess returns of about 1-2% annually. However, these returns are largely arbitraged away in nations without capital and investment controls, but persist in countries with capital restrictions. These results are robust to proxies for litigation risk, transparency, growth opportunities, sin measures, and alternative measures of firm valuation.

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Culture and institutional agency: Difference in judgments of economic behavior and organizational responsibilities

Xiaowei Lu et al.
Journal of Applied Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
The current research tested the concept of institutional agency (IA) and its implications for laypeople's attribution patterns related to economic behaviors and organizational responsibilities. The term “institutional agency” refers to a set of lay theories about whether or not an organization can have personhood and related mental properties, such as wishes, desires, intents, and responsibility. Through three cross-cultural studies, we found that people do form certain beliefs about IA which are similar to the legal discourse of institutional responsibility. However, there are significant cultural differences in views of IA, and the concept is more mentally salient for Americans than for Chinese. In Study 1, we distinguished institutional from group agency by showing the cultural differences on attributions in the scenario with “individual vs. group agency” and the scenario with “individual vs. institutional agency.” In Study 2, we again demonstrated the stronger salience of IA for Americans than for Chinese by including the individual, group, and institutional agencies together in one scenario. In Study 3, we further demonstrated that the concept of IA is more salient for Americans by presenting three different agents in separate scenarios. The practical implications of these cultural differences for cross-cultural understanding and the psychological effects of economic globalization are discussed.

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Are Maximizers Unhappier than Satisficers? A Comparison between Japan and the USA

Shigehiro Oishi et al.
Journal of Research in Personality, forthcoming

Abstract:
The present research examined whether maximizing tendencies are associated with lower levels of subjective well-being among Japanese and American residents. Two popular scales exist to measure maximizing tendencies: a Schwartz et al. (2002) scale that conceptualizes maximizing as a combination of high standards and a strong desire to optimize choice and a Diab, Gillespie, and Highhouse (2008) scale which primarily emphasizes the high standards component of maximizing tendencies. Among Americans, maximizers reported being more depressed, less happy, and less satisfied with their lives when assessed by Schwartz et al.’s (2002) scale. In contrast, when assessed by Diab et al.’s (2008) scale, American maximizers actually reported being happier than satisficers. Among Japanese, however, maximizers reported being more depressed, less happy, and less satisfied with their lives regardless of the scale used.

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Sex and Cultural Differences in Spatial Performance Between Japanese and North Americans

Maiko Sakamoto & Mary Spiers
Archives of Sexual Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Previous studies have suggested that Asians perform better than North Americans on spatial tasks but show smaller sex differences. In this study, we evaluated the relationship between long-term experience with a pictorial written language and spatial performance. It was hypothesized that native Japanese Kanji (a complex pictorial written language) educated adults would show smaller sex differences on spatial tasks than Japanese Americans or North Americans without Kanji education. A total of 80 young healthy participants (20 native Japanese speakers, 20 Japanese Americans-non Japanese speaking, and 40 North Americans-non Japanese speaking) completed the Rey Complex Figure Test (RCFT), the Mental Rotations Test (MRT), and customized 2D and 3D spatial object location memory tests. As predicted, main effects revealed men performed better on the MRT and RCFT and women performed better on the spatial object location memory tests. Also, as predicted, native Japanese performed better on all tests than the other groups. In contrast to the other groups, native Japanese showed a decreased magnitude of sex differences on aspects of the RCFT (immediate and delayed recall) and no significant sex difference on the efficiency of the strategy used to copy and encode the RCFT figure. This study lends support to the idea that intensive experience over time with a pictorial written language (i.e., Japanese Kanji) may contribute to increased spatial performance on some spatial tasks as well as diminish sex differences in performance on tasks that most resemble Kanji.

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When Does Life Satisfaction Accompany Relational Identity Signaling: A Cross-Cultural Analysis

Robert Kreuzbauer et al.
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Economists have proposed that signaling one’s social identity can increase a person’s subjective utility or happiness. However, there is little cross-cultural research on this relationship. The present research fills this knowledge gap. Using relational identity signaling as an illustration, in two studies, the authors showed that relative to European Americans, Asians (Chinese and Indians) value the relational self more and have relatively high intention to signal their relational identities publicly. Furthermore, for Asians, relational identity signaling is accompanied by higher life satisfaction (the cognitive component of happiness) only when the assimilation motive is salient. In contrast, for European Americans, a positive relationship between relational identity signaling and life satisfaction emerges only when the differentiation motive is salient. These findings suggest that relational identity signaling can confer utility to both Asians and European Americans. Moreover, whether relational identity signaling would increase life satisfaction in a certain culture is a joint function of what the normative practice is in the culture and the motivation to seek social connection of the self to or differentiation of it from others.

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Marital age homogamy in China: A reversal of trend in the reform era?

Zheng Mu & Yu Xie
Social Science Research, March 2014, Pages 141–157

Abstract:
This paper reports on a study of trends in marital age homogamy in China from 1960 to 2005 that uses data from the China 2005 1% Population Inter-census Survey. Instead of a consistent increase in age homogamy, as expected, results show an inverted U-shaped trend. One plausible explanation is that intensified economic pressure, rising consumerism, and a shrinking gender gap in education during the post-1990s reform era have acted to increase women’s desire to marry men who are more economically established, and thus usually older, than less financially secure men. We argue that age hypergamy maintains status hypergamy, a deeply rooted norm for couples in China. An auxiliary analysis based on the human capital model for earnings supports this interpretation. A continued trend in age hypergamy implies a future “marriage squeeze” for men of low socioeconomic status.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Monday, January 20, 2014

Book smart

The Impacts of Expanding Access to High-Quality Preschool Education

Elizabeth Cascio & Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach
NBER Working Paper, December 2013

Abstract:
President Obama's "Preschool for All" initiative calls for dramatic increases in the number of 4 year olds enrolled in public preschool programs and in the quality of these programs nationwide. The proposed program shares many characteristics with the universal preschools that have been offered in Georgia and Oklahoma since the 1990s. This study draws together data from multiple sources to estimate the impacts of these "model" state programs on preschool enrollment and a broad set of family and child outcomes. We find that the state programs have increased the preschool enrollment rates of children from lower- and higher-income families alike. For lower-income families, our findings also suggest that the programs have increased the amount of time mothers and children spend together on activities such as reading, the chances that mothers work, and children's test performance as late as eighth grade. For higher-income families, however, we find that the programs have shifted children from private to public preschools, resulting in less of an impact on overall enrollment but a reduction in childcare expenses, and have had no positive effect on children's later test scores.

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Can Intensive Early Childhood Intervention Programs Eliminate Income-Based Cognitive and Achievement Gaps?

Greg Duncan & Aaron Sojourner
Journal of Human Resources, Fall 2013, Pages 945-968

Abstract:
How much of the income-based gaps in cognitive ability and academic achievement could be closed by a two-year, center-based early childhood education intervention? Data from the Infant Health and Development Program (IHDP), which randomly assigned treatment to low-birth-weight children from both higher- and low-income families between ages one and three, shows much larger impacts among low- than higher-income children. Projecting IHDP impacts to the U.S. population's IQ and achievement trajectories suggests that such a program offered to low-income children would essentially eliminate the income-based gap at age three and between a third and three-quarters of the age five and age eight gaps.

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The Unrealistic Educational Expectations of High School Pupils: Is America Exceptional?

John Jerrim
Sociological Quarterly, Winter 2014, Pages 196-231

Abstract:
There is growing concern that many American teenagers hold unrealistic educational plans. This may indicate a detachment from reality, which could be detrimental to well-being in later life. But is this problem specific to certain countries like the United States, or is it common among young people from across the developed world? This article uses data from the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) to investigate this issue. It shows how expected and actual college graduation rates differ across a number of countries but also that this gap is particularly large in the United States. Additional analysis suggests that this is being driven, at least in part, by the large proportion of low-achieving American children who believe they will go on to obtain a bachelor's degree. The implications of these findings are discussed in reference to educational policy and contemporary sociological debates.

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Later School Start Time Is Associated with Improved Sleep and Daytime Functioning in Adolescents

Julie Boergers, Christopher Gable & Judith Owens
Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, January 2014, Pages 11-17

Objective: Chronic insufficient sleep is a growing concern among adolescents and is associated with a host of adverse health consequences. Early school start times may be an environmental contributor to this problem. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of a delay in school start time on sleep patterns, sleepiness, mood, and health-related outcomes.

Method: Boarding students (n = 197, mean age = 15.6 yr) attending an independent high school completed the School Sleep Habits Survey before and after the school start time was experimentally delayed from 8:00 a.m. to 8:25 a.m.

Results: The delay in school start time was associated with a significant (29 min) increase in sleep duration on school nights. The percentage of students receiving 8 or more hours of sleep on a school night increased to more than double, from 18% to 44%. Students in 9th and 10th grade and those with lower baseline sleep amounts were more likely to report improvements in sleep duration after the schedule change. Daytime sleepiness, depressed mood, and caffeine use were all significantly reduced after the delay in school start time. Sleep duration reverted to baseline levels when the original (earlier) school start time was reinstituted.

Conclusions: A modest (25 min) delay in school start time was associated with significant improvements in sleep duration, daytime sleepiness, mood, and caffeine use. These findings have important implications for public policy and add to research suggesting the health benefits of modifying school schedules to more closely align with adolescents' circadian rhythms and sleep needs.

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How States Can Reduce the Dropout Rate for Undocumented Immigrant Youth: The Effects of In-State Resident Tuition Policies

Stephanie Potochnick
Social Science Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
As of December 2011, 13 states have adopted an in-state resident tuition (IRT) policy that provides in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants and several other states are considering similar legislation. While previous research focuses on how IRT policies affect college entry and attainment, this study examines the effect these policies have on high school dropout behavior. Using the Current Population Survey (CPS) and difference-in-difference models, this paper examines whether IRT policies reduce the likelihood of dropping out of high school for Mexican foreign-born non-citizens (FBNC), a proxy for undocumented youth. The policy is estimated to cause an eight percentage point reduction in the proportion that drops out of high school. The paper develops an integrated framework that combines human capital theory with segmented assimilation theory to provide insight into how IRT policies influence student motivation and educational attainment at the high school level.

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In-State College Tuition Policies for Undocumented Immigrants: Implications for High School Enrollment Among Non-citizen Mexican Youth

Robert Bozick & Trey Miller
Population Research and Policy Review, February 2014, Pages 13-30

Abstract:
This paper examines the secondary effects of policies that extend or deny in-state tuition to children of undocumented immigrants. Drawing upon repeated cross-sections of 15-17-year-olds in the Current Population Survey across 1997-2010, we assess changes in high school enrollment rates among Mexican-born non-citizen youth - a proxy for the undocumented youth population. We find that Mexican-born non-citizen youth living in states that deny in-state tuition benefits to undocumented youth are 49 % less likely to be enrolled in school than their peers living in states with no explicit policy. Conversely, Mexican-born non-citizen youth living in states that grant in-state tuition benefits to undocumented youth are 65 % more likely to be enrolled in school than their peers living in states with no explicit policy. The enactment of these policies is unrelated to changes in school enrollment among naturalized citizens. Our findings lend support to the proposition that that the implementation of in-state tuition policies sends signals to immigrant youth about their future educational possibilities in the long-term, which in turn influences the extent to which they engage in school in the short-term.

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No Child Left Bilingual: Accountability and the Elimination of Bilingual Education Programs in New York City Schools

Kate Menken & Cristian Solorza
Educational Policy, January 2014, Pages 96-125

Abstract:
Although educational policies for emergent bilinguals in New York City schools have historically supported the provision of bilingual education, the past decade has borne witness to a dramatic loss of bilingual education programs in city schools. This study examines the factors that determine language education policies adopted by school principals, through qualitative research in 10 city schools that have eliminated their bilingual education programs in recent years and replaced them with English-only programs. Our findings draw a causal link between the pressures of test-based accountability imposed by No Child Left Behind and the adoption of English-only policies in city schools. Testing and accountability are used as the justification for dismantling bilingual education programs and create a disincentive to serve emergent bilingual students, as schools are far more likely to be labeled low performing and risk sanctions such as closure simply for admitting and educating these students.

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The Economic Value of a Law Degree

Michael Simkovic & Frank McIntyre
Harvard Working Paper, April 2013

Abstract:
Legal academics and journalists have marshaled statistics purporting to show that enrolling in law school is irrational. We investigate the economic value of a law degree and find the opposite: given current tuition levels, the median and even 25th percentile annual earnings premiums justify enrollment. For most law school graduates, the net present value of a law degree typically exceeds its cost by hundreds of thousands of dollars. We improve upon previous studies by tracking lifetime earnings of a large sample of law degree holders. Previous studies focused on starting salaries, generic professional degree holders, or the subset of law degree holders who practice law. We also include unemployment and disability risk rather than assume continuous full time employment. After controlling for observable ability sorting, we find that a law degree is associated with a 60 percent median increase in monthly earnings and 50 percent increase in median hourly wages. The mean annual earnings premium of a law degree is approximately $53,300 in 2012 dollars. The law degree earnings premium is cyclical and recent years are within historical norms. We estimate the mean pre-tax lifetime value of a law degree as approximately $1,000,000.

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Competition and public high school performance

Julie Harrison & Paul Rouse
Socio-Economic Planning Sciences, forthcoming

Abstract:
Increasing the level of school competition has been suggested as a way to improve school performance. This study examines one of the most extreme examples of such reform using data from New Zealand public high schools. In the 1990s school zoning was abolished in New Zealand and public schools competed for students, not just with private schools, but also with each other. A categorical Data Envelopment Analysis model using data on school resources and student academic performance, stratified using student socio-economic characteristics, is used to calculate efficiency scores for schools. A regression model is then used to analyse differences in these efficiency scores and their relationship to different levels of competition. The study finds average school performance tends to be higher when schools are located in areas of high competition. However, this result appears to vary depending on school size, suggesting that competition can lead to a widening in the gap between the best and worst performing schools. Long-term this is likely to result in the inefficient use of fixed public resources, as public school survival is only indirectly related to performance.

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Cognitive Skills, Student Achievement Tests, and Schools

Amy Finn et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Cognitive skills predict academic performance, so schools that improve academic performance might also improve cognitive skills. To investigate the impact schools have on both academic performance and cognitive skills, we related standardized achievement-test scores to measures of cognitive skills in a large sample (N = 1,367) of eighth-grade students attending traditional, exam, and charter public schools. Test scores and gains in test scores over time correlated with measures of cognitive skills. Despite wide variation in test scores across schools, differences in cognitive skills across schools were negligible after we controlled for fourth-grade test scores. Random offers of enrollment to oversubscribed charter schools resulted in positive impacts of such school attendance on math achievement but had no impact on cognitive skills. These findings suggest that schools that improve standardized achievement-test scores do so primarily through channels other than improving cognitive skills.

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Encouraging Classroom Peer Interactions: Evidence from Chinese Migrant Schools

Tao Li et al.
Journal of Public Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
In a randomized trial conducted with primary school students in China, we find that pairing high and low achieving classmates as benchmates and offering them group incentives for learning improved low achiever test scores by approximately 0.265 standard deviations without harming the high achievers. Offering only low achievers incentives for learning in a separate trial had no effect. Pure peer effects at the benchmate level are not sufficiently powerful to explain the differences between these two results. We interpret our evidence as suggesting that group incentives can increase the effectiveness of peer effects.

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What is behind class attendance in college economics courses?

Qihui Chen & Tade Okediji
Applied Economics Letters, Winter 2014, Pages 433-437

Abstract:
How class attendance influences students' performance remains unclear. Specifically, do students learn more in class if they attend more classes, or does class attendance create incentives for students to study harder outside class? To better understand this relationship, we designed an attendance policy in an economics course that does not significantly change students' attendance rates. Students who scored below a cut-off on the midterm exam were required to attend subsequent class lectures even though attendance had been implicitly made mandatory for all students, accounting for 10% of the course grade. Our regression discontinuity analysis suggests that our attendance policy significantly improved students' performance on the final exam, even though it had minimal impacts on their attendance rates. We also found that the policy worked via inducing students to reallocate their time spent studying other courses outside class to economics.

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Does Lecture Attendance Affect Academic Performance? Panel Data Evidence for Introductory Macroeconomics

Vincenzo Andrietti
International Review of Economics Education, forthcoming

Abstract:
We analyze data from students enrolled in an introductory macroeconomics course taught at a public university in Italy to assess the impact of lecture attendance on academic performance. Using proxy variables regressions to capture the effect of unobservable student traits possibly correlated with attendance, we still find a positive and significant effect of attendance. However, when using panel data fixed effect estimators to eliminate time-invariant individual-specific unobservables, the effect disappears. The robustness of our results to supplementary data from a major Spanish public university suggests that the positive effect of attendance commonly reported in the literature may still incorporate an impact of unobservable student traits.

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Gendering County Government and the End of 100,000 American School Districts, 1920-1970

Michael Callaghan Pisapia
Publius, Winter 2014, Pages 24-50

Abstract:
Americans abolished 100,000 school districts from 1920 to 1970, altering a policy domain that had long epitomized the decentralized character of American politics. This political development coincided with women's increased authority at the county level of government as reformers sought to overcome local, and typically male, resistance to reform. Not only did women become pivotal actors in generating legislative support for change; they came to wield new influence as the county became a central locus for administration. This gendering of county government, as women reformers undermined entrenched patterns of male political power at the local level, shows how avenues for women's political influence may open up as the administration of policy across different levels of government shifts over time.

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Do single mothers take their share?: FAFSA completion among aid-eligible female students

Melissa Radey & Leah Cheatham
Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, December 2013, Pages 261-275

Abstract:
Approximately 17% of college students are single mothers, a growing and vulnerable subpopulation of women (Miller, Gault, & Thorman, 2011). Although postsecondary education promotes poverty exit, many single mothers - 40% of whom live below the poverty line - lack the financial resources for attendance. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a first step to accessing aid. This study uses data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:08) to describe and analyze how student characteristics influence FAFSA application rates among low-income, aid-eligible women and consider how student status (single mother, other independent, or dependent student), race/ethnicity, and poverty level intersect to influence application rates. Descriptive findings showed that almost four-fifths of students filed FAFSAs, with 87% of single mothers doing so. Logistic regression results indicate that single mothers' FAFSA completion advantage disappears and becomes a disadvantage after considering economic and nontraditional characteristics. Significant interactions between poverty level and student status reveal that the poorest aid-eligible single mothers filed at lower than expected rates. Findings support two policy recommendations: FAFSA simplification and targeted personal application assistance.

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Teacher heterogeneity, value-added and education policy

Scott Condie, Lars Lefgren & David Sims
Economics of Education Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study examines the theoretical and practical implications of ranking teachers with a one-dimensional value-added metric when teacher effectiveness varies across subjects or student types. We create a theoretical framework which suggests specifc tests of the standard teacher input homogeneity assumption. Using North Carolina data we show that value-added fails to empirically meet these tests and document that this leads to a large number of teacher misrankings. Thus, critics of potential value-added teacher personnel policies are correct that such policies will terminate many of the wrong teachers. However, we derive the conditions under which such policies will improve student test scores and find that they will almost certainly be met. We then demonstrate that value-added information can also be used to improve student test scores by matching teachers to students or subjects according to their comparative advantage. These matching gains likely exceed those of a feasible, value-added based firing policy.

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Political economics of higher education finance

Rainald Borck & Martin Wimbersky
Oxford Economic Papers, January 2014, Pages 115-139

Abstract:
We study voting over higher education finance in an economy with risk averse households who are heterogeneous in income. We compare four different systems and analyse voters' preferences among them: a traditional subsidy scheme, a pure loan scheme, income contingent loans and graduate taxes. Using numerical simulations, we find that the poor prefer the subsidy scheme over the other systems, even though they pay part of the taxes. We also find that majorities for income contingent loans or graduate taxes become more likely as risk aversion rises or the income distribution gets more equal.

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Disease or utopia? Testing Baumol in education

Xin Chen & Charles Moul
Economics Letters, February 2014, Pages 220-223

Abstract:
Baumol's Cost Disease offers a compelling hypothesis of rising unit costs in stagnant sectors, but increased productivity in progressive sectors may generate the same prediction through income effects. We examine quantity (rather than expenditure) data from the U.S. educational sector to distinguish between these explanations. Our results indicate significant negative impacts of manufacturing productivity on teacher-pupil ratios.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sensational

Incandescent Affect: Turning On The Hot Emotional System With Bright Light

Alison Jing Xu & Aparna Labroo
Journal of Consumer Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
We propose turning on the light can turn on the hot emotional system. Across six studies we show that ambient brightness makes people feel warmer, which increases intensity of affective response, including sensation seeking from spicy-hot foods, perception of aggression and sexiness (“hotness”) in others, and generating more extreme affective reactions toward positive and negative words and drinks. We suggest these effects arise because light underlies perception of heat, and perception of heat can trigger the hot emotional system. Thus, turning down the light, effortless and unassuming as it may seem, can reduce emotionality in everyday decisions, most of which take place under bright light.

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Seeing the Unseen: Autism Involves Reduced Susceptibility to Inattentional Blindness

John Swettenham et al.
Neuropsychology, forthcoming

Objective: Attention research in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has produced conflicting results. Some findings demonstrate greater distractibility while others suggest superior focused attention. Applying Lavie’s load theory of attention to account for this discrepancy led us to hypothesize increased perceptual capacity in ASD. Preliminary support for our hypothesis has so far been found for adults with ASD with reaction time (RT) and signal detection sensitivity measures. Here we test the novel prediction we derived from this hypothesis that children with ASD should have lower rates of inattentional blindness than controls.

Method: Twenty-four children with ASD (mean age = 10 years 10 months) and 39 typically developing children (age and IQ matched) took part in the study. We assessed the effects of perceptual load on the rates of inattentional blindness in each group. Participants performing a line discrimination task in either a high load or low load condition were presented with an unexpected extra stimulus on a critical trial. Performance on the line judgment task and rates of detection and stimulus identification were recorded.

Results: Overall rates of detection and identification were higher in the ASD group than in the controls. Moreover, whereas both detection and identification rates were significantly lower in the high (compared with low) load conditions for the controls, these were unaffected by load in the ASD group.

Conclusion: Reduced inattentional blindness rates under load in ASD suggests higher perceptual capacity is a core feature, present from childhood and leading to superior performance in various measures of perception and attention.

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Post-study caffeine administration enhances memory consolidation in humans

Daniel Borota et al.
Nature Neuroscience, forthcoming

Abstract:
It is currently not known whether caffeine has an enhancing effect on long-term memory in humans. We used post-study caffeine administration to test its effect on memory consolidation using a behavioral discrimination task. Caffeine enhanced performance 24 h after administration according to an inverted U-shaped dose-response curve; this effect was specific to consolidation and not retrieval. We conclude that caffeine enhanced consolidation of long-term memories in humans.

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Trust in Me: Trustworthy Others Are Seen as More Physically Similar to the Self

Harry Farmer, Ryan McKay & Manos Tsakiris
Psychological Science, January 2014, Pages 290-292

"In the present study, we examined how participants’ perception of facial similarity was affected by taking part in a social interaction (trust game) in which the trustee either rewarded or betrayed the participant’s trust...The faces of trustworthy interaction partners are perceived as more similar to one’s own than those of untrustworthy interaction partners are."

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Self-Affirmation Counters the Effects of Self-Regulatory Resource Depletion on Height Perception

Stefan Huynh, Jeanine Stefanucci & Lisa Aspinwall
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Perception of the layout of the environment may be influenced by factors other than the physical information provided to the retina, including self-regulatory and psychosocial resources. We tested whether depletion of self-regulatory resources affected estimates of the height of a balcony and whether a psychosocial resource could substitute for self-regulatory resources among individuals making such estimates. Undergraduates performed a self-regulation depletion task and a values-affirmation task or their control equivalents in a 2 × 2 design (N = 80) and viewed a balcony height from above. A rope was attached to the height to make action on the height possible. Those who expended self-regulatory resources overestimated the balcony height more than the control group (both groups overestimated relative to the true height). However, this effect was counteracted by the values-affirmation task. Depleted participants who affirmed core values did not overestimate the height as much, resulting in estimates similar to the non-depleted participants. These results were not mediated by perceived threat posed by the height, positive mood or more specific positive, other-directed feelings. Our results suggest that visual perception of a threatening environment can be affected by the resources available to the perceiver for performing action on the environment.

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A processing fluency-account of funniness: Running gags and spoiling punchlines

Sascha Topolinski
Cognition & Emotion, forthcoming

Abstract:
Earlier theories on humour assume that funniness stems from the incongruity resolution of the surprising punchline and thus an insight into the joke's meaning. Applying recent psychological theorising that insight itself draws on processing fluency being the ease and speed with which mental content is processed, it is predicted that increasing the fluency of processing the punchline of a joke increases funniness. In Experiments 1 and 2, significant nouns from the punchlines or from the beginnings of jokes were presented before a joke was rated in funniness. Pre-exposing punchline words 15 minutes and even only 1 minute before the eventual joke led to increased funniness ratings. In contrast, pre-exposing punchline words directly before a joke led to decreased funniness ratings. Furthermore, pre-exposing the beginning of a joke 1 minute before the joke had no effects on funniness. Experiment 3 ruled out exposure-facilitated punchline anticipation as alternative mechanism, and Experiment 4 replicated this fluency effect with typing font as manipulation. These findings also show that pre-exposing a punchline, which in common knowledge should spoil a joke, can actually increase funniness under certain conditions.

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Illusory self-identification with an avatar reduces arousal responses to painful stimuli

Daniele Romano et al.
Behavioural Brain Research, 15 March 2014, Pages 275–281

Abstract:
Looking at one's own body has been shown to induce analgesia. In the present work we investigated whether illusory self-identification with an avatar, as induced experimentally through visuo-tactile stimulation, modulates the response to painful stimuli. In 30 healthy volunteers, a robotic device was used to stroke the participants back, while they viewed either the body of an avatar, a non-body object (control object), or a body avatar with scrambled body parts (control body). All were visually stimulated in either congruent or incongruent fashion with the participant's body. We collected physiological responses (Skin Conductance Response - SCR) to painful stimuli delivered to the participant's hand and responses to a questionnaire inquiring about self-identification with the avatar. We expected reduced physiological responses to pain during the observation of a body avatar only during synchronous visuo-tactile stroking and no reduction for the control object and the control body. Results showed a reduced SCR to painful stimuli when participants observed the normal body avatar being stroked synchronously that was also associated with largest self-identification ratings recordable already during the pain anticipation. Moreover, a negative correlation between self-identification and SCR was observed, suggesting that a greater degree of self-identification with the avatar was associated with larger decreases in SCR. These results suggest that, during states of illusory self-identification with the avatar, the vision of an alien body (anatomically compatible for the vision and congruently stroked for the touch) is effective in modulating physiological responses to painful stimuli.

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Bright light and mental fatigue: Effects on alertness, vitality, performance and physiological arousal

K.C.H.J. Smolders & Y.A.W. de Kort
Journal of Environmental Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Alertness-enhancing effects of bright light are particularly strong at night or after sleep deprivation. Alerting effects during daytime also exist, yet these appear to be more modest. In this study, we investigate whether a higher illuminance level particularly benefits individuals who suffer from mental fatigue – not from sleep pressure, but from mental exertion. A 2x2 within-subjects design (N = 28; 106 sessions) was applied to investigate effects of 1000 vs. 200 lx at the eye on self-report measures, task performance and physiological arousal after a mental antecedent condition (fatigue vs. control). Results showed that participants felt less sleepy, more vital and happier when exposed to bright light. Effects on subjective sleepiness and self-control capacity were stronger under mental fatigue. Vigilance benefited from bright light exposure – although this effect emerged with a delay irrespective of the antecedent condition. Other tasks showed more mixed and sometimes even adverse effects of bright light.

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Taking a Shine to It: How the Preference for Glossy Stems from an Innate Need for Water

Katrien Meert, Mario Pandelaere & Vanessa Patrick
Journal of Consumer Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Human beings are attracted to glossy objects. However, the investigation of whether this preference for glossy is a systematic bias, and the rationale for why, has received little or no attention. Drawing on an evolutionary psychology framework, we propose and test the hypothesis that the preference for glossy stems from an innate preference for water as a valuable resource. In a set of six studies we demonstrate the preference for glossy amongst both adults and young children (studies 1A, 1B and 2) ruling out a socialization explanation, investigate the hypothesis that the preference for glossy stems from an innate need for water as a resource (studies 3 and 5) and, in addition, rule out the more superficial account of glossy = pretty (study 4). The interplay between the different perspectives, implications of the findings and future research directions are discussed.

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Happiness takes you right: The effect of emotional stimuli on line bisection

Zaira Cattaneo et al.
Cognition & Emotion, Winter 2014, Pages 325-344

Abstract:
Emotion recognition is mediated by a complex network of cortical and subcortical areas, with the two hemispheres likely being differently involved in processing positive and negative emotions. As results on valence-dependent hemispheric specialisation are quite inconsistent, we carried out three experiments with emotional stimuli with a task being sensitive to measure specific hemispheric processing. Participants were required to bisect visual lines that were delimited by emotional face flankers, or to haptically bisect rods while concurrently listening to emotional vocal expressions. We found that prolonged (but not transient) exposition to concurrent happy stimuli significantly shifted the bisection bias to the right compared to both sad and neutral stimuli, indexing a greater involvement of the left hemisphere in processing of positively connoted stimuli. No differences between sad and neutral stimuli were observed across the experiments. In sum, our data provide consistent evidence in favour of a greater involvement of the left hemisphere in processing positive emotions and suggest that (prolonged) exposure to stimuli expressing happiness significantly affects allocation of (spatial) attentional resources, regardless of the sensory (visual/auditory) modality in which the emotion is perceived and space is explored (visual/haptic).

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Riled up

The Persistence of Neighborhood Disadvantage: An Experimental Investigation of Alcohol and Later Physical Aggression

Volkan Topalli et al.
Criminal Justice and Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
This research examined the combined impact of alcohol and previous experience growing up in a disadvantaged neighborhood on aggression in a laboratory setting. Participants were 505 young adult social drinkers between 21 and 35 years of age who completed a retrospective measure of neighborhood disadvantage and then participated in an experimental procedure, where they either consumed an alcohol or placebo beverage. They were subsequently tested on a laboratory aggression task in which they were provoked by receiving electric shocks from a fictitious opponent under the guise of a competitive reaction-time task. Aggression was operationalized as shock intensities and durations administered, in retaliation, by the participants to their fictitious opponent. Acute alcohol intoxication significantly increased aggression for those who grew up in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Thus, our investigation supports Sampson's notions of "legacies of neighborhood inequality" with important implications for the etiology and prevention of violence in real-world settings.

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Bullying in elementary school and psychotic experiences at 18 years: A longitudinal, population-based cohort study

D. Wolke et al.
Psychological Medicine, forthcoming

Background: Victims of bullying are at risk for psychotic experiences in early adolescence. It is unclear if this elevated risk extends into late adolescence. The aim of this study was to test whether bullying perpetration and victimization in elementary school predict psychotic experiences in late adolescence.

Method: The current study is based on the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), a prospective community-based study. A total of 4720 subjects with bullying perpetration and victimization were repeatedly assessed between the ages of 8 and 11 years by child and mother reports. Suspected or definite psychotic experiences were assessed with the Psychosis-Like Symptoms semi-structured interview at age 18 years.

Results: Controlling for child's gender, intelligence quotient at age 8 years, childhood behavioural and emotional problems, and also depression symptoms and psychotic experiences in early adolescence, victims [child report at 10 years: odds ratio (OR) 2.4, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.6-3.4; mother report: OR 1.6, 95% CI 1.1-2.3], bully/victims (child report at 10 years: OR 3.1, 95% CI 1.7-5.8; mother: OR 2.9, 95% CI 1.7-5.0) and bullies (child report at 10 years: OR 4.9, 95% CI 1.3-17.7; mother: OR 1.2, 95% CI 0.46-3.1, n.s.) had a higher prevalence of psychotic experiences at age 18 years. Path analysis revealed that the association between peer victimization in childhood and psychotic experiences at age 18 years was only partially mediated by psychotic or depression symptoms in early adolescence.

Conclusions: Involvement in bullying, whether as victim, bully/victim or bully, may increase the risk of developing psychotic experiences in adolescence. Health professionals should ask routinely during consultations with children about their bullying of and by peers.

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Competence-Impeding Electronic Games and Players' Aggressive Feelings, Thoughts, and Behaviors

Andrew Przybylski et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Recent studies have examined whether electronic games foster aggression. At present, the extent to which games contribute to aggression and the mechanisms through which such links may exist are hotly debated points. In current research we tested a motivational hypothesis derived from self-determination theory - that gaming would be associated with indicators of human aggression to the degree that the interactive elements of games serve to impede players' fundamental psychological need for competence. Seven studies, using multiple methods to manipulate player competence and a range of approaches for evaluating aggression, indicated that competence-impeding play led to higher levels of aggressive feelings, easier access to aggressive thoughts, and a greater likelihood of enacting aggressive behavior. Results indicated that player perceived competence was positively related to gaming motivation, a factor that was, in turn, negatively associated with player aggression. Overall, this pattern of effects was found to be independent of the presence or absence of violent game contents. We discuss the results in respect to research focused on psychological need frustration and satisfaction and as they regard gaming-related aggression literature.

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Switch on to games: Can digital games aid post-work recovery?

Emily Collins & Anna Cox
International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
Recovery is a necessary factor in avoiding work-related strain and in feeling prepared for the next day of work. In order for recovery to be successful, an individual must experience psychological detachment from work, relaxation, mastery experiences and a sense of control, all of which have been argued to be assisted by digital game use. However, it is unclear whether these associations will be greater for certain digital game genres, or whether this would extend to other recovery-related outcomes, for instance work home interference (WHI), where the stress from work interferes with home-life. These factors may be vital in determining whether interventions aimed at improving recovery using digital games would be effective, and what form these should take. The present research surveyed 491 participants and found that the total number of hours spent playing digital games per week was positively correlated with overall recovery. Correlations varied with genre, highlighting the importance of game characteristics in this relationship: first person shooters and action games were most highly correlated with recovery. Moreover, digital game use was not related to a reduction in work-home interference. When restricting the analysis to gamers who report to have developed online relationships, online social support mediated the relationship between digital game use and recovery. Results are discussed in terms of how digital games may be utilised to improve recovery and reduce work-related stress.

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Genes in the Dopaminergic System and Delinquent Behaviors Across the Life Course: The Role of Social Controls and Risks

Jason Boardman et al.
Criminal Justice and Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
This article examines the interaction between social control and social risk mechanisms, and genes within the dopaminergic system (DAT1 and DRD2) as related to serious and violent forms of delinquent behavior among adolescents and young adults. We use nine waves of data from the National Youth Survey Family Study (NYSFS) to examine the relevance of protective or risky social factors at four social levels, including school, neighborhood, friends, and family within the gene-environment interaction framework. We extend previous work in this area by providing a testable typology of gene-environment interactions derived from current theories in this area. We find consistent evidence that the associations between putatively risky genotypes and delinquent behavior are suppressed within protective social environments. We also provide some evidence that supports the differential susceptibility hypothesis for these outcomes. Our findings largely confirm the conclusions of previous work and continue to highlight the critical role of the social environment within candidate gene studies of complex behaviors.

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The Effects of Mediated Exposure to Ethnic-Political Violence on Middle East Youth's Subsequent Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms and Aggressive Behavior

Shira Dvir Gvirsman et al.
Communication Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study introduces the concept of chronic (i.e., repeated and cumulative) mediated exposure to political violence and investigates its effects on aggressive behavior and post-traumatic stress (PTS) symptoms in young viewers. Embracing the risk-matrix approach, these effects are studied alongside other childhood risk factors that influence maladjustment. A longitudinal study was conducted on a sample of youth who experience the Israeli-Palestinian conflict firsthand (N = 1,207). As hypothesized, higher levels of chronic mediated exposure were longitudinally related to higher levels of PTS symptoms and aggression at peers independently of exposure to violence in other contexts. In the case of aggressive behavior, structural equation analysis (SEM) analyses suggest that, while it is likely there are causal effects in both directions, the bigger effect is probably for exposure to violence stimulating aggression than for aggression stimulating exposure to violence. Both the longitudinal effects on aggression and PTS symptoms were especially strong among youth who demonstrated initially higher levels of the same type of maladjustment. These results support the conceptualization of the relation between media violence and behaviors as "reciprocally determined" or "downward spirals" and highlight the contribution of the risk-matrix approach to the analysis of childhood maladjustment.

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Simple mathematical law benchmarks human confrontations

Neil Johnson et al.
Scientific Reports, December 2013

Abstract:
Many high-profile societal problems involve an individual or group repeatedly attacking another - from child-parent disputes, sexual violence against women, civil unrest, violent conflicts and acts of terror, to current cyber-attacks on national infrastructure and ultrafast cyber-trades attacking stockholders. There is an urgent need to quantify the likely severity and timing of such future acts, shed light on likely perpetrators, and identify intervention strategies. Here we present a combined analysis of multiple datasets across all these domains which account for >100,000 events, and show that a simple mathematical law can benchmark them all. We derive this benchmark and interpret it, using a minimal mechanistic model grounded by state-of-the-art fieldwork. Our findings provide quantitative predictions concerning future attacks; a tool to help detect common perpetrators and abnormal behaviors; insight into the trajectory of a 'lone wolf'; identification of a critical threshold for spreading a message or idea among perpetrators; an intervention strategy to erode the most lethal clusters; and more broadly, a quantitative starting point for cross-disciplinary theorizing about human aggression at the individual and group level, in both real and online worlds.

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Extending Color Psychology to the Personality Realm: Interpersonal Hostility Varies by Red Preferences and Perceptual Biases

Adam Fetterman, Tianwei Liu & Michael Robinson
Journal of Personality, forthcoming

Objective: The color psychology literature has made a convincing case that color is not just about aesthetics, but also about meaning. This work has involved situational manipulations of color, rendering it uncertain as to whether color-meaning associations can be used to characterize how people differ from each other. The present research focuses on the idea that the color red is linked to, or associated with, individual differences in interpersonal hostility.

Method: Across four studies (N = 376), red preferences and perceptual biases were measured along with individual differences in interpersonal hostility.

Results: It was found that: (a) a preference for the color red was higher as interpersonal hostility increased, (b) hostile people were biased to see the color red more frequently than non-hostile people, and (c) there was a relationship between a preference for the color red and hostile social decision-making.

Conclusions: These studies represent an important extension of the color psychology literature, highlighting the need to attend to person-based, as well as situation-based, factors.

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The Impact of Victimization and Witnessing Violence on Physical Aggression Among High-Risk Adolescents

Albert Farrell et al.
Child Development, forthcoming

Abstract:
Relations among witnessing violence, victimization, and physical aggression were investigated within a high-risk sample of 1,156 sixth graders. Longitudinal, multilevel analyses were conducted on two waves of data from two cohorts of students in 37 schools from four communities. The sample was 65% male and 67% African American. Neighborhood concentrated disadvantage, witnessing violence, victimization, and physical aggression were strongly and positively correlated at the school level. Contrary to hypothesis, exposure to violence did not mediate the effects of neighborhood concentrated disadvantage on changes in physical aggression. As expected, witnessing violence and physical aggression had bidirectional longitudinal effects on each other at the student level. In contrast, there were no cross-variable relations between changes in violent victimization and aggression over time.

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Inked into Crime? An Examination of the Causal Relationship between Tattoos and Life-Course Offending among Males from the Cambridge Study in Delinquent Development

Wesley Jennings, Bryanna Hahn Fox & David Farrington
Journal of Criminal Justice, January-February 2014, Pages 77-84

Purpose: There have been a number of prior studies that have investigated the relationship between tattoos and crime with most documenting evidence of an association. Specifically, prior research often suggests that individuals with tattoos commit more crime, are disproportionately concentrated in offender and institutionalized populations, and often have personality disorders. Having said this, the bulk of the prior research on this topic has been correlational.

Methods: In the current study, we rely on data from a prospective longitudinal study of 411 British males from the Cambridge Study in Delinquent Development and employ propensity score matching to determine if the link between tattoos and crime may in fact be causal.

Results: Results suggest that having tattoos is better considered as a symptom of another set of developmental risk factors and personality traits that are both related to tattooing and being involved in crime rather than as a causal factor for predicting crime over the life-course.

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Testosterone reactivity and identification with a perpetrator or a victim in a story are associated with attraction to violence-related cues

Roland Weierstall et al.
International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, forthcoming

Background: Recent field research has demonstrated that an attraction to aggressive behavior and cruelty is common among combatants and perpetrators involved in organized violence. The biological basis of this appetitive perception of aggression in humans has to date not been studied.

Aims: We examined testosterone as a potential hormonal moderator during induction of specifically appetitive aggressive behavior in the laboratory.

Method: To activate physiological responding related to appetitive aggression, 145 university students (72 women) listened to tape recordings of variants of a violent story. The perspective of the listener in the story was randomized between subjects. Participants were required to either identify as perpetrator, neutral observer, or victim. We assessed changes in saliva testosterone in response to the story. Subsequently, a series of pictorial stimuli (IAPS) with different valence ratings was presented and participants determined the length of viewing time with a button click. This viewing time for negative IAPS was assessed as a dependent variable indicating level of interest in violent scenes.

Results: Men identified themselves with the perpetrator more than women irrespective of the particular perspective presented by the story. Men who responded with an increase in saliva testosterone when adopting the perpetrator perspective chose to view the negative IAPS pictures for longer intervals than participants in other conditions or those who did not exhibit a release in testosterone.

Conclusions: Testosterone moderates attraction to cruel and violent cues in men, as indicated by extended deliberate viewing of violence cues.

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Materazzi effect and the strategic use of anger in competitive interactions

Uri Gneezy & Alex Imas
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Abstract:
We propose that individuals use anger strategically in interactions. We first show that in some environments angering people makes them more effective in competitions, whereas in others, anger makes them less effective. We then show that individuals anticipate these effects and strategically use the option to anger their opponents. In particular, they are more likely to anger their opponents when anger negatively affects the opponents' performances. This finding suggests people understand the effects of emotions on behavior and exploit them to their advantage.

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Skill Gap: Quantifying Violent Content in Video Game Play Between Variably Skilled Users

Nicholas Matthews & Andrew Weaver
Mass Communication and Society, November/December 2013, Pages 829-846

Abstract:
This study investigated the effect of individuals' self-reported skill levels on generated violent content. After playing a violent video game, participants (N = 68) completed a questionnaire determining skill level with measures modified from previous game studies. The resulting 4,023 instances of violence were analyzed using techniques adapted from prior video game content analyses and the National Television Violence Study. Findings indicated a significant difference in the amount and context of violent acts between higher skilled and lower skilled players. Those who reported being higher skilled generated more instances of violence, were more often the perpetrators rather than the targets of violence, experienced greater consequences (graphicness) of violence, and experienced more on-screen and up-close violence.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Friday, January 17, 2014

The lowest rung

Self-Affirmation Among the Poor: Cognitive and Behavioral Implications

Crystal Hall, Jiaying Zhao & Eldar Shafir
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
The poor are universally stigmatized. The stigma of poverty includes being perceived as incompetent and feeling shunned and disrespected. It can lead to cognitive distancing, diminish cognitive performance, and cause the poor to forego beneficial programs. In the present research, we examined how self-affirmation can mitigate the stigma of poverty through randomized field experiments involving low-income individuals at an inner-city soup kitchen. Because of low literacy levels, we used an oral rather than written affirmation procedure, in which participants verbally described a personal experience that made them feel successful or proud. Compared with nonaffirmed participants, affirmed individuals exhibited better executive control, higher fluid intelligence, and a greater willingness to avail themselves of benefits programs. The effects were not driven by elevated positive mood, and the same intervention did not affect the performance of wealthy participants. The findings suggest that self-affirmation can improve the cognitive performance and decisions of the poor, and it may have important policy implications.

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Do Housing Choice Voucher Holders Live Near Good Schools?

Keren Mertens Horn, Ingrid Gould Ellen & Amy Ellen Schwartz
Journal of Housing Economics, March 2014, Pages 28–40

Abstract:
The Housing Choice Voucher program was created, in part, to help low income households reach a broader range of neighborhoods and schools. Rather than concentrating low income households in designated developments, vouchers allow families to choose their housing units and neighborhoods. In this project we explore whether low income households use the flexibility provided by vouchers to reach neighborhoods with high performing schools. Unlike previous experimental work, which has focused on a small sample of voucher holders constrained to live in low-poverty neighborhoods, we look at the voucher population as a whole and explore the broad range of neighborhoods in which they live. Relying on internal data from HUD on the location of assisted households, we link each voucher holder in the country to the closest elementary school within their school district. We compare the characteristics of the schools that voucher holders are likely to attend to the characteristics of those accessible to other households receiving place based housing subsidies, other similar unsubsidized households and fair market rent units within the same state and metropolitan area. These comparisons provide us with a portrait of the schools that children might have attended absent HUD assistance. In comparison to other poor households in the same metropolitan areas, we find that the schools near voucher holders have lower performing students than the schools near other poor households without a housing subsidy. We probe this surprising finding by exploring whether differences between the demographic characteristics of voucher holders and other poor households explain the differences in the characteristics of nearby schools, and whether school characteristics vary with length of time in the voucher program. We also examine variation across metropolitan areas in the relative quality of schools near to voucher holders and whether this variation is explained by economic, socio-demographic or policy differences across cities.

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Poverty and Materialism: A Look at Impoversihed Versus Affluent Children

Lan Nguyen Chaplin, Ronald Hill & Deborah Roedder John
Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, forthcoming

Abstract:
Concerns about materialism have been elevated to a public policy issue, with consumer activists and social scientists calling for restrictions on marketing to children. A recent UNICEF report on welfare of children suggests that those from low-income families may be particularly vulnerable (www.unicef.org.uk). The current research provides a first glimpse into consumer values of impoverished children. Personal interviews conducted with 177 youngsters from impoverished and affluent families reveal differences in materialistic values. Although younger children (ages 8–10) from poor families exhibit similar levels of materialism as their more affluent peers, once they reach adolescence (ages 11–13) and beyond (ages 16–17), impoverished youngsters are more materialistic than their wealthier counterparts. Further analysis shows this difference is associated with lower self-esteem among impoverished teens. Implications of these findings are discussed, including public policy solutions aimed at reducing low-income children's vulnerability to developing materialistic values that undermine their well-being.

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How Much International Variation in Child Height Can Sanitation Explain?

Dean Spears
Princeton Working Paper, January 2014

Abstract:
Physical height is an important economic variable reflecting health and human capital. Puzzlingly, however, differences in average height across developing countries are not well explained by differences in wealth. In particular, children in India are shorter, on average, than children in Africa who are poorer, on average, a paradox called "the Asian enigma" which has received much attention from economists. This paper provides the first documentation of a quantitatively important gradient between child height and sanitation that can statistically explain a large fraction of international height differences. This association between sanitation and human capital is robustly stable, even after accounting for other heterogeneity, such as in GDP. I apply three complementary empirical strategies to identify the association between sanitation and child height: country-level regressions across 140 country-years in 65 developing countries; within-country analysis of differences over time within Indian districts; and econometric decomposition of the India-Africa height difference in child-level data. Open defecation, which is exceptionally widespread in India, can account for much or all of the excess stunting in India.

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The Earned Income Tax Credit and Food Consumption Patterns

Leslie McGranahan & Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach
Federal Reserve Working Paper, November 2013

Abstract:
The Earned Income Tax Credit is unique among social programs in that benefits are not paid out evenly across the calendar year. We exploit this feature of the EITC to investigate how the credit influences the food expenditure patterns of eligible households. We find that eligible households spend relatively more on healthy items including fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and poultry, and dairy products during the months when most refunds are paid.

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Exhaustion Of Food Budgets At Month’s End And Hospital Admissions For Hypoglycemia

Hilary Seligman et al.
Health Affairs, January 2014, Pages 116-123

Abstract:
One in seven US households cannot reliably afford food. Food budgets are more frequently exhausted at the end of a month than at other points in time. We postulated that this monthly pattern influenced health outcomes, such as risk for hypoglycemia among people with diabetes. Using administrative data on inpatient admissions in California for 2000–08, we found that admissions for hypoglycemia were more common in the low-income than the high-income population (270 versus 200 admissions per 100,000). Risk for hypoglycemia admission increased 27 percent in the last week of the month compared to the first week in the low-income population, but we observed no similar temporal variation in the high-income population. These findings suggest that exhaustion of food budgets might be an important driver of health inequities. Policy solutions to improve stable access to nutrition in low-income populations and raise awareness of the health risks of food insecurity might be warranted.

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The Employment Effect of Terminating Disability Benefits

Timothy Moore
NBER Working Paper, January 2014

Abstract:
While time out of work normally decreases subsequent employment, Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) may improve the health of disabled individuals and increase their ability to work. In this paper, I examine the employment of individuals who lost DI eligibility after the 1996 removal of drug and alcohol addictions as qualifying conditions. Approximately one-fifth started earning at levels that would have disqualified them for DI, an employment response that is large relative to their work histories. This response is largest for those who had received DI for 2.5-3 years, when it is 50% larger than for those who had received DI for less than one year and 30% larger than for those who had received DI for six years. A similar relationship between time on DI and the employment response is found among those whose primary disability was an addiction, mental disorder, or musculoskeletal condition, but not those with chronic conditions like heart or liver disease. The results suggest that a period of public assistance can maximize the employment of some disabled individuals.

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The Moral Obligations of Some Debts

Francesca Polletta & Zaibu Tufail
Sociological Forum, forthcoming

Abstract:
If given the opportunity to reduce your debt, albeit at some financial risk, would you take it? Interviews and observations in two debt settlement firms show that debt settlement clients tend not to calculate financial risks in deciding which debts to try to settle. Rather, they treat their relationship with their creditor as a reciprocal and ongoing one. If the service provided by their creditor was inadequate, clients feel justified in trying to settle their debt. Otherwise, they believe that they must pay back the debt in full. In line with recent work in economic sociology, we show that economic transactors are bound by the moral requirements of the relationship they are in. But debt settlement clients invent those relationships in at least two ways: turning a debt to an impersonal agency into a relationship with a person, and turning a relationship of inequality into one of equality. Clients may preserve some sense of autonomy in a disempowering relationship by conceptualizing their relationship with their creditor as one between equals. But there is a cost: As a result of the relational schemas on which they operate, they often refuse to try to settle debts that might be settled without lasting financial repercussions.

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Unemployment Insurance and Disability Insurance in the Great Recession

Andreas Mueller, Jesse Rothstein & Till von Wachter
NBER Working Paper, November 2013

Abstract:
Disability insurance (DI) applications and awards are countercyclical. One potential explanation is that unemployed individuals who exhaust their Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits use DI as a form of extended benefits. We exploit the haphazard pattern of UI benefit extensions in the Great Recession to identify the effect of UI exhaustion on DI application, using both aggregate data at the state-month and state-week levels and microdata on unemployed individuals in the Current Population Survey. We find no indication that expiration of UI benefits causes DI applications. Our estimates are sufficiently precise to rule out effects of meaningful magnitude.

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Low-Income Women’s Employment Experiences and Their Financial, Personal, and Family Well-Being

Rebekah Levine Coley & Caitlin McPherran Lombardi
Journal of Family Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Low-income women’s rates of employment have grown dramatically in recent years, yet the stability and quality of their employment remain low. Using panel data from the Three-City Study following 1,586 low-income African American, Latina, and European American women, this study assessed associations between women’s employment quality (wages; receipt of health insurance) and stability (work consistency; job transitions) and their financial, personal, and family well-being. Hierarchical linear models assessing within-person effects found that increases in wages were associated with improved financial well-being and physical health. Average wages over time similarly were associated with greater levels of income and financial stability as well as mental and physical health at the end of the study. In contrast, few significant associations emerged for receipt of health insurance or for the stability and consistency of women’s employment. Results have implications for programs and policies seeking to support disadvantaged women’s employment in order to improve family resources and functioning.

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The Great Recession and the Changing Geography of Food Stamp Receipt

Tim Slack & Candice Myers
Population Research and Policy Review, February 2014, Pages 63-79

Abstract:
The Great Recession has been distinctive in driving up unprecedented levels of participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This study extends the literature on the geography of SNAP receipt by (1) examining change in SNAP receipt across US counties during the Great Recession and (2) identifying how changes in other local characteristics were associated with this outcome. Our analysis draws on data from the US Department of Agriculture and other secondary sources. We use descriptive statistics, mapping, and weighted least squares spatial regression models to examine county-level variation (N = 2,485) in the percentage-point change in SNAP receipt between 2007 and 2009. Our findings reveal substantial local-level variation in the change in SNAP stamp use during the downturn. We find that counties with the greatest levels of change in SNAP participation tend to be regionally clustered. Our regression analysis shows that areas where the signature characteristics of the Great Recession were most pronounced (i.e., home foreclosures and unemployment) were precisely the places where SNAP use jumped most, not places with historically high levels of SNAP participation. Overall, this study demonstrates that change in SNAP receipt was geographically uneven during the Great Recession, and that local and regional configurations matter in shaping this variation. These results hold a range of implications for public policy, including opportunities for regionally targeted outreach and investment in SNAP and the use of the program as a responsive form of local stimulus during periods of economic crisis.

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Aid to Jobless Workers in Florida in the Face of the Great Recession: The Interaction of Unemployment Insurance and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program

Colleen Heflin & Peter Mueser
University of Missouri Working Paper, December 2013

Abstract:
Although many programs redistribute resources in the U.S., two program were central in providing a safety net for those facing hardship during the Great Recession: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which grew to 47.7 million people in January 2013 – or 15.1 percent of all Americans – and the Unemployment Insurance Program (UI), which more than doubled with the onset of the recession, reaching a seasonally adjusted maximum of 6.5 million recipients in June 2009. We examine state administrative data from Florida for SNAP and UI from late 2005 through early 2010. We focus on two research questions: 1. In the face of caseload growth and compositional change in both programs, how has joint participation in UI among SNAP recipients changed? How much of the increase in joint participation is driven by changes in the characteristics of individuals participating in SNAP? How much is driven by the changing economic and policy conditions? 2. How has the role of UI changed for SNAP participants, and in particular how have patterns of combined usage evolved during this period? We find that the number of families relying on both SNAP and UI together ballooned with the Great Recession, and that the patterns changed as expected, with UI growing dramatically in relative importance. At the same time, only a minority of those swelling the ranks of SNAP obtained benefits from the UI program, suggesting that the current safety net has important limitations in times of serious economic distress.

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Waging War on Poverty: Historical Trends in Poverty Using the Supplemental Poverty Measure

Liana Fox et al.
NBER Working Paper, January 2014

Abstract:
Using data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey and the March Current Population Survey, we calculate historical poverty estimates based on the new Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) from 1967 to 2012. During this period, poverty as officially measured has stagnated. However, the official poverty measure (OPM) does not account for the effect of near-cash transfers on the financial resources available to families, an important omission since such transfers have become an increasingly important part of government anti-poverty policy. Applying the SPM, which does count such transfers, we find that historical trends in poverty have been more favorable than the OPM suggests and that government policies have played an important and growing role in reducing poverty --- a role that is not evident when the OPM is used to assess poverty. We also find that government programs have played a particularly important role in alleviating child poverty and deep poverty, especially during economic downturns.

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Human Capital in the Inner City

Dionissi Aliprantis
Federal Reserve Working Paper, February 2013

Abstract:
Black males in the United States are exposed to tremendous violence at young ages: In the NLSY97 26 percent report seeing someone shot by age 12, and 43 percent by age 18. This paper studies how this exposure to violence and its associated social isolation affect education and labor market outcomes. I use Elijah Anderson's ethnographic research on the "code of the street" to guide the specification of a model of human capital accumulation that includes street capital, the skills and knowledge useful for providing personal security in neighborhoods where it is not provided by state institutions. The model is estimated assuming either selection on observables or dynamic selection with permanent unobserved heterogeneity. Counterfactuals from these estimated models indicate that exposure to violence has large effects, decreasing the high school graduation rate between 6.1 and 10.5 percentage points (20 and 35 percent of the high school dropout rate) and hours worked between 3.0 and 4.0 hours per week (0.15 and 0.19 σ).

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Prevalence and Correlates of Food Insecurity Among Students Attending a Midsize Rural University in Oregon

Megan Patton-López et al.
Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, forthcoming

Objective: To examine the prevalence and identify correlates of food insecurity among students attending a rural university in Oregon.

Methods: Cross-sectional nonprobability survey of 354 students attending a midsize rural university in Oregon during May, 2011. The main outcome was food insecurity measured using the US Department of Agriculture Household Food Security Survey Module: 6-Item Short Form. Socioeconomic and demographic variables were included in multivariate logistic regression models.

Results: Over half of students (59%) were food insecure at some point during the previous year. Having fair/poor health (odds ratio [OR], 2.08; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.07–4.63), being employed (OR, 1.73; 95% CI, 1.04–2.88), and having an income < $15,000/y (OR, 2.23; 95% CI, 1.07–4.63) were associated with food insecurity. In turn, good academic performance (grade point average of ≥ 3.1) was inversely associated with food insecurity.

Conclusions: Food insecurity seems to be a significant issue for college students. It is necessary to expand research on different campus settings and further strengthen support systems to increase access to nutritious foods for this population.

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Do In-Work Tax Credits Serve as a Safety Net?

Marianne Bitler, Hilary Hoynes & Elira Kuka
NBER Working Paper, January 2014

Abstract:
The cash and near cash safety net in the U.S. has undergone a dramatic transformation in the past fifteen years. Federal welfare reform has led to the “elimination of welfare as we know it” and several tax reforms have substantially increased the role of “in-work”' assistance. In 2010, we spent more than 5 dollars on the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for every dollar spent on cash benefits through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), whereas in 1994 on the eve of federal welfare reform these programs were about equal in size. In this paper, we evaluate and test whether the EITC satisfies a defining feature of a safety net program — that it responds to economic need. In particular, we explore how EITC participation and expenditures change with the business cycle. The fact that the EITC requires earned income leads to a theoretical ambiguity in the cyclical responsiveness of the credit. We use administrative IRS data to examine the relationship between business cycles and the EITC program. Our empirical strategy relies on exploiting differences in the timing and severity of economic cycles across states. The results show that higher unemployment rates lead to higher EITC recipients and total dollar amounts of credits for married couples. On the other hand, the effect of business cycles on the EITC is insignificant for single individuals, whether measured by recipients or expenditures. In sum, our results show that the EITC serves as an automatic stabilizer for married couples with children but not for the majority of recipients — single parents with children. The patterns we identify are consistent with the predictions of static labor supply theory, and with expectations about how economic shocks are likely to affect one versus two-earner households.

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The Effects of Unemployment on Prenatal Care Use and Infant Health

Andrea Kutinova Menclova
Journal of Family and Economic Issues, December 2013, Pages 400-420

Abstract:
Do recessions improve birth outcomes? This study investigated the relationship between unemployment fluctuations, prenatal care utilization and infant health. Analyzing the US Natality Detail Files for the period 1989–1999 aggregated by county, year, and race, I found the overall effects of unemployment to be beneficial but concluded that at least some of the apparent benefits are attributable to the Medicaid “safety net.” In supplementary analyses stratified by socioeconomic status, Medicaid played the largest role among economically disadvantaged (single and less educated) women. Thus, unemployment seems to be good for at least some pregnancies — provided Medicaid steps in.

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Insurance Coverage and Prenatal Care Among Low-Income Pregnant Women: An Assessment of States' Adoption of the "Unborn Child" Option in Medicaid and CHIP

Marian Jarlenski et al.
Medical Care, January 2014, Pages 10-19

Background: The “Unborn Child” (UC) option provides state Medicaid/Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) programs with a new strategy to extend prenatal coverage to low-income women who would otherwise have difficulty enrolling in or would be ineligible for Medicaid.

Objectives: To examine the association of the UC option with the probability of enrollment in Medicaid/CHIP during pregnancy and probability of receiving adequate prenatal care.

Research Design: We use pooled cross-sectional data from the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System from 32 states between 2004 and 2010 (n=81,983). Multivariable regression is employed to examine the association of the UC option with Medicaid/CHIP enrollment during pregnancy among eligible women who were uninsured preconception (n=45,082) and those who had insurance (but not Medicaid) preconception (n=36,901). Multivariable regression is also employed to assess the association between the UC option and receipt of adequate prenatal care, measured by the Adequacy of Prenatal Care Utilization Index.

Results: Residing in a state with the UC option is associated with a greater probability of Medicaid enrollment during pregnancy relative to residing in a state without the policy both among women uninsured preconception (88% vs. 77%, P<0.01) and among women insured (but not in Medicaid) preconception (40% vs. 31%, P<0.01). Residing in a state with the UC option is not significantly associated with receiving adequate prenatal care, among both women with and without insurance preconception.

Conclusions: The UC option provides states a key way to expand or simplify prenatal insurance coverage, but further policy efforts are needed to ensure that coverage improves access to high-quality prenatal care.

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Substance-Use Disorders and Poverty as Prospective Predictors of First-Time Homelessness in the United States

Ronald Thompson et al.
American Journal of Public Health, December 2013, Pages S282-S288

Objectives: We examined whether substance-use disorders and poverty predicted first-time homelessness over 3 years.

Methods: We analyzed longitudinal data from waves 1 (2001–2002) and 2 (2004–2005) of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions to determine the main and interactive effects of wave 1 substance use disorders and poverty on first-time homelessness by wave 2, among those who were never homeless at wave 1 (n = 30 558). First-time homelessness was defined as having no regular place to live or having to live with others for 1 month or more as a result of having no place of one’s own since wave 1.

Results: Alcohol-use disorders (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.34), drug-use disorders (AOR = 2.51), and poverty (AOR = 1.34) independently increased prospective risk for first-time homelessness, after adjustment for ecological variables. Substance-use disorders and poverty interacted to differentially influence risk for first-time homelessness (P < .05), before, but not after, adjustment for controls.

Conclusions: This study reinforces the importance of both substance-use disorders and poverty in the risk for first-time homelessness, and can serve as a benchmark for future studies. Substance abuse treatment should address financial status and risk of future homelessness.

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Untangling the Relationship Between Mental Health and Homelessness Among a Sample of Arrestees

Andrew Fox et al.
Crime & Delinquency, forthcoming

Abstract:
Past research has focused on the intertwined relationship between homelessness, mental illness, and criminal justice. Although a well-established correlation between mental illness and homelessness has emerged, a better understanding of how this may be mediated by other prominent risk factors such as substance use or victimization is warranted. The current study uses data obtained from 3,673 recently booked arrestees to examine these relationships. Using structural equation modeling with measured variables, the analyses indicate the relationship between mental health and homelessness to be almost entirely mediated by alcohol use, drug use, and violent victimization. Policy implications are discussed.

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Making Ends Meet After Prison

David Harding et al.
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, forthcoming

Abstract:
Former prisoners are at high risk of economic insecurity due to the challenges they face in finding employment and to the difficulties of securing and maintaining public assistance while incarcerated. This study examines the processes through which former prisoners attain economic security, examining how they meet basic material needs and achieve upward mobility over time. It draws on unique qualitative data from in-depth, unstructured interviews with a sample of former prisoners followed over a two- to three-year period to assess how subjects draw upon a combination of employment, social supports, and public benefits to make ends meet. Findings reveal considerable struggle among our subjects to meet even minimal needs for shelter and food, although economic security and stability could be attained when employment or public benefits were coupled with familial social support. Sustained economic security was rarely achieved absent either strong social support or access to long-term public benefits. However, a select few were able to leverage material support and social networks into trajectories of upward mobility and economic independence. Policy implications are discussed.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Sure things

Do Private Equity Returns Result from Wealth Transfers and Short-Termism? Evidence from a Comprehensive Sample of Large Buyouts

Jarrad Harford & Adam Kolasinski
Management Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
We test whether the well-documented high returns of private equity sponsors result from wealth transfers from other financial claimants and counterparties and from a focus on short-term profits at the expense of long-term value. Debt investors who finance buyouts, as well as buyers of private equity portfolio companies, represent the two potential sources of wealth transfers. However, we find that, on average, public companies benefit when they buy financial sponsors' portfolio companies, experiencing positive abnormal returns upon the announcement of the acquisition and long-run posttransaction abnormal returns indistinguishable from zero. We further find that large portfolio company payouts to private equity on average have no relation to future portfolio company distress, suggesting that debt investors are not suffering systematic wealth losses either. However, we find some evidence of wealth transfers from both strategic buyers and debt investors in some special situations. Finally, we find that portfolio companies invest no differently than a matched sample of public control firms, even when they are not profitable, an observation inconsistent with short-termism.

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Buffett's Alpha

Andrea Frazzini, David Kabiller & Lasse Pedersen
NBER Working Paper, November 2013

Abstract:
Berkshire Hathaway has realized a Sharpe ratio of 0.76, higher than any other stock or mutual fund with a history of more than 30 years, and Berkshire has a significant alpha to traditional risk factors. However, we find that the alpha becomes insignificant when controlling for exposures to Betting-Against-Beta and Quality-Minus-Junk factors. Further, we estimate that Buffett’s leverage is about 1.6-to-1 on average. Buffett’s returns appear to be neither luck nor magic, but, rather, reward for the use of leverage combined with a focus on cheap, safe, quality stocks. Decomposing Berkshires’ portfolio into ownership in publicly traded stocks versus wholly-owned private companies, we find that the former performs the best, suggesting that Buffett’s returns are more due to stock selection than to his effect on management. These results have broad implications for market efficiency and the implementability of academic factors.

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The Price of Purity: Brokerage as Consecration in the Market for Modern Art

Fabien Accominotti
Columbia University Working Paper, November 2013

Abstract:
This article proposes a structural approach to consecration, and uses this approach to solve an empirical puzzle in the sociology of markets. Markets for novel and unique goods are often seen as privileged settings for the powerful influence of market intermediaries. Yet economic sociologists have repeatedly failed to observe any impact of art market brokers on the value of the artists they distribute. This puzzling finding, I argue, arises from a misconception of what brokerage does to economic products. While market intermediation is usually thought to act through two social processes of valuation – certification, or the signaling of underlying quality, and qualification, or the establishment of specific quality criteria – I suggest that it also influences value through consecration, or the conferral of relational purity. This approach fills a gap in economic sociology, which lacks a distinct definition of consecration. It also suggests a network-based strategy for capturing consecration empirically. I finally show that brokerage as consecration, not certification or qualification, is indeed how art market intermediaries shape the value of their artists. The empirical focus is on the market for modern art in early twentieth-century Paris – a setting chosen both for its historical significance and its ability to magnify how markets, as social environments, bear on the economic worth of things.

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Bid Takers or Market Makers? The Effect of Auctioneers on Auction Outcomes

Nicola Lacetera et al.
NBER Working Paper, December 2013

Abstract:
A large body of research has explored the importance of auction design and information structure for auction outcomes. Much less work has considered the importance of the auction process. For example, in many auctions, auctioneers are present and can impact the process of the auction by varying starting prices, level of price adjustments, the speed of the auction, the way they interact with auction participants, or their characteristic chant that is intended to excite buyers. We explore the importance of auction process by testing whether auctioneers can have a systematic difference on auction outcomes. We analyze more than 850,000 wholesale used car auctions and find large and significant differences in outcomes (probability of sale, price, and auction speed) across auctioneers. The performance heterogeneities are stable across time and correlate with subjective evaluations of auctioneers provided by the auction house. Although the available data here do not allow us to conclusively isolate mechanisms, a range of evidence suggests a role for tactics that generate excitement among bidders. Overall, these findings illustrate the complexities of auction environments and how outcomes can be impacted by subtle changes in process.

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Does Price Influence Assessment of Fundamental Value? Experimental Evidence

Sylvain Marsat & Benjamin Williams
Journal of Behavioral Finance, Fall 2013, Pages 268-275

Abstract:
Assessing the fundamental value of a firm is a difficult task. Theoretically, the market price is exogenous and should not be used in the estimation. We performed a simple experiment to pinpoint whether price is used in fundamental value calculation. Subjects were given similar information on a firm. In the first/control situation, no price was submitted. In the second situation, the actual price was submitted to them. In the third one, a manipulated, overvalued price was provided. We find that the price provided proves to have a clear impact on the subjects’ estimations. This is consistent with the anchoring-and-adjustment hypothesis of fundamental assessment and has implications for a better understanding of financial bubbles.

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To See is To Believe: Common Expectations in Experimental Asset Markets

Stephen Cheung, Morten Hedegaard & Stefan Palan
European Economic Review, February 2014, Pages 84–96

Abstract:
We experimentally manipulate agents' information regarding the rationality of others in a setting in which previous studies have found irrationality to be present, namely the asset market experiments introduced by Smith et al. (1988). Recent studies suggest that mispricing in such markets may be an artefact of confusion, which can be reduced by training subjects to understand the diminishing fundamental value. We reconsider this view, and propose that when it is made public knowledge that training has occurred, this may also reduce uncertainty over the behavior of others and facilitate the formation of common expectations. Our design disentangles the direct effect of training from the indirect effect of its public knowledge, and our results demonstrate a distinct and statistically significant effect of public knowledge over and above that of training alone.

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Do option-like incentives induce overvaluation? Evidence from experimental asset markets

Martin Holmen, Michael Kirchler & Daniel Kleinlercher
Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, forthcoming

Abstract:
One potential reason for bubbles evolving prior to the financial crisis was excessive risk taking stemming from option-like incentive schemes in financial institutions. By running laboratory asset markets, we investigate the impact of option-like incentives on price formation and trading behavior. The main results are that (i) we observe significantly higher market prices with option-like incentives than linear incentives. (ii) We further find that option-like incentives provoke subjects to behave differently and to take more risk than subjects with linear incentives. (iii) We finally show that trading at inflated prices is rational for subjects with option-like incentives since it increases their expected payout.

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Working on the Weekend: Do Analysts Strategically Time the Release of Their Recommendation Revisions?

Lynn Rees, Nathan Sharp & Paul Wong
Texas A&M University Working Paper, November 2013

Abstract:
We examine whether financial analysts strategically time the announcement of their recommendation revisions to maintain relations with management. We find that analysts are more likely to issue downgrades than upgrades on the weekend, and that downgrades are a higher proportion of weekend revisions than weekday revisions. When we examine analysts’ incentives further, we find that analysts with Institutional Investor Allstar status, analysts employed at large brokerage houses, and analysts whose employers provide underwriting services are all more likely to downgrade stocks on the weekends than their counterparts, suggesting analysts with strong incentives to maintain favor with management are more likely to exhibit strategic timing of their recommendations. Finally, we provide evidence that the market reaction is less negative to downgrades issued on weekends compared to downgrades issued on weekdays, and that analysts who downgrade stocks on the weekend are more likely to move up in II Allstar rankings in the period following their strategic behavior.

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Bidder Country Characteristics and Informed Trading in U.S. Targets

Jeff Madura & Marek Marciniak
Journal of International Financial Markets, Institutions and Money, forthcoming

Abstract:
Information leakages experienced by U.S. targets in the pre-bid period are especially pronounced when they involve foreign bidders whose countries have weak insider trading sanctions, are perceived to have prevalent insider trading activity, have a low level of local merger activity, and are not classified as common law countries. Among foreign countries, information leakages are less pronounced when the bidder's government has a cooperative agreement with the SEC. Enforcement cooperation agreements signed between the SEC and foreign regulators serve as an effective means of enforcing the stricter U.S. insider trading laws on a more global scale.

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Have Financial Markets Become More Informative?

Jennie Bai, Thomas Philippon & Alexi Savov
NBER Working Paper, December 2013

Abstract:
The finance industry has grown, financial markets have become more liquid, and information technology allows arbitrageurs to trade faster than ever. But have market prices then become more informative? We use stock and bond prices to forecast earnings and find that the information content of market prices has not improved since 1960. We use a model with information acquisition and investment to link financial development, price informativeness, and allocational efficiency. As information costs fall, the predictable component of future earnings should rise and hence improve capital allocation and welfare. We find that this component has remained stable over the past 50 years. When we decompose price informativeness into real price efficiency and forecasting price efficiency, we find that both have remained stable.

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Opaque Trading, Disclosure, and Asset Prices: Implications for Hedge Fund Regulation

David Easley, Maureen O'Hara & Liyan Yang
Review of Financial Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
We investigate the effect of ambiguity about hedge fund investment strategies on asset prices and aggregate welfare. We model some traders (mutual funds) as facing ambiguity about the equilibrium trading strategies of other traders (hedge funds). This ambiguity limits the ability of mutual funds to infer information from prices and has negative effects on market outcomes. We use this analysis to investigate the implications of regulations that affect disclosure requirements of hedge funds or the cost of operating a hedge fund. Our analysis demonstrates how regulations affect asset prices and welfare through their influence on opaque trading.

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Private Interaction Between Firm Management and Sell-Side Analysts

Eugene Soltes
Journal of Accounting Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Although sell-side analysts often privately interact with managers of publicly traded firms, the private nature of this contact has historically obscured direct examination. By examining a set of proprietary records compiled by a large-cap NYSE traded firm, I offer insights into which analysts privately meet with management, when analysts privately interact with management, and why these interactions occur. I also compare private interaction to public interaction between analysts and managers on conference calls. The evidence suggests that private interaction with management is an important communication channel for analysts for reasons other than firm-specific forecasting news.

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Competition, Endogeneity and the Winning Bid: An Empirical Analysis of eBay auctions

Ilke Onur & Malathi Velamuri
Information Economics and Policy, March 2014, Pages 68–74

Abstract:
Using a dataset of Texas Instruments (TI) calculator auctions on eBay, we estimate the impact of the number of bidders on the winning bid. We highlight the possible endogeneity associated with using the number of observed bidders. We tackle this problem by employing approaches involving instrumental variables. We introduce a novel instrumental variable, the closing interval between successive auctions. Estimates from the two-stage least squares (2SLS) regression are over 3 times those from an ordinary least squares (OLS) regression.

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Media-Driven High Frequency Trading: Evidence from News Analytics

Bastian Von Beschwitz, Donald Keim & Massimo Massa
INSEAD Working Paper, October 2013

Abstract:
We investigate whether providers of high frequency media analytics affect the stock market. This question is difficult to answer as the response to news analytics usually cannot be distinguished from the reaction to the news itself. We exploit a unique experiment based on differences in news event classifications between different product releases of a major provider of news analytics for algorithmic traders. Comparing the market reaction to similar news items depending on whether the news has been released to customers or not, we are able to determine the causal effect of news analytics on stock prices, irrespective of the informational content of the news. We show that coverage in news analytics speeds up the market reaction by both increasing the stock price update and the trading volume in the first few seconds after the news event. Such coverage also increases prices if the content of the news is positive. Placebo tests and econometric robustness checks, either based on difference-in-difference specifications or different samples, confirm the results. The fact that a provider of media analytics impacts the market in a separate and distinct way from the underlying information content of the news has important normative implications for the regulatory debate.

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Fund Manager Allocation

Jieyan Fang, Alexander Kempf & Monika Trapp
Journal of Financial Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
We show that fund families allocate their most skilled managers to market segments in which manager skill is rewarded best. In efficient markets, even skilled managers cannot generate excess returns. In less efficient markets, skilled managers can exploit inefficiencies and generate higher performance than unskilled managers. Fund families seem to be aware of the relation between skill, efficiency, and performance, and allocate more skilled managers to inefficient markets. They pursue this strategy when hiring new fund managers and when reassigning managers to funds within the family. Overall, we conclude that fund families allocate fund managers in an efficient way.

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Can Analysts Analyze Mergers?

Hassan Tehranian, Mengxing Zhao & Julie Zhu
Management Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
After the completion of a merger and acquisition (M&A) transaction, the target firm is delisted, but some analysts who covered it retain coverage of the merged firm. We hypothesize that this decision is based on two factors: the analyst's ability to cover the merged firm and his or her assessment of the M&A deal. Consistent with these hypotheses, we find that the remaining target analysts provide more accurate earnings forecasts and more optimistic stock recommendations and growth forecasts for the merged firms than do the remaining acquirer analysts. We also find that a higher percentage of target analysts choosing to cover the merged firm is associated with better operating and long-term stock performance of that firm, but we do not find this relation with acquirer analysts. Our results extend the literature by showing that target analysts' coverage decisions reveal valuable information about a merged firm's future performance.

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Is Sell-Side Research More Valuable in Bad Times?

Roger Loh & René Stulz
NBER Working Paper, January 2014

Abstract:
In bad times, uncertainty is high, so that investors find it more difficult to assess the prospects of the firms they invest in. Learning models suggest that in such times investors should, everything else equal, value informative signals such as analyst forecasts and recommendations more than in good times. However, the higher uncertainty in bad times and career concerns stemming from troubled employers may make the task of analysts harder, so that analyst output is noisier and hence less valuable in bad times. Consequently, whether analyst forecasts and recommendations are more valuable during bad times is an empirical matter. We examine a large sample of analyst output from 1983 to 2011. We find that analysts work harder in bad times, but their earnings forecasts accuracy is worse and that they disagree more. Despite more inaccurate earnings forecasts, revisions to earnings forecasts and stock recommendations have a more influential stock-price impact during bad times as predicted by a learning model.

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Expectations of Returns and Expected Returns

Robin Greenwood & Andrei Shleifer
Review of Financial Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
We analyze time series of investor expectations of future stock market returns from six data sources between 1963 and 2011. The six measures of expectations are highly positively correlated with each other, as well as with past stock returns and with the level of the stock market. However, investor expectations are strongly negatively correlated with model-based expected returns. The evidence is not consistent with rational expectations representative investor models of returns.

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Market Reaction to Corporate Press Releases

Andreas Neuhierl, Anna Scherbina & Bernd Schlusche
Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, August 2013, Pages 1207-1240

Abstract:

We classify a unique and comprehensive dataset of corporate press releases into topics and study the market reaction to various types of news. While confirming prior findings regarding strong stock price responses to financial news, we also document significant reactions to news about corporate strategy, customers and partners, products and services, management changes, and legal developments. Consistent with regulators' expectations, the level of informational asymmetry in the market declines following most types of press releases. At the same time, return volatility frequently increases in the post-announcement period, which we show can be attributed to higher levels of valuation uncertainty.

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The evolution of capital structure and operating performance after leveraged buyouts: Evidence from U.S. corporate tax returns

Jonathan Cohn, Lillian Mills & Erin Towery
Journal of Financial Economics, February 2014, Pages 469–494

Abstract:
This study uses corporate tax return data to examine the evolution of firms' financial structure and performance after leveraged buyouts (LBOs) for a comprehensive sample of 317 LBOs taking place between 1995 and 2007. We find little evidence of operating improvements subsequent to an LBO, although consistent with prior studies, we do observe operating improvements in the set of LBO firms that have public financial statements. We also find that firms do not reduce leverage after LBOs, even if they generate excess cash flow. Our results suggest that effecting a sustained change in capital structure is a conscious objective of the LBO structure.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sick and twisted

Is This Time Different? The Slowdown in Healthcare Spending

Amitabh Chandra, Jonathan Holmes & Jonathan Skinner
NBER Working Paper, December 2013

Abstract:
Why have health care costs moderated in the last decade? Some have suggested the Great Recession alone was the cause, but health expenditure growth in the depths of the recession was nearly identical to growth prior to the recession. Nor can the Affordable Care Act (ACA) can take credit, since the slowdown began prior to its implementation. Instead, we identify three primary causes of the slowdown: the rise in high-deductible insurance plans, state-level efforts to control Medicaid costs, and a general slowdown in the diffusion of new technology, particularly in the Medicare population. A more difficult question is: Will this slowdown continue? Here we are more pessimistic, and not entirely because a similar (and temporary) slowdown occurred in the early 1990s. The primary determinant of long-term growth is the continued development of expensive technology, and there is little evidence of a permanent slowdown in the technology pipeline. Proton beam accelerators are on target to double between 2010 and 2014, while the market for heart-assist devices (costing more than $300,000) is projected to grow rapidly. Accountable care organizations (ACOs) and emboldened insurance companies may yet stifle health care cost growth, but our best estimate over the next two decades is that health care costs will grow at GDP plus 1.2 percent; lower than previous estimates but still on track to cause serious fiscal pain for taxpayers and workers who bear the costs of higher premiums.

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Health and Financial Fragility: Evidence from Car Crashes and Consumer Bankruptcy

Edward Morrison et al.
University of Chicago Working Paper, October 2013

Abstract:
This paper assesses the importance of adverse health shocks as triggers of bankruptcy filings. We view car crashes as a proxy for health shocks and draw on a large sample of police crash reports linked to hospital admission records and bankruptcy case files. We report two findings: (i) there is a strong positive correlation between an individual's pre-shock financial condition and his or her likelihood of suffering a health shock, an example of behavioral consistency; and (ii) after accounting for this simultaneity, we are unable to identify a causal effect of health shocks on bankruptcy filing rates. These findings emphasize the importance of risk heterogeneity in determining financial fragility, raise questions about prior studies of "medical bankruptcy," and point to important challenges in identifying the triggers of consumer bankruptcy.

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Can Consumers Make Affordable Care Affordable? The Value of Choice Architecture

Eric Johnson et al.
PLoS ONE, December 2013

Abstract:
Tens of millions of people are currently choosing health coverage on a state or federal health insurance exchange as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. We examine how well people make these choices, how well they think they do, and what can be done to improve these choices. We conducted 6 experiments asking people to choose the most cost-effective policy using websites modeled on current exchanges. Our results suggest there is significant room for improvement. Without interventions, respondents perform at near chance levels and show a significant bias, overweighting out-of-pocket expenses and deductibles. Financial incentives do not improve performance, and decision-makers do not realize that they are performing poorly. However, performance can be improved quite markedly by providing calculation aids, and by choosing a "smart" default. Implementing these psychologically based principles could save purchasers of policies and taxpayers approximately 10 billion dollars every year.

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Wedges, Wages, and Productivity under the Affordable Care Act

Casey Mulligan & Trevor Gallen
NBER Working Paper, December 2013

Abstract:
Our paper documents the large labor market wedges created by taxes, subsidies, and regulations included in the Affordable Care Act. The law changes terms of trade in both goods and factor markets for firms offering health insurance coverage. We use a multi-sector (intra-national) trade model to predict and quantify consequences of the Affordable Care Act for the patterns of output, labor usage, and employee compensation. We find that the law will significantly redistribute from high-wage workers to low-wage workers and to non-workers, reduce total factor productivity about one percent, reduce per-capita labor hours about three percent (especially among low-skill workers), reduce output per capita about two percent, and reduce employment less for sectors that ultimately pay employer penalties.

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Wedges, Labor Market Behavior, and Health Insurance Coverage under the Affordable Care Act

Trevor Gallen & Casey Mulligan
NBER Working Paper, December 2013

Abstract:
The Affordable Care Act's taxes, subsidies, and regulations significantly alter terms of trade in both goods and factor markets. We use a multi-sector (intra-national) trade model to predict and quantify consequences of the Affordable Care Act for the incidence of health insurance coverage and patterns of labor usage. If and when the new exchange plans are competitive with employer-sponsored insurance (ESI), our model suggests that more than 20 million people will leave ESI as a consequence of the law. Behavioral changes that are captured in the model could add about 3 million participants to the new exchange plans: beyond those that would participate solely as the result of employer decisions to stop offering coverage and beyond those who would have been uninsured. Industries and regions will grow, decline, and change coverage on the basis of their relative demand for skilled labor.

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"Simply un-American": Nativism and Support for Health Care Reform

Benjamin Knoll & Jordan Shewmaker
Political Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study investigates the relationship between individual-level support for the 2010 Affordable Care Act and nativism, the perception that a traditional American culture and way of life needs to be protected against foreign influence. The results of an analysis of a 2011 public opinion survey demonstrate that nativism was an independent and significant predictor of opposition to health care reform and that this effect held for both Republicans as well as Democrats, although the relationship is stronger for Republicans. This is substantively important for two reasons. First, it demonstrates that certain sub-groups of the American public evaluate public policy proposals on the basis of their perceived "foreignness." Second, it demonstrates that while nativism is traditionally associated with immigration and other race/ethnic-based policy preferences, it also affects attitudes toward other seemingly race-neutral policies in the United States.

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Moving For Medicaid? Recent Eligibility Expansions Did Not Induce Migration From Other States

Aaron Schwartz & Benjamin Sommers
Health Affairs, January 2014, Pages 88-94

Abstract:
Starting in 2014, many low-income adult residents of states that forgo the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medicaid would be eligible for that program if they moved to a state that had chosen to expand its coverage. Some of these people may migrate to receive coverage, thereby increasing costs for states that have expanded the program. This is known as the "welfare magnet" hypothesis, a claim that geographic variation in social programs induces the migration of welfare recipients to places with more generous benefits or eligibility. To investigate whether such spillover effects are likely, we used data from the Current Population Survey to examine the migration patterns of low-income people before and after recent expansions of public insurance in Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, and New York. Using difference-in-differences analysis of migration in expansion and control states, we found no evidence of significant migration effects. Our preferred estimate was precise enough to rule out net migration effects of larger than 1,600 people per year in an expansion state. These results suggest that migration will not be a common way for people to obtain Medicaid coverage under the current expansion and that interstate migration is not likely to be a significant source of costs for states choosing to expand their programs.

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Who Really Pays for Medicaid: Intended and Unintended Consequences of the Matching Grant

Kathleen Adams, Patricia Ketsche & Karen Minyard
Public Finance Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
The goal of the Medicaid intergovernmental matching grant is to stimulate state spending while achieving some level of beneficiary and taxpayer equity. This study uses the Current Population Survey data on 174,031 families to estimate federal and state Medicaid tax burdens per family, net of tax exporting. Of the total US$305 billion spent on Medicaid in 2004, US$29.9 billion is redistributed through the grant's Federal Medical Assistance Percentage, as residents of low-income states export federal tax burdens to higher-income states. Another US$4.5 billion in state taxes is exported via business flows and tourism with the bulk, US$3.2 billion, being exported internationally. Some states pay as little as US$.55 in "own" tax revenues while residents in states importing the burden pay up to US$1.86, for every US$1 spent on Medicaid. Since virtually all states have regressive tax structures, it is federal Medicaid funding that helps maintain vertical equity overall.

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First, Do No Harm: Financial Conflicts in Medicine

Joseph Engelberg, Christopher Parsons & Nathan Tefft
University of California Working Paper, August 2013

Abstract:
We explore financial conflicts of interest faced by doctors. Pharmaceutical firms frequently pay physicians in the form of meals, travel, and speaking fees. Over half of the 334,000 physicians in our sample receive payment of some kind. When a doctor is paid, we find that he is more likely to prescribe a drug of the paying firm, both relative to close substitutes and even generic versions of the same drug. This payment-for-prescription effect scales with transfer size, although doctors receiving only small and/or infrequent payments are also affected. The pattern holds in nearly every U.S. state, but it is strongly and positively related to regional measures of corruption.

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Externalities and Taxation of Supplemental Insurance: A Study of Medicare and Medigap

Marika Cabral & Neale Mahoney
NBER Working Paper, January 2014

Abstract:
Most health insurance policies use cost-sharing to reduce excess utilization. The purchase of supplemental insurance can blunt the impact of this cost-sharing, potentially increasing utilization and exerting a negative externality on the primary insurance provider. This paper estimates the effect of private Medigap supplemental insurance on public Medicare spending using Medigap premium discontinuities in local medical markets that span state boundaries. Using administrative data on the universe of Medicare beneficiaries, we estimate that Medigap increases an individual's Medicare spending by 22.2%. We find that the take-up of Medigap is price sensitive with an estimated demand elasticity of -1.8. Using these estimates, we calculate that a 15% tax on Medigap premiums would generate combined tax revenue and cost savings of $12.9 billion annually. A Pigouvian tax would generate combined annual savings of $31.6 billion.

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The Effects of Health Information Technology on the Costs and Quality of Medical Care

Leila Agha
Journal of Health Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Information technology has been linked to productivity growth in a wide variety of sectors, and health information technology (HIT) is a leading example of an innovation with the potential to transform industry-wide productivity. This paper analyzes the impact of health information technology (HIT) on the quality and intensity of medical care. Using Medicare claims data from 1998-2005, I estimate the effects of early investment in HIT by exploiting variation in hospitals' adoption statuses over time, analyzing 2.5 million inpatient admissions across 3900 hospitals. HIT is associated with a 1.3 percent increase in billed charges (p-value: 5.6%), and there is no evidence of cost savings even five years after adoption. Additionally, HIT adoption appears to have little impact on the quality of care, measured by patient mortality, adverse drug events, and readmission rates.

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The Effect of U.S. Health Insurance Expansions on Medical Innovation

Jeffrey Clemens
NBER Working Paper, December 2013

Abstract:
I study the channels through which health insurance influences medical innovation. Following Medicare and Medicaid's passage, I find that U.S.-based medical-equipment patenting rose by 40 to 50 percent relative to both other U.S. patenting and foreign medical-equipment patenting. Within the United States, increases in medical-equipment patenting were most dramatic in states where the Great Society insurance expansions were largest and in which there were large baseline numbers of physicians per resident. Consistent with historical case studies, Medical innovation's determinants extend beyond the potential revenues associated with global market size; a physician driven process of innovation-while-doing appears to play a central role. An extrapolation of the evidence suggests that the last half century's U.S. insurance expansions have driven 25 percent of recent global medical-equipment innovation. In a standard decomposition of health spending growth, this insurance-induced innovation accounts for 15 percent of the long run rise in U.S. health spending in hospitals, physicians' offices, and other clinical settings.

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Increased Speed Equals Increased Wait: The Impact of a Reduction in Emergency Department Ultrasound Order Processing Time

Jillian Berry Jaeker, Anita Tucker & Michael Lee
Harvard Working Paper, October 2013

Abstract:
We exploit an exogenous process change at two emergency departments (EDs) within a health system to test the theory that increasing capacity in a discretionary work setting increases wait times due to additional services being provided to customers as a consequence of reduced marginal costs for a task. We find that an increase in physicians' capacity for ordering ultrasounds (U/S) resulted in an 11.5 percentage point increase in the probability of an U/S being ordered, confirming that resource availability induces demand. Furthermore, we find that the additional U/S demand increased the time to return other radiological tests due to the higher demand placed on radiologists from the additional U/S. Consequently, the average length of stay (LOS) for patients with an abdominal complaint increased by nearly 30 minutes, and the waiting time to enter the ED increased by 26 minutes. We do not find any indications of improved performance on clinical metrics, with no statistical change in the number of admissions to the hospital or readmissions to the ED within 72 hours. Our study highlights an important lesson for process improvement in interdependent service settings: increasing process capacity at one step in the process can increase demand at that step, as well as for a subsequent shared service, and both can result in an overall negative impact on performance.

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Employer Contribution and Premium Growth in Health Insurance

Yiyan Liu & Ginger Zhe Jin
NBER Working Paper, December 2013

Abstract:
We study whether employer premium contribution schemes could impact the pricing behavior of health plans and contribute to rising premiums. Using 1991-2011 data before and after a 1999 premium subsidy policy change in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), we find that the employer premium contribution scheme has a differential impact on health plan pricing based on two market incentives: 1) consumers are less price sensitive when they only need to pay part of the premium increase, and 2) each health plan has an incentive to increase the employer's premium contribution to that plan. Both incentives are found to contribute to premium growth. Counterfactual simulation shows that average premium would have been 10% less than observed and the federal government would have saved 15% per year on its premium contribution had the subsidy policy change not occurred in the FEHBP.

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Competition and the Impact of Online Hospital Report Cards

Shin-Yi Chou et al.
Journal of Health Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Information on the quality of healthcare gives providers an incentive to improve care, and this incentive should be stronger in more competitive markets. We examine this hypothesis by studying Pennsylvanian hospitals during the years 1995-2004 to see whether those hospitals located in more competitive markets increased the quality of the care provided to Medicare patients after report cards rating the quality of their Coronary Artery Bypass Graft programs went online in 1998. We find that after the report cards went online, hospitals in more competitive markets used more resources per patient, and achieved lower mortality among more severely-ill patients.

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Greatest Impact Of Safe Harbor Rule May Be To Improve Patient Safety, Not Reduce Liability Claims Paid By Physicians

Allen Kachalia et al.
Health Affairs, January 2014, Pages 59-66

Abstract:
"Safe harbor" legislation that provides liability protection to physicians when they follow designated guidelines is often proposed as a way to reform the malpractice system while improving patient safety. However, published evidence provides little policy guidance on implementing safe harbors. With the support of an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality planning grant, we conducted an empirical analysis of closed liability claims in Oregon to determine the potential effects of hypothetical safe harbor legislation. We found that such legislation would have changed the liability outcome in favor of the physician defendant in only 1 percent of 266 claims from the period 2002-09 that we reviewed. Nevertheless, if safe harbors can induce greater physician adherence to care guidelines, they have the potential to improve patient safety. Implementing safe harbor legislation, however, requires overcoming a number of hurdles, including selecting and updating approved guidelines, obtaining broad stakeholder support, and withstanding challenges to the legal validity of the legislation. More experimentation with safe harbors is needed to determine their effects on the performance of the liability system and on health care quality and costs.

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Medicaid Increases Emergency-Department Use: Evidence from Oregon's Health Insurance Experiment

Sarah Taubman et al.
Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
In 2008, Oregon initiated a limited expansion of a Medicaid program for uninsured, low-income adults, drawing names from a waiting list by lottery. This lottery created a rare opportunity to study the effects of Medicaid coverage using a randomized controlled design. Using the randomization provided by the lottery and emergency-department records from Portland-area hospitals, we study the emergency-department use of about 25,000 lottery participants over approximately 18 months after the lottery. We find that Medicaid coverage significantly increases overall emergency use by 0.41 visits per person, or 40 percent relative to an average of 1.02 visits per person in the control group. We find increases in emergency-department visits across a broad range of types of visits, conditions, and subgroups, including increases in visits for conditions that may be most readily treatable in primary care settings.

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Impact of Universal Health Insurance Coverage on Hypertension Management: A Cross-National Study in the United States and England

Andrew Dalton et al.
PLoS ONE, January 2014

Background: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) galvanised debate in the United States (US) over universal health coverage. Comparison with countries providing universal coverage may illustrate whether the ACA can improve health outcomes and reduce disparities. We aimed to compare quality and disparities in hypertension management by socio-economic position in the US and England, the latter of which has universal health care.

Method: We used data from the Health and Retirement Survey in the US, and the English Longitudinal Study for Aging from England, including non-Hispanic White respondents aged 50-64 years (US market-based v NHS) and >65 years (US-Medicare v NHS) with diagnosed hypertension. We compared blood pressure control to clinical guideline (140/90 mmHg) and audit (150/90 mmHg) targets; mean systolic and diastolic blood pressure and antihypertensive prescribing, and disparities in each by educational attainment, income and wealth, using regression models.

Results: There were no significant differences in aggregate achievement of clinical targets aged 50 to 65 years (US market-based vs. NHS- 62.3% vs. 61.3% [p = 0.835]). There was, however, greater control in the US in patients aged 65 years and over (US Medicare vs. NHS- 53.5% vs. 58.2% [p = 0.043]). England had no significant socioeconomic disparity in blood pressure control (60.9% vs. 63.5% [p = 0.588], high and low wealth aged ?65 years). The US had socioeconomic differences in the 50-64 years group (71.7% vs. 55.2% [p = 0.003], high and low wealth); these were attenuated but not abolished in Medicare beneficiaries.

Conclusion: Moves towards universal health coverage in the US may reduce disparities in hypertension management. The current situation, providing universal coverage for residents aged 65 years and over, may not be sufficient for equality in care.

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Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program: An Economic and Operational Analysis

Dennis Zhang et al.
Northwestern University Working Paper, December 2013

Abstract:
The Hospital Readmission Reduction Program (HRRP), a part of the US Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, requires the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to penalize payments to hospitals with excess readmissions. We take an economic and operational (patient flow) perspective to ask a simple question: assuming that hospitals are self-interested operating-margin maximizers and are strategically forward-looking, does the structure of the HRRP policy provide economic incentives to all hospitals to reduce readmissions? If not, which hospitals are left behind, and what are the challenges? Since hospitals are bench-marked against their peers under the policy, we use a game-theoretical model to describe hospitals' behavior. While the game is complex, we develop bounds on equilibria that provide insights into the effectiveness of the HRRP policy. We calibrate our model with a dataset of hospitals in California. Our model suggests that in the long term, a significant proportion of hospitals will prefer to pay penalties rather than reduce readmissions. For a broad range of parameters, we find that the policy may be ineffective in inducing some hospitals to reduce readmissions: these are hospitals that either (i) are located in sparsely served areas, (ii) have a low fraction of revenue coming from Medicare, (iii) have currently high readmission rates, or (iv) have a high contribution margin per patient. We also examine the effect of certain changes to the HRRP policy.

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Survey Finds Few Orthopedic Surgeons Know The Costs Of The Devices They Implant

Kanu Okike et al.
Health Affairs, January 2014, Pages 103-109

Abstract:
Orthopedic procedures represent a large expense to the Medicare program, and costs of implantable medical devices account for a large proportion of those procedures' costs. Physicians have been encouraged to consider cost in the selection of devices, but several factors make acquiring cost information difficult. To assess physicians' levels of knowledge about costs, we asked orthopedic attending physicians and residents at seven academic medical centers to estimate the costs of thirteen commonly used orthopedic devices between December 2012 and March 2013. The actual cost of each device was determined at each institution; estimates within 20 percent of the actual cost were considered correct. Among the 503 physicians who completed our survey, attending physicians correctly estimated the cost of the device 21 percent of the time, and residents did so 17 percent of the time. Thirty-six percent of physicians and 75 percent of residents rated their knowledge of device costs "below average" or "poor." However, more than 80 percent of all respondents indicated that cost should be "moderately," "very," or "extremely" important in the device selection process. Surgeons need increased access to information on the relative prices of devices and should be incentivized to participate in cost containment efforts.

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Effects of Occupational Regulations On The Cost Of Dental Services: Evidence From Dental Insurance Claims

Coady Wing & Allison Marier
Journal of Health Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
In the United States, occupational regulations influence the work tasks that may legally be performed by dentists and dental hygienists. Only a dentist may legally perform most dental procedures; however, a smaller list of basic procedures may be provided by either a dentist or a dental hygienist. Since dentists and hygienists possess different levels of training and skill and receive very different wages, it is plausible that these regulations could distort the optimal allocation of skills to work tasks. We present simple theoretical framework that shows different ways that such regulations might affect the way that dentists and dental hygienists are used in the production of dental services. We then use a large database of dental insurance claims to study the effects of the regulations on the prevailing prices of a set of basic dental services. Our empirical analysis exploits variation across states and over time in the list of services that may be provided by either type of worker. Our main results suggest that the task-specific occupational regulations increase prices by about 12%. We also examine the effects of related occupational regulations on the utilization of basic dental services. We find that allowing insurers to directly reimburse hygienists for their work increases one year utilization rates by 3 to 4 percentage points.

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Expanding Federal Funding to Community Health Centers Slows Decline in Access for Low-Income Adults

Stacey McMorrow & Stephen Zuckerman
Health Services Research, forthcoming

Objective: To identify the impact of the Health Center Growth Initiative on access to care for low-income adults.

Data Sources: Data on federal funding for health centers are from the Bureau of Primary Health Care's Uniform Data System (2000-2007), and individual-level measures of access and use are derived from the National Health Interview Survey (2001-2008).

Study Design: We estimate person-level models of access and use as a function of individual- and market-level characteristics. By using market-level fixed effects, we identify the effects of health center funding on access using changes within markets over time. We explore effects on low-income adults and further examine how those effects vary by insurance coverage.

Data Collection: We calculate health center funding per poor person in a health care market and attach this information to individual observations on the National Health Interview Survey. Health care markets are defined as hospital referral regions.

Principal Findings: Low-income adults in markets with larger funding increases were more likely to have an office visit and to have a general doctor visit. These results were stronger for uninsured and publicly insured adults.

Conclusions: Expansions in federal health center funding had some mitigating effects on the access declines that were generally experienced by low-income adults over this time period.

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Impact of a High-deductible Health Plan on Outpatient Visits and Associated Diagnostic Tests

Sheila Reddy et al.
Medical Care, January 2014, Pages 86-92

Background: By shifting a greater share of out-of-pocket medical costs to consumers, high-deductible health plans (HDHP) might discourage use of essential outpatient services.

Objective: The objective of the study was to examine the impact of an HDHP on outpatient visits and associated laboratory and radiology tests.

Research Design/Subjects: We used a pre-post with comparison group study design to examine the differential change in outpatient service utilization among 7953 adults who were switched from a traditional Health Maintenance Organization plan to an HDHP compared with 7953 adults remaining in traditional plans. HDHP members had full coverage of preventive laboratory tests and modest copayments for outpatient visits, similar to controls, but faced full cost sharing under the deductible for radiology tests and laboratory tests not classified as preventive.

Results: Compared with controls, the HDHP group experienced moderate relative decreases in overall office visits (incidence rate ratios=0.91, or a 9% relative reduction; 95% confidence interval: 0.88, 0.94) and visits for higher-priority (0.91; 0.85, 0.97) and lower-priority (0.89; 0.81, 0.99) chronic conditions. There were no significant differences in changes in visit rates for acute higher-priority or lower-priority conditions (both 0.93; 0.86, 1.01) or preventive laboratory tests (0.97; 0.93, 1.02). HDHP members showed moderate relative reductions in the use of general laboratory tests (0.91; 0.86, 0.97) but not radiology tests (0.97; 0.91, 1.03).

Conclusions: Chronic outpatient visits declined among HDHP members, although preventive laboratory tests and acute visits remained unchanged. HDHP patients with chronic illnesses who have more contact with the health care system might be more likely to reduce utilization because of increased exposure to costs associated with ambulatory visits.

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Cancer spending and accountable care organizations: Evidence from the Physician Group Practice Demonstration

Carrie Colla et al.
Healthcare, December 2013, Pages 100-107

Background: Although accountable care organizations (ACOs) are rapidly being deployed in Medicare, little is known about how the model might affect high-risk, high cost groups such as cancer patients. The Physician Group Practice Demonstration, which ran from 2005 to 2010 in 10 physician groups, provides the best current evidence on the likely effectiveness of accountable care organizations for Medicare beneficiaries. Changes in cancer treatment and spending under this program may be indicative of cancer treatment under ACO payment reform.

Methods: Using Medicare fee-for-service claims data, regression analysis was used to estimate changes in payments for cancer patients using a difference-in-difference design comparing pre- (2001-2004) and post-intervention (2005-2009) trends in spending on cancer patients in PGPD participants to local control groups.

Results: Regression models indicate the Physician Group Practice Demonstration was associated with average Medicare spending reductions per cancer patient of $721 annually across participating sites, an annual 3.9% reduction in payments per patient. Savings derived entirely from reductions in acute care payments for inpatient stays. The Demonstration was also associated with a reduction in mortality among cancer patients. There was no significant change in the proportion of deaths occurring in the hospital. There were significant reductions in hospice use, hospital discharges and ICU days, but no reductions in cancer-specific procedures or chemotherapy. Estimates of all measures varied considerably across participating sites.

Conclusions: The Physician Group Practice Demonstration was associated with reductions in admissions for inpatient care among beneficiaries with prevalent cancer, with no adverse effect on mortality. Participants in the Physician Group Practice Demonstration did not change the trajectory of spending for cancer-specific treatments.

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Paying physician group practices for quality: A statewide quasi-experiment

Douglas Conrad et al.
Healthcare, December 2013, Pages 108-116

Abstract:
This article presents the results of a unique quasi-experiment of the effects of a large-scale pay-for-performance (P4P) program implemented by a leading health insurer in Washington state during 2001-2007. The authors received external funding to provide an objective impact evaluation of the program. The program was unique in several respects: (1) It was designed dynamically, with two discrete intervention periods-one in which payment incentives were based on relative performance (the "contest" period) and a second in which payment incentives were based on absolute performance compared to achievable benchmarks. (2) The program was designed in collaboration with large multispecialty group practices, with an explicit run-in period to test the quality metrics. Public reporting of the quality scorecard for all participating medical groups was introduced 1 year before the quality incentive payment program's inception, and continued throughout 2002-2007. (3) The program was implemented in stages with distinct medical groups. A control group of comparable group practices also was assembled, and difference-in-differences methodology was applied to estimate program effects. Case mix measures were included in all multivariate analyses. The regression design permitted a contrast of intervention effects between the "contest" approach in the sub-period of 2003-2004 and the absolute standard, "achievable benchmarks of care" approach in sub-period 2005-2007. Most of the statistically significant quality incentive program coefficients were small and negative (opposite to program intent). A consistent pattern of differential intervention impact in the sub-periods did not emerge. Cumulatively, the probit regression estimates indicate that neither the quality scorecard nor the quality incentive payment program had a significant positive effect on general clinical quality. Based on key informant interviews with medical leaders, practicing physicians, and administrators of the participating groups, the authors conclude that several factors likely combined to dampen program effects: (1) modest size of the incentive; (2) use of rewards only, rather than a balance of rewards and penalties; (3) targeting incentive payments to the group, thus potentially weakening incentive effects at the individual level.

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The Influence of State Policy and Proximity to Medical Services on Health Outcomes

Jing Li
Journal of Urban Economics, March 2014, Pages 97-109

Abstract:
This paper examines two factors that help to explain geographic variation in health outcomes. The first factor concerns proximity to medical services. The second factor is state-specific health care policy that may impede access to nearby medical services. Four key findings are obtained. First, the effect of local doctors on reducing mortality rates of various diseases in a county attenuates with distance. Second, at approximately the same distance, in-state doctors contribute more to lowering mortality rates in the primary county than do out-of-state doctors. Third, the lesser impact of nearby out-of-state doctors is further reduced when the primary state adopts more stringent policies that restrict entry of out-of-state physicians. Fourth, the impact of nearby doctors is found to be stronger in more urbanized areas. This is consistent with agglomeration economies being effective in contributing, at least in part, to the productivity of treating patients.

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The Effect of Patient Cost Sharing on Utilization, Health, and Risk Protection

Hitoshi Shigeoka
NBER Working Paper, December 2013

Abstract:
This paper exploits a sharp reduction in patient cost sharing at age 70 in Japan, using a regression discontinuity design to examine its effect on utilization, health, and financial risk arising from out-of-pocket expenditures. Due to the national policy, cost sharing is 60-80 percent lower at age 70 than at age 69. I find that both outpatient and inpatient care are price sensitive among the elderly. While I find little impact on mortality and other health outcomes, the results show that reduced cost sharing is associated with lower out-of-pocket expenditures, especially at the right tail of the distribution.

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A Profitability Evaluation of America's Best Hospitals, 2000-2008

W.C. Benton
Decision Sciences, December 2013, Pages 1139-1153

Abstract:
Each year U.S. News and World Report evaluates more than 5,000 U.S. hospitals, of which approximately 3% are considered the best hospitals in America, and hospital profitability has emerged as a business objective for these hospitals. This study investigates the profitability performance of the best (highest quality) hospitals in the United States. A 9-year longitudinal investigation of profitability for the best hospitals in the United States is conducted. The results offer evidence that the primary drivers of hospital profitability are the case mix index and daily bed capacity. In terms of hospital profitability, there appears to be a tradeoff between these two factors. Finally, caution must be used when ranking U.S. News and World Report Honor Roll hospitals, in terms of profitability and performance.

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Analysis Of Hospital Production: An Output Index Approach

Martin Gaynor, Samuel Kleiner & William Vogt
Journal of Applied Econometrics, forthcoming

Abstract:
In this study, we develop and implement an output index approach to the estimation of hospital cost functions that reflects the differentiated nature of hospital care. The approach combines the estimation of an output index within a flexible functional form. We find, in an application to California hospitals, evidence of scope economies across specialties within primary care, and diseconomies of scope within secondary and tertiary care. Minimum efficient scale is reached at larger levels of output than would be estimated by conventional techniques. These results indicate the importance of accounting for firm output heterogeneity when estimating cost functions.

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Hospital Teaching Intensity and Mortality for Acute Myocardial Infarction, Heart Failure, and Pneumonia

David Shahian et al.
Medical Care, January 2014, Pages 38-46

Background: Under the Affordable Care Act, health care reimbursement will increasingly be linked to quality and costs. In this environment, teaching hospitals will be closely scrutinized, as their care is often more expensive. Furthermore, although they serve vital roles in education, research, management of complex diseases, and care of vulnerable populations, debate continues as to whether teaching hospitals deliver better outcomes for common conditions.

Objective: To determine the association between risk-standardized mortality and teaching intensity for 3 common conditions.

Research Design: Using CMS models, 30-day risk-standardized mortality rates were compared among US hospitals classified as Council of Teaching Hospital (COTH) members, non-COTH teaching hospitals, or nonteaching hospitals. These analyses were repeated using ratios of interns and residents to beds to classify teaching intensity.

Subjects: The study cohort included Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries aged 66 years or older hospitalized in acute care hospitals during 2009-2010 for acute myocardial infarction (N=342,145), heart failure (N=647,081), or pneumonia (N=598,366).

Outcome Measure: The 30-day risk-standardized mortality rates for each condition, stratified by teaching intensity.

Results: For each diagnosis, compared with nonteaching hospitals there was a 10% relative reduction in the adjusted odds of mortality for patients admitted to COTH hospitals and a 6%-7% relative reduction for patients admitted to non-COTH teaching hospitals. These findings were insensitive to the method of classifying teaching intensity and only partially explained by higher teaching hospital volumes.

Conclusions: Health care reimbursement strategies designed to increase value should consider not only the costs but also the superior clinical outcomes at teaching hospitals for certain common conditions.

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Do Hospitals Without Physicians on the Board Deliver Lower Quality of Care?

Ge Bai & Ranjani Krishnan
American Journal of Medical Quality, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study examines whether hospitals without physician participation on their boards of directors deliver lower quality of care. Using data from California nonprofit hospitals from 2004 to 2008, we document that the absence of physicians on the board is associated with a decrease of 3-5 percentage points in three out of four measures of care quality. We obtain this result using regression analysis, which controls for various hospital characteristics. We also identify factors that influence quality of care in hospitals. Specifically, hospital size, church affiliation, urban location, and system affiliation are positively associated with quality of care; proportion of Medicaid patient revenue and poverty level of the county where the hospital is located are negatively associated with quality of care. These results highlight the importance of physician participation in hospital governance and indicate areas for hospitals and policy makers to focus on to enhance medical quality management.

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The Medicare Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program: Potential Unintended Consequences for Hospitals Serving Vulnerable Populations

Qian Gu et al.
Health Services Research, forthcoming

Objective: To explore the impact of the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP) on hospitals serving vulnerable populations.

Data Sources/Study Setting: Medicare inpatient claims to calculate condition-specific readmission rates. Medicare cost reports and other sources to determine a hospital's share of duals, profit margin, and characteristics.

Study Design: Regression analyses and projections were used to estimate risk-adjusted readmission rates and financial penalties under the HRRP. Findings were compared across groups of hospitals, determined based on their share of duals, to assess differential impacts of the HRRP.

Principal Findings: Both patient dual-eligible status and a hospital's dual-eligible share of Medicare discharges have a positive impact on risk-adjusted hospital readmission rates. Under current Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service methodology, which does not adjust for socioeconomic status, high-dual hospitals are more likely to have excess readmissions than low-dual hospitals. As a result, HRRP penalties will disproportionately fall on high-dual hospitals, which are more likely to have negative all-payer margins, raising concerns of unintended consequences of the program for vulnerable populations.

Conclusions: Policies to reduce hospital readmissions must balance the need to ensure continued access to quality care for vulnerable populations.

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Managing Manifest Diseases, But Not Health Risks, Saved PepsiCo Money Over Seven Years

John Caloyeras et al.
Health Affairs, January 2014, Pages 124-131

Abstract:
Workplace wellness programs are increasingly popular. Employers expect them to improve employee health and well-being, lower medical costs, increase productivity, and reduce absenteeism. To test whether such expectations are warranted, we evaluated the cost impact of the lifestyle and disease management components of PepsiCo's wellness program, Healthy Living. We found that seven years of continuous participation in one or both components was associated with an average reduction of $30 in health care cost per member per month. When we looked at each component individually, we found that the disease management component was associated with lower costs and that the lifestyle management component was not. We estimate disease management to reduce health care costs by $136 per member per month, driven by a 29 percent reduction in hospital admissions. Workplace wellness programs may reduce health risks, delay or avoid the onset of chronic diseases, and lower health care costs for employees with manifest chronic disease. But employers and policy makers should not take for granted that the lifestyle management component of such programs can reduce health care costs or even lead to net savings.

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Are Dual Eligibles Admitted to Poorer Quality Skilled Nursing Facilities?

Momotazur Rahman et al.
Health Services Research, forthcoming

Background: Dual eligibles, persons who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid coverage, often receive poorer quality care relative to other Medicare beneficiaries.

Objectives: To determine whether dual eligibles are discharged to lower quality post-acute skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) compared with Medicare-only beneficiaries.

Research Design: Following the random utility maximization model, we specified a discharge function using a conditional logit model and tested how this discharge rule varied by dual-eligibility status.

Subjects: A total of 692,875 Medicare fee-for-service patients (22% duals) who were discharged for Medicare paid SNF care between July 2004 and June 2005.

Measures: Medicare enrollment and the Medicaid Analytic Extract files were used to determine dual eligibility. The proportion of Medicaid patients and nursing staff characteristics provided measures of SNF quality.

Results: Duals are more likely to be discharged to SNFs with a higher share of Medicaid patients and fewer nurses. These results are robust to estimation with an alternative subsample of patients based on primary diagnoses, propensity of being dual eligible, and likelihood of remaining in the nursing home.

Conclusions: Disparities exist in access to quality SNF care for duals. Strategies to improve discharge planning processes are required to redirect patients to higher quality providers, regardless of Medicaid eligibility.

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Contextual Determinants of US Nursing Home Racial/Ethnic Diversity

Jullet Davis et al.
Social Science & Medicine, forthcoming

Abstract:
We hypothesized that for-profit/chain affiliated nursing homes, those in states with higher Medicaid reimbursement, and those in more competitive markets would have greater resident racial/ethnic diversity than nursing homes not meeting these criteria. Using 2004 Online Survey, Certification and Reporting data, Minimum Data Set, Lewis Mumford Center for Comparative Urban and Regional Research data, and the Area Resource File, we included U.S. Medicare/Medicaid certified nursing homes (N= 8,950) located in 310 Metropolitan Statistical Areas. The dependent variable quantified facility-level multiracial diversity. Ordinary least squares regression showed support for the hypothesized relationships: for-profit/chain affiliated nursing homes were more diverse than nursing homes in all other ownership/chain member categories, while higher Medicaid per-diem rates, greater residential diversity, and stronger market competition were also positively associated with nursing home racial/ethnic composition. Results suggest there is room for policy changes to achieve equitable access to all levels of nursing home services for minority elders.

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The Impact of Electronic Health Records on Workflow and Financial Measures in Primary Care Practices

Neil Fleming et al.
Health Services Research, forthcoming

Objective: To estimate a commercially available ambulatory electronic health record's (EHR's) impact on workflow and financial measures.

Data Sources/Study Setting: Administrative, payroll, and billing data were collected for 26 primary care practices in a fee-for-service network that rolled out an EHR on a staggered schedule from June 2006 through December 2008.

Study Design: An interrupted time series design was used. Staffing, visit intensity, productivity, volume, practice expense, payments received, and net income data were collected monthly for 2004-2009. Changes were evaluated 1-6, 7-12, and >12 months postimplementation.

Data Collection/Extraction Methods: Data were accessed through a SQLserver database, transformed into SASR, and aggregated by practice. Practice-level data were divided by full-time physician equivalents for comparisons across practices by month.

Principal Findings: Staffing and practice expenses increased following EHR implementation (3 and 6 percent after 12 months). Productivity, volume, and net income decreased initially but recovered to/close to preimplementation levels after 12 months. Visit intensity did not change significantly, and a secular trend offset the decrease in payments received.

Conclusions: Expenses increased and productivity decreased following EHR implementation, but not as much or as persistently as might be expected. Longer term effects still need to be examined.

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The Association between EHRs and Care Coordination Varies by Team Cohesion

Ilana Graetz et al.
Health Services Research, forthcoming

Objective: To examine whether primary care team cohesion changes the association between using an integrated outpatient-inpatient electronic health record (EHR) and clinician-rated care coordination across delivery sites.

Study Design: Self-administered surveys of primary care clinicians in a large integrated delivery system, collected in 2005 (N = 565), 2006 (N = 678), and 2008 (N = 626) during the staggered implementation of an integrated EHR (2005-2010), including validated questions on team cohesion. Using multivariable regression, we examined the combined effect of EHR use and team cohesion on three dimensions of care coordination across delivery sites: access to timely and complete information, treatment agreement, and responsibility agreement.

Principal Findings: Among clinicians working in teams with higher cohesion, EHR use was associated with significant improvements in reported access to timely and complete information (53.5 percent with EHR vs. 37.6 percent without integrated-EHR), agreement on treatment goals (64.3 percent vs. 50.6 percent), and agreement on responsibilities (63.9 percent vs. 55.2 percent, all p < .05). We found no statistically significant association between use of the integrated-EHR and reported care coordination in less cohesive teams.

Conclusion: The association between EHR use and reported care coordination varied by level of team cohesion. EHRs may not improve care coordination in less cohesive teams.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM


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