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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Eve of the revolution

When does America drop dictators?

John Owen & Michael Poznansky
European Journal of International Relations, December 2014, Pages 1072-1099

Abstract:
The Obama administration’s initial ambivalence toward democratic revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt in 2011 points to a central puzzle in US foreign policy. In some countries, during some periods, America promotes liberal democracy; in other countries and periods, it tolerates or even supports authoritarianism. Why the variation? We focus on discrete decisions by a US President to retain a dictator or instead press for democracy in a client state S. Two conditions must be satisfied for a President to do the latter. (1) An exogenous domestic crisis must threaten S’s authoritarian regime. (2) The US domestic model of free-market liberal democracy must face no credible alternative in S’s region as a route to national development and security. A credible alternative model (e.g. communism or Islamism) threatens US interests by making dissenting elites in S more hostile to US hegemony and more accepting of the hegemony of America’s security rivals; that in turn makes free elections in S riskier for Washington. But when conditions (1) and (2) coincide, a new bargain emerges: S’s elites, now assenting to the US model, pledge to participate in the US-sponsored regional order, and Washington presses S’s regime into democratizing. We test our argument against two cases involving relations between the US and the Philippines, an authoritarian client until 1986. In a 1978 crisis, communism’s high credibility in Southeast Asia forced Jimmy Carter to continue supporting the Marcos dictatorship. In a 1985–86 crisis, communism’s lack of credibility allowed Ronald Reagan to drop Marcos and permit democracy.

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The Persistent Effect of Colonialism on Corruption

Luis Angeles & Kyriakos Neanidis
Economica, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper argues that corruption in developing countries has deep historical roots that go all the way back to their colonial experience. We substantiate our thesis with empirical evidence where the degree of European settlement during colonial times is a powerful explanatory factor of present-day corruption. Interestingly, our mechanism is different from the prevailing view in the literature on institutions and growth, where European settlement has only positive effects. We argue that European settlement leads to higher levels of corruption for all countries where Europeans remained a minority in the population, i.e. for all developing countries.

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The Effect of Inequality and Social Identity on Party Strategies

Margit Tavits & Joshua Potter
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
How do parties decide which issues to emphasize during electoral competition? We argue that the answer to this question depends on how parties of the left and of the right respond to economic inequality. Increasing inequality shifts the proportion of the population falling into lower socioeconomic categories, thereby increasing the size of the electoral constituency that is receptive toward leftist parties' redistributive economic appeals. In the face of rising inequality, then, leftist parties will emphasize economic issues in their manifestos. By contrast, the nonredistributive economic policies often espoused by rightist parties will not appeal to this burgeoning constituency. Rather, we argue, rightist parties will opt to emphasize values-based issues, especially in those cases where “social demand” in the electorate for values-based representation is high. We find support for these relationships with hierarchical regression models that draw from data across hundreds of parties in a diverse set of the world's democracies.

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Elections, Information, and Policy Responsiveness in Autocratic Regimes

Michael Miller
Comparative Political Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
The responsiveness of policy to election results is a central component of democracy. Do the outcomes of autocratic elections also affect policy choice? Even when the threat of turnover is low, I argue that autocratic elections influence policy by allowing citizens to signal dissatisfaction with the regime. Supplementing existing work, this study explains how this opposition is communicated credibly and then shows that ruling parties use this information to calibrate policy concessions. In the first cross-country analysis of autocratic election outcomes and policy choice, I find that negative electoral shocks to ruling parties predict increases in education and social welfare spending and decreases in military spending following elections. In contrast, there is no policy effect leading up to elections, in response to violent contestation, or in resource-rich regimes, illustrating a potential mechanism for the resource curse.

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Long-term environmental change and geographical patterns of violence in Darfur, 2003–2005

Alexander De Juan
Political Geography, March 2015, Pages 22–33

Abstract:
This paper investigates spatial associations between environmental change and violence in Darfur. Long-term variations in the geographical distribution of water and vegetative resources can foster migration from areas with decreasing levels of resource availability to areas with increasing levels. Rising ethnic diversity and resource competition can, in turn, escalate the risk of violence in areas of high in-migration. This paper employs a multimethod approach to investigate this hypothesis. Qualitative evidence is used to demonstrate the plausibility of the argument for the case of Darfur. The quantitative analysis is based on information retrieved from satellite imagery on long-term vegetation change and the spatial distribution of attacks on villages in the early phase of the civil war (2003–2005). The findings indicate that violence has been more likely and intense in areas that experienced increasing availability of water and vegetative resources during the 20 years prior to the civil war.

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International Labor Mobility, Redistribution, and Domestic Political Liberalization

David Bearce & Jennifer Laks Hutnick
Economics & Politics, November 2014, Pages 411–430

Abstract:
Do international labor flows influence the prospects for democratization both in the countries that export their excess workers and in the countries that import them? This paper argues that emigration should have a positive effect on political liberalization in net source countries because it decreases the amount of redistribution that would occur in a more democratic regime. Conversely, immigration should have a negative effect on political liberalization in net destination countries through the same causal channel: by increasing the amount of redistribution that would occur in a more democratic regime. South Korea and Singapore are considered as illustrative examples, and the paper provides statistical evidence to support the hypothesis that emigration (immigration) has been positively (negatively) related to future political liberalization.

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Income, Democracy, and Leader Turnover

Daniel Treisman
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
While some believe that economic development prompts democratization, others contend that both result from distant historical causes. Using the most comprehensive estimates of national income available, I show that development is associated with more democratic government — but mostly in the medium run (10 to 20 years). This is because higher income tends to induce breakthroughs to more democratic politics only after an incumbent dictator leaves office. And in the short run, faster economic growth increases the ruler's survival odds. Leader turnover appears to matter because of selection: In authoritarian states, reformist leaders tend to either democratize or lose power relatively quickly, so long-serving leaders are rarely reformers. Autocrats also become less activist after their first year in office. This logic helps explain why dictators, concerned only to prolong their rule, often inadvertently prepare their countries for jumps to democracy after they leave the scene.

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Crowdseeding in Eastern Congo: Using Cell Phones to Collect Conflict Events Data in Real Time

Peter Van der Windt & Macartan Humphreys
Journal of Conflict Resolution, forthcoming

Abstract:
Poor-quality data about conflict events can hinder humanitarian responses and bias academic research. There is increasing recognition of the role that new information technologies can play in producing more reliable data faster. We piloted a novel data-gathering system in the Democratic Republic of Congo in which villagers in a set of randomly selected communities report on events in real time via short message service. We first describe the data and assess its reliability. We then examine the usefulness of such “crowdseeded” data in two ways. First, we implement a downstream experiment on aid and conflict and find evidence that aid can lead to fewer conflict events. Second, we examine conflict diffusion in Eastern Congo and find evidence that key dynamics operate at very micro levels. Both applications highlight the benefit of collecting conflict data via cell phones in real time.

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The Power of the Street: Evidence from Egypt's Arab Spring

Daron Acemoglu, Tarek Hassan & Ahmed Tahoun
NBER Working Paper, November 2014

Abstract:
During Egypt's Arab Spring, unprecedented popular mobilization and protests brought down Hosni Mubarak's government and ushered in an era of competition between three groups: elites associated with Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP), the military, and the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. Street protests continued to play an important role during this power struggle. We show that these protests are associated with differential stock market returns for firms connected to the three groups. Using daily variation in the number of protesters, we document that more intense protests in Tahrir Square are associated with lower stock market valuations for firms connected to the group currently in power relative to non-connected firms, but have no impact on the relative valuations of firms connected to other powerful groups. We further show that activity on social media may have played an important role in mobilizing protesters, but had no direct effect on relative valuations. According to our preferred interpretation, these events provide evidence that, under weak institutions, popular mobilization and protests have a role in restricting the ability of connected firms to capture excess rents.

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Farming or Fighting? Agricultural Price Shocks and Civil War in Africa

Hanne Fjelde
World Development, March 2015, Pages 525–534

Abstract:
This article links lower economic returns in the labor-intensive agricultural sector to a higher risk of armed conflict at the local level. It argues that income shocks, followed by rising unemployment and lower wages in the rural economy, facilitate rebel recruitment and strengthen civilian support for rebel movements. Focusing on Africa, the article introduces a location-specific measure of changes to the value of local agricultural output by combining sub-national crop production maps with data on movements in global agricultural prices. The results show that negative changes to the local agricultural price index significantly and substantially increase the risk of violent events.

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He Who Counts Elects: Economic Elites, Political Elites, and Electoral Fraud

Isaías Chaves, Leopoldo Fergusson & James Robinson
Economics & Politics, forthcoming

Abstract:
What determines the extent of electoral fraud? This paper constructs a model of the tradeoff between fraud and policy concessions (public good provision) which also incorporates the strength of the state. In addition, we parameterize the extent to which economic elites (to whom fraud is costly) and political elites (to whom fraud is advantageous) “overlap.” The model predicts that fraud will be lower and public good provision higher when land inequality is higher, the overlap between elites lower, and the strength of the state higher. We test these predictions using a unique, municipal-level dataset from Colombia's 1922 Presidential elections. We find empirical support for all the predictions of the model.

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Security, Clarity of Responsibility, and Presidential Approval

Ryan Carlin, Gregory Love & Cecilia Martínez-Gallardo
Comparative Political Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
The importance of institutions in shaping citizens’ ability to punish or reward politicians for economic outcomes is well established. Where institutions divide authority, politicians can blame each other and citizens find it harder to assign responsibility for policy failures; where institutions clarify lines of authority, citizens can better hold politicians accountable. However, this argument assumes that citizens perceive policy responsibility as shared among political actors and this is not always the case. Looking at security policy, we argue that when policy responsibility is concentrated in a single actor the effect of institutions on blame attribution is different from what the economic voting literature predicts. Divided government in this context makes blame-shifting less effective and makes it more likely that citizens will punish incumbents. By contrast, the ability of executives to control the narrative around security failures by blaming the perpetrators, especially during unified government, can help them avoid blame.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

All's fair in love and war

Family Law and Social Change: Judicial Views of Joint Custody, 1998–2011

Julie Artis & Andrew Krebs
Law & Social Inquiry, forthcoming

Abstract:
Rapid changes in family life over the last forty years have led to substantial alterations in family law policy; specifically, most states now endorse joint custody arrangements for divorcing families. However, we know little about how lower court judges have embraced or resisted this change. We conducted in-depth interviews with judges in twenty-five Indiana jurisdictions in 1998 and 2011. Our findings suggest that judges' views of joint custody dramatically changed. Judges in Wave II indicated a strong preference for joint custody — a theme that was relatively absent in Wave I. The observed change in judicial preferences did not seem to be related to judicial replacement, gender, age, or political party affiliation. Although our conclusions are exploratory, we speculate that shifts in judicial views may be related to changing public mores of parenthood and, relatedly, Indiana's adoption of Parenting Time Guidelines in 2001.

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United but (un)equal: Human capital, probability of divorce, and the marriage contract

Helmuth Cremer, Pierre Pestieau & Kerstin Roeder
Journal of Population Economics, January 2015, Pages 195-217

Abstract:
This paper studies how the risk of divorce affects the human capital decisions of a young couple. We consider a setting where complete specialization is optimal with no divorce risk. Couples can self-insure through savings which offers some protection to the uneducated spouse, but at the expense of a distortion. Alternatively, for large divorce probabilities, symmetry in education, where both spouses receive an equal amount of education, may be optimal. This eliminates the risk associated with the lack of education, but reduces the efficiency of education choices. We show that the symmetric allocation will become more attractive as the probability of divorce increases, if risk aversion is high and/or labor supply elasticity is low. However, it is only a “second-best” solution as insurance protection is achieved at the expense of an efficiency loss. Finally, we study how the (economic) use of marriage is affected by the possibility of divorce.

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Intimate Partner Violence in the Great Recession

Daniel Schneider, Kristen Harknett & Sara McLanahan
Princeton Working Paper, May 2014

Abstract:
In the United States, the Great Recession has been marked by severe negative shocks to labor market conditions. In this study, we combine longitudinal data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study with Bureau of Labor Statistics data on local area unemployment rates to examine the relationship between adverse labor market conditions and intimate partner violence between 1999 and 2010. We find that rapidly worsening labor market conditions are associated with increases in the prevalence of violent/controlling behavior in marriage. These effects are most pronounced among whites and those with at least some post-secondary education. Worsening economic conditions significantly increase the risk that white mothers and more educated mothers will be in violent/controlling marriages rather than high quality marital unions.

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Suicide and Property Rights in India

Siwan Anderson & Garance Genicot
Journal of Development Economics, May 2015, Pages 64–78

Abstract:
This paper studies the impact of female property rights on male and female suicide rates in India. Using state level variation in legal changes to women’s property rights, we show that better property rights for women are associated with a decrease in the difference between female and male suicide rates, but an increase in both male and female suicides. We conjecture that increasing female property rights increased conflict within household and this increased conflict resulted in more suicides among both men and women in India. Using individual level data on domestic violence we find evidence that increased property rights for women did increase the incidence of wife beating in India. A model of intra-household bargaining with asymmetric information and costly conflict is consistent with these findings.

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Is Posner Right? An Empirical Test of the Posner Argument for Transferring Health Spending from Old Women to Old Men

Christoph Wunder & Johannes Schwarze
Journal of Happiness Studies, December 2014, Pages 1239-1257

Abstract:
Posner (Aging and old age, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1995) proposes the redistribution of health spending from old women to old men to equalize life expectancy. His argument is based on the assumption that the woman’s utility is higher if her husband is alive. Using self-reported satisfaction measures from a long-running German panel survey, the Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP), the present study conducts an empirical test of this assumption and investigates the question of whether and to what extent widowed women’s utility responds to her spouse’s death. We apply a combination of propensity score matching and parametric regression techniques. Our results reveal satisfaction trajectories of women who experience the death of their spouse and identifies the causal effect of widowhood. The average level of satisfaction in a control group of non-widowed women serves as a reference to measure the degree of adaptation to widowhood. The results suggest bereavement has no enduring effect on satisfaction, and that is evidence against Posner’s assumption. We conclude that elderly women would not benefit from Posners policy proposal.

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Conflict Intensity, Family History, and Physiological Stress Reactions to Conflict Within Romantic Relationships

Lindsey Aloia & Denise Solomon
Human Communication Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study drew upon the physiological model of stress and desensitization processes to deduce hypotheses linking the intensity of conflict communication and exposure to familial verbal aggression in childhood to experiences of conflict within romantic relationships. One hundred college-aged students (50 dating couples) participated in a dyadic interaction in which partners discussed a source of conflict in their romantic relationship. Participants reported childhood exposure to familial verbal aggression, third-party observers rated the intensity of conflict communication, and salivary cortisol indexed physiological stress responses to the conflict interactions. As predicted, results showed a positive association between conflict intensity and cortisol reactivity, and this association was attenuated for individuals who reported higher, rather than lower, levels of childhood exposure to familial verbal aggression.

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Strategic non-marital cohabitation: Theory and empirical implications

Amy Farmer & Andrew Horowitz
Journal of Population Economics, January 2015, Pages 219-237

Abstract:
Non-marital cohabitation is a rapidly growing global phenomenon. Prior literature examines the puzzling empirical regularity that premarital cohabitation is associated with higher divorce rates. Since cohabitation should yield improved match-quality information, one might expect the opposite. This result, and its recent weakening, have been explored empirically and produced theoretically using matching models. In this paper, we develop an intra-household bargaining model of alternative dating and cohabitation paths to marriage in which higher relationship exit costs for cohabitors relative to daters generates the observed higher divorce rate. We also show that asymmetric exit costs can produce rejection and generate exits that would not otherwise occur. In addition, we show that even when cohabitors have lower average marriage quality, expected utility for a given match quality is higher, and some utility enhancing marriages that would not have taken place without cohabitation will occur in its presence.

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Familism: A cultural value with implications for romantic relationship quality in U.S. Latinos

Belinda Campos, Oscar Fernando Rojas Perez & Christine Guardino
Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, forthcoming

Abstract:
Familism is a cultural value that emphasizes interdependent family relationships that are warm, close, and supportive. We theorized that familism values can be beneficial for romantic relationships and tested whether (a) familism would be positively associated with romantic relationship quality and (b) this association would be mediated by less attachment avoidance. Evidence indicates that familism is particularly relevant for U.S. Latinos but is also relevant for non-Latinos. Thus, we expected to observe the hypothesized pattern in Latinos and explored whether the pattern extended to non-Latinos of European and East Asian cultural background. A sample of U.S. participants of Latino (n = 140), European (n = 176), and East Asian (n = 199) cultural background currently in a romantic relationship completed measures of familism, attachment, and two indices of romantic relationship quality, namely, partner support and partner closeness. As predicted, higher familism was associated with higher partner support and partner closeness, and these associations were mediated by lower attachment avoidance in the Latino sample. This pattern was not observed in the European or East Asian background samples. The implications of familism for relationships and psychological processes relevant to relationships in Latinos and non-Latinos are discussed.

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Sex Imbalance, Marital Matching and Intra-household Bargaining: Evidence from China

Julan Du, Yongqin Wang & Yan Zhang
China Economic Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper studies the effects of sex imbalance on matching patterns in China’s marriage markets. We hypothesize that the economic inequality caused by economic liberalization, together with sex imbalance, will lead to women’s hypergamy (marrying up). Employing CGSS data, our empirical findings support the hypothesis. We also establish that sex imbalance enhances the postnuptial bargaining power of the wife vis-à-vis the husband in intra-household resource allocation. The findings are robust to IV estimation and robustness checks.

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The Dynamics of Marriage and Divorce

Gustaf Bruze, Michael Svarer & Yoram Weiss
Journal of Labor Economics, January 2015, Pages 123-170

Abstract:
We formulate and estimate a dynamic model of marriage, divorce, and remarriage using panel data on two cohorts of Danish men and women. The marital surplus is identified from the probability of divorce and the surplus shares of husbands and wives from their willingness to enter marriage. We find that the educations of husbands and wives are complements. Education raises the share of the marital surplus for men but not for women. As men and women get older, husbands receive a larger share of the marital surplus. The estimated costs of divorce are high both early and late in marriage.

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When the cat’s away, the spouse will play: A cross-cultural examination of mate guarding in married couples

Lisa Dillon et al.
Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, December 2014, Pages 97-108

Abstract:
In this post hoc analysis of mate retention behavior, over 3000 married couples from five cultures completed the Marriage and Relationship Questionnaire (MARQ). The Actor-Partner Interdependence Model (APIM) was used to test relationships for selected variables. For all countries and both sexes, the spouse being attracted to other people was linked to worry about spousal infidelity. For all cases except the Russians, being attracted to one’s spouse was related to less worry by the spouse about infidelity. In all cases, one’s being attractive was associated with spousal feelings of possessiveness. Having a spouse who went out without them was related to infidelity worries for wives in all groups and husbands in three groups. Feelings of possessiveness were related to wanting to touch the spouse in most groups, and husbands reported more such desire in all groups. Husbands who sought sex outside of marriage worried about reciprocal spousal infidelity in all cultures, as did wives in most cultures. Overall, the data suggest that attractiveness and attraction shape mate retention emotions and behavior in similar ways across cultures.

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Who should bring home the bacon? How deterministic views of gender constrain spousal wage preferences

Catherine Tinsley, Taeya Howell & Emily Amanatullah
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, January 2015, Pages 37–48

Abstract:
Despite the rise of dual-income households in the United States and a narrowing of the nation’s gender wage gap, we find that many men and women still prefer the husband to be the primary breadwinner. To help explain intra-marital wage preferences, we argue for a new construct, gender determinism, which captures the extent to which a person believes gender categories dictate individual characteristics. We show that deterministic views of gender increase both intra-marital wage gap preferences and work choices that may perpetuate the gender wage gap. Our results hold in both student and non-student samples, suggesting some endurance of these beliefs. We discuss how our findings contribute to extant research on implicit person theory and gender role theory, and the implications of our findings for gender wage equity.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Monday, December 29, 2014

The dark ages

How Copyright Keeps Works Disappeared

Paul Heald
Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, December 2014, Pages 829–866

Abstract:
A random sample of new books for sale on Amazon.com shows more books for sale from the 1880s than the 1980s. Why? This article presents new data on how copyright stifles the reappearance of works. First, a random sample of more than 2,000 new books for sale on Amazon.com is analyzed along with a random sample of almost 2,000 songs available on new DVDs. Copyright status correlates highly with absence from the Amazon shelf. Together with publishing business models, copyright law seems to deter distribution and diminish access. Further analysis of eBook markets, used books on Abebooks.com, and the Chicago Public Library collection suggests that no alternative marketplace for out-of-print books has yet developed. Data from iTunes and YouTube, however, tell a different story for older hit songs. The much wider availability of old music in digital form may be explained by the differing holdings in two important cases, Boosey & Hawkes v. Disney (music) and Random House v. Rosetta Stone (books).

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The short- and long-term effectiveness of anti-piracy laws and enforcement actions

Tylor Orme
Journal of Cultural Economics, November 2014, Pages 351-368

Abstract:
Film studios have spent the past two decades lobbying extensively to establish new legislation restricting access to copyrighted materials online. While there is growing evidence of the effect film piracy has on studio profits, the evidence on the impact of anti-piracy legislation is limited. If anti-piracy legislation is having the film industry’s desired impact, we would expect film revenues to be consistently higher following the passage of major laws that restrict access to pirated content, or major enforcement actions, such as the shutdown of Web sites that provide illegal content for download. This paper applies an intervention analysis approach to weekly data on movie box-office revenues in the USA to determine whether the passage of new anti-piracy policy has generated significant changes in box-office revenues during the period from 1997 to the present. These effects are evaluated in both the short and long term, which allows an assessment of the duration of effectiveness of government actions. The results show that four of the six included policies are ineffective in the long term and those policies that do impact revenues in the short term often harm film studios, rather than help them.

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“Piracy is not theft!” Is it just students who think so?

Michał Krawczyk et al.
Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, February 2015, Pages 32–39

Abstract:
A fair share of studies analyzing “online piracy” are based on easily accessible student samples. However, it has been argued that the youth tend to have more lax social and ethical norms concerning both property rights and online behavior. In this study we present the results of a vignette experiment, i.e. a scenario survey where responders are asked to provide an ethical judgment on different forms of unauthorized acquisition of a full season of a popular TV series described in a number of hypothetical stories. The survey is conducted both on a student sample and on a sample of individuals who openly endorse protection of intellectual property rights for cultural goods. In this way we can investigate the possibly limited external validity of studies relying solely on the student samples. The vignette experiment concerned ethical evaluation of unauthorized acquisition of cultural content in both virtual and real context and was focused on six dimensions previously identified as relevant to the ethical judgment. Surprisingly, we found that the rules for the ethical judgment do not differ between our samples, suggesting that the social norms on “online piracy” follow similar patterns in student and in other populations. Findings from studies relying on ethical or moral judgments of students may thus be valid in a much broader population.

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Measuring the effectiveness of scientific gatekeeping

Kyle Siler, Kirby Lee & Lisa Bero
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Abstract:
Peer review is the main institution responsible for the evaluation and gestation of scientific research. Although peer review is widely seen as vital to scientific evaluation, anecdotal evidence abounds of gatekeeping mistakes in leading journals, such as rejecting seminal contributions or accepting mediocre submissions. Systematic evidence regarding the effectiveness — or lack thereof — of scientific gatekeeping is scant, largely because access to rejected manuscripts from journals is rarely available. Using a dataset of 1,008 manuscripts submitted to three elite medical journals, we show differences in citation outcomes for articles that received different appraisals from editors and peer reviewers. Among rejected articles, desk-rejected manuscripts, deemed as unworthy of peer review by editors, received fewer citations than those sent for peer review. Among both rejected and accepted articles, manuscripts with lower scores from peer reviewers received relatively fewer citations when they were eventually published. However, hindsight reveals numerous questionable gatekeeping decisions. Of the 808 eventually published articles in our dataset, our three focal journals rejected many highly cited manuscripts, including the 14 most popular; roughly the top 2 percent. Of those 14 articles, 12 were desk-rejected. This finding raises concerns regarding whether peer review is ill-suited to recognize and gestate the most impactful ideas and research. Despite this finding, results show that in our case studies, on the whole, there was value added in peer review. Editors and peer reviewers generally — but not always — made good decisions regarding the identification and promotion of quality in scientific manuscripts.

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Excess Success for Psychology Articles in the Journal Science

Gregory Francis, Jay Tanzman & William Matthews
PLoS ONE, December 2014

Abstract:
This article describes a systematic analysis of the relationship between empirical data and theoretical conclusions for a set of experimental psychology articles published in the journal Science between 2005–2012. When the success rate of a set of empirical studies is much higher than would be expected relative to the experiments' reported effects and sample sizes, it suggests that null findings have been suppressed, that the experiments or analyses were inappropriate, or that the theory does not properly follow from the data. The analyses herein indicate such excess success for 83% (15 out of 18) of the articles in Science that report four or more studies and contain sufficient information for the analysis. This result suggests a systematic pattern of excess success among psychology articles in the journal Science.

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Publication Bias in Psychology: A Diagnosis Based on the Correlation between Effect Size and Sample Size

Anton Kühberger, Astrid Fritz & Thomas Scherndl
PLoS ONE, September 2014

Background: The p value obtained from a significance test provides no information about the magnitude or importance of the underlying phenomenon. Therefore, additional reporting of effect size is often recommended. Effect sizes are theoretically independent from sample size. Yet this may not hold true empirically: non-independence could indicate publication bias.

Methods: We investigate whether effect size is independent from sample size in psychological research. We randomly sampled 1,000 psychological articles from all areas of psychological research. We extracted p values, effect sizes, and sample sizes of all empirical papers, and calculated the correlation between effect size and sample size, and investigated the distribution of p values.

Results: We found a negative correlation of r = −.45 [95% CI: −.53; −.35] between effect size and sample size. In addition, we found an inordinately high number of p values just passing the boundary of significance. Additional data showed that neither implicit nor explicit power analysis could account for this pattern of findings.

Conclusion: The negative correlation between effect size and samples size, and the biased distribution of p values indicate pervasive publication bias in the entire field of psychology.

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Cognitive Advantage in Bilingualism: An Example of Publication Bias?

Angela de Bruin, Barbara Treccani & Sergio Della Sala
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
It is a widely held belief that bilinguals have an advantage over monolinguals in executive-control tasks, but is this what all studies actually demonstrate? The idea of a bilingual advantage may result from a publication bias favoring studies with positive results over studies with null or negative effects. To test this hypothesis, we looked at conference abstracts from 1999 to 2012 on the topic of bilingualism and executive control. We then determined which of the studies they reported were subsequently published. Studies with results fully supporting the bilingual-advantage theory were most likely to be published, followed by studies with mixed results. Studies challenging the bilingual advantage were published the least. This discrepancy was not due to differences in sample size, tests used, or statistical power. A test for funnel-plot asymmetry provided further evidence for the existence of a publication bias.

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Leaders and Followers: Perspectives on the Nordic Model and the Economics of Innovation

Joseph Stiglitz
Journal of Public Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
What kinds of social and economic systems are most conducive to innovation? We formulate a simple model in which countries can close the gap with the technological leader, but where the cost of doing so may be so high that the country choose to remain laggards. Observed disparities in productivity may be the result of a recognition that the cost of closing the gap exceeds benefit and there may therefore exist an international equilibrium in which there are leaders and followers. Even if it is granted that the United States is the leader and Scandinavia are followers, there are theoretical grounds for arguing that the Nordic model may in fact be better for innovation, suggesting that if the US adopted some of the Nordic institutions, innovations would be higher, and societal welfare would be improved even more.

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The Failed Promise of User Fees: Empirical Evidence from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Michael Frakes & Melissa Wasserman
Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, December 2014, Pages 602–636

Abstract:
In an attempt to shed light on the impact of user-fee financing structures on the behavior of administrative agencies, we explore the relationship between the funding structure of the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) and its examination practices. We suggest that the PTO's reliance on prior grantees to subsidize current applicants exposes the PTO to a risk that its obligatory costs will surpass incoming fee collections. When such risks materialize, we hypothesize, and thereafter document, that the PTO will restore financial balance by extending preferential examination treatment — that is, higher granting propensities and/or shorter wait times — to some technologies over others.

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Does the Mobility of R&D Labor Increase Innovation?

Ulrich Kaiser, Hans Christian Kongsted & Thomas Rønde
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, February 2015, Pages 91–105

Abstract:
We investigate the effect of mobility of R&D workers on the total patenting activity of their employers. Our study documents how mobile workers affect the patenting activity of the firm they join and the firm they leave. The effect of labor mobility is strongest if workers join from patent-active firms. We also find evidence of a positive feedback effect on the former employer's patenting from workers who have left for another patent-active firm. Summing up the effects of joining and leaving workers, we show that labor mobility increases the total innovative activity of the new and the old employer. Our study which is based on the population of R&D active Danish firms observed between 1999 and 2004 thus provides firm-level support for the notion that labor mobility stimulates overall innovation of a country or region due to knowledge transfer.

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Copyright and Creativity: Evidence from Italian Operas

Michela Giorcelli & Petra Moser
Stanford Working Paper, October 2014

Abstract:
This paper exploits variation in the adoption of copyright laws within Italy – as a result of Napoleon’s military campaign – to examine the effects of copyrights on creativity. To measure variation in the quantity and quality of creative output, we have collected detailed data on 2,598 operas that premiered across eight states within Italy between 1770 and 1900. These data indicate that the adoption of copyrights led to a significant increase in the number of new operas premiered per state and year. Moreover, we find that the number of high-quality operas also increased – measured both by their contemporary popularity and by the longevity of operas. By comparison, evidence for a significant effect of copyright extensions is substantially more limited. Data on composers’ places of birth indicate that the adoption of copyrights triggered a shift in patterns of composers’ migration, and helped attract a large number of new composers to states that offered copyrights.

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Whither the Blank Slate? A Report on the Reception of Evolutionary Biological Ideas among Sociological Theorists

Mark Horowitz, William Yaworsky & Kenneth Kickham
Sociological Spectrum, November/December 2014, Pages 489-509

Abstract:
Sociologists have drawn considerable criticism over the years for their failure to integrate evolutionary biological principles in their work. Critics such as Stephen Pinker (2002) have popularized the notion that sociologists adhere dogmatically to a “blank slate” or cultural determinist view of the human mind and social behavior. This report assesses whether sociologists indeed ascribe to such a blank slate view. Drawing from a survey of 155 sociological theorists, we find the field about evenly divided over the applicability of evolutionary reasoning to a range of human tendencies. Although there are signs of a shift toward greater openness to evolutionary biological ideas, sociologists are least receptive to evolutionary accounts of human sex differences. Echoing earlier research, we find political identity to be a significant predictor of sociologists' receptiveness. We close by cautioning our colleagues against sociological reductionism and we speculate about the blank slate's political-psychological appeal to liberal-minded social scientists.

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A Note on PhD Population Growth in Biomedical Sciences

Navid Ghaffarzadegan et al.
Systems Research and Behavioral Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
The explosive increase in the number of postdocs in biomedical fields is puzzling for many science policymakers. We use our previously introduced parameter in this journal, the basic reproductive number in academia (R0), to make sense of PhD population growth in biomedical fields. Our analysis shows how R0 in biomedical fields has increased over time, and we estimate that there is approximately only one tenure-track position in the US for every 6.3 PhD graduates, which means that the rest need to get jobs outside academia or stay in lower-paid temporary positions. We elaborate on the structural reasons and systemic flaws of science workforce development by discussing feedback loops, especially vicious cycles, which contribute to over-production of PhDs. We argue that the current system is unstable but with no easy solution. A way to mitigate the effects of strong reinforcing loops is full disclosure of the risks of getting PhD.

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Who is afraid of pirates? An experiment on the deterrence of innovation by imitation

Christoph Engel & Marco Kleine
Research Policy, February 2015, Pages 20–33

Abstract:
In the policy debate, intellectual property is often justified by what seems to be a straightforward argument: if innovators are not protected against others appropriating their ideas, incentives for innovation are suboptimally low. Now, in most industries and for most potential users, appropriating a foreign innovation is itself an investment decision fraught with cost and risk. Nonetheless, standard theory predicts too little innovation. Arguably the problem is exacerbated by the sensitivity of innovators to fairness; imitators do get a free lunch, after all. We model the situation as a game and test it in the lab. We find more appropriation, but also more innovation than predicted by standard theory. In the lab, the prospect of giving imitators a free lunch does not have a chilling effect on innovation. This even holds if innovation automatically spills over to an outsider and if successful imitation reduces the innovator's profit. Beliefs and the analysis of experiences in the repeated game demonstrate that participants are sensitive to the fairness problem. But this concern is not strong enough to outweigh the robust propensity to invest even more in innovation than predicted by standard theory. The data suggest that this behavior results from the intention not to be outperformed by one's peers.

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An experiment on protecting intellectual property

Joy Buchanan & Bart Wilson
Experimental Economics, December 2014, Pages 691-716

Abstract:
We conduct a laboratory experiment to explore whether the protection of intellectual property (IP) incentivizes people to create non-rivalrous knowledge goods, foregoing the production of other rivalrous goods. In the contrasting treatment with no IP protection, participants are free to resell and remake non-rivalrous knowledge goods originally created by others. We find that creators reap substantial profits when IP is protected and that rampant pirating is common when there is no IP protection, but IP protection in and of itself is neither necessary nor sufficient for generating wealth from the discovery of knowledge goods. Rather, individual entrepreneurship is the key.

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The Effects of Research & Development Funding On Scientific Productivity: Academic Chemistry, 1990-2009

Joshua Rosenbloom et al.
NBER Working Paper, October 2014

Abstract:
This article examines the relationship between Research & Development (R&D) funding and the production of knowledge by academic chemists. Using articles published, either raw counts or adjusted for quality, we find a strong, positive causal effect of funding on knowledge production. This effect is similar across subsets of universities, suggesting a relatively efficient allocation of R&D funds. Finally, we document a rapid acceleration in the rate at which chemical knowledge was produced in the late 1990s and early 2000s relative to the financial and human resources devoted to its production.

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Spreading big ideas? The effect of top inventing companies on local inventors

Carlo Menon
Journal of Economic Geography, forthcoming

Abstract:
The article investigates whether the patenting activity of the most inventive companies has any causal effect on the number of patents granted to other local inventors in the same metropolitan area in USA. Economic theory predicts that positive agglomeration economies may be counterbalanced by upward pressure on wages, which are stronger within technological classes in the short term. The empirical analysis exploits the panel structure of the dataset to account for various fixed effects, and adopts an instrumental variable approach to prove causality. The results show that the effect is overall positive and stronger with a time lag. In addition, the effect is not bounded within narrow technological categories, suggesting that Jacob-type knowledge spillovers across sectors tend to prevail over other source of agglomeration economies within sectors, including sharing and matching mechanisms. The implications for local development policy are discussed.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A dark place

The Collateral Damage of Mass Incarceration: Risk of Psychiatric Morbidity Among Nonincarcerated Residents of High-Incarceration Neighborhoods

Mark Hatzenbuehler et al., American Journal of Public Health, January 2015, Pages 138-143

Objectives: We examined whether residence in neighborhoods with high levels of incarceration is associated with psychiatric morbidity among nonincarcerated community members.

Methods: We linked zip code–linked information on neighborhood prison admissions rates to individual-level data on mental health from the Detroit Neighborhood Health Study (2008–2012), a prospective probability sample of predominantly Black individuals.

Results: Controlling for individual- and neighborhood-level risk factors, individuals living in neighborhoods with high prison admission rates were more likely to meet criteria for a current (odds ratio [OR] = 2.9; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.7, 5.5) and lifetime (OR = 2.5; 95% CI = 1.4, 4.6) major depressive disorder across the 3 waves of follow-up as well as current (OR = 2.1; 95% CI = 1.0, 4.2) and lifetime (OR = 2.3; 95% CI = 1.2, 4.5) generalized anxiety disorder than were individuals living in neighborhoods with low prison admission rates. These relationships between neighborhood-level incarceration and mental health were comparable for individuals with and without a personal history of incarceration.

Conclusions: Incarceration may exert collateral damage on the mental health of individuals living in high-incarceration neighborhoods, suggesting that the public mental health impact of mass incarceration extends beyond those who are incarcerated.

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A Not So Happy Day after All: Excess Death Rates on Birthdays in the U.S.

Pablo Peña, Social Science & Medicine, February 2015, Pages 59–66

Abstract:
This study estimates average excess death rates on and around birthdays, and explores differences between birthdays falling on weekends and birthdays falling on weekdays. Using records from the U.S. Social Security Administration for 25 million people who died during the period from 1998 to 2011, average excess death rates are estimated controlling for seasonality of births and deaths. The average excess death rate on birthdays is 6.7% (p<0.0001). No evidence is found of dips in average excess death rates in a ±10 day neighborhood around birthdays that could offset the spikes on birthdays. Significant differences are found between age groups and between weekend and weekday birthdays. Younger people have greater average excess death rates on birthdays, reaching up to 25.4% (p<0.0001) for ages 20-29. Younger people also show the largest differences between average excess death rates on weekend birthdays and weekday birthdays, reaching up to 64.5 percentage points (p=0.0063) for ages 1-9. Over the 13-year period analyzed, the estimated excess deaths on birthdays are 4,590.

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Desire to Work as a Death Anxiety Buffer Mechanism

Erez Yaakobi, Experimental Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Four studies were conducted to examine the death anxiety buffering function of work as a terror management mechanism, and the possible moderating role of culture. In Study 1, making mortality salient led to higher reports of participants' desire to work. In Study 2, activating thoughts of fulfillment of the desire to work after mortality salience reduced the accessibility of death-related thoughts. In Study 3, activating thoughts of fulfillment of the desire to work reduced the effects of mortality salience on out-group derogation. In Study 4, priming thoughts about obstacles to the actualization of desire to work led to greater accessibility of death-related thoughts. Although two different cultures with contrasting work values were examined, the results were consistent, indicating that the desire to work serves as a death anxiety buffer mechanism in both cultures.

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Facebook use, envy, and depression among college students: Is facebooking depressing?

Edson Tandoc, Patrick Ferrucci & Margaret Duffy, Computers in Human Behavior, February 2015, Pages 139–146

Abstract:
It is not — unless it triggers feelings of envy. This study uses the framework of social rank theory of depression and conceptualizes Facebook envy as a possible link between Facebook surveillance use and depression among college students. Using a survey of 736 college students, we found that the effect of surveillance use of Facebook on depression is mediated by Facebook envy. However, when Facebook envy is controlled for, Facebook use actually lessens depression.

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Checking email less frequently reduces stress

Kostadin Kushlev & Elizabeth Dunn, Computers in Human Behavior, February 2015, Pages 220–228

Abstract:
Using email is one of the most common online activities in the world today. Yet, very little experimental research has examined the effect of email on well-being. Utilizing a within-subjects design, we investigated how the frequency of checking email affects well-being over a period of two weeks. During one week, 124 adults were randomly assigned to limit checking their email to three times a day; during the other week, participants could check their email an unlimited number of times per day. We found that during the limited email use week, participants experienced significantly lower daily stress than during the unlimited email use week. Lower stress, in turn, predicted higher well-being on a diverse range of well-being outcomes. These findings highlight the benefits of checking email less frequently for reducing psychological stress.

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Effects of biological explanations for mental disorders on clinicians' empathy

Matthew Lebowitz & Woo-kyoung Ahn, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 16 December 2014, Pages 17786–17790

Abstract:
Mental disorders are increasingly understood in terms of biological mechanisms. We examined how such biological explanations of patients' symptoms would affect mental health clinicians' empathy — a crucial component of the relationship between treatment-providers and patients — as well as their clinical judgments and recommendations. In a series of studies, US clinicians read descriptions of potential patients whose symptoms were explained using either biological or psychosocial information. Biological explanations have been thought to make patients appear less accountable for their disorders, which could increase clinicians' empathy. To the contrary, biological explanations evoked significantly less empathy. These results are consistent with other research and theory that has suggested that biological accounts of psychopathology can exacerbate perceptions of patients as abnormal, distinct from the rest of the population, meriting social exclusion, and even less than fully human. Although the ongoing shift toward biomedical conceptualizations has many benefits, our results reveal unintended negative consequences.

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Nitrous Oxide for Treatment-Resistant Major Depression: A Proof-of-Concept Trial

Peter Nagele et al., Biological Psychiatry, forthcoming

Background: NMDA receptor antagonists, such as ketamine, have rapid antidepressant effects in patients with treatment-resistant depression (TRD). We hypothesized that nitrous oxide, an inhalational general anesthetic and NMDA receptor antagonist, may also be a rapidly acting treatment for TRD.

Methods: In this blinded, placebo-controlled crossover trial 20 TRD patients were randomized to a 1-hour inhalation of 50% nitrous oxide/50% oxygen or 50% nitrogen/50% oxygen (placebo control). Primary endpoint was the change on HDRS-21 24 hours after treatment.

Results: Mean duration of nitrous oxide treatment was 55.6 ± 2.5 (SD) minutes at a median inspiratory concentration of 44% (37 – 45%, IQR). In two patients nitrous oxide treatment was briefly interrupted and in three discontinued. Depressive symptoms improved significantly at 2 hours and 24 hours after receiving nitrous oxide compared to placebo (mean HDRS-21difference at 2 hours: -4.8 points, 95% CI -1.8 to – 7.8 points, p= 0.002; at 24 hours: -5.5 points, 95% CI -2.5 to -8.5 points, p<0.001; comparison between nitrous oxide and placebo: p<0.001). Four patients (20%) had treatment response (reduction ≥50% on HDRS); three patients (15%) a full remission (HDRS ≤ 7 points) after nitrous oxide, compared to one patient (5%) and none after placebo (odds ratio [OR] for response 4.0, 95% CI 0.45 – 35.79; OR for remission 3.0, 95% CI 0.31 – 28.8). No serious adverse events occurred; all adverse events were brief and of mild to moderate severity.

Conclusions: This proof-of-concept trial demonstrated that nitrous oxide has rapid and marked antidepressant effects in patients with treatment-resistant depression.

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Neural Emotion Regulation Circuitry Underlying Anxiolytic Effects of Perceived Control over Pain

Tim Salomons et al., Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, February 2015, Pages 222-233

Abstract:
Anxiolytic effects of perceived control have been observed across species. In humans, neuroimaging studies have suggested that perceived control and cognitive reappraisal reduce negative affect through similar mechanisms. An important limitation of extant neuroimaging studies of perceived control in terms of directly testing this hypothesis, however, is the use of within-subject designs, which confound participants' affective response to controllable and uncontrollable stress. To compare neural and affective responses when participants were exposed to either uncontrollable or controllable stress, two groups of participants received an identical series of stressors (thermal pain stimuli). One group ("controllable") was led to believe they had behavioral control over the pain stimuli, whereas another ("uncontrollable") believed they had no control. Controllable pain was associated with decreased state anxiety, decreased activation in amygdala, and increased activation in nucleus accumbens. In participants who perceived control over the pain, reduced state anxiety was associated with increased functional connectivity between each of these regions and ventral lateral/ventral medial pFC. The location of pFC findings is consistent with regions found to be critical for the anxiolytic effects of perceived control in rodents. Furthermore, interactions observed between pFC and both amygdala and nucleus accumbens are remarkably similar to neural mechanisms of emotion regulation through reappraisal in humans. These results suggest that perceived control reduces negative affect through a general mechanism involved in the cognitive regulation of emotion.

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Gender Differences in the Expression of PTSD Symptoms among Active Duty Military Personnel

Laurel Hourani et al., Journal of Anxiety Disorders, January 2015, Pages 101–108

Abstract:
This study examined gender differences in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and symptom factors in the total U.S. active duty force. Data were drawn from the 2008 Department of Defense Survey of Health Related Behaviors among Active Duty Military Personnel including 17,939 men and 6,751 women from all services. The results indicated that women expressed more distress than men across almost all the symptoms on the PTSD Checklist except for hypervigilance. Women also scored significantly higher on all four factors examined: Re-experiencing, Avoidance, Emotionally Numb, Hyperarousal. More women than men were distressed by combat experiences that involved some type of violence, such as being wounded, witnessing or engaging in acts of cruelty, engaging in hand-to-hand combat, and, to a lesser extent, handling dead bodies. Men who had been sexually abused had a greater number of symptoms and were consistently more distressed than women on individual symptoms and symptom factors.

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Understanding associations among family support, friend support, and psychological distress

Briana Horwitz, Chandra Reynolds & Susan Charles, Personal Relationships, forthcoming

Abstract:
Emotional support from family and friends is associated with lower psychological distress. This study examined whether genetic and environmental influences explain associations among family support, friend support, and psychological distress. Data were drawn from the Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS) study and included 947 pairs of monozygotic (MZ), same-sex dizygotic (DZ), and opposite-sex DZ twins. Results showed that a genetic factor explains the relation between friend support and psychological distress, independent of family support. Alternatively, a nonshared environmental factor accounts for an association between family support, friend support, and psychological distress. Thus, heritable factors shape a distinct relation between friend support and psychological distress, but unique experiences contribute to a link between family support, friend support, and psychological distress.

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5-HTTLPR, Suicidal Behavior by Others, Depression, and Criminal Behavior During Adolescence

Stephen Watts, Journal of Adolescent Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Vicarious strains like suicidal behavior on the part of others have been shown to be predictive of both negative emotions and antisocial behavior during adolescence. Little research to date, however, has examined the role that biological factors play in moderating these relationships. Using a sample of adolescents drawn from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (N = 7,995), and drawing on two separate, but related, theories, I explore whether the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR) interacts with suicidal behavior by others to affect depression and self-reported crime. Results of ordinary least squares and negative binomial regressions reveal that suicide by others interacts with 5-HTTLPR to increase both depression and crime for males but not females, net of controls. Thus, 5-HTTLPR may be implicated in shaping negative emotions and antisocial behavior among males during adolescence by moderating the effects of suicide by others. Implications for theory are discussed.

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The Art Room: An Evaluation Of A Targeted School-based Group Intervention For Students With Emotional And Behavioural Difficulties

Melissa Cortina & Mina Fazel, The Arts in Psychotherapy, forthcoming

Abstract:
The Art Room is a targeted group intervention delivered in schools for students with emotional and behavioural difficulties. Since the start of the project, over 10,000 students have been through The Art Room intervention, which aims to address psychological difficulties that impede students' school experience. This paper reports on a quantitative evaluation of the impact of The Art Room on students' emotional and behavioural problems. Questionnaires on psychological functioning were administered before and after attending the intervention. Teachers completed the SDQ and children completed the sMFQ. Students showed a significant reduction in emotional and behavioural problems (teacher-reported SDQ scores) and clinical caseness. There was also a significant improvement in their mood and feelings (child-reported sMFQ), with an 87.5% improvement in those students who were depressed at baseline. The intervention is improving students' emotional and behavioural problems and promoting prosocial behaviour at school.

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Workplace problems, mental health and substance use

Johanna Catherine Maclean, Douglas Webber & Michael French, Applied Economics, Winter 2015, Pages 883-905

Abstract:
Little is known about how workplace problems may influence diagnosable mental health and substance use (MHSU) disorders. We examine the associations between three common workplace problems (experiencing problems with co-workers, job changes and perceived financial strain) and three MHSU disorders (mood, anxiety and substance abuse/dependence). The analysis utilizes longitudinal data on a sample of working-age adults from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. These data are well suited for our research objective as the survey was specifically designed to study MHSU disorders. Results show that experiencing these workplace problems is associated with an increased risk for mental health disorders, but not substance use disorders. Importantly, various robustness checks and sensitivity analyses demonstrate that our findings cannot be not fully explained by omitted variables, reverse causality or sample attrition.

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When past meets present: The relationship between website-induced nostalgia and well-being

Cathy Cox et al., Journal of Applied Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
The present research examined whether social media websites increase feelings of nostalgia, and whether this nostalgic reverie promotes psychological and social health. Specifically, in comparison to control conditions, participants exposed to the websites Dear Old Love and Dear Photograph reported greater feelings of nostalgia (Studies 1–3), positive affect (Studies 1 and 3), life satisfaction (Study 1), and relationship need satisfaction (Study 2). Further, mediational analyses revealed that increased thoughts of nostalgia heightened subjective well-being and social connectedness. Study 3 showed that the relationship between nostalgia and positive affect was specific to the Dear Photograph website and did not generalize to any website focused on close relationships. The implications of this research for nostalgia, internet use, and well-being are further discussed.

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Benzodiazepine Use in the United States

Mark Olfson, Marissa King & Michael Schoenbaum, JAMA Psychiatry, forthcoming

Objective: To describe benzodiazepine prescription patterns in the United States focusing on patient age and duration of use.

Design, Setting, and Participants: A retrospective descriptive analysis of benzodiazepine prescriptions was performed with the 2008 LifeLink LRx Longitudinal Prescription database (IMS Health Inc), which includes approximately 60% of all retail pharmacies in the United States. Denominators were adjusted to generalize estimates to the US population.

Results: In 2008, approximately 5.2% of US adults aged 18 to 80 years used benzodiazepines. The percentage who used benzodiazepines increased with age from 2.6% (18-35 years) to 5.4% (36-50 years) to 7.4% (51-64 years) to 8.7% (65-80 years). Benzodiazepine use was nearly twice as prevalent in women as men. The proportion of benzodiazepine use that was long term increased with age from 14.7% (18-35 years) to 31.4% (65-80 years), while the proportion that received a benzodiazepine prescription from a psychiatrist decreased with age from 15.0% (18-35 years) to 5.7% (65-80 years). In all age groups, roughly one-quarter of individuals receiving benzodiazepine involved long-acting benzodiazepine use.

Conclusions and Relevance: Despite cautions concerning risks associated with long-term benzodiazepine use, especially in older patients, long-term benzodiazepine use remains common in this age group. More vigorous clinical interventions supporting judicious benzodiazepine use may be needed to decrease rates of long-term benzodiazepine use in older adults.

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Sensitizing effect of early adversity on depressive reactions to later proximal stress: Moderation by polymorphisms in serotonin transporter and corticotropin releasing hormone receptor genes in a 20-year longitudinal study

Lisa Starr et al., Development and Psychopathology, November 2014, Pages 1241-1254

Abstract:
Previous research supports gene–environment interactions for polymorphisms in the corticotropin hormone receptor 1 gene (CRHR1) and the serotonin transporter gene linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR) in predicting depression, but it has rarely considered genetic influences on stress sensitization processes, whereby early adversities (EA) increase depressive reactivity to proximal stressors later in life. The current study tested a gene–environment–environment interaction (G × E × E; specifically, gene–EA–proximal stress interaction) model of depression in a 20-year longitudinal study. Participants were assessed prospectively for EA up to age 5 and recent chronic stress and depressive symptoms at age 20 and genotyped for CRHR1 single nucleotide polymorphism rs110402 and 5-HTTLPR. EA predicted stronger associations between recent chronic stress and depression, and the effect was moderated by genes. CRHR1 A alleles and 5-HTTLPR short alleles were associated with greater stress sensitization (i.e., greater depressive reactivity to chronic stress for those also exposed to high levels of EA). The results are consistent with the notion that EA exposure results in neurobiological and cognitive–emotional consequences (e.g., altered hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis functioning), leading to emotional distress in the face of recent stressors among those with certain genetic characteristics, although further research is needed to explore explanatory mechanisms.

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Examining gray matter structures associated with individual differences in global life satisfaction in a large sample of young adults

Feng Kong et al., Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, forthcoming

Abstract:
Although much attention has been directed towards life satisfaction that refers to an individual's general cognitive evaluations of his or her life as a whole, little is known about the neural basis underlying global life satisfaction. In the present study, we used voxel-based morphometry to investigate the structural neural correlates of life satisfaction in a large sample of young healthy adults (n = 299). We showed that individuals' life satisfaction was positively correlated with the regional gray matter volume (rGMV) in the right parahippocampal gyrus (PHG), and negatively correlated with the rGMV in the left precuneus and left ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC). This pattern of results remained significant even after controlling for the effect of general positive and negative affect, suggesting a unique structural correlates of life satisfaction. Furthermore, we found that self-esteem partially mediated the association between the PHG volume and life satisfaction as well as that between the precuneus volume and global life satisfaction. Taken together, we provide the first evidence for the structural neural basis of life satisfaction, and highlight that self-esteem might play a crucial role in cultivating an individual's life satisfaction.

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fMRI feedback enhances emotion regulation as evidenced by a reduced amygdala response

Pegah Sarkheil et al., Behavioural Brain Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Deficits in emotion regulation are a prominent feature of psychiatric conditions and a promising target for treatment. For instance, cognitive reappraisal is regarded as an effective strategy for emotion regulation. Neurophysiological models have established the lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC) as a key structure in the regulation of emotion processing through modulations of emotion-eliciting structures such as the amygdala. Feedback of the LPFC activity by real-time functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) may thus enhance the efficacy of cognitive reappraisal. During cognitive reappraisal of aversive visual stimuli, LPFC activity was fed back to the experimental group, whereas control participants received no such information. As a result, during reappraisal, amygdala activity was lower in the experimental group than in the controls. Furthermore, an increase of inter-hemispheric functional connectivity emerged in the feedback group. The current study extends the neurofeedback literature by suggesting that fMRI feedback can modify brain activity during a given task.

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Uneasy Lies the Head that Bears the Trust: The Effects of Feeling Trusted on Emotional Exhaustion

Michael Baer et al., Academy of Management Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
The construct of feeling trusted reflects the perception that another party is willing to accept vulnerability to one's actions. Although the construct has received far less attention than trusting, the consensus is that believing their supervisors trust them has benefits for employees' job performance. Our study challenges that consensus by arguing that feeling trusted can be exhausting for employees. Drawing on conservation of resources theory (Hobfoll, 2001), we develop a model where feeling trusted fills an employee with pride — a benefit for exhaustion and performance — while also increasing perceived workload and concerns about reputation maintenance — burdens for exhaustion and performance. We tested our model in a field study using a sample of public transit bus drivers in the London, England. Our results suggest that feeling trusted is a double-edged sword for job performance, bringing with it both benefits and burdens. Given that recommendations for managers generally encourage placing trust in employees, these results have important practical implications.

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Personality and gene expression: Do individual differences exist in the leukocyte transcriptome?

Kavita Vedhara et al., Psychoneuroendocrinology, February 2015, Pages 72–82

Background: The temporal and situational stability of personality has led generations of researchers to hypothesise that personality may have enduring effects on health, but the biological mechanisms of such relationships remain poorly understood. In the present study, we utilized a functional genomics approach to examine the relationship between the 5 major dimensions of personality and patterns of gene expression as predicted by 'behavioural immune response' theory. We specifically focussed on two sets of genes previously linked to stress, threat, and adverse socio-environmental conditions: pro-inflammatory genes and genes involved in Type I interferon and antibody responses.

Methods: An opportunity sample of 121 healthy individuals was recruited (86 females; mean age 24 years). Individuals completed a validated measure of personality; questions relating to current health behaviours; and provided a 5 ml sample of peripheral blood for gene expression analysis.

Results: Extraversion was associated with increased expression of pro-inflammatory genes and Conscientiousness was associated with reduced expression of pro-inflammatory genes. Both associations were independent of health behaviours, negative affect, and leukocyte subset distributions. Antiviral and antibody-related gene expression was not associated with any personality dimension.

Conclusions: The present data shed new light on the long-observed epidemiological associations between personality, physical health, and human longevity. Further research is required to elucidate the biological mechanisms underlying these associations.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Personal space

When contact changes minds: An experiment on transmission of support for gay equality

Michael LaCour & Donald Green, Science, 12 December 2014, Pages 1366-1369

Abstract:
Can a single conversation change minds on divisive social issues, such as same-sex marriage? A randomized placebo-controlled trial assessed whether gay (n = 22) or straight (n = 19) messengers were effective at encouraging voters (n = 972) to support same-sex marriage and whether attitude change persisted and spread to others in voters' social networks. The results, measured by an unrelated panel survey, show that both gay and straight canvassers produced large effects initially, but only gay canvassers' effects persisted in 3-week, 6-week, and 9-month follow-ups. We also find strong evidence of within-household transmission of opinion change, but only in the wake of conversations with gay canvassers. Contact with gay canvassers further caused substantial change in the ratings of gay men and lesbians more generally. These large, persistent, and contagious effects were confirmed by a follow-up experiment. Contact with minorities coupled with discussion of issues pertinent to them is capable of producing a cascade of opinion change.

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Fluidity in Sexual Identity, Unmeasured Heterogeneity, and the Earnings Effects of Sexual Orientation

Joseph Sabia, Industrial Relations, January 2015, Pages 33-58

Abstract:
Using data drawn from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, this study (1) examines the sensitivity of the estimated earnings penalty of sexual minority status to family-level unobserved heterogeneity, and (2) explores whether the earnings effects of sexual orientation differ by the degree of fluidity in individuals' self-reported sexual identity over time. Evidence from sibling pairs suggests that unobserved family heterogeneity is not an important source of bias in the estimated relationship between sexual orientation and young adult earnings. I find that gay males and bisexuals earn lower wages than their heterosexual counterparts, while lesbians earn wages that are not significantly different from heterosexual females. Finally, I examine the role of fluidity in sexual orientation over time and find that males who are longer-term gay identifiers earn wages that are 26.4 percent lower than their consistently heterosexual-identifying counterparts.

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Aversive discrimination in employment interviews: Reducing effects of sexual orientation bias with accountability

Joel Nadler et al., Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, December 2014, Pages 480-488

Abstract:
The effects of egalitarian hiring norms and accountability on ratings of gay and nongay job applicants were explored using theories of aversive discrimination. Participants (n = 311) from a Midwestern university rated a video interview of a moderately performing department head job applicant (gay man or nongay man) after receiving information about the position. Participants were randomly assigned to be given additional information about job-relatedness and affirmative action procedures or not (egalitarian norms), and were then told they would or would not have to explain their ratings (accountability). Consistent with aversive discrimination theory, participants rated the gay applicant less positively than the nongay applicant irrespective of self-reported and implicit heterosexist attitudes. Bias favoring the heterosexual applicant was found in the no accountability condition but no differences were seen between the gay and nongay applicant in the accountability condition. Our study did not find support of the effect of training focusing on egalitarian norms on bias in ratings. Organizations should recognize the potential bias that targets gay applicants and consider methods to incorporate accountability in order to mitigate discriminatory hiring practices.

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Fetal exposure to androgens, as indicated by digit ratios (2D:4D), increases men's agreeableness with women

D.S. Moskowitz et al., Personality and Individual Differences, March 2015, Pages 97-101

Abstract:
The ratio of the length of the second finger, or digit, to the fourth finger (2D:4D) is influenced by fetal exposure to androgens; a smaller ratio indicates greater androgen exposure. We used event contingent recording to investigate the relation between the 2D:4D ratio and social behavior. Participants completed multiple records of their behavior in events in naturalistic settings; records included information about situational features such as the gender of the person with whom the person was interacting. Men were more agreeable towards women than men; this effect was significantly greater in those with smaller 2D:4D ratios. Men with smaller 2D:4D ratios were also less quarrelsome towards women than towards men. The 2D:4D ratio did not influence social behavior in women. The hormonal environment in which the male fetal brain develops may influence adult social behavior in specific contexts.

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Testing for Discrimination against Lesbians of Different Marital Status: A Field Experiment

Doris Weichselbaumer, Industrial Relations, January 2015, Pages 131-161

Abstract:
In this paper, I conduct a correspondence testing experiment to examine sexual orientation discrimination against lesbians in Germany. I sent applications from four fictional female characters in response to job advertisements in Munich and Berlin: a heterosexual single, a married heterosexual, a single lesbian, and a lesbian who is in a "same-sex registered partnership." While single lesbians and lesbians in a registered partnership are equally discriminated in comparison to the heterosexual women in the city of Munich, I found no discrimination based on sexual orientation in Berlin. Furthermore, for a subset of the data we can compare the effects of a randomized versus a paired testing approach, which suggests that under certain conditions, due to increased conspicuity, the paired testing approach may lead to biased results.

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A Minority Stress-Emotion Regulation Model of Sexual Compulsivity Among Highly Sexually Active Gay and Bisexual Men

John Pachankis et al., Health Psychology, forthcoming

Objective: Sexual compulsivity represents a significant public health concern among gay and bisexual men, given its co-occurrence with other mental health problems and HIV infection. The purpose of this study was to examine a model of sexual compulsivity based on minority stress theory and emotion regulation models of mental health among gay and bisexual men.

Method: Gay and bisexual men in New York City reporting at least nine past-90-day sexual partners (n = 374) completed measures of distal minority stressors (i.e., boyhood gender nonconformity and peer rejection, adulthood perceived discrimination), hypothesized proximal minority stress mediators (i.e., rejection sensitivity, internalized homonegativity), hypothesized universal mediators (i.e., emotion dysregulation, depression, and anxiety), and sexual compulsivity.

Results: The hypothesized model fit the data well (RMSEA = 0.05, CFI = 0.98, TLI = 0.95, SRMR = 0.03). Distal minority stress processes (e.g., adulthood discrimination) were generally found to confer risk for both proximal minority stressors (e.g., internalized homonegativity) and emotion dysregulation. Proximal minority stressors and emotion dysregulation, in turn, generally predicted sexual compulsivity both directly and indirectly through anxiety and depression.

Conclusions: The final model suggests that gay-specific (e.g., internalized homonegativity) and universal (e.g., emotion dysregulation) processes represent potential treatment targets to attenuate the impact of minority stress on gay and bisexual men's sexual health. Tests of interventions that address these targets to treat sexual compulsivity among gay and bisexual men represent a promising future research endeavor.

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Testing the Affiliation Hypothesis of Homoerotic Motivation in Humans: The Effects of Progesterone and Priming

Diana Fleischman, Daniel Fessler & Argine Evelyn Cholakians, Archives of Sexual Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
The frequency of homoerotic behavior among individuals who do not identify as having an exclusively homosexual sexual orientation suggests that such behavior potentially has adaptive value. Here, we define homoerotic behavior as intimate erotic contact between members of the same sex and affiliation as the motivation to make and maintain social bonds. Among both male and female nonhuman primates, affiliation is one of the main drivers of homoerotic behavior. Correspondingly, in humans, both across cultures and across historical periods, homoerotic behavior appears to play a role in promoting social bonds. However, to date, the affiliation explanation of human homoerotic behavior has not been adequately tested experimentally. We developed a measure of homoerotic motivation with a sample of 244 men and women. Next, we found that, in women (n = 92), homoerotic motivation was positively associated with progesterone, a hormone that has been shown to promote affiliative bonding. Lastly, we explored the effects of affiliative contexts on homoerotic motivation in men (n = 59), finding that men in an affiliative priming condition were more likely to endorse engaging in homoerotic behavior compared to those primed with neutral or sexual concepts, and this effect was more pronounced in men with high progesterone. These findings constitute the first experimental support for the affiliation account of the evolution of homoerotic motivation in humans.

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Labor-Market Specialization within Same-Sex and Difference-Sex Couples

Christopher Jepsen & Lisa Jepsen, Industrial Relations, January 2015, Pages 109-130

Abstract:
We use data from the 2000 decennial U.S. Census to compare differences in earnings, hours worked, and labor-force participation between members of different household types, including same-sex couples, different-sex couples, and roommates. Both same-sex and different-sex couples exhibit some degree of household specialization, whereas roommates show little or no degree of specialization. Of all household types, married couples exhibit by far the highest degree of specialization with respect to labor-market outcomes. With respect to differences in earnings and hours, gay male couples are more similar to married couples than lesbian or unmarried heterosexual couples are to married couples.

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Racial and Sexual Identities as Potential Buffers to Risky Sexual Behavior for Black Gay and Bisexual Emerging Adult Men

Ja'Nina Walker, Buffie Longmire-Avital & Sarit Golub, Health Psychology, forthcoming

Objective: Emerging adult Black gay and bisexual men represent intersections of social groups that are greatly impacted by the HIV epidemic (i.e., young, Black, gay/bisexual). Given their vulnerability to HIV, it is imperative to understand how these social identities may also promote resilience, and point to protective factors that may aid in our development of population-specific HIV prevention interventions.

Method: An online survey of the experiences of Black lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults was administered. The current study assessed the intersection of identities and sexual risk behavior for a subsample of this population; 120 Black gay and bisexual young men (Mage = 21.79, SD = 3.08).

Results: Using hierarchical linear regression, higher levels of racial centrality (degree to which being Black is central to ones identity) and racial public regard (perceptions of societal views toward Black Americans) predicted decreases in risky sexual behavior (total anal sex acts and unprotected anal sex acts).

Conclusion: Researchers and interventionist should consider the ways in which racial centrality may be a critical tool in our efforts to decrease the HIV epidemic among young Black gay and bisexual men in America.

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Unprotected Anal Intercourse With Casual Male Partners in Urban Gay, Bisexual, and Other Men Who Have Sex With Men

David Pantalone et al., American Journal of Public Health, January 2015, Pages 103-110

Objectives: We investigated trends in, and predictors of, unprotected anal intercourse (UAI) with casual male partners of gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM).

Methods: We analyzed data from cross-sectional intercept surveys conducted annually (2003-2008) at 2 large lesbian, gay, and bisexual community events in New York City. Survey data covered GBMSM's highest-risk behaviors for HIV acquisition (HIV-negative or unknown status GBMSM, any UAI) and transmission (HIV-positive GBMSM, any serodiscordant unprotected UAI).

Results: Across years, 32.3% to 51.5% of the HIV-negative or unknown status men endorsed any UAI, and 36.9% to 52.9% of the HIV-positive men endorsed serodiscordant UAI. We observed a few statistically significant fluctuations in engagement in high-risk behavior. However, these do not appear to constitute meaningful trends. Similarly, in some years, one or another demographic predictor of UAI was significant. Across years, however, no reliable pattern emerged.

Conclusions: A significant proportion of urban GBMSM engage in high-risk sex, regardless of serostatus. No consistent demographic predictors emerged, implying a need for broad-based interventions that target all GBMSM.

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The Sexual Orientation Wage Gap for Racial Minorities

Jamie Douglas & Michael Steinberger, Industrial Relations, January 2015, Pages 59-108

Abstract:
We explore the sexual orientation wage gap across four race and ethnic groups in the 2000 U.S. Census: Asian, black, Hispanic, and white. Using decomposition analysis, we explore if racial minority groups experience the same pattern of sexual orientation wage differences as their white counterparts, and how racial and sexual orientation wage differences interact over the distribution of wages. For men, we show a combined unexplained penalty greater than the sum of their individual unexplained race and sexual-orientation differentials. Racial minority lesbians, however, earn higher wages than what the sum of their racial and sexual-orientation analyses would suggest.

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2D:4D and Life Outcomes: Evidence from the Russian RLMS Survey

John Nye, Maxim Bryukhanov & Sergiy Polyachenko, George Mason University Working Paper, November 2014

Abstract:
Using a large sample drawn from families in the Moscow and Moscow region which are part of the Russian RMLS longitudinal survey we observe clear links between measured 2D:4D digit ratios and a variety of life outcome measures, even with the inclusion of multiple controls. Contributing to existing empirical findings, we found statistically significant empirical associations of 2D:4D with higher educational attainment, occupational outcomes, knowledge of foreign language, smoking, engaging in sport activities and with some aspects of respondent's self-esteem. In general, the character of detected empirical associations are different for women and men, as it was documented in our previous studies.

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Balance Without Equality: Just World Beliefs, the Gay Affluence Myth, and Support for Gay Rights

Vanessa Hettinger & Joseph Vandello, Social Justice Research, December 2014, Pages 444-463

Abstract:
The harmfulness of negative stereotypes toward gay and lesbian people has been established, but the effect of positive stereotypes has not been thoroughly examined. Gay and lesbian Americans continue to struggle against interpersonal and institutionalized discrimination, yet many people do not see them as a politically disadvantaged group, and voter support for gay rights has been inconsistent and somewhat unpredictable. Drawing on previous research regarding reactions to disadvantaged and advantaged targets, we examined the social cognitive underpinnings of support for gay rights. After accounting for general anti-gay attitudes and degree of religious affiliation, we found that global endorsement of just world beliefs negatively predicted support for gay rights, and that this effect was mediated by an inclination to perceive discrimination against gay and lesbian people as less of an issue in American society. Additionally, we found that endorsement of the 'gay affluence' stereotype also negatively predicted support of gay rights, particularly among non-student adults, and that this effect was moderated by character beliefs about gay and lesbian people pertaining to wealth-deservingness.

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How the Right Usurped the Queer Agenda: Frame Co-optation in Political Discourse

Mary Burke & Mary Bernstein, Sociological Forum, December 2014, Pages 830-850

Abstract:
This article draws on a case study of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) and queer politics in Vermont to explain the conditions under which radical discourse gains and loses a public voice. In contrast to claims that the marginalization of queer discourse is due to silencing by LGBT rights activists or to litigation strategies, we argue that variation in queer discourse over time is the result of the co-optation of queer discourse and goals by opponents. Extending the social movement literature on frame variation, we argue that opponents co-opt discourse when they adopt aspects of the content of a movement's discourse, while subverting its intent. We show that conservative LGBT rights opponents co-opted queer discourse. As a result, queer positions lost their viability as the discursive field in which those arguments were made was fundamentally altered. Because queer positions became less tenable, we see the withdrawal of queer discourse from the mainstream and alternative LGBT media. Our work both supports and builds on research on frame variation by demonstrating how discourse can change over time in response to the interplay between changing aspects of the political and cultural landscape and the discourse of opponents.

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Social Networks and Sexual Orientation Disparities in Tobacco and Alcohol Use

Mark Hatzenbuehler, Katie McLaughlin & Ziming Xuan, Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, January 2015, Pages, 117-126

Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine whether the composition of social networks contributes to sexual orientation disparities in substance use and misuse.

Method: Data were obtained from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), a nationally representative cohort study of adolescents (N = 20,745). Wave 1 collected extensive information about the social networks of participants through peer nomination inventories.

Results: Same- and both-sex-attracted youths had higher frequency/quantity of tobacco use in their peer networks than did opposite-sex-attracted youths, and both-sex-attracted youths had higher frequency/quantity of alcohol use and misuse in their peer networks than opposite-sex-attracted youths. Among same- and both-sex-attracted youths, greater frequency/quantity of tobacco use in one's social network predicted greater use of cigarettes. In addition, greater frequency/quantity of peers' drinking and drinking to intoxication predicted more alcohol use and alcohol misuse in the both-sex-attracted group. These social network factors mediated sexual orientation-related disparities in tobacco use for both- and same-sex-attracted youths. Moreover, sexual orientation disparities in alcohol misuse were mediated by social network characteristics for the same-sex and both-sex-attracted youths. Importantly, sexual minority adolescents were no more likely to have other sexual minorities in their social networks than were sexual majority youths, ruling out an alternative explanation for our results.

Conclusions: These findings highlight the importance of social networks as correlates of substance use behaviors among sexual minority youths and as potential pathways explaining sexual orientation disparities in substance use outcomes.

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Assisted Gestation and Transgender Women

Timothy Murphy, Bioethics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Developments in uterus transplant put assisted gestation within meaningful range of clinical success for women with uterine infertility who want to gestate children. Should this kind of transplantation prove routine and effective for those women, would there be any morally significant reason why men or transgender women should not be eligible for the same opportunity for gestation? Getting to the point of safe and effective uterus transplantation for those parties would require a focused line of research, over and above the study of uterus transplantation for non-transgender women. Some commentators object to the idea that the state has any duty to sponsor research of this kind. They would limit all publicly-funded fertility research to sex-typical ways of having children, which they construe as the basis of reproductive rights. This objection has no force against privately-funded research, of course, and in any case not all social expenditures are responses to 'rights' properly speaking. Another possible objection raised against gestation by transgender women is that it could alter the social meaning of sexed bodies. This line of argument fails, however, to substantiate a meaningful objection to gestation by transgender women because social meanings of sexed bodies do not remain constant and because the change in this case would not elicit social effects significant enough to justify closing off gestation to transgender women as a class.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Friday, December 26, 2014

Fiscal year

"The Federal Emergency Management Agency is spending an increasing portion of its disaster relief budget on administrative costs such as salaries for government workers and could save hundreds of millions of dollars by better controlling such expenses, federal auditors have found." [WP]

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"Texas toll roads face mounting opposition, including within the state's Republican Party, which amended its platform this year to add language hostile to toll roads. 'A large segment of our party believes in having free access to transportation,' said Steve Munisteri, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas." [WSJ]

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"Some companies have been called economic traitors for seeking to lower their tax bills by moving overseas. But life insurers are accomplishing the same goal without leaving the country, saving as much as $100 billion in federal taxes, much of it in the last several years. The insurers are taking advantage of fierce competition for their business among states, which have passed special laws that allow the companies to pull cash away from reserves they are required to keep to pay claims. The insurers use the money to pay for bonuses, shareholder dividends, acquisitions and other projects, and because of complicated accounting maneuvers, the money escapes federal taxation." [NYT]

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"Officials from more than 50 countries signed an agreement...under the auspices of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development...to collect and exchange information on taxpayers' assets and income outside their home country, including bank accounts, interest payments, bank balances, and beneficial ownership...While states supporting the initiative include Switzerland, Liechtenstein, the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands, the U.S. isn't a signatory [though the] U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or Fatca, had added momentum to the debate about automatic exchange of information in Europe" [WSJ]

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Taxing across Borders: Tracking Personal Wealth and Corporate Profits

Gabriel Zucman, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Fall 2014, Pages 121-148

Abstract:
This article attempts to estimate the magnitude of corporate tax avoidance and personal tax evasion through offshore tax havens. US corporations book 20 percent of their profits in tax havens, a tenfold increase since 1980; their effective tax rate has declined from 30 to 20 percent over the last 15 years, and about two-thirds of this decline can be attributed to increased international tax avoidance. Globally, 8 percent of the world's personal financial wealth is held offshore, costing more than $200 billion to governments every year. Despite ambitious policy initiatives, profit shifting to tax havens and offshore wealth are rising. I discuss the recent proposals made to address these issues, and I argue that the main objective should be to create a world financial registry.

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Changes in Corporate Effective Tax Rates Over the Past Twenty-Five Years

Scott Dyreng, Duke University Working Paper, November 2014

Abstract:
This paper investigates systematic changes in corporate effective tax rates over the past twenty-five years. We find that effective tax rates have decreased significantly. Contrary to conventional wisdom, we find that the decline in effective tax rates is not concentrated in multinational firms; effective tax rates have declined at approximately the same rate for both multinational and domestic firms. Moreover, we find that within multinational firms, both foreign and domestic effective rates have decreased. Finally, we find that changes in firm characteristics and declining foreign statutory tax rates explain little of the overall decrease in effective rates. The findings have broad implications for tax research, as well as for current policy debates about reforming the corporate income tax.

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How Does Tax Progressivity and Household Heterogeneity Affect Laffer Curves?

Hans Holter, Dirk Krueger & Serhiy Stepanchuk, NBER Working Paper, November 2014

Abstract:
How much additional tax revenue can the government generate by increasing labor income taxes? In this paper we provide a quantitative answer to this question, and study the importance of the progressivity of the tax schedule for the ability of the government to generate tax revenues. We develop a rich overlapping generations model featuring an explicit family structure, extensive and intensive margins of labor supply, endogenous accumulation of labor market experience as well as standard intertemporal consumption-savings choices in the presence of uninsurable idiosyncratic labor productivity risk. We calibrate the model to US macro, micro and tax data and characterize the labor income tax Laffer curve under the current choice of the progressivity of the labor income tax code as well as when varying progressivity. We find that more progressive labor income taxes significantly reduce tax revenues. For the US, converting to a flat tax code raises the peak of the Laffer curve by 6%, whereas converting to a tax system with progressivity similar to Denmark would lower the peak by 7%. We also show that, relative to a representative agent economy tax revenues are less sensitive to the progressivity of the tax code in our economy. This finding is due to the fact that labor supply of two earner households is less elastic (along the intensive margin) and the endogenous accumulation of labor market experience makes labor supply of females less elastic (around the extensive margin) to changes in tax progressivity.

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Economic Freedom and State Bond Ratings

Ariel Belasen, Rik Hafer & Shrikant Jategaonkar, Contemporary Economic Policy, forthcoming

Abstract:
Are state bond ratings, ceteris paribus, related to economic freedom? We test for the relationship between economic freedom and an aggregate index comprised of ratings by Standard & Poor, Moody's, and Fitch. We also test for a relationship between economic freedom and the ratings by these three agencies individually. With a sample covering all 50 states for the period 1995–2008, the evidence strongly indicates that state bond ratings are positively and significantly related to overall economic freedom as well as three sub-categories of economic freedom. Our results show that the quantitative impact of economic freedom on bond ratings is comparable to the effect of state real income and the unemployment rate.

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What happened to and in Detroit?

John McDonald, Urban Studies, December 2014, Pages 3309-3329

Abstract:
The paper describes the fiscal status of the city of Detroit leading up to its filing for bankruptcy on 18 July 2013. Then the economic history of metropolitan Detroit and the city of Detroit from 1950 to the present is examined in an effort to answer these questions: Why did Detroit file for bankruptcy – not some other major city? And why now and not earlier? The paper concludes that, while Detroit and several other cities in the northeastern region suffered major population and employment losses and went through a long period of urban crisis between roughly 1970 and 1990, the severity of Detroit's problems compared with other cities did not emerge fully until the most recent decade.

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Is Fiscal Stimulus a Good Idea?

Ray Fair, Business Economics, October 2014, Pages 244–252

Abstract:
The results in this paper, using a structural multicountry macroeconometric model, suggest that there is at most a small gain from fiscal stimulus in the form of increased transfer payments or increased tax deductions if the increased debt generated must eventually be paid back. The gain in output and employment on the way up is roughly offset by the loss in output and employment on the way down as the debt from the initial stimulus is paid off. This conclusion is robust to different assumptions about monetary policy. To the extent that there is a gain, the longer one waits to begin paying the debt back the better. Possible caveats regarding the model used are that (1) monetary policy is not powerful enough to keep the economy at full employment, (2) potential output is taken to be exogenous, (3) possible permanent effects on asset prices and animal spirits from a stimulus are not taken into account, and (4) the model does not have the feature that in really bad times the economy might collapse without a stimulus.

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Why Market Returns Favor Democrats in the White House

Sang Hyun (Hugh) Kim & Michael Long, Rutgers Working Paper, November 2014

Abstract:
This study explains why the equity market earns greater returns for bearing risk when a Democrat is President in the USA versus a Republican. We look at data from 1929 through 2012. The data show that the value weighted return minus the corresponding period's risk free rate is 10.83% when a Democrat is President, versus a corresponding return of -1.20% under Republican Presidents. In considering the more recent post-Kennedy time period, the excess returns are still large with 9.23% versus 0.16%. Starting with a basic valuation of a firm, we see the two basic macroeconomic arguments that affect market value between the two parties: differences in risk free interest rates and differences in economic growth. On average the Democrats follow a policy of low interest rates. The rate of return on short term T-bills averages 4.55% under the GOP and a 2.48% under Democrats. Further, the Democrats overall economic policies create a higher average real growth rate with a 4.8% average versus only 1.8% under Republican administrations. This results in higher dividend growth rates under Democrats of 2.46% versus 1.96% under the GOP administrations. These together explain the differences in equity market returns. What we cannot determine is what specific policies cause the lower risk free interest rates or the higher economic growth rates under Democrats as opposed to the Republicans.

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To Cut or Not to Cut? On the Impact of Corporate Taxes on Employment and Income

Alexander Ljungqvist & Michael Smolyansky, NBER Working Paper, December 2014

Abstract:
Do corporate tax increases destroy jobs? And do corporate tax cuts boost employment? Answering these questions has proved empirically challenging. We propose an identification strategy that exploits variation in corporate income tax rates across U.S. states. Comparing contiguous counties straddling state borders over the period 1970 to 2010, we find that increases in corporate tax rates lead to significant reductions in employment and income. We find little evidence that corporate tax cuts boost economic activity, unless implemented during recessions when they lead to significant increases in employment and income. Our spatial-discontinuity approach permits a causal interpretation of these findings by both establishing a plausible counterfactual and overcoming biases resulting from the fact that tax changes are often prompted by changes in economic conditions.

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Are State Tax Amnesty Programs Associated with Financial Reporting Irregularities?

Neal Buckwalter et al., Public Finance Review, November 2014, Pages 774-799

Abstract:
This article investigates the relation between state tax amnesties and financial reporting irregularities. State tax amnesty programs, which potentially signal a lax regulatory enforcement environment, provide a unique setting in which to examine the effects of state tax authorities on non-tax financial reporting behavior. The results suggest that firms headquartered in states offering a tax amnesty program are more likely to begin engaging in a financial reporting irregularity during the amnesty period. Furthermore, the results show that the observed increase in financial reporting irregularities occurs only during periods of repeat, not initial, amnesty programs. These findings suggest state tax amnesties have previously unexplored adverse effects on managers' behavior.

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The economic effects of financial derivatives on corporate tax avoidance

Michael Donohoe, Journal of Accounting and Economics, February 2015, Pages 1–24

Abstract:
This study estimates the corporate tax savings from financial derivatives. I document a 3.6 and 4.4 percentage point reduction in three-year current and cash effective tax rates (ETRs), respectively, after a firm initiates a derivatives program. The decline in cash ETR equates to $10.69 million in tax savings for the average firm and $4.0 billion for the entire sample of 375 new derivatives users. Of these amounts, $8.75 million and $3.3 billion, respectively, are incremental to tax savings that theory suggests are a byproduct of risk management. Collectively, these findings provide economic insight into the prevalence of derivatives-based tax avoidance.

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Say it with Candy: The Power of Framing Tax Increases as Items

Geneviève Risner & Daniel Bergan, Journal of Political Marketing, forthcoming

Abstract:
Framing tax increases as frequent purchases appears to be a popular message strategy to generate donations and elicit support for policies. We test whether this strategy is effective at obtaining support for tax increases through two survey experiments. Results demonstrate that this message strategy - framing tax increases in terms of items - is more effective than stating the increase in terms of a yearly or weekly amount. This strategy appears to be effective when the amount of a tax increase is framed as hedonic item and appears to be particularly effective as the tax amount requested increases and among those uninvolved with the issue under consideration.

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Simulating the Effects of the Tax Credit Program of the Michigan Economic Growth Authority on Job Creation and Fiscal Benefits

Timothy Bartik & George Erickcek, Economic Development Quarterly, November 2014, Pages 314-327

Abstract:
This article simulates job and fiscal impacts of the Michigan Economic Growth Authority's tax credit program for job creation, commonly called "MEGA." Under plausible assumptions about how such credits affect business location decisions, the net costs per job created of the MEGA program are simulated to be of modest size. The job creation impacts of MEGA are simulated to be considerably larger than devoting similar dollar resources to general business tax cuts. The simulation methodology developed here is applicable to incentives in other states.

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Economic Stimulus and the Tax Code: The Impact of the Gulf Opportunity Zone

James Williamson & John Pender, Public Finance Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
This article investigates the impact of geographically targeted Federal tax relief enacted after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The relief included provisions to replace lost income, mitigate uninsured losses, and stimulate business activity. Using propensity score and Mahalanobis metric (MM) matching methods, we develop difference-in-differences (DD) estimates of the impacts of these tax incentives on income and employment growth in the Gulf Opportunity Zone. Results show that per capita personal income, including earnings, increased more rapidly in counties treated with the tax provisions than in similar untreated counties, though the results only apply to counties with minimal damage. We do not find strong evidence of impacts on employment or population growth.

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Retiree health insurance for public school employees: Does it affect retirement?

Maria Fitzpatrick, Journal of Health Economics, December 2014, Pages 88–98

Abstract:
Despite the widespread provision of retiree health insurance for public sector workers, little attention has been paid to its effects on employee retirement. This is in contrast to the large literature on health-insurance-induced "job-lock" in the private sector. I use the introduction of retiree health insurance for public school employees in combination with administrative data on their retirement to identify the effects of retiree health insurance. As expected, the availability of retiree health insurance for older workers allows employees to retire earlier. These behavioral changes have budgetary implications, likely making the programs self-financing rather than costly to taxpayers.

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Buying Their Votes? A Study of Local Tax-Price Discrimination

Randall Reback, Economic Inquiry, forthcoming

Abstract:
A population's demographic composition may affect political support for various public services. This article examines whether the aging-in-place of local residents decreases financial support for public schools in the United States. I expand on previous empirical work by examining whether tax-price reductions offered to elderly homeowners moderate their effect on local school revenues. The results reveal that an aging population structure substantially decreases school revenues, unless elderly homeowners receive state-financed reductions in their local tax-prices. Sizable differences hold even when comparing school districts located near each other but on opposite sides of state borders. Given the imminent aging of the population structure in the United States and many other developed countries, governments' targeted tax reduction policies could have important effects on equilibrium school revenues.

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Perceptions of Tax Expenditures and Direct Spending: A Survey Experiment

Conor Clarke & Edward Fox, Yale Law Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper presents the results of an original survey experiment on whether the public prefers "tax expenditures" to "direct outlays" — that is, whether members of the public are more likely to support government spending that takes the form of a tax credit rather than a check or cash. Using a survey that spans a wide variety of policy areas — and with important variations in wording and information — we show that the public strongly prefers tax expenditures even when the "economic substance" of the proposed policies is identical. We also show that the public views tax expenditures as less costly than equivalent direct outlays. These results support a longstanding but largely unstudied hypothesis that tax expenditures "hide" the costs of government spending, and have implications for why tax expenditures have continued to grow in size and complexity.

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Does Credit-Card Information Reporting Improve Small-Business Tax Compliance?

Joel Slemrod et al., University of Michigan Working Paper, October 2014

Abstract:
Third-party information has greatly decreased tax underreporting, but substantial underreporting persists where third-party information is not present. We investigate the preliminary response of businesses filing a Schedule C to the introduction in 2011 of Form 1099-K, which provides the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and taxpayers with information about small businesses' sales done by payment card and other electronic means. We find evidence that taxpayers with high prior noncompliance and/or sufficient use of electronic payment methods did adjust their behavior in response to the new information returns. Theory and distributional analysis isolate a subset of taxpayers who respond to information reporting by reporting receipts equal to or slightly exceeding the amount of receipts reported on 1099-K. Information reporting made these taxpayers much more likely to file Schedule C and, conditional on filing a Schedule C, increased their reported receipts by up to 24 percent. However, firms largely offset this change with increased reported expenses (an area not subject to information reporting), so that the overall effect on reported net taxable income was significantly smaller than would otherwise be expected without the increase in expenses.

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The Effect of Supermajority Vote Requirements for Tax Increase in California: A Synthetic Control Method Approach

Soomi Lee, State Politics & Policy Quarterly, December 2014, Pages 414-436

Abstract:
My article examines whether supermajority vote requirements (SMVR) to raise taxes in California's constitution suppresses state tax burdens. SMVR is a politically popular but contentious measure that 16 states have adopted and many other states have attempted to adopt. The rationale behind the rule is to contain the growth of government by making it costly to form a winning coalition to raise taxes. Nonetheless, the current empirical literature is mixed at best and suffers from causal inference. I take a different approach from extant literature and estimate the causal effect of SMVR on tax burdens in California by using synthetic control methods. The results show that, from 1979 to 2008, SMVR reduced the state nonproperty tax burden by an average of $1.44 per $100 of personal income, which is equivalent to 21% of the total tax burden for each year. The effect of SMVR was immediate after its adoption, but has abated over time.

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Lobbying Behavior of Governmental Entities: Evidence from Public Pension Accounting Rules

Abigail Allen, Harvard Working Paper, October 2014

Abstract:
In an effort to reform public pension reporting, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) recently issued Statements 67 and 68. We examine the lobbying behavior of state governments in the development of these standards. Consistent with opportunistic motivations, we find that states' opposition to the liability increasing provisions contained in these standards is increasing in the severity of pension plan underfunding, state budget deficits, and the use of aggressive pension assumptions. We also find that opposing states face greater pressure from unions and stricter balanced budget constraints. We contrast these findings to the lobbying behavior of the states' financial statement users: public employees, credit analysts, and the broader citizenry. We find evidence user support for liability increasing provisions is amplified in states with poorly funded plans and large budget deficits. We also find that support varies by user type: public employees overwhelmingly oppose the standards, relative to credit analysts and citizens but the difference is moderated in states with constitutionally guaranteed benefits. This finding is consistent with the expectation that pension accounting reform will motivate cuts in pension benefits as opposed to increased levels of funding from the governments.

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Optimal Fiscal Limits

Stephen Coate, NBER Working Paper, October 2014

Abstract:
This paper studies the optimal design of fiscal limits in the context of a simple political economy model. The model features a single politician and a representative voter. The politician is responsible for choosing the level of public spending for the voter but may be biased in favor of spending. The voter sets a spending limit and requires that the politician have voter approval to exceed it. This limit must be set before the voter's preferences for public spending are fully known. The paper first solves for the optimal limit and explains how it depends upon the degree of politician bias and the nature of the uncertainty concerning the voter's preferred spending level. A dynamic version of the model is then analyzed and policies which limit the rate of growth of spending are shown to dominate those that cap spending to be below some fixed fraction of community income.

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Privatization, Business Attraction, and Social Services across the United States: Local Governments' Use of Market-Oriented, Neoliberal Policies in the Post-2000 Period

Linda Lobao, Lazarus Adua & Gregory Hooks, Social Problems, November 2014, Pages 644-672

Abstract:
Privatization, business attraction incentives, and limited social service provision are market-oriented policies that broadly concern social scientists. These policies are conventionally assumed to be widely implemented across the United States, a world model of neoliberal development. This study takes a new look at these policies, providing a first view of how they unfold across the nation at a geographic scale that drills down to the local state. We document the extent to which localities privatized their public services, used business attraction, and limited social service delivery in the last decade. Extending national-level theories of the welfare state, we focus on two sets of factors to explain where these policies are most likely to be utilized. The first, derived from the class-politics approach, emphasizes class interests such as business and unions and political-ideological context, and anticipates that these policies are utilized most in Republican leaning, pro-business, and distressed contexts. The second, derived from the political-institutional approach, emphasizes state capacity and path dependency as determinants. The analyses are based on over 1,700 localities, the majority of county governments, using unique policy data. Class-politics variables have modest relationship to neoliberal policies and show that business sector influence and public sector unions matter. The findings strongly support the importance of state capacity and path dependency. Overall our study challenges assumptions that acquiescence to neoliberal policies is widespread. Rather, we find evidence of resilience to these policies among communities across the United States.

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IRS Attention

Zahn Bozanic et al., Ohio State University Working Paper, November 2014

Abstract:
In its enforcement role, the IRS has access to substantial private information, but some have argued that it also accesses complementary public information from firms' financial statements. We employ a novel dataset that records the IRS's access to 10-Ks hosted on EDGAR, which we term IRS attention. We use the data to examine how the IRS monitors corporations, which we predict will be related to firm characteristics, tax avoidance characteristics, and tax-related disclosures in the 10-K, all of which plausibly complement its substantial private information. We find evidence that IRS attention is primarily a firm-level construct, as firm fixed effects and firm characteristics drive most of the variation in IRS attention. IRS attention is also associated with various measures of tax avoidance, such as the CASH ETR, UTB, and the number of disclosed subsidiaries in tax havens. Moreover, IRS attention has surged since the FASB required increased disclosure of tax contingencies under FIN 48, consistent with them serving as a "roadmap to tax avoidance," as pundits have conjectured. We next examine firms' responses to anticipated IRS examination of financial accounting disclosures. We find that after the implementation of Schedule UTP and Schedule M-3, which both increased the level of private tax reporting to the IRS, the amount of public disclosure in the tax footnote also increased, consistent with the perception of reduced proprietary costs of disclosure in the tax footnote among public firms. Overall, this study shows evidence of substantial IRS attention to financial statements and of an important interplay between IRS-required private disclosures and firms' public disclosure patterns.

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Do Powerful Politicians Really Cause Corporate Downsizing?

Jason Snyder & Ivo Welch, University of California Working Paper, September 2014

Abstract:
Cohen, Coval and Malloy (2011) suggested that increased government spending crowded out private corporate investment by publicly-traded corporations, as identified by changes in Congressional chairmanships. Our paper shows that this was incorrect. The magnitude of their reported crowding-out is implausibly large. Instead, their inference was due to an omitted variable. The Chairmanship of Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen from 1987 to 1992 followed a large decline in oil prices from 1980 to 1986. Similar investment reductions also occurred contemporaneously in oil firms and oil states beyond Texas. Our paper also discusses other issues, such as standard-error clustering, Senate coding choices, and temporal alignment diagnostics, which carry even more importance in their other regressions. The answer to the question in the title is that there is no evidence that powerful politicians caused corporate downsizing.

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Reevaluating the Pursuit of Defense Investment

Marc Doussard, Economic Development Quarterly, November 2014, Pages 339-350

Abstract:
In 2015, the Pentagon will likely announce a round of military base closures and expansions with the power to remake regional economies throughout the United States. Current estimates of the impact of base realignments implicitly assume that military bases have similar economic impacts. But the military is a diverse institution engaged in thousands of distinct activities, each with their own benefits to local economies. Using detailed soldier, civilian, and contracting data from two army bases, this article compares the economic impact of the main activities in which military bases engage. Because military bases source their inputs from national defense procurement networks, the economic benefits of soldier-based activities are smaller than most economic development alternatives. This finding suggests that regions facing defense contracting cuts are significantly more economically vulnerable than regions facing base closures.

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Nudges and Learning: Evidence from Informational Interventions for Low-Income Taxpayers

Dayanand Manoli & Nicholas Turner, NBER Working Paper, November 2014

Abstract:
Do informational interventions create one-time nudges or permanent changes in behavior? We study how taxpayers respond to informational interventions that alert them of their eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit using population-level administrative tax data. The empirical analysis is based on a natural experiment in 2005, a randomized experiment in 2009, and quasi-random audits between 2006 and 2009. The evidence from each of these settings indicates that the informational interventions cause economically significant increases in EITC take-up in the short-term, but there are little to no long-term increases in EITC take-up.

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Reference-Dependent Preferences, Team Relocations, and Major League Expansion

Brad Humphreys & Li Zhou, Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, January 2015, Pages 10–25

Abstract:
Professional sports teams receive large subsidies, some in excess of $500 million, from local governments for the construction of new facilities. These subsidies cannot be explained by tangible economic benefits, and estimates of the value of intangible benefits also fall short of typical subsidies. In this paper, we incorporate fans' reference-dependent preferences into a model of the bargaining between local governments and teams. The model predicts that teams use relocation threats to exploit fans' utility loss from team departures, a negative deviation from the status quo, to extract large subsidies from local governments. Fans' loss aversion provides an explanation of the current team distribution, and observed team relocation and league expansion decisions in North America. The model also highlights the importance of anti-trust exemptions of the leagues in creating credible relocation threats for existing teams.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Born out

"Many demographers have forecast a recovery in births as the economy improves and more young people start having families. But while America’s 'baby bust' at least seems to be leveling off, the now-five-year-old economic recovery has yet to translate into an upturn in births...Meanwhile, the nation’s 'total fertility rate' — a statistical measure of how many children each woman is likely to have over her lifetime — also has dropped, to 1.86 from 1.88. That is below the 2.1 children needed to keep the population stable...While the nation’s overall fertility rate fell 1% last year, the rate rose slightly for non-Hispanic white women. Women in their 30s, who tend to be more financially stable, also saw their fertility rates rise." [WSJ]

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"Not as many married couples as expected are taking advantage of a loosening in China’s one-child policy that allows them to have two children if one spouse is an only child." [WSJ]

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Surgical Sterilization, Regret, and Race: Contemporary Patterns

Karina Shreffler et al., Social Science Research, March 2015, Pages 31–45

Abstract:
Surgical sterilization is a relatively permanent form of contraception that has been disproportionately used by Black, Hispanic, and Native American women in the United States in the past. We use a nationally representative sample of 4,609 women ages 25 to 45 to determine whether sterilization continues to be more common and consequential by race for reproductive-age women. Results indicate that Native American and Black women are more likely to be sterilized than non-Hispanic White women, and Hispanic and Native American women are more likely than non-Hispanic White women to report that their sterilization surgeries prevent them from conceiving children they want. Reasons for sterilization differ significantly by race. These findings suggest that stratified reproduction has not ended in the United States and that the patterns and consequences of sterilization continue to vary by race.

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Association Between the New Hampshire Parental Notification Law and Minors Undergoing Abortions in Northern New England

Lauren MacAfee, Jennifer Castle & Regan Theiler, Obstetrics & Gynecology, January 2015, Pages 170–174

Objective: To assess the association of the 2012 New Hampshire parental notification law with patterns of abortion in northern New England minors.

Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study examining all minors undergoing abortions at Planned Parenthood clinics in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine from 2011 to 2012.

Results: The number of abortions among minors in New Hampshire decreased from 95 to 50 (47%, 95% confidence interval [CI] 37.03–57.88; P=.015) from 2011 to 2012. Minors residing in Massachusetts, which has a parental consent law, accounted for 62% of this change. Abortions among New Hampshire minors decreased by 19% (from 57 to 46, 95% CI 10.05–31.91; P=.707), and minors did not seek more abortions at Planned Parenthood clinics in Vermont or Maine. The average age, gestational age, and number of second-trimester cases did not change. Parental awareness of the abortion increased from 2011 to 2012 in New Hampshire (54%, 95% CI 44.21–63.96 to 92%, 95% CI 80.65–97.36; P<.001); however, there was no difference in the overall rate of adult involvement during the study period. Four (8%) minors in New Hampshire used the judicial bypass option.

Conclusion: Implementation of the New Hampshire parental notification law correlated with a decrease in minors undergoing abortions at Planned Parenthood clinics in the state, largely as a result of a decrease in the number of minors coming from Massachusetts. There was an increase in parental involvement but no change in overall adult involvement, and use of the judicial bypass option or minors crossing state lines was uncommon.

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Disgust in pregnancy and fetus sex — Longitudinal study

Agnieszka Zelazniewicz & Boguslaw Pawlowski, Physiology & Behavior, February 2015, Pages 177–181

Abstract:
Disgust, an emotion triggering behavioral avoidance of pathogens, serves as a first line of defense against infections. Since behavior related to disgust involves some cost, the aversive reaction should be adjusted to the level of an individual's immunocompetence, and raise only when immunological function is lower (e.g. during pregnancy). We studied changes in disgust sensitivity in pregnant women, and tested if disgust sensitivity is related to a fetus's sex. 92 women participated in a three-stage research, answering the Disgust Scale-Revised questionnaire at each trimester of pregnancy. The result showed that total disgust and disgust sensitivity in the Core Domain were the highest in the first trimester (when maternal immunosuppression is also the highest), and decreased during pregnancy in women bearing daughters. Women bearing sons had relatively high disgust sensitivity persisting in the first and in the second trimester. The elevation in disgust sensitivity during the second trimester for mothers bearing male fetus can be explained by the necessity to protect for a longer time, a more ecologically sensitive fetus, and also herself when bearing a more energetically costly sex. The proximate mechanism may involve the differences in maternal testosterone and cortisol concentrations in the second trimester of pregnancy.

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Personality Traits Increasingly Important for Male Fertility: Evidence from Norway

Vegard Skirbekk & Morten Blekesaune, European Journal of Personality, November/December 2014, Pages 521–529

Abstract:
We study the relationship between personality traits and fertility using a survey of Norwegian men and women born from 1927 to 1968 (N = 7017 individuals). We found that personality relates to men's and women's fertility differently; conscientiousness decreases female fertility, openness decreases male fertility and extraversion raises the fertility of both sexes. Neuroticism depresses fertility for men, but only for those born after 1956. The lower male fertility in younger cohorts high in neuroticism cannot be explained by partnership status, income or education. The proportion of childless men (at age 40 years) has increased rapidly for Norwegian male cohorts from 1940 to 1970 (from about 15 to 25 per cent). For women, it has only increased marginally (from 10 to 13 per cent). Our findings suggest that this could be partly explained by the increasing importance of personality characteristics for men's probability of becoming fathers. Men that have certain personality traits may increasingly be avoiding the long-term commitment of having children, or their female partners are shunning entering this type of commitment with them. Childbearing in contemporary richer countries may be less likely to be influenced by economic necessities and more by individual partner characteristics, such as personality.

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Culled males, infant mortality and reproductive success in a pre-industrial Finnish population

Tim Bruckner et al., Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 22 January 2015

Abstract:
Theoretical and empirical literature asserts that the sex ratio (i.e. M/F) at birth gauges the strength of selection in utero and cohort quality of males that survive to birth. We report the first individual-level test in humans, using detailed life-history data, of the ‘culled cohort’ hypothesis that males born to low annual sex ratio cohorts show lower than expected infant mortality and greater than expected lifetime reproductive success. We applied time-series and structural equation methods to a unique multigenerational dataset of a natural fertility population in nineteenth century Finland. We find that, consistent with culled cohorts, a 1 s.d. decline in the annual cohort sex ratio precedes an 8% decrease in the risk of male infant mortality. Males born to lower cohort sex ratios also successfully raised 4% more offspring to reproductive age than did males born to higher cohort sex ratios. The offspring result, however, falls just outside conventional levels of statistical significance. In historical Finland, the cohort sex ratio gauges selection against males in utero and predicts male infant mortality. The reproductive success findings, however, provide weak support for an evolutionarily adaptive explanation of male culling in utero.

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Easterlin Revisited: Relative Income and the Baby Boom

Matthew Hill, Explorations in Economic History, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper reexamines the first viable and a still leading explanation for mid-twentieth century baby booms: Richard Easterlin's relative income hypothesis. He suggested that when incomes are higher than material aspirations (formed in childhood), birth rates would rise. This paper uses microeconomic data to formulate a measure of an individual's relative income. The use of microeconomic data allows the researcher to control for both state fixed effects and cohort fixed effects, both have been absent in previous examinations of Easterlin's hypothesis. The results of the empirical analysis are consistent with Easterlin's assertion that relative income influenced fertility decisions, although the effect operates only through childhood income. When the estimated effects are contextualized, they explain 12 percent of the U.S. baby boom.

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Terrorism and fertility: Evidence for a causal influence of terrorism on fertility

Claude Berrebi & Jordan Ostwald, Oxford Economic Papers, January 2015, Pages 63-82

Abstract:
Using a panel data set of 170 countries and terrorism data from 1970 to 2007, we find that terrorist attacks decrease fertility as measured by both total fertility rates and crude birth rates. Furthermore, by using a novel instrumental variable approach, we identify a causal link and address endogeneity concerns related to the possibility of stress, caused by rising birth rates or transitioning demographics, affecting terrorism. We find that on average, terrorist attacks decrease fertility, reducing both the expected number of children a woman has over her lifetime and the number of live births occurring during each year. The results are statistically significant and robust across a multitude of model specifications, varying measures of fertility, and differing measures of terrorism.

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Fertility and the Price of Children: Evidence from Slavery and Slave Emancipation

Marianne Wanamaker, Journal of Economic History, December 2014, Pages 1045-1071

Abstract:
Theories of the demographic transition often center on the rising price of children. A model of fertility derived from household production in the antebellum United States contains both own children and slaves as inputs. Changes in slaveholdings beget changes in the marginal product of the slaveowners’ own children and, hence, their price. I use panel data on slaveowning households between 1850 and 1870 to measure the slaveowners’ own fertility responses to exogenous changes in slaveholdings. Results indicate a strong, negative correlation between own child prices and fertility.

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Foetus or child? Abortion discourse and attributions of humanness

Małgorzata Mikołajczak & Michał Bilewicz, British Journal of Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Due to moral, religious, and cultural sensibilities, the topic of abortion still gives rise to controversy. The ongoing public debate has become visibly polarized with the usage of the pro-life versus pro-choice rhetoric. The aim of the current research was to investigate whether the language used in abortion discourse can affect people's attitudes by changing their attributions of humanity to unborn. Across three experimental studies we showed that participants who read about a ‘foetus’, compared to a ‘child’ declared higher support for elective abortion (Study 1; N = 108), this effect can be explained by greater humanness, as reflected in human nature traits, attributed to the child (vs. the foetus; Study 2; N = 121). The effect is mediated uniquely by attribution of human nature, but not by human uniqueness traits (Study 3; N = 120). These findings serve as a starting point for discussion of the role of language in shaping attitudes on abortion and other morally ambiguous issues.

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Incidence of Emergency Department Visits and Complications After Abortion

Ushma Upadhyay et al.
Obstetrics & Gynecology, January 2015, Pages 175–183

Objective: To conduct a retrospective observational cohort study to estimate the abortion complication rate, including those diagnosed or treated at emergency departments (EDs).

Methods: Using 2009-2010 abortion data among women covered by the fee-for-service California Medicaid program and all subsequent health care for 6 weeks after having an abortion, we analyzed reasons for ED visits and estimated the abortion-related complication rate and the adjusted relative risk. Complications were defined as receiving an abortion-related diagnosis or treatment at any source of care within 6 weeks after an abortion. Major complications were defined as requiring hospital admission, surgery, or blood transfusion.

Results: A total of 54,911 abortions among 50,273 fee-for-service Medi-Cal beneficiaries were identified. Among all abortions, 1 of 16 (6.4%, n=3,531) was followed by an ED visit within 6 weeks but only 1 of 115 (0.87%, n=478) resulted in an ED visit for an abortion-related complication. Approximately 1 of 5,491 (0.03%, n=15) involved ambulance transfers to EDs on the day of the abortion. The major complication rate was 0.23% (n=126, 1/436): 0.31% (n=35) for medication abortion, 0.16% (n=57) for first-trimester aspiration abortion, and 0.41% (n=34) for second-trimester or later procedures. The total abortion-related complication rate including all sources of care including EDs and the original abortion facility was 2.1% (n=1,156): 5.2% (n=588) for medication abortion, 1.3% (n=438) for first-trimester aspiration abortion, and 1.5% (n=130) for second-trimester or later procedures.

Conclusion: Abortion complication rates are comparable to previously published rates even when ED visits are included and there is no loss to follow-up.

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Public Opinion About Stem Cell Research, 2002 to 2010

Matthew Nisbet & Amy Becker, Public Opinion Quarterly, Winter 2014, Pages 1003-1022

Abstract:
Analyzing available polling questions administered between 2002 and 2010, we review trends in public opinion about stem cell research. We specifically assess questions measuring public attention, knowledge, trust, and policy preferences. Across years, despite their consistently low levels of scientific knowledge and understanding, an increasing proportion of Americans supported government funding for embryonic stem cell research and viewed such research as morally acceptable. Variations related to question-wording effects, however, indicate that Americans remain relatively ambivalent about the moral trade-offs involved in research, suggesting that public opinion could change in relation to focusing events and political conditions.

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Valuing Stillbirths

John Phillips & Joseph Millum, Bioethics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Estimates of the burden of disease assess the mortality and morbidity that affect a population by producing summary measures of health such as quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) and disability-adjusted life years (DALYs). These measures typically do not include stillbirths (fetal deaths occurring during the later stages of pregnancy or during labor) among the negative health outcomes they count. Priority-setting decisions that rely on these measures are therefore likely to place little value on preventing the more than three million stillbirths that occur annually worldwide. In contrast, neonatal deaths, which occur in comparable numbers, have a substantial impact on burden of disease estimates and are commonly seen as a pressing health concern. In this article we argue in favor of incorporating unintended fetal deaths that occur late in pregnancy into estimates of the burden of disease. Our argument is based on the similarity between late-term fetuses and newborn infants and the assumption that protecting newborns is important. We respond to four objections to counting stillbirths: (1) that fetuses are not yet part of the population and so their deaths should not be included in measures of population health; (2) that valuing the prevention of stillbirths will undermine women's reproductive rights; (3) that including stillbirths implies that miscarriages (fetal deaths early in pregnancy) should also be included; and (4) that birth itself is in fact ethically significant. We conclude that our proposal is ethically preferable to current practice and, if adopted, is likely to lead to improved decisions about health spending.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Those less fortunate

How Effective Is the Minimum Wage at Supporting the Poor?

Thomas MaCurdy, Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming

Abstract:
The efficacy of minimum wage policies as an antipoverty initiative depends on which families benefit from the increased earnings attributable to minimum wages and which families pay for these higher earnings. Proponents of these policies contend that employment impacts experienced by low-wage workers are negligible and, therefore, these workers do not pay. Instead proponents typically suggest that consumers pay for the higher labor costs through imperceptible increases in the prices of goods and services produced by low-wage labor. Adopting this "best-case" scenario from minimum-wage advocates, this study projects the consequences of the increase in the national minimum wage instituted in 1996 on the redistribution of resources among rich and poor families. Under this scenario, the minimum wage increase acts like a value-added or sales tax in its effect on consumer prices, a tax that is even more regressive than a typical state sales tax. With the proceeds of this national value-added tax collected to fund benefits, the 1996 increase in the minimum wage distributed the bulk of these benefits to one in four families nearly evenly across the income distribution. Far more poor families suffered reductions in resources than those who gained. As many rich families gained as poor families. These income transfer properties of the minimum wage document its considerable inefficiency as an antipoverty policy.

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Poverty and Aspirations Failure

Patricio Dalton, Sayantan Ghosal & Anandi Mani, Economic Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
We develop a theoretical framework to study the psychology of poverty and 'aspirations failure', defined as the failure to aspire to one's own potential. In our framework, rich and the poor persons share the same preferences and same behavioural bias in setting aspirations. We show that poverty can exacerbate the effects of this behavioural bias leading to aspirations failure and hence, a behavioural poverty trap. Aspirations failure is a consequence of poverty, rather than a cause. We specify the conditions under which raising aspirations alone is sufficient to help escape from a poverty trap, even without relaxing material constraints.

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The Receipt of Subsidized Housing across Generations

Yana Kucheva, Population Research and Policy Review, December 2014, Pages 841-871

Abstract:
In this paper, I ask whether children who grow up in subsidized housing return to the program as adults. I use the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) and Inverse Probability of Treatment Weighting (IPTW) to compare children who grew up in subsidized housing to those who did not but lived in households eligible to receive the subsidy. I find that children who grew up in subsidized housing have small albeit statistically significant probabilities of returning to subsidized housing as adults.

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Critical Periods during Childhood and Adolescence

Gerard van den Berg et al., Journal of the European Economic Association, December 2014, Pages 1521-1557

Abstract:
We identify the ages that constitute sensitive (or critical) periods in children's development towards their adult health status, skills, and human capital. For this, we use data on families migrating into Sweden from countries that are poorer, with less healthy conditions. Late-life health is proxied by adult height and other adult outcomes. The relation between siblings' ages at migration and their adult outcomes allows us to estimate the causal effect of conditions at specific childhood ages. We effectively exploit that, for siblings, the migration occurs simultaneously in calendar time but at different developmental stages (ages). We find evidence that the period just before the puberty growth spurt constitutes a critical period for adult height and we find related critical periods for adult cognition, mental health, and education.

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Unemployment insurance effects on child academic outcomes: Results from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth

Sharon Kukla-Acevedo & Colleen Heflin, Children and Youth Services Review, December 2014, Pages 246-252

Abstract:
Despite evidence linking parental unemployment spells and negative child outcomes, there is very little research that explores how participation in the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Program could buffer these effects. Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 79 (NLSY79) and Children of the NLSY79 data, we estimate a series of fixed effects and instrumental variables models to estimate the relationship between UI participation and the Peabody Individual Achievement Test (math and reading comprehension). Once we control for the non-random selection process into UI participation, our results suggest a positive relationship between UI participation and PIAT math scores. None of the models suggests a negative influence of UI participation on child outcomes.

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Early Childhood WIC Participation, Cognitive Development and Academic Achievement

Margot Jackson, Social Science & Medicine, forthcoming

Abstract:
For the 22% of American children who live below the federal poverty line, and the additional 23% who live below twice that level, nutritional policy is part of the safety net against hunger and its negative effects on children's development. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides steadily available food from the food groups essential for physical and cognitive development. The effects of WIC on dietary quality among participating women and children are strong and positive. Furthermore, there is a strong influence of nutrition on cognitive development and socioeconomic inequality. Yet, research on the non-health effects of U.S. child nutritional policy is scarce, despite the ultimate goal of health policies directed at children - to enable productive functioning across multiple social institutions over the life course. Using two nationally representative, longitudinal surveys of children - the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B) and the Child Development Supplement (CDS) of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics - I examine how prenatal and early childhood exposure to WIC is associated in the short-term with cognitive development, and in the longer-term with reading and math learning. Results show that early WIC participation is associated with both cognitive and academic benefits. These findings suggest that WIC meaningfully contributes to children's educational prospects.

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The Prevalence and Economic Value of Doubling Up

Natasha Pilkauskas, Irwin Garfinkel & Sara McLanahan, Demography, October 2014, Pages 1667-1676

Abstract:
"Doubling up" (living with relatives or nonkin) is a common source of support for low-income families, yet no study to date has estimated its economic value relative to other types of public and private support. Using longitudinal data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, we examine the prevalence and economic value of doubling up among families with young children living in large American cities. We find that doubling up is a very important part of the private safety net in the first few years of a child's life, with nearly 50 % of mothers reporting at least one instance of doubling up by the time their child is 9 years old. The estimated rental savings from doubling up is significant and comparable in magnitude to other public and private transfers.

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Neighborhood Poverty and Allostatic Load in African American Youth

Gene Brody et al., Pediatrics, November 2014, Pages e1362-e1368

Objective: This study was designed to determine whether living in a neighborhood in which poverty levels increase across adolescence is associated with heightened levels of allostatic load (AL), a biological composite reflecting cardiometabolic risk. The researchers also sought to determine whether receipt of emotional support could ameliorate the effects of increases in neighborhood poverty on AL.

Methods: Neighborhood concentrations of poverty were obtained from the Census Bureau for 420 African American youth living in rural Georgia when they were 11 and 19 years of age. AL was measured at age 19 by using established protocols for children and adolescents. When youth were 18, caregivers reported parental emotional support and youth assessed receipt of peer and mentor emotional support. Covariates included family poverty status at ages 11 and 19, family financial stress, parental employment status, youth stress, and youths' unhealthful behaviors.

Results: Youth who lived in neighborhoods in which poverty levels increased from ages 11 to 19 evinced the highest levels of AL even after accounting for the individual-level covariates. The association of increasing neighborhood poverty across adolescence with AL was not significant for youth who received high emotional support.

Conclusions: This study is the first to show an association between AL and residence in a neighborhood that increases in poverty. It also highlights the benefits of supportive relationships in ameliorating this association.

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The Economic Impact of Hurricane Katrina on its Victims: Evidence from Individual Tax Returns

Tatyana Deryugina, Laura Kawano & Steven Levitt, NBER Working Paper, November 2014

Abstract:
Hurricane Katrina destroyed more than 200,000 homes and led to massive economic and physical dislocation. Using a panel of tax return data, we provide one of the first comprehensive analyses of the hurricane's long-term economic impact on its victims. Katrina had large and persistent impacts on where people live; small and mostly transitory impacts on wage income, employment, total income, and marriage; and no impact on divorce or fertility. Within just a few years, Katrina victims' incomes fully recover and even surpass that of controls from similar cities that were unaffected by the storm. The strong economic performance of Katrina victims is particularly remarkable given that the hurricane struck with essentially no warning. Our results suggest that, at least in this particular disaster, aid to cover destroyed assets and short-run income declines was sufficient to make victims financially whole. Our results provide some optimism regarding the costs of climate-change driven dislocation, especially when adverse events can be anticipated well in advance.

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Expenditure Response to Increases in In-Kind Transfers: Evidence from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Timothy Beatty & Charlotte Tuttle, American Journal of Agricultural Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Economic theory predicts that households who receive less in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits than they spend on food will treat SNAP benefits as if they were cash. However, empirical tests of these predictions draw different conclusions. In this study, we reexamine this question using recent increases in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, the largest of which was due to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. We find that increases in benefits cause households to increase their food budget share by more than would be predicted by theory. Results are robust to a host of specification tests.

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Financial strain, inflammatory factors, and haemoglobin A1c levels in African American women

Carolyn Cutrona et al., British Journal of Health Psychology, forthcoming

Objective: Type 2 diabetes disproportionately affects African American women, a population exposed to high levels of stress, including financial strain (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 2011, http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/pdf/ndfs_2011.pdf). We tested a mediational model in which chronic financial strain among African American women contributes to elevated serum inflammation markers, which, in turn, lead to increased haemoglobin A1C (HbA1c) levels and risk for type 2 diabetes.

Methods: We assessed level of financial strain four times over a 10-year period and tested its effect on two serum inflammation markers, C-reactive protein (CRP) and soluble interleukin-6 receptor (sIL-6R) in year 11 of the study. We tested the inflammation markers as mediators in the association between chronic financial strain and HbA1c, an index of average blood glucose level over several months.

Design: Data were from 312 non-diabetic African American women from the Family and Community Health Study (FACHS; Cutrona et al., 2000, J. Pers. Soc. Psychol., 79, 1088).

Results: Chronic financial strain predicted circulating sIL-6R after controlling for age, BMI, health behaviours, and physical health measures. In turn, sIL-6R significantly predicted HbA1c levels. The path between chronic financial strain and HbA1c was significantly mediated by sIL-6R. Contrary to prediction, CRP was not predicted by chronic financial strain.

Conclusions: Results support the role of inflammatory factors in mediating the effects of psychosocial stressors on risk for type 2 diabetes. Findings have implications for interventions that boost economic security and foster effective coping as well as medical interventions that reduce serum inflammation to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.

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Role of health in predicting moves to poor neighborhoods among Hurricane Katrina survivors

Mariana Arcaya et al., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 18 November 2014, Pages 16246-16253

Abstract:
In contrast to a large literature investigating neighborhood effects on health, few studies have examined health as a determinant of neighborhood attainment. However, the sorting of individuals into neighborhoods by health status is a substantively important process for multiple policy sectors. We use prospectively collected data on 569 poor, predominantly African American Hurricane Katrina survivors to examine the extent to which health problems predicted subsequent neighborhood poverty. Our outcome of interest was participants' 2009-2010 census tract poverty rate. Participants were coded as having a health problem at baseline (2003-2004) if they self-reported a diagnosis of asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart problems, or any other physical health problems not listed, or complained of back pain, migraines, or digestive problems at baseline. Although health problems were not associated with neighborhood poverty at baseline, those with baseline health problems ended up living in higher poverty areas by 2009-2010. Differences persisted after adjustment for personal characteristics, baseline neighborhood poverty, hurricane exposure, and residence in the New Orleans metropolitan area, with baseline health problems predicting a 3.4 percentage point higher neighborhood poverty rate (95% confidence interval: 1.41, 5.47). Results suggest that better health was protective against later neighborhood deprivation in a highly mobile, socially vulnerable population. Researchers should consider reciprocal associations between health and neighborhoods when estimating and interpreting neighborhood effects on health. Understanding whether and how poor health impedes poverty deconcentration efforts may help inform programs and policies designed to help low-income families move to - and stay in - higher opportunity neighborhoods.

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The Home and the 'Hood: Associations Between Housing and Neighborhood Contexts and Adolescent Functioning

Margaret Elliott et al., Journal of Research on Adolescence, forthcoming

Abstract:
Adolescents from low-income families face various opportunities and constraints as they develop, with possible ramifications for their well-being. Two contexts of particular importance are the home and the neighborhood. Using adolescent data from the first two waves of the Three-City Study (N = 1,169), this study explored associations among housing problems and neighborhood disorder with adolescents' socioemotional problems, and how these associations varied by parental monitoring and gender. Results of hierarchical linear models suggest that poor-quality housing was most predictive of the functioning of girls and of adolescents with restrictive curfews, whereas neighborhood disorder was a stronger predictor for boys. Implications for future research on associations between housing and neighborhood contexts and adolescent development are discussed.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

To your health

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated last year that two million people are sickened by resistant bacteria every year in the United States and 23,000 die as a result. But efforts to crack down on inappropriate antibiotic use in the United States and much of Europe have been successful, with prescriptions dropping from 2000 to 2010. That drop was more than offset, however, by growing use in the developing world. Global sales of antibiotics for human consumption rose 36 percent from 2000 to 2010, with Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa accounting for 76 percent of that increase." [NYT]

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The impact of early occupational choice on health behaviors

Inas Kelly et al., Review of Economics of the Household, December 2014, Pages 737-770

Abstract:
Occupational choice is a significant input into workers’ health investments, operating in a manner that can be either health-promoting or health-depreciating. Recent studies have highlighted the potential importance of initial occupational choice on subsequent outcomes pertaining to morbidity. This study is the first to assess the existence and strength of a causal relationship between initial occupational choice at labor entry and subsequent health behaviors and habits. We utilize the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to analyze the effect of first occupation, as identified by industry category and blue collar work, on subsequent health outcomes relating to obesity, alcohol misuse, smoking, and physical activity in 2005. Our findings suggest blue collar work early in life is associated with increased probabilities of obesity, at-risk alcohol consumption, and smoking, and increased physical activity later in life, although effects may be masked by unobserved heterogeneity. The weight of the evidence bearing from various methodologies, which account for non-random unobserved selection, indicates that at least part of this effect is consistent with a causal interpretation. These estimates also underscore the potential durable impact of early labor market experiences on later health.

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Does Women's Education Affect Breast Cancer Risk and Survival? Evidence from a Population Based Social Experiment in Education

Mårten Palme & Emilia Simeonova, Journal of Health Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Breast cancer is a notable exception to the well documented positive education gradient in health. A number of studies have found that highly educated women are more likely to be diagnosed with the disease. Breast cancer is therefore often labeled as a “welfare disease”. However, it has not been established whether the strong positive correlation holds up when education is exogenously determined. We estimate the causal effect of education on the probability of being diagnosed with breast cancer by exploiting an education reform that extended compulsory schooling and was implemented as a social experiment. We find that the incidence of breast cancer increased for those exposed to the reform.

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Why Lifespans Are More Variable Among Blacks Than Among Whites in the United States

Glenn Firebaugh et al., Demography, December 2014, Pages 2025-2045

Abstract:
Lifespans are both shorter and more variable for blacks than for whites in the United States. Because their lifespans are more variable, there is greater inequality in length of life — and thus greater uncertainty about the future — among blacks. This study is the first to decompose the black-white difference in lifespan variability in America. Are lifespans more variable for blacks because they are more likely to die of causes that disproportionately strike the young and middle-aged, or because age at death varies more for blacks than for whites among those who succumb to the same cause? We find that it is primarily the latter. For almost all causes of death, age at death is more variable for blacks than it is for whites, especially among women. Although some youthful causes of death, such as homicide and HIV/AIDS, contribute to the black-white disparity in variance, those contributions are largely offset by the higher rates of suicide and drug poisoning deaths for whites. As a result, differences in the causes of death for blacks and whites account, on net, for only about one-eighth of the difference in lifespan variance.

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Socioeconomic Status, Race, and Mortality: A Prospective Cohort Study

Lisa Signorello et al., American Journal of Public Health, December 2014, Pages e98-e107

Objectives: We evaluated the independent and joint effects of race, individual socioeconomic status (SES), and neighborhood SES on mortality risk.

Methods: We conducted a prospective analysis involving 52 965 non-Hispanic Black and 23 592 non-Hispanic White adults taking part in the Southern Community Cohort Study. Cox proportional hazards modeling was used to determine associations of race and SES with all-cause and cause-specific mortality.

Results: In our cohort, wherein Blacks and Whites had similar individual SES, Blacks were less likely than Whites to die during the follow-up period (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.78; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.73, 0.84). Low household income was a strong predictor of all-cause mortality among both Blacks and Whites (HR = 1.76; 95% CI = 1.45, 2.12). Being in the lowest (vs highest) category with respect to both individual and neighborhood SES was associated with a nearly 3-fold increase in all-cause mortality risk (HR = 2.76; 95% CI = 1.99, 3.84). There was no significant mortality-related interaction between individual SES and neighborhood SES among either Blacks or Whites.

Conclusions: SES is a strong predictor of premature mortality, and the independent associations of individual SES and neighborhood SES with mortality risk are similar for Blacks and Whites.

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Global rise in human infectious disease outbreaks

Katherine Smith et al., Journal of the Royal Society: Interface, December 2014

Abstract:
To characterize the change in frequency of infectious disease outbreaks over time worldwide, we encoded and analysed a novel 33-year dataset (1980–2013) of 12 102 outbreaks of 215 human infectious diseases, comprising more than 44 million cases occuring in 219 nations. We merged these records with ecological characteristics of the causal pathogens to examine global temporal trends in the total number of outbreaks, disease richness (number of unique diseases), disease diversity (richness and outbreak evenness) and per capita cases. Bacteria, viruses, zoonotic diseases (originating in animals) and those caused by pathogens transmitted by vector hosts were responsible for the majority of outbreaks in our dataset. After controlling for disease surveillance, communications, geography and host availability, we find the total number and diversity of outbreaks, and richness of causal diseases increased significantly since 1980 (p < 0.0001). When we incorporate Internet usage into the model to control for biased reporting of outbreaks (starting 1990), the overall number of outbreaks and disease richness still increase significantly with time (p < 0.0001), but per capita cases decrease significantly (p = 0.005). Temporal trends in outbreaks differ based on the causal pathogen's taxonomy, host requirements and transmission mode. We discuss our preliminary findings in the context of global disease emergence and surveillance.

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Does correcting myths about the flu vaccine work? An experimental evaluation of the effects of corrective information

Brendan Nyhan & Jason Reifler, Vaccine, 9 January 2015, Pages 459–464

Abstract:
Seasonal influenza is responsible for thousands of deaths and billions of dollars of medical costs per year in the United States, but influenza vaccination coverage remains substantially below public health targets. One possible obstacle to greater immunization rates is the false belief that it is possible to contract the flu from the flu vaccine. A nationally representative survey experiment was conducted to assess the extent of this flu vaccine misperception. We find that a substantial portion of the public (43%) believes that the flu vaccine can give you the flu. We also evaluate how an intervention designed to address this concern affects belief in the myth, concerns about flu vaccine safety, and future intent to vaccinate. Corrective information adapted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website significantly reduced belief in the myth that the flu vaccine can give you the flu as well as concerns about its safety. However, the correction also significantly reduced intent to vaccinate among respondents with high levels of concern about vaccine side effects – a response that was not observed among those with low levels of concern. This result, which is consistent with previous research on misperceptions about the MMR vaccine, suggests that correcting myths about vaccines may not be an effective approach to promoting immunization.

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Rapid Reduction in Breast Cancer Mortality with Inorganic Arsenic in Drinking Water

Allan Smith et al., EBioMedicine, November 2014, Pages 58–63

Background: Arsenic trioxide is effective in treating promyelocytic leukemia, and laboratory studies demonstrate that arsenic trioxide causes apoptosis of human breast cancer cells. Region II in northern Chile experienced very high concentrations of inorganic arsenic in drinking water, especially in the main city Antofagasta from 1958 until an arsenic removal plant was installed in 1970.

Methods: We investigated breast cancer mortality from 1950 to 2010 among women in Region II compared to Region V, which had low arsenic water concentrations. We conducted studies on human breast cancer cell lines and compared arsenic exposure in Antofagasta with concentrations inducing apoptosis in laboratory studies.

Findings: Before 1958, breast cancer mortality rates were similar, but in 1958-1970 the rates in Region II were half those in Region V (rate ratio RR = 0 • 51, 95% CI 0 • 40-0 • 66; p < 0 • 0001). Women under the age of 60 experienced a 70% reduction in breast cancer mortality during 1965-1970 (RR = 0 • 30, 0 • 17-0 • 54; p < 0 • 0001). Breast cancer cell culture studies showed apoptosis at arsenic concentrations close to those estimated to have occurred in people in Region II.

Interpretation: We found biologically plausible major reductions in breast cancer mortality during high exposure to inorganic arsenic in drinking water which could not be attributed to bias or confounding. We recommend clinical trial assessment of inorganic arsenic in the treatment of advanced breast cancer.

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The Contribution of Behavior Change and Public Health to Improved U.S. Population Health

Susan Stewart & David Cutler, NBER Working Paper, October 2014

Abstract:
Adverse behavioral risk factors contribute to a large share of deaths. We examine the effects on life expectancy (LE) and quality-adjusted life expectancy (QALE) of changes in six major behavioral risk factors over the 1960-2010 period: smoking, obesity, heavy alcohol use, and unsafe use of motor vehicles, firearms, and poisonous substances. These risk factors have moved in opposite directions. Reduced smoking, safer driving and cars, and reduced heavy alcohol use have led to health improvements, which we estimate at 1.82 years of quality-adjusted life. However, these were roughly offset by increased obesity, greater firearm deaths, and increased deaths from poisonous substances, which together reduced quality-adjusted life expectancy by 1.77 years. We model the hypothetical effects of a 50% decline in morbid obesity and in poisoning deaths, and a 10% decline in firearm fatalities, roughly matching favorable trends in smoking and increased seat belt use. These changes would lead to a 0.92 year improvement in LE and a 1.09 year improvement in QALE. Thus, substantial improvements in health by way of behavioral improvements and public health are possible.

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Race and health profiles in the United States: An examination of the social gradient through the 2009 CHIS adult survey

A.B. Nguyen, R. Moser & W.-Y. Chou, Public Health, December 2014, Pages 1076–1086

Objective: To examine the role of the social gradient on multiple health outcomes and behaviors. It was predicted that higher levels of SES, measured by educational attainment and family income, would be associated with positive health behaviors (i.e., smoking, drinking, physical activity, and diet) and health status (i.e., limited physical activity due to chronic condition, blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, BMI, and perceived health condition). The study also examined the differential effects of the social gradient in health among different racial/ethnic groups (i.e., non-Hispanic Whites, Blacks, Asian, Hispanics, and American Indians).

Methods: The data were from the adult 2009 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS). Weighted multivariable linear and logistic regression models were conducted to examine trends found between SES and health conditions and health behaviors. Polynomial trends were examined for all linear and logistic models to test for the possible effects (linear, quadratic, and cubic) of the social gradient on health behaviors and outcomes stratified by race/ethnicity.

Results: Findings indicated that, in general, Whites had more favorable health profiles in comparison to other racial/ethnic groups with the exception of Asians who were likely to be as healthy as or healthier than Whites. Predicted marginals indicated that Asians in the upper two strata of social class display the healthiest outcomes of health status among all other racial/ethnic groups. Also, the social gradient was differentially associated with health outcomes across race/ethnicity groups. While the social gradient was most consistently observed for Whites, education did not have the same protective effect on health among Blacks and American Indians. Also, compared to other minority groups, Hispanics and Asians were more likely to display curvilinear trends of the social gradient: an initial increase from low SES to mid-level SES was associated with worse health outcomes and behaviors; however, continued increase from mid-SES to high SES saw returns to healthy outcomes and behaviors.

Conclusion: The study contributes to the literature by illustrating unique patterns and trends of the social gradient across various racial/ethnic populations in a nationally representative sample. Future studies should further explore temporal trends to track the impact of the social gradient for different racial and ethnic populations in tandem with indices of national income inequalities.

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Work-Family Context and the Longevity Disadvantage of US Women

Jennifer Montez et al., Social Forces, forthcoming

Abstract:
Female life expectancy is currently shorter in the United States than in most high-income countries. This study examines work-family context as a potential explanation. While work-family context changed similarly across high-income countries during the past half century, the United States has not implemented institutional supports, such as universally available childcare and family leave, to help Americans contend with these changes. We compare the United States to Finland — a country with similar trends in work-family life but generous institutional supports — and test two hypotheses to explain US women's longevity disadvantage: (1) US women may be less likely than Finnish women to combine employment with childrearing; and (2) US women's longevity may benefit less than Finnish women's longevity from combining employment with childrearing. We used data from women aged 30–60 years during 1988–2006 in the US National Health Interview Survey Linked Mortality File and harmonized it with data from Finnish national registers. We found stronger support for hypothesis 1, especially among low-educated women. Contrary to hypothesis 2, combining employment and childrearing was not less beneficial for US women's longevity. In a simulation exercise, more than 75 percent of US women's longevity disadvantage was eliminated by raising their employment levels to Finnish levels and reducing mortality rates of non-married/non-employed US women to Finnish rates.

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Could the human papillomavirus vaccines drive virulence evolution?

Carmen Lía Murall, Chris Bauch & Troy Day, Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 7 January 2015

Abstract:
The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines hold great promise for preventing several cancers caused by HPV infections. Yet little attention has been given to whether HPV could respond evolutionarily to the new selection pressures imposed on it by the novel immunity response created by the vaccine. Here, we present and theoretically validate a mechanism by which the vaccine alters the transmission–recovery trade-off that constrains HPV's virulence such that higher oncogene expression is favoured. With a high oncogene expression strategy, the virus is able to increase its viral load and infected cell population before clearance by the vaccine, thus improving its chances of transmission. This new rapid cell-proliferation strategy is able to circulate between hosts with medium to high turnover rates of sexual partners. We also discuss the importance of better quantifying the duration of challenge infections and the degree to which a vaccinated host can shed virus. The generality of the models presented here suggests a wider applicability of this mechanism, and thus highlights the need to investigate viral oncogenicity from an evolutionary perspective.

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Using Pay-For-Success To Increase Investment In The Nonmedical Determinants Of Health

Ian Galloway, Health Affairs, November 2014, Pages 1897-1904

Abstract:
The combination of fee-for-service payments and the US health care system’s standing commitment to treating existing illness discourages spending on the behavioral, social, and environmental (that is, the nonmedical) conditions that contribute most to long-term health. Pay-for-success, alternatively known as social impact bonds, or SIBs, offers a possible solution. The pay-for-success model relies on an investor that is willing to fund a nonmedical intervention up front while bearing the risk that the intervention may fail to prevent disease in the future. Should the intervention succeed, however, the investor is repaid in full by a predetermined payer (such as a public health agency) and receives an additional return on its investment as a reward for taking on the risk. Pay-for-success pilots are being developed to reduce asthma-related emergencies among children, poor birth outcomes, and the progression of prediabetes to diabetes, among other applications. These efforts, supported by key policy reforms such as public agency data sharing and coordinated care, promise to increase the number of evidence-based nonmedical service providers and seed a new market that values health, not just health care.

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Explaining the Increase in the Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Proportion Attributable to Changes in Reporting Practices

Stefan Hansen, Diana Schendel & Erik Parner, JAMA Pediatrics, forthcoming

Objective: To quantify the effect of changes in reporting practices in Denmark on reported ASD prevalence.

Design, Setting, and Participants: We used a population-based birth cohort approach that includes information on all individuals with permanent residence in Denmark. We assessed all children born alive from January 1, 1980, through December 31, 1991, in Denmark (n = 677 915). The children were followed up from birth until ASD diagnosis, death, emigration, or the end of follow-up on December 31, 2011, whichever occurred first. The analysis uses a stratified Cox proportional hazards regression model with the changes in reporting practices modeled as time-dependent covariates.

Results: For Danish children born during the study period, 33% (95% CI, 0%-70%) of the increase in reported ASD prevalence could be explained by the change in diagnostic criteria alone; 42% (95% CI, 14%-69%), by the inclusion of outpatient contacts alone; and 60% (95% CI, 33%-87%), by the change in diagnostic criteria and the inclusion of outpatient contacts.

Conclusions and Relevance: Changes in reporting practices can account for most (60%) of the increase in the observed prevalence of ASDs in children born from 1980 through 1991 in Denmark. Hence, the study supports the argument that the apparent increase in ASDs in recent years is in large part attributable to changes in reporting practices.

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Reactive vaccination in the presence of disease hotspots

Andrew Azman & Justin Lessler, Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 7 January 2015

Abstract:
Reactive vaccination has recently been adopted as an outbreak response tool for cholera and other infectious diseases. Owing to the global shortage of oral cholera vaccine, health officials must quickly decide who and where to distribute limited vaccine. Targeted vaccination in transmission hotspots (i.e. areas with high transmission efficiency) may be a potential approach to efficiently allocate vaccine, however its effectiveness will likely be context-dependent. We compared strategies for allocating vaccine across multiple areas with heterogeneous transmission efficiency. We constructed metapopulation models of a cholera-like disease and compared simulated epidemics where: vaccine is targeted at areas of high or low transmission efficiency, where vaccine is distributed across the population, and where no vaccine is used. We find that connectivity between populations, transmission efficiency, vaccination timing and the amount of vaccine available all shape the performance of different allocation strategies. In highly connected settings (e.g. cities) when vaccinating early in the epidemic, targeting limited vaccine at transmission hotspots is often optimal. Once vaccination is delayed, targeting the hotspot is rarely optimal, and strategies that either spread vaccine between areas or those targeted at non-hotspots will avert more cases. Although hotspots may be an intuitive outbreak control target, we show that, in many situations, the hotspot-epidemic proceeds so fast that hotspot-targeted reactive vaccination will prevent relatively few cases, and vaccination shared across areas where transmission can be sustained is often best.

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The relationship between gasoline price and patterns of motorcycle fatalities and injuries

He Zhu, Fernando Wilson & Jim Stimpson, Injury Prevention, forthcoming

Objective: Economic factors such as rising gasoline prices may contribute to the crash trends by shaping individuals’ choices of transportation modalities. This study examines the relationship of gasoline prices with fatal and non-fatal motorcycle injuries.

Methods: Data on fatal and non-fatal motorcycle injuries come from California's Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System for 2002–2011. Autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) regressions were used to estimate the impact of inflation-adjusted gasoline price per gallon on trends of motorcycle injuries.

Results: Motorcycle fatalities and severe and minor injuries in California were highly correlated with increasing gasoline prices from 2002 to 2011 (r=0.76, 0.88 and 0.85, respectively). In 2008, the number of fatalities and injuries reached 13 457—a 34% increase since 2002, a time period in which inflation-adjusted gasoline prices increased about $0.30 per gallon every year. The majority of motorcycle riders involved in crashes were male (92.5%), middle-aged (46.2%) and non-Hispanic white (67.9%). Using ARIMA modelling, we estimated that rising gasoline prices resulted in an additional 800 fatalities and 10 290 injuries from 2002 to 2011 in California.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that increasing gasoline prices led to more motorcycle riders on the roads and, consequently, more injuries. Aside from mandatory helmet laws and their enforcement, other strategies may include raising risk awareness of motorcyclists and investment in public transportation as an alternative transportation modality to motorcycling. In addition, universally mandated training courses and strict licensing tests of riding skills should be emphasised to help reduce the motorcycle fatal and non-fatal injuries.

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Prevalence and Costs of Skin Cancer Treatment in the U.S., 2002−2006 and 2007−2011

Gery Guy et al., American Journal of Preventive Medicine, forthcoming

Purpose: To examine trends in the treated prevalence and treatment costs of nonmelanoma and melanoma skin cancers.

Methods: This study used data on adults from the 2002−2011 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey full-year consolidated files and information from corresponding medical conditions and medical event files to estimate the treated prevalence and treatment cost of nonmelanoma skin cancer, melanoma skin cancer, and all other cancer sites. Analyses were conducted in January 2014.

Results: The average annual number of adults treated for skin cancer increased from 3.4 million in 2002−2006 to 4.9 million in 2007−2011 (p<0.001). During this period, the average annual total cost for skin cancer increased from $3.6 billion to $8.1 billion (p=0.001), representing an increase of 126.2%, while the average annual total cost for all other cancers increased by 25.1%. During 2007−2011, nearly 5 million adults were treated for skin cancer annually, with average treatment costs of $8.1 billion each year.

Conclusions: These findings demonstrate that the health and economic burden of skin cancer treatment is substantial and increasing. Such findings highlight the importance of skin cancer prevention efforts, which may result in future savings to the healthcare system.

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The Very High Premature Mortality Rate among Active Professional Wrestlers Is Primarily Due to Cardiovascular Disease

Christopher Herman et al., PLoS ONE, November 2014

Purpose: Recently, much media attention has been given to the premature deaths in professional wrestlers. Since no formal studies exist that have statistically examined the probability of premature mortality in professional wrestlers, we determined survival estimates for active wresters over the past quarter century to establish the factors contributing to the premature mortality of these individuals.

Methods: Data including cause of death was obtained from public records and wrestling publications in wrestlers who were active between January 1, 1985 and December 31, 2011. 557 males were considered consistently active wrestlers during this time period. 2007 published mortality rates from the Center for Disease Control were used to compare the general population to the wrestlers by age, BMI, time period, and cause of death. Survival estimates and Cox hazard regression models were fit to determine incident premature deaths and factors associated with lower survival. Cumulative incidence function (CIF) estimates given years wrestled was obtained using a competing risks model for cause of death.

Results: The mortality for all wrestlers over the 26-year study period was.007 deaths/total person-years or 708 per 100,000 per year, and 16% of deaths occurred below age 50 years. Among wrestlers, the leading cause of deaths based on CIF was cardiovascular-related (38%). For cardiovascular-related deaths, drug overdose-related deaths and cancer deaths, wrestler mortality rates were respectively 15.1, 122.7 and 6.4 times greater than those of males in the general population. Survival estimates from hazard models indicated that BMI is significantly associated with the hazard of death from total time wrestling (p<0.0001).

Conclusion: Professional wrestlers are more likely to die prematurely from cardiovascular disease compared to the general population and morbidly obese wrestlers are especially at risk. Results from this study may be useful for professional wrestlers, as well as wellness policy and medical care implementation.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Monday, December 22, 2014

Rules of the game

"It’s ironic that many blast Washington politicians by saying they’re 'anti-business.' Many are very pro-business — but anti-competition." [Arthur Brooks]

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https://www.aei.org/publication/zenefits-utah-classic-case-regulatory-capture-protecting-incumbent-producers-expense-public-interest

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"[There are] numerous financial ties the FDA hasn’t disclosed between medical-device makers and the doctors and other experts who review devices for it, a Wall Street Journal analysis of corporate, state and federal data shows. In panels evaluating devices involved in cardiology, orthopedics and gynecology from 2012 through 2014, a third of 122 members had received compensation — such as money, research grants or travel and food — from medical-device companies, an examination of databases shows. Nearly 10% of the FDA advisers received something of value from the specific company whose product they were evaluating. The FDA disclosed roughly 1% of these corporate connections." [WSJ]

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A Long Constitution is a (Positively) Bad Constitution: Evidence from OECD Countries

George Tsebelis & Dominic Nardi, British Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
This article starts with two empirical observations from Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries about longer constitutions: (1) they are more rigid (that is, more difficult to amend) and (2) they are in practice more frequently amended. The study presents models of the frequently adopted rules for constitutional revision (for example, qualified majorities in one or two chambers, referendums) and demonstrates that, if longer constitutions are more frequently revised, it is because they must impose actual harm on overwhelming majorities. In trying to explain this finding, the article demonstrates that longer constitutions tend to contain more substantive restrictions. Countries with longer constitutions also tend to have lower levels of GDP per capita and higher corruption. Finally, the negative effect of constitutional length on GDP per capita is shown to persist even if corruption is controlled for.

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To Hive or to Hold? Producing Professional Authority through Scut Work

Ruthanne Huising, Administrative Science Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper examines how professionals working in bureaucratic organizations, despite having formal authority, struggle to enact authority over the clients they advise, transforming their right to command into deference to commands. Drawing on a comparative ethnographic study of two professional groups overseeing compliance in university laboratories, I identify how choices about their task jurisdiction influence each profession’s ability to enact authority over and gain voluntary compliance from the same group of clients. One group constructs its work domain to include not only high-skilled tasks that emphasize members’ expertise but also scut work — menial work with contaminated materials — through which they gain regular entry into clients’ workspaces, developing knowledge about and relationships with clients. Using these resources to accommodate, discipline, and understand clients, they produce relational authority — the capacity to elicit voluntary compliance with commands. The other group outsources everyday scut work and interacts with lab researchers mostly during annual inspections and training, which leads to complaints by researchers to management and eventual loss of jurisdiction. The findings show the importance of producing relational authority in contemporary professional–client interactions in bureaucratic settings and challenge the relevance of expertise and professional identity in generating relational authority. I show how holding on to, not hiving off, scut work allows professionals to enact authority over clients.

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Inspection technology, detection, and compliance: Evidence from Florida restaurant inspections

Ginger Zhe Jin & Jungmin Lee, RAND Journal of Economics, Winter 2014, Pages 885–917

Abstract:
In this article, we show that a small innovation in inspection technology can make substantial differences in inspection outcomes. For restaurant hygiene inspections, the state of Florida has introduced a handheld electronic device, the portable digital assistant (PDA), which reminds inspectors of about 1,000 potential violations that may be checked for. Using inspection records from July 2003 to June 2009, we find that the adoption of PDA led to 11% more detected violations and subsequently, restaurants may have gradually increased their compliance efforts. We also find that PDA use is significantly correlated with a reduction in restaurant-related foodborne disease outbreaks.

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A Tale of Repetition: Lessons from Florida Restaurant Inspections

Ginger Zhe Jin & Jungmin Lee, NBER Working Paper, October 2014

Abstract:
We examine the role of repetition in government regulation. Using Florida restaurant inspection data from 2003 to 2010, we find that inspectors new to the inspected restaurant report 12.7-17.5% more violations than the second visit of a repeat inspector. This effect is even more pronounced if the previous inspector had inspected the restaurant more times. The difference between new and repeat inspectors is driven partly by inspector heterogeneity in inherent taste and stringency, and partly by new inspectors having fresher eyes in the first visit of a restaurant. These findings highlight the importance of inspector assignment in regulatory outcomes.

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Libertarian Paternalism, Path Dependence, and Temporary Law

Tom Ginsburg, Jonathan Masur & Richard McAdams, University of Chicago Law Review, Winter 2014, Pages 291-359

"The recent wave of behavioral economics has led some theorists to advocate the possibility of 'libertarian paternalism,' in which regulators designing institutions permit significant individual choice but nonetheless use default rules to 'nudge' cognitively biased individuals toward particular salutary choices. In this Article, we add the possibility of a different kind of nudge: temporary law. The case for temporary law arises from a particular regulatory rationale. In some cases, the best normative defense of regulation against the libertarian critique — the best response to the claim that free market competition produces efficiency — is path dependence, the idea that market institutions can become trapped or locked in to a suboptimal equilibrium, even when some better equilibrium exists."

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Valuable Lies

Ariel Porat & Omri Yadlin, University of Chicago Working Paper, October 2014

Abstract:
Should a Muslim employee who falsely stated in his job interview that he is Christian in order to avoid discrimination be fired for his dishonesty? Should a buyer of a tract of land who conducted an expensive investigation before contracting that revealed a high likelihood of mineral deposits be subject to liability for fraud because he told the seller he knew nothing about the land's mineral potential before purchase? Is a doctor violating her legal duties toward her patient if she convinces him to get vaccinated on the pretext that it is in his best interest when it is instead in the public interest? In all of these cases, and many others, parties are allowed not to disclose material information to an interested party but not to lie about the same information. This article makes the argument that in many contexts, where non-disclosure is permitted lies should also be tolerated, for otherwise the social goals sought by allowing non-disclosure are frustrated. With this as its starting point, the article develops a theory of valuable lies, discussing the conditions under which lies should be permitted. It analyzes the main impediments to allowing lies, the most important of which being the risk that permitting lies would impair truth-tellers' ability to reliably convey truthful information. The article applies the theory to various fields, including contract law, tort law, medical malpractice, criminal law and procedure, and constitutional law. It concludes by proposing changes to the law that will allow telling valuable lies in well-defined categories of cases.

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Do regulators overestimate the costs of regulation?

David Simpson, Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, November 2014, Pages 315–332

Abstract:
It has occasionally been asserted that regulators typically overestimate the costs of the regulations they impose. A number of arguments have been proposed for why this might be the case. The most widely credited is that regulators fail sufficiently to appreciate the effects of innovation in reducing regulatory compliance costs. Most existing studies have found that regulators are more likely to over- than to underestimate costs. While it is difficult to develop summary statistics to aggregate the results of different studies of disparate industries, one such measure is the average of the ratio of ex ante estimates of compliance costs to ex post estimates of the same costs. This ratio is generally greater than one. In this paper I argue that neither the greater frequency of overestimates nor the fact that the average ratio of ex ante to ex post cost estimates is greater than one necessarily demonstrates that ex ante estimates are biased. There are several reasons to suppose that the distribution of compliance costs could be skewed, so that the median of the distribution would lie below the mean. It is not surprising, then, that most estimates would prove to be too high. Moreover, Jensen’s inequality implies that the expected ratio of ex ante to ex post compliance costs would be greater than one. I propose a regression-based test of the bias of ex ante compliance cost estimates, and cannot reject the hypothesis that estimates are unbiased. Failure to reject a hypothesis with limited and noisy data should not, of course, be interpreted as a strong argument to accept the hypothesis. Rather, this paper argues for the generation of more and better information. Despite the existence of a number of papers reporting ex ante and ex post compliance cost estimates, it is surprisingly difficult to get a large sample with which to make such comparisons.

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Won’t we scare them? The impact of communicating uncontrollable risks on the public’s perception

Melanie De Vocht et al., Journal of Risk Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Authorities often refrain from communicating risks out of fear to arouse negative feelings amongst the public and to create negative reactions in terms of the public’s behavior. This study examines the impact of communicating risks on the public’s feelings and behavioral intentions regarding an uncontrollable risk related to fresh produce. In addition, the impact of risk communication is compared between a situation in which the risk either does or does not develop into a crisis, by means of a 2 (risk communication vs. no risk communication) × 2 (crisis communication vs. no crisis communication) between-subjects factorial design. The results show that communicating risks has a positive impact on the behavioral intention to keep on eating fresh produce compared to when no risk communication was provided, as it reduces negative feelings amongst the public. In addition, the findings illustrate that when a risk develops into an actual crisis, prior risk communication can result in greater trust in the government and reduce perceived government responsibility for the crisis when the crisis hits. Based on these findings, it can be suggested that risk communication is an effective tool for authorities in preparing the public for potential crises. The findings indicate that communicating risks does not raise negative reactions amongst the public, on the contrary, and that it results in more positive perceptions of the authorities.

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Very Long-Run Discount Rates

Stefano Giglio, Matteo Maggiori & Johannes Stroebel, Quarterly Journal of Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
We estimate how households trade off immediate costs and uncertain future benefits that occur in the very long run, 100 or more years away. We exploit a unique feature of housing markets in the U.K. and Singapore, where residential property ownership takes the form of either leaseholds or freeholds. Leaseholds are temporary, pre-paid, and tradable ownership contracts with maturities between 99 and 999 years, while freeholds are perpetual ownership contracts. The price difference between leaseholds and freeholds reflects the present value of perpetual rental income starting at leasehold expiry, and is thus informative about very long-run discount rates. We estimate the price discounts for varying leasehold maturities compared to freeholds and extremely long-run leaseholds via hedonic regressions using proprietary datasets of the universe of transactions in each country. Households discount very long-run cash flows at low rates, assigning high present value to cash flows hundreds of years in the future. For example, 100-year leaseholds are valued at more than 10% less than otherwise identical freeholds, implying discount rates below 2.6% for 100-year claims.

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“Bluewashing” the Firm? Voluntary Regulations, Program Design, and Member Compliance with the United Nations Global Compact

Daniel Berliner & Aseem Prakash, Policy Studies Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
Voluntary programs have emerged as important instruments of public policy. We explore whether programs lacking monitoring and enforcement mechanisms can curb participants’ shirking with program obligations. Incentive-based approaches to policy see monitoring and enforcement as essential to curb shirking, while norm-based approaches view social mechanisms such as norms and learning as sufficient to serve this purpose. The United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), a prominent international voluntary program, encourages firms to adopt socially responsible policies. Its program design, however, relies primarily on norms and learning to mitigate shirking. Using a panel of roughly 3,000 U.S. firms from 2000 to 2010, and multiple approaches to address endogeneity and selection issues, we examine the effects of Compact membership on members’ human rights and environmental performance. We find that members fare worse than nonmembers on costly and fundamental performance dimensions, while showing improvements only in more superficial dimensions. Exploiting the lack of monitoring and enforcement, UNGC members are able to shirk: enjoying goodwill benefits of program membership without making costly changes to their human rights and environmental practices.

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Analyzing the Effectiveness of State Regulatory Review

Russell Sobel & John Dove, Public Finance Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
This article provides a systematic empirical study of how differences in regulatory review processes across the fifty US states affect the level of regulation. We examine whether rules for regulatory review matter in terms of lowering the overall level of regulation in states. Our findings suggest that sunset provisions are the most effective means of reducing state regulatory levels. Requirements for reviewing the fiscal impacts of new regulations on state government budgets and to present lower-cost alternatives for achieving the same policy goals also appear to be somewhat effective. There is limited evidence that a regulatory review process within the state legislative branch or an independent agency reduces new regulations.

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Merger Review by the Federal Communications Commission: Comcast–NBC Universal

Christopher Yoo, Review of Industrial Organization, November 2014, Pages 295-321

Abstract:
The Communications Act of 1934 created a dual review process in which mergers in the communications industry are reviewed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as well as the antitrust authorities. Commentators have criticized dual review not only as costly and redundant, but also as subject to substantive and procedural abuse. The process of clearing the 2011 Comcast–NBC Universal merger provides a useful case study to examine whether such concerns are justified. A review of the empirical context reveals that the FCC intervened even though the relevant markets were not structured in a way that would ordinarily raise anticompetitive concerns. In addition, the FCC was able to use differences between its review process and that used by the Justice Department to extract concessions from the merging parties that had nothing to do with the merger and which were more properly addressed through general rulemaking. Moreover, the use of voluntary commitments also allowed the FCC to avoid subjecting certain aspects of its decision to public comment and immunized it from having to offer a reasoned explanation or subjecting its decision to judicial review. The aftermath of the merger provides an opportunity to assess whether the FCC’s intervention yielded consumer benefits.

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Market Structure and Media Diversity

Scott Hiller, Scott Savage & Donald Waldman, Economic Inquiry, forthcoming

Abstract:
We estimate a mixed logit model of the demand for local news service. Results provide evidence that suggest the representative consumer values more diverse news, more coverage of multicultural issues, and more information on community news, and has a distaste for advertising. Demand estimates are used to calculate the impact on consumer welfare from a marginal decrease in the number of independent television stations that lowers the amount of diversity, multiculturalism, community news, and advertising. Consumer welfare decreases, but the losses are smaller in large markets. For example, small-market consumers lose $45 million annually while large-market consumers lose $13 million.

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Quantifying search and switching costs in the US auto insurance industry

Elisabeth Honka, RAND Journal of Economics, Winter 2014, Pages 847–884

Abstract:
I estimate demand for auto insurance in the presence of two types of market frictions: search and switching costs. I develop an integrated utility-maximizing model in which consumers decide over which and how many companies to search and from which company to purchase. My modelling approach rationalizes observed consideration sets as being the outcomes of consumers' search processes. I find search costs to range from $35 to $170 and average switching costs of $40. Search costs are the most important driver of customer retention and their elimination is the main lever to increase consumer welfare in the auto insurance industry.

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Nobody’s Innocent: The Role of Customers in the Doping Dilemma

Berno Buechel, Eike Emrich & Stefanie Pohlkamp, Journal of Sports Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Customers who boycott an organization after some scandal may actually exacerbate the fraud problem they would like to prevent. This conclusion is derived from a game-theoretic model that introduces a third player into the standard inspection game. Focusing on the example of doping in professional sports, we observe that doping is prevalent in equilibrium because customers undermine an organizer’s incentives to inspect the athletes. Establishing transparency about doping tests is necessary but not sufficient to overcome this dilemma. Our analysis has practical implications for the design of anti-doping policies as well as for other situations of fraudulent activities.

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Childcare quality and pricing: Evidence from Wisconsin

Benjamin Artz & David Welsch, Applied Economics, Fall 2014, Pages 4276-4289

Abstract:
Childcare prices vary dramatically both between and within states. We identify the effects of demographic and provider characteristics on childcare pricing, but focus primarily on whether unique government-provided information on childcare quality has an effect on pricing. Using provider-level observations across three adjacent counties in southern Wisconsin, we find that this government-provided information on childcare quality does not significantly affect pricing. Recognizing that information asymmetry may be the root cause of the insignificant relationship, we test the relationship further within multiple subsamples and with alternative models. Only the lowest quality childcare providers are significantly associated with lower prices in areas that we hypothesize suffer from greater information asymmetry.

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When the smoke clears: Expertise, learning and policy diffusion

Charles Shipan & Craig Volden, Journal of Public Policy, December 2014, Pages 357-387

Abstract:
In federal systems, governments have the opportunity to learn from the policy experiments – and the potential successes – of other governments. Whether they seize such opportunities, however, may depend on the expertise or past experiences of policymakers. Based on an analysis of state-level adoptions of antismoking restrictions targeted towards youths, we find that US states are more likely to emulate other states that have demonstrated the ability to successfully limit youth smoking. In addition, we find that political expertise (as captured by legislative professionalism) and policy expertise (as captured by previous youth access policy experiments at the local level) enhance the likelihood of emulating policy successes found in other states. As such, we establish that internal expertise and external learning are complements, rather than substitutes.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM


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