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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

It's a race thing

Viral Challenge Reveals Further Evidence of Skin-Deep Resilience in African Americans From Disadvantaged Backgrounds

Gregory Miller et al.

Health Psychology, forthcoming

Objective: Studies have revealed a phenomenon called skin-deep resilience, which develops in upwardly mobile African American youth. They perform well in school, maintain good mental health, and avoid legal problems. Despite outward indications of success, they also show evidence of worse health in biomarker studies. Here we extend this research, asking whether it manifests in differential susceptibility to upper respiratory infection, and if it emerges in European Americans as well.

Methods: The sample included 514 adults in good health, as judged by physician examination and laboratory testing. Participants completed questionnaires about lifecourse socioeconomic conditions, conscientiousness, psychosocial adjustment, and lifestyle factors. They were subsequently inoculated with a rhinovirus that causes upper respiratory infection, and monitored in quarantine for 5 days the development of illness.

Results: Consistent with past work, African Americans from disadvantaged backgrounds displayed indications of skin-deep resilience. To the extent these participants were high in conscientiousness, they fared better across multiple domains of psychosocial functioning, as reflected in educational attainment, symptoms of depression, and close relationship quality (p values = .01-.04). But analyses of these participants' susceptibility to infection revealed the opposite pattern; higher conscientiousness was associated with a greater likelihood of becoming ill following inoculation (p value = .03). In European Americans, there was no evidence of skin-deep resilience; conscientiousness was associated with better psychosocial outcomes, but not infection risk.

Conclusions: These observations suggest that resilience may be a double-edged sword for African Americans from disadvantaged backgrounds. The same characteristics associated with academic success and psychological adjustment forecast increased vulnerability to health problems.

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Contested Boundaries: Explaining Where Ethnoracial Diversity Provokes Neighborhood Conflict

Joscha Legewie & Merlin Schaeffer

American Journal of Sociology, July 2016, Pages 125-161

Abstract:
Concerns about neighborhood erosion and conflict in ethnically diverse settings occupy scholars, policy makers, and pundits alike; but the empirical evidence is inconclusive. This article proposes the contested boundaries hypothesis as a refined contextual explanation focused on poorly defined boundaries between ethnic and racial groups. The authors argue that neighborhood conflict is more likely to occur at fuzzy boundaries defined as interstitial or transitional areas sandwiched between two homogeneous communities. Edge detection algorithms from computer vision and image processing allow them to identify these boundaries. Data from 4.7 million time- and geo-coded 311 service requests from New York City support their argument: complaints about neighbors making noise, drinking in public, or blocking the driveway are more frequent at fuzzy boundaries rather than crisp, polarized borders. By focusing on the broader sociospatial structure, the contested boundaries hypothesis overcomes the "aspatial" treatment of neighborhoods as isolated areas in research on ethnic diversity.

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Tuskegee and the Health of Black Men

Marcella Alsan & Marianne Wanamaker

NBER Working Paper, June 2016

Abstract:
For forty years, the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male passively monitored hundreds of adult black males with syphilis despite the availability of effective treatment. The study's methods have become synonymous with exploitation and mistreatment by the medical community. We find that the historical disclosure of the study in 1972 is correlated with increases in medical mistrust and mortality and decreases in both outpatient and inpatient physician interactions for older black men. Our estimates imply life expectancy at age 45 for black men fell by up to 1.4 years in response to the disclosure, accounting for approximately 35% of the 1980 life expectancy gap between black and white men.

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Are pregnant women happier? Racial and ethnic differences in the relationship between pregnancy and life satisfaction in the United States

Paul Hagstrom & Stephen Wu

Review of Economics of the Household, September 2016, Pages 507-527

Abstract:
This paper examines the relationship between pregnancy and life satisfaction for US women of childbearing age using a large sample from the 2005 to 2009 waves of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. The results show strong differences by race and ethnicity. Pregnancy has a significant positive correlation with happiness for Whites and Hispanics, but no relationship for Blacks. This differential in the marginal effect of pregnancy is in addition to a general decrease in satisfaction for Black women, independent of being pregnant. The results cannot be explained by differences in other demographics such age, income, education, or physical health status. Within each racial/ethnic group, the results are consistent across different categories for all these characteristics. Racial and ethnic differences in the effects of pregnancy on support from others can partly explain this result. For Whites and Hispanic women, pregnancy increases their feelings of social and emotional support from others, while pregnant Black women report lower levels of social and emotional support than non-pregnant Black women.

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Active Life Expectancy In The Older US Population, 1982-2011: Differences Between Blacks And Whites Persisted

Vicki Freedman & Brenda Spillman

Health Affairs, August 2016, Pages 1351-1358

Abstract:
Understanding long-range trends in longevity and disability is useful for projecting the likely impact of the baby-boom generation on long-term care utilization and spending. We examine changes in active life expectancy in the United States from 1982 to 2011 for white and black adults ages sixty-five and older. For whites, longevity increased, disability was postponed to older ages, the locus of care shifted from nursing facilities to community settings, and the proportion of life at older ages spent without disability increased. In contrast, for blacks, longevity increases were accompanied by smaller postponements in disability, and the percentage of remaining life spent active remained stable and well below that of whites. Older black women were especially disadvantaged in 2011 in terms of the proportion of years expected to be lived without disability. Public health measures directed at older black adults - particularly women - are needed to offset impending pressures on the long-term care delivery system as the result of population aging.

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What's the Matter with Kansas? Now It's the High White Death Rate

Frank Young

Sociological Forum, forthcoming

Abstract:
This article reports empirical tests for an explanation of the anomalous finding that Case and Deaton recently identified. They found that middle-aged white people were dying at increased rates during the 1998-2013 years. By contrast, the Hispanic and African Americans enjoyed lower rates. The explanation proposed here for this deviant trend is that the middle-aged whites are especially vulnerable to the stress of "white status loss" as measured by the decline in the county white population. Using data for the 105 Kansas counties, the analysis replicates the divergent mortality trends and shows that white population decline predicts the rising mortality rate for the middle-aged segment of the population. This explanation opens the door to a new branch of public health, one based on social problems, not pathogens.

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The Racial Structure of Economic Inequality in the United States: Understanding Change and Continuity in an Era of "Great Divergence"

Rodney Hero & Morris Levy

Social Science Quarterly, September 2016, Pages 491-505

Abstract:
The "great divergence" of America's rich from its middle class and poor has led some observers to see a country increasingly stratified by income and wealth, more so than by race. In this article, the first in a two-part series, we argue that this conclusion overlooks the persistent importance of the racial "structure" of inequality. A decomposition of income inequality between 1980 and 2010 using the Theil Index shows that inequality between racial groups accounts for a rising share of total income inequality over this period nationally and in most states. We also demonstrate that within-state trends in the between-race component of inequality are not fully accounted for by trends in income inequality and racial diversity per se. These findings lay the groundwork for a forthcoming companion piece in Social Science Quarterly that shows that between-race inequality is strongly linked to welfare policy outcomes in the United States.

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At a Loss for Words: Measuring Racial Inequality in America

Major Coleman

Review of Black Political Economy, June 2016, Pages 177-192

Abstract:
Scholars of race tend to measure racial inequality in either absolute or relative terms. How much Blacks have advanced from their historical antebellum status is an absolute measure. How the status of Blacks compares with that of Whites is a relative measure. A more revealing measure might be how much racial equality will be strategically necessary to avoid a major politico-economic crisis like the ones that occurred during the civil war and the 1960s. Though it is easier to measure absolute or relative equality, measures of strategic equality yield more important information. Using the Current Population Survey, General Social Survey, Center for Education Statistics, Multi-City Study of Urban Inequality, and Census Bureau estimates, I find that, strategically, America is actually declining in racial equality, not advancing.

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The Shadow of the Politics of Deservedness? The Implications of Group-Centric Policy Context for Environmental Policy Implementation Inequalities in the United States

Jiaqi Liang

Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, July 2016, Pages 552-570

Abstract:
Despite considerable evidence indicating that racial minorities are more likely to reside in communities surrounding the sources of environmental risks or live with higher levels of pollutant emissions, relatively little research focuses on how broader political and institutional contexts pertaining to people of color impacts routine environmental policy implementation at the state level in the post-facility-siting period. Drawing on theories of group-centric, degenerative policy, and the politics of group recognition, this study explores the effects of the minority group-specific policy context on administrative outputs for the vulnerable African American communities. Examining the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit program of the Clean Water Act from 1996 to 2010, findings from a multilevel modeling analysis show that generosity of welfare benefits is positively related to state agencies' regulatory inspection and enforcement activities for predominantly black counties, while stringent welfare eligibility and sanctions are negatively associated with those efforts from government for those counties. Implications are then derived for the essential role of public administration in shaping the entitlements of the marginalized members of society to public services in an era within which social equity has emerged on government's policy agenda.

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Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Mental Health Care for Children and Young Adults: A National Study

Lyndonna Marrast, David Himmelstein & Steffie Woolhandler

International Journal of Health Services, forthcoming

Abstract:
Psychiatric and behavior problems are common among children and young adults, and many go without care or only receive treatment in carceral settings. We examined racial and ethnic disparities in children's and young adults' receipt of mental health and substance abuse care using nationally representative data from the 2006-2012 Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys. Blacks' and Hispanics' visit rates (and per capita expenditures) were about half those of non-Hispanic whites for all types and definitions of outpatient mental health services. Disparities were generally larger for young adults than for children. Black and white children had similar psychiatric inpatient and emergency department utilization rates, while Hispanic children had lower hospitalization rates. Multivariate control for mental health impairment, demographics, and insurance status did not attenuate racial/ethnic disparities in outpatient care. We conclude that psychiatric and behavioral problems among minority youth often result in school punishment or incarceration, but rarely mental health care.

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The Effects of Allostatic Load on Racial/Ethnic Mortality Differences in the United States

Jeffrey Howard & Johnelle Sparks

Population Research and Policy Review, August 2016, Pages 421-443

Abstract:
This study expands on previous findings of racial/ethnic and allostatic load (AL) associations with mortality by addressing whether differential AL levels by race/ethnicity may explain all-cause mortality differences. This study used data from the third National Health and Nutrition Survey public-use file, gathered between 1988 and 1994, with up to 18 years of mortality follow-up (n = 11,733). AL scores were calculated using a 10-biomarker algorithm based on clinically determined thresholds. Results of discrete-time hazard models suggest that AL is associated with increased mortality risks, independent of other factors, including race/ethnicity and SES. The results also suggest that the AL-mortality association is stronger for non-Hispanic blacks than for non-Hispanic whites, and that at low levels of AL observed mortality differences between non-Hispanic blacks and non-Hispanic whites are non-significant. These findings suggest that mortality differences between non-Hispanic blacks and non-Hispanic whites may be the result of how early life exposure causes premature aging and increased mortality risks. More attention to resource allocation and local environments is needed to understand why non-Hispanic blacks experience premature aging that leads to differential mortality risks compared to non-Hispanic whites.

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Perceived electoral malfeasance and resentment over the election of Barack Obama

David Wilson & Tyson King-Meadows

Electoral Studies, December 2016, Pages 35-45

Abstract:
Controversies over voting outcomes, and subsequent laws to seemingly curb irregularities, have led to increased scrutiny over the process of voting day activities. While studies find evidence that majorities perceive rampant fraud, the explanations for these opinions have mainly pointed to political predispositions, largely ignoring the influence of racial attitudes. We propose that contemporary opinions on electoral malfeasance are shaped by the context of a popularly elected African American president, Barack Obama, and subsequent racial resentments. Analyses of data from the 2010 Cooperative Congressional Election Study reveals that racial resentment significantly predicts higher perceived electoral malfeasance, even after controlling for political predispositions. Surprisingly, significant racial resentment effects exist among both Obama and McCain supporters, and these effects are strongest among those who perceived Obama won because of his race. Our results highlight the hyper racialized spill-over effects into judgements about the political system.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Monday, August 22, 2016

Runners

What Doesn't Kill You Will Only Make You More Risk-Loving: Early-Life Disasters and CEO Behavior

Gennaro Bernile, Vineet Bhagwat & Raghavendra Rau

Journal of Finance, forthcoming

Abstract:
The literature on managerial style posits a linear relation between a CEO's past experiences and firm risk. We show that there is a nonmonotonic relation between the intensity of CEOs’ early-life exposure to fatal disasters and corporate risk-taking. CEOs who experience fatal disasters without extremely negative consequences lead firms that behave more aggressively, whereas CEOs who witness the extreme downside of disasters behave more conservatively. These patterns manifest across various corporate policies including leverage, cash holdings, and acquisition activity. Ultimately, the link between CEOs’ disaster experience and corporate policies has real economic consequences on firm riskiness and cost of capital.

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FORE! An Analysis of CEO Shirking

Lee Biggerstaff, David Cicero & Andy Puckett

Management Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Using golf play as a measure of leisure, we provide direct evidence that some CEOs shirk their responsibilities to the detriment of firm shareholders. CEOs with lower equity-based incentives play more golf and those that golf the most are associated with firms that have lower operating performance and firm values. Numerous tests accounting for the possible endogenous nature of these relations support a conclusion that CEO shirking causes lower firm performance. New CEOs and those at firms with more independent boards are more likely to be replaced when they shirk, but those with long tenures or less independent boards appear to avoid discipline.

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Do CEOs Affect Employee Political Choices?

Ilona Babenko, Viktar Fedaseyeu & Song Zhang

Arizona State University Working Paper, July 2016

Abstract:
Employees donate almost three times more money to CEO-supported political candidates than to candidates not supported by the CEO. After CEO departures, including departures due to death or retirement, employees reduce campaign contributions to candidates supported by the departing CEO and increase campaign contributions to candidates supported by the replacement CEO. CEO influence is strongest in firms that explicitly advocate for political candidates. Further, employees located in areas in which CEOs make political contributions are more likely to vote in elections. Our results suggest that CEOs shape not only firms’ financial and operational decisions but also their employees’ political choices.

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Relative Peer Quality and Firm Performance

Bill Francis et al.

Journal of Financial Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
We examine the performance impact of the relative quality of a Chief Executive Officer (CEO)’s compensation peers (peers to determine a CEO's overall compensation) and bonus peers (peers to determine a CEO's relative-performance-based bonus). We use the fraction of peers with greater managerial ability scores (Demerjian, Lev, and McVay, 2012) than the reporting firm to measure this CEO's relative peer quality (RPQ). We find that firms with higher RPQ earn higher stock returns and experience higher profitability growth than firms with lower RPQ. Learning among peers and the increased incentive to work harder induced by the peer-based tournament contribute to RPQ's performance effect.

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CEO Severance Pay and Corporate Tax Avoidance

John Campbell et al.

University of Georgia Working Paper, June 2016

Abstract:
We examine the association between CEO severance pay (i.e., payment the CEO would receive if s/he is involuntarily terminated) and corporate tax avoidance. We find that corporate tax avoidance is increasing in the amount of CEO severance pay. This finding is consistent with the notion that CEO severance pay encourages otherwise risk averse managers to take reasonable amounts of risk and, thus, fits into the optimal executive incentive scheme as a form of efficient contracting. Further analysis reveals that the association between CEO severance pay and corporate tax avoidance is stronger in situations where we expect the risk-taking incentives provided by severance pay to matter more – when the CEO is otherwise more risk averse and when firms exhibit a higher business risk. Overall, our findings suggest that firms can contract with their managers using CEO severance pay to provide incentives for them to engage in tax avoidance activities.

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Common Ownership, Competition, and Top Management Incentives

Miguel Anton et al.

Yale Working Paper, July 2016

Abstract:
Standard corporate finance theories assume the absence of strategic product market interactions or that shareholders don't diversify across industry rivals; the optimal incentive contract features pay-for-performance relative to industry peers. Empirical evidence, by contrast, indicates managers are rewarded for rivals' performance as well as for their own. We propose common ownership of natural competitors by the same investors as an explanation. We show theoretically and empirically that executives are paid less for own performance and more for rivals' performance when the industry is more commonly owned. The growth of common ownership also helps explain the increase in CEO pay over the past decades.

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A Corporate Beauty Contest

John Graham, Campbell Harvey & Manju Puri

Management Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
We provide new evidence that the subjective “look of competence” rather than beauty is important for CEO selection and compensation. Our experiments, studying the facial traits of CEOs using nearly 2,000 subjects, link facial characteristics to both CEO compensation and performance. In one experiment, we use pairs of photographs and find that subjects rate CEO faces as appearing more “competent” than non-CEO faces. Another experiment matches CEOs from large firms against CEOs from smaller firms and finds large-firm CEOs look more competent. In a third experiment, subjects numerically score the facial traits of CEOs. We find competent looks are priced into CEO compensation, more so than attractiveness. Our evidence suggests this premium has a behavioral origin. First, we find no evidence that the premium is associated with superior performance. Second, we separately analyze inside and outside CEO hires and find that the competence compensation premium is driven by outside hires — the situation where first impressions are likely to be more important.

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The Facial Appearance of CEOs: Faces Signal Selection but Not Performance

Janka Stoker, Harry Garretsen & Luuk Spreeuwers

PLoS ONE, July 2016

Abstract:
Research overwhelmingly shows that facial appearance predicts leader selection. However, the evidence on the relevance of faces for actual leader ability and consequently performance is inconclusive. By using a state-of-the-art, objective measure for face recognition, we test the predictive value of CEOs’ faces for firm performance in a large sample of faces. We first compare the faces of Fortune500 CEOs with those of US citizens and professors. We find clear confirmation that CEOs do look different when compared to citizens or professors, replicating the finding that faces matter for selection. More importantly, we also find that faces of CEOs of top performing firms do not differ from other CEOs. Based on our advanced face recognition method, our results suggest that facial appearance matters for leader selection but that it does not do so for leader performance.

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CEO Materialism and Corporate Social Responsibility

Robert Davidson, Aiyesha Dey & Abbie Smith

University of Chicago Working Paper, March 2016

Abstract:
We study the role of individual CEOs in explaining corporate social responsibility (CSR) scores. We show that CEO fixed-effects explain 63% of the variation in CSR scores, a significant portion of which is attributable to a CEO’s “materialism” (relatively high luxury asset ownership). Specifically, firms led by materialistic CEOs have lower CSR scores, and increases in CEOs’ materialism are associated with declining scores. Finally, CSR scores in firms with non-materialistic CEOs are positively associated with accounting profitability. In contrast, CSR scores in firms with materialistic CEOs are unrelated to profitability on average; however this association is decreasing in CEO power.

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Did Regulation Fair Disclosure Prevent Selective Disclosure? Direct Evidence from Intraday Volume and Returns

John Campbell, Brady Twedt & Benjamin Whipple

University of Georgia Working Paper, July 2016

Abstract:
Regulation Fair Disclosure (Reg FD) prohibits managers from releasing material information in non-public forums. Prior research concludes that Reg FD was effective at curtailing selective disclosure. However, these results have been called into question due to confounding events, an inability to ensure the disclosure was intended to comply with Reg FD, and an inability to identify the timing of the disclosure. We address these limitations and offer new evidence on the effectiveness of Reg FD. First, we find significant increases in abnormal trading volume during the trading hour immediately prior to the public release of Reg FD disclosures. Specifically, we find that 20 percent of the volume reaction over the two hour window surrounding Reg FD disclosures occurs during the hour before the disclosure. Second, this pre-disclosure increase in trading volume is larger when the information is of greater consequence to the market. Finally, stock returns during the trading hour immediately prior to Reg FD filings predict returns during the trading hour immediately after the filings, but only for the disclosure of consequential, negative information. Additional analysis reveals that selective disclosure is larger for firms with greater growth opportunities and weaker information environments, and that corporate insiders and large traders account for about 50 percent of the trading in the hour leading up to Reg FD filings. Overall, our results suggest that, despite Reg FD's goal of providing information to all investors simultaneously, disclosure provided pursuant to the regulation appears to be selectively disclosed to subsets of investors beforehand.

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Rank and File Employees and the Discovery of Misreporting: The Role of Stock Options

Andrew Call, Simi Kedia & Shivaram Rajgopal

Journal of Accounting and Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
We find that firms grant more rank and file stock options when involved in financial reporting violations, consistent with managements’ incentives to discourage employee whistle-blowing. Violating firms grant more rank and file options during periods of misreporting relative to control firms and to their own option grants in non-violation years. Moreover, misreporting firms that grant more rank and file options during violation years are more likely to avoid whistle-blowing allegations. Although the Dodd-Frank Act (2010) offers financial rewards to encourage whistle-blowing, our findings suggest that firms discourage whistle-blowing by giving employees incentives to remain quiet about financial irregularities.

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The effect of price targets on the composition of CEO pay

Giuliano Bianchi

Applied Economics, Summer 2016, Pages 4299-4311

Abstract:
This article analyzes the impact of price targets from the IBES Detail Price History Target database on CEO compensation retained from Execucomp. The two databases are merged at fiscal year frequency and an OLS regression with fixed effect is used to analyze the impact of price target on CEO compensation. The analysis reveals that analysts’ price targets affect top executives’ compensation: when analysts predict a growth in the share price for a company, the compensation package tilts towards stock options, when analysts forecast a drop in the share price, the compensation package tilts towards cash-based compensation and restricted stocks. I argue that the result is more aligned with the managerial power model of compensation (which assumes the board of directors maximizes managers’ compensation) than with the arm’s length bargaining model (that states that managers’ compensation is set to maximize shareholders’ profit).

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Do Institutional Investors Demand Public Disclosure?

Andrew Bird & Stephen Karolyi

Review of Financial Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
We examine the effect of institutional ownership on corporate disclosure policy using a regression discontinuity design. Using a novel dataset comprising every 8-K filing between 1996 and 2006, we find that positive shocks to institutional ownership around Russell index reconstitutions increase the quantity, form, and quality of disclosure. Compared with those at the bottom of the Russell 1000 index, firms at the top of the Russell 2000 index increase institutional ownership by 9.8%, and disclose 4.7% longer 8-K filings with 21.3% more embedded graphics. This incremental disclosure significantly increases the information content of 8-K filings for the market and for analysts.

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Does going private add value through operating improvements?

Brian Ayash & Harm Schütt

Journal of Corporate Finance, October 2016, Pages 192–215

Abstract:
Previous studies document a large positive effect of private equity ownership on operating performance between 1980 and 1990 while evidence on the more recent buyout wave is mixed. We revisit the evidence on post-LBO performance and offer an additional explanation for the varied and time-inconsistent results found in the literature: the effect of accounting for LBO transactions and its change over time. Using hand-collected financial statements for 183 U.S. public-to-private LBOs, we illustrate how previously used proxies for operating performance suffer from an accounting distortion induced by the buyout transaction. We reproduce the results of previous studies. However, once proxies are modified slightly to account for the LBO process, we find no robust evidence of post-buyout improvements in public-to-private LBOs, regardless of the time period of the study.

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CEO Personality and Firm Policies

Ian Gow et al.

University of Chicago Working Paper, July 2016

Abstract:
Based on two samples of high quality personality data for chief executive officers (CEOs), we use linguistic features extracted from conferences calls and statistical learning techniques to develop a measure of CEO personality in terms of the Big Five traits: agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism, and openness to experience. These personality measures have strong out-of-sample predictive performance and are stable over time. Our measures of the Big Five personality traits are associated with financing choices, investment choices and firm operating performance.

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Golden hellos: Signing bonuses for new top executives

Jin Xu & Jun Yang

Journal of Financial Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
We examine signing bonuses awarded to executives hired for or promoted to named executive officer (NEO) positions at Standard & Poor's 1500 companies during the period 1992–2011. Executive signing bonuses are sizable and increasing in use, and they are labeled by the media as “golden hellos.” We find that executive signing bonuses are mainly awarded at firms with greater information asymmetry and higher innate risks, especially to younger executives, to mitigate the executives’ concerns about termination risk. When termination concerns are strong, signing bonus awards are associated with better performance and retention outcomes.

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Are Ex Ante CEO Severance Pay Contracts Consistent with Efficient Contracting?

Brian Cadman, John Campbell & Sandy Klasa

Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, June 2016, Pages 737-769

Abstract:
Efficient contracting predicts that ex ante severance pay contracts are offered to chief executive officers (CEOs) as protection against downside risk and to encourage investment in risky projects with a positive net present value (NPV). Consistent with this prediction, we find that ex ante contracted severance pay is positively associated with proxies for a CEO’s risk of dismissal and costs the CEO would incur from dismissal. Additionally, we show that the contracted severance payment amount is positively associated with CEO risk taking and the extent to which a CEO invests in projects that have a positive NPV. Overall, our findings imply that ex ante severance pay contracts are consistent with efficient contracting.

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The financial reporting consequences of proximity to political power

Christian Gross et al.

Journal of Accounting and Public Policy, forthcoming

Abstract:
In this study, we apply a new concept, corporate proximity to political power, to accounting research and examine its consequences on corporate financial reporting. Prior literature shows that higher proximity to political power leads to higher policy risk, i.e., uncertainty regarding the impact of future administration policies on the cash flow of the firm. An increase in policy risk implies an increase in the opaqueness of the information environment and in the expected volatility of future operating profitability; we argue that these effects both encourage and facilitate earnings management. Drawing on recent research in finance and political science, we use a measure of the alignment along party lines between politicians elected at the state level and the federally elected President as our main measure of proximity to political power. We find a significant positive association between the political alignment of firms’ home states and their level of absolute discretionary accruals. Consistent with the idea that firms engage in corporate political activities (lobbying and financial contributions) to hedge against policy risk, our results only hold for firms not engaging in such activities.

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Do corporate governance mandates impact long-term firm value and governance culture?

Reena Aggarwal, Jason Schloetzer & Rohan Williamson

Journal of Corporate Finance, forthcoming

Abstract:
Motivated by recent changes to corporate governance standards around the world, we use a regulatory shock that substantially altered the governance structure for some firms to shed light on the long-term impact of mandates that are of global interest. Firms affected by this shock had lower values and non-mandated governance practices that were less shareholder friendly before the mandates were in effect when compared to unaffected matched peers. In the post-mandate period, we document a 48% tightening of the relative value gap, and show that this gap relates to the continued use of less shareholder friendly non-mandated governance practices. Our results suggest that governance mandates can tighten, but not eliminate, the value gap between poorly and well governed firms, and that firms affected by the shock continue to have less shareholder friendly governance cultures long after regulatory intervention.

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Customer Concentration and Corporate Tax Avoidance

Henry He Huang et al.

Journal of Banking & Finance, forthcoming

Abstract:
Firms with a concentrated corporate customer base need to hold more cash and have a stronger incentive to manage earnings upwards. Since tax planning can increase both cash flow and accounting earnings, firms with a concentrated customer base may be more likely to engage in tax avoidance. We find evidence of a positive association between the level of corporate customer concentration and the extent of tax avoidance. In addition, we find that the positive relation between corporate customer concentration and tax avoidance is more pronounced when a firm has a lower market share in its industry, enjoys less revenue diversification, and engages less in real earnings management. In contrast to corporate major customers, governmental major customers provide stable cash flow to suppliers, which is likely to alleviate supplier firms’ need for tax avoidance. We find that firms engage in lower levels of tax avoidance when they have a governmental major customer, and that this association is less pronounced under Democratic presidencies. Taken together, our findings indicate that a firm's customer concentration (i.e., corporate and governmental major customers) has a significant effect on the extent to which it avoids taxes.

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Executives’ Legal Records and Insider Trading Activities

Robert Davidson, Aiyesha Dey & Abbie Smith

University of Chicago Working Paper, May 2016

Abstract:
We examine how and why insider trading varies across senior executives and their firms. As predicted, the profitability of both purchases and sales are higher for “recordholder” executives (those who have a record of legal infractions), than for other “non-recordholder” executives at the same firms. The profitability of recordholder executives’ purchases and sales decrease significantly with proxies for strong information and governance environments, suggesting that recordholders have a relatively higher propensity to exploit inside information given the opportunity to do so. Finally, our classification of executives (recordholder status) can predict future returns and firm-specific information events.

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Corruption culture and corporate misconduct

Xiaoding Liu

Journal of Financial Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Despite significant interest in corporate culture, there is little empirical research on its role in influencing corporate misconduct. Using cultural background information on key company insiders, I construct a measure of corporate corruption culture, capturing a firm's general attitude toward opportunistic behavior. Firms with high corruption culture are more likely to engage in earnings management, accounting fraud, option backdating, and opportunistic insider trading. I further explore the inner workings of corruption culture and find evidence that it operates both as a selection mechanism and by having a direct influence on individual behavior.

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Do Private Firms Invest Differently than Public Firms? Taking Cues from the Natural Gas Industry

Erik Gilje & Jerome Taillard

Journal of Finance, August 2016, Pages 1733–1778

Abstract:
We study how listing status affects investment behavior. Theory offers competing hypotheses on how listing-related frictions affect investment decisions. We use detailed data on 74,670 individual projects in the U.S. natural gas industry to show that private firms respond less than public firms to changes in investment opportunities. Private firms adjust drilling activity for low capital-intensity investments. However, they do not increase drilling in response to new capital-intensive growth opportunities. Instead, they sell these projects to public firms. Our evidence suggests that differences in access to external capital are important in explaining the investment behavior of public and private firms.

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Anticipated vs. Actual Synergy in Merger Partner Selection and Post-Merger Innovation

Vithala Rao, Yu Yu & Nita Umashankar

Marketing Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Past research has primarily focused on what happens after a merger. This research attempts to determine whether anticipated benefits from the merger actually accrue. We characterize the effects of observed variables on whether pairs of firms merge, vis-à-vis roommate matching, and then link these factors to post-merger innovation (i.e., number of patents). We jointly estimate the two models using Markov Chain Monte Carlo methods with a unique panel data set of 1,979 mergers between 4,444 firms across industries and countries from 1992 to 2008. We find that similarity in national culture and technical knowledge has a positive effect on partner selection and post-merger innovation. Anticipated synergy from subindustry similarity, however, is not realized in post-merger innovation. Furthermore, some key synergy sources are unanticipated when selecting a merger partner. For example, financial synergy from higher total assets and complementarity in total assets and debt leverage as well as knowledge synergy from breadth and depth of knowledge positively influence innovation but not partner selection. Furthermore, factors that dilute synergy (e.g., higher debt levels) are unanticipated, and firms merge with firms that detract from their innovation potential. Overall, the results reveal some incongruity between anticipated and realized synergy.

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Securities fraud and corporate board turnover: New evidence from lawsuit outcomes

Christopher Baum, James Bohn & Atreya Chakraborty

International Review of Law and Economics, October 2016, Pages 14–25

Abstract:
We examine the relationship between outcomes of securities fraud class action lawsuits (SFCAs) and corporate board turnover rates. Our results indicate that turnover rates for board members are higher when a firm settles a lawsuit than when a suit is dismissed. Outside director turnover is most sensitive to SFCA outcomes, perhaps reflecting reputational effects. Results demonstrate that involvement in securities fraud is costly for corporate board members.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Uplifting

Heads or Tails: The Impact of a Coin Toss on Major Life Decisions and Subsequent Happiness

Steven Levitt

NBER Working Paper, August 2016

Abstract:
Little is known about whether people make good choices when facing important decisions. This paper reports on a large-scale randomized field experiment in which research subjects having difficulty making a decision flipped a coin to help determine their choice. For important decisions (e.g. quitting a job or ending a relationship), those who make a change (regardless of the outcome of the coin toss) report being substantially happier two months and six months later. This correlation, however, need not reflect a causal impact. To assess causality, I use the outcome of a coin toss. Individuals who are told by the coin toss to make a change are much more likely to make a change and are happier six months later than those who were told by the coin to maintain the status quo. The results of this paper suggest that people may be excessively cautious when facing life-changing choices.

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The Happiness Gap Between Conservatives and Liberals Depends on Country-Level Threat: A Worldwide Multilevel Study

Emma Onraet et al.

Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
In the present study, we investigated the much debated “happiness gap” between conservatives and liberals, approaching the issue from a multilevel person × context perspective. More specifically, we investigated whether this relationship depends on country-level threat. We used individual-level data for right-wing attitudes and psychological well-being from 94 large, representative samples collected worldwide (total N = 137,890) and objective indicators of country-level threat as the contextual variable. Our results suggest that, especially in countries characterized by high levels of threat, individuals with right-wing attitudes experienced greater well-being than individuals with left-wing attitudes. In countries with a low level of threat, this relationship was considerably weaker or even absent. Our findings corroborate the view that right-wing attitudes may serve a self-protective function, helping individuals to manage and cope with threat.

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New Evidence on Trust and Well-being

John Helliwell, Haifang Huang & Shun Wang

NBER Working Paper, July 2016

Abstract:
This paper first uses data from three large international surveys – the Gallup World Poll, the World Values Survey and the European Social Survey – to estimate income-equivalent values for social trust, with a likely lower bound equivalent to a doubling of household income. Second, the more detailed and precisely measured trust data in the European Social Survey (ESS) show that social trust is only a part of the overall climate of trust. While social trust and trust in police are the most important elements, there are significant additional benefits from trust in three aspects of the institutional environment: the legal system, parliament and politicians. Thus estimates of the total well-being value of a trustworthy environment are larger than those based on social trust alone. Third, the ESS data show that living in a high-trust environment makes people more resilient to adversity. Being subject to discrimination, ill-health or unemployment, although always damaging to subjective well-being, is much less damaging to those living in trustworthy environments. These results suggest a fresh set of links between trust and inequality. Individuals who are subject to discrimination, ill-health or unemployment are typically concentrated towards the lower end of any national distribution of happiness. Thus the resilience-increasing feature of social trust reduces well-being inequality by channeling the largest benefits to those at the low end of the well-being distribution.

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The emotional cost of distance: Geographic social network dispersion and post-traumatic stress among survivors of Hurricane Katrina

Katherine Ann Morris & Nicole Deterding

Social Science & Medicine, September 2016, Pages 56–65

Methods: We use longitudinal, mixed-methods data from the Resilience in Survivors of Katrina (RISK) Project to capture the long-term effects of Hurricane Katrina on low-income mothers from New Orleans. Baseline surveys occurred approximately one year before the storm and follow-up surveys and in-depth interviews were conducted five years later. We use a sequential explanatory analytic design. With logistic regression, we estimate the association of geographic network dispersion with the likelihood of post-traumatic stress. With linear regressions, we estimate the association of network dispersion with the three post-traumatic stress sub-scales. Using maximal variation sampling, we use qualitative interview data to elaborate identified statistical associations.

Results: We find network dispersion is positively associated with the likelihood of post-traumatic stress, controlling for individual-level socio-demographic characteristics, exposure to hurricane-related trauma, perceived social support, and New Orleans residency. We identify two social-psychological mechanisms present in qualitative data: respondents with distant network members report a lack of deep belonging and a lack of mattering as they are unable to fulfill obligations to important distant ties.

Conclusion: Results indicate the importance of physical proximity to emotionally-intimate network ties for long-term psychological recovery.

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Smartphone Applications Utilizing Biofeedback Can Aid Stress Reduction

Alison Dillon et al.

Frontiers in Psychology, June 2016

Methods: We compared a control game to gaming-style smartphone applications combined with a skin conductance biofeedback device (the Pip). Fifty participants aged between 18 and 35 completed the Trier Social Stress Test. They were then randomly assigned to the intervention (biofeedback game) or control group (a non-biofeedback game) for thirty minutes. Perceived stress, heart rate and mood were measured before and after participants had played the games.

Results: A mixed factorial ANOVA showed a significant interaction between time and game type in predicting perceived stress [F(1,48) = 14.19, p < 0.001]. Participants in the biofeedback intervention had significantly reduced stress compared to the control group. There was also a significant interaction between time and game in predicting heart rate [F(1,48) = 6.41, p < 0.05]. Participants in the biofeedback intervention showed significant reductions in heart rate compared to the control group.

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Do Our Facebook Friends Make Us Feel Worse? A Study of Social Comparison and Emotion

Jiangmeng Liu et al.

Human Communication Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
People often compare themselves to others to gain a better understanding of the self in a process known as social comparison. The current study discusses how people engage in a social comparison process on Facebook, and how observing content from their Facebook friends may affect their emotions. A 2 (comparison direction) × 2 (relational closeness) × 2 (self-esteem) between-subjects experiment was conducted with 163 adult participants. The results revealed a significant 3-way interaction such that people with high self-esteem would be happier receiving positive information than negative information from their close friends, but the effect would be the opposite if the information was from a distant friend. There was no such difference for people with low self-esteem.

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The Relationship between Facebook Use and Well-Being depends on Communication Type and Tie Strength

Moira Burke & Robert Kraut

Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, July 2016, Pages 265–281

Abstract:
An extensive literature shows that social relationships influence psychological well-being, but the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. We test predictions about online interactions and well-being made by theories of belongingness, relationship maintenance, relational investment, social support, and social comparison. An opt-in panel study of 1,910 Facebook users linked self-reported measures of well-being to counts of respondents' Facebook activities from server logs. Specific uses of the site were associated with improvements in well-being: Receiving targeted, composed communication from strong ties was associated with improvements in well-being while viewing friends' wide-audience broadcasts and receiving one-click feedback were not. These results suggest that people derive benefits from online communication, as long it comes from people they care about and has been tailored for them.

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Stress and Subjective Age: Those With Greater Financial Stress Look Older

Stefan Agrigoroaei, Angela Lee-Attardo & Margie Lachman

Research on Aging, forthcoming

Abstract:
Subjective indicators of age add to our understanding of the aging process beyond the role of chronological age. We examined whether financial stress contributes to subjective age as rated by others and the self. The participants (N = 228), aged 26–75, were from a Boston area satellite of the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) longitudinal study. Participants reported how old they felt and how old they thought they looked, and observers assessed the participants’ age based on photographs (other-look age), at two occasions, an average of 10 years apart. Financial stress was measured at Time 1. Controlling for income, general stress, health, and attractiveness, participants who reported higher levels of financial stress were perceived as older than their actual age to a greater extent and showed larger increases in other-look age over time. We consider the results on accelerated aging of appearance with regard to their implications for interpersonal interactions and in relation to health.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Saturday, August 20, 2016

It's what you want

Paying for Performance: Performance Incentives Increase Desire for the Reward Object

Julia Hur & Loran Nordgren

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
The current research examines how exposure to performance incentives affects one’s desire for the reward object. We hypothesized that the flexible nature of performance incentives creates an attentional fixation on the reward object (e.g., money), which leads people to become more desirous of the rewards. Results from 5 laboratory experiments and 1 large-scale field study provide support for this prediction. When performance was incentivized with monetary rewards, participants reported being more desirous of money (Study 1), put in more effort to earn additional money in an ensuing task (Study 2), and were less willing to donate money to charity (Study 4). We replicated the result with nonmonetary rewards (Study 5). We also found that performance incentives increased attention to the reward object during the task, which in part explains the observed effects (Study 6). A large-scale field study replicated these findings in a real-world setting (Study 7). One laboratory experiment failed to replicate (Study 3).

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Why Focusing on the Similarity of Substitutes Leaves a Lot to Be Desired

Zachary Arens & Rebecca Hamilton

Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Consumers frequently choose substitutes for products that are out-of-stock, unavailable, too unhealthy, or too expensive. A series of studies shows that focusing on differences between the substitute and the unattained alternative reduces the consumer’s desire for the unattained alternative more than focusing on similarities between them. Whether consumers were dieting, listening to songs, or consuming snacks in the lab, focusing on differences reduced their desire for the unattained alternative – and subsequent consumption of this item after consuming the substitute – more than focusing on similarities. This suggests that consumers can reduce overconsumption by focusing on how the substitutes they consume differ from the alternatives they wish to avoid.

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The Implicit Meaning of (My) Change

Ed O’Brien & Michael Kardas

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
The concept of change simply entails the totality of ways in which a particular entity has grown better and grown worse. Five studies suggest that this is not how people actually understand it for themselves. Rather, when asked to assess how they have “changed” over time, people bring to mind only how they have improved and neglect other trajectories (e.g., decline) that they have also experienced; global change is specifically translated as directional change for the better. This tendency emerged across many populations, time frames, measures, and methodologies (Studies 1–3), and led to important downstream effects: people who reflected on “change” from their pasts experienced enhanced mood, meaning, and satisfaction in their presents, precisely because they had assumed to only think about personal improvement (Study 4). A final study shed light on mechanisms: people evaluated the word change in a speeded response task as more positive when they were instructed to interpret the word in relation to themselves versus a friend, while no differences emerged between conditions for nonchange control words (Study 5). This suggests that the basic pattern across studies stems (at least partly) from traditional self-enhancement motives — our own change spontaneously brings to mind only the ways in which we have improved, whereas change in someone else is not so immediately and uniformly associated with improvement. Taken together, these findings reveal novel insights into the content and consequences of change perception, and they more broadly highlight unforeseen biases in when and why people might subjectively (mis)interpret otherwise objective constructs.

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When being far away is good: Exploring how mortality salience, regulatory mode, and goal progress affect judgments of meaning in life

Matthew Vess et al.

European Journal of Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Research indicates that death-relevant thoughts (mortality salience) have a nuanced effect on judgments of life's meaningfulness. Thoughts of death diminish meaning in life only among people who lack or do not readily engage psychological structures that confer meaning. Building on this past research, the current research examined how an important source of meaning, long-term goal progress, affects the ways that death-relevant cognitions impact judgments of life's meaning. In Study 1 (N = 118), mortality salience decreased perceptions of meaning in life only among participants who were induced to feel closer to (vs. farther from) completing a long-term goal. Study 2 (N = 259) extended these findings by demonstrating the moderating influence of individual differences in locomotion. Mortality salience again decreased perceptions of meaning in life among participants who felt closer to accomplishing a long-term goal, but it only did so among people who do not quickly adopt new goals to pursue (i.e., those low in locomotion). The implications of these findings for better understanding how people maintain meaning in the face of existential concerns and how aspects of goal pursuit affect these processes are discussed.

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Anthropomorphized Helpers Undermine Autonomy and Enjoyment in Computer Games

Sara Kim, Rocky Peng Chen & Ke Zhang

Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Although digital assistants with humanlike features have become prevalent in computer games, few marketing studies have demonstrated the psychological mechanisms underlying consumers’ reactions to digital assistants and their subsequent influence on consumers’ game enjoyment. To fill this gap, the current study examined the effect of anthropomorphic representations of computerized helpers in computer games on game enjoyment. In the current research, consumers enjoyed a computer game less when they received assistance from a computerized helper imbued with humanlike features than from a helper construed as a mindless entity. We offer a novel mechanism that the presence of an anthropomorphized helper can undermine individuals’ perceived autonomy during a computer game. Across six experiments, we show that the presence of an anthropomorphized helper reduced game enjoyment across three different games. By measuring participants’ perceived autonomy (study 1) and employing moderators such as importance of autonomy (studies 2, 3, and 4), we also provide evidence that the reduced feeling of autonomy serves as the mechanism underlying the backfiring effect. Finally, we demonstrate that the effect of anthropomorphism on game enjoyment can be extended to other game-related outcomes, such as individuals’ motivation to persist in the game (studies 4 and 5).

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Friday, August 19, 2016

Picking sides

Income Inequality, Media Fragmentation, and Increased Political Polarization

John Duca & Jason Saving

Contemporary Economic Policy, forthcoming

Abstract:
The increasing polarization of congressional voting has been linked to legislators' inability to reach consensus on many pressing economic issues. We examine two potential factors driving polarization: greater income inequality and the increasingly fragmented state of American media. Using cointegration techniques, we find evidence indicating that media fragmentation has played a more important role than inequality. Periods of rising media fragmentation are followed by increased polarization. If recent patterns of media structure and income inequality persist, a polarized policymaking environment will likely continue to impede efforts to address major challenges, such as the long-run fiscal imbalances facing the United States.

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Measuring Polarization in High-Dimensional Data: Method and Application to Congressional Speech

Matthew Gentzkow, Jesse Shapiro & Matt Taddy

NBER Working Paper, July 2016

Abstract:
We study trends in the partisanship of Congressional speech from 1873 to 2009. We define partisanship to be the ease with which an observer could infer a congressperson’s party from a fixed amount of speech, and we estimate it using a structural choice model and methods from machine learning. The estimates reveal that partisanship is far greater today than at any point in the past. Partisanship was low and roughly constant from 1873 to the early 1990s, then increased dramatically in subsequent years. Evidence suggests innovation in political persuasion beginning with the Contract with America, possibly reinforced by changes in the media environment, as a likely cause. Naive estimates of partisanship are subject to a severe finite-sample bias and imply substantially different conclusions.

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Culturally Antagonistic Memes and the Zika Virus: An Experimental Test

Dan Kahan et al.

University of Pennsylvania Working Paper, July 2016

Abstract:
This paper examines a remedy for a defect in existing accounts of public risk perceptions. The accounts in question feature two dynamics: the affect heuristic, which emphasizes the impact of visceral feelings on information processing; and the cultural cognition thesis, which describes the tendency of individuals to form beliefs that reflect and reinforce their group commitments. The defect is the failure of these two dynamics, when combined, to explain the peculiar selectivity of public risk controversies: despite their intensity and disruptiveness, such controversies occur less frequently than the affect heuristic and the cultural cognition thesis seem to predict. To account for this aspect of public risk perceptions, the paper describes a model that adds the phenomenon of culturally antagonistic memes — argumentative tropes that fuse positions on risk with contested visions of the best life. Arising adventitiously, antagonistic memes transform affect and cultural cognition from consensus-generating, truth-convergent influences on information processing into conflictual, identity-protective ones. The paper supports this model with experimental results involving perceptions of the risk of the Zika virus: a general sample of U.S. subjects, whose members were not polarized when exposed to neutral information, formed culturally polarized affective reactions when exposed to information that was pervaded with antagonistic memes linking Zika to global warming; when exposed to comparable information linking Zika to unlawful immigration, the opposed affective stances of the subjects flipped in direction. Normative and prescriptive implications of these results are discussed.

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Religious Identity and Descriptive Representation

Walter Schmidt & Matthew Miles

Politics and Religion, forthcoming

Abstract:
Drawing on the descriptive representation literature, we argue that religious identity is a social identity similar to gender or race, which leads a person to feel represented by someone who shares their religious identity. We argue that religious identity motivates approbation for public officials that is distinct from partisanship. We find that constituents who share the religious identity of their congressional representatives are significantly more likely to approve of their representative's performance in office. In addition, those who share a religious identity with President Obama are more trusting of him; particularly among those for whom religion is important. Finally, we find that shared religious identity moderates the relationship between partisanship and trust in the President. All else equal, Republicans who share a religious identity with President Obama are 500% more likely to trust him than a Republican who does not.

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Subpartisan Cues and Ideological Distinctions: The Effect of the Tea Party Label on Voter Perceptions of Congressional Candidates

Bryan Gervais & Jeffrey Taylor

Social Science Quarterly, forthcoming

Objective: We aim to fill a gap in the voter heuristic literature by estimating the impact of subparty cues — labels that connect candidates to an intraparty faction — on perceptions of candidates’ ideological positions. We argue that the Tea Party label acts as a subpartisan cue, and should affect perceptions of both Republicans and their Democratic opponents.

Methods: We measure ideological perceptions using data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES), and measure Tea Party “saliency” based on how often candidates were linked with the Tea Party in news media. Using probit regression, we estimate the impact of Tea Party saliency on ideological perceptions of candidates.

Results: We find that Republican candidates often associated with the Tea Party are more likely to be perceived as conservative or very conservative, even when we control for candidate and voter ideology, while their Democratic opponents are perceived to be more moderate.

Conclusion: The results suggest that extremizing cues like the Tea Party label can have a moderating effect on opponents. These findings shed new light on the role and interaction of party-related voting cues, and have important implications for elections, campaigns, and voter opinion and behavior.

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Cognitive Ability Rivals the Effect of Political Sophistication on Ideological Voting

Stig Hebbelstrup Rye Rasmussen

Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract:
This article examines the impact of cognitive ability on ideological voting. We find, using a U.S. sample and a Danish sample, that the effect of cognitive ability rivals the effect of the traditionally strongest predictor of ideological voting, political sophistication. Furthermore, the results are consistent with the effect of cognitive ability being partly mediated by political sophistication. Much of the effect of cognitive ability remains, however, and is not explained by differences in education or openness to experience either. The implications of these results for democratic theory are discussed.

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Residential Building Restrictions, Cost of Living, and Partisanship

Jason Sorens

Dartmouth College Working Paper, July 2016

Abstract:
Why have richer U.S. states become more Democratic and poorer states more Republican? I find that this phenomenon actually reflects cost of living, driven by residential building restrictions. Such restrictions have come under intense scrutiny from economists in recent years. By making housing supply less responsive to price, land-use regulation increases house prices in locations that are highly desirable for either amenities or production. High house prices are the most important component of general cost of living. High cost of living deters in-migration of lower-income households, especially those that do not highly value amenities. Holding median household income constant, higher-cost locations will tend over time to attract and keep households that highly value amenities. It is hypothesized that these households will be more Democratic. Accordingly, raising residential building requirements in high-amenity areas should cause those areas to move gradually to the left. The hypotheses are tested on a variety of individual- and state-level data.

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Ideological Reactivity: Political Conservatism and Brain Responsivity to Emotional and Neutral Stimuli

Shona Tritt et al.

Emotion, forthcoming

Abstract:
Conservatives are often thought to have a negativity bias — responding more intensely to negative than positive information. Yet, recent research has found that greater endorsement of conservative beliefs follows from both positive and negative emotion inductions. This suggests that the role of affect in political thought may not be restricted to negative valence, and more attention should be given to how conservatives and liberals respond to a wider range of stimulation. In this vein, we examined neural responses to a full range of affective stimuli, allowing us to examine how self-reported ideology moderated these responses. Specifically, we explored the relationship between political orientation and 2 event-related potentials (1 late and 1 early) previously shown to covary with the subjective motivational salience of stimuli — in response to photographs with standardized ratings of arousal and valence. At late time points, conservatives exhibited sustained heightened reactivity, compared with liberals, specifically in response to relatively unarousing and neutral stimuli. At early time points, conservatives exhibited somewhat enhanced neural activity in response to all stimulus types compared with liberals. These results may suggest that conservatives experience a wide variety of stimuli in their environment with increased motivational salience, including positive, neutral, and low-arousal stimuli. No effects of valence were found in this investigation. Such findings have implications for the development and refinement of psychological conceptions of political orientation.

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Driving a Wedge Between Evidence and Beliefs: How Online Ideological News Exposure Promotes Political Misperceptions

Kelly Garrett, Brian Weeks & Rachel Neo

Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, forthcoming

Abstract:
This article has 2 goals: to provide additional evidence that exposure to ideological online news media contributes to political misperceptions, and to test 3 forms this media-effect might take. Analyses are based on representative survey data collected during the 2012 U.S. presidential election (N = 1,004). Panel data offer persuasive evidence that biased news site use promotes inaccurate beliefs, while cross-sectional data provide insight into the nature of these effects. There is no evidence that exposure to ideological media reduces awareness of politically unfavorable evidence, though in some circumstances biased media do promote misunderstandings of it. The strongest and most consistent influence of ideological media exposure is to encourage inaccurate beliefs regardless of what consumers know of the evidence.

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Are neoliberals more susceptible to bullshit?

Joanna Sterling, John Jost & Gordon Pennycook

Judgment and Decision Making, July 2016, Pages 352–360

Abstract:
We conducted additional analyses of Pennycook et al.’s (2015, Study 2) data to investigate the possibility that there would be ideological differences in “bullshit receptivity” that would be explained by individual differences in cognitive style and ability. As hypothesized, we observed that endorsement of neoliberal, free market ideology was significantly but modestly associated with bullshit receptivity. In addition, we observed a quadratic association, which indicated that ideological moderates were more susceptible to bullshit than ideological extremists. These relationships were explained, in part, by heuristic processing tendencies, faith in intuition, and lower verbal ability. Results are inconsistent with approaches suggesting that (a) there are no meaningful ideological differences in cognitive style or reasoning ability, (b) simplistic, certainty-oriented cognitive styles are generally associated with leftist (vs. rightist) economic preferences, or (c) simplistic, certainty-oriented cognitive styles are generally associated with extremist (vs. moderate) preferences. Theoretical and practical implications are briefly addressed.

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Network Structure and Patterns of Information Diversity on Twitter

Jesse Shore, Jiye Baek & Chrysanthos Dellarocas

Boston University Working Paper, July 2016

Abstract:
Social media have great potential to support diverse information sharing, but there is widespread concern that platforms like Twitter do not result in communication between those who hold contradictory viewpoints. Because users can choose whom to follow, prior research suggests that social media users exist in “echo chambers” or become polarized. We seek evidence of this in a complete cross section of hyperlinks posted on Twitter, using previously validated measures of the political slant of news sources to study information diversity. Contrary to prediction, we find that the average account posts links to more politically moderate news sources than the ones they receive in their own feed. However, members of a tiny network core do exhibit cross-sectional evidence of polarization and are responsible for the majority of tweets received overall due to their popularity and activity, which could explain the widespread perception of polarization on social media.

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Civic education: Do liberals do it better?

Jason Gainous & Allison Martens

Journal of Political Ideologies, Fall 2016, Pages 261-279

Abstract:
Recent research has found that civic education improves the democratic capacity of students and that teachers who employ an ‘open classroom’ approach seem to perform better at accomplishing this goal. We build on behavioural literature suggesting that variation in personality traits across ideology may account for why liberal middle school teachers would be more likely to foster an open classroom climate and as a result do a better job than their conservative counterparts at stimulating in their students’ political knowledge, an important component of democratic capacity. We estimate a series of quasi-experimental multilevel models using data from a survey of American students and teachers. The results indicate that liberal teachers tend to use an open classroom approach more frequently and that the students with the highest levels of political knowledge are in classes taught by liberal teachers. This effect holds up when controlling for individual-level predictors of student knowledge.

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A few bad apples: Communication in the presence of strategic ideologues

Daniel Stone

Southern Economic Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
I propose a very simple model of strategic communication. The motivation is to help explain widespread persistent disagreement about objective facts. In the model, there is a message sender and a receiver, and two possible states of the world, left or right. The sender is one of three types: honest, or a leftist or rightist “ideologue.” The honest type observes a private signal in {0,1,...,N}, with higher values implying stronger support for the right state, and reports the observed value truthfully. Ideologues strategically choose any message from this set to maximize the receiver's belief in their preferred state, ignoring any private information they may have. I show that a small presence of ideologues can have a large effect on communication: while we might expect ideologues to just send extreme messages, in most equilibria ideologues use “strategic understatement,” and in many cases actually mix over all non-neutral (non-N∕2) messages to mimic honest types and gain credibility. This distorts the interpretation of these messages such that all messages on a side of the spectrum (above or below N∕2) have the same effect on receiver beliefs. This coarsened communication is less informative than even the weakest non-neutral messages in the absence of ideologues. I show by example how ideologues can cause large delays in the time required for receiver beliefs to converge to truth.

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Group identification as a means of attitude restoration

Joshua Clarkson et al.

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, January 2017, Pages 139–145

Abstract:
This paper investigates the possibility that individuals selectively identify with groups as a means of restoring certainty in their attitudes. Specifically, we contend that (i) groups offer social validation in the form of attitudinal norms, (ii) individuals heighten their identification with groups that offer norms that are consistent with attitudes that have been undermined, and (iii) access to these norms reduces attitude uncertainty. Two experiments support this hypothesis by demonstrating greater identification following a loss of attitude certainty, though only with groups offering relevant attitudinal norms. Moreover, this identification is subsequently shown to promote attitude restoration in the form of increased certainty. Consequently, groups serve an important role in attitude restoration by protecting attitudes against uncertainty when a relevant group is available to bolster the attitude.

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Is ideology the enemy of inquiry? Examining the link between political orientation and lack of interest in novel data

Alexa Tullett et al.

Journal of Research in Personality, August 2016, Pages 123–132

Abstract:
Four studies examined the relationship between political orientation and data selection. In each study participants were given the opportunity to select data from a large data set addressing a specific issue: the justness of the world (Pilot Study), the efficacy of social safety nets (Studies 1–3), and the benefits of social media (Study 3). Participants were given no knowledge of what the data would tell them in advance. More conservative participants selected less data, and in Study 3 this relationship was partly accounted for by an increased tendency to question the value of science as a way of learning about the world. These findings may reveal one factor contributing to political polarization: an asymmetrical interest in scientific data.

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Mixed Partisan Households and Electoral Participation in the United States

Eitan Hersh & Yair Ghitza

Yale Working Paper, June 2016

Abstract:
Research suggests that partisans are increasingly avoiding members of the other party — in their choice of neighborhood, social network, even their spouse. But little is known about partisan intermingling in the United States, since surveys rarely shed light on groups. Leveraging a national database of voter registration records, we analyze mixed-partisan households in the U.S. Three in ten married couples have mismatched party affiliations. We first evaluate the rate of sorting, as well as the relationship between inter-party marriage and gender, age, and geography. Then, we test whether mixed-partisan couples participate less actively in politics. We find that voter turnout is strongly correlated with the party of one’s spouse. A partisan who is married to a co-partisan is far more likely to vote. The effect is especially pronounced in closed primaries, suggesting an effect of cohabitation, not just low-participation voters sorting into mixed-party marriages.

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History Made: The Rise of Republican Tim Scott

Scott Huffmon, Gibbs Knotts & Seth McKee

PS: Political Science & Politics, July 2016, Pages 405-413

Abstract:
In a time of unprecedented racial polarization in partisan voting, and in a staunchly Republican Deep South state, one black Republican managed to reach the pinnacle of public office. This article examines Tim Scott’s rise by analyzing precinct-level data to better understand his 2010 election to the US House and data from the Winthrop Poll to explore his more recent US Senate victory. To better understand support for Scott, we also report results from an embedded-survey experiment to assess respondents’ favorability toward Scott when he is characterized by two different frames: (1) “Tea Party favorite,” and (2) “first African American Senator from South Carolina since Reconstruction.” We found that conservatives, evangelicals, and less-educated individuals respond more positively to Scott when he is described as a “Tea Party favorite.” More than an intriguing case study, Scott’s rise tells a broader story of the complicated relationships among race, ideology, and partisanship in the contemporary American South.

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Re-construing politics: The dual impacts of abstraction on political ideology

Eugene Chan

European Journal of Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
The influence of construal level on political ideology is unclear. Some research says that abstraction polarizes political attitudes by making liberals more liberal and conservatives more conservative. Other research instead argues that an abstract construal causes people to exhibit similar political attitudes as each other. The current research presents two experiments in which abstraction polarizes political attitudes on issues of social inequality. However, abstraction also increases traditionalism, and so it increases a preference for maintaining the societal status quo, such as by increasing one's disagreement with or opposition to homosexuality. The dual impacts of abstraction parallel the two distinct dimensions of political ideology (i.e., acceptance of social inequality and preference for the status quo), both of which prior research on construal level has not yet considered. Overall, the current findings indicate that the effects of construal level and the dimensions underlying political ideology need to be teased apart to fully understand the exact relationship between the two.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Thursday, August 18, 2016

How you seem

Numbers Are Gendered: The Role of Numerical Precision

Dengfeng Yan

Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Marketing communications often contain numerical information that can be expressed more or less precisely. Earlier research has identified a number of ways in which consumers respond differently to precise versus round numbers. The current research attempts to enrich this literature by introducing a new theoretical perspective. Drawing on recent findings in the numerical cognition literature, this work proposes that individuals project gendered meanings to precise versus round numbers, with precise numbers seen as more masculine relative to round ones. Seven studies provided convergent evidence for this proposition and demonstrated its marketing implications. Studies 1, 2, and 3, employing various approaches, show that participants do subscribe to this precision-masculinity intuition, at both implicit and explicit levels. Study 4 suppresses this effect by priming participants with examples where precision is connected to femininity. Building on these findings, subsequent studies demonstrate that marketing communications using precise (round) numbers lead to more favorable evaluations when the products or attributes are positioned as masculine (feminine).

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Answering Unresolved Questions About the Relationship Between Cognitive Ability and Prejudice

Mark Brandt & Jarret Crawford

Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Previous research finds that lower cognitive ability predicts greater prejudice. We test two unresolved questions about this association using a heterogeneous set of target groups and data from a representative sample of the United States (N = 5,914). First, we test “who are the targets of prejudice?” We replicate prior negative associations between cognitive ability and prejudice for groups who are perceived as liberal, unconventional, and having lower levels of choice over group membership. We find the opposite (i.e., positive associations), however, for groups perceived as conservative, conventional, and having higher levels of choice over group membership. Second, we test “who shows intergroup bias?” and find that people with both relatively higher and lower levels of cognitive ability show approximately equal levels of intergroup bias but toward different sets of groups.

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Is Eco-Friendly Unmanly? The Green-Feminine Stereotype and Its Effect on Sustainable Consumption

Aaron Brough et al.

Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Why are men less likely than women to embrace environmentally friendly products and behaviors? Whereas prior research attributes this gender gap in sustainable consumption to personality differences between the sexes, we propose that it may also partially stem from a prevalent association between green behavior and femininity, and a corresponding stereotype (held by both men and women) that green consumers are more feminine. Building on prior findings that men tend to be more concerned than women with gender identity maintenance, we argue that this green-feminine stereotype may motivate men to avoid green behaviors in order to preserve a macho image. A series of seven studies provides evidence that the concepts of greenness and femininity are cognitively linked and shows that, accordingly, consumers who engage in green behaviors are stereotyped by others as more feminine and even perceive themselves as more feminine. Further, men’s willingness to engage in green behaviors can be influenced by threatening or affirming their masculinity, as well as by using masculine rather than conventional green branding. Together, these findings bridge literatures on identity and environmental sustainability and introduce the notion that due to the green-feminine stereotype, gender identity maintenance can influence men’s likelihood of adopting green behaviors.

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Proximity under Threat: The Role of Physical Distance in Intergroup Relations

Jenny Xiao, Michael Wohl & Jay Van Bavel

PLoS ONE, July 2016

Abstract:
Throughout human history, social groups have invested immense amounts of wealth and time to keep threatening out-groups at a distance. In the current research, we explored the relationship between intergroup threat, physical distance, and discrimination. Specifically, we examined how intergroup threat alters estimates of physical distance to out-groups and how physical proximity affects intergroup relations. Previous research has found that people judge threatening out-groups as physically close. In Studies 1 and 2, we examined ways to attenuate this bias. In Study 1 a secure (vs. permeable) US-Mexico border reduced the estimated proximity to Mexico City among Americans who felt threatened by Mexican immigration. In Study 2, intergroup apologies reduced estimates of physical proximity to a threatening cross-town rival university, but only among participants with cross-group friendships. In Study 3, New York Yankees fans who received an experimental induction of physical proximity to a threatening out-group (Boston Red Sox) had a stronger relationship between their collective identification with the New York Yankees and support for discriminatory policies toward members of the out-group (Red Sox fans) as well as how far they chose to sit from out-group members (Red Sox fans). Together, these studies suggest that intergroup threat alters judgment of physical properties, which has important implications for intergroup relations.

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Do Americans Prefer Coethnic Representation?: The Impact of Race on House Incumbent Evaluations

Stephen Ansolabehere & Bernard Fraga

Stanford Law Review, June 2016, Pages 1553-1594

Abstract:
Theories of representation often assert that citizens prefer representatives who are of the same racial or ethnic background as themselves. Examining surveys of over 80,000 individuals, this Article quantifies the preference for coethnic representation among whites, blacks, and Hispanics. The large sample size provides sufficient statistical power to study constituents in districts with minority representatives, as well as those with white representatives. We find that individuals strongly prefer representatives who share their ethnic background, yet partisanship explains most of the preference for coethnic representation. Controlling for party, whites express a slight preference for white representation, but blacks and Hispanics express equal support for minority and white incumbents. The differential preference for white representation among white Democrats is explained by a bias associated with attitudes about race-related policy. These findings suggest that legal and political theories of race, especially regarding the Voting Rights Act, must be tied to voters’ policy and party preferences, not merely their racial identity.

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Past Threat, Present Prejudice: The Impact of Adolescent Racial Context on White Racial Attitude

Seth Goldman & Daniel Hopkins

University of Pennsylvania Working Paper, June 2016

Abstract:
Extensive research on racial threat suggests that white Americans living near black Americans adopt more negative racial attitudes. Theoretically, local inter-group exposure has been conceptualized as acting contemporaneously, despite political socialization research indicating that experiences in adolescence are especially influential. Here, we test the impact of adolescent racial contexts on whites' prejudice using two data sets. The first is the Youth-Parent Socialization Panel Survey, which followed one cohort from 1965 to 1997. The second is a population-based panel with novel measures of inter-group proximity conducted between 2007 and 2013. Our analyses demonstrate the enduring influence of adolescent contexts: while the racial composition of whites' current counties is not a consistent predictor of racial prejudice, the racial composition of their county during high school is. Exposure during one's formative years appears to increase racial prejudice decades later, providing new insight about the roots of racial threat and prejudice.

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Is it always good to feel valued? The psychological benefits and costs of higher perceived status in one’s ethnic minority group

Christopher Begeny & Yuen Huo

Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, forthcoming

Abstract:
Two studies (N = 1,048) examined how Blacks’, Asians’, and Latinos’ perceived value within their own ethnic group (ethnic intragroup status) shapes mental health (depression, anxiety, psychological distress). The proposed intragroup status and health (ISAH) model predicts that feeling valued among ethnic ingroup members has benefits for health, but also indirect costs. Costs arise because individuals who feel highly valued in their ethnic group see their ethnicity as more central to their self-concept; with stronger identity-centrality, individuals more frequently view daily social interactions through the “lens” of their ethnicity and ultimately perceive/experience more discrimination. Discrimination, in turn, adversely shapes mental health. Results of structural equation modeling supported these predictions across all groups in both studies. Thus, feeling valued in one’s minority group may be a double-edged sword for mental health. Overall, the ISAH model reveals how intragroup processes, when considered from an intergroup perspective, advance our understanding of minority mental health.

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Sexually Objectifying Pop Music Videos, Young Women’s Self-Objectification, and Selective Exposure: A Moderated Mediation Model

Kathrin Karsay & Jörg Matthes

Communication Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
There is intense discussion among experts about the potential negative impact of sexually objectifying media content on young women. This article presents an experimental study in which young women were either exposed to pop music videos high in sexual objectification or to pop music videos low in sexual objectification. Women’s self-objectification and their subsequent media selection behavior were measured. The results indicate that exposure to sexually objectifying media increased self-objectification, which in turn increased the preference for objectifying media content. Self-esteem, the internalization of appearance ideals, and body mass index (BMI) did not influence these relationships. Implications of these findings are discussed.

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On the Borders of Harmful and Helpful Beauty Biases: The Biasing Effects of Physical Attractiveness Depend on Sex and Ethnicity

Maria Agthe et al.

Evolutionary Psychology, June 2016

Abstract:
Research with European Caucasian samples demonstrates that attractiveness-based biases in social evaluation depend on the constellation of the sex of the evaluator and the sex of the target: Whereas people generally show positive biases toward attractive opposite-sex persons, they show less positive or even negative biases toward attractive same-sex persons. By examining these biases both within and between different ethnicities, the current studies provide new evidence for both the generalizability and the specificity of these attractiveness-based social perception biases. Examining within-ethnicity effects, Study 1 is the first to demonstrate that samples from diverse ethnic backgrounds parallel the finding of European Caucasian samples: The advantageous or adverse effects of attractiveness depend on the gender constellation of the evaluator and the evaluated person. Examining between-ethnicity effects, Study 2 found that these attractiveness-based biases emerge almost exclusively toward targets of the evaluator’s own ethnic background; these biases were reduced or eliminated for cross-ethnicity evaluations and interaction intentions. We discuss these findings in light of evolutionary principles and reflect on potential interactions between culture and evolved cognitive mechanisms.

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The threatening nature of “rap” music

Adam Dunbar, Charis Kubrin & Nicholas Scurich

Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, August 2016, Pages 280-292

Abstract:
Rap music has had a contentious relationship with the legal system, including censorship, regulation, and artists being arrested for lewd and profane performances. More recently, rap lyrics have been introduced by prosecutors to establish guilt in criminal trials. Some fear this form of artistic expression will be inappropriately interpreted as literal and threatening, perhaps because of stereotypes. Only a handful of studies have examined whether rap lyrics are evaluated using stereotypes, yet these studies were conducted in the 1990s — a period of heightened scrutiny for rap — and used nonoptimal methods. This study presents 3 experiments that examine the impact of genre-specific stereotypes on the evaluation of violent song lyrics by manipulating the musical genre (rap vs. country) while holding constant the actual lyrics. Study 1, a direct replication of previous research, found that participants deemed identical lyrics more literal, offensive, and in greater need of regulation when they were characterized as rap compared with country. Study 2 was a conceptual replication (i.e., same design but different stimuli), and again detected this effect. Study 3 used the same approach but experimentally manipulated the race of the author of the lyrics. A main effect was detected for the genre, with rap evaluated more negatively than country or a control condition with no label. However, no effects were found for the race of the lyrics’ author nor were interactions were detected. Collectively, these findings highlight the possibility that rap lyrics could inappropriately impact jurors when admitted as evidence to prove guilt.

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Generalizing Baseball: Holding and Applying Stereotypes to America’s Pastime

Patrick Ferrucci et al.

Journal of Sports Media, Spring 2016, Pages 101-121

Abstract:
Prior content analyses of sports coverage have revealed sports journalists ascribe particular adjectives to athletes based on race. A recurring pattern is the brain-versus-brawn dichotomy. In a 2 (race: Black versus White player) x 2 (description: consistent versus inconsistent stereotype) x 2 (source: journalist vs. blogger) within-subjects experiment, we empirically tested if the same set of stereotypes holds true among those exposed to these media stereotypes. Using both implicit (response latency) and explicit (credibility rating) measures, we found a consistent pattern of stereotyping Black athletes. Stereotypes were activated most quickly by a stereotypical description of a Black athlete. A journalist was also rated most credible when stereotypically describing a Black athlete.

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The Social Causes and Political Consequences of Group Empathy

Cigdem Sirin, Nicholas Valentino & José Villalobos

Political Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Recent scholarship has discovered significant racial/ethnic group variation in response to political threats such as immigration and terrorism. Surprisingly, minority groups often simultaneously perceive themselves to be at greater risk from such threats and yet still prefer more open immigration policies and civil liberties protections. We suggest a group-level empathy process may explain this puzzle: Due to their higher levels of empathy for other disadvantaged groups, many minority group members support protections for others even when their own interests are threatened. Little is known, however, about the unique properties of group empathy or its role in policy opinion formation. In this study, we examine the reliability and validity of our new measure of group empathy, the Group Empathy Index (GEI), demonstrating that it is distinct from other social and political predispositions such as ethnocentrism, social dominance orientation, authoritarianism, ideology, and partisanship. We then propose a theory about the development of group empathy in reaction to life experiences based on one's race/ethnicity, gender, age, and education. Finally, we examine the power of group empathy to predict policy attitudes and political behavior.

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What Lies Beneath? Minority Group Members’ Suspicion of Whites’ Egalitarian Motivation Predicts Responses to Whites’ Smiles

Jonathan Kunstman et al.

Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, September 2016, Pages 1193-1205

Abstract:
Antiprejudice norms and attempts to conceal racial bias have made Whites’ positive treatment of racial minorities attributionally ambiguous. Although some minorities believe Whites’ positivity is genuine, others are suspicious of Whites’ motives and believe their kindness is primarily motivated by desires to avoid appearing prejudiced. For those suspicious of Whites’ motives, Whites’ smiles may paradoxically function as threat cues. To the extent that Whites’ smiles cue threat among suspicious minorities, we hypothesized that suspicious minorities would explicitly perceive Whites’ smiles as threatening (Study 1), automatically orient to smiling White — as opposed to smiling Black — targets (Study 2), and accurately discriminate between Whites’ real and fake smiles (Study 3). These results provide convergent evidence that cues typically associated with acceptance and affiliation ironically function as threat cues among suspicious racial minorities.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

So hot

Big Data Sensors of Organic Advocacy: The Case of Leonardo DiCaprio and Climate Change

Eric Leas et al.

PLoS ONE, August 2016

Abstract:
The strategies that experts have used to share information about social causes have historically been top-down, meaning the most influential messages are believed to come from planned events and campaigns. However, more people are independently engaging with social causes today than ever before, in part because online platforms allow them to instantaneously seek, create, and share information. In some cases this “organic advocacy” may rival or even eclipse top-down strategies. Big data analytics make it possible to rapidly detect public engagement with social causes by analyzing the same platforms from which organic advocacy spreads. To demonstrate this claim we evaluated how Leonardo DiCaprio’s 2016 Oscar acceptance speech citing climate change motivated global English language news (Bloomberg Terminal news archives), social media (Twitter postings) and information seeking (Google searches) about climate change. Despite an insignificant increase in traditional news coverage (54%; 95%CI: -144 to 247), tweets including the terms “climate change” or “global warming” reached record highs, increasing 636% (95%CI: 573–699) with more than 250,000 tweets the day DiCaprio spoke. In practical terms the “DiCaprio effect” surpassed the daily average effect of the 2015 Conference of the Parties (COP) and the Earth Day effect by a factor of 3.2 and 5.3, respectively. At the same time, Google searches for “climate change” or “global warming” increased 261% (95%CI, 186–335) and 210% (95%CI 149–272) the day DiCaprio spoke and remained higher for 4 more days, representing 104,190 and 216,490 searches. This increase was 3.8 and 4.3 times larger than the increases observed during COP’s daily average or on Earth Day. Searches were closely linked to content from Dicaprio’s speech (e.g., “hottest year”), as unmentioned content did not have search increases (e.g., “electric car”). Because these data are freely available in real time our analytical strategy provides substantial lead time for experts to detect and participate in organic advocacy while an issue is salient. Our study demonstrates new opportunities to detect and aid agents of change and advances our understanding of communication in the 21st century media landscape.

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The abandoned ice sheet base at Camp Century, Greenland, in a warming climate

William Colgan et al.

Geophysical Research Letters, forthcoming

Abstract:
In 1959 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built Camp Century beneath the surface of the northwestern Greenland Ice Sheet. There they studied the feasibility of deploying ballistic missiles within the ice sheet. The base and its wastes were abandoned with minimal decommissioning in 1967, under the assumption they would be preserved for eternity by perpetually accumulating snowfall. Here we show that a transition in ice sheet surface mass balance at Camp Century from net accumulation to net ablation is plausible within the next 75 years, under a business-as-usual anthropogenic emissions scenario (Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5). Net ablation would guarantee the eventual remobilization of physical, chemical, biological, and radiological wastes abandoned at the site. While Camp Century and four other contemporaneous ice sheet bases were legally established under a Danish-U.S. treaty, the potential remobilization of their abandoned wastes, previously regarded as sequestered, represents an entirely new pathway of political dispute resulting from climate change.

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A Forward Looking Ricardian Approach: Do Land Markets Capitalize Climate Change Forecasts?

Christopher Severen, Christopher Costello & Olivier Deschenes

NBER Working Paper, July 2016

Abstract:
The hedonic pricing method is one of the fundamental approaches used to estimate the economic value of attributes that affect the market price of an asset. In environmental economics, such methods are routinely used to derive the economic valuation of environmental attributes such as air pollution and water quality. For example, the Ricardian approach is based on a hedonic regression of land values on historical climate variables. Forecasts of future climate can then be employed to estimate the future costs of climate change. This extensively-applied approach contains an important implicit assumption that current land markets ignore current climate forecasts. While this assumption was defensible decades ago (when this literature first emerged), it is reasonable to hypothesize that information on climate change is so pervasive today that markets may already price in expectations of future climate change. We show how to account for this with a straightforward empirical correction (called the Forward-Looking Ricardian Approach) that can be implemented with readily available data. We apply this empirically to agricultural land markets in the United States and find evidence that these markets already are accounting for climate change forecasts. Failing to account for this would lead a researcher to understate climate change damages by 36% to 66%.

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Political affiliation affects adaptation to climate risks: Evidence from New York City

W.J. Wouter Botzen et al.

Climatic Change, forthcoming

Abstract:
Research reveals that liberals and conservatives in the United States diverge about their beliefs regarding climate change. We show empirically that political affiliation also matters with respect to climate related risks such as flooding from hurricanes. Our study is based on a survey conducted 6 months after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 of over 1,000 residents in flood-prone areas in New York City. Democrats’ perception of their probability of suffering flood damage is significantly higher than Republicans’ and they are also more likely to invest in individual flood protection measures. However, 50% more Democrats than Republicans in our sample expect to receive federal disaster relief after a major flood. These results highlight the importance of taking into account value-based considerations in designing disaster risk management policies.

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Partisan differences in the relationship between newspaper coverage and concern over global warming

Xiaoquan Zhao, Justin Rolfe-Redding & John Kotcher

Public Understanding of Science, July 2016, Pages 543-559

Abstract:
The effects of news media on public opinion about global warming have been a topic of much interest in both academic and popular discourse. Empirical evidence in this regard, however, is still limited and somewhat mixed. This study used data from the 2006 General Social Survey in combination with a content analysis of newspaper coverage of the same time period to examine the relationship between general news climate and public concern about global warming. Results showed a pattern of political polarization, with increased coverage associated with growing divergence between Democrats and Republicans. Further analysis also showed evidence of reactivity in partisan response to coverage from different news outlets. These findings point to a particular form of politically motivated, biased processing of news information.

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Past Actions as Self-Signals: How Acting in a Self-Interested Way Influences Environmental Decision Making

Chang-Yuan Lee et al.

PLoS ONE, July 2016

Abstract:
In the last few decades, awareness of environmental issues has increased significantly. Little has changed, however, in human activities contributing to environmental damage. Why is it so difficult for us to change our behavior in a domain that is clearly so important to the future of humanity? Here we propose and test the possibility that self-signaling, the way we view ourselves based on our past behaviors, is one of the factors contributing to the difficulty of taking environmental action. In three experiments, we show that previous self-interested thoughts or behaviors serve as important signals that hinder the likelihood of acting in line with an individual’s reported concern for the environment. This study not only helps explain the gap between environmental awareness and action, but also suggests alternative strategies for policymakers and environmental agencies to promote proenvironmental behavior.

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How Positive Framing May Fuel Opposition to Low-Carbon Technologies: The Boomerang Model

Gerdien de Vries

Journal of Language and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Low-carbon technologies are necessary to combat global warming. However, they are often opposed by members of the general public, causing costly delays and cancellations. In this article, I argue that language may be a relevant cause of such opposition. I introduce a theoretical model describing a boomerang effect in which positively framed communication about low-carbon technologies may actually lead to opposition in the long run. An example of positive framing is emphasising the climate benefits of a technology while neglecting to mention associated safety risks. I predict that, over time, people begin to perceive positive framing as an attempt to manipulate them into supporting a technology. In turn, this perceived manipulation may make them feel that their freedom to make their own decision to support or oppose the technology is under threat. To counter this behavioural threat, people may begin to oppose low-carbon technologies. My boomerang model further describes how certain characteristics of the source of information as well as of the recipient may influence both the direct and indirect effects of positive framing. I then discuss the model’s implications for effective communication and indicate directions for future research.

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Attributing human mortality during extreme heat waves to anthropogenic climate change

Daniel Mitchell et al.

Environmental Research Letters, July 2016

Abstract:
It has been argued that climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. The extreme high temperatures of the summer of 2003 were associated with up to seventy thousand excess deaths across Europe. Previous studies have attributed the meteorological event to the human influence on climate, or examined the role of heat waves on human health. Here, for the first time, we explicitly quantify the role of human activity on climate and heat-related mortality in an event attribution framework, analysing both the Europe-wide temperature response in 2003, and localised responses over London and Paris. Using publicly-donated computing, we perform many thousands of climate simulations of a high-resolution regional climate model. This allows generation of a comprehensive statistical description of the 2003 event and the role of human influence within it, using the results as input to a health impact assessment model of human mortality. We find large-scale dynamical modes of atmospheric variability remain largely unchanged under anthropogenic climate change, and hence the direct thermodynamical response is mainly responsible for the increased mortality. In summer 2003, anthropogenic climate change increased the risk of heat-related mortality in Central Paris by ~70% and by ~20% in London, which experienced lower extreme heat. Out of the estimated ~315 and ~735 summer deaths attributed to the heatwave event in Greater London and Central Paris, respectively, 64 (±3) deaths were attributable to anthropogenic climate change in London, and 506 (±51) in Paris. Such an ability to robustly attribute specific damages to anthropogenic drivers of increased extreme heat can inform societal responses to, and responsibilities for, climate change.

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Demographic controls of future global fire risk

W. Knorr, A. Arneth & L. Jiang

Nature Climate Change, August 2016, Pages 781–785

Abstract:
Wildfires are an important component of terrestrial ecosystem ecology but also a major natural hazard to societies, and their frequency and spatial distribution must be better understood. At a given location, risk from wildfire is associated with the annual fraction of burned area, which is expected to increase in response to climate warming. Until recently, however, only a few global studies of future fire have considered the effects of other important global environmental change factors such as atmospheric CO2 levels and human activities, and how these influence fires in different regions. Here, we contrast the impact of climate change and increasing atmospheric CO2 content on burned area with that of demographic dynamics, using ensembles of climate simulations combined with historical and projected population changes under different socio-economic development pathways for 1901–2100. Historically, humans notably suppressed wildfires. For future scenarios, global burned area will continue to decline under a moderate emissions scenario, except for low population growth and fast urbanization, but start to increase again from around mid-century under high greenhouse gas emissions. Contrary to common perception, we find that human exposure to wildfires increases in the future mainly owing to projected population growth in areas with frequent wildfires, rather than by a general increase in burned area.

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Climate consequences of low-carbon fuels: The United States Renewable Fuel Standard

Jason Hill, Liaila Tajibaeva & Stephen Polasky

Energy Policy, October 2016, Pages 351–353

Abstract:
A common strategy for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from energy use is to increase the supply of low-carbon alternatives. However, increasing supply tends to lower energy prices, which encourages additional fuel consumption. This “fuel market rebound effect” can undermine climate change mitigation strategies, even to the point where efforts to reduce GHG emissions by increasing the supply of low-carbon fuels may actually result in increased GHG emissions. Here, we explore how policies that encourage the production of low-carbon fuels may result in increased GHG emissions because the resulting increase in energy use overwhelms the benefits of reduced carbon intensity. We describe how climate change mitigation strategies should follow a simple rule: a low-carbon fuel with a carbon intensity of X% that of a fossil fuel must displace at least X% of that fossil fuel to reduce overall GHG emissions. We apply this rule to the United States Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2). We show that absent consideration of the fuel market rebound effect, RFS2 appears to reduce GHG emissions, but once the fuel market rebound effect is factored in, RFS2 actually increases GHG emissions when all fuel GHG intensity targets are met.

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Global sea-level rise: Weighing country responsibility and risk

Dean Hardy & Bryan Nuse

Climatic Change, August 2016, Pages 333-345

Abstract:
Accelerated sea-level rise will be one of the most significant effects of global warming. Global mean sea level has risen more than 0.2 m since 1880 and continues rising at above 4 mm yr.−1. Here we allocate responsibility to countries for global sea-level rise commitment (SLRC) over the period 1850 to 2100 and weigh that against their exposure to inundation from sea-level rise. We bridge two lines of climate-related research by combining assessment of countries’ greenhouse gas emissions with predictions of the multi-millennial sea level response to global warming. Under the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s business-as-usual scenario our findings show that the five most responsible countries for global SLRC are also the most exposed to absolute land loss. This is mostly due to their own emissions, which we call intrinsic risk. We also assess extrinsic risk, defined as a country’s land exposed to inundation due to all other countries’ emissions. We show that for 6 m of global SLRC, the two non-island countries with the highest extrinsic risk are predicted to lose 27 % and 15 % of their own land, yet contributed less than 1.1 % each to the emissions driving SLRC. We anticipate that our findings will directly inform policy discussions in international climate negotiations by identifying the relative degree of country responsibility and risk associated with sea-level rise.

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Future Decreases in Freezing Days Across North America

Michael Rawlins et al.

Journal of Climate, forthcoming

Abstract:
We used air temperatures from a suite of regional climate models participating in the North American Climate Change Assessment Program (NARCCAP) together with two atmospheric reanalysis data sets to investigate changes in freezing days (defined as days with daily average temperature below freezing) likely to occur between 30 year baseline (1971–2000) and mid-century (2041–2070) periods across most of North America. Changes in NARCCAP ensemble mean winter temperature show a strong gradient with latitude, with warming of over 4°C near Hudson Bay. The decline in freezing days ranges from less than 10 days across north-central Canada to nearly 90 days in the warmest areas of the continent that currently undergo seasonally freezing conditions. The area experiencing freezing days contracts by 0.9–1.0 million km2 (5.7%–6.4% of the total area). Areas with mean annual temperature between 2–6°C and a relatively low rate of change in climatological daily temperatures (< 0.2°C day−1) near the time of spring thaw will encounter the greatest decreases in freezing days. Advances in the timing of spring thaw will exceed the delay in fall freeze across much of the US, with the reverse pattern likely over most of Canada.

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Effects of a Warming Climate on Daily Snowfall Events in the Northern Hemisphere

James Danco et al.

Journal of Climate, forthcoming

Abstract:
Using simulations performed with 24 coupled atmosphere-ocean global climate models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5), projections of Northern Hemisphere daily snowfall events under the RCP8.5 emissions scenario are analyzed for the periods of 2021-2050 and 2071-2100 and compared to the historical period of 1971-2000. The overall frequency of daily snowfall events is simulated to decrease across much of the Northern Hemisphere, except at the highest latitudes such as northern Canada, northern Siberia, and Greenland. Seasonal redistributions of daily snowfall event frequency and average daily snowfall are also projected to occur in some regions. For example, large portions of the Northern Hemisphere, including much of Canada, Tibet, northern Scandinavia, northern Siberia, and Greenland, are projected to experience increases in average daily snowfall and event frequency in midwinter. But in warmer months, the regions with increased snowfall become fewer in number and are limited to northern Canada, northern Siberia, and Greenland. These simulations also show changes in the frequency distribution of daily snowfall event intensity, including an increase in heavier snowfall events even in some regions where the overall snowfall decreases. The projected changes in daily snowfall event frequency exhibit some dependence on the temperature biases of the individual models in certain regions and times of the year, with colder models typically toward the positive end of the distribution of event frequency changes and warmer models toward the negative end, particularly in regions near the transition zone between increasing and decreasing snowfall.

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Bridging the Gap: Do Fast Reacting Fossil Technologies Facilitate Renewable Energy Diffusion?

Elena Verdolini, Francesco Vona & David Popp

NBER Working Paper, July 2016

Abstract:
The diffusion of renewable energy in the power system implies high supply variability. Lacking economically viable storage options, renewable energy integration has so far been possible thanks to the presence of fast-reacting mid-merit fossil-based technologies, which act as back-up capacity. This paper discusses the role of fossil-based power generation technologies in supporting renewable energy investments. We study the deployment of these two technologies conditional on all other drivers in 26 OECD countries between 1990 and 2013. We show that a 1% percent increase in the share of fast-reacting fossil generation capacity is associated with a 0.88% percent increase in renewable in the long run. These results are robust to various modifications in our empirical strategy, and most notably to the use of system-GMM techniques to account for the interdependence of renewable and fast-reacting fossil investment decisions. Our analysis points to the substantial indirect costs of renewable energy integration and highlights the complementarity of investments in different generation technologies for a successful decarbonization process.

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A retrospective analysis of benefits and impacts of U.S. renewable portfolio standards

Galen Barbose et al.

Energy Policy, September 2016, Pages 645–660

Abstract:
As states consider revising or developing renewable portfolio standards (RPS), they are evaluating policy costs, benefits, and other impacts. We present the first U. S. national-level assessment of state RPS program benefits and impacts, focusing on new renewable electricity resources used to meet RPS compliance obligations in 2013. In our central-case scenario, reductions in life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions from displaced fossil fuel-generated electricity resulted in $2.2 billion of global benefits. Health and environmental benefits from reductions in criteria air pollutants (sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter 2.5) were even greater, estimated at $5.2 billion in the central case. Further benefits accrued in the form of reductions in water withdrawals and consumption for power generation. Finally, although best considered resource transfers rather than net societal benefits, new renewable electricity generation used for RPS compliance in 2013 also supported nearly 200,000 U. S.-based gross jobs and reduced wholesale electricity prices and natural gas prices, saving consumers a combined $1.3–$4.9 billion. In total, the estimated benefits and impacts well-exceed previous estimates of RPS compliance costs.

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Crop Yield Changes Induced by Emissions of Individual Climate-Altering Pollutants

Drew Shindell

Earth's Future, forthcoming

Abstract:
Climate change damages agriculture, causing deteriorating food security and increased malnutrition. Many studies have examined the role of distinct physical processes, but impacts have not been previously attributed to individual pollutants. Using a simple model incorporating process-level results from detailed models, here I show that although carbon dioxide (CO2) is the largest driver of climate change, other drivers dominate agricultural yield changes. I calculate that anthropogenic emissions to date have decreased global agricultural yields by 9.5 ± 3.0%, with roughly 93% stemming from non-CO2 emissions, including methane (-5.2 ± 1.7%) and halocarbons (-1.4 ± 0.4%). The differing impacts stem from atmospheric composition responses: CO2 fertilizes crops, offsetting much of the loss induced by warming; halocarbons do not fertilize; methane leads to minimal fertilization but increases surface ozone which augments warming-induced losses. By the end of the century, strong CO2 mitigation improves agricultural yields by ~3 ± 5%. In contrast, strong methane and hydrofluorocarbon mitigation improve yields by ~16 ± 5% and ~5 ± 4%, respectively. These are the first quantitative analyses to include climate, CO2 and ozone simultaneously, and hence additional studies would be valuable. Nonetheless, as policy makers have leverage over pollutant emissions rather than isolated processes, the perspective presented here may be more useful for decision making than that in the prior work upon which this study builds. The results suggest that policies should target a broad portfolio of pollutant emissions in order to optimize mitigation of societal damages.

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Past and Projected Changes in Western North Pacific Tropical Cyclone Exposure

James Kossin, Kerry Emanuel & Suzana Camargo

Journal of Climate, August 2016, Pages 5725–5739

Abstract:
The average latitude where tropical cyclones (TCs) reach their peak intensity has been observed to be shifting poleward in some regions over the past 30 years, apparently in concert with the independently observed expansion of the tropical belt. This poleward migration is particularly well observed and robust in the western North Pacific Ocean (WNP). Such a migration is expected to cause systematic changes, both increases and decreases, in regional hazard exposure and risk, particularly if it persists through the present century. Here, it is shown that the past poleward migration in the WNP has coincided with decreased TC exposure in the region of the Philippine and South China Seas, including the Marianas, the Philippines, Vietnam, and southern China, and increased exposure in the region of the East China Sea, including Japan and its Ryukyu Islands, the Korea Peninsula, and parts of eastern China. Additionally, it is shown that projections of WNP TCs simulated by, and downscaled from, an ensemble of numerical models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) demonstrate a continuing poleward migration into the present century following the emissions projections of the representative concentration pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5). The projected migration causes a shift in regional TC exposure that is very similar in pattern and relative amplitude to the past observed shift. In terms of regional differences in vulnerability and resilience based on past TC exposure, the potential ramifications of these future changes are significant. Questions of attribution for the changes are discussed in terms of tropical belt expansion and Pacific decadal sea surface temperature variability.

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Long-term dynamics of adaptive evolution in a globally important phytoplankton species to ocean acidification

Lothar Schlüter et al.

Science Advances, July 2016

Abstract:
Marine phytoplankton may adapt to ocean change, such as acidification or warming, because of their large population sizes and short generation times. Long-term adaptation to novel environments is a dynamic process, and phenotypic change can take place thousands of generations after exposure to novel conditions. We conducted a long-term evolution experiment (4 years = 2100 generations), starting with a single clone of the abundant and widespread coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi exposed to three different CO2 levels simulating ocean acidification (OA). Growth rates as a proxy for Darwinian fitness increased only moderately under both levels of OA [+3.4% and +4.8%, respectively, at 1100 and 2200 μatm partial pressure of CO2 (PCO2)] relative to control treatments (ambient CO2, 400 μatm). Long-term adaptation to OA was complex, and initial phenotypic responses of ecologically important traits were later reverted. The biogeochemically important trait of calcification, in particular, that had initially been restored within the first year of evolution was later reduced to levels lower than the performance of nonadapted populations under OA. Calcification was not constitutively lost but returned to control treatment levels when high CO2–adapted isolates were transferred back to present-day control CO2 conditions. Selection under elevated CO2 exacerbated a general decrease of cell sizes under long-term laboratory evolution. Our results show that phytoplankton may evolve complex phenotypic plasticity that can affect biogeochemically important traits, such as calcification. Adaptive evolution may play out over longer time scales (>1 year) in an unforeseen way under future ocean conditions that cannot be predicted from initial adaptation responses.

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Global climate change driven by soot at the K-Pg boundary as the cause of the mass extinction

Kunio Kaiho et al.

Scientific Reports, July 2016

Abstract:
The mass extinction of life 66 million years ago at the Cretaceous/Paleogene boundary, marked by the extinctions of dinosaurs and shallow marine organisms, is important because it led to the macroevolution of mammals and appearance of humans. The current hypothesis for the extinction is that an asteroid impact in present-day Mexico formed condensed aerosols in the stratosphere, which caused the cessation of photosynthesis and global near-freezing conditions. Here, we show that the stratospheric aerosols did not induce darkness that resulted in milder cooling than previously thought. We propose a new hypothesis that latitude-dependent climate changes caused by massive stratospheric soot explain the known mortality and survival on land and in oceans at the Cretaceous/Paleogene boundary. The stratospheric soot was ejected from the oil-rich area by the asteroid impact and was spread globally. The soot aerosols caused sufficiently colder climates at mid–high latitudes and drought with milder cooling at low latitudes on land, in addition to causing limited cessation of photosynthesis in global oceans within a few months to two years after the impact, followed by surface-water cooling in global oceans in a few years. The rapid climate change induced terrestrial extinctions followed by marine extinctions over several years.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

There's some risk

Uber and Metropolitan Traffic Fatalities in the United States

Noli Brazil & David Kirk

American Journal of Epidemiology, 1 August 2016, Pages 192-198

Abstract:
Uber and similar rideshare services are rapidly dispersing in cities across the United States and beyond. Given the convenience and low cost, Uber has been characterized as a potential countermeasure for reducing the estimated 121 million episodes of drunk driving and the 10,000 resulting traffic fatalities that occur annually in the United States. We exploited differences in the timing of the deployment of Uber in US metropolitan counties from 2005 to 2014 to test the association between the availability of Uber's rideshare services and total, drunk driving-related, and weekend- and holiday-specific traffic fatalities in the 100 most populated metropolitan areas in the United States using negative binomial and Poisson regression models. We found that the deployment of Uber services in a given metropolitan county had no association with the number of subsequent traffic fatalities, whether measured in aggregate or specific to drunk-driving fatalities or fatalities during weekends and holidays.

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Economic Conditions and Children's Mental Health

Ezra Golberstein, Gilbert Gonzales & Ellen Meara

NBER Working Paper, July 2016

Abstract:
Research linking economic conditions and health largely ignores children’s mental health problems, which are the most common and consequential health issues for children and adolescents. We examine the effects of unemployment rates and housing prices on child and adolescent mental health and use of special education services for emotional problems in the 2001-2013 National Health Interview Survey. Mental health status declines as economic conditions deteriorate, and this result is pervasive across nearly every subgroup we examine, including families least likely to experience job loss. The use of special education services for emotional problems also rises when economic conditions worsen.

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Changing Polygenic Penetrance on Phenotypes in the 20th Century Among Adults in the US Population

Dalton Conley et al.

Scientific Reports, July 2016

Abstract:
This study evaluates changes in genetic penetrance — defined as the association between an additive polygenic score and its associated phenotype — across birth cohorts. Situating our analysis within recent historical trends in the U.S., we show that, while height and BMI show increasing genotypic penetrance over the course of 20th Century, education and heart disease show declining genotypic effects. Meanwhile, we find genotypic penetrance to be historically stable with respect to depression. Our findings help inform our understanding of how the genetic and environmental landscape of American society has changed over the past century, and have implications for research which models gene-environment (GxE) interactions, as well as polygenic score calculations in consortia studies that include multiple birth cohorts.

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Mental Disorders Top The List Of The Most Costly Conditions In The United States: $201 Billion

Charles Roehrig

Health Affairs, June 2016, Pages 1130-1135

Abstract:
Estimates of annual health spending for a comprehensive set of medical conditions are presented for the entire US population and with totals benchmarked to the National Health Expenditure Accounts. In 2013 mental disorders topped the list of most costly conditions, with spending at $201 billion.

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“Sorry, I’m Not Accepting New Patients”: An Audit Study of Access to Mental Health Care

Heather Kugelmass

Journal of Health and Social Behavior, June 2016, Pages 168-183

Abstract:
Through a phone-based field experiment, I investigated the effect of mental help seekers’ race, class, and gender on the accessibility of psychotherapists. Three hundred and twenty psychotherapists each received voicemail messages from one black middle-class and one white middle-class help seeker, or from one black working-class and one white working-class help seeker, requesting an appointment. The results revealed an otherwise invisible form of discrimination. Middle-class help seekers had appointment offer rates almost three times higher than their working-class counterparts. Race differences emerged only among middle-class help-seekers, with blacks considerably less likely than whites to be offered an appointment. Average appointment offer rates were equivalent across gender, but women were favored over men for appointment offers in their preferred time range.

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Recent Increases in the U.S. Maternal Mortality Rate: Disentangling Trends From Measurement Issues

Marian MacDorman et al.

Obstetrics & Gynecology, forthcoming

Objective: To develop methods for trend analysis of vital statistics maternal mortality data, taking into account changes in pregnancy question formats over time and between states, and to provide an overview of U.S. maternal mortality trends from 2000 to 2014.

Methods: This observational study analyzed vital statistics maternal mortality data from all U.S. states in relation to the format and year of adoption of the pregnancy question. Correction factors were developed to adjust data from before the standard pregnancy question was adopted to promote accurate trend analysis. Joinpoint regression was used to analyze trends for groups of states with similar pregnancy questions.

Results: The estimated maternal mortality rate (per 100,000 live births) for 48 states and Washington, DC (excluding California and Texas, analyzed separately) increased by 26.6%, from 18.8 in 2000 to 23.8 in 2014. California showed a declining trend, whereas Texas had a sudden increase in 2011-2012. Analysis of the measurement change suggests that U.S. rates in the early 2000s were higher than previously reported.

Conclusions: Despite the United Nations Millennium Development Goal for a 75% reduction in maternal mortality by 2015, the estimated maternal mortality rate for 48 states and Washington, DC, increased from 2000 to 2014; the international trend was in the opposite direction. There is a need to redouble efforts to prevent maternal deaths and improve maternity care for the 4 million U.S. women giving birth each year.

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Are handheld cell phone and texting bans really effective in reducing fatalities?

Leandro Rocco & Breno Sampaio

Empirical Economics, September 2016, Pages 853-876

Abstract:
This paper aims at evaluating if texting and handheld cell phone bans are effective in reducing the number of fatalities occurring in motor vehicle crashes using US county-level data. In the past two decades, many debates have been going on among policy makers regarding the impact of using mobile phone devices while driving. This political debate is partially motivated by the lack of clear empirical evidence on the relationship between cell phone use, bans and driving performance. Our results show that states that enacted primary cell phone bans experienced a significant reduction in the number of fatalities. Primary texting bans also affected fatalities, but this effect was significantly smaller than that estimated for handheld cell phone bans. This is an important and contradicting result, given most of the legislative activity in 2012 focused on text messaging behind the wheel, considered the most dangerous of the distracted driving activities. Additionally, we looked at how heterogeneous were these effects among states that enacted such bans. We observed that all states benefited from the ban in terms of fatality reduction; however, some were highly affected (such as CA and DC) and some affected in small scale (such as UT and WA).

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Insurance Financing Increased For Mental Health Conditions But Not For Substance Use Disorders, 1986–2014

Tami Mark et al.

Health Affairs, June 2016, Pages 958-965

Abstract:
This study updates previous estimates of US spending on mental health and substance use disorders through 2014. The results reveal that the long-term trend of greater insurance financing of mental health care continued in recent years. The share of total mental health treatment expenditures financed by private insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid increased from 44 percent in 1986 to 68 percent in 2014. In contrast, the share of spending for substance use disorder treatment financed by private insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid was 45 percent in 1986 and 46 percent in 2014. From 2004 to 2013, a growing percentage of adults received mental health treatment (12.6 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively), albeit only because of the increased use of psychiatric medications. In the same period, only 1.2–1.3 percent of adults received substance use disorder treatment in inpatient, outpatient, or residential settings, although the use of medications to treat substance use disorders increased rapidly.

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Eat (and Drink) Better Tonight: Food Stamp Benefit Timing and Drunk Driving Fatalities

Chad Cotti, John Gordanier & Orgul Ozturk

American Journal of Health Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper examines the relationship between the timing of food stamp benefits and daily alcohol related fatal accidents. We exploit substantial exogenous variation in state food stamp distribution dates and enrollment numbers to estimate the relationship using binary outcome and count data frameworks. Our main result is that, in contrast to previous work on income receipt and mortality, alcohol related accidents with fatalities are substantially lower on the date of food stamp receipt and that the result is largely driven by a same-day effect. Further this effect is only present on weekdays. We find no effect of receipt on non-alcohol related accidents. We hypothesize that this is possibly driven by families being more likely to eat at home on distribution days.

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Cost and benefit estimates of partially-automated vehicle collision avoidance technologies

Corey Harper, Chris Hendrickson & Constantine Samaras

Accident Analysis & Prevention, October 2016, Pages 104–115

Abstract:
Many light-duty vehicle crashes occur due to human error and distracted driving. Partially-automated crash avoidance features offer the potential to reduce the frequency and severity of vehicle crashes that occur due to distracted driving and/or human error by assisting in maintaining control of the vehicle or issuing alerts if a potentially dangerous situation is detected. This paper evaluates the benefits and costs of fleet-wide deployment of blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and forward collision warning crash avoidance systems within the US light-duty vehicle fleet. The three crash avoidance technologies could collectively prevent or reduce the severity of as many as 1.3 million U.S. crashes a year including 133,000 injury crashes and 10,100 fatal crashes. For this paper we made two estimates of potential benefits in the United States: (1) the upper bound fleet-wide technology diffusion benefits by assuming all relevant crashes are avoided and (2) the lower bound fleet-wide benefits of the three technologies based on observed insurance data. The latter represents a lower bound as technology is improved over time and cost reduced with scale economies and technology improvement. All three technologies could collectively provide a lower bound annual benefit of about $18 billion if equipped on all light-duty vehicles. With 2015 pricing of safety options, the total annual costs to equip all light-duty vehicles with the three technologies would be about $13 billion, resulting in an annual net benefit of about $4 billion or a $20 per vehicle net benefit. By assuming all relevant crashes are avoided, the total upper bound annual net benefit from all three technologies combined is about $202 billion or an $861 per vehicle net benefit, at current technology costs. The technologies we are exploring in this paper represent an early form of vehicle automation and a positive net benefit suggests the fleet-wide adoption of these technologies would be beneficial from an economic and social perspective.

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Increasing incidence of metastatic prostate cancer in the United States (2004–2013)

Adam Weiner et al.

Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Diseases, forthcoming

Background: Changes in prostate cancer screening practices in the United States have led to recent declines in overall incidence, but it is unknown whether relaxed screening has led to changes in the incidence of advanced and metastatic prostate cancer at diagnosis.

Methods: We identified all men diagnosed with prostate cancer in the National Cancer Data Base (2004–2013) at 1089 different health-care facilities in the United States. Joinpoint regressions were used to model annual percentage changes (APCs) in the incidence of prostate cancer based on stage relative to that of 2004.

Results: The annual incidence of metastatic prostate cancer increased from 2007 to 2013 (Joinpoint regression: APC: 7.1%, P<0.05) and in 2013 was 72% more than that of 2004. The incidence of low-risk prostate cancer decreased from years 2007 to 2013 (APC: −9.3%, P<0.05) to 37% less than that of 2004. The greatest increase in metastatic prostate cancer was seen in men aged 55–69 years (92% increase from 2004 to 2013).

Conclusions: Beginning in 2007, the incidence of metastatic prostate cancer has increased especially among men in the age group thought most likely to benefit from definitive treatment for prostate cancer. These data highlight the continued need for nationwide refinements in prostate cancer screening and treatment.

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Early-life disease exposure and associations with adult survival, cause of death, and reproductive success in preindustrial humans

Adam Hayward, Francesca Rigby & Virpi Lummaa

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 9 August 2016, Pages 8951–8956

Abstract:
A leading hypothesis proposes that increased human life span since 1850 has resulted from decreased exposure to childhood infections, which has reduced chronic inflammation and later-life mortality rates, particularly from cardiovascular disease, stroke, and cancer. Early-life cohort mortality rate often predicts later-life survival in humans, but such associations could arise from factors other than disease exposure. Additionally, the impact of early-life disease exposure on reproduction remains unknown, and thus previous work ignores a major component of fitness through which selection acts upon life-history strategy. We collected data from seven 18th- and 19th-century Finnish populations experiencing naturally varying mortality and fertility levels. We quantified early-life disease exposure as the detrended child mortality rate from infectious diseases during an individual’s first 5 y, controlling for important social factors. We found no support for an association between early-life disease exposure and all-cause mortality risk after age 15 or 50. We also found no link between early-life disease exposure and probability of death specifically from cardiovascular disease, stroke, or cancer. Independent of survival, there was no evidence to support associations between early-life disease exposure and any of several aspects of reproductive performance, including lifetime reproductive success and age at first birth, in either males or females. Our results do not support the prevailing assertion that exposure to infectious diseases in early life has long-lasting associations with later-life all-cause mortality risk or mortality putatively linked to chronic inflammation. Variation in adulthood conditions could therefore be the most likely source of recent increases in adult life span.

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Returns on Investment in California County Departments of Public Health

Timothy Brown

American Journal of Public Health, August 2016, Pages 1477-1482

Objectives: To estimate the average return on investment for the overall activities of county departments of public health in California.

Methods: I gathered the elements necessary to estimate the average return on investment for county departments of public health in California during the period 2001 to 2008–2009. These came from peer-reviewed journal articles published as part of a larger project to develop a method for determining return on investment for public health by using a health economics framework. I combined these elements by using the standard formula for computing return on investment, and performed a sensitivity analysis. Then I compared the return on investment for county departments of public health with the returns on investment generated for various aspects of medical care.

Results: The estimated return on investment from $1 invested in county departments of public health in California ranges from $67.07 to $88.21.

Conclusions: The very large estimated return on investment for California county departments of public health relative to the return on investment for selected aspects of medical care suggests that public health is a wise investment.

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Equity and length of lifespan are not the same

Benjamin Seligman, Gabi Greenberg & Shripad Tuljapurkar

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 26 July 2016, Pages 8420–8423

Abstract:
Efforts to understand the dramatic declines in mortality over the past century have focused on life expectancy. However, understanding changes in disparity in age of death is important to understanding mechanisms of mortality improvement and devising policy to promote health equity. We derive a novel decomposition of variance in age of death, a measure of inequality, and apply it to cause-specific contributions to the change in variance among the G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States) from 1950 to 2010. We find that the causes of death that contributed most to declines in the variance are different from those that contributed most to increase in life expectancy; in particular, they affect mortality at younger ages. We also find that, for two leading causes of death [cancers and cardiovascular disease (CVD)], there are no consistent relationships between changes in life expectancy and variance either within countries over time or between countries. These results show that promoting health at younger ages is critical for health equity and that policies to control cancer and CVD may have differing implications for equity.

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Indoor tanning among New Jersey high school students before and after the enactment of youth access restrictions

Elliot Coups, Jerod Stapleton & Cristine Delnevo

Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, August 2016, Pages 440–442

"We examined indoor tanning rates among New Jersey youth before and after a ban on indoor tanning for those younger than 17 years was enacted on October 1, 2013... Among girls, boys, and for both sexes combined, indoor tanning rates in 2014 did not differ significantly from those in 2012 for those younger than 17 years (to whom the ban applied) or for students aged 17 years and older. Among students of all ages, the indoor tanning rate did not differ significantly from 2012 to 2014 for female students but among male students the rate increased from 2012 to 2014."

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A ubiquitous but ineffective intervention: Signs do not increase hand hygiene compliance

David Birnbach et al.

Journal of Infection and Public Health, forthcoming

Abstract:
Proper hand hygiene is critical for preventing healthcare-associated infection, but provider compliance remains suboptimal. While signs are commonly used to remind physicians and nurses to perform hand hygiene, the content of these signs is rarely based on specific, validated health behavior theories. This observational study assessed the efficacy of a hand hygiene sign disseminated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in an intensive care unit compared to an optimized evidence-based sign designed by a team of patient safety experts. The optimized sign was developed by four patient safety experts to include known evidence-based components and was subsequently validated by surveying ten physicians and ten nurses using a 10 point Likert scale. Eighty-two physicians and 98 nurses (102 females; 78 males) were observed for hand hygiene (HH) compliance, and the total HH compliance rate was 16%. HH compliance was not significantly different among the signs (Baseline 10% vs. CDC 18% vs. OIS 20%; p = 0.280). The findings of this study suggest that even when the content and design of a hand hygiene reminder sign incorporates evidence-based constructs, healthcare providers comply only a fraction of the time.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Monday, August 15, 2016

Between you and your doctor

Shock, but no shift: Hospitals' responses to changes in patient insurance mix

Kathryn Wagner

Journal of Health Economics, September 2016, Pages 46-58

Abstract:
Medicaid reimburses healthcare providers for services at a lower rate than any other type of insurance coverage. To account for the burden of treating Medicaid patients, providers claim that they must cost-shift by raising the rates of individuals covered by private insurance. Previous investigations of cost-shifting has produced mixed results. In this paper, I exploit a disabled Medicaid expansion where crowd-out was complete to investigate cost-shifting. I find that hospitals reduce the charge rates of the privately insured. Given that Medicaid is expanding in several states under the Affordable Care Act, these results may alleviate cost-shifting concerns of the reform.

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Health Spending For Low-, Middle-, And High-Income Americans, 1963-2012

Samuel Dickman et al.

Health Affairs, July 2016, Pages 1189-1196

Abstract:
US medical spending growth slowed between 2004 and 2013. At the same time, many Americans faced rising copayments and deductibles, which may have particularly affected lower-income people. To explore whether the health spending slowdown affected all income groups equally, we divided the population into income quintiles. We then assessed trends in health expenditures by and on behalf of people in each quintile using twenty-two national surveys carried out between 1963 and 2012. Before the 1965 passage of legislation creating Medicare and Medicaid, the lowest income quintile had the lowest expenditures, despite their worse health compared to other income groups. By 1977 the unadjusted expenditures for the lowest quintile exceeded those for all other income groups. This pattern persisted until 2004. Thereafter, expenditures fell for the lowest quintile, while rising more than 10 percent for the middle three quintiles and close to 20 percent for the highest income quintile, which had the highest expenditures in 2012. The post-2004 divergence of expenditure trends for the wealthy, middle class, and poor occurred only among the nonelderly. We conclude that the new pattern of spending post-2004, with the wealthiest quintile having the highest expenditures for health care, suggests that a redistribution of care toward wealthier Americans accompanied the health spending slowdown.

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Selective Regulator Decoupling and Organizations' Strategic Responses

Jonas Heese, Ranjani Krishnan & Frank Moers

Academy of Management Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
Organizations often respond to institutional pressures by symbolically adopting policies and procedures but decoupling them from actual practice. Literature has examined why organizations decouple from regulatory pressures. In this study, we argue that decoupling occurs within regulatory agencies and results from a combination of conflicting institutional pressures, complex goals, and internal fragmentation. Further, regulatory decoupling is selective, i.e., regulators fail to adequately enforce standards only for one set of organizations. Regulated organizations that benefit from selective regulatory decoupling use nonmarket strategies to maintain their favorable regulatory status and in the process selectively decouple their norms in one organizational activity but not others. As an empirical context, we use the hospital industry where regulators have to balance conflicting pressures to be tough on fraud, while maintaining the community's access to essential but unprofitable services such as charity care and medical education. In response, hospital regulators selectively decouple and exhibit leniency in enforcement of mispricing practices towards beneficent hospitals, defined as hospitals that provide more charity care and medical education. In turn, beneficent hospitals selectively decouple their service and profit goals by providing unprofitable services to uninsured patients, while mispricing insured patients to earn higher reimbursements.

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Secret Shoppers Find Access To Providers And Network Accuracy Lacking For Those In Marketplace And Commercial Plans

Simon Haeder, David Weimer & Dana Mukamel

Health Affairs, July 2016, Pages 1160-1166

Abstract:
The adequacy of provider networks for plans sold through insurance Marketplaces established under the Affordable Care Act has received much scrutiny recently. Various studies have established that networks are generally narrow. To learn more about network adequacy and access to care, we investigated two questions. First, no matter the nominal size of a network, can patients gain access to primary care services from providers of their choice in a timely manner? Second, how does access compare to plans sold outside insurance Marketplaces? We conducted a "secret shopper" survey of 743 primary care providers from five of California's nineteen insurance Marketplace pricing regions in the summer of 2015. Our findings indicate that obtaining access to primary care providers was generally equally challenging both inside and outside insurance Marketplaces. In less than 30 percent of cases were consumers able to schedule an appointment with an initially selected physician provider. Information about provider networks was often inaccurate. Problems accessing services for patients with acute conditions were particularly troubling. Effectively addressing issues of network adequacy requires more accurate provider information.

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Share Of Specialty Drugs In Commercial Plans Nearly Quadrupled, 2003-14

Stacie Dusetzina

Health Affairs, July 2016, Pages 1241-1246

Abstract:
From 2003 to 2014 the proportion of specialty prescription drugs (defined as those reimbursed at $600 or more per thirty-day fill) nearly quadrupled. Over this time period, fills for specialty drugs increased by 198 percent and spending for the drugs increased by 292 percent, as percentages of total drug fills and spending. Median out-of-pocket spending increased by 46 percent for specialty drugs and decreased by 57 percent for nonspecialty drugs during this time.

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Emergency Department Death Rates Dropped By Nearly 50 Percent, 1997-2011

Hemal Kanzaria, Marc Probst & Renee Hsia

Health Affairs, July 2016, Pages 1303-1308

Abstract:
Between 1997 and 2011, there was a nearly 50 percent reduction in US emergency department mortality rates for adults. This trend likely has many causes, related to advances in palliative, prehospital, and emergency care.

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The anticipatory effects of Medicare Part D on drug utilization

Abby Alpert

Journal of Health Economics, September 2016, Pages 28-45

Abstract:
While health care policies are frequently signed into law well before they are implemented, such lags are ignored in most empirical work. This paper demonstrates the importance of implementation lags in the context of Medicare Part D, the prescription drug benefit that took effect two years after it was signed into law. Exploiting the differential responses of chronic and acute drugs to anticipated future prices, I show that individuals reduced drug utilization for chronic but not acute drugs in anticipation of Part D's implementation. Accounting for this anticipatory response substantially reduces the estimated total treatment effect of Part D.

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Medicaid Expansion In 2014 Did Not Increase Emergency Department Use But Did Change Insurance Payer Mix

Jesse Pines et al.

Health Affairs, August 2016, Pages 1480-1486

Abstract:
In 2014 twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia had expanded Medicaid eligibility while federal and state-based Marketplaces in every state made subsidized private health insurance available to qualified individuals. As a result, about seventeen million previously uninsured Americans gained health insurance in 2014. Many policy makers had predicted that Medicaid expansion would lead to greatly increased use of hospital emergency departments (EDs). We examined the effect of insurance expansion on ED use in 478 hospitals in 36 states during the first year of expansion (2014). In difference-in-differences analyses, Medicaid expansion increased Medicaid-paid ED visits in those states by 27.1 percent, decreased uninsured visits by 31.4 percent, and decreased privately insured visits by 6.7 percent during the first year of expansion compared to nonexpansion states. Overall, however, total ED visits grew by less than 3 percent in 2014 compared to 2012-13, with no significant difference between expansion and nonexpansion states. Thus, the expansion of Medicaid coverage strongly affected payer mix but did not significantly affect overall ED use, even though more people gained insurance coverage in expansion states than in nonexpansion states. This suggests that expanding Medicaid did not significantly increase or decrease overall ED visit volume.

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Impact of Massachusetts Health Reform on Enrollment Length and Health Care Utilization in the Unsubsidized Individual Market

Laura Garabedian et al.

Health Services Research, forthcoming

Objective: To evaluate the impact of the 2006 Massachusetts health reform, the model for the Affordable Care Act, on short-term enrollment and utilization in the unsubsidized individual health insurance market.

Data Source: Seven years of administrative and claims data from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.

Research Design: We employed pre-post survival analysis and an interrupted time series design to examine changes in enrollment length, utilization patterns, and use of elective procedures (discretionary inpatient surgeries and infertility treatment) among nonelderly adult enrollees before (n = 6,912) and after (n = 29,207) the MA reform.

Principal Findings: The probability of short-term enrollment dropped immediately after the reform. Rates of inpatient encounters (HR = 0.83, 95 percent CI: 0.74, 0.93), emergency department encounters (HR = 0.85, 95 percent CI: 0.80, 0.91), and discretionary inpatient surgeries (HR = 0.66 95 percent CI: 0.45, 0.97) were lower in the postreform period, whereas the rate of ambulatory visits was somewhat higher (HR = 1.04, 95 percent CI: 1.00, 1.07). The rate of infertility treatment was higher after the reform (HR = 1.61, 95 percent CI: 1.33, 1.97), driven by women in individual (vs. family) plans. The reform was not associated with increased utilization among short-term enrollees.

Conclusions: MA health reform was associated with a decrease in short-term enrollment and changes in utilization patterns indicative of reduced adverse selection in the unsubsidized individual market. Adverse selection may be a problem for specific, high-cost treatments.

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Medicare Advantage Plans Pay Hospitals Less Than Traditional Medicare Pays

Laurence Baker et al.

Health Affairs, August 2016, Pages 1444-1451

Abstract:
There is ongoing debate about how prices paid to providers by Medicare Advantage plans compare to prices paid by fee-for-service Medicare. We used data from Medicare and the Health Care Cost Institute to identify the prices paid for hospital services by fee-for-service (FFS) Medicare, Medicare Advantage plans, and commercial insurers in 2009 and 2012. We calculated the average price per admission, and its trend over time, in each of the three types of insurance for fixed baskets of hospital admissions across metropolitan areas. After accounting for differences in hospital networks, geographic areas, and case-mix between Medicare Advantage and FFS Medicare, we found that Medicare Advantage plans paid 5.6 percent less for hospital services than FFS Medicare did. Without taking into account the narrower networks of Medicare Advantage, the program paid 8.0 percent less than FFS Medicare. We also found that the rates paid by commercial plans were much higher than those of either Medicare Advantage or FFS Medicare, and growing. At least some of this difference comes from the much higher prices that commercial plans pay for profitable service lines.

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Favorable Risk Selection in Medicare Advantage: Trends in Mortality and Plan Exits Among Nursing Home Beneficiaries

Elizabeth Goldberg et al.

Medical Care Research and Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
The 2003 Medicare Modernization Act (MMA) increased payments to Medicare Advantage plans and instituted a new risk-adjustment payment model to reduce plans' incentives to enroll healthier Medicare beneficiaries and avoid those with higher costs. Whether the MMA reduced risk selection remains debatable. This study uses mortality differences, nursing home utilization, and switch rates to assess whether the MMA successfully decreased risk selection from 2000 to 2012. We found no decrease in the mortality difference or adjusted difference in nursing home use between plan beneficiaries pre- and post the MMA. Among beneficiaries with nursing home use, disenrollment from Medicare Advantage plans declined from 20% to 12%, but it remained 6 times higher than the switch rate from traditional Medicare to Medicare Advantage. These findings suggest that the MMA was not associated with reductions in favorable risk selection, as measured by mortality, nursing home use, and switch rates.

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Primary Care Appointment Availability for Medicaid Patients: Comparing Traditional and Premium Assistance Plans

Simon Basseyn et al.

Medical Care, September 2016, Pages 878-883

Background: Arkansas and Iowa received waivers from the federal government in 2014 to use federal Medicaid expansion funding to enroll beneficiaries in commercial insurance plans on the Marketplaces. One key hypothesis of these "private option" or "premium assistance" programs was that Medicaid beneficiaries would experience increased access to care. In this study, we compare new patient primary care appointment availability and wait-times for beneficiaries of traditional Medicaid and premium assistance Medicaid.

Methods: Trained field staff posing as patients, randomized to traditional Medicaid or Marketplace plans, called primary care practices seeking new patient appointments in Arkansas and Iowa in May to July 2014. All calls were made to offices that previously indicated being in-network for the plan. Offices were drawn randomly, within insurance type, based on the county proportion of the population with each insurance type. We calculated appointment rates and wait-times for new patients for traditional Medicaid and Marketplace plans.

Results: In Arkansas, Marketplace appointment rates were 27.2 percentage points higher than traditional Medicaid appointment rates (83.2% compared with 55.5%, P<0.001), while in Iowa, Marketplace appointment rates were 12.0 percentage points higher (86.3% compared with 74.3%, P<0.001). Conditional on receiving an appointment, median wait-times were roughly 1 week in each state without significant differences by insurance type.

Conclusions: The experiences of Arkansas and Iowa suggest that enrolling Medicaid beneficiaries into Marketplace plans may lead to higher primary care appointment availability for new patients at participating providers. Further research is needed on whether premium assistance programs affect quality and continuity of care, and at what cost.

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The Impact of Nursing Home Pay-for-Performance on Quality and Medicare Spending: Results from the Nursing Home Value-Based Purchasing Demonstration

David Grabowski et al.

Health Services Research, forthcoming

Objective: To evaluate the impact of the Nursing Home Value-Based Purchasing demonstration on quality of care and Medicare spending.

Data Sources/Study Setting: Administrative and qualitative data from Arizona, New York, and Wisconsin nursing homes over the base-year (2008-2009) and 3-year (2009-2012) demonstration period.

Study Design: Nursing homes were randomized to the intervention in New York, while the comparison facilities were constructed via propensity score matching in Arizona and Wisconsin. We used a difference-in-difference analysis to compare outcomes across the base-year relative to outcomes in each of the three demonstration years. To provide context and assist with interpretation of results, we also interviewed staff members at participating facilities.

Principal Findings: Medicare savings were observed in Arizona in the first year only and Wisconsin for the first 2 years; no savings were observed in New York. The demonstration did not systematically impact any of the quality measures. Discussions with nursing home administrators suggested that facilities made few, if any, changes in response to the demonstration, leading us to conclude that the observed savings likely reflected regression to the mean rather than true savings.

Conclusion: The Federal nursing home pay-for-performance demonstration had little impact on quality or Medicare spending.

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Search and You Shall Find: Geographic Characteristics Associated With Google Searches During the Affordable Care Act's First Enrollment Period

Sarah Gollust et al.

Medical Care Research and Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
Previous studies indicate that Internet searching was a major source of information for the public during the launch of the Affordable Care Act, but little is known about geographic variation in searching. Our objective was to examine factors associated with health insurance-related Google searches in 199 U.S. metro areas during the first open enrollment period (October 2013 through March 2014), by merging data from Google Trends with metro-area-level and state-level characteristics. Our results indicate substantial geographic variation in the volumes of searching across the United States, and these patterns were related to local uninsurance rates. Specifically, areas with higher uninsurance rates were more likely to search in higher volumes for "Obamacare" and "health insurance," after adjusting for sociodemographic, political, and insurance market characteristics. The enormous political, advocacy, and media attention to the Affordable Care Act's launch may have contributed to heightened Internet search activity, particularly in areas characterized by higher uninsurance.

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The Evolution of Physician Practice Styles: Evidence from Cardiologist Migration

David Molitor

NBER Working Paper, August 2016

Abstract:
Physician treatment choices for observably similar patients vary dramatically across regions. This paper exploits cardiologist migration to disentangle the role of physician-specific factors such as preferences and learned behavior versus environment-level factors such as hospital capacity and productivity spillovers on physician behavior. Physicians who start in the same region and subsequently move to dissimilar regions practice similarly before the move, but each percentage point change in practice environment results in an immediate 2/3 percentage point change in physician behavior, with no further changes over time. This suggests environment factors are twice as important as physician-specific factors for explaining regional disparities.

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Does It Pay to Penalize Hospitals for Excess Readmissions? Intended and Unintended Consequences of Medicare's Hospital Readmissions Reductions Program

Jennifer Mellor, Michael Daly & Molly Smith

Health Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
To incentivize hospitals to provide better quality care at a lower cost, the Affordable Care Act of 2010 included the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP), which reduces payments to hospitals with excess 30-day readmissions for Medicare patients treated for certain conditions. We use triple difference estimation to identify the HRRP's effects in Virginia hospitals; this method estimates the difference in changes in readmission over time between patients targeted by the policy and a comparison group of patients and then compares those difference-in-differences estimates in patients treated at hospitals with readmission rates above the national average (i.e., those at risk for penalties) and patients treated at hospitals with readmission rates below or equal to the national average (those not at risk). We find that the HRRP significantly reduced readmission for Medicare patients treated for acute myocardial infarction (AMI). We find no evidence that hospitals delay readmissions, treat patients with greater intensity, or alter discharge status in response to the HRRP, nor do we find changes in the age, race/ethnicity, health status, and socioeconomic status of patients admitted for AMI. Future research on the specific mechanisms behind reduced AMI readmissions should focus on actions by healthcare providers once the patient has left the hospital.

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Impact of Massachusetts Health Reform on Inpatient Care Use: Was the Safety-Net Experience Different Than in the Non-Safety-Net?

Amresh Hanchate et al.

Health Services Research, forthcoming

Objective: Most inpatient care for the uninsured and other vulnerable subpopulations occurs in safety-net hospitals. As insurance expansion increases the choice of hospitals for the previously uninsured, we examined if Massachusetts health reform was associated with shifts in the volume of inpatient care from safety-net to non-safety-net hospitals overall, or among other vulnerable sociodemographic (racial/ethnic minority, low socioeconomic status, high uninsured rate area) and clinical subpopulations (emergent status, diagnosis).

Data Sources/Study Setting: Discharge records for adults discharged from all nonfederal acute care hospitals in Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania 2004-2010.

Study Design: Using a difference-in-differences design, we compared pre-/post-reform changes in safety-net and non-safety-net hospital discharge outcomes in Massachusetts among adults 18-64 with corresponding changes in comparisons states with no reform, overall, and by subpopulations.

Principal Findings: Reform was not associated with changes in inpatient care use at safety-net and non-safety-net hospitals across all discharges or in most subpopulations examined.

Conclusions: Demand for inpatient care at safety-net hospitals may not decrease following insurance expansion. Whether this is due to other access barriers or patient preference needs to be explored.

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Combined Regional Investments Could Substantially Enhance Health System Performance And Be Financially Affordable

Jack Homer et al.

Health Affairs, August 2016, Pages 1435-1443

Abstract:
Leaders across the United States face a difficult challenge choosing among possible approaches to transform health system performance in their regions. The ReThink Health Dynamics Model simulates how alternative scenarios could unfold through 2040. This article compares the likely consequences if four interventions were enacted in layered combinations in a prototypical midsize US city. We estimated the effects of efforts to deliver higher-value care; reinvest savings and expand global payment; enable healthier behaviors; and expand socioeconomic opportunities. Results suggest that there may be an effective and affordable way to unlock much greater health and economic potential, ultimately reducing severe illness by 20 percent, lowering health care costs by 14 percent, and improving economic productivity by 9 percent. This would require combined investments in clinical and population-level initiatives, coupled with financial agreements that reduce incentives for costly care and reinvest a share of the savings to ensure adequate long-term financing.

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Advertising in Health Insurance Markets

Bradley Shapiro

University of Chicago Working Paper, June 2016

Abstract:
We study the effect of television ads in the market for health insurance for the elderly. Regulators are concerned about firms potentially using ads to "cream skim", or attract an advantageous risk pool as well as the potential for firms to use misinformation to take advantage of the elderly. On the other hand, ads could provide useful information or remind people to reconsider their options, making regulation potentially welfare reducing. Using the discontinuity in advertising exposure created by the borders of television markets, we estimate television advertising to have on average zero lift on the share of seniors who choose private Medicare Advantage (MA) plans over government-provided Traditional Medicare (TM) with enough precision to reject the null of positive ROI from market expansion. Leveraging the unilateral cessation of advertising by United Healthcare for three years, we additionally find that rival advertising provided zero average impact on United's brand share with enough precision to reject positive ROI from business stealing. Additionally, advertising is not more effective in counties with a healthier population, potentially easing the concern over cream skimming. The lack of advertising effect cannot be attributed to the shape of the advertising response curve or to long-run effects.

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Accounting For Patients' Socioeconomic Status Does Not Change Hospital Readmission Rates

Susannah Bernheim et al.

Health Affairs, August 2016, Pages 1461-1470

Abstract:
There is an active public debate about whether patients' socioeconomic status should be included in the readmission measures used to determine penalties in Medicare's Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP). Using the current Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services methodology, we compared risk-standardized readmission rates for hospitals caring for high and low proportions of patients of low socioeconomic status (as defined by their Medicaid status or neighborhood income). We then calculated risk-standardized readmission rates after additionally adjusting for patients' socioeconomic status. Our results demonstrate that hospitals caring for large proportions of patients of low socioeconomic status have readmission rates similar to those of other hospitals. Moreover, readmission rates calculated with and without adjustment for patients' socioeconomic status are highly correlated. Readmission rates of hospitals caring for patients of low socioeconomic status changed by approximately 0.1 percent with adjustment for patients' socioeconomic status, and only 3-4 percent fewer such hospitals reached the threshold for payment penalty in Medicare's HRRP. Overall, adjustment for socioeconomic status does not change hospital results in meaningful ways.

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The Effect of Occupational Licensing on Consumer Welfare: Early Midwifery Laws and Maternal Mortality

Mark Anderson et al.

NBER Working Paper, July 2016

Abstract:
Occupational licensing is intended to protect consumers. Whether it does so is an important, but unanswered, question. Exploiting variation across states and municipalities in the timing and details of midwifery laws introduced during the period 1900-1940, and using a rich data set that we assembled from primary sources, we find that requiring midwives to be licensed reduced maternal mortality by 6 to 7 percent. In addition, we find that requiring midwives to be licensed may have had led to modest reductions in nonwhite infant mortality and mortality among children under the age of 2 from diarrhea. These estimates provide the first econometric evidence of which we are aware on the relationship between licensure and consumer safety, and are directly relevant to ongoing policy debates both in the United States and in the developing world surrounding the merits of licensing midwives.

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Impact of State Reporting Laws on Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infection Rates in U.S. Adult Intensive Care Units

Hangsheng Liu et al.

Health Services Research, forthcoming

Objective: To examine the effect of mandated state health care-associated infection (HAI) reporting laws on central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI) rates in adult intensive care units (ICUs).

Data Sources: We analyzed 2006-2012 adult ICU CLABSI and hospital annual survey data from the National Healthcare Safety Network. The final analytic sample included 244 hospitals, 947 hospital years, 475 ICUs, 1,902 ICU years, and 16,996 ICU months.

Principal Findings: Controlling for the overall time trend, ICUs in states with laws had lower CLABSI rates beginning approximately 6 months prior to the law's effective date (incidence rate ratio = 0.66; p < .001); this effect persisted for more than 6 1/2 years after the law's effective date. These findings were robust in secondary models and are likely to be attributed to changes in central line usage and/or resources dedicated to infection control.

Conclusions: Our results provide valuable evidence that state reporting requirements for HAIs improved care. Additional studies are needed to further explore why and how mandatory HAI reporting laws decreased CLABSI rates.

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Competition, information, and quality: Evidence from nursing homes

Xin Zhao

Journal of Health Economics, September 2016, Pages 136-152

Abstract:
Economic theory suggests that competition and information can both be important for product quality, and yet evidence on how they may interact to affect quality is sparse. This paper estimates the impact of competition between nursing homes on their quality, and how this impact varies when consumers have better access to information. The effect of competition is identified using exogenous variation in the geographical proximity of nursing homes to their potential consumers. The change in information transparency is captured by the launch of the Five-Star Quality Rating System in 2009, which improved access to the quality information of nursing homes. We find that while the effect of competition on nursing home quality is generally rather limited, this effect becomes significantly stronger with increased information transparency. The results suggest that regulations on public quality reporting and on market structure are policy complements, and should be considered jointly to best improve quality.

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The Affordable Care Act's Effects On The Formation, Expansion, And Operation Of Physician-Owned Hospitals

Elizabeth Plummer & William Wempe

Health Affairs, August 2016, Pages 1452-1460

Abstract:
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) imposed new restrictions on the formation and expansion of physician-owned hospitals. These restrictions provided incentives for the hospitals and their owners to take preemptive actions before the effective dates of ACA provisions and modify their operations thereafter. We studied 106 physician-owned hospitals in Texas to determine how they responded to ACA restrictions. We found that there were significant pre-ACA increases in the formation, physician ownership, and physical capacity of physician-owned hospitals, which suggests that they reacted quickly to the policy changes. After the ACA's provisions took effect, the hospitals improved the use of their assets to generate increased amounts of services, revenue, and profits. We found no evidence that existing physician-owned hospitals stopped accepting Medicare to avoid the ACA restrictions, although some investors adopted a seemingly unsuccessful strategy of not accepting Medicare at physician-owned hospitals formed after implementation of the ACA. We conclude that the ACA restrictions effectively eliminated the formation of new physician-owned hospitals, thus accomplishing what previous legislative efforts had failed to do.

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Electronic Medical Records and Medical Procedure Choice: Evidence from Cesarean Sections

Seth Freedman & Noah Hammarlund

Indiana University Working Paper, July 2016

Abstract:
This paper examines how hospital adoption of Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) impacts medical procedure choice in the context of Cesarean section deliveries. It provides a unique contribution by tying the literature on EMR diffusion to the literature on the utilization of expensive medical technology. We exploit exogenous within-hospital variation in EMR adoption to estimate whether EMRs assists providers in matching patients to the most appropriate procedure, given their medical condition. We find that EMR adoption reduces C-section rates for low-risk mothers. However, we find this effect occurs predominantly in hospitals that were already performing fewer C-sections, and EMRs do not change the behavior of already high-intensity providers. Additional results suggest that our findings are driven by unscheduled C-sections, which are most likely to be impacted by EMRs within the hospital, and that some of the benefits of reduced low-risk C-section rates may be offset by increases in adverse health outcomes.

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Variation in Physician Practice Styles within and across Emergency Departments

Jessica Van Parys

PLoS ONE, August 2016

Abstract:
Despite the significant responsibility that physicians have in healthcare delivery, we know surprisingly little about why physician practice styles vary within or across institutions. Estimating variation in physician practice styles is complicated by the fact that patients are rarely randomly assigned to physicians. This paper uses the quasi-random assignment of patients to physicians in emergency departments (EDs) to show how physicians vary in their treatment of patients with minor injuries. The results reveal a considerable degree of variation in practice styles within EDs; physicians at the 75th percentile of the spending distribution spend 20% more than physicians at the 25th percentile. Observable physician characteristics do not explain much of the variation across physicians, but there is a significant degree of sorting between physicians and EDs over time, with high-cost physicians sorting into high-cost EDs as they gain experience. The results may shed light on why some EDs remain persistently higher-cost than others.

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Early Efforts By Medicare Accountable Care Organizations Have Limited Effect On Mental Illness Care And Management

Alisa Busch, Haiden Huskamp & Michael McWilliams

Health Affairs, July 2016, Pages 1247-1256

Abstract:
People with mental illness use more health care and have worse outcomes than those without such illnesses. In response to incentives to reduce spending, accountable care organizations (ACOs) may therefore attempt to improve their management of mental illness. We examined changes in mental health spending, utilization, and quality measures associated with ACO contracts in the Medicare Shared Savings Program and Pioneer model for beneficiaries with mental illness, using Medicare claims for the period 2008-13 and difference-in-differences comparisons with local non-ACO providers. Pioneer contracts were associated with lower spending on mental health admissions in the first year of the contract, an effect that was attenuated in the second year. Otherwise, ACO contracts were associated with no changes in mental health spending or readmissions, outpatient follow-up after mental health admissions, rates of depression diagnosis, or mental health status. These results suggest that ACOs have not yet focused on mental illness or have been largely unsuccessful in early efforts to improve their management of it.

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Impact of ACA Insurance Coverage Expansion on Perforated Appendix Rates Among Young Adults

John Scott et al.

Medical Care, September 2016, Pages 818-826

Background: The 2010 Dependent Coverage Provision (DCP) of the Affordable Care Act allowed young adults to remain on their parents' health insurance plans until age 26 years. Although the provision improved coverage and survey-reported access to care, little is known regarding its impact on timely access for acute conditions. This study aims to assess changes in insurance coverage and perforation rates among young adults with acute appendicitis - an established metric for population-level health care access - after the DCP.

Methods: The National Inpatient Sample and difference-in-differences linear regression were used to assess prepolicy/postpolicy changes for policy-eligible young adults (aged 19-25 y) compared with a slightly older, policy-ineligible comparator group (aged 26-34 y).

Results: After adjustment for covariates, 19-25 year olds experienced a 3.6-percentage point decline in the uninsured rate after the DCP (baseline 22.5%), compared with 26-34 year olds (P<0.001). This coincided with a 1.4-percentage point relative decline in perforated appendix rate for 19-25 year olds (baseline 17.5%), compared with 26-34 year olds (P=0.023). All subgroups showed significant reductions in uninsured rates; however, statistically significant reductions in perforation rates were limited to racial/ethnic minorities, patients from lower-income communities, and patients presenting to urban teaching hospitals.

Conclusions: Reductions in uninsured rates among young adults after the DCP were associated with significant reductions in perforated appendix rates relative to a comparator group, suggesting that insurance expansion could lead to fewer delays in seeking and accessing care for acute conditions. Greater relative declines in perforation rates among the most at-risk subpopulations hold important implications for the use of coverage expansion to mitigate existing disparities in access to care.

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Physician Assistant and Nurse Practitioner Malpractice Trends

Douglas Brock, Jeffrey Nicholson & Roderick Hooker

Medical Care Research and Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
Trends in malpractice awards and adverse actions (e.g., revocation of provider license) following an act or omission constituting medical error or negligence were examined. The National Practitioner Data Bank was used to compare rates of malpractice reports and adverse actions for physicians, physician assistants (PAs), and nurse practitioners (NPs). During 2005 through 2014, there ranged from 11.2 to 19.0 malpractice payment reports per 1,000 physicians, 1.4 to 2.4 per 1,000 PAs, and 1.1 to 1.4 per 1,000 NPs. Physician median payments ranged from 1.3 to 2.3 times higher than PAs or NPs. Diagnosis-related malpractice allegations varied by provider type, with physicians having significantly fewer reports (31.9%) than PAs (52.8%) or NPs (40.6%) over the observation period. Trends in malpractice payment reports may reflect policy enactments to decrease liability.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Way back

Genomic insights into the origin of farming in the ancient Near East

Iosif Lazaridis et al.

Nature, forthcoming

Abstract:
We report genome-wide ancient DNA from 44 ancient Near Easterners ranging in time between ~12,000 and 1,400 BCE, from Natufian hunter–gatherers to Bronze Age farmers. We show that the earliest populations of the Near East derived around half their ancestry from a ‘Basal Eurasian’ lineage that had little if any Neanderthal admixture and that separated from other non-African lineages before their separation from each other. The first farmers of the southern Levant (Israel and Jordan) and Zagros Mountains (Iran) were strongly genetically differentiated, and each descended from local hunter–gatherers. By the time of the Bronze Age, these two populations and Anatolian-related farmers had mixed with each other and with the hunter–gatherers of Europe to drastically reduce genetic differentiation. The impact of the Near Eastern farmers extended beyond the Near East: farmers related to those of Anatolia spread westward into Europe; farmers related to those of the Levant spread southward into East Africa; farmers related to those from Iran spread northward into the Eurasian steppe; and people related to both the early farmers of Iran and to the pastoralists of the Eurasian steppe spread eastward into South Asia.

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Early Neolithic genomes from the eastern Fertile Crescent

Farnaz Broushaki et al.

Science, 29 Jul 2016, Pages 499-503

Abstract:
We sequenced Early Neolithic genomes from the Zagros region of Iran (eastern Fertile Crescent), where some of the earliest evidence for farming is found, and identify a previously uncharacterized population that is neither ancestral to the first European farmers nor has contributed significantly to the ancestry of modern Europeans. These people are estimated to have separated from Early Neolithic farmers in Anatolia some 46-77,000 years ago and show affinities to modern day Pakistani and Afghan populations, but particularly to Iranian Zoroastrians. We conclude that multiple, genetically differentiated hunter-gatherer populations adopted farming in SW-Asia, that components of pre-Neolithic population structure were preserved as farming spread into neighboring regions, and that the Zagros region was the cradle of eastward expansion.

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Controlled fire use in early humans might have triggered the evolutionary emergence of tuberculosis

Rebecca Chisholm et al.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 9 August 2016, Pages 9051–9056

Abstract:
Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC), a wildly successful group of organisms and the leading cause of death resulting from a single bacterial pathogen worldwide. It is generally accepted that MTBC established itself in human populations in Africa and that animal-infecting strains diverged from human strains. However, the precise causal factors of TB emergence remain unknown. Here, we propose that the advent of controlled fire use in early humans created the ideal conditions for the emergence of TB as a transmissible disease. This hypothesis is supported by mathematical modeling together with a synthesis of evidence from epidemiology, evolutionary genetics, and paleoanthropology.

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Repeated Demographic-Structural Crises Propel the Spread of Large-scale Agrarian States Throughout the Old World

James Bennett

Cliodynamics: The Journal of Quantitative History and Cultural Evolution, 2016, Pages 1-36

Abstract:
I investigate the geographical consequences of demographic-structural dynamics using a spatially resolved agent-based model of agrarian empires in several Old World regions between 1500 BCE and 1500 CE. I estimate and bound key model parameters from two historical datasets. Although several very large-scale polities (e.g., Roman, Persian, Tang empires) do not arise and certain geographical expansions occur at different times, overall the model suggests that factional civil wars, the result of repeated internal demographic-structural crises, can substantially account for the spread of large-scale agriculture throughout the Old World after the Bronze Age.

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Postglacial viability and colonization in North America’s ice-free corridor

Mikkel Pedersen et al.

Nature, forthcoming

Abstract:
During the Last Glacial Maximum, continental ice sheets isolated Beringia (northeast Siberia and northwest North America) from unglaciated North America. By around 15 to 14 thousand calibrated radiocarbon years before present (cal. kyr BP), glacial retreat opened an approximately 1,500-km-long corridor between the ice sheets. It remains unclear when plants and animals colonized this corridor and it became biologically viable for human migration. We obtained radiocarbon dates, pollen, macrofossils and metagenomic DNA from lake sediment cores in a bottleneck portion of the corridor. We find evidence of steppe vegetation, bison and mammoth by approximately 12.6 cal. kyr BP, followed by open forest, with evidence of moose and elk at about 11.5 cal. kyr BP, and boreal forest approximately 10 cal. kyr BP. Our findings reveal that the first Americans, whether Clovis or earlier groups in unglaciated North America before 12.6 cal. kyr BP, are unlikely to have travelled by this route into the Americas. However, later groups may have used this north–south passageway.

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No relative expansion of the number of prefrontal neurons in primate and human evolution

Mariana Gabi et al.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Abstract:
Human evolution is widely thought to have involved a particular expansion of prefrontal cortex. This popular notion has recently been challenged, although controversies remain. Here we show that the prefrontal region of both human and nonhuman primates holds about 8% of cortical neurons, with no clear difference across humans and other primates in the distribution of cortical neurons or white matter cells along the anteroposterior axis. Further, we find that the volumes of human prefrontal gray and white matter match the expected volumes for the number of neurons in the gray matter and for the number of other cells in the white matter compared with other primate species. These results indicate that prefrontal cortical expansion in human evolution happened along the same allometric trajectory as for other primate species, without modification of the distribution of neurons across its surface or of the volume of the underlying white matter. We thus propose that the most distinctive feature of the human prefrontal cortex is its absolute number of neurons, not its relative volume.

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Middle Pleistocene subsistence in the Azraq Oasis, Jordan: Protein residue and other proxies

A. Nowell et al.

Journal of Archaeological Science, September 2016, Pages 36–44

Abstract:
Excavations at Shishan Marsh, a former desert oasis in Azraq, northeast Jordan, reveal a unique ecosystem and provide direct family-specific protein residue evidence of hominin adaptations in an increasingly arid environment approximately 250,000 years ago. Based on lithic, faunal, paleoenvironmental and protein residue data, we conclude that Late Pleistocene hominins were able to subsist in extreme arid environments through a reliance on surprisingly human-like adaptations including a broadened subsistence base, modified tool kit and strategies for predator avoidance and carcass protection.

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Climate, Environment and Early Human Innovation: Stable Isotope and Faunal Proxy Evidence from Archaeological Sites (98-59ka) in the Southern Cape, South Africa

Patrick Roberts et al.

PLoS ONE, July 2016

Abstract:
The Middle Stone Age (MSA) of southern Africa, and in particular its Still Bay and Howiesons Poort lithic traditions, represents a period of dramatic subsistence, cultural, and technological innovation by our species, Homo sapiens. Climate change has frequently been postulated as a primary driver of the appearance of these innovative behaviours, with researchers invoking either climate instability as a reason for the development of buffering mechanisms, or environmentally stable refugia as providing a stable setting for experimentation. Testing these alternative models has proved intractable, however, as existing regional palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental records remain spatially, stratigraphically, and chronologically disconnected from the archaeological record. Here we report high-resolution records of environmental shifts based on stable carbon and oxygen isotopes in ostrich eggshell (OES) fragments, faunal remains, and shellfish assemblages excavated from two key MSA archaeological sequences, Blombos Cave and Klipdrift Shelter. We compare these records with archaeological material remains in the same strata. The results from both sites, spanning the periods 98–73 ka and 72–59 ka, respectively, show significant changes in vegetation, aridity, rainfall seasonality, and sea temperature in the vicinity of the sites during periods of human occupation. While these changes clearly influenced human subsistence strategies, we find that the remarkable cultural and technological innovations seen in the sites cannot be linked directly to climate shifts. Our results demonstrate the need for scale-appropriate, on-site testing of behavioural-environmental links, rather than broader, regional comparisons.

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Neandertal cannibalism and Neandertal bones used as tools in Northern Europe

Hélène Rougier et al.

Scientific Reports, July 2016

Abstract:
Almost 150 years after the first identification of Neandertal skeletal material, the cognitive and symbolic abilities of these populations remain a subject of intense debate. We present 99 new Neandertal remains from the Troisième caverne of Goyet (Belgium) dated to 40,500–45,500 calBP. The remains were identified through a multidisciplinary study that combines morphometrics, taphonomy, stable isotopes, radiocarbon dating and genetic analyses. The Goyet Neandertal bones show distinctive anthropogenic modifications, which provides clear evidence for butchery activities as well as four bones having been used for retouching stone tools. In addition to being the first site to have yielded multiple Neandertal bones used as retouchers, Goyet not only provides the first unambiguous evidence of Neandertal cannibalism in Northern Europe, but also highlights considerable diversity in mortuary behaviour among the region’s late Neandertal population in the period immediately preceding their disappearance.

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Urbanization, State Formation, and Cooperation: A Reappraisal

Justin Jennings & Timothy Earle

Current Anthropology, August 2016, Pages 474-493

Abstract:
Since at least the Enlightenment, scholars have linked urbanization to state formation in the evolution of complex societies. We challenge this assertion, suggesting that the cooperative units that came together in the earliest cities were premised on limiting outside domination and thus usually acted to impede efforts to create more centralized structures of control. Although cities often became the capitals of states, state formation was quicker and more effective where environments kept people more dispersed. Data from the Andes and Polynesia are used to support this argument. In the Lake Titicaca Basin, household- and lineage-based groups living in the city of Tiahuanaco structured urban dynamics without the state for the settlement’s first 300 years, while similarly organized Hawaiian groups that were isolated in farmsteads were quickly realigned into a state structure. By decoupling urbanization from state formation, we can better understand the interactions that created the world’s first cities.

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The Socioecology of Territory Size and a "Work-Around" Hypothesis for the Adoption of Farming

Jacob Freeman

PLoS ONE, July 2016

Abstract:
This paper combines theory from ecology and anthropology to investigate variation in the territory sizes of subsistence oriented agricultural societies. The results indicate that population and the dependence of individuals within a society on “wild” foods partly determine the territory sizes of agricultural societies. In contrast, the productivity of an agroecosystem is not an important determinant of territory size. A comparison of the population-territory size scaling dynamics of agricultural societies and human foragers indicates that foragers and farmers face the same constraints on their ability to expand their territory and intensify their use of resources within a territory. However, the higher density of food in an agroecosystem allows farmers, on average, to live at much higher population densities than human foragers. These macroecological patterns are consistent with a “work-around hypothesis” for the adoption of farming. This hypothesis is that as residential groups of foragers increase in size, farming can sometimes better reduce the tension between an individual’s autonomy over resources and the need for social groups to function to provide public goods like defense and information.

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Divergent Ah receptor ligand selectivity during hominin evolution

Troy Hubbard et al.

Molecular Biology and Evolution, forthcoming

Abstract:
We have identified a fixed nonsynonymous sequence difference between humans (Val381; derived variant) and Neandertals (Ala381; ancestral variant) in the ligand-binding domain of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) gene. In an exome sequence analysis of four Neandertal and Denisovan individuals compared to nine modern humans, there are only 90 total nucleotide sites genome-wide for which archaic hominins are fixed for the ancestral nonsynonymous variant and the modern humans are fixed for the derived variant. Of those sites, only 27, including Val381 in the AHR, also have no reported variability in the human dbSNP database, further suggesting that this highly conserved functional variant is a rare event. Functional analysis of the amino acid variant Ala381 within the AHR carried by Neandertals and non-human primates indicate enhanced polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) binding, DNA binding capacity, and AHR mediated transcriptional activity compared to the human AHR. Also relative to human AHR, the Neandertal AHR exhibited 150-1000 times greater sensitivity to induction of Cyp1a1 and Cyp1b1 expression by PAHs (e.g. benzo(a)pyrene). The resulting CYP1A1/CYP1B1 enzymes are responsible for PAH first pass metabolism, which can result in the generation of toxic intermediates and perhaps AHR-associated toxicities. In contrast, the human AHR retains the ancestral sensitivity observed in primates to non-toxic endogenous AHR ligands (e.g. indole, indoxyl sulfate). Our findings reveal that a functionally significant change in the AHR occurred uniquely in humans, relative to other primates, that would attenuate the response to many environmental pollutants, including chemicals present in smoke from fire use during cooking.

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Experimental Insights into the Cognitive Significance of Early Stone Tools

Mark Moore & Yinika Perston

PLoS ONE, July 2016

Abstract:
Stone-flaking technology is the most enduring evidence for the evolving cognitive abilities of our early ancestors. Flake-making was mastered by African hominins ~3.3 ma, followed by the appearance of handaxes ~1.75 ma and complex stone reduction strategies by ~1.6 ma. Handaxes are stones flaked on two opposed faces (‘bifacially’), creating a robust, sharp-edged tool, and complex reduction strategies are reflected in strategic prior flaking to prepare or ‘predetermine’ the nature of a later flake removal that served as a tool blank. These technologies are interpreted as major milestones in hominin evolution that reflect the development of higher-order cognitive abilities, and the presence and nature of these technologies are used to track movements of early hominin species or ‘cultures’ in the archaeological record. However, the warranting argument that certain variations in stone tool morphologies are caused by differences in cognitive abilities relies on analogy with technical replications by skilled modern stoneworkers, and this raises the possibility that researchers are projecting modern approaches to technical problems onto our non-modern hominin ancestors. Here we present the results of novel experiments that randomise flake removal and disrupt the modern stoneworker’s inclination to use higher-order reasoning to guide the stone reduction process. Although our protocols prevented goal-directed replication of stone tool types, the experimental assemblage is morphologically standardised and includes handaxe-like ‘protobifaces’ and cores with apparently ‘predetermined’ flake removals. This shows that the geometrical constraints of fracture mechanics can give rise to what appear to be highly-designed stoneworking products and techniques when multiple flakes are removed randomly from a stone core.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM


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