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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Round numbers

Has Increased Body Weight Made Driving Safer?

Richard Dunn & Nathan Tefft
Health Economics, November 2014, Pages 1374–1389

Abstract:
We develop a model of alcohol consumption that incorporates the negative biological relationship between body mass and inebriation conditional on total alcohol consumption. Our model predicts that the elasticity of inebriation with respect to weight is equal to the own-price elasticity of alcohol, consistent with body mass increasing the effective price of inebriation. Given that alcohol is generally considered price inelastic, this result implies that as individuals gain weight, they consume more alcohol but become less inebriated. We test this prediction and find that driver blood alcohol content (BAC) is negatively associated with driver weight. In fatal accidents with driver BAC above 0.10, the driver was 7.8 percentage points less likely to be obese than drivers in fatal accidents that did not involve alcohol. This relationship is not explained by driver attributes (age and sex), driver behaviors (speed and seatbelt use), vehicle attributes (weight class, model year, and number of occupants), or accident context (county of accident, time of day, and day of week).

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In good company. The effect of an eating companion's appearance on food intake

Mitsuru Shimizu, Katie Hancock & Brian Wansink
Appetite, December 2014, Pages 263–268

Abstract:
The purpose of this study was to examine whether or not the presence of an overweight eating companion influences healthy and unhealthy eating behavior, and to determine if the effect is moderated by how the companion serves himself or herself. A professional actress either wore an overweight prosthesis (i.e., “fatsuit”) or did not wear one, and served herself either healthily (i.e., a small amount of pasta and a large amount of salad) or unhealthily (i.e., a large amount of pasta and a small amount of salad) for lunch. After observing her, male and female participants were asked to serve themselves pasta and salad to eat. Results demonstrated that regardless of how the confederate served, participants served and ate a larger amount of pasta when she was wearing the prosthesis than when she was not. In addition, when the confederate served herself healthily, participants served and ate a smaller amount of salad when she was wearing the prosthesis than when she was not. Consistent with the “lower health commitment” hypothesis, these results demonstrated that people may eat larger portions of unhealthy food and smaller portions of healthy food when eating with an overweight person, probably because the health commitment goal is less activated. More generally, this study provides evidence that the body type of an eating companion, as well as whether she serves herself healthily or unhealthily, influences the quantity of food intake.

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A Question of Color: The Influence of Skin Color and Stress on Resting Blood Pressure and Body Mass Among African American Women

Cheryl Armstead et al.
Journal of Black Psychology, October 2014, Pages 424-450

Abstract:
This study describes the relative influence of facial skin color, lifetime exposure to racial discrimination, chronic stress, and traditional prehypertension risk factors (family history of hypertension and age) on resting blood pressure and body mass index (BMI) among 196 southern African American (AA) female undergraduate students. Stepwise regression analyses indicated that skin color was the strongest predictor of systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP), and BMI. Skin color, chronic stress, and family history of hypertension predicted 53% of the SBP variance. Skin color, chronic stress, and family history of hypertension predicted 30.2% of the DBP variance. Racism and age were not significant predictors of SBP or DBP. Of the variance in BMI, 33% was predicted by skin color, chronic stress, and racism. Age and family history of hypertension were not predictors of BMI. The current study provides evidence of the relationship of skin color and chronic stress to blood pressure among young southern AA women. The study identifies an important relationship between increased racial stress exposure and heavier BMIs, a predictor of prehypertensive risk.

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Body Size Perception Among African American Women

Elizabeth Lynch & John Kane
Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, September–October 2014, Pages 412–417

Objective: To assess body size perception among African American women using cultural definitions of body size terms.

Methods: Sixty-nine African American women classified Body Image Scale figures as overweight, obese, and too fat, and independently selected the figure they considered closest to their current body size.

Results: Body size classifications of figures did not vary by participant weight status. Overweight figures were not considered too fat. For 86% of overweight (body mass index [BMI], 25–29.9) women and 40% of obese (BMI > 30) women, the self figure was not defined as overweight, obese, or too fat. Among participants with BMI ≥ 35, 65% did not classify their self figure as obese and 29% did not classify their self figure as overweight.

Conclusions and Implications: The difference between cultural (folk) and medical definitions of body size terms may serve as a barrier to effective communication between patients and providers about health effects of excess adiposity.

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Coming unmoored: Disproportionate increases in obesity prevalence among young, disadvantaged white women

Whitney Robinson et al.
Obesity, forthcoming

Objectives: Since the 1980s, older, low-educated White women experienced an unprecedented decrease in life expectancy. We investigated whether a similar phenomenon was evident among younger women for obesity.

Methods: Using the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, age-adjusted changes were estimated in the prevalence of overall and abdominal obesity (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2, waist circumference > 88 cm) between 1988-1994 and 2003-2010 among non-Hispanic White women aged 25-44 years, stratified by educational attainment (<high school (HS), HS, some college, college degree). To address bias from secular increases in educational attainment, White women's changes in obesity prevalence were compared to changes among similarly educated Black women.

Results: Relative increases in overall obesity were disproportionately larger for low-educated (<HS) compared to college-educated White women: 12.3 (95% CI: 3.1, 21.5) percentage points (ppts). For overall and abdominal obesity, general trends indicated dissimilar racial differences by educational attainment. For instance, overall obesity increased more in Blacks than Whites among college-educated (9.9 ppts) but not low-educated (−2.5 ppts) women.

Conclusions: Contemporary young, low-educated White women showed indications of disproportionate worsening of overall obesity prevalence compared to more educated White and similarly educated Black women. Low education levels are more powerful indicators of obesity risk among contemporary White women than 30 years ago.

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Neighborhood Influences on Girls’ Obesity Risk Across the Transition to Adolescence

Lindsay Hoyt et al.
Pediatrics, forthcoming

Background and objectives: The neighborhoods in which children live, play, and eat provide an environmental context that may influence obesity risk and ameliorate or exacerbate health disparities. The current study examines whether neighborhood characteristics predict obesity in a prospective cohort of girls.

Methods: Participants were 174 girls (aged 8–10 years at baseline), a subset from the Cohort Study of Young Girls’ Nutrition, Environment, and Transitions. Trained observers completed street audits within a 0.25-mile radius around each girl’s residence. Four scales (food and service retail, recreation, walkability, and physical disorder) were created from 40 observed neighborhood features. BMI was calculated from clinically measured height and weight. Obesity was defined as BMI-for-age ≥95%. Logistic regression models using generalized estimating equations were used to examine neighborhood influences on obesity risk over 4 years of follow-up, controlling for race/ethnicity, pubertal status, and baseline BMI. Fully adjusted models also controlled for household income, parent education, and a census tract measure of neighborhood socioeconomic status.

Results: A 1-SD increase on the food and service retail scale was associated with a 2.27 (95% confidence interval, 1.42 to 3.61; P < .001) increased odds of being obese. A 1-SD increase in physical disorder was associated with a 2.41 (95% confidence interval, 1.31 to 4.44; P = .005) increased odds of being obese. Other neighborhood scales were not associated with risk for obesity.

Conclusions: Neighborhood food and retail environment and physical disorder around a girl’s home predict risk for obesity across the transition from late childhood to adolescence.

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Body Mass Index: Accounting for Full Time Sedentary Occupation and 24-Hr Self-Reported Time Use

Catrine Tudor-Locke et al.
PLoS ONE, October 2014

Objectives: We used linked existing data from the 2006–2008 American Time Use Survey (ATUS), the Current Population Survey (CPS, a federal survey that provides on-going U.S. vital statistics, including employment rates) and self-reported body mass index (BMI) to answer: How does BMI vary across full time occupations dichotomized as sedentary/non-sedentary, accounting for time spent in sleep, other sedentary behaviors, and light, moderate, and vigorous intensity activities?

Methods: We classified time spent engaged at a primary job (sedentary or non-sedentary), sleep, and other non-work, non-sleep intensity-defined behaviors, specifically, sedentary behavior, light, moderate, and vigorous intensity activities. Age groups were defined by 20–29, 30–39, 40–49, and 50–64 years. BMI groups were defined by 18.5–24.9, 25.0–27.4, 27.5–29.9, 30.0–34.9, and ≥35.0 kg/m2. Logistic and linear regression were used to examine the association between BMI and employment in a sedentary occupation, considering time spent in sleep, other non-work time spent in sedentary behaviors, and light, moderate, and vigorous intensity activities, sex, age race/ethnicity, and household income.

Results: The analysis data set comprised 4,092 non-pregnant, non-underweight individuals 20–64 years of age who also reported working more than 7 hours at their primary jobs on their designated time use reporting day. Logistic and linear regression analyses failed to reveal any associations between BMI and the sedentary/non-sedentary occupation dichotomy considering time spent in sleep, other non-work time spent in sedentary behaviors, and light, moderate, and vigorous intensity activities, sex, age, race/ethnicity, and household income.

Conclusions: We found no evidence of a relationship between self-reported full time sedentary occupation classification and BMI after accounting for sex, age, race/ethnicity, and household income and 24-hours of time use including non-work related physical activity and sedentary behaviors. The various sources of error associated with self-report methods and assignment of generalized activity and occupational intensity categories could compound to obscure any real relationships.

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Weight bias in 2001 versus 2013: Contradictory attitudes among obesity researchers and health professionals

Janet Tomiyama et al.
Obesity, forthcoming

Objectives: To assess levels of two types of anti-fat bias in obesity specialists, explicit bias, or consciously accessible anti-fat attitudes, and implicit bias, or attitudes that are activated outside of conscious awareness, were examined. This study also assessed changes over time by comparing levels of bias in 2013 to published data from 2001.

Methods: In 232 attendees at the ObesityWeek 2013 conference, we measured explicit anti-fat bias and conducted the Implicit Association Test. These data were compared to those from a study conducted at the 2001 meeting of this group.

Results: Participants exhibited significant implicit and explicit anti-fat/pro-thin bias. Positivity of professional experience with obesity, but not type of professional experience, was correlated with lower explicit anti-fat bias. Compared to 2001, the 2013 sample had lower levels of implicit bias and higher levels of explicit bias.

Conclusions: Although implicit anti-fat attitudes appeared to decrease from 2001 to 2013, explicit anti-fat attitudes increased. Future research should examine whether increasing positive experiences with obese patients reduces anti-fat bias among health professionals. Together, these results suggest that despite the current climate of widespread anti-fat bias, there are pathways toward understanding and ameliorating this bias.

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Sociodemographic Differences and Infant Dietary Patterns

Xiaozhong Wen et al.
Pediatrics, forthcoming

Objectives: To identify dietary patterns in US infants at age 6 and 12 months, sociodemographic differences in these patterns, and their associations with infant growth from age 6 to 12 months.

Methods: We analyzed a subsample (760 boys and 795 girls) of the Infant Feeding Practices Study II (2005–2007). Mothers reported their infants’ intakes of 18 types of foods in the past 7 days, which were used to derive dietary patterns at ages 6 and 12 months by principal component analysis.

Results: Similar dietary patterns were identified at ages 6 and 12 months. At 12 months, infants of mothers who had low education or non-Hispanic African American mothers (vs non-Hispanic white) had a higher score on “High sugar/fat/protein” dietary pattern. Both “High sugar/fat/protein” and “High dairy/regular cereal” patterns at 6 months were associated with a smaller increase in length-for-age z score (adjusted β per 1 unit dietary pattern score, −1.36 [95% confidence interval (CI), −2.35 to −0.37] and −0.30 [−0.54 to −0.06], respectively), while with greater increase in BMI z score (1.00 [0.11 to 1.89] and 0.32 [0.10 to 0.53], respectively) from age 6 to 12 months. The “Formula” pattern was associated with greater increase in BMI z score (0.25 [0.09 to 0.40]). The “Infant guideline solids” pattern (vegetables, fruits, baby cereal, and meat) was not associated with change in length-for-age or BMI z score.

Conclusions: Distinct dietary patterns exist among US infants, vary by maternal race/ethnicity and education, and have differential influences on infant growth. Use of “Infant guideline solids” with prolonged breastfeeding is a promising healthy diet for infants after age 6 months.

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Association of Antibiotics in Infancy With Early Childhood Obesity

Charles Bailey et al.
JAMA Pediatrics, forthcoming

Objective: To assess the impact of antibiotics prescribed in infancy (ages 0-23 months) on obesity in early childhood (ages 24-59 months).

Design, Setting, and Participants: We conducted a cohort study spanning 2001-2013 using electronic health records. Cox proportional hazard models were used to adjust for demographic, practice, and clinical covariates. The study spanned a network of primary care practices affiliated with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia including both teaching clinics and private practices in urban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the surrounding region. All children with annual visits at ages 0 to 23 months, as well 1 or more visits at ages 24 to 59 months, were enrolled. The cohort comprised 64 580 children.

Results: Sixty-nine percent of children were exposed to antibiotics before age 24 months, with a mean (SD) of 2.3 (1.5) episodes per child. Cumulative exposure to antibiotics was associated with later obesity (rate ratio [RR], 1.11; 95% CI, 1.02-1.21 for ≥4 episodes); this effect was stronger for broad-spectrum antibiotics (RR, 1.16; 95% CI, 1.06-1.29). Early exposure to broad-spectrum antibiotics was also associated with obesity (RR, 1.11; 95% CI, 1.03-1.19 at 0-5 months of age and RR, 1.09; 95% CI, 1.04-1.14 at 6-11 months of age) but narrow-spectrum drugs were not at any age or frequency. Steroid use, male sex, urban practice, public insurance, Hispanic ethnicity, and diagnosed asthma or wheezing were also predictors of obesity; common infectious diagnoses and antireflux medications were not.

Conclusions and Relevance: Repeated exposure to broad-spectrum antibiotics at ages 0 to 23 months is associated with early childhood obesity. Because common childhood infections were the most frequent diagnoses co-occurring with broad-spectrum antibiotic prescription, narrowing antibiotic selection is potentially a modifiable risk factor for childhood obesity.

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Distance to Store, Food Prices, and Obesity in Urban Food Deserts

Bonnie Ghosh-Dastidar et al.
American Journal of Preventive Medicine, forthcoming

Purpose: To examine the relationship among distance to store, food prices, and obesity.

Methods: The Pittsburgh Hill/Homewood Research on Eating, Shopping, and Health study conducted baseline interviews with 1,372 households between May and December 2011 in two low-income, majority African American neighborhoods without a supermarket. Audits of 16 stores where participants reported doing their major food shopping were conducted. Data were analyzed between February 2012 and February 2013.

Results: Distance to store and prices were positively associated with obesity (p<0.05). When distance to store and food prices were jointly modeled, only prices remained significant (p<0.01), with higher prices predicting a lower likelihood of obesity. Although low- and high-price stores did not differ in availability, they significantly differed in their display and marketing of junk foods relative to healthy foods.

Conclusions: Placing supermarkets in food deserts to improve access may not be as important as simultaneously offering better prices for healthy foods relative to junk foods, actively marketing healthy foods, and enabling consumers to resist the influence of junk food marketing.

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Outcome of a Food Observational Study Among Low-Income Preschool Children Participating in a Family-Style Meal Setting

Roberto Treviño et al.
Health Education & Behavior, forthcoming

Introduction: In the United States, one out of every seven low-income children between the ages of 2 and 5 years is at risk for overweight and obesity. Formative research was conducted to determine if preschool children participating in family-style meals consumed the minimum food servings according to U.S. Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines.

Method: Participants were 135 low-income children aged 3 to 4 years who attended an urban child care center. Participant’s parents completed a Family Demographic Questionnaire to provide information on race/ethnicity, parent’s level of education, and household income. Direct observation of children’s food and beverage consumption during school breakfast and lunch was collected over 3 consecutive days. Dietary data were assessed using the Nutrition Data System for Research software. Height and weight measurements were obtained to determine risk for obesity. Descriptive statistics were reported by using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences Version 16.

Results: Among 135 participants, 98% identified as Mexican American, 75% lived at or below poverty level, and 24% reported a family history of diabetes. Children consumed less than half of the calories provided between breakfast and lunch and did not consume the minimum recommended dietary food servings. Despite the poor dietary intake, physical measurement findings showed 25% obesity prevalence among study participants.

Conclusions: Findings support the need for evidenced-based early childhood obesity prevention programs that provide behavior change opportunities for children, their families, teachers, and menu planners. Family-style meal settings are ideal opportunities for implementing nutrition education strategies to prevent early childhood obesity.

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Offering Variety: A Subtle Manipulation to Promote Healthy Food Choice Throughout the Day

Rachel Burns & Alexander Rothman
Health Psychology, forthcoming

Objective: Providing a variety of food generally increases consumption and enjoyment. This effect is typically associated with unhealthy behavior (e.g., overindulgence at a buffet) and studied during a single meal. Two studies tested whether this effect can be leveraged in a subtle, simple manipulation to promote healthy food choices over the course of a day.

Method: In Studies 1 and 2, 188 and 187 participants, respectively, chose between a sweet and a piece of fruit in the afternoon. The fruit was either the same as or different from fruit that was selected in the morning; choice was not given in the morning. Study 1 tested this effect in the domain of expressed preferences and Study 2 examined actual choice.

Results: In both studies, a second piece of fruit was more likely to be selected in the afternoon if it was different from fruit that was selected in the morning.

Conclusions: These results illustrate how a robust effect that is typically associated with unhealthy outcomes can be harnessed to promote healthy food choices and underscore the importance of conceptualizing eating as a series of interrelated behavioral decisions. This work has implications for applied settings, such as cafeterias, and is distinguished from other simple structural manipulations by its focus on sustaining healthy food choice over the course of the day.

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Behavioral and Neural Valuation of Foods Is Driven by Implicit Knowledge of Caloric Content

Deborah Tang, Lesley Fellows & Alain Dagher
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
The factors that affect food choices are critical to understanding obesity. In the present study, healthy participants were shown pictures of foods to determine the impact of caloric content on food choice. Brain activity was then measured while participants bid for a chance to purchase and eat one item. True caloric density, but not individual estimates of calorie content, predicted how much participants were willing to pay for each item. Caloric density also correlated with the neural response to food pictures in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, a brain area that encodes the value of stimuli and predicts immediate consumption. That same region exhibited functional connectivity with an appetitive brain network, and this connectivity was modulated by willingness to pay. Despite the fact that participants were poor at explicitly judging caloric content, their willingness to pay and brain activity both correlated with actual caloric density. This suggests that the reward value of a familiar food is dependent on implicit knowledge of its caloric content.

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The heavy weight of death: How anti-fat bias is affected by weight-based group membership and existential threat

Ann Seibert, Simon Schindler & Marc-André Reinhard
Journal of Applied Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Anti-fat bias is marked by a devaluation of overweight people compared with non-overweight persons. Even though belonging to the same group, research on social identity theory (SIT) indicates that overweight people also devaluate overweight others. Merging insights from research on anti-fat bias, SIT, and terror management theory, our study (n = 101) provides new insights on motivational aspects of anti-fat bias by investigating the effects of existential threat on the evaluation of non-overweight and overweight people. Results revealed that participants in the existential threat condition displayed in-group bias: Participants perceiving themselves as non-overweight showed more pronounced anti-fat bias compared with participants in the non-death threat condition. In contrast, participants perceiving themselves as overweight demonstrated less anti-fat bias than controls.

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The Effect of Visualizing Healthy Eaters and Mortality Reminders on Nutritious Grocery Purchases: An Integrative Terror Management and Prototype Willingness Analysis

Simon McCabe et al.
Health Psychology, forthcoming

Objective: To use insights from an integration of the terror management health model and the prototype willingness model to inform and improve nutrition-related behavior using an ecologically valid outcome.

Method: Prior to shopping, grocery shoppers were exposed to a reminder of mortality (or pain) and then visualized a healthy (vs. neutral) prototype. Receipts were collected postshopping and food items purchased were coded using a nutrition database.

Results: Compared with those in the control conditions, participants who received the mortality reminder and who were led to visualize a healthy eater prototype purchased more nutritious foods.

Conclusion: The integration of the terror management health model and the prototype willingness model has the potential for both basic and applied advances and offers a generative ground for future research.

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Generalized Nutrient Taxes Can Increase Consumer Welfare

David Bishai
Health Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Certain nutrients can stimulate appetite making them fattening in a way that is not fully conveyed by the calorie content on the label. For rational eaters, this information gap could be corrected by more labeling. As an alternative, this paper proposes a set of positive and negative taxes on the fattening and slimming nutrients in food rather than on the food itself. There are conditions under which this tax plus subsidy system could increase welfare by stopping unwanted weight gain while leaving the final retail price of food unchanged. A nutrient tax system could improve welfare if fattening nutrients, net of their effect on weight, are inferior goods and the fiscal cost of administering the tax is sufficiently low. More data on the price elasticity of demand for nutrients as well as data on how specific nutrients affect satiety and how total calorie intake would be necessary before one could be sure a nutrient tax would work in practice.

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Calorie Changes in Chain Restaurant Menu Items: Implications for Obesity and Evaluations of Menu Labeling

Sara Bleich, Julia Wolfson & Marian Jarlenski
American Journal of Preventive Medicine, forthcoming

Purpose: To describe trends in calories available in large U.S. restaurants.

Methods: Data were obtained from the MenuStat project, a census of menu items in 66 of the 100 largest U.S. restaurant chains, for 2012 and 2013 (N=19,417 items). Generalized linear models were used to calculate (1) the mean change in calories from 2012 to 2013, among items on the menu in both years; and (2) the difference in mean calories, comparing newly introduced items to those on the menu in 2012 only (overall and between core versus non-core items). Data were analyzed in 2014.

Results: Mean calories among items on menus in both 2012 and 2013 did not change. Large restaurant chains in the U.S. have recently had overall declines in calories in newly introduced menu items (–56 calories, 12% decline). These declines were concentrated mainly in new main course items (–67 calories, 10% decline). New beverage (–26 calories, 8% decline) and children’s (–46 calories, 20% decline) items also had fewer mean calories. Among chain restaurants with a specific focus (e.g., burgers), average calories in new menu items not core to the business declined more than calories in core menu items.

Conclusions: Large chain restaurants significantly reduced the number of calories in newly introduced menu items. Supply-side changes to the calories in chain restaurants may have a significant impact on obesity prevention.

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The Evaluation of the Impact of a Stand-Biased Desk on Energy Expenditure and Physical Activity for Elementary School Students

Mark Benden et al.
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, September 2014, Pages 9361-9375

Abstract:
Due to the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity, the association between classroom furniture and energy expenditure as well as physical activity was examined using a standing-desk intervention in three central-Texas elementary schools. Of the 480 students in the 24 classrooms randomly assigned to either a seated or stand-biased desk equipped classroom, 374 agreed to participate in a week-long data collection during the fall and spring semesters. Each participant’s data was collected using Sensewear® armbands and was comprised of measures of energy expenditure (EE) and step count. A hierarchical linear mixed effects model showed that children in seated desk classrooms had significantly lower (EE) and fewer steps during the standardized lecture time than children in stand-biased classrooms after adjusting for grade, race, and gender. The use of a standing desk showed a significant higher mean energy expenditure by 0.16 kcal/min (p < 0.0001) in the fall semester, and a higher EE by 0.08 kcal/min (p = 0.0092) in the spring semester.

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Chefs move to schools: A pilot examination of how chef-created dishes can increase school lunch participation and fruit and vegetable intake

David Just, Brian Wansink & Andrew Hanks
Appetite, December 2014, Pages 242–247

Abstract:
To demonstrate the feasibility of introducing a main dish designed by a professional chef in the National School Lunch Program and to document the impact on child participation, a chef was recruited to design pizza to be served in an upstate New York school district. The pizza was designed to meet both the cost and ingredient requirements of the NSLP. High school students were significantly more likely to select the pizza prepared by the chef. While the chef had no significant impact on main dish consumption given selection, more students took a vegetable and vegetable consumption increased by 16.5%. This pilot study demonstrates the plausibility of using chefs to boost participation in the school lunch program, and potentially increase nutrition through side selection, among high school students.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Usual suspects

Do Traffic Tickets Reduce Motor Vehicle Accidents? Evidence from a Natural Experiment

Dara Lee Luca
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper analyzes the effect of traffic tickets on motor vehicle accidents. Ordinary least squares (OLS) estimate may be upward biased because police officers tend to focus on areas where and periods when there is heavy traffic and thus higher rates of accidents. This paper exploits the dramatic increase in tickets during the Click-it-or-Ticket campaign to identify the causal impact of tickets on accidents using data from Massachusetts. I find that tickets significantly reduce accidents and nonfatal injuries. I provide suggestive evidence that tickets have a larger impact at night and on female drivers.

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An Experimental Evaluation on the Utility of Burglary Profiles Applied in Active Police Investigations

Bryanna Hahn Fox & David Farrington
Criminal Justice and Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study evaluated the effect on burglary arrest rates when using statistically derived behavioral profiles for burglary offenses and offenders in active police investigations. To do this, an experiment was conducted where one police agency that used the profiles was compared with three matched police agencies that did not. Burglary arrest rates were studied 4 years before and 1 year after the profile was implemented. Results show that the arrest rates for the treated agency increased by 3 times as compared with the control agencies. The interaction effect between treatment/control agency and pretest/posttest arrest rates was significant, showing that the experimental intervention had an effect, after controlling for pre-existing differences between the agencies. These findings on the utility of offender profiling, the first to be derived from an experiment conducted in active police investigations, suggest that the statistically based behavioral profiles could be a useful tool in increasing arrest rates for police.

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Policing Domestic Violence in the Post-SARP Era: The Impact of a Domestic Violence Police Unit

Lyn Exum et al.
Crime & Delinquency, October 2014, Pages 999-1032

Abstract:
During the Spousal Assault Replication Program, the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, was identified as a site where arrest did not deter misdemeanor domestic violence. Shortly after these findings were published, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department developed a Domestic Violence (DV) unit to combat the problem of intimate partner violence. The mission of the Charlotte DV unit is to reduce future offending through intensive investigation and victim assistance. The current study evaluates the impact of the Charlotte DV unit versus standard patrol on official accounts of offender recidivism in a random sample of 891 domestic violence cases. Controlling for offender demographics, prior criminal history, case severity, and additional criminal justice responses, suspects processed through the DV unit had significantly lower rates of re-offending across an 18- to 30-month follow-up period. Theoretical explanations for the DV unit effect are proposed.

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Falling Behind? Children’s Early Grade Retention after Paternal Incarceration

Kristin Turney & Anna Haskins
Sociology of Education, October 2014, Pages 241-258

Abstract:
A growing literature documents the myriad penalties for children of incarcerated fathers, but relatively little is known about how paternal incarceration contributes to educational outcomes in early and middle childhood. In this article, we use data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to provide the first estimates of the relationship between paternal incarceration and children’s grade retention in elementary school. Propensity score matching models indicate that children of incarcerated fathers are more likely to experience early grade retention than their counterparts. This relationship is not driven by test scores or behavior problems; preliminary evidence suggests this relationship may be driven by teachers’ perceptions of children’s academic proficiency. These findings suggest that elementary school teachers may play an important role in the lives of children experiencing paternal incarceration and, more generally, highlight yet another way in which the large-scale incarceration of men limits their children’s potential.

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The Relationship Between Gun Ownership and Stranger and Nonstranger Firearm Homicide Rates in the United States, 1981–2010

Michael Siegel et al.
American Journal of Public Health, October 2014, Pages 1912-1919

Objectives: We examined the relationship between gun ownership and stranger versus nonstranger homicide rates.

Methods: Using data from the Supplemental Homicide Reports of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reports for all 50 states for 1981 to 2010, we modeled stranger and nonstranger homicide rates as a function of state-level gun ownership, measured by a proxy, controlling for potential confounders. We used a negative binomial regression model with fixed effects for year, accounting for clustering of observations among states by using generalized estimating equations.

Results: We found no robust, statistically significant correlation between gun ownership and stranger firearm homicide rates. However, we found a positive and significant association between gun ownership and nonstranger firearm homicide rates. The incidence rate ratio for nonstranger firearm homicide rate associated with gun ownership was 1.014 (95% confidence interval = 1.009, 1.019).

Conclusions: Our findings challenge the argument that gun ownership deters violent crime, in particular, homicides.

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The impact of state and federal assault weapons bans on public mass shootings

Mark Gius
Applied Economics Letters, forthcoming

Abstract:
The purpose of the present study is to determine the effects of federal and state assault weapons bans on public mass shootings. Using a Poisson effect model and data for the period 1982 to 2011, it was found that both state and federal assault weapons bans have statistically significant and negative effects on mass shooting fatalities but that only the federal assault weapons ban had a negative effect on mass shooting injuries. This study is one of the first studies that looks solely at the effects of assault weapons bans on public mass shootings.

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Political Correlates of Violent Death Rates in the U.S., 1900-2010: Longitudinal and Cross-Sectional Analyses

Bandy Lee et al.
Aggression and Violent Behavior, forthcoming

Objectives: Our goal was to identify if there might be associations between a major public health problem, i.e., violent deaths, and a potential macro-level determinant, i.e., political party in office.

Methods: Vital statistics, labor statistics, and GDP data were obtained for the years 1900-2010. Independent t tests were used to compare homicide, suicide, and total violent death rates during Republican and Democratic administrations and between states voting for Republican and Democratic presidential candidates. Correlation and hidden Markov modeling were used to assess the relationships among party of the president and changes in unemployment rate, GDP, and violent death.

Results: The party of the president was significantly associated with annual changes in suicide and homicide rates, unemployment rates, and GDP (p < 0.001 to p < 0.05, depending on the measure and time lag), with higher violent death and unemployment increases being associated with Republican presidencies and higher GDP with Democratic ones. Adjusting for unemployment and GDP reduced but did not eliminate party effect. Suicide and homicide rates were higher in states that voted for the Republican candidate for presidenby than in states that voted for the Democratic candidate (p < 0.0001 and p < 0.07).

Conclusions: Violent deaths were associated with an increase under Republican presidents and a decrease under Democratic presidents, were higher in states that vote for Republican than for Democratic presidential candidates, and increased alongside increasing unemployment and falling national GDP. As with heart disease, obesity and cancer, identified associations with environmental factors can increase understanding of the public health problem and point to ways of reducing it. Future research beyond the boundaries of the United States could help elucidate the relationship between government, socioeconomic policy orientation, and violent death rates.

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Following Incarceration, Most Released Offenders Never Return to Prison

William Rhodes et al.
Crime & Delinquency, forthcoming

Abstract:
Recent studies suggest that 50% of offenders released from state prisons return to prison within 3 to 5 years. In contrast, this article shows that roughly two of every three offenders who enter and exit prison will never return to prison. Using data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ newly revised National Corrections Reporting Program, we examine prison admissions and releases over a 13-year period in 17 states and over shorter periods in other states to determine the rate at which individual offenders return to prison. We distinguish between the traditional event-based sampling methods for studying recidivism and our alternative offender-based method, explaining how each is useful but how the two approaches answer different policy questions.

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Correctional destabilization and jail violence: The consequences of prison depopulation legislation

Jonathan Caudill et al.
Journal of Criminal Justice, November–December 2014, Pages 500–506

Purpose: This study explored the effects of prison depopulation on local jail violence through a general systems perspective – where an abrupt shift in the processing of offenders had the potential to create ripple effects through other organizations – of the criminal justice system.

Methods: In 2011, California passed the Criminal Justice Realignment legislation aimed to reduce prison population by making low-level felony offenders ineligible for state incarceration and diverting those already in state prison for the included offenses from state to county-level community supervision once paroled. This study incorporated bivariate and negative binomial regression analyses to model officially-recorded county jail panel data to estimate the effects of state prison depopulation on California county jails.

Results: Findings demonstrated support for the general systems framework as there was a significant decrease in jail utility in the bivariate analysis and a significant increase in jail violence in the multivariate analysis associated with passage of California’s prison depopulation legislation.

Conclusions: The results supported the notion of an interconnected criminal justice system. Policy implications include the consequences of increased violence on jail operations, the potential for a cadre of habitual offenders, and generalizing these findings to the community.

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Recidivism and the “Worst of Both Worlds” Hypothesis: Do Substance Misuse and Crime Interact Or Accumulate?

Glenn Walters
Criminal Justice and Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Interactive and additive terms for substance misuse and crime were used to predict recidivism in 1,435 male inmates. Negative binomial regression revealed that although the additive term consistently predicted general recidivism and the presence of new charges, the interaction term consistently failed to predict these same two outcomes. The additive model continued to predict general recidivism and new charges when age and prior convictions were both controlled and when prior substance misuse and crime were entered separately. Both the substance misuse and crime components predicted income (property and drug) offenses, but only the crime component predicted person offenses. These results have implications for assessing and treating substance-involved offenders and suggest that the two components of the “worst of both worlds” hypothesis accumulate rather than interact in their effect on future recidivism. Although the effect depends on both components, one component may be stronger than the other in predicting certain outcomes.

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New Parochialism, Sources of Community Investment, and the Control of Street Crime

David Ramey & Emily Shrider
Criminology & Public Policy, May 2014, Pages 193–216

Abstract:
We examined Seattle, Washington's Neighborhood Matching Fund (NMF), a unique neighborhood improvement program that provides city funding for projects organized within neighborhoods. We found an inverse relationship between NMF funding and violent crime rates, a relationship that is stronger in poorer neighborhoods. The relationship also is stronger as funds accumulate within the neighborhoods over time. These findings suggest that investment and neighborhood participation can have both short-term and long-term crime reduction effects.

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Keep the Kids Inside: Juvenile Curfews, Bad Weather, and Urban Gun Violence

Jillian Carr & Jennifer Doleac
University of Virginia Working Paper, August 2014

Abstract:
Gun violence is an important problem in many American cities, large and small. Due to limited data, it has been difficult to convincingly test the impacts of government policies on the quantity and geography of gunfire. This paper is the first to use a new source of data on gunfire incidents, and tests the incapacitation effects of two interventions in Washington, DC: (1) juvenile curfews, and (2) rain. Both work primarily by keeping would-be offenders indoors. The former is a common, but extremely controversial, policy used in cities across the United States, and its impact is likely highly sensitive to how it is enforced. The latter is an intervention over which we have no control, but can be thought of as a perfectly-enforced incapacitation "policy": anyone who stays outside during a rainstorm gets wet. We use exogenous variation in the hours affected by each intervention to estimate its causal impact on gun violence and reported crime. We find minimal evidence that juvenile curfews are effective, but rainstorms result in large, statistically-significant reductions in gun violence and other crime. We interpret these results as evidence that incapacitation works as a crime-prevention tool, and a reminder that implementation and enforcement are key determinants of a policy’s success.

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A Longitudinal Study of the Impact of Home Vacancy on Robbery and Burglary Rates During the U.S. Housing Crisis, 2005-2009

Roderick Jones & William Alex Pridemore
Crime & Delinquency, forthcoming

Abstract:
The growing empirical literature on the effects on crime of the recent housing crisis in the United States provides inconsistent results for a direct effect. Furthermore, no longitudinal studies examine the association between home vacancy and crime during the U.S. housing crisis. To address this question, we used a sample of 126 major metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) within the United States for the period 2005-2009 and estimated random and fixed effects models. Results indicated that increasing rates of home vacancy during the housing crisis were significantly associated with burglary rates within and between MSAs but had no association with robbery rates after controlling for other important crime covariates. We discuss the theoretical and methodological implications of these findings.

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Is the Highway Patrol Really Tougher on Out-of-State Drivers? An Empirical Analysis

Michael Roach
B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, forthcoming

Abstract:
Using speeding citations from the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, this paper examines whether out-of-state drivers face different enforcement standards than in-state drivers. Discrimination effects are identified by assuming exogenous differences in license plate design affect troopers’ abilities to identify out-of-state drivers. The pattern of citations for difficult to identify out-of-state drivers is significantly different from (indeed, stricter than) the pattern for more easily identifiable out-of-state drivers. I take this as evidence of troopers attempting to apply different enforcement standards to out-of-state drivers. One explanation is troopers attempting to deter in-state speeders whose behavior may be more sensitive to enforcement.

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Misalignment In Supervision: Implementing Risk/Needs Assessment Instruments in Probation

Jill Viglione, Danielle Rudes & Faye Taxman Criminal
Justice and Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Risk and needs assessment (RNA) tools are well regarded as a critical component of a community corrections organization implementing evidence-based practices (EBPs), given the potential impact of using such tools on offender-level and system outcomes. The current study examines how probation officers (POs) use a validated RNA tool in two adult probation settings. Using interview and observational data, this study explores how POs use an assessment tool during all facets of their work from preplanning, routine administrative tasks, and face-to-face case management interactions with probation clients. Findings suggest POs overwhelmingly administer the RNA tool, but rarely link the RNA scores to key case management or supervision decisions. These findings highlight some of the challenges and complexities associated with the application of RNA tools in everyday practice. Study implications emphasize the need to modify current probation practices to create a synergy between the RNA and related supervision practices. Findings from this study contribute to a better appreciation for how the new penology integrates risk management with client-centered case models to improve outcomes.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A higher power

Changes in Religiosity After First Intercourse in the Transition to Adulthood

Sara Vasilenko & Eva Lefkowitz
Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, forthcoming

Abstract:
Religiosity delays initiation of sexual behavior, but the association may be bidirectional, and individuals may become less religious after first intercourse. This study uses longitudinal data from college students to examine whether 2 aspects of religiosity change before and after first intercourse using multiphase growth curve models. Students’ religiosity did not change in the 6 months preceding first intercourse, but on average they attended services less often and felt religion was less important in the 12 months after first intercourse. These findings suggest that sexual behavior can influence religious development in emerging adulthood, and underscore the importance of studying the impact of sexuality beyond the health outcomes typically studied, and of examining how life events influence religious development in adolescence and emerging adulthood.

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Roll a Die and Tell a Lie – What Affects Honesty?

Yuval Arbel et al.
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, November 2014, Pages 153–172

Abstract:
We examine the effect of religiosity and gender on the level of honesty by conducting under-the-cup die experiments among secular and religious Jewish students. The highest level of honesty was found among young religious females while the lowest was found among secular females. Finally, we derive practical implications for increasing the level of honesty in society.

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Personal prayer counteracts self-control depletion

Malte Friese et al.
Consciousness and Cognition, October 2014, Pages 90-95

Abstract:
Praying over longer time spans can foster self-control. Less is known about the immediate, short-term consequences of praying. Here we investigated the possibility that praying may counteract self-control depletion. Participants suppressed or did not suppress thoughts about a white bear before engaging in a brief period of either personal prayer or free thought. Then, all participants completed a Stroop task. As expected, thought suppression led to poorer Stroop performance in the free thought, but not in the prayer condition. This effect emerged on a dependent variable devoid of any religious or moral associations (Stroop task). Possible mediating mechanisms and directions for future research are discussed.

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Compulsory Schooling Laws and Formation of Beliefs: Education, Religion and Superstition

Naci Mocan & Luiza Pogorelova
NBER Working Paper, October 2014

Abstract:
We exploit information on compulsory schooling reforms in 11 European countries, implemented mostly in the 1960s and 70s, to identify the impact of education on religious adherence and religious practices. Using micro data from the European Social Survey, conducted in various years between 2002 and 2013, we find consistently large negative effects of schooling on self-reported religiosity, social religious acts (attending religious services), as well as solitary religious acts (the frequency of praying). We also use data from European Values Survey to apply the same empirical design to analyze the impact of schooling on superstitious beliefs. We find that more education, due to increased mandatory years of schooling, reduces individuals’ propensity to believe in the power of lucky charms and the tendency to take into account horoscopes in daily life.

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From Jesus to Christianity: The economics of sacrifice

Mario Ferrero
Rationality and Society, November 2014, Pages 397-424

Abstract:
This article models the birth of a new religion from the ashes of apocalyptic prophecy. Christianity started around the imminent expectation of God’s Kingdom. Followers forsook worldly opportunities to prepare for the event. As the Kingdom’s arrival tarried, they found themselves “trapped” because those sacrifices — like transaction-specific investments — were wasted if they dropped out. This provided incentives to stay and transform the faith. Such effort, enhanced by reaction to the cognitive dissonance caused by prophecy failure, turned an apocalyptic movement into an established church. A survey of other apocalyptic groups confirms that dropout costs are critical to explaining outcomes.

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Rituals or Good Works: Social Signaling in Religious Organizations

Gilat Levy
Journal of the European Economic Association, October 2014, Pages 1317–1360

Abstract:
We develop a model of social signaling of religiosity and cooperative behavior in religious organizations. The model embeds a ritual-based religious organization in which signaling arises through the use of costly rituals, and a discipline-based religious organization in which such signaling occurs through the monitoring of past behavior. We use this framework to contrast — positively and normatively — these two forms of social signaling. We show that ritual-based religions, while using a costly and wasteful signal, also imply a higher level of coordination of behavior in social interactions and a higher incidence of mutual cooperation. Our welfare analysis suggests that communities are more likely to support a switch to a discipline-based religion if strategic complementarities are high, and if there is sufficiently high level of public information about social behavior. This accords with the success of Calvin's Reformation in Switzerland and France, a process characterized by the reduction of rituals along with the creation of institutions to monitor and publicize individuals' behavior, such as the Consistory.

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Might Depression, Psychosocial Adversity, and Limited Social Assets Explain Vulnerability to and Resistance against Violent Radicalisation?

Kamaldeep Bhui, Brian Everitt & Edgar Jones
PLoS ONE, September 2014

Background: This study tests whether depression, psychosocial adversity, and limited social assets offer protection or suggest vulnerability to the process of radicalisation.

Methods: A population sample of 608 men and women of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin, of Muslim heritage, and aged 18–45 were recruited by quota sampling. Radicalisation was measured by 16 questions asking about sympathies for violent protest and terrorism. Cluster analysis of the 16 items generated three groups: most sympathetic (or most vulnerable), most condemning (most resistant), and a large intermediary group that acted as a reference group. Associations were calculated with depression (PHQ9), anxiety (GAD7), poor health, and psychosocial adversity (adverse life events, perceived discrimination, unemployment). We also investigated protective factors such as the number social contacts, social capital (trust, satisfaction, feeling safe), political engagement and religiosity.

Results: Those showing the most sympathy for violent protest and terrorism were more likely to report depression (PHQ9 score of 5 or more; RR = 5.43, 1.35 to 21.84) and to report religion to be important (less often said religion was fairly rather than very important; RR = 0.08, 0.01 to 0.48). Resistance to radicalisation measured by condemnation of violent protest and terrorism was associated with larger number of social contacts (per contact: RR = 1.52, 1.26 to 1.83), less social capital (RR = 0.63, 0.50 to 0.80), unavailability for work due to housekeeping or disability (RR = 8.81, 1.06 to 37.46), and not being born in the UK (RR = 0.22, 0.08 to 0.65).

Conclusions: Vulnerability to radicalisation is characterised by depression but resistance to radicalisation shows a different profile of health and psychosocial variables. The paradoxical role of social capital warrants further investigation.

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Rejecting Evolution: The Role of Religion, Education, and Social Networks

Jonathan Hill
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, September 2014, Pages 575–594

Abstract:
Large segments of the American public are skeptical of human evolution. Surveys consistently find that sizable minorities of the population, frequently near half, deny that an evolutionary process describes how human life developed. Using data from the National Study of Youth and Religion, I examine the role of religion and education in predicting who changes their beliefs about evolution between late adolescence and early emerging adulthood. I conclude that religion is far more important than educational attainment in predicting changing beliefs about evolution. Perhaps more importantly, I find that social networks play an important moderating role in this process. High personal religiousness is only associated with the maintenance of creationist beliefs over time when the respondent is embedded in a social network of co-religionists. This finding suggests that researchers should pay far more attention to the social context of belief formation and change.

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Attributions to God and Satan About Life-Altering Events

Shanna Ray et al.
Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, forthcoming

Abstract:
When faced with negative life events, people often interpret the events by attributing them to the actions of God or Satan (Lupfer, Tolliver, & Jackson, 1996; Ritzema, 1979). To explore these attributions, we conducted a mixed-method study of Christians who were college freshmen. Participants read vignettes depicting a negative life event that had a beginning and an end that was systematically varied. Participants assigned a larger role to God in vignettes where an initially negative event (e.g., relationship breakup) led to a positive long-term outcome (e.g., meeting someone better) than with a negative (e.g., depression and loneliness) or unspecified long-term outcome. Participants attributed a lesser role to Satan when there was positive outcome rather than negative or unspecified outcome. Participants also provided their own narratives, recounting personal experiences that they attributed to the actions of God or Satan. Participant-supplied narratives often demonstrated “theories” about the actions of God, depicting God as being involved in negative events as a rescuer, comforter, or one who brings positive out of the negative. Satan-related narratives were often lacking in detail or a clear theory of how Satan worked. Participants who did provide this information depicted Satan as acting primarily through influencing one’s thoughts and/or using other people to encourage one’s negative behavior.

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Young Children Can Be Taught Basic Natural Selection Using a Picture-Storybook Intervention

Deborah Kelemen et al.
Psychological Science, April 2014, Pages 893-902

Abstract:
Adaptation by natural selection is a core mechanism of evolution. It is also one of the most widely misunderstood scientific processes. Misconceptions are rooted in cognitive biases found in preschoolers, yet concerns about complexity mean that adaptation by natural selection is generally not comprehensively taught until adolescence. This is long after untutored theoretical misunderstandings are likely to have become entrenched. In a novel approach, we explored 5- to 8-year-olds’ capacities to learn a basic but theoretically coherent mechanistic explanation of adaptation through a custom storybook intervention. Experiment 1 showed that children understood the population-based logic of natural selection and also generalized it. Furthermore, learning endured 3 months later. Experiment 2 replicated these results and showed that children understood and applied an even more nuanced mechanistic causal explanation. The findings demonstrate that, contrary to conventional educational wisdom, basic natural selection is teachable in early childhood. Theory-driven interventions using picture storybooks with rich explanatory structure are beneficial.

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Finding Brands and Losing Your Religion?

Keisha Cutright et al.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming

Abstract:
Religion is a powerful force in many people’s lives, impacting decisions about life, death, and everything in between. It may be difficult, then, to imagine that something as seemingly innocuous as the usage of brand name products might influence individuals’ commitment to religion. However, we demonstrate across 6 studies that when brands are a highly salient tool for self-expression, individuals are less likely to report and demonstrate strong religious commitment. We suggest that a desire to maintain consistency among self-identities is one important driver of this relationship and find that the effect is mitigated when the perceived distance between brands and religious values is minimized.

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Cross-Cultural Variations in Big Five Relationships With Religiosity: A Sociocultural Motives Perspective

Jochen Gebauer et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
A sociocultural motives perspective (SMP) on Big Five relationships is introduced. According to the SMP, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness elicit assimilation to sociocultural norms, Openness elicits contrast from these norms, and Extraversion and Neuroticism are independent of sociocultural assimilation and contrast. Due to sociocultural assimilation, then, relationships of Agreeableness and Conscientiousness with an outcome wax (become more positive or less negative) with that outcome’s increasing sociocultural normativeness. Due to sociocultural contrast, relationships of Openness with an outcome wane (become less positive or more negative) with that outcome’s increasing sociocultural normativeness. We tested the SMP using religiosity as our outcome. Study 1 included 4 cross-sectional self-report data sets across 66 countries (N = 1,129,334), 50 U.S. states (N = 1,057,342), 15 German federal states (N = 20,885), and 121 British urban areas (N = 386,315). Study 2 utilized informant-report data across 37 countries (N = 544,512). Study 3 used longitudinal data across 15 German federal states (N = 14,858). Results consistently supported the SMP. Relationships of Agreeableness and Conscientiousness with religiosity were more positive in religious sociocultural contexts than in secular contexts. Relationships of Openness with religiosity were more negative in religious sociocultural contexts than in secular contexts. At a more general level, the SMP offers theory-driven explanations for cross-cultural variations in Big Five relationships with their outcomes.

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Investing in children’s education: Are Muslim immigrants different?

Andreea Mitrut & François-Charles Wolff
Journal of Population Economics, October 2014, Pages 999-1022

Abstract:
Using a unique data set on immigrants living in France in 2003, we investigate whether Muslims invest differently in their children’s education compared to non-Muslims. In particular, we want to assess whether educational inequalities between the children of Muslim and non-Muslim immigrants stem from differences between or within families. After controlling for a broad set of individual and household characteristics, we find no difference in education between children of different religions. However, we do find more within-family inequality in children’s educational achievements among Muslims relative to non-Muslims. The within-family variance is 15 % higher among Muslims relative to Catholics and 45 % higher relative to immigrants with other religions, but the intra-family inequality remains difficult to explain. Overall, our results suggest that Muslim parents tend to redistribute their resources more unequally among their children.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Monday, October 13, 2014

Going without

Dignity and Dreams: What the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Means to Low-Income Families

Jennifer Sykes et al.
American Sociological Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
Money has meaning that shapes its uses and social significance, including the monies low-income families draw on for survival: wages, welfare, and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). This study, based on in-depth interviews with 115 low-wage EITC recipients, reveals the EITC is an unusual type of government transfer. Recipients of the EITC say they value the debt relief this government benefit brings. However, they also perceive it as a just reward for work, which legitimizes a temporary increase in consumption. Furthermore, unlike other means-tested government transfers, the credit is seen as a springboard for upward mobility. Thus, by conferring dignity and spurring dreams, the EITC enhances feelings of citizenship and social inclusion.

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Childhood family income, adolescent violent criminality and substance misuse: Quasi-experimental total population study

Amir Sariaslan et al.
British Journal of Psychiatry, forthcoming

Aims: To investigate whether childhood family income predicts subsequent violent criminality and substance misuse and whether the associations are in turn explained by unobserved familial risk factors.

Method: Nationwide Swedish quasi-experimental, family-based study following cohorts born 1989-1993 (ntotal = 526 167, ncousins = 262 267, nsiblings = 216 424) between the ages of 15 and 21 years.

Results: Children of parents in the lowest income quintile experienced a seven-fold increased hazard rate (HR) of being convicted of violent criminality compared with peers in the highest quintile (HR = 6.78, 95% CI 6.23-7.38). This association was entirely accounted for by unobserved familial risk factors (HR = 0.95, 95% CI 0.44-2.03). Similar pattern of effects was found for substance misuse.

Conclusions: There were no associations between childhood family income and subsequent violent criminality and substance misuse once we had adjusted for unobserved familial risk factors.

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Associations of Neighborhood Concentrated Poverty, Neighborhood Racial/Ethnic Composition, and Indoor Allergen Exposures: a Cross-Sectional Analysis of Los Angeles Households, 2006–2008

Marlene Camacho-Rivera et al.
Journal of Urban Health, August 2014, Pages 661-676

Abstract:
Although racial/ethnic, socioeconomic, and neighborhood factors have been linked to asthma, and the association between indoor allergens and asthma is well documented, few studies have examined the relationship between these factors and indoor allergens. We examined the frequency of reported indoor allergens and differences by racial/ethnic, socioeconomic, and neighborhood characteristics among a diverse sample of Los Angeles households. Multilevel logistic regression models were used to analyze the data from 723 households from wave 2 of the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey. The reported presence of rats, mice, cockroaches, mold, pets, and tobacco smoke were the primary outcomes of interest. Hispanic and Asian households had a nearly threefold increase in the odds of reporting cockroaches compared to non-Hispanic Whites (OR, 2.85; 95 % CI 1.38–5.88 and OR, 2.62; 95 % CI 1.02–6.73, respectively) even after adjusting for socioeconomic factors. Primary caregivers who had obtained a high school degree were significantly less likely to report the presence of mice and cockroaches compared to primary caregivers with less than a high school degree (OR, 0.19; 95 % CI 0.08–0.46 and OR, 0.39; 95 % CI 0.23–0.68, respectively). Primary caregivers with more than a high school degree were also less likely to report the presence of rats, mice, and cockroaches within their households, compared to those with less than a high school degree. Compared to renters, home owners were less likely to report the presence of mice, cockroaches, and mold within their households. At the neighborhood level, households located within neighborhoods of high concentrated poverty (where the average poverty rate is at least 50 %) were more likely to report the presence of mice and cockroaches compared to households in low concentrated poverty neighborhoods (average poverty rate is 10 % or less), after adjusting for individual race/ethnicity and socioeconomic characteristics. Our study found evidence in support of neighborhood-level racial/ethnic and socioeconomic influences on indoor allergen exposure, above and beyond individual factors. Future studies should continue to explore individual and neighborhood-level racial/ethnic and socioeconomic differences in household allergen exposures across diverse contexts.

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The Role of Poverty and Chaos in the Development of Task Persistence Among Adolescents

Thomas Fuller-Rowell et al.
Journal of Research on Adolescence, forthcoming

Abstract:
Late adolescents (N = 256; Mage = 17.5) who spent a larger proportion of their early life in poverty exhibited less persistence when confronted by a challenging task. Greater chaos during early adolescence also predicted less task persistence at age 17. However, the effects of poverty were moderated by chaos such that if chaos levels were high during early adolescence, task persistence was uniformly lower among late adolescents, irrespective of childhood poverty. Only when chaos levels were relatively low did poverty matter for future task persistence. Furthermore, the interactive effects of chaos and early childhood poverty were independent of child ability, and of concurrent chaos and poverty.

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Physical and mental health outcomes following housing improvements: Evidence from the GoWell study

Angela Curl et al.
Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, forthcoming

Background: Existing research points towards physical and mental health gains from housing improvements, but findings are inconsistent and often not statistically significant. The detailed characteristics and variability of housing improvement works are problematic and studies are often small, not experimental, with short follow-up times.

Methods: A quasi-experimental design was used to assess the impact on physical health and mental health (using SF-12v2 Physical and Mental health component summary scales) of four types of housing improvement works — central heating, ‘Secured By Design’ front doors, fabric works, kitchens and bathrooms — both singly and in pairwise combinations. A longitudinal sample of 1933 residents from 15 deprived communities in Glasgow, UK was constructed from surveys carried out in 2006, 2008 and 2011. Sociodemographic characteristics and changes in employment status were taken into account.

Results: Fabric works had positive associations with physical health (+2.09, 95% CI 0.13 to 4.04) and mental health (+1.84, 95% CI 0.04 to 3.65) in 1–2 years. Kitchens and bathrooms had a positive association with mental health in 1–2 years (+2.58, 95% CI 0.79 to 4.36). Central heating had a negative association with physical health (−2.21, 95% CI −3.74 to −0.68). New front doors had a positive association with mental health in <1 year (+5.89, 95% CI 0.65 to 11.14) and when provided alongside kitchens and bathrooms (+4.25, 95% CI 1.71 to 6.80). Gaining employment had strong associations with physical health (+7.14, 95% CI 4.72 to 9.55) as well as mental health (+5.50, 95% CI 3.27 to 7.73).

Conclusions: Fabric works may provide insulation benefits and visual amenity benefits to residents. Front doors may provide important security benefits in deprived communities. Economic regeneration is important alongside property-led regeneration.

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Poverty Concentration, Job Access, and Employment Outcomes

Lingqian Hu & Genevieve Giuliano
Journal of Urban Affairs, forthcoming

Abstract:
Existing literature suggests that both access to jobs and poverty concentration can affect poor job seekers’ employment outcomes, but no research has tested the two factors together or examined how their effects interact. In this article, we examine the effects of job accessibility in places of various degrees of poverty concentrations, focusing on the employment status and commute distance of the poor. Using the Los Angeles metropolitan area as the case study, we find that spatial access does not explain unequal employment status of the poor: the association between access and employment status is insignificant in almost all places regardless of the poverty rates. Poor job seekers cannot take advantage of proximity to jobs even if they live in low-poverty places. The only exceptions are the places that experienced increases in both poverty rates and job access, where the estimation of job accessibility's effects tends to be upwardly biased. The association between job accessibility and commute distance is significant in places with low to medium poverty rates, meaning that for poor workers who live in low-poverty neighborhoods, proximity to jobs can reduce their commute distance. For those who live in high-poverty places, proximity to jobs does not significantly affect their commute distances. These findings challenge the optimistic expectations of housing dispersion programs, at least their effects on employment status.

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Within-Mother Estimates of the Effects of WIC on Birth Outcomes in New York City

Janet Currie & Ishita Rajani
NBER Working Paper, August 2014

Abstract:
There is a large literature suggesting that “WIC works” to improve birth outcomes. However, methodological limitations related to selection into the WIC program have left room for doubt about this conclusion. This paper uses birth records from New York City to address the limitations of the previous literature. We estimate models with mother fixed effects to control for fixed characteristics of mothers and we directly investigate the way that time-varying characteristics of mothers affect selection into the WIC program. We find that WIC is associated with reductions in low birth weight, even among full term infants, and with reductions in the probability that a child is “small for dates.” These improvements are associated with a reduction in the probability that the mother gained too little weight during pregnancy. Improvements tend to be largest for first born children. We also find that women on WIC are more likely to be diagnosed with chronic conditions, and receive more intensive medical services, a finding that may reflect improved access to medical care.

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The short-term impacts of Earned Income Tax Credit disbursement on health

David Rehkopf, Kate Strully & William Dow
International Journal of Epidemiology, forthcoming

Background: There are conflicting findings regarding long- and short-term effects of income on health. Whereas higher average income is associated with better health, there is evidence that health behaviours worsen in the short-term following income receipt. Prior studies revealing such negative short-term effects of income receipt focus on specific subpopulations and examine a limited set of health outcomes.

Methods: The United States Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is an income supplement tied to work, and is the largest poverty reduction programme in the USA. We utilize the fact that EITC recipients typically receive large cash transfers in the months of February, March and April, in order to examine associated changes in health outcomes that can fluctuate on a monthly basis. We examine associations with 30 outcomes in the categories of diet, food security, health behaviours, cardiovascular biomarkers, metabolic biomarkers and infection and immunity among 6925 individuals from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Survey. Our research design approximates a natural experiment, since whether individuals were sampled during treatment or non-treatment months is independent of social, demographic and health characteristics that do not vary with time.

Results: There are both beneficial and detrimental short-term impacts of income receipt. Although there are detrimental impacts on metabolic factors among women, most other impacts are beneficial, including those for food security, smoking and trying to lose weight.

Conclusions: The short-term impacts of EITC income receipt are not universally health promoting, but on balance there are more health benefits than detriments.

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Endogenous neighborhood effects on welfare participation

Qingyan Shang
Empirical Economics, September 2014, Pages 639-667

Abstract:
This article examines the impact of neighborhood welfare participation on individual welfare participation, that is, the endogenous neighborhood effects. Endogenous neighborhood effects generate social multipliers. Few existing empirical studies on neighborhood effects distinguish between endogenous neighborhood effects and exogenous neighborhood effects, that is, the effects of neighborhood characteristics. This article constitutes an early attempt to identify and estimate endogenous and exogenous neighborhood effects separately. I construct an instrumental variable for neighborhood welfare participation rate based on the variation in welfare benefits and neighborhood demographic composition to address the reflection problem and the omitted neighborhood variables problem. A two-step method is proposed to separately estimate endogenous and exogenous neighborhood effects. The results show that neighborhood welfare participation plays an important role in a woman’s welfare participation both before and after the welfare reform in 1996.

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Positive Externalities of Social Insurance: Unemployment Insurance and Consumer Credit

Joanne Hsu, David Matsa & Brian Melzer
NBER Working Paper, July 2014

Abstract:
This paper studies the impact of unemployment insurance (UI) on consumer credit markets. Exploiting heterogeneity in UI generosity across U.S. states and over time, we find that UI helps the unemployed avoid defaulting on their mortgage debt. We estimate that UI expansions during the Great Recession prevented about 1.4 million foreclosures. Lenders respond to this decline in default risk by expanding credit access and reducing interest rates for low-income households at risk of being laid off. Our findings call attention to two benefits of unemployment insurance not previously highlighted: reducing deadweight losses from loan default and expanding access to credit.

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Government Capital, Intimate and Community Social Capital, and Food Security Status in Older Adults with Different Income Levels

Wesley Dean et al.
Rural Sociology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Whether government-based forms of food assistance such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), communal efforts including food pantries, aid from friends and family, or alternative means such as gardening are the appropriate means to reduce the prevalence of household food insecurity is a continuous source of policy contention. To inform this debate, we examine the relative importance of these forms of food assistance and acquisition to a sample of U.S. older adults from the 2010 Brazos Valley Health Assessment of central Texas households that have been stratified by income eligibility for SNAP, low-income SNAP ineligibility, and above low income status. To identify how membership in these socioeconomic groups constrains household capacity to acquire sufficient food to maintain an adequate and healthy diet, we explore the varied associations of assets received from government; communal and intimate social networks; and alternative food sources such as gardening, hunting, and fishing with household food security across socioeconomic status, while examining the importance of place of residence on the use of capital assets. SNAP participation was the only specific capital asset associated with all levels of food insecurity for both SNAP-eligible and ineligible low-income groups, thus emphasizing the continued importance of food assistance among poverty-level older adults.

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The Impact of Public Housing on Social Networks: A Natural Experiment

Craig Pollack et al.
American Journal of Public Health, September 2014, Pages 1642-1649

Objectives: We assessed whether 2 types of public housing — scattered among market-rate housing developments or clustered in small public housing projects — were associated with the perceived health and health behaviors of residents’ social networks.

Methods: Leveraging a natural experiment in Montgomery County, Maryland, in which residents were randomly assigned to different types of public housing, we surveyed 453 heads of household in 2011. We asked residents about their own health as well as the perceived health of their network members, including their neighbors.

Results: Residents in scattered-site public housing perceived that their neighbors were more likely to exercise than residents of clustered public housing (24.7% of network members vs 14.0%; P < .001). There were no significant differences in the proportion of network members who were perceived to have major health problems, depressed mood, poor diet, or obesity. Having more network members who smoked was associated with a significantly higher likelihood of smoking.

Conclusions: Different types of public housing have a modest impact on the health composition of one’s social network, suggesting the importance of housing policy for health.

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Environmental Conditions in Low-Income Urban Housing: Clustering and Associations With Self-Reported Health

Gary Adamkiewicz et al.
American Journal of Public Health, September 2014, Pages 1650-1656

Objectives: We explored prevalence and clustering of key environmental conditions in low-income housing and associations with self-reported health.

Methods: The Health in Common Study, conducted between 2005 and 2009, recruited participants (n = 828) from 20 low-income housing developments in the Boston area. We interviewed 1 participant per household and conducted a brief inspection of the unit (apartment). We created binary indexes and a summed index for household exposures: mold, combustion by-products, secondhand smoke, chemicals, pests, and inadequate ventilation. We used multivariable logistic regression to examine the associations between each index and household characteristics and between each index and self-reported health.

Results: Environmental problems were common; more than half of homes had 3 or more exposure-related problems (median summed index = 3). After adjustment for household-level demographics, we found clustering of problems in site (P < .01) for pests, combustion byproducts, mold, and ventilation. Higher summed index values were associated with higher adjusted odds of reporting fair–poor health (odds ratio = 2.7 for highest category; P < .008 for trend).

Conclusions: We found evidence that indoor environmental conditions in multifamily housing cluster by site and that cumulative exposures may be associated with poor health.

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Estimating the Impact of Low-Income Universal Service Programs

Daniel Ackerberg et al.
International Journal of Industrial Organization, November 2014, Pages 84–98

Abstract:
This policy study uses U.S. Census microdata to evaluate how subsidies for universal telephone service vary in their impact across low-income racial groups, gender, age, and home ownership. Our demand specification includes both the subsidized monthly price (Lifeline program) and the subsidized initial connection price (Linkup program) for local telephone service. Our quasi-maximum likelihood estimation controls for location differences and instruments for price endogeneity. The microdata allow us to estimate the effects of demographics on both elasticities of telephone penetration and the level of telephone penetration. Based on our preferred estimates, the subsidy programs increased aggregate penetration by 6.1% for households below the poverty line. Our results suggest auto-enroll policies are important and that Linkup is more cost-effective than Lifeline, which calls into question a recent FCC (2012) decision to reduce Linkup subsidies in favor of Lifeline. Our study can inform the evaluation of similar universal service policies for Internet access.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Sunday, October 12, 2014

With friends like you

Morphological and population genomic evidence that human faces have evolved to signal individual identity

Michael Sheehan & Michael Nachman
Nature Communications, September 2014

Abstract:
Facial recognition plays a key role in human interactions, and there has been great interest in understanding the evolution of human abilities for individual recognition and tracking social relationships. Individual recognition requires sufficient cognitive abilities and phenotypic diversity within a population for discrimination to be possible. Despite the importance of facial recognition in humans, the evolution of facial identity has received little attention. Here we demonstrate that faces evolved to signal individual identity under negative frequency-dependent selection. Faces show elevated phenotypic variation and lower between-trait correlations compared with other traits. Regions surrounding face-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms show elevated diversity consistent with frequency-dependent selection. Genetic variation maintained by identity signalling tends to be shared across populations and, for some loci, predates the origin of Homo sapiens. Studies of human social evolution tend to emphasize cognitive adaptations, but we show that social evolution has shaped patterns of human phenotypic and genetic diversity as well.

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Delinquency and Peer Acceptance in Adolescence: A Within-Person Test of Moffitt's Hypotheses

Kelly Rulison, Derek Kreager & Wayne Osgood
Developmental Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
We tested 2 hypotheses derived from Moffitt's (1993) taxonomic theory of antisocial behavior, both of which are central to her explanation for the rise in delinquency during adolescence. We tested whether persistently delinquent individuals become more accepted by their peers during adolescence and whether individuals who abstain from delinquent behavior become less accepted. Participants were 4,359 adolescents from 14 communities in the PROSPER study, which assessed friendship networks and delinquency from 6th (M = 11.8 years) to 9th (M = 15.3 years) grade. We operationalized peer acceptance as number of nominations received (indegree centrality), attractiveness as a friend (adjusted indegree centrality), and network bridging potential (betweenness centrality) and tested the hypotheses with multilevel modeling. Contrary to Moffitt's hypothesis, persistently delinquent youths did not become more accepted between early and middle adolescence, and although abstainers were less accepted in early adolescence, they became more accepted over time. Results were similar for boys and girls; when differences occurred, they provided no support for Moffitt's hypotheses for boys and were opposite of her hypotheses for girls. Sensitivity analyses in which alternative strategies and additional data were used to identify persistently delinquent adolescents produced similar results. We explore the implications of these results for Moffitt's assertions that social mimicry of persistently antisocial adolescents leads to increases in delinquency and that social isolation leads to abstention.

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Beautiful friendship: Social sharing of emotions improves subjective feelings and activates the neural reward circuitry

Ullrich Wagner et al.
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, forthcoming

Abstract:
Humans have a strong tendency to affiliate with other people, especially in emotional situations. Here, we suggest that a critical mechanism underlying this tendency is that socially sharing emotional experiences is in itself perceived as hedonically positive and thereby contributes to the regulation of individual emotions. We investigated the effect of social sharing of emotions on subjective feelings and neural activity by having pairs of friends view emotional (negative and positive) and neutral pictures either alone or with the friend. While the two friends remained physically separated throughout the experiment - with one undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging and the other performing the task in an adjacent room - they were made aware on a trial-by-trial basis whether they were seeing pictures simultaneously with their friend (shared) or alone (unshared). Ratings of subjective feelings were improved significantly when participants viewed emotional pictures together than alone, an effect that was accompanied by activity increase in ventral striatum and medial orbitofrontal cortex, two important components of the reward circuitry. Because these effects occurred without any communication or interaction between the friends, they point to an important proximate explanation for the basic human motivation to affiliate with others, particularly in emotional situations.

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Balancing Competing Motives: Adaptive Trade-Offs Are Necessary to Satisfy Disease Avoidance and Interpersonal Affiliation Goals

Donald Sacco, Steven Young & Kurt Hugenberg
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Abstract:
The current research provides novel evidence for motivational trade-offs between the two fundamental human goals of pursuing social affiliation and avoiding disease. In Study 1, participants completed a writing prime that manipulated inclusionary status and found that socially excluded participants indicated lower feelings of current disease susceptibility compared with control and socially included participants. In Study 2, participants were included or excluded via Cyberball and then indicated their preferences for symmetrical versus asymmetrical faces. Socially excluded participants displayed lower preferences for symmetrical faces - a cue associated with greater disease resistance. Finally, in Study 3, participants were primed with either disease threat or a general negative affective state and then indicated their current affiliation interest. Activated disease concerns uniquely led participants to display less interest in social affiliation. Taken together, affiliation needs result in disease avoidance down-regulation to aid reaffiliation, whereas disease concerns result in affiliation down-regulation to facilitate pathogen avoidance.

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The Influence of Ethnic Community Knowledge on Indian Inventor Innovativeness

Paul Almeida, Anupama Phene & Sali Li
Organization Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper investigates the knowledge influences of the ethnic community on the quality of innovations of Indian immigrant inventors in the U.S. semiconductor industry. Membership in the Indian ethnic community enables inventors to source knowledge from, and to collaborate with, others in the community. By analyzing patent data, we find that the utility of ethnic knowledge and collaborators depends on the level of inventor embeddedness in the community. Most inventors benefit by sourcing knowledge from, or collaborating with, other Indians and hence enhance innovation quality, but at a diminishing rate. For those who are very heavily embedded in the community, ethnic community knowledge decreases the quality of innovation. Our results provide some support for the idea that simultaneously sourcing ethnic knowledge and using ethnic collaborators also decreases innovativeness. Thus, for Indian inventors, the level of embeddedness in the community is a key factor in influencing the quality of innovation.

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Social-Network Complexity in Humans Is Associated With the Neural Response to Social Information

Sarah Dziura & James Thompson
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Humans have evolved to thrive in large and complex social groups, and it is likely that this increase in group complexity has come with a greater need to decode and respond to complex and uncertain communicatory signals. In this functional MRI study, we examined whether complexity of social networks in humans is related to the functioning of brain regions key to the perception of basic, nonverbal social stimuli. Greater activation to biological than to scrambled motion in the right posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) and right amygdala were positively correlated with the diversity of social-network roles. In the pSTS, in particular, this association was not due to a relationship between network diversity and network size. These findings suggest that increased functioning of brain regions involved in decoding social signals might facilitate the detection and decoding of subtle signals encountered in varied social settings.

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Electrified emotions: Modulatory effects of transcranial direct stimulation on negative emotional reactions to social exclusion

Paolo Riva et al.
Social Neuroscience, forthcoming

Abstract:
Social exclusion, ostracism, and rejection can be emotionally painful because they thwart the need to belong. Building on studies suggesting that the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (rVLPFC) is associated with regulation of negative emotions, the present experiment tests the hypothesis that decreasing the cortical excitability of the rVLPFC may increase negative emotional reactions to social exclusion. Specifically, we applied cathodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) over the rVLPFC and predicted an increment of negative emotional reactions to social exclusion. In Study 1, participants were either socially excluded or included, while cathodal tDCS or sham stimulation was applied over the rVLPFC. Cathodal stimulation of rVLPFC boosted the typical negative emotional reaction caused by social exclusion. No effects emerged from participants in the inclusion condition. To test the specificity of tDCS effects over rVLPFC, in Study 2, participants were socially excluded and received cathodal tDCS or sham stimulation over a control region (i.e., the right posterior parietal cortex). No effects of tDCS stimulation were found. Our results showed that the rVLPFC is specifically involved in emotion regulation and suggest that cathodal stimulation can increase negative emotional responses to social exclusion.

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Autism as a disorder of prediction

Pawan Sinha et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Abstract:
A rich collection of empirical findings accumulated over the past three decades attests to the diversity of traits that constitute the autism phenotypes. It is unclear whether subsets of these traits share any underlying causality. This lack of a cohesive conceptualization of the disorder has complicated the search for broadly effective therapies, diagnostic markers, and neural/genetic correlates. In this paper, we describe how theoretical considerations and a review of empirical data lead to the hypothesis that some salient aspects of the autism phenotype may be manifestations of an underlying impairment in predictive abilities. With compromised prediction skills, an individual with autism inhabits a seemingly "magical" world wherein events occur unexpectedly and without cause. Immersion in such a capricious environment can prove overwhelming and compromise one's ability to effectively interact with it. If validated, this hypothesis has the potential of providing unifying insights into multiple aspects of autism, with attendant benefits for improving diagnosis and therapy.

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"More Than Words": Social Validation in Close Relationships

Namkje Koudenburg, Ernestine Gordijn & Tom Postmes
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, November 2014, Pages 1517-1528

Abstract:
Conversations are susceptible to many disturbances: A speaker's hesitations, distractions, or, when communicating online, technical hiccups that may cause brief delays. Research among previously unacquainted individuals revealed that brief disruptions in conversational flow can have profound social consequences: Silences or delays in mediated communication threaten the need to belong and validate one's ideas. The present research, however, shows that when occurring in close relationships, flow disruptions may be ironically beneficial. We hypothesized that when flow disruptions occur, partners fall back on their relationship beliefs to infer mutual agreement and the existence of a shared reality. When a relationship is perceived as secure, partners may believe that "no words are needed" to understand each other. Flow disruptions can thus paradoxically make shared cognitions accessible and foster feelings of social validation. Data from two experiments, using partners in different types of relationships, supported this hypothesis.

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Try to find me: Social anxiety and peer first impressions

Audrey Aiken et al.
Behavior Therapy, November 2014, Pages 851-862

Abstract:
Following initial interactions, other people are less willing to pursue ongoing contact with socially anxious individuals than with those who are not socially anxious. To better understand this process, we conducted two studies that examined peers' first impressions of target individuals. Unacquainted individuals (N = 104 and 114) participated in round robin, unstructured interactions in groups of 3 to 10 and then rated each partner and themselves on items reflecting the Big-5 personality dimensions. The ratings were analyzed according to Biesanz's social accuracy model of interpersonal perception (SAM; Biesanz, 2010), which distinguishes the positivity from the accuracy of social judgments. Study 1 revealed that perceivers did not view socially anxious targets more negatively or as less likeable than non-socially anxious targets but were less able to recognize their unique personality features. Study 2 replicated those findings and indicated that perceivers' difficulties recognizing socially anxious targets' unique features were not due to negative biases in the socially anxious targets' self-ratings or to general psychological maladjustment. The findings are consistent with cognitive models, which underscore the role of self-concealment in social anxiety disorder.

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Oxytocin increases the likeability of physically formidable men

Frances Chen et al.
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, forthcoming

Abstract:
Physical size and strength are associated with dominance and threat. The current study tested (i) whether men's evaluations of male strangers would be negatively influenced by cues indicating physical formidability, and (ii) whether these evaluations would be influenced by oxytocin, a neuropeptide that mediates social behavior and reduces social anxiety. In a placebo-controlled, double-blind design, we administered either oxytocin (24 I.U.) or placebo intranasally to 100 healthy males and assessed their responses to an image of either a physically formidable (strong) or physically non-formidable (weak) male peer. Whereas participants receiving placebo expressed dislike and avoidance of the strong male relative to the weak male, oxytocin selectively improved social evaluation of the strong male. These results provide first evidence that oxytocin regulates social evaluation of peers based on body features indicating strength and formidability. We discuss the possibility that oxytocin may promote the expansion of social networks by increasing openness towards potentially threatening individuals.

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"The we's have it": Evidence for the distinctive benefits of group engagement in enhancing cognitive health in ageing

Catherine Haslam, Tegan Cruwys & Alexander Haslam
Social Science & Medicine, November 2014, Pages 57-66

Abstract:
Aligned with research in the social capital and general health literature, a large body of evidence shows that older people who are more socially active have better cognitive integrity and are less vulnerable to cognitive decline. The present research addresses the question of whether the type of social engagement (group-based vs. individual) has differential effects on these cognitive health outcomes. Drawing on population data (N=3413) from three waves (i.e., Waves 3, 4 and 5) of the English Longitudinal Study of Aging, we investigated the independent contribution of group and individual engagement in predicting cognitive functioning four years later. Hierarchical linear regression was used entering age, gender, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and physical health as covariates. The final model, controlling for initial cognitive function and social engagement (both group and individual) showed that only group engagement made a significant, sustained, and unique contribution to subsequent cognitive function. Furthermore, the effects of group engagement were stronger with increasing age. These findings extend previous work on the social determinants of health by pinpointing the types of relationships that are particularly beneficial in protecting cognitive health. The fact that group engagement optimized health outcomes, and that this was especially the case with increasing age, has important implications for directing community resources to keep older adults mentally active and independent for longer.

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Minimizing the Pain and Probability of Rejection: Evidence for Relational Distancing and Proximity Seeking Within Face-to-Face Interactions

Kristin Sommer & Frank Bernieri
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Some studies have revealed evidence for proximity seeking following interpersonal rejection, whereas other studies have found evidence of relational distancing (Williams, 2007). This study examined whether both processes could occur simultaneously within face-to-face interactions. Participants were accepted or rejected by one person and then interacted with a new partner for the purposes of an impression-formation task. Conversations were recorded and transcribed. Dyads containing a previously rejected compared to accepted participant exhibited higher levels of linguistic style matching and reciprocated conversational content, suggestive of proximity seeking. However, rejected targets also rated their new partners as less kind and reported lower levels of rapport/liking for their partners, consistent with relational distancing. Partner evaluations were statistically mediated by targets' expectations of rejection. We suggest that automatic proximity seeking and the appraisal-mediated devaluation of new partners reflect efforts to minimize the potential for and pain of future rejection. Recommendations for future research are discussed.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Saturday, October 11, 2014

May the force be with you

Obama cares about visuo-spatial attention: Perception of political figures moves attention and determines gaze direction

Mark Mills et al.
Behavioural Brain Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Processing an abstract concept such as political ideology by itself is difficult but becomes easier when a background situation contextualizes it. Political ideology within American politics, for example, is commonly processed using space metaphorically, i.e., the political "left" and "right" (referring to Democrat and Republican views, respectively), presumably to provide a common metric to which abstract features of ideology can be grounded and understood. Commonplace use of space as metaphor raises the question of whether an inherently non-spatial stimulus (e.g., picture of the political "left" leader, Barack Obama) can trigger a spatially-specific response (e.g., attentional bias toward "left" regions of the visual field). Accordingly, pictures of well-known Democrats and Republicans were presented as central cues in peripheral target detection (Experiment 1) and saccadic free-choice (Experiment 2) tasks to determine whether perception of stimuli lacking a direct association with physical space nonetheless induce attentional and oculomotor biases in the direction compatible with the ideological category of the cue (i.e., Democrat/left and Republican/right). In Experiment 1, target detection following presentation of a Democrat (Republican) was facilitated for targets appearing to the left (right). In Experiment 2, participants were more likely to look left (right) following presentation of a Democrat (Republican). Thus, activating an internal representation of political ideology induced a shift of attention and biased choice of gaze direction in a spatially-specific manner. These findings demonstrate that the link between conceptual processing and spatial attention can be totally arbitrary, with no reference to physical or symbolic spatial information.

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Shared Experiences Are Amplified

Erica Boothby, Margaret Clark & John Bargh
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
In two studies, we found that sharing an experience with another person, without communicating, amplifies one's experience. Both pleasant and unpleasant experiences were more intense when shared. In Study 1, participants tasted pleasant chocolate. They judged the chocolate to be more likeable and flavorful when they tasted it at the same time that another person did than when that other person was present but engaged in a different activity. Although these results were consistent with our hypothesis that shared experiences are amplified compared with unshared experiences, it could also be the case that shared experiences are more enjoyable in general. We designed Study 2 to distinguish between these two explanations. In this study, participants tasted unpleasantly bitter chocolate and judged it to be less likeable when they tasted it simultaneously with another person than when that other person was present but doing something else. These results support the amplification hypothesis.

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Illusions of Learning: Irrelevant Emotions Inflate Judgments of Learning

Roy Baumeister, Jessica Alquist & Kathleen Vohs
Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, forthcoming

Abstract:
People use assessments of how much they have learned to choose and recommend instructors, seminars, and weekend trips. How do people assess how much they have learned? Recent theorizing has depicted emotion as a cue for learning, and so people may be misled by recent emotional states to infer that they have learned more than they actually have. Four studies showed that people associated emotion with learning and believed, often falsely, that they learned more when in an emotional than unemotional state. Factual lessons were coupled with manipulations of arbitrary, irrelevant emotional states. Participants rated that they learned more after an emotion had been induced than in emotionally neutral control conditions. These differences remained significant after controlling for actual learning as measured by objective tests, which was unaffected by emotion. This illusion of learning caused by emotion was robust with respect to changes of procedure and sample, including whether the emotion came before or after the information to be learned. Alternative explanations were ruled out, including that emotion would intensify ratings generally, that emotion would make incoming information seem particularly personally relevant, that emotion increased engagement in the research, and that illusory learning would depend on retrospective exaggeration of one's prior ignorance. Because irrelevant emotions can increase people's judgments that they have learned something, incidental emotional experiences could increase a person's likelihood of deciding to take another class with a particular instructor, to sign up for another leadership seminar, or to engage in a risky (but emotion-filled) excursion.

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Providing Views of the Driving Scene to Drivers' Conversation Partners Mitigates Cell-Phone-Related Distraction

John Gaspar et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Cell-phone use impairs driving safety and performance. This impairment may stem from the remote partner's lack of awareness about the driving situation. In this study, pairs of participants completed a driving simulator task while conversing naturally in the car and while talking on a hands-free cell phone. In a third condition, the driver drove while the remote conversation partner could see video of both the road ahead and the driver's face. We tested the extent to which this additional visual information diminished the negative effects of cell-phone distraction and increased situational awareness. Collision rates for unexpected merging events were high when participants drove in a cell-phone condition but were reduced when they were in a videophone condition, reaching a level equal to that observed when they drove with an in-car passenger or drove alone. Drivers and their partners made shorter utterances and made longer, more frequent traffic references when they spoke in the videophone rather than the cellphone condition. Providing a view of the driving scene allows remote partners to help drivers by modulating their conversation and referring to traffic more often.

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Red - Take a Closer Look

Vanessa Buechner et al.
PLoS ONE, September 2014

Abstract:
Color research has shown that red is associated with avoidance of threat (e.g., failure) or approach of reward (e.g., mating) depending on the context in which it is perceived. In the present study we explored one central cognitive process that might be involved in the context dependency of red associations. According to our theory, red is supposed to highlight the relevance (importance) of a goal-related stimulus and correspondingly intensifies the perceivers' attentional reaction to it. Angry and happy human compared to non-human facial expressions were used as goal-relevant stimuli. The data indicate that the color red leads to enhanced attentional engagement to angry and happy human facial expressions (compared to neutral ones) - the use of non-human facial expressions does not bias attention. The results are discussed with regard to the idea that red induced attentional biases might explain the red-context effects on motivation.

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Detecting Knowledge of Incidentally Acquired, Real-World Memories Using a P300-Based Concealed-Information Test

John Meixner & Peter Rosenfeld
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Autobiographical memory for events experienced during normal daily life has been studied at the group level, but no studies have yet examined the ability to detect recognition of incidentally acquired memories among individual subjects. We present the first such study here, which employed a concealed-information test in which subjects were shown words associated with activities they had experienced the previous day. Subjects wore a video-recording device for 4 hr on Day 1 and then returned to the laboratory on Day 2, where they were shown words relating to events recorded with the camera (probe items) and words of the same category but not relating to the subject's activities (irrelevant items). Electroencephalograms were recorded, and presentation of probe items was associated with a large peak in the amplitude of the P300 component. We were able to discriminate perfectly between 12 knowledgeable subjects who viewed stimuli related to their activities and 12 nonknowledgeable subjects who viewed only irrelevant items. These results have strong implications for the use of memory-detection paradigms in criminal contexts.

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Advertising Memory: The Power of Mirror Neurons

Sophie Lacoste-Badie & Olivier Droulers
Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
As part of the insights of neuroscience available for the study of advertising, the concept of mirror neurons provides opportunities for new research. Mirror neurons are a particular class of visuomotor neurons in the brain that show activity both when an individual performs an action and when he observes another individual performing the same action. According to researchers in cognitive neuroscience, mirror neurons are the brain basis for learning by imitation. The observation of 2 types of movement specifically causes the mirror neurons activation: "grasping with the hand" and "bringing to the mouth." This article seeks to show that TV commercials, in which a character grabs a food product and brings it to his mouth, are more effective. To investigate this research question we designed a between-subjects experiment (n = 130) to compare the memorization of 2 versions of the same ad (featuring an unfamiliar mineral water brand). In the first ad version, the character grabs the product, while there is no contact between the product and the character in the second version. The article outlines that memory was higher in the grasping and drinking condition. Although we cannot conclusively say that the mirror neurons were activated when people saw the character grabbing the product in the ad, the literature on mirror neurons provides an explanatory framework for the observed results. In other words, this study points out that the discovery of mirror neurons is a very new concept for marketing, which can enrich our understanding of advertising processing.

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Testing the snake-detection hypothesis: Larger early posterior negativity in humans to pictures of snakes than to pictures of other reptiles, spiders and slugs

Jan Van Strien, Ingmar Franken & Jorg Huijding
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, September 2014

Abstract:
According to the snake detection hypothesis (Isbell, 2006), fear specifically of snakes may have pushed evolutionary changes in the primate visual system allowing pre-attentional visual detection of fearful stimuli. A previous study demonstrated that snake pictures, when compared to spiders or bird pictures, draw more early attention as reflected by larger early posterior negativity (EPN). Here we report two studies that further tested the snake detection hypothesis. In Study 1, we tested whether the enlarged EPN is specific for snakes or also generalizes to other reptiles. Twenty-four healthy, non-phobic women watched the random rapid serial presentation of snake, crocodile, and turtle pictures. The EPN was scored as the mean activity at occipital electrodes (PO3, O1, Oz, PO4, O2) in the 225-300 ms time window after picture onset. The EPN was significantly larger for snake pictures than for pictures of the other reptiles. In Study 2, we tested whether disgust plays a role in the modulation of the EPN and whether preferential processing of snakes also can be found in men. 12 men and 12 women watched snake, spider, and slug pictures. Both men and women exhibited the largest EPN amplitudes to snake pictures, intermediate amplitudes to spider pictures and the smallest amplitudes to slug pictures. Disgust ratings were not associated with EPN amplitudes. The results replicate previous findings and suggest that ancestral priorities modulate the early capture of visual attention.

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"Good Is Up" Is Not Always Better: A Memory Advantage for Words in Metaphor-Incompatible Locations

Elizabeth Crawford, Stephanie Cohn & Arnold Kim
PLoS ONE, September 2014

Abstract:
Four experiments examined whether memory for positive and negative words depended on word location and vertical hand movements. Cognitive processing is known to be facilitated when valenced stimuli are presented in locations that are congruent with the GOOD is UP conceptual metaphor, relative to when they are presented in incongruent locations. In both free recall and recognition tasks, we find a memory advantage for words that had been studied in metaphor incongruent locations (positive down, negative up). This incongruity advantage depends on the location of words during encoding, but no evidence was found to suggest that other spatial associations, such as the vertical position of the hand at encoding or word location during retrieval, affect memory. The results indicate that metaphors, like schemas, categories, and stereotypes, can influence cognition in complex ways, producing variable outcomes across different tasks.

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From threat to safety: Instructed reversal of defensive reactions

Vincent Costa, Margaret Bradley & Peter Lang
Psychophysiology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Cues that signal the possibility of receiving an electric shock reliably induce defensive activation. To determine whether cues can also easily reverse defensive reactions, a threat reversal paradigm was developed in which a cue signaling threat of shock reversed its meaning across the course of the study. This allowed us to contrast defensive reactions to threat cues that became safe cues, with responses to cues that continued to signal threat or safety. Results showed that, when participants were instructed that a previously threatening cue now signaled safety, there was an immediate and complete attenuation of defensive reactions compared to threat cues that maintained their meaning. These findings highlight the role that language can play both in instantiating and attenuating defensive reactions, with implications for understanding emotion regulation, social communication, and clinical phenomena.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Friday, October 10, 2014

Taxed and spent

Does Transparency Lead to Pay Compression?

Alexandre Mas
NBER Working Paper, October 2014

Abstract:
This paper asks whether disclosing wages to the public changes wage setting at the top of the public sector income distribution. I evaluate a 2010 California mandate that required cities to submit municipal salaries to the State, to be posted on a public website. City managers - typically the highest paid employees - in cities that had not previously disclosed salaries experienced average compensation declines of approximately 8 percent relative to cities where at the time of the mandate manager wages were already in the public domain. This decline was largely accomplished through nominal pay cuts. The wage cuts were not the result of relatively greater financial stress, as the overall wage bill did not diverge between these sets of cities. Wages were cut irrespective of whether or not they were out of line with (measured) fundamentals. Consequently, the residual variance of manager wages did not decline. Following new disclosure the city manager quit rate increased by 75 percent, suggesting that transparency pressured cities to lower the wages that were already close to reservation levels. The evidence is more consistent with a "populist" response to perceptions of excessive salaries than with the effects of increased accountability.

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Pass the Bucks: Credit, Blame, and the Global Competition for Investment

Nathan Jensen et al.
International Studies Quarterly, September 2014, Pages 433-447

Abstract:
Both countries and subnational governments commonly engage in competition for mobile capital, offering generous incentives to attract investment. Existing economics research has suggested that these tax incentives have a limited ability to affect investment patterns and are often excessively costly when measured against the amount of investment and jobs created. In this paper, we argue instead that the "competition" for capital can be politically beneficial to incumbent politicians. Building off work on electoral pandering, we argue that incentives allow politicians to take credit for firms' investment decisions. We test the empirical implications of this theory using a nationwide Internet survey, which employs a randomized experiment to test how voters evaluate the performance of incumbent US governors. Our findings illustrate a critical political benefit of offering such incentives. Politicians can use these incentives to take credit for investment flowing into their districts and to minimize the political fallout when investors choose to locate elsewhere.

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The Direct and Indirect Effects of Small Business Administration Lending on Growth: Evidence from U.S. County-Level Data

Andrew Young et al.
NBER Working Paper, October 2014

Abstract:
Conventional wisdom suggests that small businesses are innovative engines of Schumpetarian growth. However, as small businesses, they are likely to face credit rationing in financial markets. If true then policies that promote lending to small businesses may yield substantial economy-wide returns. We examine the relationship between Small Business Administration (SBA) lending and local economic growth using a spatial econometric framework across a sample of 3,035 U.S. counties for the years 1980 to 2009. We find evidence that a county's SBA lending per capita is associated with direct negative effects on its income growth. We also find evidence of indirect negative effects on the growth rates of neighboring counties. Overall, a 10% increase in SBA loans per capita is associated with a cumulative decrease in income growth rates of about 2%.

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State Income Taxes and Interstate Migration

Roger Cohen, Andrew Lai & Charles Steindel
Business Economics, July 2014, Pages 176-190

Abstract:
This paper examines the comprehensive IRS data set of state-state migration flows for evidence that differences in state income tax rates are associated with migration patterns. Using annual data on moves between every pair of states, pooled time-series cross-section regressions indicate that in the 1992-2010 period states with higher top marginal income tax rates experienced relatively greater outmigration of taxpayers and gross income. To illustrate the magnitude of the tax effect, we estimate that by 2010 cumulative losses since the enactment of New Jersey's 2004 "millionaires' tax" were as much as 42,000 taxpayers and $6.9 billion in annual adjusted gross income. These results suggest that sustained, relatively high income tax rates could gradually erode a state's population and revenue base.

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The Heterogeneous Effects of Government Spending: It's All About Taxes

Axelle Ferriere & Gaston Navarro
NYU Working Paper, August 2014

Abstract:
Empirical work suggests that government spending does not crowd-out consumption. Most representative-agent models predict the opposite. In an environment with heterogeneous households and uninsurable idiosyncratic risk, progressivity of taxes is a key determinant of the effects of government spending. We show that a rise in government spending can be expansionary, both for output and consumption, if financed with more progressive labor taxes. We use large changes in military spending to provide evidence that US government spending has been expansionary only in periods of increasing progressivity. In this respect, the distributional impact of fiscal policy is central to its aggregate effects.

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Fiscal Multipliers in Recessions and Expansions: Does it Matter Whether Government Spending is Increasing or Decreasing?

Daniel Riera-Crichton, Carlos Vegh & Guillermo Vuletin
World Bank Working Paper, July 2014

Abstract:
Using non-linear methods, this paper finds that existing estimates of government spending multipliers in expansion and recession may yield biased results by ignoring whether government spending is increasing or decreasing. For industrial countries, the problem originates in the fact that, contrary to one's priors, it is not always the case that government spending is going up in recessions (i.e., acting countercyclically). In almost as many cases, government spending is actually going down (i.e., acting procyclically). Since the economy does not respond symmetrically to government spending increases or decreases, the "true" long-run multiplier for bad times (and government spending going up) turns out to be 2.3 compared to 1.3 if we just distinguish between recession and expansion. In the case of developing countries, the bias results from the fact that the multiplier for recessions and government spending going down (the "when-it-rains-it-pours" phenomenon) is larger than when government spending is going up.

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Tax News: Identifying Tax Expectations from Municipal Bonds with an Application to Household Consumption

Lorenz Kueng
NBER Working Paper, August 2014

Abstract:
Although theoretical models of household behavior often emphasize fiscal foresight, most empirical studies neglect the role of news, thereby potentially underestimating the total effect of tax changes. Using novel high-frequency bond data, I develop a model of the term structure of municipal yield spreads as a function of future top income tax rates and a risk premium. Testing the model using the presidential elections of 1992 and 2000 as two natural experiments shows that financial markets forecast future tax rates remarkably well in both the short and long run. Combining these market-based tax expectations with consumption data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey, I find that consumption of high-income households increases by close to 1% in response to news of a 1% increase in expected after-tax lifetime income, consistent with the basic rational-expectations life-cycle theory.

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How the West Was Bought: How a 'Simple' Payment to Compensate Local Governments Became an Uncontrollable Federal Subsidy

Devin Thomas Kenney
Michigan State University Working Paper, September 2014

Abstract:
The federal government owns and administers more than 1/4 of the land in the United States, most of which is located in the Western half of the country and most of which is not subject to local taxation. To counterbalance the negative fiscal impact of nontaxable federal land in the United States, Congress created a Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, known as PILT, to compensate local governments for the government services they provide. The U.S. Department of the Interior distributes PILT as lump-sum payments directly to local governments. In order to prevent overcompensation, PILT payments are limited by the amount that the local government units receive under other federal revenue sharing programs, many of which are based directly on the extraction of natural resources like oil, gas, and timber. PILT has one major problem though: the deduction provision doesn't work. This is because only funds received by the unit of local government are deducted from PILT. Therefore, if the funds are passed through to a smaller governing agency, known as a service district, there is no deduction. The U.S. Department of the Interior should, through notice-and-comment rulemaking, clarify its PILT regulations to discourage states and local governments from subdividing themselves into smaller and smaller entities in order to maximize the amount of federal monies they receive. Many interested parties, including the National Association of Counties, argue that PILT should be expanded to cover all federal lands and to remove the deduction provision, while others hew to the other extreme, arguing that PILT should be eliminated entirely. The first argument completely overlooks the very real abuses perpetrated under PILT today while potentially increasing overcompensation; the second ignores the reality that local communities foot the bill to provide government services on federal land. Administering PILT in a manner that adheres to the spirit of deducting double payments would remove the incentive for inefficient governance and create an incentive to manage, rather than exploit, public lands. The Article offers a tentative proposal for the form such reform could take, as well as explaining why other reforms, such as statutory amendment or stricter enforcement, might be complicated by political expediency.

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Economic policy uncertainty, financial markets and probability of US recessions

Lilia Karnizova & Jiaxiong (Chris) Li
Economics Letters, November 2014, Pages 261-265

Abstract:
We use probit recession forecasting models to assess the ability of economic policy uncertainty indexes developed by Baker et al. (2013) to predict future US recessions. The model specifications include policy indexes on their own, and in combination with financial variables, such as interest rate spreads, stock returns and stock market volatility. Both in-sample and out-of-sample analysis suggests that the policy uncertainty indexes are statistically and economically significant in forecasting recessions at the horizons beyond five quarters. The index based on newspaper reports emerges as the best predictor, outperforming the term spread at the longer forecast horizons.

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The Perception Of Social Security Incentives For Labor Supply And Retirement: The Median Voter Knows More Than You'd Think

Jeffrey Liebman & Erzo Luttmer
NBER Working Paper, October 2014

Abstract:
The degree to which the Social Security tax distorts labor supply depends on the extent to which individuals perceive the link between current earnings and future Social Security benefits. Some Social Security reform plans have been motivated by an assumption that workers fail to perceive this link and that increasing the salience of the link could result in significant efficiency gains. To measure the perceived linkage between labor supply and Social Security benefits, we administered a survey to a representative sample of Americans aged 50-70. We find that the majority of respondents believe that their Social Security benefits increase with labor supply. Indeed, respondents generally report a link between labor supply and future benefits that is somewhat greater than the actual incentive. We also surveyed people about their understanding of various other provisions in the Social Security benefit rules. We find that some of these provisions (e.g., effects of delayed benefit claiming and rules on widow benefits) are relatively well understood while others (e.g., rules on spousal benefits, provisions on which years of earnings are taken into account) are less well understood. In addition, our survey incorporated a framing experiment, which shows that how the incentives for delayed claiming are presented has an impact on hypothetical claiming decisions. In particular, the traditional "break-even" framing used by the Social Security Administration leads to earlier claiming than other presentations do.

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The Empirical Content of Pay-for-Performance

Canice Prendergast
Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, forthcoming

Abstract:
Empirical evidence on the effect of pay-for-performance on output has been scarce. We propose that worker responses to marginal pay-for-performance changes can be related to their response to a measure of taxes. Using this approach, we suggest a short-run elasticity of output with respect to incentive pay for high earners in the United States of 0.25 or lower, and it is difficult to rule out very low responsiveness.

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Public Pressure and Corporate Tax Behavior

Scott Dyreng, Jeffrey Hoopes & Jaron Wilde
Duke University Working Paper, July 2014

Abstract:
We examine whether public pressure related to compliance with subsidiary disclosure rules influences corporate tax behavior. ActionAid International, a non-profit activist group, levied public pressure on non-compliant U.K. firms in the FTSE 100 to comply with a rule requiring U.K. firms to disclose the location of all of their subsidiaries. We use this natural experiment to examine whether the public pressure led scrutinized firms to decrease tax avoidance and reduce the use of subsidiaries in tax haven countries relative to other firms in the FTSE 100 not affected by the public pressure. The evidence suggests that the public scrutiny sufficiently changed the costs and benefits of tax avoidance such that tax expense increased for scrutinized firms. The results suggest that public pressure from outside activist groups can exert a significant influence on the behavior of large publicly-traded firms. Our findings extend prior research that has had little success documenting an empirical relation between public scrutiny of tax avoidance and firm behavior.

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Customer Concentration and Corporate Tax Avoidance

Henry He Huang et al.
University of Kentucky Working Paper, May 2014

Abstract:
We examine the relation between customer concentration, a critically important aspect of a firm's business model, and the level of corporate tax avoidance. A firm with a concentrated corporate customer base needs to hold more cash, faces a higher likelihood of financial distress, has a stronger incentive to manage earnings upwards, and is likely to be more risk tolerant. Since tax planning can increase both cash flow and accounting earnings and risk tolerant firms are more likely to accept the risks inherent in tax avoidance activities, we hypothesize that corporate customer concentration is positively associated with tax avoidance. As predicted, we find that various measures of corporate customer concentration are positively related to tax avoidance as measured by effective tax rate and book-tax difference. We also document that this positive relation is more pronounced when the firm captures a lower market share in its industry, enjoys less revenue diversification, and engages in less real earnings management. By contrast, we contend that a governmental major customer provides stable cash flow to suppliers and thus alleviates their need for tax avoidance. Consistent with this reasoning, we find that firms engage in lower levels of tax avoidance when they have a governmental major customer, and this association is less pronounced under Democratic presidencies. Together, our findings indicate that a firm's business model (i.e., corporate and governmental major customer) has a significant effect on the extent to which it avoids taxes.

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Asymmetric responses to income changes: The payroll tax increase versus tax refund in 2013

Anat Bracha & Daniel Cooper
Economics Letters, September 2014, Pages 534-538

Abstract:
We examine low-to-middle income individuals' response to the 2013 payroll tax increase and their 2012 tax refund and find that consumption declines 90 cents per dollar lost to the tax increase, and rises 60 cents per additional tax refund dollar.

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If All You Have Is A Hammer: Finding Economic Development Policies That Matter

Laura Reese
American Review of Public Administration, November 2014, Pages 627-655

Abstract:
This research explores the relative effectiveness of a comprehensive set of local economic development incentives and focuses on two questions: What contributions do common development tools make to the economic health of municipalities?; and, Are there other types of local activities, not typically considered as development tools, that might be more effective in contributing to local economic prosperity? It finds that the factors most consistently and positively related to economic health are investments in the downtown, spending on basic local public services, and using no economic development incentives at all. These findings suggest one primary policy recommendation: the wisest course of action for most cities would be to eschew particularized development incentives, especially those that require tax expenditures.

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Do parking fees affect retail sales? Evidence from Starbucks

Kent Hymel
Economics of Transportation, forthcoming

Abstract:
Parking meters are a common feature of urban areas, yet their economic impacts are not well understood. Local governments use meters to raise revenue and to ration scarce parking spaces. On-street parking, however, is seldom priced at the market rate. When inefficiently priced, parking meters may negatively affect the businesses and individuals they are intended to serve. This paper uses a quasi-experimental research design and an observational data set to assess metered parking policy. Sharp twice-daily changes in parking meter enforcement provide a comparison of customer traffic to a popular retail area in free and metered parking environments. Regression discontinuity results suggest that when there is an excess supply of parking (i.e., many spaces are vacant), a small 50 cent per-hour parking fee deters commerce. At two separate Starbucks establishments, the meter fee reduced customer traffic by almost 30%. However, when there is excess demand for parking (i.e., all spaces are constantly occupied), there is no evidence that meters help to increase customer traffic. These results suggest that sub-optimal meter pricing can impose substantial costs on nearby businesses.

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How can government spending stimulate consumption?

Daniel Murphy
Review of Economic Dynamics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Recent empirical work finds that government spending shocks can cause aggregate consumption to increase. This paper builds on the framework of imperfect information in and to show how government spending can stimulate consumption. Owners of firms targeted by an increase in government spending perceive an increase in their permanent income relative to their future tax liabilities, while owners of firms not targeted remain unaware of the implicit increase in future tax liabilities, causing aggregate consumption to increase. I show that a testable implication of this model - namely that the value of firms should increase in response to government spending shocks, implying all else equal an increase in aggregate stock returns - is consistent with empirical evidence.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Skin care

Evidence on Self-Stereotyping and the Contribution of Ideas

Katherine Baldiga Coffman
Quarterly Journal of Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
We use a lab experiment to explore the factors that predict an individual's decision to contribute her idea to a group. We find that contribution decisions depend upon the interaction of gender and the gender stereotype associated with the decision-making domain: conditional on measured ability, individuals are less willing to contribute ideas in areas that are stereotypically outside of their gender's domain. Importantly, these decisions are largely driven by self-assessments, rather than fear of discrimination. Individuals are less confident in gender incongruent areas and are thus less willing to contribute their ideas. Because even very knowledgeable group members under-contribute in gender incongruent categories, group performance suffers and, ex post, groups have difficulty recognizing who their most talented members are. Our results show that even in an environment where other group members show no bias, women in male-typed areas and men in female-typed areas may be less influential. An intervention that provides feedback about a woman's (man's) strength in a male-typed (female-typed) area does not significantly increase the probability that she contributes her ideas to the group. A back-of-the-envelope calculation reveals that a “lean in” style policy that increases contribution by women would significantly improve group performance in male-typed domains.

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Ethnic Variation in Gender-STEM Stereotypes and STEM Participation: An Intersectional Approach

Laurie O’Brien et al.
Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Stereotypes associating men and masculine traits with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields are ubiquitous, but the relative strength of these stereotypes varies considerably across cultures. The present research applies an intersectional approach to understanding ethnic variation in gender-STEM stereotypes and STEM participation within an American university context. African American college women participated in STEM majors at higher rates than European American college women (Study 1, Study 2, and Study 4). Furthermore, African American women had weaker implicit gender-STEM stereotypes than European American women (Studies 2–4), and ethnic differences in implicit gender-STEM stereotypes partially mediated ethnic differences in STEM participation (Study 2 and Study 4). Although African American men had weaker implicit gender-STEM stereotypes than European American men (Study 4), ethnic differences between men in STEM participation were generally small (Study 1) or nonsignificant (Study 4). We discuss the implications of an intersectional approach for understanding the relationship between gender and STEM participation.

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Not competent enough to know the difference? Gender stereotypes about women’s ease of being misled predict negotiator deception

Laura Kray, Jessica Kennedy & Alex Van Zant
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, forthcoming

Abstract:
We examined whether gender differences in the perceived ease of being misled predict the likelihood of being deceived in distributive negotiations. Study 1 (N = 131) confirmed that female negotiators are perceived as more easily misled than male negotiators. This perception corresponded with perceptions of women’s relatively low competence. Study 2 (N = 328) manipulated negotiator gender, competence and warmth and found that being perceived as easily misled via low competence affected expectations about the negotiating process, including less deception scrutiny among easily misled negotiators and lower ethical standards among their negotiating counterparts. This pattern held true regardless of buyer and seller gender. Study 3 (N = 298) examined whether patterns of deception in face-to-face negotiations were consistent with this gender stereotype. As expected, negotiators deceived women more so than men, thus leading women into more deals under false pretenses than men.

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Is There a “Workable” Race-Neutral Alternative to Affirmative Action in College Admissions?

Mark Long
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, forthcoming

Abstract:
The 2013 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case clarified when and how it is legally permissible for universities to use an applicant's race or ethnicity in its admissions decisions. The court concluded that such use is permissible when “no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity.” This paper shows that replacing traditional affirmative action with a system that uses an applicant's predicted likelihood of being an underrepresented racial minority as a proxy for the applicant's actual minority status can yield an admitted class that has a lower predicted grade point average and likelihood of graduating than the class that would have been admitted using traditional affirmative action. This result suggests that race-neutral alternatives may not be “workable” from the university's perspective.

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Measuring the Quality of Politicians Elected by Gender Quotas – Are They Any Different?

Peter Allen, David Cutts & Rosie Campbell
Political Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
Do gender quotas reduce the quality of politicians elected to a legislature? For the first time in the literature, this article addresses this question by examining the quality of ‘quota women’ compared to their non-quota colleagues at three stages of their political career: their electoral performance, their qualifications for political office and their post-election legislative career trajectories. Drawing on the unique case of Britain following the 1997 general election, no significant difference is found between the quality of ‘quota women’ and their non-quota colleagues. Voters do not punish ‘quota women’ at the ballot box; ‘quota women’ are as equally qualified for political office as their colleagues; and the gatekeepers of executive office do not discriminate against ‘quota women’ in front-bench promotions. Considering this, the article concludes by asking whether the similarity of ‘quota women’ to their colleagues may actually impact on their capacity to affect transformative substantive representation.

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Mathematics and Gender: Heterogeneity in Causes and Consequences

Juanna Schrøter Joensen & Helena Skyt Nielsen
Economic Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
We exploit an institutional reduction in the costs of acquiring advanced high school Mathematics to assess the causes and consequences of fewer girls choosing advanced Mathematics. Girls at the top and boys at the middle of the Mathematics-ability-distribution took more Mathematics because of the cost reduction. We estimate a positive average earnings effect encompassing girls completing more advanced and more Mathematics intensive college degrees, choosing more competitive careers, and climbing higher up the corporate hierarchy. Encouraging more students to opt for advanced Mathematics has a sizeable positive earnings effect for girls, but no effect for boys at the margin.

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Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful: Acknowledging appearance mitigates the “beauty is beastly” effect

Stefanie Johnson, Traci Sitzmann & Anh Thuy Nguyen
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, forthcoming

Abstract:
Physically attractive women are discriminated against when applying for masculine sex-typed jobs, a phenomenon known as the beauty is beastly effect. We conducted three studies to establish an intervention for mitigating the beauty is beastly effect and to determine mediators and moderators of the intervention. As expected, physically attractive women were rated higher in employment suitability when they acknowledged that their sex or physical appearance is incongruent with the typical applicant for a masculine sex-typed job. Acknowledgement increased inferences of positive masculine traits, allowing the female applicant to be perceived as more suitable for the job, while reducing perceptions that she possessed countercommunal traits, decreasing the violation of her gender role. Finally, sexist beliefs interacted with the acknowledgment intervention, such that the acknowledgement intervention reduced the negative relationship between hostile sexism and employment suitability and increased the positive relationship between benevolent sexism and employment suitability, relative to the control condition.

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Demographic Marginalization, Social Integration, and Adolescents’ Educational Success

Aprile Benner & Yijie Wang
Journal of Youth and Adolescence, October 2014, Pages 1611-1627

Abstract:
Links between schools’ demographic composition and students’ achievement have been a major policy interest for decades. Using a racially/ethnically diverse sample from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (N = 6,302; 54 % females; 53 % White, 21 % African American, 15 % Latino, 8 % Asian American, 2 % other race/ethnicity), we examined the associations between demographic marginalization, students’ later social integration (loneliness at school, school attachment), and educational performance and attainment. Adolescents who were socioeconomically marginalized at school [i.e., having <15 % same-socioeconomic status (SES) peers] had lower cumulative grade point averages across high school and lower educational attainment. A similar disadvantage was observed among students who were both socioeconomically and racially/ethnically marginalized at school (i.e., having <15 % same-SES peers and <15 % same-racial/ethnic peers). Indirect effects were also observed, such that demographic marginalization was linked to poorer school attachment, and poorer school attachment, in turn, was related to poorer academic performance. These results highlight the educational barriers associated with demographic marginalization and suggest potential targets for future intervention efforts.

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Do Competitive Workplaces Deter Female Workers? A Large-Scale Natural Field Experiment on Job-Entry Decisions

Jeffrey Flory, Andreas Leibbrandt & John List
Review of Economic Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
An important line of research using laboratory experiments has provided a new potential reason for gender imbalances in labor markets: men are more competitively inclined than women. Whether, and to what extent, gender differences in attitudes toward competition lead to differences in naturally-occurring labor markets remains an open question. To examine this, we run a natural field experiment on job-entry decisions where we randomize almost 9,000 job-seekers into different compensation regimes. By varying the role that individual competition plays in setting the wage and the gender composition, we examine whether a competitive compensation regime, by itself, can cause differential job entry. The data highlight the power of the compensation regime in that women disproportionately shy away from competitive work settings. Yet, there are important factors that attenuate the gender differences, including whether the job is performed in teams, whether the position has overt gender associations, and the age of the job-seekers. We also find that the effect is most pronounced in labor markets with attractive alternative employment options. Furthermore, our results suggest that preferences over uncertainty can be just as important as preferences over competition per se in driving job-entry choices.

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Movin’ on up (to College): First-Generation College Students’ Experiences With Family Achievement Guilt

Rebecca Covarrubias & Stephanie Fryberg
Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
As the first in their families to attend college, first-generation college students (FGCs) experience a discrepancy between the opportunities available to them and those available to their non-college-educated family members that elicits family achievement guilt. The present studies examined family achievement guilt among an ethnically diverse sample of FGCs and continuing-generation college students (CGCs), those whose parents attended college (Studies 1 and 2), and tested a strategy to alleviate such guilt (Study 2). In Study 1, on open-ended and closed-ended measures, FGCs (N = 53) reported more guilt than CGCs (N = 68), and Latinos (N = 60) reported more guilt than Whites (N = 61). Latino FGCs reported more family achievement guilt than the other 3 groups. In Study 2, we examined whether reflecting on a time when one helped family would alleviate family achievement guilt for FGCs. Specifically, FGCs (N = 58) and CGCs (N = 125) described a time they helped their family with a problem (help condition) or did not describe an example (control), then completed the guilt measure. Analyses revealed that (a) consistent with Study 1, FGCs reported higher guilt than CGCs and minorities reported more guilt than Whites, and (b) FGCs in the help condition reported significantly less guilt than FGCs in the control condition and reported no differences in guilt from CGCs across conditions. Finally, perceptions of family struggle mediated this relationship such that reflecting on helping one’s family led to perceiving less family struggle, which led to less family achievement guilt for FGCs.

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Seeing What They Want to See: Racism and Leadership Development in Urban Schools

Christopher Knaus
Urban Review, September 2014, Pages 420-444

Abstract:
This critical race theory (CRT)-framed qualitative study (n = 9) examined racism within a context of urban teacher leadership development. A series of semi-structured interviews were conducted with three White principals, who each identified one White and one African American teacher as “most promising” leadership potential. These teachers were interviewed, leading to analysis of principal support and teacher perceptions of being supported. The findings clarify principals who adopted a language of equity, while simultaneously arguing that their White teachers were more effective (based erroneously on the belief that the White teachers’ students had higher test scores). The African American teachers, on the other hand, were framed as experts in culturally responsive approaches, given increased teaching responsibilities, and not provided similar leadership opportunities. This difference in opportunities and expectations had lasting impacts on the African American teachers, who internalized the lack of resources and negative messages they received from their principals. The paper concludes with CRT implications for inclusive leadership development processes.

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Small-business viability in America’s urban minority communities

Timothy Bates & Alicia Robb
Urban Studies, October 2014, Pages 2844-2862

Abstract:
Although minority and immigrant entrepreneurs in the US have chosen to concentrate in low-profit retail and service lines of business clustered geographically in urban minority neighbourhoods, their reasons for doing so are unclear. We investigate their motivations by analysing viability among urban small businesses; specifically, we compare the longevity of firms targeting clients in minority neighbourhoods to those serving clients in nonminority-white residential areas. Our broader concerns are to understand why the entrepreneurial occupational choice has been embraced. A key objective is to identify specific barriers that may retard small-firm creation and development in minority-neighbourhood environs. While some claim this market offers attractive opportunities, others stress that predominance of minority- and immigrant-owned firms in this sector reflects the fact that only the least desirable market niches are accessible to them. We find that serving local clienteles in minority neighbourhoods is strongly related to firm closure and low profitability.

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The High School Environment and the Gender Gap in Science and Engineering

Joscha Legewie & Thomas DiPrete
Sociology of Education, October 2014, Pages 259-280

Abstract:
Despite the striking reversal of the gender gap in education, women pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees at much lower rates than those of their male peers. This study extends existing explanations for these gender differences and examines the role of the high school context for plans to major in STEM fields. Building on recent gender theories, we argue that widely shared and hegemonic gender beliefs manifest differently across schools so that the gender-specific formation of study plans is shaped by the local environment of high schools. Using the National Education Longitudinal Study, we first show large variations between high schools in the ability to attract students to STEM fields conditional on a large set of pre–high school measures. Schools that are successful in attracting students to these fields reduce the gender gap by 25 percent or more. As a first step toward understanding what matters about schools, we then estimate the effect of two concrete high school characteristics on plans to major in STEM fields in college — a high school’s curriculum in STEM and gender segregation of extracurricular activities. These factors have a substantial effect on the gender gap in plans to major in STEM: a finding that is reaffirmed in a number of sensitivity analyses. Our focus on the high school context opens concrete avenues for policy intervention and is of central theoretical importance to understand the gender gap in orientations toward STEM fields.

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They won’t listen to me: Anticipated power and women’s disinterest in male-dominated domains

Jacqueline Chen & Wesley Moons
Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, forthcoming

Abstract:
We hypothesized that women avoid male-dominated domains because they anticipate lacking the power to influence others in those contexts. In Study 1, a questionnaire study, male undergraduates were more interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors than were female undergraduates, and this gender disparity was mediated by women anticipating having less power in STEM fields than men did. Study 2 experimentally demonstrated that a lack of female representation within an academic context (MBA program) led women to infer that they would lack power in that context. Consequently, they became less interested in the program and in business schools in general. Our findings indicate that expecting low interpersonal power is an important mechanism by which women lose interest in pursuing male-dominated fields.

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Do Expectations Make the Difference? A Look at the Effect of Educational Expectations and Academic Performance on Enrollment in Post-Secondary Education

Littisha Bates & Paul Anderson
Race and Social Problems, September 2014, Pages 249-261

Abstract:
Despite the belief that education is the great equalizer in American society, previous research has shown that the promises of educational accomplishments have not extended equally across racial/ethnic groups as minorities are less likely to matriculate to post-secondary education. Using data from the second follow-up and base year of the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002, we examine the impact of GPA and students’ expectations on the probability of post-secondary enrollment. Specifically, we assess the impact of low achievement on the probability of post-secondary enrollment across racial/ethnic groups. We find that low achievement acts as less of a barrier to post-secondary enrollment for minority students compared with their non-Hispanic white counterparts. Moreover, students with high expectations and low achievement experienced higher probabilities of post-secondary enrollment than students with low expectations and high achievement. Given that minority students are said to have higher expectations, we examine whether the interaction of expectations and achievement varies across racial/ethnic groups. While we did not uncover racial/ethnic differences for low-achieving students with high expectations, our findings suggest that expectations help propel all low-achieving students with high expectations into post-secondary enrollment. This study moves beyond the traditional black/white differences by including a number of racial/ethnic groups.

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The Role of Gender in Promotion and Pay over a Career

John Addison, Orgul Demet Ozturk & Si Wang
Journal of Human Capital, Fall 2014, Pages 280-317

Abstract:
Using data from the NLSY79, this paper considers the role of gender in promotion and promotion-related earnings development over the course of a career. The raw data suggest reasonably favorable promotion outcomes for females over a career, but any such advantages are found to be confined to less educated females. Further, the strong returns to education in later career stemming from promotion-related earnings growth accrue solely to males. While consistent with fertility timing and choice on the part of educated females, this earnings result is not inconsistent with discrimination as well, reminiscent of findings from an earlier human capital literature.

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Corruption as an obstacle to women’s political representation: Evidence from local councils in 18 European countries

Aksel Sundström & Lena Wängnerud
Party Politics, forthcoming

Abstract:
This article presents evidence from 18 European countries showing that where levels of corruption are high, the proportion of women elected is low. We hypothesize that corruption indicates the presence of ‘shadowy arrangements’ that benefit the already privileged and pose a direct obstacle to women when male-dominated networks influence political parties’ candidate selection. There is also an indirect signal effect derived from citizen’s experiences with a broad range of government authorities. The article uses data that are more fine-grained than usual in this literature. We conduct an empirical test on a new dataset on locally elected councilors in 167 regions in Europe. Using a novel measure of regional quality of government and corruption we perform a multi-level analysis with several regional- and national-level controls. This study provides a unique picture of the proportion of women in locally elected assemblies throughout Europe and a new way of understanding the variations found.

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Gender Effects on Student Attitude Toward Science

Thomas Smith, Spencer Pasero & Cornelius McKenna
Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, February/April 2014, Pages 7-12

Abstract:
The present study examined gender and attitude toward science in fourth- and eighth-grade students in the United States and also assessed to what extent the relationship between science attitude and science achievement differed by gender. Results showed that both fourth- and eighth-grade boys demonstrated more confidence in science than girls, while eighth-grade boys also showed greater liking for science than girls. Additionally, gender moderated the relationship between science achievement and (a) liking science (for fourth-grade students) and (b) confidence in science (eighth-grade students). Results are discussed in terms of addressing gender inequities in science education and career opportunities.

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In the eye of the examinee: Likable examiners interfere with performance

Isabella Vormittag & Tuulia Ortner
Social Psychology of Education, September 2014, Pages 401-417

Abstract:
We investigated effects of examiners’ ascribed likability and examiners’ gender on test performance during a standardized face-to-face testing situation assessing self-estimated and de facto verbal knowledge. One hundred fourteen nonpsychology students were individually tested by one of 22 examiners. A moderated regression analysis revealed a significant three-way interaction of test taker’s gender, examiner’s gender, and examiner’s likability on de facto knowledge: Men and women showed lower scores on de facto knowledge with a same-gender examiner rated as likable compared to their performance with a likable opposite-gender examiner or in interaction with a nonlikable examiner.

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A threatening exchange: Gender and life history strategy predict perceptions and reasoning about sexual harassment

Haley Dillon, Lora Adair & Gary Brase
Personality and Individual Differences, January 2015, Pages 195–199

Abstract:
Sexual harassment is a serious societal issue, with extensive economic and psychological consequences, yet it is also an ill-defined construct fundamentally defined in terms of subjective perception. The current work was designed to examine the ways in which individual differences between people are systematically related to different perceptions of sexual harassment scenarios, as well as reasoning about those harassment situations. Participants (N = 460) read several possible harassment scenarios and rated how uncomfortable they would find them. They then also evaluated a quid pro quo sexual harassment situation in terms of their interpretation of it as a threat or a social exchange and completed a deductive reasoning task about the same situation. Females and individuals with slow life history strategies were more uncomfortable with potential harassment situations and were more likely to interpret the quid pro quo scenario as a threat. Further, interpreting the scenario as a threat was associated with poorer performance on the deductive logic task, compared to those who interpreted the scenario as a social exchange.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The people's court

Judges and Friends: The Influence of Amici Curiae on U.S. Court of Appeals Judges

Paul Collins & Wendy Martinek
American Politics Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
We contribute to the literature on political psychology, interest groups, and judicial decision making by examining whether ideology mediates the effect of amicus curiae briefs on decision making in the U.S. courts of appeals. Using an original data set, we find evidence that moderate and conservative judges are influenced by amicus briefs, but that liberal judges do not respond to these persuasion attempts. We conclude that this form of interest group lobbying influences judicial decision making by at least some judges and that understanding the efficacy of this interest group strategy requires an appreciation of how political actors process persuasive information.

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Do Policy Messengers Matter? Majority Opinion Writers as Policy Cues in Public Agreement with Supreme Court Decisions

Scott Boddery & Jeff Yates
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract:
Does the identity of a majority opinion writer affect the level of agreement a Supreme Court decision receives from the public? Using a survey experiment, we manipulate majority opinion authors to investigate whether individuals are willing to agree with Supreme Court opinions authored by ideologically similar justices even though the decisions cut against their self-identified ideological policy preferences. Our study provides insight into the extent to which policy cues - represented by a political institution's policy messenger - affect agreement with a given policy. We find that a messenger effect indeed augments the level of agreement a given Supreme Court case receives.

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Public Opinion and Judicial Behavior in Direct Democracy Systems: Gay Rights in the American States

Daniel Lewis, Frederick Wood & Matthew Jacobsmeier
State Politics & Policy Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract:
Although the U.S. judiciary is designed to be an independent and counter-majoritarian arbiter of the law, many states feature electoral institutions that may expose judges to public pressure. Scholars have demonstrated that judicial elections provide a clear link between public opinion and judicial decision making that may undermine the ability of courts to act in counter-majoritarian ways to protect minority rights. We extend this line of inquiry by examining whether direct democracy institutions have a similar effect of enhancing the impact of public opinion on judicial behavior and reducing the likelihood of judges voting in favor of minority rights. Empirical results from an analysis of gay rights cases in the American states from 1981 to 2004 provide evidence that direct democracy, in conjunction with electoral retention methods, significantly increases the effect of public opinion on judicial decisions.

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Citizenship and Punishment: The Salience of National Membership in U.S. Criminal Courts

Michael Light, Michael Massoglia & Ryan King
American Sociological Review, October 2014, Pages 825-847

Abstract:
When compared to research on the association between immigration and crime, far less attention has been given to the relationship between immigration, citizenship, and criminal punishment. As such, several fundamental questions about how noncitizens are sanctioned and whether citizenship is a marker of stratification in U.S. courts remain unanswered. Are citizens treated differently than noncitizens - both legal and undocumented - in U.S. federal criminal courts? Is the well-documented Hispanic-white sentencing disparity confounded by citizenship status? Has the association between citizenship and sentencing remained stable over time? And are punishment disparities contingent on the demographic context of the court? Analysis of several years of data from U.S. federal courts indicates that citizenship status is a salient predictor of sentencing outcomes-more powerful than race or ethnicity. Other notable findings include the following: accounting for citizenship substantially attenuates disparities between whites and Hispanics; the citizenship effect on sentencing has grown stronger over time; and the effect is most pronounced in districts with growing noncitizen populations. These findings suggest that as international migration increases, citizenship may be an emerging and powerful axis of sociolegal inequality.

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Disproportional Imprisonment of Black and Hispanic Males: Sentencing Discretion, Processing Outcomes, and Policy Structures

Jeffery Ulmer, Noah Painter-Davis & Leigh Tinik
Justice Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract:
Disproportional incarceration of black and Hispanic men has been the subject of much critical commentary and empirical inquiry. Such disproportionality may be due to greater involvement of minority men in serious crime, to discretionary decisions by local justice officials, or to the differential impact of sentencing policies, such as mandatory minimums or sentencing guidelines, that differentially impact minority men. This study investigated the extent to which the disproportional punishment of black and Hispanic men, and local variation in such disproportionality, can be attributed to unexplained disparities in local sentencing decisions, as opposed to the extent to which such differences are mediated by sentencing policies, or case-processing and extralegal factors. We use 2005-2009 federal court and Pennsylvania state court data. Our findings suggest, particularly in Federal courts, that most disproportionality is determined by processes prior to sentencing, especially sentencing policies that differentially impact minority males.

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The Sentencing Consequences of Federal Pretrial Supervision

James Oleson et al.
Crime & Delinquency, forthcoming

Abstract:
Legal variables, such as offense severity and criminal history, principally shape sentencing decisions, but extralegal factors such as race, gender, and age also influence sentencing outcomes. Studies focusing on the effect of pretrial detention on sentencing outcomes usually associate pretrial detention with negative sentencing outcomes. The current study followed 90,037 federal defendants from indictment through sentencing, and measured the effects of pretrial detention on sentencing decisions. Detention (and, to a lesser degree, revocation of pretrial release) was associated with increased likelihood of receiving a prison sentence and greater sentence length, even when controlling for offense severity and criminal history scores.

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Judicial error by groups and individuals

Frans van Dijk, Joep Sonnemans & Eddy Bauw
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, forthcoming

Abstract:

In criminal cases judges evaluate and combine probabilistic evidence to reach verdicts. Unavoidably, errors are made, resulting in unwarranted conviction or acquittal of defendants. This paper addresses the questions (1) whether hearing cases by teams of three persons leads to less error than hearing cases alone; (2) whether deliberation leads to better decisions than mechanical aggregation of individual opinions; and (3) whether participating in deliberations improves future individual decisions. We find that having more than one judge consider cases reduces error effectively. This does not mean that it is necessary to deliberate about all cases. In simple cases many errors can be avoided by mechanical aggregation of independent opinions, and deliberation has no added value. In difficult cases discussion leads to less error. The advantage of deliberation goes beyond the case at hand: although we provide no feedback about the quality of verdicts, it improves individual decisions in subsequent cases.

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Estimating Gender Disparities in Federal Criminal Cases

Sonja Starr
American Law and Economics Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper assesses and decomposes gender disparities in federal criminal cases. It finds large unexplained gaps favoring women throughout the sentence length distribution, conditional on arrest offense, criminal history, and other pre-charge observables. Decompositions show that most of the unexplained disparity appears to emerge during charging, plea-bargaining, and sentencing fact-finding. The approach provides an important complement to prior disparity studies, which have focused on sentencing and have not incorporated disparities arising from those earlier stages. I also consider various plausible causal theories that could explain the estimated gender gap, using the rich dataset to test their implications.

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Examining the prevalence and correlates of a 'senior citizen discount' in US federal courts

Weston Morrow, Samuel Vickovic & Henry Fradella
Criminal Justice Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
Few studies focus on age as a factor influencing judicial decision-making, in spite of the widespread use of age as a control variable. Although the limited research to have done so is inconsistent, most scholars agree that age may be race- and/or gender-graded in a manner that produces more severe sentences for certain race-gender-age combinations, especially for young males who are Black or Latino. Less consensus exists with regard to whether older defendants are granted more leniency in the sentencing process and, if so, if the effects of older age are also race- and/or gender-graded. The present study examines this question by examining data from the United States Sentencing Commission. The data presented reveal three noteworthy findings. First, a 'senior citizen discount' exists insofar as judges afford more leniency in sentencing to older offenders than their younger counterparts. Second, compared to older males, older females were treated with greater leniency by judges. Finally, whereas Latinos 60 and over were treated with greater severity at the stage of incarceration compared to similarly situated Whites, Blacks received shorter sentence lengths on average. These results are analyzed within the framework of the focal concerns perspective.

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Cops and robbers (and eyewitnesses): A comparison of lineup administration by robbery detectives in the USA and Canada

Edie Greene & Andrew Evelo
Psychology, Crime & Law, forthcoming

Abstract:
The purpose of this study was to determine how American and Canadian robbery detectives collect identification evidence and whether their practices are consistent with published guidelines. Via a survey, we asked about the use of various lineup practices (e.g., single-blind vs. double-blind administration, sequential vs. simultaneous presentation, and videotaping). Canadian detectives are more likely to use research-based reforms such as double-blind sequential lineups and videotaping. We also assessed how robbery detectives interact with eyewitnesses at four points during a lineup: prior to the lineup, immediately after an identification, and after 12 seconds and 3 minutes have elapsed without an identification. Results showed that at the latter two junctures, officers from both the countries question eyewitnesses in subtle ways that could influence the likelihood of choosing and confidence in the selection. Canadian detectives are less likely than American detectives to do so, however. This finding can be explained by the absence of written guidelines in most US jurisdictions on how officials should interact with eyewitnesses during lineups.

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Interviewing to Detect Deception: When to Disclose the Evidence?

Marina Sorochinski et al.
Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, October 2014, Pages 87-94

Abstract:
Research shows that there are few objective cues to deception. However, it may be possible to create such cues by strategic interviewing techniques. Strategic Use of Evidence (SUE) is one such technique. The basic premise of the SUE technique is that liars and truth tellers employ different counter-interrogation strategies, and that the evidence against the suspect can be used to exploit these differences in strategies. This study examined the effect of the timing of evidence disclosure (early vs. late vs. gradual) on verbal cues to deception. We predicted that late disclosure would be most effective in differentiating between liars and truth-tellers, and that cues to deception in the gradual disclosure condition would progressively disappear due to the suspects' realization that evidence against them exists. That is, we expected that liars in the gradual presentation condition would become more consistent with the evidence over time. A sample of 86 undergraduate students went through a mock-terrorism paradigm (half innocent, half guilty), and were subsequently interviewed using one of three disclosure strategies: early, gradual, and late disclosure. We measured statement-evidence inconsistencies as cues to deception . Results supported our predictions in that cues to deception were most pronounced in the late disclosure condition. Contrary to our expectations, the results suggested that presenting the evidence gradually may put innocent suspects at a higher risk of misclassification as they seem to adopt a strategy that is more similar to guilty suspects.

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Deciding Not to Decide: The Politics of Recusals on the U.S. Supreme Court

Robert Hume
Law & Society Review, September 2014, Pages 621-655

Abstract:
When are U.S. Supreme Court justices more likely to recuse themselves from cases? This article proposes a strategic model of recusal behavior, hypothesizing that the justices balance statutory guidelines concerning recusals against other policy and institutional goals. Using data from the Supreme Court Database, I find evidence that recusal behavior is influenced by a combination of statutory, policy, and institutional considerations. Consistent with statutory explanations, which emphasize the elimination of bias or its appearance, justices are more likely to recuse themselves from cases when business interests are before the Court, when they have served for shorter terms, and when they have previously acted as Solicitor General. However, I also find that the justices are less likely to recuse themselves when cases are likely to be close or when the justices' policy goals are likely to be advanced by participating. These findings suggest that while the justices do follow statutory recusal guidelines, they also have other institutional and policy incentives that lead them to participate in cases despite their conflicts of interest.

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An Empirical Study of Political Bias in Legal Scholarship

Adam Chilton & Eric Posner
University of Chicago Working Paper, August 2014

Abstract:
Law professors routinely accuse each other of making politically biased arguments in their scholarship. They have also helped produce a large empirical literature on judicial behavior that has found that judicial opinions sometimes reflect the ideological biases of the judges who join them. Yet no one has used statistical methods to test the parallel hypothesis that legal scholarship reflects the political biases of law professors. This paper provides the results of such a test. We find that, at a statistically significant level, law professors at elite law schools who make donations to Democratic political candidates write liberal scholarship, and law professors who make donations to Republican political candidates write conservative scholarship. These findings raise questions about standards of objectivity in legal scholarship.

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The Interplay of Ideological Diversity, Dissents, and Discretionary Review in the Judicial Hierarchy: Evidence from Death Penalty Cases

Deborah Beim & Jonathan Kastellec
Journal of Politics, October 2014, Pages 1074-1088

Abstract:
We use an original dataset of death penalty decisions on the Courts of Appeals to evaluate how the institutions of multimember appellate courts, dissent, and discretionary higher-court review interact to increase legal consistency in the federal judicial hierarchy. First, beginning with three-judge panels, we show the existence of ideological diversity on a panel - and the potential for dissent - plays a significant role in judicial decision making. Second, because of the relationship between panel composition and panel outcomes, considering only the incidence of dissents dramatically underestimates the influence of the institution of dissent - judges dissent much less frequently than they would in the absence of this relationship. Third, this rarity of dissent means they are informative: when judges do dissent, they influence en banc review in a manner consistent with the preferences of full circuits. Taken together, these results have important implications for assessing legal consistency in a vast and diverse judicial hierarchy.

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State Solicitors General, Appellate Expertise, and State Success Before the U.S. Supreme Court

Ryan Owens & Patrick Wohlfarth
Law & Society Review, September 2014, Pages 657-685

Abstract:
This article examines how institutional design leads state governments to win their cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. We analyze whether states are more likely to prevail on the merits when they create a formal solicitor general office and have an attorney from that office argue their cases before the Court. We employ an analytical matching approach and find that attorneys from state solicitor general offices are significantly more likely to win their cases compared to other kinds of state attorneys. Accordingly, if states prioritize victory before the Court, they should consider creating state solicitor general offices and granting those solicitors general the authority to control their appellate litigation.

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Racial, Ethnic, and Immigrant Threat: Is There a New Criminal Threat on State Sentencing?

Ben Feldmeyer et al.
Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, forthcoming

Objectives: The racial threat perspective argues that racial minorities are subjected to greater punishment in places with large or growing minority populations. However, prior research has focused largely on Black populations while devoting limited attention to potential "Latino threat" or "immigrant threat" effects. To address these gaps, this study explores the effects of racial, ethnic, and immigrant threat on sentence disposition (jail, prison, or community corrections) and sentence length.

Methods: Using 2000 through 2006 data from the Florida Department of Corrections Guideline database, we use multilevel modeling techniques to explore the effects of racial, ethnic, and immigrant threat on state criminal sentencing.

Results: The results provide support for racial/ethnic threat theory among Black but not Latino defendants. Black defendants are more likely to be sentenced to prison and are given longer sentences in counties with growing Black populations. In contrast, Latino sentences are not significantly influenced by Latino population growth. Results provide no support for immigrant threat positions.

Conclusions: Overall, our findings offer a complex picture for racial/ethnic and immigrant threat. However, one pattern remains clear. Within Florida courts, Black defendants continue to be the prime targets for effects of racial threat and resulting disadvantages in criminal sentencing.

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The Model Minority Myth for Noncitizen Immigration Offenses and Sentencing Outcomes

Jawjeong Wu & Dae-Young Kim
Race and Justice, October 2014, Pages 303-332

Abstract:
Labeled the model minority, Asian Americans have been seen as less discriminated against than other racial/ethnic minorities in the different aspects of American society. Sentencing scholarship also revealed robust evidence that Asian offenders were not treated differently from White offenders in judicial decision making. Some research even found the most favorable sentencing outcomes for Asian offenders. However, it is unclear whether the model minority hypothesis is validated when only the criminal sentencing of noncitizen offenders is at issue. Using the U.S. Sentencing Commission's sentencing data for fiscal years 2006-2007, the present study, with a focus specifically on immigration offenses, seeks to challenge this hypothesis by examining the extent to which an offender's national origin and race/ethnicity affect sentencing outcomes. Findings reveal strong support for our argument that the model minority advantage is offense-specific and that it is not applicable to all types of offenses. Specifically, there is no model minority advantage for non-U.S. citizens' immigration offenses.

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The Influence of Mitigation Evidence, Ethnicity, and SES on Death Penalty Decisions by European American and Latino Venire Persons

Russ Espinoza & Cynthia Willis-Esqueda
Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
The purpose of the research was to determine whether European American and Latino mock jurors would demonstrate bias in death penalty decision making when mitigation evidence and defendant ethnicity and socioeconomic status (SES) were varied. A total of 561 actual venire persons acted as mock jurors and read a trial transcript that varied a defendant's case information (mitigating circumstances: strong/weak, defendant ethnicity: European American/Latino, and defendant SES: low/high). European American jurors recommended the death penalty significantly more often for the low SES Latino defendant when strength of mitigation evidence was weak. In addition, they also assigned this defendant higher culpability ratings and lower ratings on positive personality trait measures compared with all other conditions. Strong mitigation evidence contributed to lower guilt ratings by European American jurors for the high SES European American defendant. Latino jurors did not differ in their death penalty sentencing across defendant mitigation, ethnicity, or SES conditions. Discussion of in-group favoritism and out-group derogation, as well as suggestions for procedures to diminish juror bias in death penalty cases, is provided.

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Examining the judicial decision to substitute credibility instructions for expert testimony on confessions

Dayna Gomes, Douglas Stenstrom & Dustin Calvillo
Legal and Criminological Psychology, forthcoming

Purpose: The present study tested the judicial decision to deny false confession expert testimony on the basis that jury instructions are sufficient to aid jurors in their determinations of disputed confession evidence.

Methods: Three groups of mock jurors (N = 150) were presented with a trial summary that included a videotaped re-enactment of an interrogation in which the interrogator used a maximization ploy. One group received expert testimony in the trial summary, another group received credibility instructions, and a control group received neither. All participants received standard reasonable doubt instructions at the end of the trial summary and then answered questions such as their verdict in the case, the defendant's likelihood of guilt, and the voluntariness of the defendant's confession.

Results: The results showed a high rate of conviction that was only reduced when participants received expert testimony. Across all measures, no significant differences were found between the control and credibility instruction groups.

Conclusions: The results suggest that credibility instructions are not comparable to expert testimony in influencing jurors' judgments of disputed confession evidence. These findings do not support the judicial decision to deny expert testimony on the basis that credibility instructions alone are sufficient to aid potential jurors in their evaluations of confession evidence. Avenues for future research on expert testimony and jury instructions in confession cases are discussed.

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Stressing the person: Legal and everyday person attributions under stress

Jennifer Kubota et al.
Biological Psychology, December 2014, Pages 117-124

Abstract:
When determining the cause of a person's behavior, perceivers often overweigh dispositional explanations and underweigh situational explanations, an error known as the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE). The FAE occurs in part because dispositional explanations are relatively automatic, whereas considering the situation requires additional cognitive effort. Stress is known to impair the prefrontal cortex and executive functions important for the attribution process. We investigated if stress increases dispositional attributions in common place and legal situations. Experiencing a physiological stressor increased participants' cortisol, dispositional attributions of common everyday behaviors, and negative evaluations. When determining whether a crime was due to the defendant's disposition or the mitigating situation, self-reported stress correlated with increased dispositional judgments of defendant's behavior. These findings indicate that stress may makes people more likely to commit the FAE and less favorable in their evaluations of others both in daily life and when making socially consequential judicial decisions.

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Short-Sighted Confession Decisions: The Role of Uncertain and Delayed Consequences

Yueran Yang, Stephanie Madon & Max Guyll
Law and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:

Suspects have a propensity to focus on short-term contingencies, giving disproportionate weight to the proximal consequences that are delivered by police during an interrogation, and too little consideration to the distal (and often more severe) consequences that may be levied by the judicial system if they are convicted. In this research, the authors examined whether the perceived uncertainty and temporal distance of distal consequences contribute to this propensity. Using the repetitive question paradigm (Madon et al., 2012), participants (N = 209) were interviewed about 20 prior criminal and unethical behaviors and were required to admit or deny each one. Participants' denials and admissions were paired with both a proximal consequence and a distal consequence, respectively. Results indicated that the distal consequence had less impact on participants' admission decisions when it was uncertain and temporally remote. These results provide evidence that the perceived uncertainty and temporal distance of future punishment are key factors that lead suspects to confess to crimes in exchange for short-term gains.

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'We'll Take It from Here': The Effect of Changing Interviewers in Information Gathering Interviews

Dominic Shaw et al.
Applied Cognitive Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
A common strategy in interviewing is to repeatedly focus on the same topics, for example by asking to recall an event first in chronological order and then in reverse order. We examined the effect of changing interviewers between the two questions or keeping the same interviewers throughout on cues to deception. Truth tellers may be most encouraged to recall again what they have witnessed when confronted with new interviewers, as these new interviewers have not heard their story before. Liars may be most encouraged to recall again their story when confronted with the same interviewers, realising that these interviewers will check for consistency in their answers. The impact of changing interviewers should lead to more pronounced differences between truth tellers and liars in terms of detail and repetition in the 'Changed Interviewers' condition compared with the 'Same Interviewers' condition. Participants were interviewed by two interviewers about a mock security meeting they attended. In half the interviews, the same two interviewers remained throughout, and in the other half, two new interviewers took over half-way through. As predicted, differences between truth tellers and liars in terms of detail and repetition were most pronounced in the 'Changed Interviewers' condition. Changing interviewers during an interview effectively differentiates liars and truth tellers with respect to detail and repetition. We discuss this finding and its place within investigative interviewing and deception detection literature.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Head of household

The Relationship Between Authoritarianism and Life Satisfaction Changes Depending on Stigmatized Status

Mark Brandt, P.J. Henry & Geoffrey Wetherell
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract:

Members of stigmatized social groups are typically more authoritarian than their nonstigmatized or higher status counterparts. We draw on research demonstrating that authoritarianism compensates for the negative effects of stigma to predict that this endorsement will be more psychologically beneficial (and less harmful) for the stigmatized compared to their high-status counterparts. Consistent with this idea, data from the 2008 (N = 2,322) and 2012 (N = 5,916) American National Election Study indicate that for members of stigmatized social groups (low income, low education, and ethnic minority), authoritarian child rearing values have more positive psychological effects than for members of high-status groups. These results were robust to covariates, including demographics, religiosity, political ideology, and cognitive style.

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Maternal Education and the Unequal Significance of Family Structure for Children's Early Achievement

Jennifer March Augustine
Social Forces, forthcoming

Abstract:
The diverging destiny of US children is a modern-day phenomenon driven, in part, by the rise in women's education and its connection to patterns in women's union formation. In short, more educated mothers are more likely to be in stably married families, whereas less educated mothers are more likely to be in unmarried-parent families, because of either a nonmarital birth or a union dissolution, or remarried ones. This connection between education and family structure means that children of less educated mothers are often raised in homes with fewer resources to promote their well-being than children of more educated mothers. In this study, I argue that these patterns in women's education and family structure have implications for children's diverging destinies that also play out in a more subtle way. Specifically, unmarried or disrupted family structures will result in lower-quality parenting for less educated mothers than for more educated mothers in the same family types, producing greater negative consequences for the achievement trajectories of their children. The results of this study, based on data from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (n = 1308) and a longitudinal moderated path model, provide support for this argument. In fact, I find that family structure had no connection to the parenting of more educated mothers, or to their children's achievement. These findings provide novel insight into the advantages that maternal education confers to children, beyond the various well-documented demographic and economic correlates that are accounted for in the study.

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The Happiness of Single Mothers: Evidence from the General Social Survey

John Ifcher & Homa Zarghamee
Journal of Happiness Studies, October 2014, Pages 1219-1238

Abstract:
A vast “single mothers’ well-being” literature exists but has not studied single mothers’ subjective well-being (SWB). This shortcoming is important since it has been shown that there are potentially large slippages between economic indicators and SWB. Using repeated cross-sectional data from the General Social Survey 1972–2008, we examine single mothers’ happiness in the US both in absolute terms and relative to other groups: all respondents who are not single mothers, all female respondents who are not single mothers, single childless women, and married mothers. In levels, we find a significant single-mother happiness deficit compared to other groups. This deficit is explained by being single, with the happiness of single mothers statistically indistinguishable from single women without children. Over time, however, the deficit has shrunk relative to all other groups except married mothers. We discuss possible explanations for our findings, including: changes to social welfare programs, increased labor force participation, compositional shifts in single motherhood, and stigma. Our findings are most consistent with compositional shifts and changes in the stigma associated with being a single mother.

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Do childhood experiences of neglect affect delinquency among child welfare involved-youth?

Susan Snyder & Darcey Merritt
Children and Youth Services Review, November 2014, Pages 64–71

Abstract:
Child neglect, which is the most common form of maltreatment in the United States, has been repeatedly linked to an increased risk of delinquency. However, the existing literature lacks studies that simultaneously investigate how distinct types of neglect differentially influence delinquency among child welfare involved-youth. In addition, few studies of the relationship between neglect and delinquency include measures of ADHD, peer deviance or community violence, even though these variables have been strongly associated with delinquency. This study uses data from 784 11 to 17 year old youth who participated in Wave I of the Second National Survey of Child and Adolescent Wellbeing (NSCAW II) to examine whether supervisory neglect, physical neglect and parental substance abuse affect delinquency after controlling for ADHD, peer deviance, exposure to community violence, and out-of-home placements. We conducted a negative binomial regression to account for the low rates of delinquency among NSCAW II participants. We did not find significant main effects for supervisory neglect, physical neglect or parental substance abuse. Our study found that as youth age the count of delinquency acts increases. Black and Hispanic youth had higher counts of delinquency than youth with White, multi-racial, or “other” racial identities. Youth in out-of-home care had nearly double the rate of delinquency. Youth with more deviant peer affiliations and youth who had been exposed to community violence engaged in more delinquent behaviors. Our findings underscore the importance of the environment surrounding the youth, and the peers with whom the youth affiliates.

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Are infants differentially sensitive to parenting? Early maternal care, DRD4 genotype and externalizing behavior during adolescence

Jörg Nikitopoulos et al.
Journal of Psychiatric Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Insensitive and unresponsive caregiving during infancy has been linked to externalizing behavior problems during childhood and adolescence. The 7-repeat (7r) allele of the dopamine D4 receptor (DRD4) gene has meta-analytically been associated with a heightened susceptibility to adverse as well as supportive environments. In the present study, we examined long-term effects of early maternal care, DRD4 genotype and the interaction thereof on externalizing and internalizing psychopathology during adolescence. As part of an ongoing epidemiological cohort study, early maternal care was assessed at child's age 3 months during a nursing and playing situation. In a sample of 296 offspring, externalizing and internalizing symptoms were assessed using a psychiatric interview conducted at age 15 years. Parents additionally filled out a questionnaire on their children's psychopathic behaviors. Results indicated that adolescents with the DRD4 7r allele who experienced less responsive and stimulating early maternal care exhibited more symptoms of ADHD and CD/ODD as well as higher levels of psychopathic behavior. In accordance with the hypothesis of differential susceptibility, 7r allele carriers showed fewer ADHD symptoms and lower levels of psychopathic behavior when exposed to especially beneficial early caregiving. In contrast, individuals without the DRD4 7r allele proved to be insensitive to the effects of early maternal care. This study replicates earlier findings with regard to an interaction between DRD4 genotype and early caregiving on externalizing behavior problems in preschoolers. It is the first one to imply continuity of this effect until adolescence.

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Associations Between Family Structure Change and Child Behavior Problems: The Moderating Effect of Family Income

Rebecca Ryan, Amy Claessens & Anna Markowitz
Child Development, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study investigated conditions under which family structure matters most for child well-being. Using data from the Children of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (n = 3,936), a national sample of U.S. families, it was estimated how changes in family structure related to changes in children's behavior between age 3 and 12 separately by household income level to determine whether associations depended on families' resources. Early changes in family structure, particularly from a two-biological-parent to single-parent family, predicted increases in behavior problems more than later changes, and movements into single and stepparent families mattered more for children of higher versus lower income parents. Results suggest that for children of higher income parents, moving into a stepfamily may improve, not undermine, behavior.

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Maternal Buffering of Human Amygdala-Prefrontal Circuitry During Childhood but Not During Adolescence

Dylan Gee et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Mature amygdala-prefrontal circuitry regulates affect in adulthood but shows protracted development. In altricial and semialtricial species, caregivers provide potent affect regulation when mature neurocircuitry is absent. The present investigation examined a potential mechanism through which caregivers provide regulatory influences in childhood. Children, but not adolescents, showed evidence of maternal buffering, such that maternal stimuli suppressed amygdala reactivity. In the absence of maternal stimuli, children exhibited immature amygdala-prefrontal connectivity. However, in the presence of maternal stimuli, children’s connectivity was more mature, resembling adolescents’ connectivity. Children showed improved affect-related regulation in the presence of their mothers. Individual differences emerged, with greater maternal influence on amygdala-prefrontal circuitry associated with stronger mother-child relationships and maternal modulation of behavioral regulation. These findings suggest a neural mechanism through which caregivers modulate children’s regulatory behavior by inducing more mature connectivity and buffering against heightened reactivity. Maternal buffering in childhood, but not adolescence, suggests that childhood may be a sensitive period for amygdala-prefrontal development.

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Female face preference in 4-month-olds: The importance of hairline

Anne Hillairet de Boisferon et al.
Infant Behavior and Development, November 2014, Pages 676–681

Abstract:
At 3–4 months of age, infants respond to gender information in human faces. Specifically, young infants display a visual preference toward female over male faces. In three experiments, using a visual preference task, we investigated the role of hairline information in this bias. In Experiment 1, we presented male and female composite faces with similar hairstyles to 4-month-olds and observed a preference for female faces. In Experiment 2, the faces were presented, but in this instance, without hairline cues, and the preference was eliminated. In Experiment 3, using the same cropping to eliminate hairline cues, but with feminized female faces and masculinized male faces, infants’ preference toward female faces was still not in evidence. The findings show that hairline information is important in young infants’ preferential orientation toward female faces.

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Neoliberal Mothering and Vaccine Refusal: Imagined Gated Communities and the Privilege of Choice

Jennifer Reich
Gender & Society, October 2014, Pages 679-704

Abstract:
Neoliberal cultural frames of individual choice inform mothers’ accounts of why they refuse state-mandated vaccines for their children. Using interviews with 25 mothers who reject recommended vaccines, this article examines the gendered discourse of vaccine refusal. First, I show how mothers, seeing themselves as experts on their children, weigh perceived risks of infection against those of vaccines and dismiss claims that vaccines are necessary. Second, I explicate how mothers see their own intensive mothering practices — particularly around feeding, nutrition, and natural living — as an alternate and superior means of supporting their children’s immunity. Third, I show how they attempt to control risk through management of social exposure, as they envision disease risk to lie in “foreign” bodies outside their networks, and, therefore, individually manageable. Finally, I examine how these mothers focus solely on their own children by evaluating — and often rejecting — assertions that their choices undermine community health, while ignoring how their children benefit from the immunity of others. By analyzing the gendered discourse of vaccines, this article identifies how women’s insistence on individual maternal choice as evidence of commitment to their children draws on and replicates structural inequality in ways that remain invisible, but affect others.

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Child care instability from 6 to 36 months and the social adjustment of children in prekindergarten

Mary Bratsch-Hines et al.
Early Childhood Research Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract:
Most children in the United States experience nonparental child care during early childhood, and many children experience changes in their care during this period. Changes in care, or child care instability, have been argued to disrupt children's emerging relationships with others and may impede children's social-emotional development, particularly when changes occur during infancy and toddlerhood. Data for this study were drawn from the Family Life Project, a longitudinal study representative of families living in rural low-wealth areas. With a sample of 1292 children who were followed from six months to prekindergarten, this study examined the associations between cumulative child provider instability (measured as overall changes or changes across or within settings) from 6 to 36 months and children's social adjustment at prekindergarten. A number of factors were included to control for family selection into child care. Results suggested that more overall child care provider instability was negatively associated with teacher ratings of social adjustment at prekindergarten. This association was driven by provider instability across but not within settings, though effect sizes were small. These findings point to an increased need to understand how early child care instability may be related to children's subsequent development.

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Work Hours, Schedules, and Insufficient Sleep Among Mothers and Their Young Children

Ariel Kalil et al.
Journal of Marriage and Family, October 2014, Pages 891–904

Abstract:
Studies have linked parents' employment, work hours, and work schedules to their own sleep quality and quantity, but it is unclear whether these associations extend to children. The authors used data from the 5-year in-home survey of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (N = 1,818) to examine the associations between maternal work hours and schedule and insufficient sleep among disadvantaged mothers and their young children. They found that mothers who worked more than 35 hours per week were more likely to experience insufficient sleep compared to mothers who worked fewer hours, whereas children were more likely to experience insufficient sleep when their mothers worked between 20 and 40 hours. Nonstandard work schedules were associated with an increased likelihood of insufficient sleep for mothers but not their children. The results highlight a potentially difficult balance between work and family for many disadvantaged working mothers in the United States.

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Can babies learn to read? A randomized trial of baby media

Susan Neuman et al.
Journal of Educational Psychology, August 2014, Pages 815-830

Abstract:
Targeted to children as young as 3 months old, there is a growing number of baby media products that claim to teach babies to read. This randomized controlled trial was designed to examine this claim by investigating the effects of a best-selling baby media product on reading development. One hundred and seventeen infants, ages 9 to 18 months, were randomly assigned to treatment and control groups. Children in the treatment condition received the baby media product, which included DVDs, word and picture flashcards, and word books to be used daily over a 7-month period; children in the control condition, business as usual. Examining a 4-phase developmental model of reading, we examined both precursor skills (such as letter name, letter sound knowledge, print awareness, and decoding) and conventional reading (vocabulary and comprehension) using a series of eye-tracking tasks and standardized measures. Results indicated that babies did not learn to read using baby media, despite some parents displaying great confidence in the program’s effectiveness.

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Single Parents, Unhappy Parents? Parenthood, Partnership, and the Cultural Normative Context

Olga Stavrova & Detlef Fetchenhauer
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Although the question of whether parenthood is generally beneficial for well-being is currently being hotly debated in the social sciences, single parents are nearly unanimously assumed to be worse off than their partnered counterparts. The present research questions this finding by demonstrating that whether single parents are actually less happy than partnered parents depends on a country’s cultural norms regarding childbearing practices. Using two large-scale international data sets (the European Values Study [EVS] and the European Social Survey [ESS]) covering altogether 43 countries, we show that only in collectivist countries and countries with a strong two-parent family norm did parenthood negatively affect the life satisfaction and the emotional well-being of single but not partnered (married or cohabiting) individuals. Most notably, the detrimental effect of a country’s social norm of a two-parent family existed even among single parents who did not share this norm themselves.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM


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