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Saturday, August 9, 2014

On Offense

Effects of playing a violent video game as male versus female avatar on subsequent aggression in male and female players

Grace Yang, Rowell Huesmann & Brad Bushman
Aggressive Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Previous research has shown that violent video games can increase aggression in players immediately after they play. The present research examines the effects of one subtle cue within violent video games that might moderate these effects — whether the avatar is male or female. One common stereotype is that males are more aggressive than females. Thus, playing a violent video game as a male avatar, compared to a female avatar, should be more likely to prime aggressive thoughts and inclinations in players and lead to more aggressive behavior afterwards. Male and female university students (N = 242) were randomly assigned to play a violent video game as a male or female avatar. After gameplay, participants gave an ostensible partner who hated spicy food hot sauce to eat. The amount of hot sauce given was used to measure aggression. Consistent with priming theory, results showed that both male and female participants who played a violent game as a male avatar behaved more aggressively afterwards than those who played as female avatar. The priming effects of the male avatar were somewhat stronger for male participants than for female participants, suggesting that male participants identified more with the male avatar than did the female participants. These results are particularly noteworthy because they are consistent with another recent experiment showing that playing a violent game as an avatar with a different stereotypically aggressive attribute (black skin color) stimulates more aggression than playing as an avatar without the stereotypically aggressive attribute (Yang et al., 2014, Social Psychological and Personality Science).

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Is reading “banned” books associated with behavior problems in young readers? The influence of controversial young adult books on the psychological well-being of adolescents

Christopher Ferguson
Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, August 2014, Pages 354-362

Abstract:
Many books targeted toward young readers are “banned” or challenged in school and public libraries because of “edgy” violent, sexual, or occult content. Little is known about the possible relationship between such books and negative outcomes in children. Exposure to banned books and outcomes related to civic behaviors, internalizing and externalizing mental health problems, school grade point average (GPA), and violent and nonviolent crime were assessed in a sample of 282 adolescents and preadolescents aged 12–18. Control variables included child age and gender, parent and peer influences, neurotic and antisocial personality traits, and general reading for pleasure and required reading for school. Results indicated that relationships between banned books and negative outcomes were complex. Banned books were associated with increased civic behaviors concurrently. Banned books did not predict GPA, or commission of violent or nonviolent crimes. However, banned books were associated with increased internalizing and externalizing mental health symptoms. This relationship was driven by a small number of individuals, and was not linear in nature. Further, this relationship was true for girls, but much weaker in boys. GPA was predicted by increased reading for pleasure, but not required school reading. In regards to social outcomes, reading of banned books is associated with both increased civic behavior and little risk of antisocial behavior. A relationship does exist between banned book reading and mental health symptoms in a small subsample of readers although whether that relationship is causal or cathartic requires further research.

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Country, sex, and parent occupational status: Moderators of the continuity of aggression from childhood to adulthood

Katja Kokko et al.
Aggressive Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Using data from two American and one Finnish long-term longitudinal studies, we examined continuity of general aggression from age 8 to physical aggression in early adulthood (age 21–30) and whether continuity of aggression differed by country, sex, and parent occupational status. In all samples, childhood aggression was assessed via peer nominations and early adulthood aggression via self-reports. Multi-group structural equation models revealed significant continuity in aggression in the American samples but not in the Finnish sample. These relations did not differ by sex but did differ by parent occupational status: whereas there was no significant continuity among American children from professional family-of-origin backgrounds, there was significant continuity among American children from non-professional backgrounds.

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Impersonal Agencies of Communication: Comparing the Effects of Video Games and Other Risk Factors on Violence

Whitney DeCamp
Psychology of Popular Media Culture, forthcoming

Abstract:
In the debated topic of violent video games and violent behavior, empirical evidence has been mixed. Some studies support the assertion that there is a causal or correlational link between gaming and violence, whereas others do not find such support. Recent advances have demonstrated that adequately controlling for background characteristics that might result in a selection bias decrease the effect sizes. However, it remains unclear how strong of an effect video game playing has in comparison with other risk factors. The present study uses data from >6,000 eighth-grade students to examine the effects of playing violent games. Using propensity score matching and logistic regression models, results are estimated to show the relative effects from gaming and other social risk factors. Results indicate that propensity score matching decreases the already modest effect from gaming, often to nonsignificance. In comparison with other risk factors in the models, the effects are also relatively weak.

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Psychopathic sexuality: The thin line between fantasy and reality

Beth Visser et al.
Journal of Personality, forthcoming

Objective: In two studies, we explored the relations between psychopathic traits and sexual fantasy content. METHOD: In Study 1, we rated content themes in the fantasy narratives of 195 men and women recruited at a Canadian university. In Study 2, we administered a sexual fantasy questionnaire to sample of 355 Canadian undergraduate students.

Results: In Study 1, we found that psychopathic traits predicted themes of anonymous, uncommitted, and non-romantic sexual activity after controlling for participant sex. In Study 2, we found that psychopathy added to the prediction of self-reported engagement in unrestricted, dominant, submissive, deviant, and adventurous sexual activity, even after controlling for participant sex and level of fantasizing about that activity. Furthermore, an interaction between psychopathy and level of fantasizing was observed for unrestricted and deviant sexual behavior, such that participants who reported high levels of fantasizing about these sexual themes were more likely to engage in that behavior if they also reported high levels of psychopathic traits.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that not only is psychopathy related to interest in particular sexual behaviors, but also to whether individuals will translate these fantasized behaviors into reality.

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Can music with prosocial lyrics heal the working world? A field intervention in a call center

Karen Niven
Journal of Applied Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Music with lyrics about helping is shown to reduce aggression in the laboratory. This paper tests whether the prosocial lyric effect generalizes to reducing customer aggression in the workplace. A field experiment involved changing the hold music played to customers of a call center. The results of a 3 week study suggested that music significantly affected customers, but not in the way suggested by previous laboratory experiments; compared with days when instrumental background music was played, caller anger and employee exhaustion were lower on days when callers were played popular music with neutral, but not prosocial, lyrics. The findings suggest that music influences customer aggression, but that the prosocial lyric effect may not generalize from the laboratory to the call center.

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High outgroup entitativity can inhibit intergroup retribution

Anna-Kaisa Newheiser & John Dovidio
British Journal of Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Understanding the psychological processes that are involved in the perpetuation and escalation of intergroup conflict remains an important goal for intergroup relations research. In the present research, we examined perceived outgroup entitativity as a potential determinant of intergroup hostility. In intergroup conflict situations, high-entitative outgroups are perceived as particularly deserving of retribution; however, high-entitative outgroups are also perceived as efficacious and capable of retaliating successfully, suggesting that people may inhibit hostility against high-entitative (vs. low-entitative) outgroups that are in a position to retaliate. We tested this prediction in two studies. In Study 1, we manipulated intergroup provocation and outgroup entitativity, and found that higher negative mood predicted greater aggression against a low-entitative provoker outgroup, but failed to predict aggression against a high-entitative provoker outgroup that was plausibly in a position to retaliate. In Study 2, we held provocation constant while manipulating outgroup entitativity and the possibility of retaliation by the outgroup, and found that people acted in a retributive manner against a high-entitative provoker outgroup only when the outgroup was not in a position to retaliate. Implications for intergroup conflict are discussed.

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A longitudinal study of risk-glorifying video games and behavioral deviance

Jay Hull et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, August 2014, Pages 300-325

Abstract:
Character-based video games do more than allow one to practice various kinds of behaviors in a virtual environment; they allow one to practice being a different kind of person. As such, we propose that games can alter self-perceptions of personal characteristics, attitudes, and values with broad consequences for behavior. In a multiwave, longitudinal study of adolescents, we examined the extent to which play of mature-rated, risk-glorifying (MRRG) games was associated with increases in alcohol use, cigarette smoking, aggression, delinquency, and risky sex as a consequence of its effects on personality, attitudes, and affiliations indicative of increased tolerance of deviance. Participants were selected with random-digit-dial procedures and followed for 4 years. Data were analyzed with linear mixed modeling to assess change over time and structural equation modeling with latent variables to test hypothesized mediational processes. Among those who play video games, playing MRRG games was associated with increases in all measures of behavioral deviance. Mediational models support the hypothesis that these effects are in part a consequence of the effects of such gameplay on sensation seeking and rebelliousness, attitudes toward deviant behavior in oneself and others, and affiliation with deviant peers. Effects were similar for males and females and were strongest for those who reported heavy play of mature-rated games and games that involved protagonists who represent nonnormative and antisocial values. In sum, the current research supports the perspective that MRRG gameplay can have consequences for deviant behavior broadly defined by affecting the personality, attitudes, and values of the player.

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Association of low-activity MAOA allelic variants with violent crime in incarcerated offenders

Dean Stetler et al.
Journal of Psychiatric Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
The main enzyme for serotonin degradation, monoamine oxidase (MAO) A, has recently emerged as a key biological factor in the predisposition to impulsive aggression. Male carriers of low-activity variants of the main functional polymorphism of the MAOA gene (MAOA-uVNTR) have been shown to exhibit a greater proclivity to engage in violent acts. Thus, we hypothesized that low-activity MAOA-uVNTR alleles may be associated with a higher risk for criminal violence among male offenders. To test this possibility, we analyzed the MAOA-uVNTR variants of violent (n=49) and non-violent (n=40) male Caucasian and African-American convicts in a correctional facility. All participants were also tested with the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ), Barratt Impulsivity Scale (BIS-11) and Buss-Perry Aggression Questionnaire (BPAQ) to assess their levels of childhood trauma exposure, impulsivity and aggression, respectively. Our results revealed a robust (P<0.0001) association between low-activity MAOA-uVNTR alleles and violent crime. This association was replicated in the group of Caucasian violent offenders (P<0.01), but reached only a marginal trend (P=0.08) in their African American counterparts. While violent crime charges were not associated with CTQ, BIS-11 and BPAQ scores, carriers of low-activity alleles exhibited a mild, yet significant (P<0.05) increase in BIS-11 total and attentional-impulsiveness scores. In summary, these findings support the role of MAOA gene as a prominent genetic determinant for criminal violence. Further studies are required to confirm these results in larger samples of inmates and evaluate potential interactions between MAOA alleles and environmental vulnerability factors.

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Arousal, Working Memory Capacity, and Sexual Decision-Making in Men

Tara Spokes et al.
Archives of Sexual Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study investigated whether working memory capacity (WMC) moderated the relationship between physiological arousal and sexual decision making. A total of 59 men viewed 20 consensual and 20 non-consensual images of heterosexual interaction while their physiological arousal levels were recorded using skin conductance response. Participants also completed an assessment of WMC and a date-rape analogue task for which they had to identify the point at which an average Australian male would cease all sexual advances in response to verbal and/or physical resistance from a female partner. Participants who were more physiologically aroused by and spent more time viewing the non-consensual sexual imagery nominated significantly later stopping points on the date-rape analogue task. Consistent with our predictions, the relationship between physiological arousal and nominated stopping point was strongest for participants with lower levels of WMC. For participants with high WMC, physiological arousal was unrelated to nominated stopping point. Thus, executive functioning ability (and WMC in particular) appears to play an important role in moderating men’s decision making with regard to sexually aggressive behavior.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Friday, August 8, 2014

Executive Order

Top Management Conservatism and Corporate Risk Strategies: Evidence from Managers’ Personal Political Orientation and Corporate Tax Avoidance

Dane Christensen et al.
Strategic Management Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
We investigate whether managers’ personal political orientation helps explain tax avoidance at the firms they manage. Results reveal the intriguing finding that, on average, firms with top executives who lean toward the Republican Party actually engage in less tax avoidance than firms whose executives lean toward the Democratic Party. We also examine changes in tax avoidance around CEO turnovers and find corroborating evidence. Additionally, we find that political orientation is helpful in explaining top management team composition and CEO succession. Our paper extends theory and research by 1) illustrating how tax avoidance can serve as another measure of corporate risk taking and 2) using political orientation as a proxy for managerial conservatism, which is an ex ante measure of a manager's propensity towards risk.

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Marriage and Managers' Attitudes to Risk

Nikolai Roussanov & Pavel Savor
Management Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Marital status can both reflect and affect individual preferences. We explore the impact of marriage on corporate chief executive officers (CEOs) and find that firms run by single CEOs exhibit higher stock return volatility, pursue more aggressive investment policies, and do not respond to changes in idiosyncratic risk. These effects are weaker for older CEOs. Our findings continue to hold when we use variation in divorce laws across states to instrument for CEO marital status, which supports the hypothesis that marriage itself drives choices rather than it just reflecting innate heterogeneity in preferences. We explore various potential explanations for why single CEOs may be less risk averse.

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Local Gambling Preferences and Corporate Innovative Success

Yangyang Chen et al.
Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, February 2014, Pages 77-106

Abstract:
This paper examines the role of local attitudes toward gambling on corporate innovative activity. Using a county’s Catholics-to-Protestants ratio as a proxy for local gambling preferences, we find that firms located in gambling-prone areas tend to undertake riskier projects, spend more on innovation, and experience greater innovative output. We contrast the local gambling effect with chief executive officer (CEO) overconfidence, another behavioral effect reported to influence innovation. We find that local gambling preferences are a stronger determinant of innovative activity, with CEO overconfidence being more relevant to innovation in areas where gambling attitudes are strong.

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When does charisma matter for top-level leaders? Effect of attributional ambiguity

Philippe Jacquart & John Antonakis
Academy of Management Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
One stream of leadership theory suggests leaders are evaluated via inferential observer processes that compare the fit of the target to a prototype of an ideal (charismatic) leader. Attributional theories of leadership suggest that evaluations depend on knowledge of past organizational performance, which is attributed to the leader's skills. We develop a novel theory showing how inferential and attributional processes simultaneously explain top-level leader evaluation and ultimately leader retention and selection. We argue that observers will mostly rely on attributional mechanisms when performance signals clearly indicate good or poor performance outcomes. However, under conditions of attributional ambiguity (i.e., when performance signals are unclear), observers will mostly rely on inferential processes. In Study 1 we tested our theory in an unconventional context — the U.S. presidential election — and found that the two processes, due to the leader's charisma and country economic performance, interact in predicting whether a leader is selected. Using a business context and an experimental design, in Study 2 we show that CEO charisma and firm performance interact in predicting leader retention, confirming the results we found in Study 1. Our results suggest that this phenomenon is quite general and can apply to various performance domains.

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Industry Window Dressing

Huaizhi Chen, Lauren Cohen & Dong Lou
Harvard Working Paper, July 2014

Abstract:
We explore a new mechanism through which investors take correlated shortcuts. Specifically, we exploit a regulatory provision governing firm classification into industries: A firm's industry classification is determined by the segment that has the majority of sales. We find strong evidence that investors overly rely on this primary industry classification. Firms just above the industry classification cutoff have significantly higher betas with respect to, as well as more sector mutual fund holdings and analyst coverage from, that industry, compared to nearly identical firms just below the cutoff. We then show that managers undertake specific actions to exploit investor shortcuts. Firms around the discontinuity point of 50% sales are significantly more likely to have just over 50% of sales from a "favorable" industry. Further, these firms just over the cutoff have significantly lower profit margins and inventory growth compared to other firms in the same industries, consistent with these firms slashing prices to increase sales. These same firms, however, do not exhibit different behaviors in any other aspect of their business (e.g., CapEx or R&D), suggesting that it is not a firm-wide shift of focus. Last, firms garner tangible benefits from switching into favorable industries, such as engaging in significantly more SEOs and stock-financed M&As.

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Are All Independent Directors Equally Informed? Evidence Based on Their Trading Returns and Social Networks

Ying Cao et al.
Management Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
We study the impact of social networks on the ability of independent directors to obtain private information from their firms' executives. We find that independent directors socially connected to their firms' senior executives earn significantly higher returns than unconnected independent directors in stock sales transactions. The network effect on independent directors' trading profitability is stronger in firms with higher information asymmetry and with more powerful executives. In addition, the trading returns of independent directors previously unconnected with firm executives increase after the arrival of a connected executive and drop after the connected executive leaves the firm. Moreover, the net stock sales by connected directors predict future negative news for up to three quarters. As a comparison, the trading returns of connected and unconnected independent directors do not differ significantly in stock purchases. Taken together, our results suggest that social connections help independent directors gain access to private bad news information from firms' senior executives.

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Does Stock Liquidity Enhance or Impede Firm Innovation?

Vivian Fang, Xuan Tian & Sheri Tice
Journal of Finance, forthcoming

Abstract:
We aim to tackle the longstanding debate on whether stock liquidity enhances or impedes firm innovation. This topic is of interest because innovation is crucial for firm- and national-level competitiveness and stock liquidity can be altered by financial market regulations. Using a difference-in-differences approach that relies on the exogenous variation in liquidity generated by regulatory changes, we find that an increase in liquidity causes a reduction in future innovation. We identify two possible mechanisms through which liquidity impedes innovation: increased exposure to hostile takeovers and higher presence of institutional investors who do not actively gather information or monitor.

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Boards-R-Us: Reconceptualizing Corporate Boards

Stephen Bainbridge & Todd Henderson
Stanford Law Review, May 2014, Pages 1051-1119

Abstract:
State corporate law requires that “natural persons” provide director services. This Article puts this obligation to scrutiny, and concludes that there are significant gains that could be realized by permitting firms (be they partnerships, corporations, or other business entities) to provide board services. We call these firms “board service providers” (BSPs). We argue that hiring a BSP to provide board services instead of a loose group of sole proprietorships will increase board accountability, both from markets and from courts. The potential economies of scale and scope in the board services industry (including vertical integration of consultants and other board member support functions), as well as the benefits of risk pooling and talent allocation, mean that large professional director services firms may arise, and thereby create a market for corporate governance distinct from the market for corporate control. More transparency about board performance, including better pricing of governance by the market, as well as increased reputational assets at stake in board decisions, means improved corporate governance, all else being equal. But our goal in this Article is not necessarily to increase shareholder control over firms; we show how a firm providing board services could be used to increase managerial power as well. This shows the neutrality of our proposed reform, which can therefore be thought of as a reconceptualization of what a board is rather than a claim about the optimal locus of corporate power.

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The Geography of Financial Misconduct

Christopher Parsons, Johan Sulaeman & Sheridan Titman
NBER Working Paper, July 2014

Abstract:
We find that a firm’s tendency to engage in financial misconduct increases with the misconduct rates of neighboring firms. This appears to be caused by peer effects, rather than exogenous shocks like regional variation in enforcement. Effects are stronger among firms of comparable size, and among CEOs of similar age. Moreover, local waves of financial misconduct correspond with local waves of non-financial corruption, such as political fraud.

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The Role Of CEO Relative Standing In Acquisition Behavior And CEO Pay

Jeongil Seo et al.
Strategic Management Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
In this study, we develop and test a theory of CEO relative pay standing. Specifically, we propose that CEOs with negative relative pay standing status (underpaid relative to comparison CEOs) will engage in acquisition activity, as a self-interested means of attempting to realign their pay with that of their peers. We further propose that when CEOs with negative relative pay standing acquire, they will tend to finance those acquisitions more heavily with stock than cash, to mitigate the risk associated with those deals. Finally, we argue that acquisition activity will partially mediate the influence of CEO negative relative pay standing on subsequent CEO compensation increases; however, that pay growth will come primarily in the form of long-term incentive pay. Our results support our predictions.

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CEO Control, Corporate Performance and Pay-Performance Sensitivity

Yaron Amzaleg et al.
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, October 2014, Pages 166–174

Abstract:
Agency theory suggests that high pay-performance sensitivity (PPS) of CEO's compensation is an important motivation mechanism to the CEO to improve corporate performance. We develop a simple model that suggests that reverse causality should also be considered. Specifically, our model predicts that when good performance is expected, a powerful CEO will push for a contract with higher PPS. Data from 135 Israeli companies over a five-year period confirm the model's main prediction. Our empirical analysis shows that when the CEO is the chairman of the board of directors and thus is more powerful in affecting his compensation scheme, he achieves a high PPS in good periods (in terms of corporate performance), compared to similar powerful CEOs in periods of bad performance, and also compared to less powerful CEOs in good periods.

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Does the Location of Directors Matter? Information Acquisition and Board Decisions

Zinat Alam et al.
Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, February 2014, Pages 131-164

Abstract:
Using data on over 4,000 individual residential addresses, we find that geographic distance between directors and corporate headquarters is related to information acquisition and board decisions. The fraction of a board’s unaffiliated directors who live near headquarters is higher when information-gathering needs are greater. When the fraction of unaffiliated directors living near headquarters is lower, nonroutine chief executive officer (CEO) turnover is more sensitive to stock performance. Also, the level, intensity, and sensitivity of CEO equity-based pay increase with board distance. Overall, our results suggest that geographic location is an important dimension of board structure that influences directors’ costs of gathering information.

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The Contract Year Phenomenon in the Corner Office: An Analysis of Firm Behavior During CEO Contract Renewals

Ping Liu & Yuhai Xuan
Harvard Working Paper, April 2014

Abstract:
This paper investigates how executive employment contracts influence corporate financial policies during the final year of the contract term, using a new, hand-collected data set of CEO employment agreements. On the one hand, the impending expiration of fixed-term employment contracts creates incentives for CEOs to engage in strategic window-dressing activities. We find that, compared to normal periods, CEOs manage earnings more aggressively when they are in the process of contract renegotiations. Correspondingly, during CEO contract renewal times, firms are more likely to report earnings that meet or narrowly beat analyst consensus forecasts. Moreover, CEOs also reduce the amount of negative firm news released during their contract negotiation years. On the other hand, we find that merger and acquisition deals announced during the contract renegotiation year yield higher announcement returns than deals announced during other periods, suggesting that the upcoming contract expiration and renewal can also have disciplinary effects on potential value-destroying behaviors of CEOs. In addition, we show that firms whose CEOs are scheduled or expected to leave their posts upon contract expiration do not experience such corporate policy changes in the contract ending year and that CEOs who engage in manipulation during contract renewal obtain better employment terms in their new contracts, in terms of contract length, severance payment, and salary and bonus. Overall, our results indicate that job uncertainty created by expiring employment contracts induces changes in managerial behaviors that have significant impacts on firm financial activities and outcomes.

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The effect of CEO overconfidence on turnover abnormal returns

Neslihan Yilmaz & Michael Mazzeo
Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Finance, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper investigates the effect of managerial overconfidence on the market reaction to a CEO change within the firm. Some studies provide empirical evidence that irrational managers may engage in actions that can be detrimental to firm value while others suggest that an overconfident manager can increase firm value. We control for different turnover, governance and firm characteristics, and analyze the abnormal returns of S&P 500 firms in the event of a CEO turnover. We find that when an overconfident CEO is appointed to the firm there is a significant negative impact on firm’s stock price. Our results support the arguments against overconfident CEOs due to the possible future actions of the CEO that may be decrease firm value.

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Employee-Based Brand Equity: Why Firms With Strong Brands Pay Their Executives Less

Nader Tavassoli, Alina Sorescu & Rajesh Chandy
Journal of Marketing Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
This article examines the concept of employee-based brand equity – the value that a brand provides to a firm through its effects on the attitudes and behaviors of its employees – and empirically demonstrates its significance on executive pay. Executives value being associated with strong brands and, therefore, accept substantially lower pay at firms that own them. Consistent with identity theory, this effect is stronger for CEOs compared to other top executives, as well as for younger executives. Findings from data on a large, cross-industry sample of executives suggest that academics and practitioners should take a broader view of the contributions of brand-related investments to firm value, as well as make use of strong brands in pay negotiations that are typically viewed as being outside the realm of marketing.

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CEO optimism and incentive compensation

Clemens Otto
Journal of Financial Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
I study the effect of chief executive officer (CEO) optimism on CEO compensation. Using data on compensation in US firms, I provide evidence that CEOs whose option exercise behavior and earnings forecasts are indicative of optimistic beliefs receive smaller stock option grants, fewer bonus payments, and less total compensation than their peers. These findings add to our understanding of the interplay between managerial biases and remuneration and show how sophisticated principals can take advantage of optimistic agents by appropriately adjusting their compensation contracts.

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Does familiarity with business segments affect CEOs’ divestment decisions?

James Ang, Abe de Jong & Marieke van der Poel
Journal of Corporate Finance, forthcoming

Abstract:
We examine the impact of familiarity with business segments on CEOs’ divestment decisions. We find CEOs are less likely to divest assets from familiar than from non-familiar segments. We attribute this effect to CEOs’ comparative information advantage with respect to familiar segments. Consistent with this information advantage, we document that the familiarity effect is particularly strong in R&D intensive industries. We further find the familiarity effect to be most pronounced for longer-tenured CEOs who have built up sufficient political power over the course of several years in office to enable implementation of their preferred divestment choices. We also document the value effects of divestments and show that familiarity affects returns on divestment announcements.

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Voting Rights, Shareholdings, and Leverage at Nineteenth-Century U.S. Banks

Howard Bodenhorn
Journal of Law and Economics, May 2014, Pages 431-458

Abstract:
Modern corporate governance is concerned with the tension between the separation of ownership and control and the potential for large controlling shareholders to expropriate from minority shareholders. This article considers this tension in a historical context. Limits were sometimes placed on the number of votes that controlling shareholders could cast in corporate elections. These limits protected minority shareholders by giving them relatively more voting than cash-flow rights. The evidence shows that voting limits led to less shareholder concentration and less leverage. Banks with less concentrated ownership adopted policies that notably reduced insolvency risk.

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How do powerful CEOs view corporate risk-taking? Evidence from the CEO pay slice (CPS)

Pandej Chintrakarn, Pornsit Jiraporn & Shenghui Tong
Applied Economics Letters, forthcoming

Abstract:
We explore the role of powerful CEOs on the extent of risk-taking, using Bebchuk, Cremers and Peyer’s (2011) CEO pay slice (CPS). Based on more than 12,000 observations over 20 years (1992–2012), our results reveal a nonmonotonic association. In particular, relatively less powerful CEOs exhibit risk aversion, resulting in less risky strategies. However, when the CEO has his power consolidated beyond a certain point, he is less likely to compromise with other executives, leading to less moderate decisions and more risky strategies. We estimate that the CEO has to wield considerable power, that is, around the 75th percentile of CPS, before significantly more risk-taking is observed. Finally, we show that our results are unlikely vulnerable to endogeneity.

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The death of the deal: Are withdrawn acquisition deals informative of CEO quality?

Stacey Jacobsen
Journal of Financial Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
To examine the market response to positive revelations of chief executive officer (CEO) quality, this study focuses on CEOs who withdraw acquisition bids when the price becomes increasingly expensive. Firms that withdraw for price-related reasons earn higher withdrawal returns than firms that withdraw for other reasons. This relation is stronger when CEO uncertainty and discretion is high. CEOs unwilling to increase the offer price are less likely to be replaced and more likely to advance to a larger firm than a control group of CEOs. The finding that the market attaches value to CEO-specific information suggests that unobservable manager characteristics can meaningfully impact firm outcomes.

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When More Is Not Enough: Executive Greed and Its Influence on Shareholder Wealth

Katalin Takacs Haynes, Joanna Tochman Campbell & Michael Hitt
Journal of Management, forthcoming

Abstract:
The concept of greed is one of the oldest social constructs; however, greed as a managerial attribute that affects firm outcomes has yet to attract scholarly attention in management. In this study, we examine the relationship of CEO greed to shareholder wealth. After anchoring greed to familiar constructs in organizational literature, we test our hypotheses on a sample of over 300 publicly traded firms from multiple industries. As predicted, greed has a negative relationship with shareholder return, but this relationship is moderated by the presence of a powerful, independent board, managerial discretion, and CEO tenure. The contributions of this study, which include refining our understanding of self-interest and opportunism, developing the greed construct, and illustrating its impact on shareholder wealth, are intended to open a new line of inquiry in the management literature.

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Exposed: Venture Capital, Competitor Ties, and Entrepreneurial Innovation

Emily Pahnke et al.
Academy of Management Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper investigates the impact of early relationships on innovation at entrepreneurial firms. Prior research has largely focused on the benefits of network ties, documenting the many advantages that accrue to firms embedded in a rich network of inter-organizational relationships. In contrast, we build on research emphasizing potential drawbacks to examine how competitive exposure, enabled by powerful intermediaries, can inhibit innovation. We develop the concept of competitive information leakage, which occurs when firms are indirectly tied to their competitors via shared intermediary organizations. To test our theory, we examine every relationship between entrepreneurial firms and their venture capital investors in the minimally-invasive surgical segment of the medical device industry over a 22-year period. We find that indirect ties to competitors impede innovation, and that this effect is moderated by several factors related to the intermediary's opportunities and motivation to leak important information.

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CEO deal-making activities and compensation

Eliezer Fich, Laura Starks & Adam Yore
Journal of Financial Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Using transactions generally overlooked in the compensation literature — joint ventures, strategic alliances, seasoned equity offerings (SEOs), and spin-offs — we find that, beyond compensation for increases in firm size or complexity, chief executive officers (CEOs) are rewarded for their deal-making activities. Boards pay CEOs for the core motivation of the deal, as well as for deal volume. We find that compensating for volume instead of core value creation occurs under weak board monitoring and that in deal-making firms, neither CEO turnover nor pay-for-performance responds to underperformance. We introduce an input monitoring explanation for these results: boards compensate for deal volume because of their inability to perfectly monitor outputs.

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Anchoring On The Acquisition Premium Decisions Of Others

Shavin Malhotra, PengCheng Zhu & Taco Reus
Strategic Management Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
Anchoring is a ubiquitous heuristic by which decision-makers heavily rely on a piece of information (anchor) that appears prior to a decision. Yet, we know little about its role in strategic decisions. This study considers its influence on acquisition premiums by examining whether a focal premium decision may be anchored on the premium that another firm paid for the acquisition that directly preceded the focal acquisition in the same market because it presents a salient and compatible premium to decision-makers. Our results support this premise, particularly when preceding acquisitions happened more recently and were similar in size to the focal deals, when focal deals were in a foreign market, and when acquirers lacked acquisition experience in the target market or had a higher acquisition rate.

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Do Variations in the Strength of Corporate Governance Still Matter? A Comparison of the Pre- and Post-Regulation Environment

Nancy Harp, Mark Myring & Rebecca Toppe Shortridge
Journal of Business Ethics, July 2014, Pages 361-373

Abstract:
Corporate scandals brought the issue of corporate governance to the forefront of the agendas of lawmakers and regulators in the early 2000s. As a result, Congress, the New York Stock Exchange, and the NASDAQ enacted standards to improve the quality of corporate governance, thereby enhancing the quantity and quality of disclosures by listed companies. We investigate the relationship between corporate governance strength and the quality of disclosures in pre- and post-regulation time periods. If cross-sectional differences in corporate governance policies affect the quality of financial disclosures, the quality of information available to analysts varies with such policies. Specifically, higher quality disclosures, produced as a result of strong corporate governance, should lead to more accurate and less dispersed analysts’ forecasts. Our analysis suggests that voluntary implementation of stronger corporate governance enhanced the quality of disclosures in the pre-regulation period; however, exceeding current corporate governance standards does not appear to result in higher quality disclosures post-regulation. These results suggest that SOX and the stronger regulations enacted by U.S. exchanges were effective in reducing variation in the quality of financial information available to investors.

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Financial Expert CEOs: CEO’s Work Experience and Firm’s Financial Policies

Cláudia Custódio & Daniel Metzger
Journal of Financial Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
We study CEOs with a career background in finance. Firms with financial expert CEOs hold less cash, more debt, and engage in more share repurchases. Financial expert CEOs are more financially sophisticated: they are less likely to use one companywide discount rate instead of a project-specific one, they manage financial policies more actively, and their firm investments are less sensitive to cash flows. Financial expert CEOs are able to raise external funds even when credit conditions are tight, and they were more responsive to the dividend and capital gains tax cuts in 2003. Analyzing CEO-firm matching based on financial experience, we find that financial expert CEOs tend to be hired by more mature firms. Our results are consistent with employment histories of CEOs being relevant for corporate policies. However, we cannot formally rule out that our findings are partly explained by endogenous CEO-firm matching.

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Implications of power: When the CEO can pressure the CFO to bias reports

Henry Friedman
Journal of Accounting and Economics, August 2014, Pages 117–141

Abstract:
Building on archival, anecdotal, and survey evidence on managers' roles in accounting manipulations, I develop an agency model to examine the effects of a CEO's power to pressure a CFO to bias a performance measure, like earnings. This power has implications for incentive compensation, reporting quality, firm value, and information rents. Predictions from the model provide potential explanations for the differing results from recent empirical studies on the impact of regulatory interventions like SOX and the extent to which the CEO's or CFO's incentives significantly impact on earnings management. The model also identifies conditions under which either a powerful or a non-powerful CEO can extract rents, which can help explain mixed empirical results on the association between CEO power and “excessive” compensation.

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Debtholder Responses to Shareholder Activism: Evidence from Hedge Fund Interventions

Jayanthi Sunder, Shyam Sunder & Wan Wongsunwai
Review of Financial Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
We investigate the effect of shareholder activism on debtholders by examining a sample of bank loans for firms targeted by activist hedge funds. We compare loan spreads before and after intervention and show the effects of heterogeneous shareholder actions. Spreads increase when shareholder activism relies on the market for corporate control or financial restructuring. In contrast, spreads decrease when activists address managerial entrenchment. Furthermore, the effects are more pronounced when pre-existing governance mechanisms are weak. Our findings suggest that shareholder activism does not necessarily exacerbate bondholder-shareholder conflicts of interest and highlight the role of activism in aligning investors.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Minors

Low-Skilled Immigration and Parenting Investments of College-Educated Mothers in the United States: Evidence from Time-Use Data

Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes & Almudena Sevilla
Journal of Human Resources, Summer 2014, Pages 509-539

Abstract:
This paper uses several decades of U.S. time-diary surveys to assess the impact of low-skilled immigration, through lower prices for commercial childcare, on parental time investments. Using an instrumental variables approach that accounts for the endogenous location of immigrants, we find that low-skilled immigration to the United States has contributed to substantial reductions in the time allocated to basic childcare by college-educated mothers of non-school-aged children. However, these mothers have not reduced the time allocated to more stimulating educational and recreational activities with their children. Understanding the factors driving parental-time investments on children is crucial from a child-development perspective.

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Home with Mom: The Effects of Stay-at-Home Parents on Children's Long-Run Educational Outcomes

Eric Bettinger, Torbjørn Hægeland & Mari Rege
Journal of Labor Economics, July 2014, Pages 443-467

Abstract:
In 1998 the Norwegian government introduced a program that increased parents' incentives to stay home with children under the age of 3. Many eligible children had older siblings, and we investigate how this program affected the long-run educational outcomes of the older siblings. Using comprehensive administrative data, we estimate a difference-in-differences model that exploits differences in older siblings' exposures to the program. We find a significant positive treatment effect on older siblings' tenth-grade GPA, and this effect seems to be largely driven by mother's reduced labor force participation and not by changes in family income or father's labor force participation.

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The Schooling of Offspring and the Survival of Parents

Esther Friedman & Robert Mare
Demography, August 2014, Pages 1271-1293

Abstract:
Contemporary stratification research on developed societies usually views the intergenerational transmission of educational advantage as a one-way effect from parent to child. However, parents' investment in their offspring's schooling may yield significant returns for parents themselves in later life. For instance, well-educated offspring have greater knowledge of health and technology to share with their parents and more financial means to provide for them than do their less-educated counterparts. We use data from the 1992-2006 Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to examine whether adult offspring's educational attainments are associated with parents' survival in the United States. We show that adult offspring's educational attainments have independent effects on their parents' mortality, even after controlling for parents' own socioeconomic resources. This relationship is more pronounced for deaths that are linked to behavioral factors: most notably, chronic lower respiratory disease and lung cancer. Furthermore, at least part of the association between offspring's schooling and parents' survival may be explained by parents' health behaviors, including smoking and physical activity. These findings suggest that one way to influence the health of the elderly is through their offspring. To harness the full value of schooling for health, then, a family and multigenerational perspective is needed.

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Pacifiers Disrupt Adults' Responses to Infants' Emotions

Magdalena Rychlowska et al.
Basic and Applied Social Psychology, July/August 2014, Pages 299-308

Abstract:
Research shows that pacifiers disrupt infants' mimicry of facial expressions. This experiment examines whether pacifiers interfere with caretakers' ability to mimic infants' emotions. Adults saw photographs of infants with or without a pacifier. When infants had pacifiers, perceivers showed reduced EMG activity to infants' smiles. Smiles of infants using a pacifier were also rated as less happy than smiles depicted without a pacifier. The same pattern was observed for expressions of distress: adults rated infants presented with pacifiers as less sad than infants without pacifiers. We discuss deleterious effects of pacifier use for the perceiver's resonance with a child's emotions.

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Heightened Maternal Separation Anxiety in the Postpartum: The Role of Socioeconomic Disadvantage

Amanda Cooklin et al.
Journal of Family Issues, September 2014, Pages 1497-1519

Abstract:
Maternal separation anxiety (MSA) refers to feelings of anxiety elicited in a mother during separation from her infant. The role of social and structural disadvantage in the etiology of high MSA has been overlooked. Secondary analysis of data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (N = 3,897) revealed that compared to socioeconomically advantaged women, women of low socioeconomic position had a fourfold increased odds of reporting high (>80th percentile) MSA (odds ratio = 4.37, 95% confidence interval = 3.24-5.89), even when maternal and infant characteristics were controlled for. Inadequate social support and residing in a poor quality neighborhood were also significantly associated with high MSA in adjusted analyses. These findings indicate that high MSA is more common in socioeconomically disadvantaged women and might be a response to adverse circumstances. Mothers' experience of, and reasons for, MSA needs to be considered in policy formulation about parental leave and postpartum employment, particularly for disadvantaged mothers.

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Childhood Sexual Abuse and Later-Life Economic Consequences

Alan Barrett, Yumiko Kamiya & Vincent O' Sullivan
Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
The impact of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) on later-life health outcomes has been studied extensively and links with depression, anxiety and self-harm have been established. However, there has been relatively little research undertaken on the possible impact of CSA on later-life economic outcomes. Here, we explore whether older people who report having experienced CSA have weaker labour force attachment and lower incomes compared to other people. We use data from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) which is a nationally-representative survey of people aged 50 and over. We find that male victims of CSA are almost three times more likely to be out of the labour force due to sickness and disability. They also have significantly lower incomes and are more likely to live alone. These effects remain even when we control for childhood economic circumstances, other adverse childhood events, current mental health difficulties and negative health behaviors. We do not find any effects for female victims. Among the policy implications are the need to be more aware of the complex effects of CSA when designing labour market activation strategies such as training for the unemployed. The results are also relevant in the legal context where compensation awards are determined.

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Neural plasticity in fathers of human infants

Pilyoung Kim et al.
Social Neuroscience, September/October 2014, Pages 522-535

Abstract:
Fathering plays an important role in infants' socioemotional and cognitive development. Previous studies have identified brain regions that are important for parenting behavior in human mothers. However, the neural basis of parenting in human fathers is largely unexplored. In the current longitudinal study, we investigated structural changes in fathers' brains during the first 4 months postpartum using voxel-based morphometry analysis. Biological fathers (n = 16) with full-term, healthy infants were scanned at 2-4 weeks postpartum (time 1) and at 12-16 weeks postpartum (time 2). Fathers exhibited increase in gray matter (GM) volume in several neural regions involved in parental motivation, including the hypothalamus, amygdala, striatum, and lateral prefrontal cortex. On the other hand, fathers exhibited decreases in GM volume in the orbitofrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, and insula. The findings provide evidence for neural plasticity in fathers' brains. We also discuss the distinct patterns of associations among neural changes, postpartum mood symptoms, and parenting behaviors among fathers.

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Associations Between Early Life Stress and Gene Methylation in Children

Sarah Romens et al.
Child Development, forthcoming

Abstract:
Children exposed to extreme stress are at heightened risk for developing mental and physical disorders. However, little is known about mechanisms underlying these associations in humans. An emerging insight is that children's social environments change gene expression, which contributes to biological vulnerabilities for behavioral problems. Epigenetic changes in the glucocorticoid receptor gene, a critical component of stress regulation, were examined in whole blood from 56 children aged 11-14 years. Children exposed to physical maltreatment had greater methylation within exon 1F in the NR3C1 promoter region of the gene compared to nonmaltreated children, including the putative NGFI-A (nerve growth factor) binding site. These results highlight molecular mechanisms linking childhood stress with biological changes that may lead to mental and physical disorders.

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Infant stress exposure produces persistent enhancement of fear learning across development

Jennifer Quinn, Rachel Skipper & Dragana Claflin
Developmental Psychobiology, July 2014, Pages 1008-1016

Abstract:
In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that early life stress experiences persistently impact subsequent physiological, cognitive, and emotional responses. In cases of trauma, these early experiences can result in anxiety disorders such as phobias and posttraumatic stress disorder. In the present paper, we examined the effects of infant footshock stress exposure at postnatal day (PND) 17 on subsequent contextual fear conditioning at postnatal days 18 (Experiment 1), 24 (Experiment 2), or 90 (Experiment 3). In each experiment, PND17 footshock stress exposure enhanced later fear conditioning, indicating that the stress enhancement of fear learning (SEFL) persists throughout development. Memory for the original stress exposure context was gradually forgotten, with significant fear expression evident at PND20, and a complete lack of fear expression in that same context at PND90. These data suggest that the stress-enhancing component of infant fear learning is dissociable from the infant contextual fear memory per se. In other words, early life stress produces persistent effects on subsequent cognition that are independent of the memory for that early life event.

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The presence of ADHD: Spillovers between siblings

Sanni Nørgaard Breining
Economics Letters, September 2014, Pages 469-473

Abstract:
This paper uses high quality register-data to study the spillover effects on firstborns from having a younger sibling suffering from ADHD. Using OLS and cousin fixed effects analyses it is found that the educational outcomes of healthy firstborn children are significantly reduced by the presence of a disordered sibling.

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Delinquency in Adolescent Girls: Using a Confluence Approach to Understand the Influences of Parents and Peers

Angela Henneberger et al.
Criminal Justice and Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Determining the interdependence of family and peer influences on the development of delinquency is critical to defining and implementing effective interventions. This study explored the longitudinal relationship among harsh punishment, positive parenting, peer delinquency, and adolescent delinquency using data from a sub-sample of the Pittsburgh Girls Study. Participants were 622 adolescent girls (42% European American, 53% African American); families living in low-income neighborhoods were oversampled. After controlling for the effects of race, living in a single parent household, and receipt of public assistance, harsh punishment and peer delinquency in early adolescence were positively related to delinquency in mid-adolescence. No significant main effects of positive parenting or interaction effects between parenting and peer delinquency were observed. Thus, the effects of harsh parenting and peer delinquency are independent and perhaps additive, rather than interdependent. Results indicate the continued importance of targeting both parenting and peer relationships to prevent delinquency in adolescent girls.

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A randomized controlled trial of brief coparenting and relationship interventions during the transition to parenthood

Brian Doss et al.
Journal of Family Psychology, August 2014, Pages 483-494

Abstract:
The transition to parenthood has been repeatedly identified as a stressful period, with couples reporting difficulties in domains of individual, coparenting, and relationship functioning. Moreover, these difficulties have been shown to impact children's development. To buffer against these difficulties, numerous effective parenting, couple, and combined interventions have been developed; however, these interventions are typically lengthy, which limits their potential for dissemination. Therefore, in the present study, we developed and tested separate 6-hr interventions that focused exclusively on improving either coparenting or relationship functioning. In a randomized control trial, 90 heterosexual couples (180 individuals) were randomly assigned to an information control group, a coparenting intervention, or a relationship intervention and assessed on 7 occasions during the 2 years following birth. Results revealed that women and high-risk men in both the couple and coparenting interventions showed fewer declines in relationship satisfaction (Cohen's d = 0.53-0.99) and other areas of relationship functioning. Women also reported improved coparenting in both intervention groups (Cohen's d = 0.47-1.06). Additionally, women in both interventions experienced less perceived stress during the first year after birth. Given similar effects of the 2 interventions on coparenting and relationship functioning, future dissemination may be enhanced by delivery of coparenting interventions, as coparenting (compared with relationship) interventions seem to attract more interest from couples and are likely easier to integrate into existing services.

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Effects of intranasal oxytocin administration on memory for infant cues: Moderation by childhood emotional maltreatment

Ritu Bhandari et al.
Social Neuroscience, September/October 2014, Pages 536-547

Abstract:
Oxytocin has been implicated in parent-infant attachment and social recognition. With respect to emotion recognition memory, both memory-enhancing and impairing effects have been observed, suggesting an influence of individual factors. We assessed the effects of oxytocin on memory for infant cues, and whether these effects are moderated by self-reported childhood emotional maltreatment. Nulliparous females (N = 102) participated in a randomized, double-blind, between-subjects study with intranasal oxytocin or placebo administration. Participants' memory was tested using the Baby Social Reward Task, where participants were asked to select the happier infant from a pair of two infants based on the information that they received about the infants' mood in the previous phase. Participants reporting more childhood emotional maltreatment were less accurate in this task after inhaling oxytocin. Our findings add to a growing body of literature showing that the effects of intranasal oxytocin on memory and social behavior are moderated by adverse early life experiences.

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Mothers More Altruistic than Fathers, but Only When Bearing Responsibility Alone: Evidence from Parental Choice Experiments in Tanzania

Jana Vyrastekova et al.
PLoS ONE, June 2014

Abstract:
Evolutionary theory predicts humans to be more altruistic towards genetically more closely related kin. Because fathers face uncertainty about the relation to their children, the asymmetric parental altruism hypothesis predicts mothers to provide a higher share of parental care than fathers. We tested this hypothesis using parental choice experiments in rural Tanzania, in which fathers and mothers could choose between an outcome that benefited themselves and an outcome that benefited their children. When a parent was solely responsible for the outcome, mothers chose more altruistic than fathers. However when the choice situation was changed into a coordination game in which responsibility was shared with the partner, the sex difference disappeared. Fathers then chose somewhat more altruistic, but mothers substantially less. Our findings thus partly support the asymmetric parental altruism hypothesis, but they also show that parental altruism is influenced by the context in which choices are taken.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Something to do

The Increasing Complementarity between Cognitive and Social Skills

Catherine Weinberger
Review of Economics and Statistics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Data linking 1972 and 1992 adolescent skill endowments to adult outcomes reveals increasing complementarity between cognitive and social skills. In fact, previously noted growth in demand for cognitive skills affected only individuals with strong endowments of both social and cognitive skills. These findings are corroborated using Census and CPS data matched with DOT job task measures; employment in and earnings premia to occupations requiring high levels of both cognitive and social skill grew substantially compared with occupations that require only one or neither type of skill, and this emerging feature of the labor market has persisted into the new millennium.

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Do Large Modern Retailers Pay Premium Wages?

Brianna Cardiff-Hicks, Francine Lafontaine & Kathryn Shaw
NBER Working Paper, July 2014

Abstract:
With malls, franchise strips and big-box retailers increasingly dotting the landscape, there is concern that middle-class jobs in manufacturing in the U.S. are being replaced by minimum wage jobs in retail. Retail jobs have spread, while manufacturing jobs have shrunk in number. In this paper, we characterize the wages that have accompanied the growth in retail. We show that wage rates in the retail sector rise markedly with firm size and with establishment size. These increases are halved when we control for worker fixed effects, suggesting that there is sorting of better workers into larger firms. Also, higher ability workers get promoted to the position of manager, which is associated with higher pay. We conclude that the growth in modern retail, characterized by larger chains of larger establishments with more levels of hierarchy, is raising wage rates relative to traditional mom-and-pop retail stores.

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Making Do with Less: Working Harder During Recessions

Edward Lazear, Kathryn Shaw & Christopher Stanton
Stanford Working Paper, June 2014

Abstract:
Why did productivity rise during recent recessions? One possibility is that average worker quality increased. A second is that each incumbent worker produced more. The second effect is termed "making do with less." Using data from 2006 to 2010 on individual worker productivity from a large firm, these effects can be measured and separated. For this firm, most of the gain in productivity during the recession was a result of increased effort. Additionally, the increase in effort is correlated with the increase in the local unemployment rate, presumably reflecting the costs of losing a job.

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The minimum wage from a two-sided perspective

Alessio Brown, Christian Merkl & Dennis Snower
Economics Letters, September 2014, Pages 389-391

Abstract:
This paper sheds new light on the effects of the minimum wage on employment from a two-sided theoretical perspective, in which firms' job offer and workers' job acceptance decisions are disentangled. Minimum wages reduce job offer incentives and increase job acceptance incentives. We show that sufficiently low minimum wages may do no harm to employment, since their job-offer disincentives are countervailed by their job-acceptance incentives.

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Employee Satisfaction, Labor Market Flexibility, and Stock Returns Around The World

Alex Edmans, Lucius Li & Chendi Zhang
NBER Working Paper, July 2014

Abstract:
We study the relationship between employee satisfaction and abnormal stock returns around the world, using lists of the "Best Companies to Work For" in 14 countries. We show that employee satisfaction is associated with positive abnormal returns in countries with high labor market flexibility, such as the U.S. and U.K., but not in countries with low labor market flexibility, such as Germany. These results are consistent with high employee satisfaction being a valuable tool for recruitment, retention, and motivation in flexible labor markets, where firms face fewer constraints on hiring and firing. In contrast, in regulated labor markets, legislation already provides minimum standards for worker welfare and so additional expenditure may exhibit diminishing returns. The results have implications for the differential profitability of socially responsible investing ("SRI") strategies around the world. In particular, they emphasize the importance of taking institutional features into account when forming such strategies.

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The Economic Aftermath of Resource Booms: Evidence from Boomtowns in the American West

Grant Jacobsen & Dominic Parker
Economic Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
The current U.S. oil and gas boom is injecting labour, capital, and revenue into communities near reserves. Will these communities be cursed with lower long run incomes in the wake of the boom? We study the oil boom-and-bust cycle of the 1970s and 1980s to gain insights. Using annual data on drilling to identify western boom-and-bust counties, we find substantial positive local employment and income effects during the boom. In the aftermath of the bust, however, we find that incomes per capita decreased and unemployment compensation payments increased relative to what they would have been if the boom had not occurred.

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Taxes and Entrepreneurship in OECD Countries

Mina Baliamoune-Lutz
Contemporary Economic Policy, forthcoming

Abstract:
I examine how taxes and tax progressivity affect two different types of entrepreneurship - established business ownership and nascent entrepreneurship - in a large group of Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, using 2000-2009 macro-level Global Entrepreneurship Monitor data. Empirical evidence from Arellano-Bond generalized method of moments estimation suggests that higher tax progressivity exerts a negative influence on nascent enterprises but appears to have no impact on established business ownership. Changes in marginal and average tax rates are found to have no significant influence on either type of entrepreneurship. The most important contribution of the article is the comparison of tax impacts on actual and nascent entrepreneurship rates.

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Getting to Work: Experimental Evidence on Job Search and Transportation Costs

David Phillips
Labour Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Do transportation costs constrain job search in urban low wage labor markets? I test this question by providing transit subsidies to randomly selected clients of a non-profit employment agency. The subsidies generate a large, short-run increase in search intensity for a transit subsidy group relative to a control group receiving standard job search services but no transit subsidy. In the first two weeks, individuals assigned to the transit subsidy group apply and interview for 19 percent more jobs than those not receiving subsidies. The subsidies generate the greatest increase in search intensity for individuals living far from employment opportunities. Some suggestive evidence indicates that greater search intensity translates into shorter unemployment durations. These results provide experimental evidence in support of the theory that search costs over space can depress job search intensity, contributing to persistent urban poverty in neighborhoods far from job opportunities.

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STEM Graduates, Human Capital Externalities, and Wages in the U.S.

John Winters
Regional Science and Urban Economics, September 2014, Pages 190-198

Abstract:
Previous research suggests that the local stock of human capital creates positive externalities within local labor markets and plays an important role in regional economic development. However, there is still considerable uncertainty over what types of human capital are most important. Both national and local policymakers in the U.S. have called for efforts to increase the stock of college graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, but data availability has thus far prevented researchers from directly connecting STEM education to human capital externalities. This paper uses the 2009-2011 American Community Survey to examine the external effects of college graduates in STEM and non-STEM fields on the wages of other workers in the same metropolitan area. I find that both types of college graduates create positive wage externalities, but STEM graduates create much larger externalities.

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The Micro and Macro of Disappearing Routine Jobs: A Flows Approach

Guido Matias Cortes et al.
NBER Working Paper, July 2014

Abstract:
The U.S. labor market has become increasingly polarized since the 1980s, with the share of employment in middle-wage occupations shrinking over time. This job polarization process has been associated with the disappearance of per capita employment in occupations focused on routine tasks. We use matched individual-level data from the CPS to study labor market flows into and out of routine occupations and determine how this disappearance has played out at the "micro" and "macro" levels. At the macro level, we determine which changes in transition rates account for the disappearance of routine employment since the 1980s. We find that changes in three transition rate categories are of primary importance: (i) that from unemployment to employment in routine occupations, (ii) that from labor force non-participation to routine employment, and (iii) that from routine employment to non-participation. At the micro level, we study how these transition rates have changed since job polarization, and the extent to which these changes are accounted for by changes in demographic composition or changes in the behavior of individuals with particular demographic characteristics. We find that the preponderance of changes is due to the propensity of individuals to make such transitions, and relatively little due to demographics. Moreover, we find that changes in the transition propensities of the young are of primary importance in accounting for the fall in routine employment.

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Comparing Labor Supply Elasticities in Europe and the United States: New Results

Olivier Bargain, Kristian Orsini & Andreas Peichl
Journal of Human Resources, Summer 2014, Pages 723-838

Abstract:
We suggest the first large-scale international comparison of labor supply elasticities for 17 European countries and the United States using a harmonized empirical approach. We find that own-wage elasticities are relatively small and more uniform across countries than previously considered. Nonetheless, such differences do exist, and are found not to arise from different tax-benefit systems, wage/hour levels, or demographic compositions across countries, suggesting genuine differences in work preferences across countries. Furthermore, three other findings are consistent across countries: The extensive margin dominates the intensive margin; for singles, this leads to larger responses in low-income groups; and income elasticities are extremely small.

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The Decline of Drudgery and the Paradox of Hard Work

Brendan Epstein & Miles Kimball
Federal Reserve Working Paper, June 2014

Abstract:
We develop a theory that focuses on the general equilibrium and long-run macroeconomic consequences of trends in job utility. Given secular increases in job utility, work hours per capita can remain approximately constant over time even if the income effect of higher wages on labor supply exceeds the substitution effect. In addition, secular improvements in job utility can be substantial relative to welfare gains from ordinary technological progress. These two implications are connected by an equation flowing from optimal hours choices: improvements in job utility that have a significant effect on labor supply tend to have large welfare effects.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Skin thin

Evidence of accelerated aging among African Americans and its implications for mortality

Morgan Levine & Eileen Crimmins
Social Science & Medicine, October 2014, Pages 27–32

Abstract:
Blacks experience morbidity and mortality earlier in the life course compared to whites. Such premature declines in health may be indicative of an acceleration of the aging process. The current study uses data on 7,644 black and white participants, ages 30 and above, from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, to compare the biological ages of blacks and whites as indicated from a combination of ten biomarkers and to determine if such differences in biological age relative to chronological age account for racial disparities in mortality. At a specified chronological age, blacks are approximately 3 years older biologically than whites. Differences in biological age between blacks and whites appear to increase up until ages 60-65 and then decline, presumably due to mortality selection. Finally, differences in biological age were found to completely account for higher levels of all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer mortality among blacks. Overall, these results suggest that being black is associated with significantly higher biological age at a given chronological age and that this is a pathway to early death both overall and from the major age-related diseases.

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Are the costs of neuroticism inevitable? Evidence of attenuated effects in U.S. Latinas

Belinda Campos et al.
Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, July 2014, Pages 430-440

Abstract:
Neuroticism is the heritable and stable personality trait defined by the tendency to experience negative emotion, be easily stressed, and slow to soothe. Neuroticism poses a risk for poor social and health outcomes that has been identified as a major public health concern. To date, factors that attenuate neuroticism’s costs have not been identified. The goal of this work was to test the hypothesis that the costs of neuroticism would be attenuated in sociocultural contexts that emphasize readily accessible social support, emotional positivity, and physical proximity in interdependent relationships. U.S. Latino culture fits these characteristics. Two studies, an online survey study (Study 1) and a laboratory study (Study 2), tested whether three key costs of high neuroticism — less support (Study 1), more distress (Study 2), and blunted cortisol reactivity (Study 2) — would be attenuated in U.S. Latinas relative to non-Latinas of European and East Asian cultural background. Consistent with previous research, neuroticism was associated with less perceived support, more distress, and blunted cortisol reactivity in non-Latina women of European and East Asian cultural background. For Latina women, however, these effects were attenuated. Latina women who were high in neuroticism continued to feel supported, were not as distressed, and their cortisol reactivity was less blunted. The role of sociocultural context for generating a better understanding of personality processes and the social malleability of neuroticism’s costs are discussed.

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The Impact of the Great Migration on Mortality of African Americans: Evidence from the Deep South

Dan Black et al.
American Economic Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
The Great Migration — the massive migration of African Americans out of the rural South to largely urban locations in the North, Midwest, and West — was a landmark event in U.S. history. Our paper shows that this migration increased mortality of African Americans born in the early twentieth century South. This inference comes from an analysis that uses proximity of birthplace to railroad lines as an instrument for migration.

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An empirical analysis of White privilege, social position and health

Naa Oyo Kwate & Melody Goodman
Social Science & Medicine, September 2014, Pages 150–160

Abstract:
Accumulated evidence has demonstrated that social position matters for health. Those with greater socioeconomic resources and greater perceived standing in the social hierarchy have better health than those with fewer resources and perceived standing. Race is another salient axis by which health is stratified in the U.S., but few studies have examined the benefit of White privilege. In this paper, we investigated how perceptions of inequality, subjective and objective social status affected the health and well-being of N=630 White residents in three Boston neighborhoods lying on a social gradient differentiated by race, ethnicity, income and prestige. Outcomes were self-rated health, dental health, and happiness. Results suggested that: neighborhood residence was not associated with health after controlling for individual level factors (e.g., positive ratings of the neighborhood, education level); objective measures of socioeconomic status were associated with better self-reported and dental health, but subjective assessments of social position were more strongly associated; and White residents living in the two wealthiest neighborhoods, and who perceived Black families as welcome in their neighborhoods enjoyed better health than those who believed them to be less welcome. However, those who lived in the least wealthy and most diverse neighborhood fared worse when reporting Black families to be welcome. These results suggest that White privilege and relative social position interact to shape health outcomes.

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The Persistence and Heterogeneity of Health among Older Americans

Florian Heiss, Steven Venti & David Wise
NBER Working Paper, July 2014

Abstract:
We consider how age-health profiles differ by demographic characteristics such as education, race, and ethnicity. A key feature of the analysis is the joint estimation of health and mortality to correct for the effect of mortality selection on observed age-health profiles. The model also allows for heterogeneity in individual health at a point in time and the persistence of the unobserved component of health over time. The observed component of health is based on a multidimensional index based on 27 indicators of health. Most of the key results are shown by simulations that illustrate the range of issues that can be addressed using the model. Differences in health by education and racial-ethnic group at age 50 persist throughout the remainder of life. Based on observed profiles, the health of whites is about 8 percentile points greater than the health of blacks at age 50 but by age 90 the gap is only 5 percentile points. However, when corrected for mortality selection, the health of blacks is actually declining more rapidly with age than the health of whites; the true gap widens with age. We also find that much of the difference in age-health profiles by racial-ethnic group is accounted for by differences in the levels of education between race-ethnic groups -- from two-thirds to 85 percent for men and about half for women. We also simulate differences in survival probabilities by level of education and health and use these probabilities to calculate the expected present discounted value (EPDV) of an immediate annuity with first payout at age 66 for persons by gender, level of education, and health decile. The range of EPDVs is over two-fold for both men and women suggesting enormous potential for adverse selection.

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Racial and Ethnic Stratification in the Relationship Between Homeownership and Self-Rated Health

Ryan Finnigan
Social Science & Medicine, August 2014, Pages 72–81

Abstract:
Social scientists have long demonstrated that socioeconomic resources benefit health. More recently, scholars have begun to examine the potential stratification in the health returns different groups receive for a given resource. Motivated by fundamental cause theory, this paper examines homeownership as a salient health resource with potentially stratified benefits. Homeowners have significantly greater housing quality, wealth, neighborhood quality and integration, and physical and mental health than renters. However, there are compelling theoretical reasons to expect the health advantage of homeownership to be unequally distributed across racial and ethnic groups. Regression analyses of 71,874 household heads in the United States from the 2012 March Current Population Survey initially suggest all homeowners experience a significant health advantage. Further examination finds robust evidence for a homeowner health advantage among Whites, on par with the difference between the married and divorced. The advantage among minority households is considerably smaller, and not significant among Latinos or Asians. Conditioning on a broad array of observable characteristics, White homeowners emerge as exceptionally healthy compared to White renters and all minority groups. This leads to the unexpected finding that racial/ethnic differences in health are concentrated among homeowners. The findings demonstrate the interactive nature of racial/ethnic stratification in health through both access to and returns from socioeconomic resources.

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The Relationships among Vigilant Coping Style, Race, and Depression

Thomas LaVeist et al.
Journal of Social Issues, June 2014, Pages 241–255

Abstract:
Although Black–White differences in depression are well documented, vigilant coping style as an explanation for the observed inequalities in depression is less understood. Using data from 718 adults in the Exploring Health Disparities in Integrated Communities (EHDIC) Study, we estimated logistic regression models to examine the cross-sectional relationship between race, vigilant coping style, and depression. After controlling for demographic variables, White adults were more likely to report depression than Black adults. Moreover, when accounting for coping style, the Black–White difference in depression widened. This association persisted even with the addition of the covariates. While high rates of depression among Whites compared with Blacks are well documented, the degree of the differences appears to be greater than previously reported once vigilance is accounted for. This finding suggests that if it were not for the high prevalence of vigilant coping in Blacks, the well-documented Black advantage regarding depression compared to Whites would likely be even greater.

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Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Short Sleep Duration by Occupation: The Contribution of Immigrant Status

Chandra Jackson et al.
Social Science & Medicine, forthcoming

Abstract:
Sleep duration, associated with increased morbidity/mortality, has been shown to vary by race and occupation. Few studies have examined the additional influence of immigrant status. Using a nationally-representative sample of 175,244 US adults from the National Health Interview Survey from 2004-2011, we estimated prevalence ratios (PRs) for short sleep duration (<7 hours/per day) among US- and non-US born Blacks and Latinos by occupation compared to their White counterparts using adjusted Poisson regression models with robust variance. Non-US born participants’ mean age was 46 years, 55% were men, 58% were Latino, and 65% lived in the US ≥15 years. Short sleep prevalence was highest among US- and non-US born Blacks in all occupations, and the prevalence generally increased with increasing professional/management roles in Blacks and Latinos while it decreased among Whites. Adjusted short sleep was more prevalent in US-born Blacks compared to Whites in professional/management (PR=1.52 [95% confidence interval (CI): 1.42-1.63]), support services (PR=1.31 [95% CI: 1.26-1.37]), and laborers (PR=1.11 [95% CI: 1.06-1.16]). The Black-White comparison was even higher for non-US born Black laborers (PR=1.50 [95% CI: 1.24-1.80]). Similar for non-US born Latinos, Latinos born in the US had a higher short sleep prevalence in professional/management (PR=1.14 [95% CI: 1.04-1.24]) and support services (PR=1.06 [95% CI: 1.01-1.11]), but a lower prevalence among laborers (PR=0.77 [95% CI: 0.74-0.81]) compared to Whites. Short sleep varied within and between immigrant status for some ethnicities in particular occupations, further illuminating the need for tailored interventions to address sleep disparities among US workers.

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Race, unemployment rate, and chronic mental illness: A 15-year trend analysis

Celia Lo & Tyrone Cheng
Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, July 2014, Pages 1119-1128

Purpose: Before abating, the recession of the first decade of this century doubled the US unemployment rate. High unemployment is conceptualized as a stressor having serious effects on individuals’ mental health. Data from surveys administered repeatedly over 15 years (1997–2011) described changes over time in the prevalence of chronic mental illness among US adults. The data allowed us to pinpoint changes characterizing the White majority — but not Black, Hispanic, or Asian minorities — and to ask whether such changes were attributable to economic conditions (measured via national unemployment rates).

Methods: We combined 1.5 decades’ worth of National Health Interview Survey data in one secondary analysis. We took social structural and demographic factors into account and let adjusted probability of chronic mental illness indicate prevalence of chronic mental illness

Results: We observed, as a general trend, that chronic mental illness probability increased as the unemployment rate rose. A greater increase in probability was observed for Blacks than Whites, notably during 2007–2011, the heart of the recession

Conclusions: Our results confirmed that structural risk posed by the recent recession and by vulnerability to the recession’s effects was differentially linked to Blacks. This led to the group’s high probability of chronic mental illness, observed even when individual-level social structural and demographic factors were controlled. Future research should specify the particular kinds of vulnerability that created the additional disadvantage experienced by Black respondents.

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Investigating the influence of African American and African Caribbean race on primary care doctors' decision making about depression

Ann Adams et al.
Social Science & Medicine, September 2014, Pages 161–168

Abstract:
This paper explores differences in how primary care doctors process the clinical presentation of depression by African American and African-Caribbean patients compared with white patients in the US and the UK. The aim is to gain a better understanding of possible pathways by which racial disparities arise in depression care. One hundred and eight doctors described their thought processes after viewing video recorded simulated patients presenting with identical symptoms strongly suggestive of depression. These descriptions were analysed using the CliniClass system, which captures information about micro-components of clinical decision making and permits a systematic, structured and detailed analysis of how doctors arrive at diagnostic, intervention and management decisions. Video recordings of actors portraying black (both African American and African-Caribbean) and white (both White American and White British) male and female patients (aged 55 years and 75 years) were presented to doctors randomly selected from the Massachusetts Medical Society list and from Surrey/South West London and West Midlands National Health Service lists, stratified by country (US v.UK), gender, and years of clinical experience (less v. very experienced). Findings demonstrated little evidence of bias affecting doctors' decision making processes, with the exception of less attention being paid to the potential outcomes associated with different treatment options for African American compared with White American patients in the US. Instead, findings suggest greater clinical uncertainty in diagnosing depression amongst black compared with white patients, particularly in the UK. This was evident in more potential diagnoses. There was also a tendency for doctors in both countries to focus more on black patients' physical rather than psychological symptoms and to identify endocrine problems, most often diabetes, as a presenting complaint for them. This suggests that doctors in both countries have a less well developed mental model of depression for black compared with white patients.

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Attitudes of Black, White, and Hispanic Community Residents Toward Seeking Medical Help

Ellen Dornelas, Edward Fischer & Terry DiLorenzo
Race and Social Problems, June 2014, Pages 135-142

Abstract:
With regard to racial/ethnic health disparities, a variable that has not been well explored is the person’s willingness to seek medical aid when symptoms appear. Until recently, there has been no comprehensive scale to measure these predispositions and their significance for public health. This study’s purpose was to determine whether specific attitudinal differences might constitute barriers to medical help-seeking for racial/ethnic subgroups. In a sample of 380 community residents responding to a mailed survey in the Hartford, CT metropolitan area, racial/ethnic differences were examined for four attitudinal aspects of medical help-seeking: action/intention, cynicism/fatalism, confidence in medical professionals, and fear/avoidance. Multivariate analyses controlling for other demographic, health crisis, and health insurance variables indicated that black, white, and Hispanic subgroups differed strongly on the battery of medical help-seeking attitudes. Although all groups were generally favorable to help-seeking, black and Hispanic respondents expressed more favorable, pro-help-seeking attitudes than did white respondents. Their attitudes were highly significant for action/intention and confidence in medical professionals. This study showed no evidence that racial/ethnic health disparities might result from negative predispositions as barriers to medical help-seeking.

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Neuroimaging Evidence for a Role of Neural Social Stress Processing in Ethnic Minority–Associated Environmental Risk

Ceren Akdeniz et al.
JAMA Psychiatry, June 2014, Pages 672-680

Importance: Relative risk for the brain disorder schizophrenia is more than doubled in ethnic minorities, an effect that is evident across countries and linked to socially relevant cues such as skin color, making ethnic minority status a well-established social environmental risk factor. Pathoepidemiological models propose a role for chronic social stress and perceived discrimination for mental health risk in ethnic minorities, but the neurobiology is unexplored.

Design, Setting, and Participants: Cross-sectional design in a university setting using 3 validated paradigms to challenge neural social stress processing and, to probe for specificity, emotional and cognitive brain functions. Healthy participants included those with German lineage (n = 40) and those of ethnic minority (n = 40) from different ethnic backgrounds matched for sociodemographic, psychological, and task performance characteristics. Control comparisons examined stress processing with matched ethnic background of investigators (23 Turkish vs 23 German participants) and basic emotional and cognitive tasks (24 Turkish vs 24 German participants).

Results: There were significant increases in heart rate (P < .001), subjective emotional response (self-related emotions, P < .001; subjective anxiety, P = .006), and salivary cortisol level (P = .004) during functional magnetic resonance imaging stress induction. Ethnic minority individuals had significantly higher perceived chronic stress levels (P = .02) as well as increased activation (family-wise error–corrected [FWE] P = .005, region of interest corrected) and increased functional connectivity (PFWE = .01, region of interest corrected) of perigenual anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). The effects were specific to stress and not explained by a social distance effect. Ethnic minority individuals had significant correlations between perceived group discrimination and activation in perigenual ACC (PFWE = .001, region of interest corrected) and ventral striatum (PFWE = .02, whole brain corrected) and mediation of the relationship between perceived discrimination and perigenual ACC–dorsal ACC connectivity by chronic stress (P < .05).

Conclusions and Relevance: Epidemiologists proposed a causal role of social-evaluative stress, but the neural processes that could mediate this susceptibility effect were unknown. Our data demonstrate the potential of investigating associations from epidemiology with neuroimaging, suggest brain effects of social marginalization, and highlight a neural system in which environmental and genetic risk factors for mental illness may converge.

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Race and Mortality Revisited

James Scanlan
Society, August 2014, Pages 328-346

"In summary, while there has been increasing recognition of the ways that relative differences in outcome rates tend to be systematically affected by the prevalence (frequency) of an outcome, that recognition has yet to affect the way observers analyze group differences in outcome rates in any context. Though today vastly greater resources are devoted to the study of disparities in health and healthcare outcomes...almost nothing said about such things as whether those disparities have increased or decreased over time or are otherwise larger in one setting than another, or even whether a disparity should be deemed large or small, has had a sound statistical basis. Meanwhile, federal regulators encourage mortgage lenders and public schools to reduce the frequency of adverse borrowing and student discipline outcomes in order to reduce the commonly observed several-fold racial and ethnic differences in rates of experiencing those outcomes. Neither the regulators, the congressional committees monitoring regulator policies, nor the institutions reducing the frequency of those outcomes in response to federal encouragements understand that reducing any outcome tends to increase, not reduce, relative differences in experiencing it."

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Heart Trouble and Racial Group Identity: Exploring Ethnic Heterogeneity Among Black Americans

Helena Dagadu & André Christie-Mizell
Race and Social Problems, June 2014, Pages 143-160

Abstract:
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women in the United States, and compared to other racial and ethnic groups, Blacks between the ages of 45 and 65 have the highest likelihood of dying from heart disease. Nevertheless, relatively little is known about intragroup variation among the US Black population. In this study, utilizing a nationally representative sample of Black Americans, we examine the relationship between heart trouble and racial group identity for two groups of Blacks: African Americans and Caribbean Blacks. We include two measures of racial group identity: closeness to other Blacks and Black group evaluation. Our results reveal three important patterns. First, closeness to other Blacks is suppressed by Black group evaluation. Second, at low levels of closeness to other Blacks, there is little difference between African Americans and Caribbean Blacks in the probability of heart trouble. However, as closeness to other Blacks increases, the probability of heart trouble increases for African Americans, but decreases for Caribbean Blacks. Finally, with respect to positive Black group evaluation, both African Americans and Caribbean Blacks benefit and experience a lower probability of heart trouble.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Monday, August 4, 2014

Taskmaster

Them's Fightin' Words: The Effects of Violent Rhetoric on Ethical Decision Making in Business

Joshua Gubler, Nathan Kalmoe & David Wood
Journal of Business Ethics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Business managers regularly employ metaphorical violent rhetoric as a means of motivating their employees to action. While it might be effective to this end, research on violent media suggests that violent rhetoric might have other, less desirable consequences. This study examines how the use of metaphorical violent rhetoric by business managers impacts the ethical decision making of employees. We develop and test a model that explains how the use of violent rhetoric impacts employees' willingness to break ethical standards, depending on the source of the rhetoric. The results of two experiments suggest that the use of violent rhetoric by a CEO at a competing company increases employees' willingness to engage in ethical violations while the use of violent rhetoric by employees' own CEO decreases their willingness to engage in unethical behavior. Furthermore, we find that participants who made less ethical decisions motivated by violent rhetoric used by a competitor's CEO did not view their decisions as less ethical than the other participants in the experiments. The results of these studies highlight potentially harmful unintended consequences of the use of violent rhetoric, providing knowledge that should be useful to managers and academics who want to increase employee motivation without increasing a willingness to engage in unethical behavior.

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A (Blurry) Vision of the Future: How Leader Rhetoric about Ultimate Goals Influences Performance

Andrew Carton, Chad Murphy & Jonathan Clark
Academy of Management Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
One key responsibility of leaders involves crafting and communicating two types of messages - visions and values - that help followers understand the ultimate purpose of their work. Although scholars have long considered how leaders communicate visions and values to establish a sense of purpose, they have overlooked how these messages can be used to establish a shared sense of purpose, which is achieved when multiple employees possess the same understanding of the purpose of work. In this research, we move beyond the traditional focus on leader rhetoric and individual cognition to examine leader rhetoric and shared cognition. We suggest that a specific combination of messages - a large amount of vision imagery combined with a small number of values - will boost performance more than other combinations because it triggers a shared sense of the organization's ultimate goal, and, in turn, enhances coordination. We found support for our predictions in an archival study of 151 hospitals and an experiment with 62 groups of full-time employees. In light of these findings, we conducted exploratory analyses and discovered two dysfunctional practices: leaders tend to (1) communicate visions without imagery and (2) over-utilize value-laden rhetoric.

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Technological Change, Relative Worker Productivity, and Firm-Level Substitution: Evidence From the NBA

Grant Gannaway et al.
Journal of Sports Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
In this article, we examine the effect, on players, of a change in the technology for scoring points in the NBA, the introduction of the three-point line. While a naive prediction about the impact of this change suggests that it would disproportionately raise the productivity and value of guards who are more likely to shoot the ball from behind the three-point line, we show in a simple model that the strategic response of the defense leads the three-point line to increase the relative productivity of players who are more likely to shoot closer to the basket. We provide evidence that centers and forwards experienced increases in relative productivity with the introduction of the three-point line. Finally, we present evidence that the labor market in the NBA adjusted by increasing the demand for height in the NBA draft. Our results highlight the potential for strategic adjustments to affect the bias of technological change.

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The unintended consequences of the rat race: The detrimental effects of performance pay on health

Keith Bender & Ioannis Theodossiou
Oxford Economic Papers, July 2014, Pages 824-847

Abstract:
Although performance pay schemes have been linked to labour market productivity, one unintended consequence, suggested early by Adam Smith, is that performance pay is detrimental to health. Recent research has shown that there is a positive relationship between performance pay and injuries on the job. This article focusses on the consequences of performance pay on health and investigates if there is a link between performance pay and self-reported general health or specific illnesses. Using data from the British Household Panel Survey, this study uses survival analysis to show that being in jobs with a performance pay element increases the likelihood of health deterioration, ceteris paribus.

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Paying It Forward vs. Rewarding Reputation: Mechanisms of Generalized Reciprocity

Wayne Baker & Nathaniel Bulkley
Organization Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Generalized reciprocity is a widely recognized but little studied component of social capital in organizations. We develop a causal model of the multiple mechanisms that sustain generalized reciprocity in an organization, drawing together disparate literatures in the social, organizational, and biological sciences. We conduct the first-ever critical test of two key mechanisms: paying it forward and rewarding reputation. These are fundamentally different grammars of organizing, either of which could sustain a system of generalized reciprocity. In an organization, paying it forward is a type of organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) that occurs when members of an organization help third parties because they themselves were helped. Rewarding reputation is a type of OCB that occurs when peers monitor one another, helping those who help others and refusing to help those who do not. Using behavioral data collected from members of two organizational groups over a three-month period, we found that reputational effects were strongest in the short term but decayed thereafter. Paying it forward had stronger and more lasting effects. Dominant theories assume that rewarding reputation is the main cause of generalized reciprocity, but our analysis demonstrates that generalized reciprocity in an organization occurs for multiple reasons. We use the empirical findings to develop propositions about the mechanisms of generalized reciprocity in organizations and link these to management practices. Our study contributes to social exchange theory, macro-level prosocial behavior, OCB, positive organizational scholarship, and management.

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Multiple types of motives don't multiply the motivation of West Point cadets

Amy Wrzesniewski et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 29 July 2014, Pages 10990-10995

Abstract:
Although people often assume that multiple motives for doing something will be more powerful and effective than a single motive, research suggests that different types of motives for the same action sometimes compete. More specifically, research suggests that instrumental motives, which are extrinsic to the activities at hand, can weaken internal motives, which are intrinsic to the activities at hand. We tested whether holding both instrumental and internal motives yields negative outcomes in a field context in which various motives occur naturally and long-term educational and career outcomes are at stake. We assessed the impact of the motives of over 10,000 West Point cadets over the period of a decade on whether they would become commissioned officers, extend their officer service beyond the minimum required period, and be selected for early career promotions. For each outcome, motivation internal to military service itself predicted positive outcomes; a relationship that was negatively affected when instrumental motives were also in evidence. These results suggest that holding multiple motives damages persistence and performance in educational and occupational contexts over long periods of time.

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The Multinational Advantage

Drew Creal et al.
University of Chicago Working Paper, May 2014

Abstract:
Using a proprietary dataset, we investigate whether the degree of international diversification affects firm value for U.S. multinational corporations (MNCs). Our analyses offer robust evidence that organizing a set of otherwise independent activities within a multinational network results in a value premium, relative to a benchmark portfolio of independent firms operating in the same country-industry footprint as the MNC. We also examine frictions and economic forces that plausibly give rise to this value premium and find forces related to equity market segmentation, exposure to various legal environments, and cost containment strategies affect the advantage of MNCs, relative to local competitors.

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Do non-competition agreements lead firms to pursue risky R&D projects?

Raffaele Conti
Strategic Management Journal, August 2014, Pages 1230-1248

Abstract:
This study investigates the impact of non-competition agreements on the type of R&D activity undertaken by companies. Non-competition agreements, by reducing outbound mobility and knowledge leakages to competitors, make high-risk R&D projects relatively more valuable than low-risk ones. Thus, they induce companies to choose riskier R&D projects, such that corporate inventions are more likely to lie in the tails of the inventions' value distribution (as breakthroughs or failures) and be in novel technological areas. This study uses data about U.S. patent applications from 1990 to 2000 and considers longitudinal variation in the enforcement of non-compete clauses. The results indicate that in states with stricter enforcement, companies undertake riskier R&D paths than in states that do not enforce non-compete agreements as strictly.

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Euphemisms and Ethics: A Language-Centered Analysis of Penn State's Sexual Abuse Scandal

Kristen Lucas & Jeremy Fyke
Journal of Business Ethics, July 2014, Pages 551-569

Abstract:
For 15 years, former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky used his Penn State University perquisites to lure young and fatherless boys by offering them special access to one of the most revered football programs in the country. He repeatedly used the football locker room as a space to groom, molest, and rape his victims. In February 2001, an eye-witness alerted Penn State's top leaders that Sandusky was caught sexually assaulting a young boy in the showers. Instead of taking swift action against Sandusky, leaders began a cover-up that is considered one of the worst scandals in sports history. While public outcry has focused on the leaders' silence, we focus on the talk that occurred within the organization by key personnel. Drawing from court documents and internal investigative reports, we examine two euphemism clusters that unfolded in the scandal. The first cluster comprises reporting euphemisms, in which personnel used coded language to report the assault up the chain of command. The second cluster comprises responding euphemisms, in which Penn State's top leaders relied on an innocuous, but patently false, interpretation of earlier euphemisms as a decision-making framework to chart their course of (in)action. We use this case to demonstrate how euphemistic language impairs ethical decision-making, particularly by framing meaning and visibility of acts, encouraging mindless processing of moral considerations, and providing a shield against psychological and material consequences. Further, we argue that euphemism may serve as a disguised retort to critical upward communication in organizations.

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Employer Learning, Productivity, and the Earnings Distribution: Evidence from Performance Measures

Lisa Kahn & Fabian Lange
Review of Economic Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
Pay distributions fan out with experience. The leading explanations for this pattern are that over time, either employers learn about worker productivity but productivity remains fixed or workers' productivities themselves evolve heterogeneously. We propose a dynamic specification that nests both employer learning and dynamic productivity heterogeneity. We estimate this model on a 20-year panel of pay and performance measures from a single, large firm. The advantage of these data is that they provide us with repeat measures of productivity, some of which have not yet been observed by the firm when it sets wages. We use our estimates to investigate how learning and dynamic productivity heterogeneity jointly contribute to the increase in pay dispersion with age. We find that both mechanisms are important for understanding wage dynamics. The dispersion of pay increases with experience primarily because productivity differences increase. Imperfect learning, however, means that wages differ significantly from individual productivity all along the life cycle because firms continuously struggle to learn about a moving target in worker productivity. Our estimates allow us to calculate the degree to which imperfect learning introduces a wedge between the private and social incentives to invest in human capital. We find that these disincentives exist throughout the life cycle but increase rapidly after about 15 years of experience. Thus, in contrast to the existing literature on employer learning, we find that imperfect learning might have especially large effects on investments among older workers.

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Learning through the Distribution of Failures within an Organization: Evidence from Heart Bypass Surgery Performance

Vinit Desai
Academy of Management Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
While research suggests that organizations can improve by investigating and learning from failures, some work finds that they may generate incorrect lessons or fail to learn. This study addresses the debate by turning attention to the processes that underlie learning, using attribution theory to highlight the way that decision makers interpret information about where failures occurred or who was involved. This approach is notable because it suggests that different organizations with similar experiences may have quite distinct reactions based on where that experience originates. Specifically, I predict that organizations learn less effectively when their failures are fairly concentrated in origin, meaning that failures typically involve a particular unit or even a specific individual, rather than when failures are more broadly dispersed. I also examine factors that intensify or ameliorate this effect, including an organization's size or its performance relative to aspirations. I test related hypotheses on a panel of hospitals that offered a specific surgical procedure within California from 2003 through 2010.

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Turnover and Knowledge Loss: An Examination of the Differential Impact of Production Manager and Worker Turnover in Service and Manufacturing Firms

Rory Eckardt, Bruce Skaggs & Mark Youndt
Journal of Management Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
This research examines the comparative effects of production manager and worker turnover in service and manufacturing settings. We suggest that, due to the centrality of human-action in services and the ability of manufacturers to insulate the technical core, service and manufacturing companies are differentially dependent on and impacted by the loss of production manager and worker knowledge. The results from a survey of 150 service and manufacturing firms provide partial support for this notion and show that turnover impacts these organizations differently. More specifically, we find that: 1) the negative impact of production worker turnover on firm performance is greater in service settings than in manufacturing settings; and 2) the negative impact of production worker turnover on firm performance is greater than the impact of production manager turnover in service firms. In addition, our findings show that organizational capital moderates the turnover-performance relationship for production workers in service firms.

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Social Media as Technologies of Accountability: Explaining Resistance to Implementation Within Organizations

Jeffrey Treem
American Behavioral Scientist, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study extends recent work exploring the affordances of social media in organizations by considering how social media may also operate as technologies of accountability. This perspective adopts a performative view of social media use in organizations and recognizes that the technologies not only display communication to organizational members but also, in doing so, potentially increase the accountability of workers. Using a case study of the implementation of a social media system inside a financial services company, this work explores how workers view social media in terms of various forms of accountability. The findings reveal that prior to implementation of the social media system workers expressed concern about the accountability social media would create, and that the reluctance to face the accountability associated with communications led to low use of the social media system.

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Matching Capital and Labor

Jonathan Berk, Jules van Binsbergen & Binying Liu
NBER Working Paper, May 2014

Abstract:
We establish an important role for the firm by studying capital reallocation decisions of mutual fund firms. We show that firms add significant value by matching capital to labor. We find that, following the firm's decision to reallocate capital to one of its managers, future value added increases significantly. We find no evidence of a similar effect when a firm hires a manager from another firm. We conclude that an important reason why firms exist is the private information that derives from firms' ability to better assess the skill of their own employees.

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A View Inside Corporate Risk Management

Gordon Bodnar et al.
Duke University Working Paper, May 2014

Abstract:
A number of theories have been proposed to explain why firms hedge. Unfortunately, these theories are hard to test: While we might observe the hedges, it is hard to answer the question of "why" hedging occurs. Our paper attacks the "why" by directly questioning the managers that make the risk management decisions. Our results present a fresh, inside view of corporate risk management. Rather than hedging being conducted solely by "firms", our results suggest that personal risk aversion in combination with other executive traits plays a key role in whether a company hedges. As such, our results suggest an important deficiency in many modern theories of risk management which ignore the role of the individual manager.

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Do Interviewers Sell Themselves Short? The Effects of Selling Orientation on Interviewers' Judgments

Jennifer Carson Marr & Dan Cable
Academy of Management Journal, June 2014, Pages 624-651

Abstract:
Drawing on alternative perspectives about the automaticity of dispositional judgments, we examine whether the motivation to attract the other (i.e., selling orientation) in interpersonal first meetings (e.g., job interviews) helps or hinders the accuracy and validity of dispositional judgments. In a laboratory study (Study 1), we found that selling orientation reduced the accuracy of interviewers' judgments about applicants' core self-evaluations. Then, we investigated the real-world implications of selling orientation in a field study (Study 2) with two different samples (Samples A and B) and found that a selling orientation negatively influenced the predictive validity of interviewers' judgments. Specifically, when selling orientation was low, interviewers' judgments accurately predicted which applicants would be most (and least) successful as newcomers in the organization (in terms of citizenship, performance, and fit). However, when selling orientation was high, interviewers' judgments no longer predicted applicant outcomes. Together, these results suggest that making dispositional judgments in interpersonal first meetings is an effortful process that is hindered by focusing on other goals (e.g., selling). We discuss the practical and theoretical implications of these findings.

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Shall we continue or stop disapproving of self-presentation? Evidence on impression management and faking in a selection context and their relation to job performance

Pia Ingold et al.
European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
The self-presentation tactics of candidates during job interviews and on personality inventories have been a focal topic in selection research. The current study investigated self-presentation across these two selection devices. Specifically, we examined whether candidates who use impression management (IM) tactics during an interview show more faking on a personality inventory and whether the relation to job performance is similar for both forms of self-presentation. Data were collected in a simulated selection process with an interview under applicant conditions and a personality inventory that was administered under applicant conditions and thereafter for research purposes. Because all participants were employed, we were also able to collect job performance ratings from their supervisors. Candidates who used IM in the interview also showed more faking in a personality inventory. Importantly, faking was positively related to supervisors' job performance ratings, but IM was unrelated. Hence, this study gives rise to arguments for a more balanced view of self-presentation.

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Reallocation and Technology: Evidence from the US Steel Industry

Allan Collard-Wexler & Jan De Loecker
American Economic Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
We measure the impact of a drastic new technology for producing steel - the minimill - industry-wide productivity in the US steel industry, using unique plant-level data between 1963 and 2002. The sharp increase in the industry's productivity is linked to this new technology through two distinct mechanisms: 1) the mere displacement of the older technology (vertically integrated producers) was responsible for a third of the increase in the industry's productivity, 2) Increased competition, due the minimill expansion, drove a productivity resurgence at the surviving vertical integrated producers and, consequently, the productivity of the industry as a whole.

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Gone Fishing! Reported Sickness Absenteeism and the Weather

Jingye Shi & Mikal Skuterud
Economic Inquiry, forthcoming

Abstract:
A fundamental challenge in informing employer-employee agency problems is measuring employee shirking activity. We identify the propensity of employees to misreport health in order to exploit favorable weather by linking Canadian weather data and survey data on short-term spells of sickness absenteeism among indoor workers during the non-winter months. The results point to a clear tendency for reported sickness absenteeism to rise with the recreational quality of the weather. Comparing across workers suggests larger marginal weather effects where shirking costs are higher, which we show is consistent with employees' marginal utility of outdoor leisure increasing in the interaction of their health and weather quality. We discuss the implications of our findings for flexible vacation policies and survey respondents' trust in the confidentiality guarantees of statistical agencies.

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Big Data Investment, Skills, and Firm Value

Prasanna Tambe
Management Science, June 2014, Pages 1452-1469

Abstract:
This paper analyzes how labor market factors have shaped early returns on big data investment using a new data source - the LinkedIn skills database. The data source enables firm-level measurement of the employment of workers with technical skills such as Hadoop, MapReduce, and Apache Pig. From 2006 to 2011, Hadoop investments were associated with 3% faster productivity growth, but only for firms (a) with significant data assets and (b) in labor markets where similar investments by other firms helped to facilitate the development of a cadre of workers with complementary technical skills. The benefits of labor market concentration decline for investments in mature data technologies, such as Structured Query Language-based databases, for which the complementary skills can be acquired by workers through universities or other channels. These findings underscore the importance of geography, corporate investment, and skill acquisition channels for explaining productivity growth differences during the spread of new information technology innovations.

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Non-Executive Employee Ownership and Corporate Risk

Francesco Bova et al.
Accounting Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
Prior research documents a negative link between risk and executive holding of stock (generally positive link is observed for options). We find a similar negative relation for non-executive holding of stock. Our finding is consistent with the view that non-executives not only face significant incentives to reduce risk when they hold stock, but they are also able to affect corporate risk. While endogeneity cannot be ruled out fully, the results of a battery of tests suggest that it plays a limited role. A second robust result is that the documented relation becomes more negative as option-based executive compensation increases. Overall, corporate risk is related to the incentives created by stock and options held by both executives and non-executives, as well as interactions among those incentives.

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Morning Employees Are Perceived as Better Employees: Employees' Start Times Influence Supervisor Performance Ratings

Kai Chi Yam, Ryan Fehr & Christopher Barnes
Journal of Applied Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
In this research, we draw from the stereotyping literature to suggest that supervisor ratings of job performance are affected by employees' start times - the time of day they first arrive at work. Even when accounting for total work hours, objective job performance, and employees' self-ratings of conscientiousness, we find that a later start time leads supervisors to perceive employees as less conscientious. These perceptions in turn cause supervisors to rate employees as lower performers. In addition, we show that supervisor chronotype acts as a boundary condition of the mediated model. Supervisors who prefer eveningness (i.e., owls) are less likely to hold negative stereotypes of employees with late start times than supervisors who prefer morningness (i.e., larks). Taken together, our results suggest that supervisor ratings of job performance are susceptible to stereotypic beliefs based on employees' start times.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Happy hour

Memories of Traumatic Events in Childhood Fade After Experiencing Similar Less Stressful Events: Results From Two Natural Experiments

Carl Weems et al.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming

Abstract:
The long-term stability of youth reports of traumatic events is largely unknown. Translational animal research suggests that there may be an alteration of memories for traumatic events via memory reconsolidation processes, whereas clinical research suggests memory alteration may occur through augmentation by negative emotions. In this report, 2 natural experiments test reconsolidation model and augmentation model predictions about the course of traumatic memories in youth. Data are from 2 prospective studies that assessed reports of an initial traumatic event (Hurricane Katrina) and tested recall both pre and post a similar event (Hurricane Gustav). In the 1st (Sample 1; n = 94, initial Grade 9 followed to 11), youth were assessed at 4 time points: Times 1–3 were 13, 20, and 26 months post-Katrina and then Time 4 was 5 months post-Hurricane Gustav. In the 2nd (Sample 2; n = 141, Grades 4 through 8), youth were assessed at 12 months pre-Gustav (Time 1; 24 months post-Katrina) and then again at 1 month (Time 2) and 8 months (Time 3) post-Gustav. Those with relatively high Gustav exposure showed more stability in their reports of Katrina exposure events, whereas in those with low Gustav exposure, reports of Katrina events decreased. Time spans between recall, age, gender, symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, or cognitive/learning ability did not explain changes in the reports. The study provides the 1st long-term data on the consistency of youth reports of disaster-related experiences and provides initial evidence for the ecological validity of memory reconsolidation theory applied to traumatic events in youth.

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Why is intelligence associated with stability of happiness?

Satoshi Kanazawa
British Journal of Psychology, August 2014, Pages 316–337

Abstract:
In the National Child Development Study, life-course variability in happiness over 18 years was significantly negatively associated with its mean level (happier individuals were more stable in their happiness, and it was not due to the ceiling effect), as well as childhood general intelligence and all Big Five personality factors (except for Agreeableness). In a multiple regression analysis, childhood general intelligence was the strongest predictor of life-course variability in life satisfaction, stronger than all Big Five personality factors, including Emotional stability. More intelligent individuals were significantly more stable in their happiness, and it was not entirely because: (1) they were more educated and wealthier (even though they were); (2) they were healthier (even though they were); (3) they were more stable in their marital status (even though they were); (4) they were happier (even though they were); (5) they were better able to assess their own happiness accurately (even though they were); or (6) they were better able to recall their previous responses more accurately or they were more honest in their survey responses (even though they were both). While I could exclude all of these alternative explanations, it ultimately remained unclear why more intelligent individuals were more stable in their happiness.

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Disparities in Adverse Childhood Experiences Among Individuals With a History of Military Service

John Blosnich et al.
JAMA Psychiatry, forthcoming

Objective: To compare the prevalence of ACEs among individuals with and without a history of military service.

Design, Setting, and Participants: Data are from the 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Computer-assisted telephone interviews were conducted with population-based samples of noninstitutionalized US adults from January 1 through December 31, 2010. Analyses were limited to respondents who received the ACE module (n = 60 598). Participants were categorized by history of military service and whether a respondent was 18 years of age in 1973.

Main Outcomes and Measures: History of military service was defined by active duty service, veteran status, or training for the Reserves or National Guard. The ACE inventory assessed 11 negative experiences before the age of 18 years. Weighted χ2 tests and multiple logistic regression analyses were used to examine differences in ACEs by history of military service, era of service, and sex.

Results: Those with military experience had greater odds of any difference in prevalence of ACEs. In the all-volunteer era, men with military service had a higher prevalence of ACEs in all 11 categories than men without military service. Notably, in the all-volunteer era, men with military service had twice the odds of reporting forced sex before the age of 18 years (odds ratio, 2.19; 95% CI, 1.34-3.57) compared with men without military service. In the draft era, the only difference among men was household drug use, in which men with a history of military service had a significantly lower prevalence than men without a history of military service (2.1% vs 3.3%; P = .003). Fewer differences were observed among women in the all-volunteer and draft eras.

Conclusions and Relevance: Differences in ACEs by era and sex lend preliminary support that enlistment may serve as an escape from adversity for some individuals, at least among men. Further research is needed to understand how best to support service members and veterans who may have experienced ACEs.

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Intranasal Oxytocin Enhances Positive Self-Attribution in Healthy Men

Valentina Colonnello & Markus Heinrichs
Journal of Psychosomatic Research, forthcoming

Objective: A growing body of studies consistently demonstrates that social responsiveness towards others is influenced by the neurohormone oxytocin. However, the potential role of oxytocin for self-perception remains relatively unexplored. Thus, we investigated whether oxytocin administration influences the self-attribution of positive and negative adjectives at the early, effortful stage of self-related information processing.

Methods: Sixty healthy male participants received either 24 I.U. oxytocin or a placebo in a randomized double-blind study before completing a sorting task, in which they were instructed to co-classify, as fast as possible, positive and negative adjectives into either self or non-self categories.

Results: Oxytocin-treated participants reported stronger positive attitudes toward themselves compared to placebo.

Conclusions: The present findings demonstrate that oxytocin administration influences the early stage of self-related information processing and suggests that the oxytocinergic system might be involved in psychopathological conditions characterized by a negative representation of self.

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2D:4D digit ratio predicts depression severity for females but not for males

Kerrie Smedley, Kayla McKain & Devon McKain
Personality and Individual Differences, November 2014, Pages 136–139

Abstract:
Depression affects at least twice the number of women than men. This difference appears to be relatively consistent across a wide range of cultures, with an average female to male ratio of 2:1 (Immerman & Mackey, 2003). Explanations of this sex difference have focused on hormones, the role that early traumas such as sexual abuse play in predisposing females to depression, and socialization influences (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1998). Digit ratio (2D:4D index to ring finger) is a well-established sexually dimorphic trait in humans, with females having a higher ratio than males (Martin, Manning, & Dowrick, 1999). This trait, stable across the lifetime, has been correlated with many other sexually dimorphic traits (Austin, Manning, McInroy, & Matthews, 2001). Previous research has shown contradictory results regarding whether depression is associated with a more masculine digit ratio or a more feminine digit ratio. The purpose of this study was to further investigate whether digit ratio is predictive of severity of depression. Results indicated that higher digit ratio is correlated with higher depression scores in females, but not males. Study limitations and further directions are considered.

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Elevated Maternal C-Reactive Protein and Increased Risk of Schizophrenia in a National Birth Cohort

Sarah Canetta et al.
American Journal of Psychiatry, forthcoming

Objective: The objective of the present study was to investigate an association between early gestational C-reactive protein, an established inflammatory biomarker, prospectively assayed in maternal sera, and schizophrenia in a large, national birth cohort with an extensive serum biobank.

Method: A nested case-control design from the Finnish Prenatal Study of Schizophrenia cohort was utilized. A total of 777 schizophrenia cases (schizophrenia, N=630; schizoaffective disorder, N=147) with maternal sera available for C-reactive protein testing were identified and matched to 777 control subjects in the analysis. Maternal C-reactive protein levels were assessed using a latex immunoassay from archived maternal serum specimens.

Results: Increasing maternal C-reactive protein levels, classified as a continuous variable, were significantly associated with schizophrenia in offspring (adjusted odds ratio=1.31, 95% confidence interval=1.10–1.56). This finding remained significant after adjusting for potential confounders, including maternal and parental history of psychiatric disorders, twin/singleton birth, urbanicity, province of birth, and maternal socioeconomic status.

Conclusions: This finding provides the most robust evidence to date that maternal inflammation may play a significant role in schizophrenia, with possible implications for identifying preventive strategies and pathogenic mechanisms in schizophrenia and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

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Rapid Mood-Elevating Effects of Low Field Magnetic Stimulation in Depression

Michael Rohan et al.
Biological Psychiatry, 1 August 2014, Pages 186–193

Background: We previously reported rapid mood elevation following an experimental magnetic resonance imaging procedure in depressed patients with bipolar disorder (BPD). This prompted the design, construction, and testing of a portable electromagnetic device that reproduces only the rapidly oscillating (1 kHz, <1 V/m) electromagnetic field of the experimental procedure, called low field magnetic stimulation (LFMS).

Methods: We used a randomized, double blind, sham controlled treatment protocol to study the effects of LFMS in a large group of stably medicated, depressed patients with either BPD (n = 41) or major depressive disorder (n = 22). Subjects received a single, 20-minute treatment. Change in mood was assessed immediately afterward using a visual analog scale (VAS), the 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS-17), and the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule scales.

Results: Substantial improvement (>10% of baseline) in mood was observed following LFMS treatment relative to sham treatment for both diagnostic subgroups for our primary outcomes, the VAS and the HDRS-17. These differences were not statistically significant in primary analyses stratifying by diagnosis but were significant in secondary analyses combining data across the two diagnostic groups (p = .01 VAS, p = .02 HDRS-17). Rapid improvement in mood was also observed using the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule scales as secondary measures (positive affect scale p = .02 BPD, p = .002 combined group). A finite element method calculation indicates a broad penetration of the LFMS electric field throughout the cerebral cortex.

Conclusions: Low field magnetic stimulation may produce rapid changes in mood using a previously unexplored range of electromagnetic fields.

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Social Identity Reduces Depression by Fostering Positive Attributions

Tegan Cruwys et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Social identities are generally associated with better health and in particular lower levels of depression. However, there has been limited investigation of why social identities protect against depression. The current research suggests that social identities reduce depression in part because they attenuate the depressive attribution style (internal, stable, and global; e.g., “I failed because I’m stupid”). These relationships are first investigated in a survey (Study 1, N = 139) and then followed up in an experiment that manipulates social identity salience (Study 2, N = 88). In both cases, people with stronger social identities were less likely to attribute negative events to internal, stable, or global causes and subsequently reported lower levels of depression. These studies thus indicate that social identities can protect and enhance mental health by facilitating positive interpretations of stress and failure. Implications for clinical theory and practice are discussed.

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Mental health in the foreclosure crisis

Jason Houle
Social Science & Medicine, October 2014, Pages 1–8

Abstract:
Current evidence suggests that the rise in home foreclosures that began in 2007 created feelings of stress, vulnerability, and sapped communities of social and economic resources. Minority and low SES communities were more likely to be exposed to predatory lending and hold subprime mortgages, and were the hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis. Little research has examined whether and how the foreclosure crisis has undermined population mental health. I use data from 2245 counties in 50 U.S. states to examine whether living in high foreclosure areas is associated with residents' mental health and whether the foreclosure crisis has the potential to exacerbate existing disparities in mental health during the recessionary period. I use county-level data from RealtyTrac and other data sources, and individual-level data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey from 2006 to 2011. I find that – net of time invariant unobserved between-county differences, national time trends, and observed confounders – a rise in a county's foreclosure rate is associated with a decline in residents' mental health. This association is especially pronounced in counties with a high concentration of low SES and minority residents, which supports the perspective that the foreclosure crisis has the potential to exacerbate existing social disparities in mental health.

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Symbolic providers help people regulate affect relationally: Implications for perceived support

Brian Lakey et al.
Personal Relationships, forthcoming

Abstract:
Relational regulation theory (Lakey & Orehek, 2011) predicts that the correlation between perceived support and mental health emerges through ordinary conversation and shared activities rather than through conversations about stress and how to cope with it. Observing the conversations and activities of others also helps regulate mental health. Symbolic providers (known only through media) mimic how real providers regulate affect in that recipients observe the conversations and shared activities of symbolic providers. Thus, many perceived support findings obtained for real providers should also be found for symbolic providers. We found the same links between perceived support and affect when recipients rated symbolic providers as when recipients rated real providers. When participants' affect was worsened, viewing symbolic providers helped restore affect.

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To have in order to do: Exploring the effects of consuming experiential products on well-being

Darwin Guevarra & Ryan Howell
Journal of Consumer Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
The experience recommendation – if you want to be happier, buy life experiences instead of material items – is supported in empirical research. However, this evidence is primarily based on the dichotomous comparison of material items and life experiences. The goal of this article is to examine the effects of consuming experiential products – purchases that fall between material items and life experiences – on well-being. Study 1 and Study 2 demonstrate that experiential products provide similar levels of well-being compared to life experiences and more well-being than material items. Study 3 replicates this finding for purchases that turn out well. In addition, Study 3 shows experiential products, when compared to life experiences, lead to more feelings of competence but less feelings of relatedness, which explains why these two purchases result in similar levels of well-being. We discuss why experiential products and life experiences lead to psychological need satisfaction and how our results support the Positive-Activity Model, Self-Determination Theory, and Holbrook and Hirschman's hedonic consumption framework.

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Longitudinal changes of telomere length and epigenetic age related to traumatic stress and post-traumatic stress disorder

Marco Boks et al.
Psychoneuroendocrinology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Several studies have reported an association between traumatic stress and telomere length suggesting that traumatic stress has an impact on aging at the cellular level. A newly derived tool provides an additional means to investigate cellular aging by estimating epigenetic age based on DNA methylation profiles. We therefore hypothesise that in a longitudinal study of traumatic stress both indicators of cellular aging will show increased aging. We expect that particularly in individuals that developed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) increases in these aging parameters would stand out. From an existing longitudinal cohort study, ninety-six male soldiers were selected based on trauma exposure and the presence of symptoms of PTSD. All military personnel were deployed in a combat zone in Afghanistan and assessed before and 6 months after deployment. The Self-Rating Inventory for PTSD was used to measure the presence of PTSD symptoms, while exposure to combat trauma during deployment was measured with a 19-item deployment experiences checklist. These groups did not differ for age, gender, alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, military rank, length, weight, or medication use. In DNA from whole blood telomere length was measured and DNA methylation levels were assessed using the Illumina 450 K DNA methylation arrays. Epigenetic aging was estimated using the DNAm age estimator procedure. The association of trauma with telomere length was in the expected direction but not significant (B = -10.2, p = 0.52). However, contrary to our expectations, development of PTSD symptoms was associated with the reverse process, telomere lengthening (B = 1.91, p = 0.018). In concordance, trauma significantly accelerated epigenetic aging (B = 1.97, p = 0.032) and similar to the findings in telomeres, development of PTSD symptoms was inversely associated with epigenetic aging (B = -0.10, p = 0.044). Blood cell count, medication and premorbid early life trauma exposure did not confound the results. Overall, in this longitudinal study of military personnel deployed to Afghanistan we show an acceleration of ageing by trauma. However, development of PTSD symptoms was associated with telomere lengthening and reversed epigenetic aging. These findings warrant further study of a perhaps dysfunctional compensatory cellular aging reversal in PTSD.

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Verbal Makes It Positive, Spatial Makes It Negative: Working Memory Biases Judgments, Attention, and Moods

Justin Storbeck & Philip Watson
Emotion, forthcoming

Abstract:
Prior research has suggested that emotion and working memory domains are integrated, such that positive affect enhances verbal working memory, whereas negative affect enhances spatial working memory (Gray, 2004; Storbeck, 2012). Simon (1967) postulated that one feature of emotion and cognition integration would be reciprocal connectedness (i.e., emotion influences cognition and cognition influences emotion). We explored whether affective judgments and attention to affective qualities are biased by the activation of verbal and spatial working memory mind-sets. For all experiments, participants completed a 2-back verbal or spatial working memory task followed by an endorsement task (Experiments 1 & 2), word-pair selection task (Exp. 3), or attentional dot-probe task (Exp. 4). Participants who had an activated verbal, compared with spatial, working memory mind-set were more likely to endorse pictures (Exp. 1) and words (Exp. 2) as being more positive and to select the more positive word pair out of a set of word pairs that went ‘together best’ (Exp. 3). Additionally, people who completed the verbal working memory task took longer to disengage from positive stimuli, whereas those who completed the spatial working memory task took longer to disengage from negative stimuli (Exp. 4). Interestingly, across the 4 experiments, we observed higher levels of self-reported negative affect for people who completed the spatial working memory task, which was consistent with their endorsement and attentional bias toward negative stimuli. Therefore, emotion and working memory may have a reciprocal connectedness allowing for bidirectional influence.

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Cognitive Reappraisal Increases Neuroendocrine Reactivity to Acute Social Stress and Physical Pain

Thomas Denson et al.
Psychoneuroendocrinology, November 2014, Pages 69–78

Abstract:
Cognitive reappraisal can foster emotion regulation, yet less is known about whether cognitive reappraisal alters neuroendocrine stress reactivity. Some initial evidence suggests that although long-term training in cognitive behavioral therapy techniques (which include reappraisal as a primary training component) can reduce cortisol reactivity to stress, some studies also suggest that reappraisal is associated with heightened cortisol stress reactivity. To address this mixed evidence, the present report describes two experimental studies that randomly assigned young adult volunteers to use cognitive reappraisal while undergoing laboratory stressors. Relative to the control condition, participants in the reappraisal conditions showed greater peak cortisol reactivity in response to a socially evaluative speech task (Experiment 1, N = 90) and to a physical pain cold pressor task (Experiment 2, N = 94). Participants in the cognitive reappraisal group also reported enhanced anticipatory psychological appraisals of self-efficacy and control in Experiment 2 and greater post-stressor self-efficacy. There were no effects of the reappraisal manipulation on positive and negative subjective affect, pain, or heart rate in either experiment. These findings suggest that although cognitive reappraisal fosters psychological perceptions of self-efficacy and control under stress, this effortful emotion regulation strategy in the short-term may increase cortisol reactivity. Discussion focuses on promising psychological mechanisms for these cognitive reappraisal effects.

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A re-examination of behaviour in depression: Have we grossly underestimated the extent and impact of the behavioural suffering?

Robert Hopkins, David Michela & Lindy Kilik
Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, July 2014, Pages 456-463

Abstract:
While depression is known to be a disturbance of mood, it is also a disturbance of behaviour. From clinical evidence, it is suggested that this behavioural disturbance may be more profound than previously reported. The purpose of the study was to assess the level of behavioural disturbance in a moderately to severely depressed group of community living individuals aged 21 to 65 (N = 30). Behaviour was assessed by the Kingston Standardized Behavioural Assessment, and cognition was assessed by the Kingston Standardized Cognitive Assessment–Revised and the Mini-Mental State Examination. This depressed group was indeed more behaviourally impaired than one would expect from the traditional descriptions of depression. In fact, the level of behavioural disturbance found was equal to that in community-dwelling Alzheimer’s disease patients. The depressed group was then compared to an equally behaviourally disturbed group of probable Alzheimer’s disease patients also living in the community. The depressed group was both significantly better oriented, and had better overall cognition. Behavioural patterns were compared between groups. The findings of this study suggest that individuals with depression are more significantly impaired than traditionally thought. Not only was a broader range of behaviour change seen in patients, but there was a greater number of changes seen per patient than previously described. This also suggests that a greater number of targets for clinical intervention are available.

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“I'm Disgusting”: Investigating the Role of Self-Disgust in Nonsuicidal Self-Injury

Noelle Smith et al.
Archives of Suicide Research, forthcoming

Objectives: Self-directed disgust, a component of self-criticism may present an important, yet unexplored emotion in the context of nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI). The aim of this study was to examine the role of self-disgust in NSSI, specifically as a potential mediator in the relations between depression and NSSI as well as sexual abuse and NSSI, and to also better understand characteristics that might differentiate recent and past self-injurers.

Method: 549 college students completed measures assessing NSSI, self-disgust, depression, anxiety sensitivity and physical and sexual abuse.

Results: Results indicated self-disgust fully mediated the relation between depressive symptoms and NSSI status and partially mediated the relation between sexual abuse and NSSI status. Additionally, compared to past self-injurers (4.6%; n = 25), recent self-injurers (6.4%; n = 35) endorsed significantly higher self-disgust and depressive symptoms.

Conclusion: Self-disgust may be an important component in NSSI and should be addressed in treatment.

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Why are people with high self-control happier? The effect of trait self-control on happiness as mediated by regulatory focus

Tracy Cheung et al.
Frontiers in Psychology, July 2014

Background: While self-control has often been related to positive outcomes in life such as higher academic achievements and better health, recent insights reveal that people with high trait self-control (TSC) may even experience greater life satisfaction or happiness.

Objective: The current study further scrutinizes this potential association between TSC and happiness, and examines how regulatory focus, defined as the way people frame and direct their goal pursuit strategies, plays a role in this relationship. Accordingly, the present study examines the mediating role of regulatory-focus (promotion and prevention focus) on the relationship between TSC and happiness.

Method: Data was collected from 545 individuals (65.9% female, Mage = 27.52 years) regarding their TSC, regulatory focus, and happiness.

Results: Mediation analyses demonstrate that TSC positively predicts happiness, while this effect was partially mediated by relatively more promotion focus and less prevention focus.

Conclusion: Results suggest that people with higher TSC are happier possibly because they are: (1) more promotion-focused on acquiring positive gains thereby facilitating more approach-oriented behaviors, and (2) less prevention-focused on avoiding losses thereby reducing avoidance-oriented behaviors. These findings are relevant for topical scientific debates regarding the underlying mechanisms of self-control regarding initiatory and inhibitory behaviors.

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Emotion Regulation Meets Emotional Attention: The Influence of Emotion Suppression on Emotional Attention Depends on the Nature of the Distracters

Julia Vogt & Jan De Houwer
Emotion, forthcoming

Abstract:
Recent evidence has suggested a crucial role of people’s current goals in attention to emotional information. This asks for research investigating how and what kinds of goals shape emotional attention. The present study investigated how the goal to suppress a negative emotional state influences attention to emotion-congruent events. After inducing disgust, we instructed participants to suppress all feelings of disgust during a subsequent dot probe task. Attention to disgusting images was modulated by the sort of distracter that was presented in parallel with disgusting imagery. When disgusting images were presented together with neutral images, emotion suppression was accompanied by a tendency to attend to disgusting images. However, when disgusting images were shown with positive images that allow coping with disgust (i.e., images representing cleanliness), attention tended away from disgusting images and toward images representing cleanliness. These findings show that emotion suppression influences the allocation of attention but that the successful avoidance of emotion-congruent events depends on the availability of effective distracters.

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A vacation from your mind: Problematic online gaming is a stress response

Jeffrey Snodgrass et al.
Computers in Human Behavior, September 2014, Pages 248–260

Abstract:
We present ethnographically-informed survey and interview data suggesting that problematic online gaming in the World of Warcraft (WoW) can be conceptualized as a response to pre-existing life stress, which for highly stressed individuals magnifies rather than relieves their suffering. In particular, we explore how relaxing and arousing in-game experiences and activities provide forms of cognitive diversion that can lead to problematic play among more highly stressed individuals. Our research supports what has been called a “rich get richer” model of problematic Internet use. In this instance, less stressed individuals manage to play WoW so as to enhance their offline lives. By contrast, more highly stressed players further magnify the stress and suffering in their lives by playing problematically the online game within which they sought refuge from their offline problems.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Felt something

The Effects of Heightened Physiological Needs on Perception of Psychological Connectedness

Xiuping Li & Meng Zhang
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
In three sets of experiments, we propose and find a cognition shift caused by heightened physiological states such as sexual desire and hunger. In particular, it was found that exposure to images of sexy women decreases male consumers' perception of being connected to others. A similar effect was demonstrated in a study when participants were feeling hungry. Such an effect of physiological need on social perception is profound, irrespective of whether the target "other" is an acquaintance, a best friend, an unknown person, or even the future self. We also test the downstream behavioral consequences of this reduced psychological connectedness (e.g., less resource allocation and less helping).

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When do socially accepted people feel ostracized? Physical pain triggers social pain

Zhansheng Chen, Kai-Tak Poon & Nathan DeWall
Social Influence, forthcoming

Abstract:
The present research investigated whether physical suffering would cause people to feel ostracized even when they are accepted by their social interaction partners. Participants were instructed to place their hands either into a circulated cold water bath (to induce physical pain) or into a water bath at room temperature while they were either included or ostracized during an online ball tossing game — Cyberball. We found that physical pain led people to experience social pain, while they are socially accepted during a social interaction. Our findings suggest that people with physical suffering may need extra attention in social interactions to satisfy their threatened social needs.

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In doubt and disorderly: Ambivalence promotes compensatory perceptions of order

Frenk van Harreveld et al.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, August 2014, Pages 1666-1676

Abstract:
Ambivalence is a presumably unpleasant experience, and coming to terms with it is an intricate part of human existence. It is argued that ambivalent attitude holders cope with their ambivalence through compensatory perceptions of order. We first show that ambivalence leads to an increase in (visual) perceptions of order (Study 1). In Study 2 we conceptually replicate this finding by showing that ambivalence also increases belief in conspiracy theories, a cognitive form of order perception. Furthermore, this effect is mediated by the negative emotions that are elicited by ambivalence. In Study 3 we show that increased need for order is driving these effects: Affirmations of order cancel out the effect of ambivalence on perceptions of order. Theoretical as well as societal implications are discussed.

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Ray of Hope: Hopelessness Increases Preferences for Brighter Lighting

Ping Dong, Xun (Irene) Huang & Chen-Bo Zhong
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Does bright lighting seem more desirable when people feel hopeless? Common parlance such as “ray of hope” depicts an association between hope and the perception of brightness. Building on research in embodied cognition and conceptual metaphor, we examined whether incidental emotion of hopelessness can affect brightness perception, which may influence people’s preference for lighting. Across four studies, we found that people who feel hopeless judge the environment to be darker (Study 1). As a consequence, hopeless people expressed a greater desire for ambient brightness and higher wattage light bulbs (Studies 2 and 3). Study 4 showed the reversal of the effect — being in a dimmer (vs. brighter) room induces greater hopelessness toward the perceived job search prospects. Taken together, these results suggest that hopeless feeling seems to bias people’s perceptual judgment of ambient brightness, which may potentially impact their electricity consumption.

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Is It Still Working? Task Difficulty Promotes a Rapid Wear-Off Bias in Judgments of Pharmacological Products

Veronika Ilyuk, Lauren Block & David Faro
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Misuse of pharmacological products is a major public health concern. Seven studies provide evidence of a rapid wear-off bias in judgments of pharmacological products: consumers infer that duration of product efficacy is dependent on concurrent task difficulty, such that relatively more difficult tasks lead to faster product wear-off. This bias appears to be grounded in consumers’ incorrect application of a mental model about substance wear-off based on their experiences with, and beliefs about, various physical and biological phenomena. Results indicate that the rapid wear-off bias affects consumption frequency and may thus contribute to overdosing of widely available pharmacological products. Further, manufacturers’ intake instructions in an interval format (e.g., “Take one pill every 2-4 hours”) are shown to signal that efficacy is task-dependent and reinforce the bias. Debiasing mechanisms — interventions to reduce the rapid wear-off bias and its impact — along with implications for consumers, marketers, and public health officials are discussed.

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Chemical communication of fear: A case of male–female asymmetry

Jasper de Groot, Gün Semin & Monique Smeets
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, August 2014, Pages 1515-1525

Abstract:
Previous research has documented sex differences in nonverbal communication. What has remained unknown is whether similar sex differences would exist with regard to olfactory communication via chemosignals, a relatively neglected nonverbal communication medium. Because women generally have a better sense of smell and greater sensitivity to emotional signals, we hypothesized that compared with male participants and relative to a neutral control condition, female participants would emulate the fearful state of the sender producing the chemosignals. Facial electromyography was used in a double-blind experiment to measure in the receiver a partial reproduction of the state of the sender, controlling for the moderating influence of the sex of the sender and receiver. The results indicated that only female participants emulated the fearful state of the sender. The present study revealed a boundary condition for effective chemosignaling by reporting behavioral evidence of sexual asymmetry in olfactory communication via chemosignals.

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Seeing the Big Picture: The Effect of Height on the Level of Construal

Pankaj Aggarwal & Min Zhao
Journal of Marketing Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Drawing on research on grounded cognition and metaphorical representation, the authors propose and confirm in five studies that physical height or even the mere concept of height can impact the perceptual and conceptual levels of mental construal. As such, consumers perceiving themselves to be physically “high” or elevated are more likely to adopt a global perceptual processing and higher level of conceptual construal, while those perceiving themselves to be physically “low” are more likely to adopt a local perceptual processing and lower level of conceptual construal. This difference in level of construal also impacts product choices involving trade-offs between long-term benefit and short-term effort. Alternative accounts such as vertical distance, visual distance, and perceived power are addressed. By highlighting the novel relationship between height and construal level, these findings contribute to research on grounded cognition and construal-level theory, while also providing practical suggestions to marketing managers across a variety of domains.

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Gaze direction affects visuo-spatial short-term memory

Christophe Carlei & Dirk Kerzel
Brain and Cognition, October 2014, Pages 63–68

Abstract:
Hemispheric asymmetries were investigated by changing the horizontal position of stimuli that had to be remembered in a visuo-spatial short-term memory task. Observers looked at matrices containing a variable number of filled squares on the left or right side of the screen center. At stimulus offset, participants reproduced the positions of the filled squares in an empty response matrix. Stimulus and response matrices were presented in the same quadrant. We observed that memory performance was better when the matrices were shown on the left side of the screen. We distinguished between recall strategies that relied on visual or non-visual (verbal) cues and found that the effect of gaze position occurred more reliably in participants using visual recall strategies. Overall, the results show that there is a solid enhancement of visuo-spatial short-term memory when observers look to the left. In contrast, vertical position had no influence on performance. We suggest that unilateral gaze to the left activates centers in the right hemisphere contributing to visuo-spatial memory.

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Disinhibition of olfaction: Human olfactory performance improves following low levels of alcohol

Yaara Endevelt-Shapira et al.
Behavioural Brain Research, 1 October 2014, Pages 66–74

Abstract:
We hypothesize that true human olfactory abilities are obscured by cortical inhibition. Alcohol reduces inhibition. We therefore tested the hypothesis that olfactory abilities will improve following alcohol consumption. We measured olfaction in 85 subjects, 45 in a between-subjects design, and 40 in a repeated-measures within-subjects design before and after consumption of alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages. Subjects were also assessed using neurocognitive measures of inhibition. Following alcohol consumption, blood alcohol levels ranged from 0.005% to 0.11%. Across subjects, before any consumption of alcohol, we found that individuals who were less inhibited had lower (better) olfactory detection thresholds (r = 0.68, p < 0.005). Moreover, after alcohol consumption, subjects with low alcohol levels could make olfactory discriminations that subjects with 0% alcohol could not make (chance = 33%, alcohol = 51.3 ± 22.7%, control = 34.7 ± 31.6%, t(43) = 2.03, p < 0.05). Within subjects, we found correlations between levels of alcohol and olfactory detection (r = 0.63, p < 0.005) and discrimination (r = −0.50, p < 0.05), such that performance was improved at low levels of alcohol (significantly better than baseline for detection) and deteriorated at higher levels of alcohol. Finally, levels of alcohol-induced improved olfactory discrimination were correlated with levels of alcohol-induced cognitive disinhibition (r = 0.48, p < 0.05). Although we cannot rule out alternative non-inhibitory alcohol-induced routes of influence, we conclude that improved olfaction at low levels of alcohol supports the notion of an inhibitory mechanism obscuring true olfactory abilities.

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Interoceptive ability predicts aversion to losses

Peter Sokol-Hessner et al.
Cognition and Emotion, forthcoming

Abstract:
Emotions have been proposed to inform risky decision-making through the influence of affective physiological responses on subjective value. The ability to perceive internal body states, or “interoception” may influence this relationship. Here, we examined whether interoception predicts participants' degree of loss aversion, which has been previously linked to choice-related arousal responses. Participants performed both a heartbeat-detection task indexing interoception and a risky monetary decision-making task, from which loss aversion, risk attitudes and choice consistency were parametrically measured. Interoceptive ability correlated selectively with loss aversion and was unrelated to the other value parameters. This finding suggests that specific and separable component processes underlying valuation are shaped not only by our physiological responses, as shown in previous findings, but also by our interoceptive access to such signals.

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Experimental evolution of prepared learning

Aimee Dunlap & David Stephens
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Abstract:
Animals learn some things more easily than others. To explain this so-called prepared learning, investigators commonly appeal to the evolutionary history of stimulus–consequence relationships experienced by a population or species. We offer a simple model that formalizes this long-standing hypothesis. The key variable in our model is the statistical reliability of the association between stimulus, action, and consequence. We use experimental evolution to test this hypothesis in populations of Drosophila. We systematically manipulated the reliability of two types of experience (the pairing of the aversive chemical quinine with color or with odor). Following 40 generations of evolution, data from learning assays support our basic prediction: Changes in learning abilities track the reliability of associations during a population’s selective history. In populations where, for example, quinine–color pairings were unreliable but quinine–odor pairings were reliable, we find increased sensitivity to learning the quinine–odor experience and reduced sensitivity to learning quinine–color. To the best of our knowledge this is the first experimental demonstration of the evolution of prepared learning.

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Eye contact elicits bodily self-awareness in human adults

Matias Baltazar et al.
Cognition, October 2014, Pages 120–127

Abstract:
Eye contact is a typical human behaviour known to impact concurrent or subsequent cognitive processing. In particular, it has been suggested that eye contact induces self-awareness, though this has never been formally proven. Here, we show that the perception of a face with a direct gaze (that establishes eye contact), as compared to either a face with averted gaze or a mere fixation cross, led adult participants to rate more accurately the intensity of their physiological reactions induced by emotional pictures. Our data support the view that bodily self-awareness becomes more acute when one is subjected to another’s gaze. Importantly, this effect was not related to a particular arousal state induced by eye contact perception. Rejecting the arousal hypothesis, we suggest that eye contact elicits a self-awareness process by enhancing self-focused attention in humans. We further discuss the implications of this proposal.

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Speeding in School Zones: Violation or Lapse in Prospective Memory?

Bree Gregory et al.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, forthcoming

Abstract:
Inappropriate speed is a causal factor in around one third of fatal accidents (OECD/ECMT, 2006). But are drivers always consciously responsible for their speeding behavior? Two studies are reported which show that an interruption to a journey, caused by stopping at a red traffic light, can result in failure to resume the speed of travel prior to the interruption (Study 1). In Study 2 we showed that the addition of a reminder cue could offset this interruption. These studies were conducted in a number of Australian school zone sites subject to a 40 km/h speed limit, requiring a reduction of between 20 km/h and 40 km/h. Motorists who had stopped at a red traffic signal sped on average, 8.27 km/h over the speed limit compared with only 1.76 km/h over the limit for those who had not been required to stop. In the second study a flashing “check speed” reminder cue, placed 70 m after the traffic lights, in the same school zones as those in Study 1 eliminated the interruptive effect of stopping with drivers resuming their journey at the legal speed. These findings have practical implications for the design of road environments, enforcement of speed limits, and the safety of pedestrians.

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Seeing what you want to see: Priors for one's own actions represent exaggerated expectations of success

Noham Wolpe, Daniel Wolpert & James Rowe
Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, June 2014

Abstract:
People perceive the consequences of their own actions differently to how they perceive other sensory events. A large body of psychology research has shown that people also consistently overrate their own performance relative to others, yet little is known about how these “illusions of superiority” are normally maintained. Here we examined the visual perception of the sensory consequences of self-generated and observed goal-directed actions. Across a series of visuomotor tasks, we found that the perception of the sensory consequences of one's own actions is more biased toward success relative to the perception of observed actions. Using Bayesian models, we show that this bias could be explained by priors that represent exaggerated predictions of success. The degree of exaggeration of priors was unaffected by learning, but was correlated with individual differences in trait optimism. In contrast, when observing these actions, priors represented more accurate predictions of the actual performance. The results suggest that the brain internally represents optimistic predictions for one's own actions. Such exaggerated predictions bind the sensory consequences of our own actions with our intended goal, explaining how it is that when acting we tend to see what we want to see.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Friday, August 1, 2014

Wise up

The far-reaching effects of believing people can change: Implicit theories of personality shape stress, health, and achievement during adolescence

David Scott Yeager et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, June 2014, Pages 867-884

Abstract:
The belief that personality is fixed (an entity theory of personality) can give rise to negative reactions to social adversities. Three studies showed that when social adversity is common - at the transition to high school - an entity theory can affect overall stress, health, and achievement. Study 1 showed that an entity theory of personality, measured during the 1st month of 9th grade, predicted more negative immediate reactions to social adversity and, at the end of the year, greater stress, poorer health, and lower grades in school. Studies 2 and 3, both experiments, tested a brief intervention that taught a malleable (incremental) theory of personality - the belief that people can change. The incremental theory group showed less negative reactions to an immediate experience of social adversity and, 8 months later, reported lower overall stress and physical illness. They also achieved better academic performance over the year. Discussion centers on the power of targeted psychological interventions to effect far-reaching and long-term change by shifting interpretations of recurring adversities during developmental transitions.

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Successful Schools and Risky Behaviors Among Low-Income Adolescents

Mitchell Wong et al.
Pediatrics, forthcoming

Objectives: We examined whether exposure to high-performing schools reduces the rates of risky health behaviors among low-income minority adolescents and whether this is due to better academic performance, peer influence, or other factors.

Methods: By using a natural experimental study design, we used the random admissions lottery into high-performing public charter high schools in low-income Los Angeles neighborhoods to determine whether exposure to successful school environments leads to fewer risky (eg, alcohol, tobacco, drug use, unprotected sex) and very risky health behaviors (eg, binge drinking, substance use at school, risky sex, gang participation). We surveyed 521 ninth- through twelfth-grade students who were offered admission through a random lottery (intervention group) and 409 students who were not offered admission (control group) about their health behaviors and obtained their state-standardized test scores.

Results: The intervention and control groups had similar demographic characteristics and eighth-grade test scores. Being offered admission to a high-performing school (intervention effect) led to improved math (P < .001) and English (P = .04) standard test scores, greater school retention (91% vs 76%; P < .001), and lower rates of engaging in ?1 very risky behaviors (odds ratio = 0.73, P < .05) but no difference in risky behaviors, such as any recent use of alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. School retention and test scores explained 58.0% and 16.2% of the intervention effect on engagement in very risky behaviors, respectively.

Conclusions: Increasing performance of public schools in low-income communities may be a powerful mechanism to decrease very risky health behaviors among low-income adolescents and to decrease health disparities across the life span.

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The Impact of Attending a School With High-Achieving Peers: Evidence from the New York City Exam Schools

Will Dobbie & Roland Fryer
American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper uses data from three prominent exam high schools in New York City to estimate the impact of attending a school with high-achieving peers on college enrollment and graduation. Our identification strategy exploits sharp discontinuities in the admissions process. Applicants just eligible for an exam school have peers that score 0.17 to 0.36 standard deviations higher on eighth grade state tests and that are 6.4 to 9.5 percentage points less likely to be black or Hispanic. However, exposure to these higher-achieving and more homogeneous peers has little impact on college enrollment, college graduation, or college quality.

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What Is a Summer Job Worth? The Impact of Summer Youth Employment on Academic Outcomes

Jacob Leos-Urbel
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper estimates the impact of New York City's Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) on school attendance and other educational outcomes in the following school year for a large sample of low-income high school students. The program provides summer jobs and training to youth aged 14 to 21, and due to high demand allocates slots through a lottery. Analyses focusing on 36,550 students who applied in 2007 indicate that SYEP produces small increases in attendance in the following school year, with larger increases for students who may be at greater educational risk: those aged 16 and older with low baseline school attendance. For this group, SYEP also increases the likelihood of attempting and passing statewide high school math and English examinations. Findings suggest that although SYEP's explicit goals focus on workforce readiness rather than academics, the program fosters engagement and success in school.

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Boring but Important: A Self-Transcendent Purpose for Learning Fosters Academic Self-Regulation

David Yeager et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Many important learning tasks feel uninteresting and tedious to learners. This research proposed that making such tasks meaningful by promoting a prosocial, self-transcendent purpose could improve academic self-regulation. This proposal was supported in four studies with over 2,000 adolescents and young adults. Study 1 documented a correlation between a self-transcendent purpose for learning and both trait and behavioral measures of academic self-regulation. Those with more of a purpose for learning persisted longer on a boring task rather than give in to a tempting alternative. Many months later, they were also more likely to remain in college. Study 2 addressed causality. It showed that a brief, one-time psychological intervention promoting a self-transcendent purpose for learning could improve high school science and math GPA over several months. Studies 3 and 4 were short-term experiments that explored possible mechanisms. They showed that the self-transcendent purpose manipulation could increase deeper learning behavior on tedious test review materials (Study 3), and sustain self-regulation over the course of an increasingly-boring task (Study 4). More self-oriented motives for learning - such as the desire to have an interesting or enjoyable career - did not consistently produce the same benefits (Studies 1 and 4).

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The Effect of School Closings on Student Achievement

Quentin Brummet
Journal of Public Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Many school districts across the country are shutting schools, but school closing policies remain a very controversial issue. The current study investigates the effects of school closing policies on student achievement by examining over 200 school closings in Michigan. Relative to the previous literature, the analysis uses a broader set of school closings to thoroughly investigate heterogeneity in treatment effects based on the performance level of the closed school. The results indicate that, on average, school closings in Michigan did no persistent harm to the achievement of displaced students. Moreover, students displaced from relatively low-performing schools experience achievement gains. The displacement of students and teachers creates modest negative spillover effects on the receiving schools, however. Hence, the closing of low-performing schools may generate some achievement gains for displaced students, but not without imposing spillover effects on a large number of students in receiving schools.

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The Slowdown in American Educational Attainment

Elisa Keller
Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, forthcoming

Abstract:
Relative to those for high school graduates, lifetime earnings for college graduates are higher for more recent cohorts. At the same time, across successive cohorts born after 1950, there is a stagnation in the fraction of high school graduates that go on to complete a college degree. What explains this phenomenon? I formulate a life-cycle model of human capital accumulation in college and on the job, where successive cohorts decide whether or not to acquire a college degree as well as the quality of their college education. Cohorts differ by the sequence of rental price per unit of human capital they face and by the distribution of initial human capital across individuals. My model reproduces the observed pattern in college attainment for the 1920 to 1970 birth cohorts. The stagnation in college attainment is due to the decrease in the growth rate of the rental price per unit of human capital commencing in the 1970s. My model also generates about 80% of the increase in lifetime earnings for college graduates relative to those for high school graduates observed across cohorts.

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Grading Standards and Education Quality

Raphael Boleslavsky & Christopher Cotton
American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, forthcoming

Abstract:
We consider a game in which schools compete to place graduates by investing in education quality and by choosing grading policies. In equilibrium, schools strategically adopt grading policies that do not perfectly reveal graduate ability to evaluators (including employers and graduate schools). We compare equilibrium outcomes when schools grade strategically to equilibrium outcomes when evaluators perfectly observe graduate ability. With strategic grading, grades are less informative, and evaluators rely less on grades and more on a school's quality when assessing graduates. Consequently, under strategic grading, schools have greater incentive to invest in quality, and this can improve evaluator welfare.

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Should Student Employment Be Subsidized? Conditional Counterfactuals and the Outcomes of Work-Study Participation

Judith Scott-Clayton & Veronica Minaya
NBER Working Paper, July 2014

Abstract:
Student employment subsidies are one of the largest types of federal employment subsidies, and one of the oldest forms of student aid. Yet it is unclear whether they help or harm students' long term outcomes. We present a framework that decomposes overall effects into a weighted average of effects for marginal and inframarginal workers. We then develop an application of propensity scores, which we call conditional-counterfactual matching, in which we estimate the overall impact, and the impact under two distinct counterfactuals: working at an unsubsidized job, or not working at all. Finally, we estimate the effects of the largest student employment subsidy program - Federal Work-Study (FWS) - for a broad range of participants and outcomes. Our results suggest that about half of FWS participants are inframarginal workers, for whom FWS reduces hours worked and improves academic outcomes, but has little impact on future employment. For students who would not have worked otherwise, the pattern of effects reverses. With the exception of first-year GPA, we find scant evidence of negative effects of FWS for any outcome or subgroup. However, positive effects are largest for lower-income and lower-SAT subgroups, suggesting there may be gains to improved targeting of funds.

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School and family effects on educational outcomes across countries

Richard Freeman & Martina Viarengo
Economic Policy, July 2014, Pages 395-446

Abstract:
This study analyses the link between student test scores and the school students attend, the policies and practices of the schools, students' family background and their parents' involvement in their education using data from the 2009 wave of the Program for International Student Assessment. We find that (1) a substantial proportion of the variation of test scores within countries is associated with the school students attend; (2) a sizeable proportion of the school fixed effects is associated with school policies and teaching practices beyond national policies or other mechanisms that sort students of differing abilities among schools; (3) school fixed effects are a major pathway for the link between family background and test scores. The implication is that what schools do is important in the level and dispersion of test scores, suggesting the value of further analysis of what goes on in schools to pin down causal links between policies and practices and test score outcomes.

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Direct and indirect impact of charter schools' entry on traditional public schools: New evidence from North Carolina

Yusuke Jinnai
Economics Letters, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper examines the effects of charter schools on student achievement at neighboring traditional schools. The study shows that charter school entry does not induce indirect impact on non-overlapping grades but generates positive direct impact on overlapping grades. I also demonstrate that such positive effects would have been significantly undervalued in prior studies, since they do not distinguish between the two impacts.

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Expanding the School Breakfast Program: Impacts on Children's Consumption, Nutrition and Health

Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach & Mary Zaki
NBER Working Paper, July 2014

Abstract:
School meals programs are the front line of defense against childhood hunger, and while the school lunch program is nearly universally available in U.S. public schools, the school breakfast program has lagged behind in terms of availability and participation. In this paper we use experimental data collected by the USDA to measure the impact of two popular policy innovations aimed at increasing access to the school breakfast program. The first, universal free school breakfast, provides a hot breakfast before school (typically served in the school's cafeteria) to all students regardless of their income eligibility for free or reduced-price meals. The second is the Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) program that provides free school breakfast to all children to be eaten in the classroom during the first few minutes of the school day. We find both policies increase the take-up rate of school breakfast, though much of this reflects shifting breakfast consumption from home to school or consumption of multiple breakfasts and relatively little of the increase is from students gaining access to breakfast. We find little evidence of overall improvements in child 24-hour nutritional intake, health, behavior or achievement, with some evidence of health and behavior improvements among specific subpopulations.

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Student Age and the Collegiate Pathway

Michael Hurwitz, Jonathan Smith & Jessica Howell
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, forthcoming

Abstract:
Using a rich data set of all SAT test takers from the 2004 through 2008 high school graduation cohorts, we investigate the impact of state-specific school age-of-entry laws on students' pathways into and through college. We document that these laws do not impact the probability that a student takes the SAT; however, we find strong evidence that students who are expected to be the oldest in their school cohorts based on their state residency and birthdays have a greater probability of taking an Advanced Placement (AP) exam and tend to take more AP exams. We also find that relatively younger students are more likely to attend two-year colleges before attending four-year colleges and are less likely to have earned bachelor's degrees four years beyond high school graduation, but eventually catch up to their older peers six years beyond high school graduation.

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Measuring Value-Added in Higher Education: Possibilities and Limitations in the Use of Administrative Data

Jesse Cunha & Trey Miller
Economics of Education Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper develops a general methodology for measuring the value added of institutions of higher education using commonly-available administrative data. Our approach recognizes the data limitations and selection problems inherent in higher education, and highlights the challenges these issues pose for education policy. Combining information from different administrative sources in the state of Texas, we follow the universe of Texas college applicants from the time of application (pre-enrollment) through public college and into the labor market. In specifications that do not control for selection, we find large, significant differences across colleges in terms of persistence, graduation, and earnings; however, these differences decrease substantially when we control for selection. In light of the growing interest in using value-added measures in higher education for both funding and incentivizing purposes, our methodology offers unique evidence and lessons for policy makers.

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Intensive Math Instruction and Educational Attainment: Long-Run Impacts of Double-Dose Algebra

Kalena Cortes, Joshua Goodman & Takako Nomi
NBER Working Paper, June 2014

Abstract:
We study an intensive math instruction policy that assigned low-skilled 9th graders to an algebra course that doubled instructional time, altered peer composition and emphasized problem solving skills. A regression discontinuity design shows substantial positive impacts of double-dose algebra on credits earned, test scores, high school graduation and college enrollment rates. Test score effects under-predict attainment effects, highlighting the importance of long-run evaluation of such a policy. Perhaps because the intervention focused on verbal exposition of mathematical concepts, the impact was largest for students with below average reading skills, emphasizing the need to target interventions toward appropriately skilled students.

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Frictions in Polycentric Administration with Noncongruent Borders: Evidence from Ohio School District Class Sizes

Justin Ross, Joshua Hall & William Resh
Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, July 2014, Pages 623-649

Abstract:
Public managers who operate within cross-jurisdictional governance regimes face substantial difficulties in facilitating network collaboration. Scholars have long suggested that noncongruence of geographic borders can create coordination problems among the political communities within polycentric administrative units. A frequently reoccurring example of such coordination problems arises in cases where municipalities and school districts have noncongruent borders, creating fiscal externalities in residential development land use decisions. Using GIS data from 611 Ohio school districts and 1,585 municipalities in 2000, we calculate the degree of noncongruence between school district and municipal territory to test for evidence that noncongruence of municipal-school district borders influences school district class size. The results indicate that schools with noncongruent borders do experience substantively larger class sizes. Furthermore, these effects seem to increase with the degree of noncongruence. Our findings are robust to model specification and consistent across OLS and treatment effects regression estimates. Policy implications for state-encouraged consolidation of school districts are discussed as well as theoretical and empirical implications of noncongruent jurisdictional borders for governance studies more generally.

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Instructor Attire and Student Performance: Evidence from an Undergraduate Industrial Organization Experiment

Joseph Craig & Scott Savage
International Review of Economics Education, forthcoming

Abstract:
Four classes of the same Industrial Organization class were compared. The test group was taught by the instructor dressed in business attire, while the comparison group was taught by the instructor dressed casually. Results show that the attendance for test students was 8.50 percentage points higher than comparison students and this increase is associated with an improvement in their final exam score of 0.69 percentage points. Final exam scores for test students were 2.33 percentage points higher than comparison students. Together, the indirect and direct effects indicate that the total effect on learning from instructor attire is 3.02 percentage points.

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High-Stakes Choice: Achievement and Accountability in the Nation's Oldest Urban Voucher Program

John Witte et al.
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, forthcoming

Abstract:
This article considers the impact of a high-stakes testing and reporting requirement on students using publicly funded vouchers to attend private schools. We describe how such a policy was implemented during the course of a previously authorized multi-year evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, which provided us with data on voucher students before and after the reform, as well as on public school students who received no new policy treatment. Our results indicate substantial growth for voucher students in the first high-stakes testing year, particularly in mathematics, and for students with higher levels of earlier academic achievement. We discuss these results in the context of both the school choice and accountability literatures.

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Flaking Out: Student Absences and Snow Days as Disruptions of Instructional Time

Joshua Goodman
NBER Working Paper, June 2014

Abstract:
Despite the fact that the average American student is absent more than two weeks out of every school year, most research on the effect of instructional time has focused not on attendance but on the length of the school day or year. Student and school fixed effects models using Massachusetts data show a strong relationship between student absences and achievement but no impact of lost instructional time due to school closures. I confirm those findings in instrumental variables models exploiting the fact that moderate snowfall induces student absences while extreme snowfall induces school closures. Prior work ignoring this non-linearity may have mis-attributed the effect of absences to such snow days. Each absence induced by bad weather reduces math achievement by 0.05 standard deviations, suggesting that attendance can account for up to one-fourth of the achievement gap by income. That absences matter but closures do not is consistent with a model of instruction in which coordination of students is the central challenge, as in Lazear (2001). Teachers appear to deal well with coordinated disruptions of instructional time like snow days but deal poorly with disruptions like absences that affect different students at different times.

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The Effects of an Anti-grade-Inflation Policy at Wellesley College

Kristin Butcher, Patrick McEwan & Akila Weerapana
Journal of Economic Perspectives, Summer 2014, Pages 189-204

Abstract:
Average grades in colleges and universities have risen markedly since the 1960s. Critics express concern that grade inflation erodes incentives for students to learn; gives students, employers, and graduate schools poor information on absolute and relative abilities; and reflects the quid pro quo of grades for better student evaluations of professors. This paper evaluates an anti-grade-inflation policy that capped most course averages at a B+. The cap was biding for high-grading departments (in the humanities and social sciences) and was not binding for low-grading departments (in economics and sciences), facilitating a difference-in-differences analysis. Professors complied with the policy by reducing compression at the top of the grade distribution. It had little effect on receipt of top honors, but affected receipt of magna cum laude. In departments affected by the cap, the policy expanded racial gaps in grades, reduced enrollments and majors, and lowered student ratings of professors.

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Paying for Performance: The Education Impacts of a Community College Scholarship Program for Low-Income Adults

Lisa Barrow et al.
Journal of Labor Economics, July 2014, Pages 563-599

Abstract:
We evaluate the effect of performance-based incentive programs on educational outcomes for community college students from a random assignment experiment at three campuses. Incentive payments over 2 semesters were tied to meeting two conditions - enrolling at least half-time and maintaining a C or better grade point average. Eligibility increased the likelihood of enrolling in the second semester after random assignment and total number of credits earned. Over 2 years, program group students completed nearly 40% more credits. We find little evidence that program eligibility changed types of courses taken but some evidence of increased academic performance and effort.

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When Opportunity Knocks, Who Answers? New Evidence on College Achievement Awards

Joshua Angrist, Philip Oreopoulos & Tyler Williams
Journal of Human Resources, Summer 2014, Pages 572-610

Abstract:
We evaluate the effects of academic achievement awards for first-and second-year college students studying at a Canadian commuter college. The award scheme offered linear cash incentives for course grades above 70. Awards were paid every term. Program participants also had access to peer advising by upperclassmen. Program engagement appears to have been high but overall treatment effects were small. The intervention increased the number of courses graded above 70 and points earned above 70 for second-year students but generated no significant effect on overall GPA. Results are somewhat stronger for a subsample of applicants who correctly described the program rules.

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How do Principals Assign Students to Teachers? Finding Evidence in Administrative Data and the Implications for Value Added

Steven Dieterle et al.
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, forthcoming

Abstract:
The federal government's Race to the Top competition has promoted the adoption of test-based value-added measures (VAMs) of performance as a component of teacher evaluations throughout many states, but the validity of these measures has been controversial among researchers and widely contested by teachers' unions. A key concern is the extent to which nonrandom sorting of students to teachers may bias the results and lead to a misclassification of teachers as high or low performing. In light of potential for bias, it is important to assess the extent to which evidence of sorting can be found in the large administrative data sets used for VAM estimation. Using a large longitudinal data set from an anonymous state, we find evidence that a nontrivial amount of sorting exists - particularly sorting based on prior test scores - and that the extent of sorting varies considerably across schools, a fact obscured by the types of aggregate sorting indices developed in prior research. We also find that VAM estimation is sensitive to the presence of nonrandom sorting. There is less agreement across estimation approaches regarding a particular teacher's rank in the distribution of estimated effectiveness when schools engage in sorting.

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When Incentives Matter Too Much: Explaining Significant Responses to Irrelevant Information

Thomas Ahn & Jacob Vigdor
NBER Working Paper, July 2014

Abstract:
When economic agents make decisions on the basis of an information set containing both a continuous variable and a discrete signal based on that variable, theory suggests that the signal should have no bearing on behavior conditional on the variable itself. Numerous empirical studies, many based on the regression discontinuity design, have contradicted this basic prediction. We propose two models of behavior capable of rationalizing this observed behavior, one based on information acquisition costs and a second on learning and imperfect information. Using data on school responses to discrete signals embedded in North Carolina's school accountability system, we find patterns of results inconsistent with the first model but consistent with the second. These results imply that rational responses to policy interventions may take time to emerge; consequently evaluations based on short-term data may understate treatment effects.

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Peer Effects in Early Childhood Education: Testing the Assumptions of Special-Education Inclusion

Laura Justice et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
There has been a push in recent years for students with disabilities to be educated alongside their typically developing peers, a practice called inclusion. In this study, we sought to determine whether peer effects operate within early-childhood special-education (ECSE) classrooms in which preschoolers with disabilities are educated alongside typical peers. Peer effects specific to language growth were assessed for 670 preschoolers (mean age = 52 months) in 83 ECSE classrooms; 55% of the children had disabilities. We found that the average language skills of classmates, as assessed in the fall of the year, significantly predicted children's language skills in the spring (after controlling for their relative skill level in the fall); in addition, there was a significant interactive effect of disability status (i.e., the presence or absence of a disability) and peers' language skills. Peer effects were the least consequential for children without disabilities whose classmates had relatively strong language skills, and the most consequential for children with disabilities whose classmates had relatively poor language skills.

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Does State Preschool Crowd-Out Private Provision? The Impact of Universal Preschool on the Childcare Sector in Oklahoma and Georgia

Daphna Bassok, Maria Fitzpatrick & Susanna Loeb
Journal of Urban Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Universal preschool policies introduced in Georgia and Oklahoma offer an opportunity to investigate the impact of government intervention on provision of childcare. Since Georgia used a voucher-like program and Oklahoma utilized its existing public schools, the two states offer a case study of how government provision compares to government subsidization alone. Using a synthetic control group difference-in-difference estimation framework, we examine the effects of universal preschool on childcare providers. In both states there is an increase in the number of formal childcare centers. With the voucher-like program in Georgia, the overall increase in care is partly driven by an increase in the supply of formal childcare in the private sector and partly driven by new publicly-provided preschools. However, there is substantial crowd-out of private consumption of preschool. In Oklahoma, where universal preschool is publicly provided, the increase in the number of childcare providers occurred only in the public sector. The expansion of publicly-provided care seems to be driven largely by movement of employees from private centers to public settings. As such, this case-study comparison suggests that government subsidization through funding was more effective at expanding preschool than government provision.

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Classmate Characteristics and Student Achievement in 33 Countries: Classmates' Past Achievement, Family Socioeconomic Status, Educational Resources, and Attitudes Toward Reading

Ming Ming Chiu & Bonnie Wing-Yin Chow
Journal of Educational Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Classmates can influence a student's academic achievement through immediate interactions (e.g., academic help, positive attitudes toward reading) or by sharing tangible or intangible family resources (books, stories of foreign travel). Multilevel analysis of 141,019 fourth-grade students' reading achievements in 33 countries showed that classmates' family factors (parent socioeconomic status [SES], home educational resources) were more strongly related to a student's reading achievement than were classmates' characteristics (parent ratings of past literacy skills, attitudes toward reading). However, these classmate links to reading achievement differed across students (e.g., high-SES classmates benefited high-SES students more than low-SES students). Also, links between classmates' past reading achievement and a student's current reading achievement were stronger in countries that were richer, were more collectivist, or avoided uncertainty less. These findings show how an ecological model of family and classmate microsystems, classmate family mesosystem, and country macrosystem can help provide a comprehensive account of children's academic achievement.

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Intended and Unintended Effects of State-Mandated High School Science and Mathematics Course Graduation Requirements on Educational Attainment

Andrew Plunk et al.
Educational Researcher, June/July 2014, Pages 230-241

Abstract:
Mathematics and science course graduation requirement (CGR) increases in the 1980s and 1990s might have had both intended and unintended consequences. Using logistic regression with Census and American Community Survey (ACS) data (n = 2,892,444), we modeled CGR exposure on (a) high school dropout, (b) beginning college, and (c) obtaining any college degree. Possible between-groups differences were also assessed. We found that higher CGRs were associated with higher odds to drop out of high school, but results for the college-level outcomes varied by group. Some were less likely to enroll, whereas others who began college were more likely to obtain a degree. Increased high school dropout was consistent across the population, but some potential benefit was also observed, primarily for those reporting Hispanic ethnicity.

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Does Participation in 4-H Improve Schooling Outcomes? Evidence from Florida

Alfonso Flores-Lagunes & Troy Timko
University of Florida Working Paper, June 2014

Abstract:
We examine the effect of participation in 4-H, the largest youth development program in the United States, on standardized test scores. We do this by utilizing grade-level longitudinal data on Florida's school districts from the Florida Department of Education combined with 4-H participation statistics from Florida 4-H. Specifically, we analyze the effect of the extent of 4-H participation for third through tenth grade on the mathematics and reading subtests of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). We use a difference-in-difference-in-differences (DDD) approach to control for potential confounders of the causal relationship at the level of school districts, grades, and years. Our results indicate that the extent of 4-H participation at the district-grade-year level is positively and significantly related to several measures of performance on the FCAT test.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Procreation

Differential Fertility as a Determinant of Trends in Public Opinion about Abortion in the United States

Alex Kevern & Jeremy Freese
Northwestern University Working Paper, July 2014

Abstract:
Differential fertility is frequently overlooked as a meaningful force in longitudinal public opinion change. We examine the effect of fertility on abortion attitudes, a useful case study due to their strong correlation with family size and high parent-child correlation. We test the hypothesis that the comparatively high fertility of pro-life individuals has led to a more pro-life population using 34 years of GSS data (1977-2010). We find evidence that the abortion attitudes have lagged behind a liberalizing trend of other correlated attitudes, and consistent evidence that differential fertility between pro-life and pro-choice individuals has had a significant effect on this pattern. Future studies should account for differential fertility as a meaningful force of cohort replacement in studies of public opinion where parents and children are likely to share the same attitude.

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Intelligence and childlessness

Satoshi Kanazawa
Social Science Research, November 2014, Pages 157–170

Abstract:
Demographers debate why people have children in advanced industrial societies where children are net economic costs. From an evolutionary perspective, however, the important question is why some individuals choose not to have children. Recent theoretical developments in evolutionary psychology suggest that more intelligent individuals may be more likely to prefer to remain childless than less intelligent individuals. Analyses of the National Child Development Study show that more intelligent men and women express preference to remain childless early in their reproductive careers, but only more intelligent women (not more intelligent men) are more likely to remain childless by the end of their reproductive careers. Controlling for education and earnings does not at all attenuate the association between childhood general intelligence and lifetime childlessness among women. One-standard-deviation increase in childhood general intelligence (15 IQ points) decreases women’s odds of parenthood by 21-25%. Because women have a greater impact on the average intelligence of future generations, the dysgenic fertility among women is predicted to lead to a decline in the average intelligence of the population in advanced industrial nations.

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Criminal offending as part of an alternative reproductive strategy: Investigating evolutionary hypotheses using Swedish total population data

Shuyang Yao et al.
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Criminality is highly costly to victims and their relatives, but often also to offenders. From an evolutionary viewpoint, criminal behavior may persist despite adverse consequences by providing offenders with fitness benefits as part of a successful alternative mating strategy. Specifically, criminal behavior may have evolved as a reproductive strategy based on low parental investment reflected in low commitment in reproductive relationships. We linked data from nationwide total population registers in Sweden to test if criminality is associated with reproductive success. Further, we used several different measures related to monogamy to determine the relation between criminal behavior and alternative mating tactics. Convicted criminal offenders had more children than individuals never convicted of a criminal offense. Criminal offenders also had more reproductive partners, were less often married, more likely to get remarried if ever married, and had more often contracted a sexually transmitted disease than non-offenders. Importantly, the increased reproductive success of criminals was explained by a fertility increase from having children with several different partners. We conclude that criminality appears to be adaptive in a contemporary industrialized country, and that this association can be explained by antisocial behavior being part of an adaptive alternative reproductive strategy.

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Changing Fertility Regimes and the Transition to Adulthood: Evidence from a Recent Cohort

Andrew Cherlin, Elizabeth Talbert & Suzumi Yasutake
Johns Hopkins University Working Paper, June 2014

Abstract:
Recent demographic trends have produced a distinctive fertility regime among young women and men in their teenage years and their twenties -- a period sometimes called early adulthood. Data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997 cohort, show that by the time the cohort had reached ages 26-31 in 2011, 81% of births reported by women and 87% of births reported by men had occurred to non-college graduates. In addition, 57% of births had occurred outside of marriage for both men and women. Moreover, 64% of women (and 63% of men) who reported a birth had at least one child outside of marriage, a figure that rose to 74% among women (and 70% among men) without 4-year college degrees. It is now unusual for non-college-graduates who have children in their teens and twenties to have all of them within marriage. The implications of these developments are discussed in light of the differing transitions to adulthood of non-college-graduates versus college-graduates and the growing social class inequalities in family patterns.

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Red Alert: Prenatal Stress and Plans to Close Military Bases

Kyle Carlson
Caltech Working Paper, June 2014

Abstract:
In May 2005 the U.S. military announced a restructuring plan called Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). Some areas were projected to lose 20 percent of employment, sparking much distress. Previous research shows that stress affects pregnancy and fetal development. I find that immediately following the announcement, the mean gestational age in the most affected areas dropped by 1.5 days for a period of 1-2 months. Births shifted from 39 to 37-38 weeks, a period linked to health risks. Similar changes appear in birth weight. Local changes in employment and mothers’ characteristics do not account for these effects.

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Fear Itself: The Effects of Distressing Economic News on Birth Outcomes

Kyle Carlson
Caltech Working Paper, March 2014

Abstract:
I use new administrative data on mass layoffs and plant closings to study the effects of distressing economic news. Exposure to stressful events during pregnancy can impair fetal development. I find that announcement of impending job losses leads to a transient decrease in the mean birth weight within the firm’s county 1–4 months before the job losses. A loss of 500 jobs corresponds roughly to a decrease of 15–20 grams and 16 percent greater risk of low birth weight. Further analyses show that the initial effect results from curtailment of gestation, while slower intrauterine growth plays a later role.

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The Effect of Prenatal Natural Disaster Exposure on School Outcomes

Sarah Fuller
Demography, August 2014, Pages 1501-1525

Abstract:
This study looks at the impact of exposure to natural disasters during pregnancy on the educational outcomes of North Carolina children at the third grade level. A broad literature relates negative birth outcomes to poor educational performance, and a number of recent studies have examined the effect of prenatal exposure to natural disasters on birth outcomes. This study takes the next step by considering how prenatal exposure affects later outcomes. Combining North Carolina administrative data on births and school performance with disaster declarations from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) allows for the identification of children who were exposed to disasters during prenatal development. These children are compared with other children born in the same county who were not exposed to disasters while in utero. Regression results suggest that children exposed to hurricanes prenatally have lower scores on third grade standardized tests in math and reading. Those exposed to flooding or tornadoes also have somewhat lower math scores. Additionally, results suggest that these negative effects are more concentrated among children in disadvantaged subgroups, especially children born to black mothers. However, no evidence exists that these effects are mediated by common measures of birth outcomes, including birth weight and gestational age.

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Upper-body strength predicts hunting reputation and reproductive success in Hadza hunter-gatherers

Coren Lee Apicella
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Hunting is a characteristic feature of early human subsistence and many theories of evolution have emphasized the role of hunting in hominization. Still today hunting ability continues to be selected for in extant foragers with better hunters experiencing greater reproductive success. Yet little is known about the traits that comprise a successful hunter, traits that are presupposed to also be under selection. Two complementary empirical analyses were conducted to examine this question using data collected from Hadza hunter-gatherers in Tanzania. First, data on upper-body strength, running speed, target precision and visual and auditory acuity were collected to examine the traits that predict hunting reputation in men. Second, interview data were also collected from Hadza informants about the traits they deem important for hunting. Results from the first study implicate upper-body strength as the strongest and most consistent predictor of men’s hunting reputation. Hadza conventional wisdom also accord with these findings. Although informants stressed the importance of non-physical traits, such as “intelligence” and “heart”, strong arms were cited as the most important physical trait for hunting. Finally, men with stronger upper-bodies experienced greater reproductive success, a result that is largely mediated by hunting reputation. These findings suggest that selection for hunting ability may have acted on men’s upper-bodies. Nevertheless, the importance of effort on strength and hunting success cannot be dismissed. This is also discussed.

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Do short birth intervals have long-term implications for parental health? Results from analyses of complete cohort Norwegian register data

Emily Grundy & Øystein Kravdal
Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, forthcoming

Background: Short and very long interbirth intervals are associated with worse perinatal, infant and immediate maternal outcomes. Accumulated physiological, mental, social and economic stresses arising from raising children close in age may also mean that interbirth intervals have longer term implications for the health of mothers and fathers, but few previous studies have investigated this.

Methods: Discrete-time hazards models were estimated to analyse associations between interbirth intervals and mortality risks for the period 1980–2008 in complete cohorts of Norwegian men and women born during 1935–1968 who had had two to four children. Associations between interbirth intervals and use of medication during 2004–2008 were also analysed using ordinary least-squares regression. Covariates included age, year, education, age at first birth, parity and change in coparent since the previous birth.

Results: Mothers and fathers of two to three children with intervals between singleton births of less than 18 months, and mothers of twins, had raised mortality risks in midlife and early old age relative to parents with interbirth intervals of 30–41 months. For parents with three or four children, longer average interbirth intervals were associated with lower mortality. Short intervals between first and second births were also positively associated with medication use. Very long intervals were not associated with raised mortality or medication use when change of coparent since the previous birth was controlled.

Conclusions: Closely spaced and multiple births may have adverse long-term implications for parental health. Delayed entry to parenthood and increased use of fertility treatments mean that both are increasing, making this a public health issue which needs further investigation.

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Associations of Adolescent Hopelessness and Self-Worth With Pregnancy Attempts and Pregnancy Desire

Anna Fedorowicz et al.
American Journal of Public Health, August 2014, Pages e133-e140

Objectives: We examined the associations of pregnancy desire (ambivalence or happiness about a pregnancy in the next year) and recent pregnancy attempts with hopelessness and self-worth among low-income adolescents.

Methods: To evaluate independent associations among the study variables, we conducted gender-stratified multivariable logistic regression analyses with data derived from 2285 sexually experienced 9- to 18-year-old participants in the Mobile Youth Survey between 2006 and 2009.

Results: Fifty-seven percent of youths reported a desire for pregnancy and 9% reported pregnancy attempts. In multivariable analyses, hopelessness was positively associated and self-worth was negatively associated with pregnancy attempts among both female and male youths. Hopelessness was weakly associated (P = .05) with pregnancy desire among female youths.

Conclusions: The negative association of self-worth and the positive association of hopelessness with pregnancy attempts among young men as well as young women and the association of hopelessness with pregnancy desire among young women raise questions about why pregnancy is apparently valued by youths who rate their social and cognitive competence as low and who live in an environment with few options for material success.

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Fertility Decline and Missing Women

Seema Jayachandran
NBER Working Paper, June 2014

Abstract:
India's male-biased sex ratio has worsened over the past several decades. In combination with the increased availability of prenatal sex-diagnostic technology, the declining fertility rate is a hypothesized factor. Suppose a couple strongly wants to have at least one son. At the natural sex ratio, they are less likely to have a son the fewer children they have, so a smaller desired family size will increase the likelihood they manipulate the sex composition of their children. This paper empirically measures the relationship between desired fertility and the sex ratio. Standard survey questions on fertility preferences ask the respondent her desired number of children of each sex, but people who want larger families have systematically stronger son preference, which generates bias. This paper instead elicits desired sex composition at specified, randomly determined, levels of total fertility. These data allow one to isolate the causal effect of family size on the desired sex ratio. I find that the desired sex ratio increases sharply as the fertility rate falls; fertility decline can explain roughly half of the increase in the sex ratio that has occurred in India over the past thirty years. In addition, factors such as female education that lead to more progressive attitudes could counterintuitively cause a more male-skewed sex ratio because while they reduce the desired sex ratio at any given family size, they also reduce desired family size.

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Perceived stress during pregnancy and the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) rs165599 polymorphism impacts on childhood IQ

Yvette Lamb et al.
Cognition, September 2014, Pages 461–470

Abstract:
Maternal stress during pregnancy has been associated with a range of adverse outcomes in offspring and the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene has been linked to differential susceptibility to the consequences of antenatal stress. This study examined two functional polymorphisms of the COMT gene (rs4680 and rs165599) in relation to maternal perceived stress and childhood cognitive performance. Data from the longitudinal Auckland Birthweight Collaborative (ABC) study was used. Maternal perceived stress over the prior month was measured at birth, 3.5 and 7 years. Full-Scale IQ (FSIQ) was measured at ages 7 and 11. At age 11, a total of 546 DNA samples were collected from the child participants. Data were subjected to a series of split-plot ANCOVAs with birthweight for gestational age and maternal school leaving age as covariates. There were direct effects of maternal stress during the last month of pregnancy on offspring FSIQ at ages 7 and 11 years. A significant interaction revealed that children exposed to high maternal antenatal stress had significantly lower FSIQ scores at both 7 and 11 years of age than those exposed to low stress, only when they were carriers of the rs165599 G allele. At each age, this difference was of approximately 5 IQ points. The G allele of the rs165599 polymorphism may confer genetic susceptibility to negative cognitive outcomes arising from exposure to antenatal stress. This finding highlights the need to consider gene-environment interactions when investigating the outcomes of antenatal stress exposure.

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Saving Babies: The Impact of Public Education Programs on Infant Mortality

Carolyn Moehling & Melissa Thomasson
Demography, April 2014, Pages 367-386

Abstract:
We take advantage of unique data on specific activities conducted under the Sheppard-Towner Act from 1924 through 1929 to focus on how public health interventions affected infant mortality. Interventions that provided one-on-one contact and opportunities for follow-up care, such as home visits by nurses and the establishment of health clinics, reduced infant deaths more than did classes and conferences. These interventions were particularly effective for nonwhites, a population with limited access to physicians and medical care. Although limited data on costs prevent us from making systematic cost-benefit calculations, we estimate that one infant death could be avoided for every $1,600 (about $20,400 in 2010 dollars) spent on home nurse visits.

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Trade and fertility in the developing world: The impact of trade and trade structure

Thomas Gries & Rainer Grundmann
Journal of Population Economics, October 2014, Pages 1165-1186

Abstract:
In the literature on trade and development, fertility and trade have been widely discussed as two separate economic forces. However, an important recent contribution connects these two and suggests that international trade between developed and developing countries has an asymmetric effect on the demand for human capital. The asymmetry leads to a decline in fertility rates in developed countries and an increase in these rates in developing countries. We provide additional comprehensive empirical evidence in support of this novel hypothesis. Our findings suggest that countries that export skill-intensive manufacturing goods experience a decline in fertility rates, whereas in countries that export primary, low-skill-intensive goods, fertility rates are affected positively. Further, our findings indicate that the negative influence of manufacturing exports on fertility holds primarily and most strongly for middle-income countries where structural modernization and a growing manufacturing-intensive export sector is observed.

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Game Change in Colorado: Widespread Use Of Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives and Rapid Decline in Births Among Young, Low-Income Women

Sue Ricketts, Greta Klingler & Renee Schwalberg
Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, forthcoming

Context: Long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) methods are recommended for young women, but access is limited by cost and lack of knowledge among providers and consumers. The Colorado Family Planning Initiative (CFPI) sought to address these barriers by training providers, financing LARC method provision at Title X–funded clinics and increasing patient caseload.

Methods: Beginning in 2009, 28 Title X–funded agencies in Colorado received private funding to support CFPI. Caseloads and clients’ LARC use were assessed over the following two years. Fertility rates among low-income women aged 15–24 were compared with expected trends. Abortion rates and births among high-risk women were tracked, and the numbers of infants receiving services through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) were examined.

Results: By 2011, caseloads had increased by 23%, and LARC use among 15–24-year-olds had grown from 5% to 19%. Cumulatively, one in 15 young, low-income women had received a LARC method, up from one in 170 in 2008. Compared with expected fertility rates in 2011, observed rates were 29% lower among low-income 15–19-year-olds and 14% lower among similar 20–24-year-olds. In CFPI counties, the proportion of births that were high-risk declined by 24% between 2009 and 2011; abortion rates fell 34% and 18%, respectively, among women aged 15–19 and 20–24. Statewide, infant enrollment in WIC declined 23% between 2010 and 2013.

Conclusions: Programs that increase LARC use among young, low-income women may contribute to declines in fertility rates, abortion rates and births among high-risk women.

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Sexual activity, endogenous reproductive hormones and ovulation in premenopausal women

Ankita Prasad et al.
Hormones and Behavior, July 2014, Pages 330–338

Abstract:
We investigated whether sexual activity was associated with reproductive function in the BioCycle Study, a prospective cohort study that followed 259 regularly menstruating women aged 18 to 44 years for one (n = 9) or two (n = 250) menstrual cycles in 2005–2007. Women were not attempting pregnancy nor using hormonal contraceptives. History of ever having been sexually active was assessed at baseline and frequency of sexual activity, defined as vaginal-penile intercourse, was self-reported daily throughout the study. Serum concentrations of estradiol, luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), progesterone, and testosterone were measured up to 8 times/cycle. Sporadic anovulation was identified using peak progesterone concentration. Linear mixed models were used to estimate associations between sexual activity and reproductive hormone concentrations and generalized linear models were used to estimate associations with sporadic anovulation. Models were adjusted for age, race, body mass index, perceived stress, and alcohol consumption and accounted for repeated measures within women. Elevated concentrations of estrogen (+ 14.6%, P < .01), luteal progesterone (+ 41.0%, P < .01) and mid-cycle LH (+ 23.4%, P < .01), but not FSH (P = .33) or testosterone (P = .37), were observed in sexually active women compared with sexually inactive women (no prior and no study-period sexual activity); sexually active women had lower odds of sporadic anovulation (adjusted odds ratio = 0.34, 95% confidence interval: 0.16-0.73). Among sexually active women, frequency of sexual activity was not associated with hormones or sporadic anovulation (all P > .23). Findings from our study suggest that ever having been sexually active is associated with improved reproductive function, even after controlling for factors such as age.

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Global, regional, and national levels of neonatal, infant, and under-5 mortality during 1990—2013: A systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013

Haidong Wang et al.
Lancet, forthcoming

Background: Remarkable financial and political efforts have been focused on the reduction of child mortality during the past few decades. Timely measurements of levels and trends in under-5 mortality are important to assess progress towards the Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG 4) target of reduction of child mortality by two thirds from 1990 to 2015, and to identify models of success.

Methods: We generated updated estimates of child mortality in early neonatal (age 0—6 days), late neonatal (7—28 days), postneonatal (29—364 days), childhood (1—4 years), and under-5 (0—4 years) age groups for 188 countries from 1970 to 2013, with more than 29 000 survey, census, vital registration, and sample registration datapoints. We used Gaussian process regression with adjustments for bias and non-sampling error to synthesise the data for under-5 mortality for each country, and a separate model to estimate mortality for more detailed age groups. We used explanatory mixed effects regression models to assess the association between under-5 mortality and income per person, maternal education, HIV child death rates, secular shifts, and other factors. To quantify the contribution of these different factors and birth numbers to the change in numbers of deaths in under-5 age groups from 1990 to 2013, we used Shapley decomposition. We used estimated rates of change between 2000 and 2013 to construct under-5 mortality rate scenarios out to 2030.

Findings: We estimated that 6.3 million (95% UI 6.0—6.6) children under-5 died in 2013, a 64% reduction from 17.6 million (17.1—18.1) in 1970. In 2013, child mortality rates ranged from 152.5 per 1000 livebirths (130.6—177.4) in Guinea-Bissau to 2.3 (1.8—2.9) per 1000 in Singapore. The annualised rates of change from 1990 to 2013 ranged from −6.8% to 0.1%. 99 of 188 countries, including 43 of 48 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, had faster decreases in child mortality during 2000—13 than during 1990—2000. In 2013, neonatal deaths accounted for 41.6% of under-5 deaths compared with 37.4% in 1990. Compared with 1990, in 2013, rising numbers of births, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, led to 1.4 million more child deaths, and rising income per person and maternal education led to 0.9 million and 2.2 million fewer deaths, respectively. Changes in secular trends led to 4.2 million fewer deaths. Unexplained factors accounted for only −1% of the change in child deaths. In 30 developing countries, decreases since 2000 have been faster than predicted attributable to income, education, and secular shift alone.

Interpretation: Only 27 developing countries are expected to achieve MDG 4. Decreases since 2000 in under-5 mortality rates are accelerating in many developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. The Millennium Declaration and increased development assistance for health might have been a factor in faster decreases in some developing countries. Without further accelerated progress, many countries in west and central Africa will still have high levels of under-5 mortality in 2030.

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Do fertility transitions influence infant mortality declines? Evidence from early modern Germany

Alan Fernihough & Mark McGovern
Journal of Population Economics, October 2014, Pages 1145-1163

Abstract:
The timing and sequencing of fertility transitions and early-life mortality declines in historical Western societies indicate that reductions in sibship (number of siblings) may have contributed to improvements in infant health. Surprisingly, however, this demographic relationship has received little attention in empirical research. We outline the difficulties associated with establishing the effect of sibship on infant mortality and discuss the inherent bias associated with conventional empirical approaches. We offer a solution that permits an empirical test of this relationship while accounting for reverse causality and potential omitted variable bias. Our approach is illustrated by evaluating the causal impact of family size on infant mortality using genealogical data from 13 German parishes spanning the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Overall, our findings do not support the hypothesis that declining fertility led to increased infant survival probabilities in historical populations.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM


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