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Thursday, May 29, 2014

On drugs

The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on Marijuana, Alcohol, and Hard Drug Use

Hefei Wen, Jason Hockenberry & Janet Cummings
NBER Working Paper, May 2014

Abstract:
21 states and the District of Columbia currently have laws that permit marijuana use for medical purposes, often termed medical marijuana laws (MMLs). We tested the effects of MMLs adopted in seven states between 2004 and 2011 on adolescent and adult marijuana, alcohol, and hard drug use. We employed a restricted-access version of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) micro-level data with geographic identifiers. For those 21 and older, we found that MMLs led to a relative increase in the probability of marijuana use of 16 percent, an increase in marijuana use frequency of 12-17 percent, and an increase in the probability of marijuana abuse/dependence of 15-27 percent. For those 12-20 years old, we found a relative increase in marijuana use initiation of 5-6 percent. Among those aged 21 or above, MMLs increased the frequency of binge drinking by 6-9 percent, but MMLs did not affect drinking behavior among those 12-20 years old. MMLs had no discernible impact on hard drug use in either age group. Taken together, MML implementation increases marijuana use mainly among those over 21, where there is also a spillover effect of increased binge drinking, but there is no evidence of spillovers to other substance use.

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The Dow is Killing Me: Risky Health Behaviors and the Stock Market

Chad Cotti, Richard Dunn & Nathan Tefft
Health Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
We investigate how risky health behaviors and self-reported health vary with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) and during stock market crashes. Because stock market indices are leading indicators of economic performance, this research contributes to our understanding of the macroeconomic determinants of health. Existing studies typically rely on the unemployment rate to proxy for economic performance, but this measure captures only one of many channels through which the economic environment may influence individual health decisions. We find that large, negative monthly DJIA returns, decreases in the level of the DJIA, and stock market crashes are widely associated with worsening self-reported mental health and more cigarette smoking, binge drinking, and fatal car accidents involving alcohol. These results are consistent with predictions from rational addiction models and have implications for research on the association between consumption and stock prices.

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Life Stress in Adolescence Predicts Early Adult Reward-related Brain Function and Alcohol Dependence

Melynda Casement et al.
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, forthcoming

Abstract:
Stressful life events increase vulnerability to problematic alcohol use, and they may do this by disrupting reward-related neural circuitry. This is particularly relevant for adolescents because alcohol use rises sharply after mid-adolescence and alcohol abuse peaks at age 20. Adolescents also report more stressors compared to children, and neural reward circuitry may be especially vulnerable to stressors during adolescence due to prefrontal cortex remodeling. Using a large sample of male participants in a longitudinal fMRI study (N = 157), we evaluated whether cumulative stressful life events between the ages of 15 and 18 were associated with reward-related brain function and problematic alcohol use at age 20. Higher cumulative stressful life events during adolescence were associated with decreased response in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) during monetary reward anticipation and following the receipt of monetary rewards. Stress-related decreases in mPFC response during reward anticipation and following rewarding outcomes were associated with the severity of alcohol dependence. Furthermore, mPFC response mediated the association between stressful life events and later symptoms of alcohol dependence. These data are consistent with neurobiological models of addiction that propose that stressors during adolescence increase risk for problematic alcohol use by disrupting reward circuit function.

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Cannabis use and violence: Is there a link?

Thor Norström & Ingeborg Rossow
Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, June 2014, Pages 358-363

Background: While several studies suggest that cannabis users are at increased risk of interpersonal violence, it is not clear to what extent the association is causal. Our paper aims to assess the association between cannabis use and violence by using a method that diminishes the risk of confounding.

Methods: We analysed data on cannabis use and violent behaviour from the second (1994) and third (1999) waves of the Young in Norway Longitudinal Study (cumulative response rate: 68.1%, n = 2681). We applied fixed-effects modelling to estimate the association between these behaviours, implying that changes in the frequency of violence were regressed on changes in the frequency of cannabis use. The effects of time-invariant confounders were hence eliminated. In addition, we included two time-varying covariates.

Results: The elasticity estimate implies that a 10% increase in cannabis use frequency is associated with a 0.4% increase in frequency of violence (p=.024).

Conclusions: Analyses of panel data on Norwegian youths reveals a statistically significant association between cannabis use and violence.

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Is Smoking Inferior? Evidence from Variation in the Earned Income Tax Credit

Donald Kenkel, Maximilian Schmeiser & Carly Urban
NBER Working Paper, May 2014

Abstract:
In this paper we estimate the causal income elasticity of smoking participation, cessation, and cigarette demand conditional upon participation. Using an instrumental variables (IV) estimation strategy we find that smoking appears to be a normal good among low-income adults: higher instrumented income is associated with an increase in the number of cigarettes consumed and a decrease in smoking cessation. The magnitude and direction of the changes in the income coefficients from our OLS to IV estimates are consistent with the hypothesis that correlational estimates between income and smoking related outcomes are biased by unobservable characteristics that differentiate higher income smokers from lower income smokers.

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Temporal trends in marijuana attitudes, availability and use in Colorado compared to non-medical marijuana states: 2003-2011

Joseph Schuermeyer et al.
Drug and Alcohol Dependence, forthcoming

Background: In 2009, policy changes were accompanied by a rapid increase in the number of medical marijuana cardholders in Colorado. Little published epidemiological work has tracked changes in the state around this time.

Methods: Using the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, we tested for temporal changes in marijuana attitudes and marijuana-use-related outcomes in Colorado (2003-2011) and differences within-year between Colorado and thirty-four non-medical-marijuana states (NMMS). Using regression analyses, we further tested whether patterns seen in Colorado prior to (2006-8) and during (2009-11) marijuana commercialization differed from patterns in NMMS while controlling for demographics.

Results: Within Colorado those reporting “great-risk” to using marijuana 1-2 times/week dropped significantly in all age groups studied between 2007-8 and 2010-11 (e.g. from 45% to 31% among those 26 years and older; p = 0.0006). By 2010-11 past-year marijuana abuse/dependence had become more prevalent in Colorado for 12-17 year olds (5% in Colorado, 3% in NMMS; p = 0.03) and 18-25 year olds (9% vs. 5%; p = 0.02). Regressions demonstrated significantly greater reductions in perceived risk (12-17 year olds, p = 0.005; those 26 years and older, p = 0.01), and trend for difference in changes in availability among those 26 years and older and marijuana abuse/dependence among 12-17 year olds in Colorado compared to NMMS in more recent years (2009-11 vs. 2006-8).

Conclusions: Our results show that commercialization of marijuana in Colorado has been associated with lower risk perception. Evidence is suggestive for marijuana abuse/dependence. Analyses including subsequent years 2012+ once available, will help determine whether such changes represent momentary vs. sustained effects.

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The Changing Face of Heroin Use in the United States: A Retrospective Analysis of the Past 50 Years

Theodore Cicero et al.
JAMA Psychiatry, forthcoming

Design, Setting, and Participants: Using a mixed-methods approach, we analyzed (1) data from an ongoing study that uses structured, self-administered surveys to gather retrospective data on past drug use patterns among patients entering substance abuse treatment programs across the country who received a primary (DSM-IV) diagnosis of heroin use/dependence (n = 2797) and (2) data from unstructured qualitative interviews with a subset of patients (n = 54) who completed the structured interview.

Main Outcomes and Measures: In addition to data on population demographics and current residential location, we used cross-tabulations to assess prevalence rates as a function of the decade of the initiation of abuse for (1) first opioid used (prescription opioid or heroin), (2) sex, (3) race/ethnicity, and (4) age at first use. Respondents indicated in an open-ended format why they chose heroin as their primary drug and the interrelationship between their use of heroin and their use of prescription opioids.

Results: Approximately 85% of treatment-seeking patients approached to complete the Survey of Key Informants’ Patients Program did so. Respondents who began using heroin in the 1960s were predominantly young men (82.8%; mean age, 16.5 years) whose first opioid of abuse was heroin (80%). However, more recent users were older (mean age, 22.9 years) men and women living in less urban areas (75.2%) who were introduced to opioids through prescription drugs (75.0%). Whites and nonwhites were equally represented in those initiating use prior to the 1980s, but nearly 90% of respondents who began use in the last decade were white. Although the “high” produced by heroin was described as a significant factor in its selection, it was often used because it was more readily accessible and much less expensive than prescription opioids.

Conclusion and Relevance: Our data show that the demographic composition of heroin users entering treatment has shifted over the last 50 years such that heroin use has changed from an inner-city, minority-centered problem to one that has a more widespread geographical distribution, involving primarily white men and women in their late 20s living outside of large urban areas.

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Portrayal of Alcohol Consumption in Movies and Drinking Initiation in Low-Risk Adolescents

Reiner Hanewinkel et al.
Pediatrics, forthcoming

Objectives: To investigate the hypothesis that exposure to alcohol consumption in movies affects the likelihood that low-risk adolescents will start to drink alcohol.

Methods: Longitudinal study of 2346 adolescent never drinkers who also reported at baseline intent to not to do so in the next 12 months (mean age 12.9 years, SD = 1.08). Recruitment was carried out in 2009 and 2010 in 112 state-funded schools in Germany, Iceland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, and Scotland. Exposure to movie alcohol consumption was estimated from 250 top-grossing movies in each country in the years 2004 to 2009. Multilevel mixed-effects Poisson regressions assessed the relationship between baseline exposure to movie alcohol consumption and initiation of trying alcohol, and binge drinking (≥ 5 consecutive drinks) at follow-up.

Results: Overall, 40% of the sample initiated alcohol use and 6% initiated binge drinking by follow-up. Estimated mean exposure to movie alcohol consumption was 3653 (SD = 2448) occurrences. After age, gender, family affluence, school performance, TV screen time, personality characteristics, and drinking behavior of peers, parents, and siblings were controlled for, exposure to each additional 1000 movie alcohol occurrences was significantly associated with increased relative risk for trying alcohol, incidence rate ratio = 1.05 (95% confidence interval, 1.02–1.08; P = .003), and for binge drinking, incidence rate ratio = 1.13 (95% confidence interval, 1.06–1.20; P < .001).

Conclusions: Seeing alcohol depictions in movies is an independent predictor of drinking initiation, particularly for more risky patterns of drinking. This result was shown in a heterogeneous sample of European youths who had a low affinity for drinking alcohol at the time of exposure.

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The Effect of Positive and Negative Movie Alcohol Portrayals on Transportation and Attitude Toward the Movie

Renske Koordeman, Doeschka Anschutz & Rutger Engels
Alcoholism, forthcoming

Background: This study examined the effects of alcohol portrayals on transportation and attitude toward a movie. In addition, we examined whether positive and negative movie alcohol portrayals affect transportation into and attitude toward the movie.

Methods: A within-subject design was used in which participants were exposed to 8 different movie clips containing alcohol (positive or negative context) or no alcohol portrayals in a controlled laboratory setting. A total of 159 college students (84 males and 75 females) ages 18 to 30 participated in the experiment. Transportation and attitude toward the movie were measured after each movie clip.

Results: Participants were more transported into and had a more positive attitude toward movie clips with alcohol portrayals compared to the same movie clips with no alcohol portrayal. In addition, participants were more transported into movie clips with negative alcohol (NA) portrayals compared to clips with positive alcohol (PA) portrayals. For attitude toward the movie, opposite results were found. Participants had a more positive attitudes toward clips with PA portrayals compared to clips with NA portrayals.

Conclusions: The way alcohol is portrayed in movies may contribute to how people evaluate and get transported in movies.

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Tobacco use vs. helminths in Congo basin hunter-gatherers: Self-medication in humans?

Casey Roulette et al.
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
We tested a novel hypothesis that recreational use of neurotoxic plants helps defend against parasites. Specifically, we investigated the relationship between smoking and helminthiasis among the Aka, a remote population of Central African foragers who are avid tobacco smokers, suffer high rates of helminthiasis, and have little-to-no access to commercial anthelmintics. Two hundred and six healthy Aka men provided saliva and stool samples. Saliva samples were assayed for cotinine, a nicotine metabolite; a subsample was genotyped for the CYP2A6 enzyme, which metabolizes nicotine. Stool samples were assayed for intestinal helminth eggs as an index of worm burden. After 1 year, a subsample of participants was located and provided additional saliva and stool samples. We found (1) an exceptionally high prevalence of tobacco use, (2) a strong negative correlation between cotinine (a nicotine metabolite) and worm burden, (3) that treating helminths with albendazole, a commercial anthelmintic, reduced cotinine concentration two weeks later, compared to placebo controls, (4) among treated participants, higher cotinine concentrations in year 1 predicted less reinfection by year 2, and (5) younger and older participants with slow nicotine-metabolizing CYP2A6 alleles had lower worm burdens compared to those with extensive metabolizing alleles. These results provide the first evidence of a link between helminthiasis and smoking. They also suggest that, in populations where intestinal helminths are endemic, tobacco use might protect against helminth infection and reduce worm burden among infected individuals, and that individuals modulate nicotine exposure in response to infection. The results thus support the hypothesis that substance use helps defend against parasites.

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With a Little Help from My Friends? Asymmetrical Social Influence on Adolescent Smoking Initiation and Cessation

Steven Haas & David Schaefer
Journal of Health and Social Behavior, June 2014, Pages 126-143

Abstract:
This study investigates whether peer influence on smoking among adolescents is asymmetrical. We hypothesize that several features of smoking lead peers to have a stronger effect on smoking initiation than cessation. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health we estimate a dynamic network model that includes separate effects for increases versus decreases in smoking, while also controlling for endogenous network change. We find that the impact of peer influence is stronger for the initiation of smoking than smoking cessation. Adolescents rarely initiate smoking without peer influence but will cease smoking while their friends continue smoking. We discuss the implications of these results for theories of peer influence and health policy.

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Effect of Prenatal Exposure to Tobacco Smoke on Inhibitory Control: Neuroimaging Results From a 25-Year Prospective Study

Nathalie Holz et al.
JAMA Psychiatry, forthcoming

Objective: To clarify the influence of maternal smoking during pregnancy (hereafter referred to as prenatal smoking) on the neural circuitry of response inhibition and its association with related behavioral phenotypes such as ADHD and novelty seeking in the mother’s offspring.

Design, Setting, and Participants: Functional magnetic resonance imaging was performed for the offspring at 25 years of age during a modified Eriksen flanker/NoGo task, and voxel-based morphometry was performed to study brain volume differences of the offspring. Prenatal smoking (1-5 cigarettes per day [14 mothers] or >5 cigarettes per day [24 mothers]) and lifetime ADHD symptoms were determined using standardized parent interviews at the offspring’s age of 3 months and over a period of 13 years (from 2 to 15 years of age), respectively. Novelty seeking was assessed at 19 years of age. Analyses were adjusted for sex, parental postnatal smoking, psychosocial and obstetric adversity, maternal prenatal stress, and lifetime substance abuse. A total of 178 young adults (73 males) without current psychopathology from a community sample followed since birth (Mannheim, Germany) participated in the study.

Results: Participants prenatally exposed to nicotine exhibited a weaker response in the anterior cingulate cortex (t168 = 4.46; peak Montreal Neurological Institute [MNI] coordinates x = −2, y = 20, z = 30; familywise error [FWE]–corrected P = .003), the right inferior frontal gyrus (t168 = 3.65; peak MNI coordinates x = 44, y = 38, z = 12; FWE-corrected P = .04), the left inferior frontal gyrus (t168 = 4.09; peak MNI coordinates x = −38, y = 36, z = 8; FWE-corrected P = .009), and the supramarginal gyrus (t168 = 5.03; peak MNI coordinates x = 64, y = −28, z = 22; FWE-corrected P = .02) during the processing of the NoGo compared to neutral stimuli, while presenting a decreased volume in the right inferior frontal gyrus. These findings were obtained irrespective of the adjustment of confounders, ADHD symptoms, and novelty seeking. There was an inverse relationship between inferior frontal gyrus activity and ADHD symptoms and between anterior cingulate cortex activity and novelty seeking.

Conclusions and Relevance: These findings point to a functional involvement of prenatal exposure to tobacco smoke in neural alterations similar to ADHD, which underlines the importance of smoking prevention treatments.

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Smoking Bans, Maternal Smoking and Birth Outcomes

Prashant Bharadwaj, Julian Johnsen & Katrine Løken
Journal of Public Economics, July 2014, Pages 72–93

Abstract:
An important externality of smoking is the harm it might cause to those who do not smoke. This paper examines the impact on birth outcomes of children of female workers who are affected by smoking bans in the workplace. Analyzing a 2004 law change in Norway that extended smoking restrictions to bars and restaurants, we find that children of female workers in restaurants and bars born after the law change saw significantly lower rates of being born below the very low birth weight (VLBW) threshold and were less likely to be born pre-term. We do not find an effect of the ban along other birth outcomes like APGAR scores and birth defects. Using detailed data on smoking status during pregnancy we find that most of the health benefits come from changes in smoking behavior of the mother. Using individual tax data, we find that the law change did not result in changes in earnings or employment opportunities for those affected, suggesting that the effects seen are likely a direct result of changes in smoke exposure in utero.

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Understanding the links between education and smoking

Vida Maralani
Social Science Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study extends the theoretical and empirical literature on the relationship between education and smoking by focusing on the life course links between experiences from adolescence and health outcomes in adulthood. Differences in smoking by completed education are apparent at ages 12 to 18, long before that education is acquired. I use characteristics from the teenage years, including social networks, future expectations, and school experiences measured before the start of smoking regularly to predict smoking in adulthood. Results show that school policies, peers, and youths’ mortality expectations predict smoking in adulthood but that college aspirations and analytical skills do not. I also show that smoking status at age 16 predicts both completed education and adult smoking, controlling for an extensive set of covariates. Overall, educational inequalities in smoking are better understood as a bundling of advantageous statuses that develops in childhood, rather than the effect of education producing better health.

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Trends in drug use among drivers killed in U.S. traffic crashes, 1999–2010

Toni Rudisill et al.
Accident Analysis & Prevention, September 2014, Pages 178–187

Objective: Driving under the influence of drugs is a global traffic safety and public health concern. This trend analysis examines the changes in general drug usage other than alcohol, broad categories, and typical prescription and illegal drugs among drivers fatally injured in motor vehicle crashes from 1999 to 2010 in the U.S.

Methods: Data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System were analyzed from 1999 to 2010. Drug prevalence rates and prevalence ratios (PR) were determined comparing rates in 2009–2010 to 1999–2000 using a random effects model. Changes in general drug usage, broad categories, and representative prescription and illegal drugs including, methadone, oxycodone, hydrocodone, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and cocaine, were explored.

Results: Comparing 2009–2010 to 1999–2000, prevalence of drug usage increased 49% (PR = 1.49; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.42, 1.55). The largest increases in broad drug categories were narcotics (PR = 2.73; 95% CI 2.41, 3.08), depressants (PR = 2.01; 95% CI 1.80, 2.25), and cannabinoids (PR = 1.99; 95% CI 1.84, 2.16). The PR were 6.37 (95% CI 5.07, 8.02) for hydrocodone/oxycodone, 4.29 (95% CI 2.88, 6.37) for methadone, and 2.27 (95% CI 2.00, 2.58) for benzodiazepines. Barbiturates declined in rate over the 12-year period (PR = 0.53; 95% CI 0.37, 0.75). Cocaine use increased until 2005 then progressively declined, though the rate remained relatively unchanged (PR = 0.94; 95% CI 0.84, 1.06).

Conclusions: While more drivers are being tested and found drug-positive, there is evidence that a shift from illegal to prescription drugs may be occurring among fatally injured drivers in the U.S. Driving under the influence of prescription drugs is a growing traffic concern.

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Trends in fatal motor vehicle crashes before and after marijuana commercialization in Colorado

Stacy Salomonsen-Sautel et al.
Drug and Alcohol Dependence, forthcoming

Background: Legal medical marijuana has been commercially available on a widespread basis in Colorado since mid-2009; however, there is a dearth of information about the impact of marijuana commercialization on impaired driving. This study examined if the proportions of drivers in a fatal motor vehicle crash who were marijuana-positive and alcohol-impaired, respectively, have changed in Colorado before and after mid-2009 and then compared changes in Colorado with 34 non-medical marijuana states (NMMS).

Methods: Thirty-six 6-month intervals (1994–2011) from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System were used to examine temporal changes in the proportions of drivers in a fatal motor vehicle crash who were alcohol-impaired (≥ 0.08 g/dl) and marijuana-positive, respectively. The pre-commercial marijuana time period in Colorado was defined as 1994–June 2009 while July 2009–2011 represented the post-commercialization period.

Results: In Colorado, since mid-2009 when medical marijuana became commercially available and prevalent, the trend became positive in the proportion of drivers in a fatal motor vehicle crash who were marijuana-positive (change in trend, 2.16 (0.45), p < 0.0001); in contrast, no significant changes were seen in NMMS. For both Colorado and NMMS, no significant changes were seen in the proportion of drivers in a fatal motor vehicle crash who were alcohol-impaired.

Conclusions: Prevention efforts and policy changes in Colorado are needed to address this concerning trend in marijuana-positive drivers. In addition, education on the risks of marijuana-positive driving needs to be implemented.

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The effects of social and health consequence framing on heavy drinking intentions among college students

John Kingsbury, Frederick Gibbons & Meg Gerrard
British Journal of Health Psychology, forthcoming

Objectives: Many interventions targeting college student drinking have focused on negative health effects of drinking heavily; however, some research suggests that social factors may have a stronger influence on the drinking behaviour of young people. Moreover, few studies have examined message framing effects in the context of alcohol consumption. This study investigated the effects of social and health consequence framing on college students' intentions to engage in heavy drinking.

Methods: One hundred and twenty-four college students (74 women; Mage = 18.9) participated in this study for course credit. Participants read vignettes that were ostensibly written by a recent graduate from the university, who described an episode of drinking in which he or she experienced either social or health consequences. These consequences were framed as either a gain (i.e., positive consequences of not drinking heavily) or a loss (i.e., negative consequences of drinking heavily). After reading the vignette, participants completed a measure of heavy drinking intentions.

Results: Regression analyses revealed that social consequences were associated with lower heavy drinking intentions when framed as a loss and that health consequences were associated with lower heavy drinking intentions when framed as a gain. These effects were stronger among those who reported higher (vs. lower) levels of previous drinking.

Conclusions: Results suggest that interventions that focus on the negative health effects of heavy drinking may be improved by instead emphasizing the negative social consequences of drinking heavily and the positive health consequences of avoiding this behaviour.

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Prenatal Drug Exposure, Behavioral Problems, and Drug Experimentation Among African-American Urban Adolescents

Yan Wang et al.
Journal of Adolescent Health, forthcoming

Purpose: To examine how prenatal drug exposure (PDE) to heroin/cocaine and behavioral problems relate to adolescent drug experimentation.

Methods: The sample included African-American adolescents (mean age = 14.2 years, SD = 1.2) with PDE (n = 73) and a nonexposed community comparison (n = 61). PDE status was determined at delivery through toxicology analysis and maternal report. Internalizing/externalizing problems were assessed during adolescence with the Behavior Assessment System for Children, Second Edition. Drug experimentation was assessed by adolescent report and urine analysis. Logistic regression evaluated the likelihood of drug experimentation related to PDE and behavioral problems, adjusting for age, gender, PDE, perceived peer drug use, and caregiver drug use. Interaction terms examined gender modification.

Results: Sixty-seven subjects (50%) used drugs: 25 (19%) used tobacco/alcohol only and 42 (31%) used marijuana/illegal drugs. Ninety-four subjects (70%) perceived peer drug use. PDE significantly increased the risk of tobacco/alcohol experimentation (odds ratio = 3.07, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.09–8.66, p = .034) but not after covariate adjustment (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 1.16, 95% CI .31–4.33, p > .05). PDE was not related to the overall or marijuana/illegal drug experimentation. The likelihood of overall drug experimentation was doubled per SD increase in externalizing problems (aOR = 2.28, 95% CI 1.33–3.91, p = .003) and, among girls, 2.82 times greater (aOR = 2.82, 95% CI 1.34–5.94, p = .006) per SD increase in internalizing problems. Age and perceived peer drug use were significant covariates.

Conclusions: Drug experimentation was relatively common (50%), especially in the context of externalizing problems, internalizing problems (girls only), older age, and perceived peer drug use. Findings support the Problem Behavior Theory and suggest that adolescent drug prevention addresses behavioral problems and promotes prosocial peer groups.

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Self-Reported Lifetime Marijuana Use and Interleukin-6 Levels In Middle-Aged African Americans

Larry Keen, Deidre Pereira & William Latimer
Drug and Alcohol Dependence, forthcoming

Background: Research examining the relationship between marijuana and cytokine function has been well developed in the biochemical literature. However, scant literature exists regarding this relationship between inflammatory markers and marijuana use in public health or behavioral studies and is virtually nonexistent in non-neurologically compromised African American samples.

Methods. The current study examined the differences in serum interleukin-6 (IL-6), a proinflammatory cytokine, between non-drug users (n = 78), marijuana only users (n = 46) and marijuana plus other drugs users (n = 45) in a community-based sample of middle aged, African Americans. Participants included 169 African American adults (50.30% female), with a mean age of 45.68 years (SD = 11.72 years) from the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Serum was drawn upon entry into the study and the participants completed a demographic questionnaire, which included questions regarding drug use history.

Results. After adjusting for demographic and physiological covariates, analysis of covariance revealed a significant difference between the three groups, F(2,158) = 3.08, p = 0.04). Post hoc analyses revealed lifetime marijuana only users had significantly lower IL-6 levels (M = 2.20 pg/mL, SD = 1.93) than their lifetime nonuser counterparts (M = 3.73 pg/mL, SD = 6.28). No other comparisons among the groups were statistically significantly different.

Conclusion. The current findings extend previous cellular and biochemical literature, which identifies an inverse association between IL-6 and marijuana use. Examining this relationship in the psychological and behavioral literature could be informative to the development of clinical interventions for inflammatory diseases.

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The effect of retirement on alcohol consumption: Results from the US Health and Retirement Study

Xu Wang, Jessica Steier & William Gallo
European Journal of Public Health, June 2014, Pages 485-489

Background: Prior research examining the association between retirement and alcohol consumption is inconsistent with respect to salience, direction and magnitude. Reasonable conceptual arguments for both positive (e.g. coping, introduction of leisure time) and negative (e.g. severance of work-related social relationships) changes further complicate investigations of this critical association, as do differences in study design, national setting and measurement of alcohol use.

Methods: This prospective longitudinal study analyses 2-year wave-pairs drawn from seven waves (14 years) of data from the US Health and Retirement Study to assess the effect of complete retirement on weekly alcohol consumption (n = 9979 observations; 4674 unique participants). We use multiple regression analysis in a two-period follow-up design and account for potential selection bias and reverse causality not addressed in prior research on this topic.

Results: We find that retirement is positively associated with subsequent weekly alcohol consumption for men who reported drinking at both follow-up and the prior study wave (β = 1.9, 95% confidence interval = 0.43–3.36). No association was observed among women.

Conclusion: Our results suggest that health care professionals should monitor the drinking habits of retired men, as older individuals are particularly susceptible to the adverse effects of heavy alcohol use.

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A Smartphone Application to Support Recovery From Alcoholism: A Randomized Clinical Trial

David Gustafson et al.
JAMA Psychiatry, May 2014, Pages 566-572

Objective: To determine whether patients leaving residential treatment for alcohol use disorders with a smartphone application to support recovery have fewer risky drinking days than control patients.

Design, Setting, and Participants: An unmasked randomized clinical trial involving 3 residential programs operated by 1 nonprofit treatment organization in the Midwestern United States and 2 residential programs operated by 1 nonprofit organization in the Northeastern United States. In total, 349 patients who met the criteria for DSM-IV alcohol dependence when they entered residential treatment were randomized to treatment as usual (n = 179) or treatment as usual plus a smartphone (n = 170) with the Addiction–Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System (A-CHESS), an application designed to improve continuing care for alcohol use disorders.

Interventions: Treatment as usual varied across programs; none offered patients coordinated continuing care after discharge. A-CHESS provides monitoring, information, communication, and support services to patients, including ways for patients and counselors to stay in contact. The intervention and follow-up period lasted 8 and 4 months, respectively.

Main Outcomes and Measures: Risky drinking days — the number of days during which a patient’s drinking in a 2-hour period exceeded 4 standard drinks for men and 3 standard drinks for women, with standard drink defined as one that contains roughly 14 g of pure alcohol (12 oz of regular beer, 5 oz of wine, or 1.5 oz of distilled spirits). Patients were asked to report their risky drinking days in the previous 30 days on surveys taken 4, 8, and 12 months after discharge from residential treatment.

Results: For the 8 months of the intervention and 4 months of follow-up, patients in the A-CHESS group reported significantly fewer risky drinking days than did patients in the control group, with a mean of 1.39 vs 2.75 days (mean difference, 1.37; 95% CI, 0.46-2.27; P = .003).

Conclusions and Relevance: The findings suggest that a multifeatured smartphone application may have significant benefit to patients in continuing care for alcohol use disorders.

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Frequent binge drinking five to six years after exposure to 9/11: Findings from the World Trade Center Health Registry

Alice Welch et al.
Drug and Alcohol Dependence, forthcoming

Background: Exposure to 9/11 may have considerable long-term impact on health behaviors, including increased alcohol consumption. We examined the association between frequent binge drinking, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and number of 9/11-specific experiences among World Trade Center Health Registry (Registry) enrollees five-to-six years after 9/11.

Methods: Participants included 41,284 lower Manhattan residents, workers, passers-by and rescue/recovery workers aged 18 or older without a pre-9/11 PTSD diagnosis who completed Wave 1 (2003-04) and Wave 2 (2006-07) interviews. Frequent binge drinking was defined as consuming five or more drinks on five or more occasions in the prior 30 days at Wave 2. Probable PTSD was defined as scoring 44 or greater on the PTSD Checklist. 9/11 exposure was measured as the sum of 12 experiences and grouped as none/low (0-1), medium (2-3), high (4-5) and very high (6 + ).

Results: Frequent binge drinking was significantly associated with increasing 9/11 exposure and PTSD. Those with very high and high exposures had a higher prevalence of frequent binge drinking (13.7% and 9.8%, respectively) than those with medium and low exposures (7.5% and 4.4%, respectively). Upon stratification, very high and high exposures were associated with frequent binge drinking in both the PTSD and no PTSD subgroups.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that 9/11 exposure had an impact on frequent binge drinking five-to-six years later among Registry enrollees. Understanding the effects of traumatic exposure on alcohol use is important to identify risk factors for post-disaster alcohol misuse, inform policy, and improve post-disaster psychological and alcohol screening and counseling.

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Spicing up the military: Use and effects of synthetic cannabis in substance abusing army personnel

Denise Walker et al.
Addictive Behaviors, July 2014, Pages 1139–1144

Abstract:
Synthetic cannabis (SC) use has been increasing within the United States. Due to difficulties with its detection through standard testing, it may be an attractive substance of abuse for military personnel. However, few studies have examined the consequences of its use in this population, including evidence for its potential for abuse and dependence. Participants included 368 active-duty Army personnel who expressed interest in participating in a “check-up” around their alcohol or substance use, of whom 294 (80%) met DSM-IV criteria for substance abuse or dependence (including alcohol, illicit drugs, and prescription medications) and were not engaged in substance abuse treatment. Forty-one participants (11%) reported using SC in the last 90 days. Of those, 27 listed SC as their drug of choice. There were no significant differences in race, ethnicity, deployment history, or religion between SC users and others. Users of SC were generally younger and had less education and income than those who used only alcohol. Among SC users, 12% met criteria for drug abuse and 68% for dependence. Participants perceived SC use to be significantly more prevalent among military personnel than among civilians. Results suggest that SC is prevalent among substance-using soldiers and that DSM-IV criteria for abuse and dependence apply to SC. In addition, results highlight the importance of assessing and treating SC use among active-duty military personnel.

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Profiting and Providing Less Care: Comprehensive Services at For-Profit, Nonprofit, and Public Opioid Treatment Programs in the United States

Marcus Bachhuber, William Southern & Chinazo Cunningham
Medical Care, May 2014, Pages 428-434

Objective: To compare the proportion of for-profit, nonprofit, and public opioid treatment programs offering comprehensive services, which are not mandated by government regulations.

Design, Setting, and Participants: Cross-sectional analysis of opioid treatment programs offering outpatient care in the United States (n=1036).

Main Outcome Measure: Self-reported offering of communicable disease (HIV, sexually transmitted infections, and viral hepatitis) testing, psychiatric services (screening, assessment and diagnostic evaluation, and pharmacotherapy), and social services support (assistance in applying for programs such as Medicaid). Mixed-effects logistic regression models were developed to adjust for several county-level factors.

Results: Of opioid treatment programs, 58.0% were for profit, 33.5% were nonprofit, and 8.5% were public. Nonprofit programs were more likely than for-profit programs to offer testing for all communicable diseases [adjusted odds ratios (AOR), 1.7; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.2, 2.5], all psychiatric services (AOR, 8.0; 95% CI, 4.9, 13.1), and social services support (AOR, 3.3; 95% CI, 2.3, 4.8). Public programs were also more likely than for-profit programs to offer communicable disease testing (AOR, 6.4; 95% CI, 3.5, 11.7), all psychiatric services (AOR, 25.8; 95% CI, 12.6, 52.5), and social services support (AOR, 2.4; 95% CI, 1.4, 4.3).

Conclusions: For-profit programs were significantly less likely than nonprofit and public programs to offer comprehensive services. Interventions to increase the offering of comprehensive services are needed, particularly among for-profit programs.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Earth, sea, and sky

How Effective Are US Renewable Energy Subsidies in Cutting Greenhouse Gases?

Brian Murray et al.
American Economic Review, May 2014, Pages 569-574

Abstract:
The federal tax code provides preferential treatment for the production and use of renewable energy. We report estimates of the subsidies' effects on greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions developed in a recent National Research Council (NRC) Report. Due to lack of estimates of the impact of tax provisions on GHG emissions, new modeling studies were commissioned. The studies found, at best, a small impact of subsidies in reducing GHG emissions; in some cases, emissions increased. The NRC report also identified the need to capture the complex interactions among subsidies, pre-existing regulations, and commodity markets.

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Impact of natural disaster on public sector corruption

Eiji Yamamura
Public Choice, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper uses inter-country panel data from 1990 through 2010 to examine how the occurrence of natural disasters affects corruption within the public sector. For a closer analysis, disaster is classified into various categories, including general floods, other floods, tropical storms, other storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and landslides. Furthermore, this paper explores whether natural disasters have different impacts on corruption levels in developed and developing countries. The study reveals a number of novel findings. (1) Natural disasters that cause substantial damage increase public sector corruption in both developing and developed countries. (2) Natural disasters have a greater impact on public sector corruption in developed countries than in developing countries. (3) In developed countries, natural disaster frequency has a significant impact on the level of corruption. Hence, foreseeable disasters increase corruption in general. In developed countries, an incentive may exist to live within disaster-prone areas because of the potential for disaster compensation payments.

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Increasing Storm Tides in New York Harbor, 1844-2013

S.A. Talke, P. Orton & D.A. Jay
Geophysical Research Letters, forthcoming

Abstract:
Three of the nine highest recorded water levels in the New York Harbor (NYH) region have occurred since 2010 (Mar. 2010, Aug. 2011, and Oct. 2012), and eight of the largest twenty have occurred since 1990. To investigate whether this cluster of high waters is a random occurrence or indicative of intensified storm tides, we recover archival tide gauge data back to 1844 and evaluate the trajectory of the annual maximum storm tide (AMST). Approximately half of long-term variance is anti-correlated with decadal-scale variations in the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), while long-term trends explain the remainder. The 10-year storm-tide has increased by 0.28 m. Combined with a 0.44 m increase in local sea-level since 1856, the 10-year flood-level has increased by approximately 0.72 ± 0.25 m, and magnified the annual probability of overtopping the typical Manhattan seawall from less than 1% to about 20-25%.

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The Impact of a Carbon Tax on Manufacturing: Evidence From Microdata

Ralf Martin, Laure de Preux & Ulrich Wagner
Journal of Public Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
We estimate the impact of a carbon tax on manufacturing plants using panel data from the UK production census. Our identification strategy builds on the comparison of outcomes between plants subject to the full tax and plants that paid only 20% of the tax. Exploiting exogenous variation in eligibility for the tax discount, we find that the carbon tax had a strong negative impact on energy intensity and electricity use. No statistically significant impacts are found for employment, revenue or plant exit.

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Mechanisms of Reef Coral Resistance to Future Climate Change

Stephen Palumbi et al.
Science, 23 May 2014, Pages 895-898

Abstract:
Reef corals are highly sensitive to heat, yet populations resistant to climate change have recently been identified. To determine the mechanisms of temperature tolerance, we reciprocally transplanted corals between reef sites experiencing distinct temperature regimes, and tested subsequent physiological and gene expression profiles. Local acclimatization and fixed effects, such as adaptation, contributed about equally to heat tolerance and are reflected in patterns of gene expression. In less than two years, acclimatization achieves the same heat tolerance that we would expect from strong natural selection over many generations for these long-lived organisms. Our results show both short-term acclimatory and longer-term adaptive acquisition of climate resistance. Adding these adaptive abilities to ecosystem models is likely to slow predictions of demise for coral reef ecosystems.

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Evolving Comparative Advantage and the Impact of Climate Change in Agricultural Markets: Evidence from 1.7 Million Fields around the World

Arnaud Costinot, Dave Donaldson & Cory Smith
NBER Working Paper, April 2014

Abstract:
A large agronomic literature models the implications of climate change for a variety of crops and locations around the world. The goal of the present paper is to quantify the macro-level consequences of these micro-level shocks. Using an extremely rich micro-level dataset that contains information about the productivity -- both before and after climate change -- of each of 10 crops for each of 1.7 million fields covering the surface of the Earth, we find that the impact of climate change on these agricultural markets would amount to a 0.26% reduction in global GDP when trade and production patterns are allowed to adjust.

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Implications of Shale Gas Development for Climate Change

Richard Newell & Daniel Raimi
Environmental Science & Technology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Advances in technologies for extracting oil and gas from shale formations have dramatically increased U.S. production of natural gas. As production expands domestically and abroad, natural gas prices will be lower than without shale gas. Lower prices have two main effects: increasing overall energy consumption, and encouraging substitution away from sources such as coal, nuclear, renewables, and electricity. We examine the evidence and analyze modeling projections to understand how these two dynamics affect greenhouse gas emissions. Most evidence indicates that natural gas as a substitute for coal in electricity production, gasoline in transport, and electricity in buildings decreases greenhouse gases, although as an electricity substitute this depends on the electricity mix displaced. Modeling suggests that absent substantial policy changes, increased natural gas production slightly increases overall energy use, more substantially encourages fuel-switching, and that the combined effect slightly alters economy wide GHG emissions; whether the net effect is a slight decrease or increase depends on modeling assumptions including upstream methane emissions. Our main conclusions are that natural gas can help reduce GHG emissions, but in the absence of targeted climate policy measures, it will not substantially change the course of global GHG concentrations. Abundant natural gas can, however, help reduce the costs of achieving GHG reduction goals.

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A comparative analysis of the greenhouse gas emissions intensity of wheat and beef in the United States

Kelly Twomey Sanders & Michael Webber
Environmental Research Letters, April 2014

Abstract:
The US food system utilizes large quantities of liquid fuels, electricity, and chemicals yielding significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are not considered in current retail prices, especially when the contribution of biogenic emissions is considered. However, because GHG emissions might be assigned a price in prospective climate policy frameworks, it would be useful to know the extent to which those policies would increase the incremental production costs to food within the US food system. This analysis uses lifecycle assessment (LCA) to (1) estimate the magnitude of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions from typical US food production practices, using wheat and beef as examples, and (2) quantify the cost of those emissions in the context of a GHG-pricing regime over a range of policy constructs. Wheat and beef were chosen as benchmark staples to provide a representative range of less intensive and more intensive agricultural goods, respectively. Results suggest that 1.1 ± 0.13 and 31 ± 8.1 kg of lifecycle CO2e emissions are embedded in 1 kg of wheat and beef production, respectively. Consequently, the cost of lifecycle CO2e emissions for wheat (i.e. cultivation, processing, transportation, storage, and end-use preparation) over an emissions price range of $10 and $85 per tonne CO2e is estimated to be between $0.01 and $0.09 per kg of wheat, respectively, which would increase total wheat production costs by approximately 0.3–2% per kg. By comparison, the estimated lifecycle CO2e price of beef over the same range of CO2e prices is between $0.31 and $2.60 per kg of beef, representing a total production cost increase of approximately 5–40% per kg based on average 2010 food prices. This range indicates that the incremental cost to total US food production might be anywhere between $0.63–5.4 Billion per year for grain and $3.70 and $32 Billion per year for beef based on CO2e emissions assuming that total production volumes stay the same.

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Hurricane strikes and local migration in US coastal counties

B. Ouattara, E. Strobl
Economics Letters, July 2014, Pages 17–20

Abstract:
We examine the effects of hurricane shocks on key migration variables in US coastal counties. Results show that hurricane strikes increase outward migration rate and that these migrants were somewhat wealthier; but that there was no impact on inward migration.

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Multiscale observations of CO2, 13-CO2, and pollutants at Four Corners for emission verification and attribution

Rodica Lindenmaier et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Abstract:
There is a pressing need to verify air pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions from anthropogenic fossil energy sources to enforce current and future regulations. We demonstrate the feasibility of using simultaneous remote sensing observations of column abundances of CO2, CO, and NO2 to inform and verify emission inventories. We report, to our knowledge, the first ever simultaneous column enhancements in CO2 (3–10 ppm) and NO2 (1–3 Dobson Units), and evidence of δ13-CO2 depletion in an urban region with two large coal-fired power plants with distinct scrubbing technologies that have resulted in ∆NOx/∆CO2 emission ratios that differ by a factor of two. Ground-based total atmospheric column trace gas abundances change synchronously and correlate well with simultaneous in situ point measurements during plume interceptions. Emission ratios of ∆NOx/∆CO2 and ∆SO2/∆CO2 derived from in situ atmospheric observations agree with those reported by in-stack monitors. Forward simulations using in-stack emissions agree with remote column CO2 and NO2 plume observations after fine scale adjustments. Both observed and simulated column ∆NO2/∆CO2 ratios indicate that a large fraction (70–75%) of the region is polluted. We demonstrate that the column emission ratios of ∆NO2/∆CO2 can resolve changes from day-to-day variation in sources with distinct emission factors (clean and dirty power plants, urban, and fires). We apportion these sources by using NO2, SO2, and CO as signatures. Our high-frequency remote sensing observations of CO2 and coemitted pollutants offer promise for the verification of power plant emission factors and abatement technologies from ground and space.

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Abnormal Daily Temperature and Concern about Climate Change Across the United States

Jeremy Brooks et al.
Review of Policy Research, May 2014, Pages 199–217

Abstract:
The relatively low level of concern about climate change among Americans has important implications for climate policy. While many studies have examined individual characteristics associated with climate change attitudes, fewer studies have considered the effects of environmental conditions on such attitudes. Here, we use two national samples of American adults to explore the impact of abnormal daily temperatures on levels of concern about climate change. We test the hypotheses that (1) abnormally warm temperatures, and (2) both abnormally warm and abnormally cool temperatures are associated with higher levels of concern. Using a generalized ordinal logit, we find that the quadratic form of deviation from mean temperature on the date of the survey is significantly associated with higher levels of concern, thus supporting the second hypothesis. We discuss several theoretical frameworks that may explain this result including availability bias, mental models, and implicit stimuli, and the implications for climate policy.

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Public interest in climate change over the past decade and the effects of the 'climategate' media event

William Anderegg & Gregory Goldsmith
Environmental Research Letters, May 2014

Abstract:
Despite overwhelming scientific consensus concerning anthropogenic climate change, many in the non-expert public perceive climate change as debated and contentious. There is concern that two recent high-profile media events — the hacking of the University of East Anglia emails and the Himalayan glacier melt rate presented in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — may have altered public opinion of climate change. While survey data is valuable for tracking public perception and opinion over time, including in response to climate-related media events, emerging methods that facilitate rapid assessment of spatial and temporal patterns in public interest and opinion could be exceptionally valuable for understanding and responding to these events' effects. We use a novel, freely-available dataset of worldwide web search term volumes to assess temporal patterns of interest in climate change over the past ten years, with a particular focus on looking at indicators of climate change skepticism around the high-profile media events. We find that both around the world and in the US, the public searches for the issue as 'global warming,' rather than 'climate change,' and that search volumes have been declining since a 2007 peak. We observe high, but transient spikes of search terms indicating skepticism around the two media events, but find no evidence of effects lasting more than a few months. Our results indicate that while such media events are visible in the short-term, they have little effect on salience of skeptical climate search terms on longer time-scales.

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Greater Sensitivity to Drought Accompanies Maize Yield Increase in the U.S. Midwest

David Lobell et al.
Science, 2 May 2014, Pages 516-519

Abstract:
A key question for climate change adaptation is whether existing cropping systems can become less sensitive to climate variations. We use a field-level data set on maize and soybean yields in the central United States for 1995 through 2012 to examine changes in drought sensitivity. Although yields have increased in absolute value under all levels of stress for both crops, the sensitivity of maize yields to drought stress associated with high vapor pressure deficits has increased. The greater sensitivity has occurred despite cultivar improvements and increased carbon dioxide and reflects the agronomic trend toward higher sowing densities. The results suggest that agronomic changes tend to translate improved drought tolerance of plants to higher average yields but not to decreasing drought sensitivity of yields at the field scale.

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Increasing CO2 threatens human nutrition

Samuel Myers et al.
Nature, forthcoming

Abstract:
Dietary deficiencies of zinc and iron are a substantial global public health problem. An estimated two billion people suffer these deficiencies, causing a loss of 63 million life-years annually. Most of these people depend on C3 grains and legumes as their primary dietary source of zinc and iron. Here we report that C3 grains and legumes have lower concentrations of zinc and iron when grown under field conditions at the elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration predicted for the middle of this century. C3 crops other than legumes also have lower concentrations of protein, whereas C4 crops seem to be less affected. Differences between cultivars of a single crop suggest that breeding for decreased sensitivity to atmospheric CO2 concentration could partly address these new challenges to global health.

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The Costs and Consequences of Clean Air Act Regulation of CO2 from Power Plants

Dallas Burtraw et al.
American Economic Review, May 2014, Pages 557-562

Abstract:
US climate policy is unfolding under the Clean Air Act. Mobile source and construction permitting regulations are in place. Most important, EPA and the states will determine the form and stringency of the regulations for power plants. Various approaches would create an implicit price on emitting greenhouse gases and create valuable assets that would be distributed differently among electricity producers, consumers, and the government. We compare a tradable performance standard with several cap-and-trade policies. Distributing asset values to fossil-fueled producers and consumers has small effects on average electricity prices but imposes greater social cost than a revenue-raising policy.

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Half of the world's population experience robust changes in the water cycle for a 2 °C warmer world

Jan Sedláček & Reto Knutti
Environmental Research Letters, April 2014

Abstract:
Fresh water is a critical resource on Earth, yet projections of changes in the water cycle resulting from anthropogenic warming are challenging. It is important to not only know the best estimate of change, but also how robust these projections are, where changes occur, which variables will change, and how many people are affected by it. Here we synthesize the changes in the water cycle, based on results of the latest climate model intercomparison (CMIP5). Several variables of the water cycle, such as evaporation and relative humidity, show robust changes over more than 50% of the land area already with an anthropogenic global warming of 1 °C. A warming of 2 °C shows more than half of the world's population to be directly affected by robust local changes in the water cycle, and everybody experiences a robust change in at least one variable of the water cycle. While the physical changes are widespread, the affected people are concentrated in a few hot-spots mainly in Asia and Central Africa. The occurrence of these hot-spots is driven by population density, as well as by the early emergence of the anthropogenic signal from variability in these areas. Large uncertainties remain in projections of soil moisture and runoff changes.

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The poleward migration of the location of tropical cyclone maximum intensity

James Kossin, Kerry Emanuel & Gabriel Vecchi
Nature, 15 May 2014, Pages 349–352

Abstract:
Temporally inconsistent and potentially unreliable global historical data hinder the detection of trends in tropical cyclone activity. This limits our confidence in evaluating proposed linkages between observed trends in tropical cyclones and in the environment. Here we mitigate this difficulty by focusing on a metric that is comparatively insensitive to past data uncertainty, and identify a pronounced poleward migration in the average latitude at which tropical cyclones have achieved their lifetime-maximum intensity over the past 30 years. The poleward trends are evident in the global historical data in both the Northern and the Southern hemispheres, with rates of 53 and 62 kilometres per decade, respectively, and are statistically significant. When considered together, the trends in each hemisphere depict a global-average migration of tropical cyclone activity away from the tropics at a rate of about one degree of latitude per decade, which lies within the range of estimates of the observed expansion of the tropics over the same period. The global migration remains evident and statistically significant under a formal data homogenization procedure, and is unlikely to be a data artefact. The migration away from the tropics is apparently linked to marked changes in the mean meridional structure of environmental vertical wind shear and potential intensity, and can plausibly be linked to tropical expansion, which is thought to have anthropogenic contributions.

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Global distribution and risk to shipping of very extreme sea states (VESS)

V.J. Cardone et al.
International Journal of Climatology, forthcoming

Abstract:
The impact of extreme sea states on offshore infrastructure is of intense interest in the ocean engineering community at the present time. In this study, a new quality-controlled database of global satellite-derived estimates of significant wave height (HS) and surface marine wind speed from seven missions spanning the period August 1991–March 2010, known as GlobWave, is scanned to yield over 5000 ocean basin specific orbit segments with peak HS > 12 m. This population was subsequently distilled to a population of 120 individual storms [so-called very extreme sea states (VESS) storms], in which there was at least one altimeter estimate of HS > 16 m. The highest HSs were observed in the Northern Hemisphere with ten orbit segments in the North Atlantic Ocean (NAO) with a peak HS of >18 m followed by four segments in the North Pacific Ocean (NPO). Only three HS peaks >18 m were seen in the entire Southern Oceans. Three of the >5000 orbit segments had a peak HS >20 m with the highest at 20.6 m. The number of VESS storms detected is greatest in the NAO (the smallest basin), a result that appears to be consistent with general circulation studies of extratropical cyclogenesis frequency and intensity in general atmospheric circulation models. A new continuous 33-year global wave hindcast (GROW2012) based on a new atmospheric reanalysis wind field product appears to provide unbiased estimates of the probability of exceedance of VESS in extratropical storms and small-basin dependent biases (0.5–1.5 m) of peak HS greater than ∼16 m. GROW2012 was, therefore, applied with a voyage simulator for nine trade routes to assess the risk of a merchant vessel that does not avail itself of weather routing of encountering VESS. The highest monthly exceedance probabilities (MEPs) at the VESS threshold of 14 m are found in the NAO and NPO at ∼0.1% during winter months. The alternative statistical distribution of the MEP of the single maximum peak sea state to be expected for a voyage for any month (MEPm) shows that the highest MEPm is for the month of December in the NAO along the great circle route between the middle US East Coast and entrance to English Channel and in the NPO along the Yokohama–Seattle route, at about 3%. Still, the overall probability of a vessel encountering sea states that may contain waves capable of catastrophic damage over a 33-year lifetime is quite small with mean number of hours of exposure to a vessel typically less than ∼3 h for six of the nine routes and a maximum of 10 h for two of the routes.

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Climate change and forest fires synergistically drive widespread melt events of the Greenland Ice Sheet

Kaitlin Keegan et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Abstract:
In July 2012, over 97% of the Greenland Ice Sheet experienced surface melt, the first widespread melt during the era of satellite remote sensing. Analysis of six Greenland shallow firn cores from the dry snow region confirms that the most recent prior widespread melt occurred in 1889. A firn core from the center of the ice sheet demonstrated that exceptionally warm temperatures combined with black carbon sediments from Northern Hemisphere forest fires reduced albedo below a critical threshold in the dry snow region, and caused the melting events in both 1889 and 2012. We use these data to project the frequency of widespread melt into the year 2100. Since Arctic temperatures and the frequency of forest fires are both expected to rise with climate change, our results suggest that widespread melt events on the Greenland Ice Sheet may begin to occur almost annually by the end of century. These events are likely to alter the surface mass balance of the ice sheet, leaving the surface susceptible to further melting.

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Elevated CO2 further lengthens growing season under warming conditions

Melissa Reyes-Fox et al.
Nature, forthcoming

Abstract:
Observations of a longer growing season through earlier plant growth in temperate to polar regions have been thought to be a response to climate warming. However, data from experimental warming studies indicate that many species that initiate leaf growth and flowering earlier also reach seed maturation and senesce earlier, shortening their active and reproductive periods. A conceptual model to explain this apparent contradiction, and an analysis of the effect of elevated CO2 — which can delay annual life cycle events — on changing season length, have not been tested. Here we show that experimental warming in a temperate grassland led to a longer growing season through earlier leaf emergence by the first species to leaf, often a grass, and constant or delayed senescence by other species that were the last to senesce, supporting the conceptual model. Elevated CO2 further extended growing, but not reproductive, season length in the warmed grassland by conserving water, which enabled most species to remain active longer. Our results suggest that a longer growing season, especially in years or biomes where water is a limiting factor, is not due to warming alone, but also to higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations that extend the active period of plant annual life cycles.

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Explicit feedback and the management of uncertainty in meeting climate objectives with solar geoengineering

Ben Kravitz et al.
Environmental Research Letters, April 2014

Abstract:
Solar geoengineering has been proposed as a method of meeting climate objectives, such as reduced globally averaged surface temperatures. However, because of incomplete understanding of the effects of geoengineering on the climate system, its implementation would be in the presence of substantial uncertainties. In our study, we use two fully coupled atmosphere–ocean general circulation models: one in which the geoengineering strategy is designed, and one in which geoengineering is implemented (a real-world proxy). We show that regularly adjusting the amount of solar geoengineering in response to departures of the observed global mean climate state from the predetermined objective (sequential decision making; an explicit feedback approach) can manage uncertainties and result in achievement of the climate objective in both the design model and the real-world proxy. This approach results in substantially less error in meeting global climate objectives than using a predetermined time series of how much geoengineering to use, especially if the estimated sensitivity to geoengineering is inaccurate.

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Extinction and recolonization of coastal megafauna following human arrival in New Zealand

Catherine Collins et al.
Procedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 7 July 2014

Abstract:
Extinctions can dramatically reshape biological communities. As a case in point, ancient mass extinction events apparently facilitated dramatic new evolutionary radiations of surviving lineages. However, scientists have yet to fully understand the consequences of more recent biological upheaval, such as the megafaunal extinctions that occurred globally over the past 50 kyr. New Zealand was the world's last large landmass to be colonized by humans, and its exceptional archaeological record documents a vast number of vertebrate extinctions in the immediate aftermath of Polynesian arrival approximately AD 1280. This recently colonized archipelago thus presents an outstanding opportunity to test for rapid biological responses to extinction. Here, we use ancient DNA (aDNA) analysis to show that extinction of an endemic sea lion lineage (Phocarctos spp.) apparently facilitated a subsequent northward range expansion of a previously subantarctic-limited lineage. This finding parallels a similar extinction–replacement event in penguins (Megadyptes spp.). In both cases, an endemic mainland clade was completely eliminated soon after human arrival, and then replaced by a genetically divergent clade from the remote subantarctic region, all within the space of a few centuries. These data suggest that ecological and demographic processes can play a role in constraining lineage distributions, even for highly dispersive species, and highlight the potential for dynamic biological responses to extinction.

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Evolution of land surface air temperature trend

Fei Ji et al.
Nature Climate Change, forthcoming

Abstract:
The global climate has been experiencing significant warming at an unprecedented pace in the past century. This warming is spatially and temporally non-uniform, and one needs to understand its evolution to better evaluate its potential societal and economic impact. Here, the evolution of global land surface air temperature trend in the past century is diagnosed using the spatial–temporally multidimensional ensemble empirical mode decomposition method. We find that the noticeable warming (>0.5 K) started sporadically over the global land and accelerated until around 1980. Both the warming rate and spatial structure have changed little since. The fastest warming in recent decades (>0.4 K per decade) occurred in northern mid-latitudes. From a zonal average perspective, noticeable warming (>0.2 K since 1900) first took place in the subtropical and subpolar regions of the Northern Hemisphere, followed by subtropical warming in the Southern Hemisphere. The two bands of warming in the Northern Hemisphere expanded from 1950 to 1985 and merged to cover the entire Northern Hemisphere.

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Public Support for Policies to Reduce Risk After Hurricane Sandy

Michael Greenberg et al.
Risk Analysis, forthcoming

Abstract:
A phone survey was conducted in New Jersey in 2013 four months after the second of two major devastating tropical storms (Sandy in 2012 and Irene in 2011). The objective was to estimate public support for restricting land uses in flood zones, requiring housing to be built to resist storm waters, and otherwise increasing mitigation and resilience. Respondents who supported these mitigation and resilience policies disproportionately were concerned about global climate change, trusted climate scientists and the federal government, and were willing to contribute to a redevelopment program through taxes, bonds, and fees. They also tended to have collectivist and egalitarian worldviews. Half of the respondents supported at least four of the seven risk-reducing policies. How their support translates into public policy remains to be seen. Lack of willingness to personally fund these policies is an obstacle.

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North Sea Storminess from a Novel Storm Surge Record since AD 1843

Sönke Dangendorf et al.
Journal of Climate, May 2014, Pages 3582–3595

Abstract:
The detection of potential long-term changes in historical storm statistics and storm surges plays a vitally important role for protecting coastal communities. In the absence of long homogeneous wind records, the authors present a novel, independent, and homogeneous storm surge record based on water level observations in the North Sea since 1843. Storm surges are characterized by considerable interannual-to-decadal variability linked to large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns. Time periods of increased storm surge levels prevailed in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries without any evidence for significant long-term trends. This contradicts with recent findings based on reanalysis data, which suggest increasing storminess in the region since the late nineteenth century. The authors compare the wind and pressure fields from the Twentieth-Century Reanalysis (20CRv2) with the storm surge record by applying state-of-the-art empirical wind surge formulas. The comparison reveals that the reanalysis is a valuable tool that leads to good results over the past 100 yr; previously the statistical relationship fails, leaving significantly lower values in the upper percentiles of the predicted surge time series. These low values lead to significant upward trends over the entire investigation period, which are in turn supported by neither the storm surge record nor an independent circulation index based on homogeneous pressure readings. The authors therefore suggest that these differences are related to higher uncertainties in the earlier years of the 20CRv2 over the North Sea region.

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Climate change and frog calls: Long-term correlations along a tropical altitudinal gradient

Peter Narins & Sebastiaan Meenderink
Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 22 May 2014

Abstract:
Temperature affects nearly all biological processes, including acoustic signal production and reception. Here, we report on advertisement calls of the Puerto Rican coqui frog (Eleutherodactylus coqui) that were recorded along an altitudinal gradient and compared these with similar recordings along the same altitudinal gradient obtained 23 years earlier. We found that over this period, at any given elevation, calls exhibited both significant increases in pitch and shortening of their duration. All of the observed differences are consistent with a shift to higher elevations for the population, a well-known strategy for adapting to a rise in ambient temperature. Using independent temperature data over the same time period, we confirm a significant increase in temperature, the magnitude of which closely predicts the observed changes in the frogs’ calls. Physiological responses to long-term temperature rises include reduction in individual body size and concomitantly, population biomass. These can have potentially dire consequences, as coqui frogs form an integral component of the food web in the Puerto Rican rainforest.

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Elements of emission market design: An experimental analysis of California's market for greenhouse gas allowances

William Shobe, Charles Holt & Thaddeus Huetteman
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, forthcoming

Abstract:
We use a set of economic experiments to test the effects of some novel features of California's new controls on greenhouse gas emissions. The California cap and trade scheme imposes limits on allowance ownership, uses a tiered price containment reserve sale, and settles allowance auctions based on the lowest accepted bid. We examine the effects of these features on market liquidity, efficiency, and price variability. We find that tight holding limits substantially reduce banking, which, in turn reduces market liquidity. This impairs the ability of traders to smooth prices over time, resulting in lower efficiency and higher price variability. The price containment reserve, while increasing the supply of allowances available to traders, does not appear to mitigate the effects of tight holding limits on market outcomes. As a result, the imposition of holding limits in the allowance market may have the consequence of increasing the likelihood of the market manipulation that they were intended to prevent. Finally, we find that the choice between lowest accepted bid and highest rejected bid for the allowance auction pricing rule does not have a significant effect on market outcomes.

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The Role of Energy Conservation and Natural Gas Prices in the Costs of Achieving California’s Renewable Energy Goals

Timothy Considine & Edward Manderson
Energy Economics, July 2014, Pages 291–301

Abstract:
This paper develops an econometric forecasting system of energy demand coupled with engineering-economic models of energy supply. The framework is used to quantify the energy and environmental impacts of renewable and natural gas based electricity power generation in California, considering the role of on-going energy conservation efforts and incorporating different natural gas price scenarios over the forecast horizon (2011–2035). The results indicate that, relative to a business-as-usual scenario of continuing to rely on imported electricity to meet future demand, California’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) of 33% renewables by 2020 will increase electricity rates by over 10%. However, the RPS will also provide substantial annual savings in carbon dioxide emissions of 40 million metric tons in 2020. Continuing non-price induced energy conservation at the historic rate will only result in a marginal reduction in electricity rates, although lower electricity use means substantial savings are nonetheless achieved in electricity expenditures. In addition, continuing trend energy conservation leads to substantial savings in carbon dioxide emissions. Like the RPS, developing domestic natural gas generation also leads to rate increases and reductions in carbon dioxide emissions (relative to the baseline). However, these impacts are minor compared to the RPS scenario.

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The rate of sea-level rise

Anny Cazenave et al.
Nature Climate Change, May 2014, Pages 358–361

Abstract:
Present-day sea-level rise is a major indicator of climate change. Since the early 1990s, sea level rose at a mean rate of ~3.1 mm yr−1. However, over the last decade a slowdown of this rate, of about 30%, has been recorded. It coincides with a plateau in Earth’s mean surface temperature evolution, known as the recent pause in warming. Here we present an analysis based on sea-level data from the altimetry record of the past ~20 years that separates interannual natural variability in sea level from the longer-term change probably related to anthropogenic global warming. The most prominent signature in the global mean sea level interannual variability is caused by El Niño–Southern Oscillation, through its impact on the global water cycle. We find that when correcting for interannual variability, the past decade’s slowdown of the global mean sea level disappears, leading to a similar rate of sea-level rise (of 3.3 ± 0.4 mm yr−1) during the first and second decade of the altimetry era. Our results confirm the need for quantifying and further removing from the climate records the short-term natural climate variability if one wants to extract the global warming signal.

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The “I” in climate: The role of individual responsibility in systematic processing of climate change information

Laura Rickard et al.
Global Environmental Change, May 2014, Pages 39–52

Abstract:
Past research suggests that how we perceive risk can be related to how we attribute responsibility for risk-related issues, such as climate change; however, a gap in research lies in exploring possible connections between attribution of responsibility, risk perception, and information processing. Using the Risk Information Seeking and Processing model, this study fills this gap by examining how RISP-based variables are related to information processing and whether attribution of responsibility for mitigating climate change influences communication behaviors that are often predicted by elevated risk perceptions. Undergraduates at two large research universities (N = 572) were randomly assigned to read one of two newspaper articles that emphasized either individual responsibility (by highlighting personal actions) or societal responsibility (by highlighting government policy) for climate change mitigation. Results indicate that subjects in the individual responsibility condition were significantly more likely to process the message in a systematic manner; however, attribution of responsibility did not interact with risk perception to influence systematic processing. Moreover, attitudes toward climate change information and negative affect mediated the relationship between other key variables and systematic processing. These and other findings suggest that strategic communication about climate change may benefit from emphasizing individual responsibility to attract more attention from diverse audiences and to promote deeper thinking about the issue. Additional theoretical implications are presented.

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Widespread decline of Congo rainforest greenness in the past decade

Liming Zhou et al.
Nature, 1 May 2014, Pages 86–90

Abstract:
Tropical forests are global epicentres of biodiversity and important modulators of climate change1, and are mainly constrained by rainfall patterns. The severe short-term droughts that occurred recently in Amazonia have drawn attention to the vulnerability of tropical forests to climatic disturbances. The central African rainforests, the second-largest on Earth, have experienced a long-term drying trend whose impacts on vegetation dynamics remain mostly unknown because in situ observations are very limited. The Congolese forest, with its drier conditions and higher percentage of semi-evergreen trees, may be more tolerant to short-term rainfall reduction than are wetter tropical forests, but for a long-term drought there may be critical thresholds of water availability below which higher-biomass, closed-canopy forests transition to more open, lower-biomass forests. Here we present observational evidence for a widespread decline in forest greenness over the past decade based on analyses of satellite data (optical, thermal, microwave and gravity) from several independent sensors over the Congo basin. This decline in vegetation greenness, particularly in the northern Congolese forest, is generally consistent with decreases in rainfall, terrestrial water storage, water content in aboveground woody and leaf biomass, and the canopy backscatter anomaly caused by changes in structure and moisture in upper forest layers. It is also consistent with increases in photosynthetically active radiation and land surface temperature. These multiple lines of evidence indicate that this large-scale vegetation browning, or loss of photosynthetic capacity, may be partially attributable to the long-term drying trend. Our results suggest that a continued gradual decline of photosynthetic capacity and moisture content driven by the persistent drying trend could alter the composition and structure of the Congolese forest to favour the spread of drought-tolerant species.

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Ice plug prevents irreversible discharge from East Antarctica

M. Mengel & A. Levermann
Nature Climate Change, forthcoming

Abstract:
Changes in ice discharge from Antarctica constitute the largest uncertainty in future sea-level projections, mainly because of the unknown response of its marine basins. Most of West Antarctica’s marine ice sheet lies on an inland-sloping bed and is thereby prone to a marine ice sheet instability. A similar topographic configuration is found in large parts of East Antarctica, which holds marine ice equivalent to 19 m of global sea-level rise, that is, more than five times that of West Antarctica. Within East Antarctica, the Wilkes Basin holds the largest volume of marine ice that is fully connected by subglacial troughs. This ice body was significantly reduced during the Pliocene epoch. Strong melting underneath adjacent ice shelves with similar bathymetry indicates the ice sheet’s sensitivity to climatic perturbations. The stability of the Wilkes marine ice sheet has not been the subject of any comprehensive assessment of future sea level. Using recently improved topographic data in combination with ice-dynamic simulations, we show here that the removal of a specific coastal ice volume equivalent to less than 80 mm of global sea-level rise at the margin of the Wilkes Basin destabilizes the regional ice flow and leads to a self-sustained discharge of the entire basin and a global sea-level rise of 3–4 m. Our results are robust with respect to variation in ice parameters, forcing details and model resolution as well as increased surface mass balance, indicating that East Antarctica may become a large contributor to future sea-level rise on timescales beyond a century.

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Evaluation of extreme climate events using a regional climate model for China

Zhenming Ji & Shichang Kang
International Journal of Climatology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Extreme climate events over China at the end of the 21st century (2080–2099) are investigated using the regional climate model RegCM4. Model performance is validated through comparison between observations and simulations over the period 1985–2005. The results show that RegCM4 can satisfactorily reproduce the spatial distribution of extreme climate events over China. The model simulates temperature extremes more accurately than precipitation. Under the RCP8.5 (high emission) scenario, the number of frost days decreases, and both the heat wave duration index and the growing season length increase dramatically towards the end of the 21st century. Changes in extreme temperature become increasingly pronounced from South to North China, with the most significant changes occurring on the Tibetan Plateau (TP). The proportion of heavy precipitation generally increases, except on the southern TP. The number of very heavy precipitation days increases by 25–50% in Northwest and East China. In winter, the number of consecutive dry days (CDD) decreases in North China and increases in South China. The greatest increases in CDD are found in June, July and August (JJA) in Southwest China. In a future that follows this scenario, drought events may be aggravated in Southwest China, and decrease in North China. In contrast, when repeating these projections under the assumption of the RCP4.5 scenario for emissions, the frequency of extreme climate events is reduced. These results suggest that reductions in greenhouse gas emissions may mitigate the effects of climate change over the coming decades.

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Model Simulation and Projection of European Heat Waves in Present-Day and Future Climates

Ngar-Cheung Lau & Mary Jo Nath
Journal of Climate, May 2014, Pages 3713–3730

Abstract:
The synoptic behavior of present-day heat waves (HW) over Europe is studied using the GFDL high-resolution atmospheric model (HiRAM) with 50-km grid spacing. Three regions of enhanced and coherent temperature variability are identified over western Russia, eastern Europe, and western Europe. The simulated HW characteristics are compared with those derived from Climate Forecast System Reanalysis products. Composite charts for outstanding HW episodes resemble well-known recurrent circulation types. The HW region is overlain by a prominent upper-level anticyclone, which blocks the passage of synoptic-scale transients. The altered eddy vorticity transports in turn reinforce the anticyclone. The anticyclone is part of a planetary-scale wave train. The successive downstream development of this wave train is indicative of Rossby wave dispersion. Additional runs of HiRAM are conducted for the “time slices” of 2026–35 and 2086–95 in the climate scenario corresponding to representative concentration pathway 4.5 (RCP4.5). By the end of the twenty-first century, the average duration and frequency of HW in the three European sites are projected to increase by a factor of 1.4–2.0 and 2.2–4.5, respectively, from the present-day values. These changes can be reproduced by adding the mean shift between the present and future climatological temperatures to the daily fluctuations in the present-day simulation. The output from a continuous integration of a coupled general circulation model through the 1901–2100 period indicates a monotonic increase in severity, duration, and HW days during the twenty-first century.

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Contribution of semi-arid ecosystems to interannual variability of the global carbon cycle

Benjamin Poulter et al.
Nature, forthcoming

Abstract:
The land and ocean act as a sink for fossil-fuel emissions, thereby slowing the rise of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations1. Although the uptake of carbon by oceanic and terrestrial processes has kept pace with accelerating carbon dioxide emissions until now, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations exhibit a large variability on interannual timescales2, considered to be driven primarily by terrestrial ecosystem processes dominated by tropical rainforests3. We use a terrestrial biogeochemical model, atmospheric carbon dioxide inversion and global carbon budget accounting methods to investigate the evolution of the terrestrial carbon sink over the past 30 years, with a focus on the underlying mechanisms responsible for the exceptionally large land carbon sink reported in 2011 (ref. 2). Here we show that our three terrestrial carbon sink estimates are in good agreement and support the finding of a 2011 record land carbon sink. Surprisingly, we find that the global carbon sink anomaly was driven by growth of semi-arid vegetation in the Southern Hemisphere, with almost 60 per cent of carbon uptake attributed to Australian ecosystems, where prevalent La Niña conditions caused up to six consecutive seasons of increased precipitation. In addition, since 1981, a six per cent expansion of vegetation cover over Australia was associated with a fourfold increase in the sensitivity of continental net carbon uptake to precipitation. Our findings suggest that the higher turnover rates of carbon pools in semi-arid biomes are an increasingly important driver of global carbon cycle inter-annual variability and that tropical rainforests may become less relevant drivers in the future. More research is needed to identify to what extent the carbon stocks accumulated during wet years are vulnerable to rapid decomposition or loss through fire in subsequent years.

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The risk implications of insurance securitization: The case of catastrophe bonds

Bjoern Hagendorff et al.
Journal of Corporate Finance, April 2014, Pages 387–402

Abstract:
Catastrophe (Cat) bonds are insurance securitization vehicles which are supposed to transfer catastrophe-related underwriting risk from issuers to capital markets. This paper addresses key, unanswered questions concerning Cat bonds and offers the following results. First, our findings show firms that issue Cat bonds exhibit less risky underwriting portfolios with less exposure to catastrophe risks and overall less need to hedge catastrophe risk. These results show that the access to the market for insurance securitization is easiest for firms with less risky portfolios. Second, firms that issue Cat bonds are found to experience a reduction in their default risk relative to non-issuing firms and our results, therefore, demonstrate that Cat bonds provide effective catastrophe hedging for issuing firms. Third, firms with less catastrophe exposure, increase their catastrophe exposure following an issue. Therefore, our paper cautions that the ability to hedge catastrophe risk causes some firms to seek additional catastrophe risk.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Morbid curiosity

The long run health returns to college quality

Jason Fletcher & David Frisvold
Review of Economics of the Household, June 2014, Pages 295-325

Abstract:
The link between education and health is one of the most robust empirical relationships in the social sciences. However, little research has examined the effects of educational quality on health outcomes. We estimate the long run relationship between health behaviors and graduating from a selective college in the 1960s using the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, which has tracked siblings for over 50 years. Importantly, we control for measures of health endowments, ability, and time preferences before college enrollment as well as shared family and environmental factors. We find large effects of college selectivity on reducing overweight for individuals in their 60s.

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Access to Treatment and Educational Inequalities in Cancer Survival

Jon Fiva et al.
Journal of Health Economics, July 2014, Pages 98–111

Abstract:
The public health care systems in the Nordic countries provide high quality care almost free of charge to all citizens. However, social inequalities in health persist. Previous research has, for example, documented substantial educational inequalities in cancer survival. We investigate to what extent this may be driven by differential access to and utilization of high quality treatment options. Quasi-experimental evidence based on the establishment of regional cancer wards indicates that i) highly educated individuals utilized centralized specialized treatment to a greater extent than less educated patients and ii) the use of such treatment improved these patients’ survival.

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The impact of early-life economic conditions on cause-specific mortality during adulthood

Gary Yeung et al.
Journal of Population Economics, July 2014, Pages 895-919

Abstract:
The aim of this study is to assess the effects of economic conditions in early life on cause-specific mortality during adulthood. The analyses are performed on a unique historical sample of 14,520 Dutch individuals born in 1880–1918, who are followed throughout life. The economic conditions in early life are characterized using cyclical variations in annual real per capital gross domestic product during pregnancy and the first year of life. Exposure to recessions in early life appears to significantly increase cancer mortality risks of older males and females. It also significantly increases other mortality risks especially for older females. The residual life expectancies are up to about 8 and 6 % lower for male and female cancer mortality, respectively, and up to about 5 % lower for female cardiovascular mortality. Our analyses show that cardiovascular and cancer mortality risks are related and that not taking this association into account leads to biased inference.

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Unemployment and Mortality: Evidence from the PSID

Timothy Halliday
Social Science & Medicine, July 2014, Pages 15–22

Abstract:
We use micro-data to investigate the relationship between unemployment and mortality in the United States using Logistic regression on a sample of over 16,000 individuals. We consider baselines from 1984 to 1993 and investigate mortality up to ten years from the baseline. We show that poor local labor market conditions are associated with higher mortality risk for working-aged men and, specifically, that a one percentage point increase in the unemployment rate increases their probability of dying within one year of baseline by 6%. There is little to no such relationship for people with weaker labor force attachments such as women or the elderly. Our results contribute to a growing body of work that suggests that poor economic conditions pose health risks and illustrate an important contrast with studies based on aggregate data.

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Equity in the Receipt of Oseltamivir in the United States During the H1N1 Pandemic

Jessica Franklin et al.
American Journal of Public Health, June 2014, Pages 1052-1058

Objectives: We assessed the relationship between individual characteristics and receipt of oseltamivir (Tamiflu) in the United States during the H1N1 pandemic and other flu seasons.

Methods: In a cohort of individuals enrolled in pharmacy benefit plans, we used a multivariate logistic regression model to measure associations between subscriber characteristics and filling a prescription for oseltamivir during 3 flu seasons (October 2006–May 2007, October 2007–May 2008, and October 2008–May 2010). In 19 states with county-level influenza rates reported, we controlled for disease burden.

Results: Approximately 56 million subscribers throughout the United States were included in 1 or more study periods. During pandemic flu, beneficiaries in the highest income category had 97% greater odds of receiving oseltamivir than those in the lowest category (P < .001). After we controlled for disease burden, subscribers in the 2 highest income categories had 2.18 and 1.72 times the odds of receiving oseltamivir compared with those in the lowest category (P < .001 for both).

Conclusions: Income was a stronger predictor of oseltamivir receipt than prevalence of influenza. These findings corroborate concerns about equity of treatment in pandemics, and they call for improved approaches to distributing potentially life-saving treatments.

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Education as “the Great Equalizer”: Health Benefits for Black and White Adults

Christopher Holmes & Anna Zajacova
Social Science Quarterly, forthcoming

Objective: Many social policies and academic studies assume that education is “the great equalizer” that is capable of counteracting the unequal social resources of different demographic groups. This study aims to determine whether non-Hispanic whites and racial/ethnic minorities indeed experience comparable health benefits with greater educational attainment.

Methods: Data from the National Health Interview Survey 1997–2012 were used to conduct ordered logistic models comparing the self-rated health of 518,288 non-Hispanic whites and racial/ethnic minorities aged 30–65 across the full spectrum of educational attainment.

Results: Educational attainment was found to affect the health of whites more than minorities, even with the inclusion of a wide range of potential sociodemographic, behavioral, and economic mediators.

Conclusion: We discuss the possibility that unmeasured variables, such as childhood environment and other individual characteristics, are responsible for the stronger effect of education for whites than minorities, and what the implications are for future policy and research.

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Sleep Behavior and Unemployment Conditions

Marina Antillón, Diane Lauderdale & John Mullahy
Economics & Human Biology, July 2014, Pages 22–32

Abstract:
Recent research has reported that habitually short sleep duration is a risk factor for declining health, including increased risk of obesity, diabetes and coronary heart disease. In this study we investigate whether macroeconomic conditions are associated with variation in mean sleep time in the United States, and if so, whether the effect is procyclical or countercyclical. We merge state unemployment rates from 2003 through 2012 with the American Time Use Survey, a nationally representative sample of adults with 24 hour time diaries. We find that higher aggregate unemployment is associated with longer mean sleep duration, with each additional point of state unemployment associated with an additional average 0.83 minutes of sleep (p < 0.001), after adjusting for a secular trend of increasing sleep over the time period. Despite a national poll in 2009 that found one-third of Americans reporting losing sleep over the economy, we do not find that higher state unemployment is associated with more sleeplessness. Instead, we find that higher state unemployment is associated with less frequent time use described as “sleeplessness” (marginal effect = 0.05 at 4% unemployment and 0.034 at 14% unemployment, p < 0.001), after controlling for a secular trend.

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Cause of Death and Development in the US

Casper Worm Hansen
Journal of Development Economics, July 2014, Pages 143–153

Abstract:
Exploiting cross-state variation in infectious causes of death, along with time variation arising from medical innovations toward the middle of the twentieth century, this study examines the consequences of a positive health shock in the US. It establishes that states with higher levels of mortality from infectious causes prior to the onset of the era of big medicine experienced greater increases in life expectancy, population, and total GDP after its onset, whereas per capita GDP remained largely unchanged. Together the evidence suggests that the rise in life expectancy had no significant effect on living standards in the US during the time period 1940–1980. These results are robust to controlling for initial health and initial economic conditions.

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Effects of Proximate Foreclosed Properties on Individuals' Systolic Blood Pressure in Massachusetts, 1987-2008

Mariana Arcaya et al.
Circulation, forthcoming

Background: No studies have examined the effects of local foreclosure activity on neighbors' blood pressure, despite the fact that spillover effects of nearby foreclosures include many known risk factors for increased blood pressure. We assessed the extent to which living near foreclosed properties is associated with subsequent systolic blood pressure (SBP).

Methods and Results: We used geocoded 6,590 observations collected from 1,740 participants in the Framingham Offspring Cohort across five waves (1987-2008) of the Framingham Heart Study to create a longitudinal record of exposure to nearby foreclosure activity. We distinguished between Real Estate Owned foreclosures (REOs), which typically sit vacant, and foreclosures purchased by third party buyers, which are generally put into productive use. Counts of lender-owned foreclosed properties within 100 meters of participants' homes were used to predict measured SBP and odds of being hypertensive. We assessed whether self-reported alcoholic drinks per week and measured BMI helped explain the foreclosure activity-SBP relationship. Each additional REO located within 100 meters of a participant's home was associated with an increase in SBP of 1.71 mm/hg (p=.03; 95%CI = 0.18 - 3.24) after adjusting for individual- and area-level confounders, but not with odds of hypertension. The presence of foreclosures purchased by third party buyers was not associated with SBP nor with hypertension. BMI and alcohol consumption attenuated the effect of living near REOs on SBP in fully adjusted models.

Conclusions: Real Estate Owned foreclosed properties may put nearby neighbors at risk for increased SBP, with higher alcohol consumption and body mass index partially mediating this relationship.

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Testing the relationship between income inequality and life expectancy: A simple correction for the aggregation effect when using aggregated data

Thomas Mayrhofer & Hendrik Schmitz
Journal of Population Economics, July 2014, Pages 841-856

Abstract:
In this paper, we show a simple correction for the aggregation effect when testing the relationship between income inequality and life expectancy using aggregated data. While there is evidence for a negative correlation between income inequality and a population’s average life expectancy, it is not clear whether this is due to an aggregation effect based on a non-linear relationship between income and life expectancy or to income inequality being a health hazard in itself. The proposed correction method is general and independent of measures of income inequality, functional form assumptions of the health production function, and assumptions on the income distribution. We apply it to data from the Human Development Report and find that the relationship between income inequality and life expectancy can be explained entirely by the aggregation effect. Hence, there is no evidence that income inequality itself is a health hazard.

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Conditional Health-Related Benefits of Higher Education: An Assessment of Compensatory versus Accumulative Mechanisms

Shawn Bauldry
Social Science & Medicine, June 2014, Pages 94–100

Abstract:
A college degree is associated with a range of health-related benefits, but the effects of higher education are known to vary across different population subgroups. Competing theories have been proposed for whether people from more or less advantaged backgrounds or circumstances will gain greater health-related benefits from a college degree. This study draws on data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) and recently developed models for analyzing heterogeneous treatment effects to examine how the effect of obtaining a college degree on the self-rated health of young adults varies across the likelihood of obtaining a college degree, a summary measure of advantage/disadvantage. Results indicate that a college degree has a greater effect on self-rated health for people from advantaged backgrounds. This finding differs from two recent studies, and possible reasons for the contrasting findings are discussed.

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Widening Rural–Urban Disparities in All-Cause Mortality and Mortality from Major Causes of Death in the USA, 1969–2009

Gopal Singh & Mohammad Siahpush
Journal of Urban Health, April 2014, Pages 272-292

Abstract:
This study examined trends in rural–urban disparities in all-cause and cause-specific mortality in the USA between 1969 and 2009. A rural–urban continuum measure was linked to county-level mortality data. Age-adjusted death rates were calculated by sex, race, cause-of-death, area-poverty, and urbanization level for 13 time periods between 1969 and 2009. Cause-of-death decomposition and log-linear and Poisson regression were used to analyze rural–urban differentials. Mortality rates increased with increasing levels of rurality overall and for non-Hispanic whites, blacks, and American Indians/Alaska Natives. Despite the declining mortality trends, mortality risks for both males and females and for blacks and whites have been increasingly higher in non-metropolitan than metropolitan areas, particularly since 1990. In 2005–2009, mortality rates varied from 391.9 per 100,000 population for Asians/Pacific Islanders in rural areas to 1,063.2 for blacks in small-urban towns. Poverty gradients were steeper in rural areas, which maintained higher mortality than urban areas after adjustment for poverty level. Poor blacks in non-metropolitan areas experienced two to three times higher all-cause and premature mortality risks than affluent blacks and whites in metropolitan areas. Disparities widened over time; excess mortality from all causes combined and from several major causes of death in non-metropolitan areas was greater in 2005–2009 than in 1990–1992. Causes of death contributing most to the increasing rural–urban disparity and higher rural mortality include heart disease, unintentional injuries, COPD, lung cancer, stroke, suicide, diabetes, nephritis, pneumonia/influenza, cirrhosis, and Alzheimer’s disease. Residents in metropolitan areas experienced larger mortality reductions during the past four decades than non-metropolitan residents, contributing to the widening gap.

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Are Investments in Disease Prevention Complements? The Case of Statins and Health Behaviors

Robert Kaestner, Michael Darden & Darius Lakdawalla
Journal of Health Economics, July 2014, Pages 151–163

Abstract:
We obtain estimates of associations between statin use and health behaviors. Statin use is associated with a small increase in BMI and moderate (20% to 33%) increases in the probability of being obese. Statin use was also associated with a significant (e.g., 15% of mean) increase in moderate alcohol use among men. There was no consistent evidence of a decrease in smoking associated with statin use, and exercise worsened somewhat for females. Statin use was associated with increased physical activity among males. Finally, there was evidence that statin use increased the use of blood pressure medication and aspirin for both males and females, although estimates varied considerably in magnitude. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that healthy diet is a strong substitute for statins, but there is only uneven evidence for the hypothesis that investments in disease prevention are complementary.

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The Impact of Michigan's Text Messaging Restriction on Motor Vehicle Crashes

Johnathon Ehsani et al.
Journal of Adolescent Health, May 2014, Pages S68–S74

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of Michigan's universal text messaging restriction (effective July 2010) across different age groups of drivers and crash severities.

Methods: Changes in monthly crash rates and crash trends per 10,000 licensed drivers aged 16, 17, 18, 19, 20–24, and 25–50 years were estimated using time series analysis for three levels of crash severity: (1) fatal/disabling injury; (2) nondisabling injury; and (3) possible injury/property damage only (PDO) crashes for the period 2005–2012. Analyses were adjusted for crash rates of drivers' aged 65–99 years, Michigan's unemployment rate, and gasoline prices.

Results: After the introduction of the texting restriction, significant increases were observed in crash rates and monthly trends in fatal/disabling injury crashes and nondisabling injury crashes, and significant decreases in possible injury/PDO crashes. The magnitude of the effects where significant changes were observed was small.

Conclusions: The introduction of the texting restriction was not associated with a reduction in crash rates or trends in severe crash types. On the contrary, small increases in the most severe crash types (fatal/disabling and nondisabling injury) and small decreases in the least severe crash types (possible injury/PDO) were observed. These findings extend the literature on the effects of cell phone restrictions by examining the effects of the restriction on newly licensed adolescent drivers and adult drivers separately by crash severity.

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Pregnancy and the risk of a traffic crash

Donald Redelmeier et al.
Canadian Medical Association Journal, forthcoming

Background: Pregnancy causes diverse physiologic and lifestyle changes that may contribute to increased driving and driving error. We compared the risk of a serious motor vehicle crash during the second trimester to the baseline risk before pregnancy.

Methods: We conducted a population-based self-matched longitudinal cohort analysis of women who gave birth in Ontario between April 1, 2006, and March 31, 2011. We excluded women less than age 18 years, those living outside Ontario, those who lacked a valid healthcard identifier under universal insurance, and those under the care of a midwife. The primary outcome was a motor vehicle crash resulting in a visit to an emergency department.

Results: A total of 507 262 women gave birth during the study period. These women accounted for 6922 motor vehicle crashes as drivers during the 3-year baseline interval (177 per mo) and 757 motor vehicle crashes as drivers during the second trimester (252 per mo), equivalent to a 42% relative increase (95% confidence interval 32%–53%; p < 0.001). The increased risk extended to diverse populations, varied obstetrical cases and different crash characteristics. The increased risk was largest in the early second trimester and compensated for by the third trimester. No similar increase was observed in crashes as passengers or pedestrians, cases of intentional injury or inadvertent falls, or selfreported risky behaviours.

Interpretation: Pregnancy is associated with a substantial risk of a serious motor vehicle crash during the second trimester. This risk merits attention for prenatal care.

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Relationship of Collegiate Football Experience and Concussion With Hippocampal Volume and Cognitive Outcomes

Rashmi Singh et al.
Journal of the American Medical Association, 14 May 2014, Pages 1883-1888

Objective: To assess the relationships of concussion history and years of football experience with hippocampal volume and cognitive performance in collegiate football athletes.

Design, Setting, and Participants: Cross-sectional study conducted between June 2011 and August 2013 at a US psychiatric research institute specializing in neuroimaging among collegiate football players with a history of clinician-diagnosed concussion (n = 25), collegiate football players without a history of concussion (n = 25), and non–football-playing, age-, sex-, and education-matched healthy controls (n = 25).

Results: Players with and without a history of concussion had smaller hippocampal volumes relative to healthy control participants (with concussion: t48 = 7.58; P < .001; mean difference, 1788 μL; 95% CI, 1317-2258 μL; without concussion: t48 = 4.35; P < .001, mean difference, 1027 μL; 95% CI, 556-1498 μL). Players with a history of concussion had smaller hippocampal volumes than players without concussion (t48 = 3.15; P < .001; mean difference, 761 μL; 95% CI, 280-1242 μL). In both athlete groups, there was a statistically significant inverse relationship between left hippocampal volume and number of years of football played (t46 = −3.62; P < .001; coefficient = −43.54; 95% CI, −67.66 to −19.41). Behavioral testing demonstrated no differences between athletes with and without a concussion history on 5 cognitive measures but did show an inverse correlation between years of playing football and reaction time (ρ42 = −0.43; 95% CI, −0.46 to −0.40; P = .005).

Conclusions and Relevance: Among a group of collegiate football athletes, there was a significant inverse relationship of concussion and years of football played with hippocampal volume. Years of football experience also correlated with slower reaction time. Further research is needed to determine the temporal relationships of these findings.

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Reduced Fatalism and Increased Prevention Behavior After Two High-Profile Lung Cancer Events

David Portnoy et al.
Journal of Health Communication, May 2014, Pages 577-592

Abstract:
The positive impact of media coverage of high-profile cancer events on cancer prevention behaviors is well-established. However, less work has focused on potential adverse psychological reactions to such events, such as fatalism. Conducting 3 studies, the authors explored how the lung cancer death of Peter Jennings and diagnosis of Dana Reeve in 2005 related to fatalism. Analysis of a national media sample in Study 1 found that media coverage of these events often focused on reiterating the typical profile of those diagnosed with lung cancer; 38% of the media mentioned at least 1 known risk factor for lung cancer, most often smoking. Data from a nationally representative survey in Study 2 found that respondents reported lower lung cancer fatalism, after, compared with before, the events (OR = 0.16, 95% CI [0.03, 0.93]). A sustained increase in call volume to the national tobacco Quitline after these events was found in Study 3. These results suggest that there is a temporal association between high-profile cancer events, the subsequent media coverage, psychological outcomes, and cancer prevention behaviors. These results suggest that high-profile cancer events could be leveraged as an opportunity for large-scale public heath communication campaigns through the dissemination of cancer prevention messages and services.

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Using Friends as Sensors to Detect Global-Scale Contagious Outbreaks

Manuel Garcia-Herranz et al.
PLoS ONE, April 2014

Abstract:
Recent research has focused on the monitoring of global–scale online data for improved detection of epidemics, mood patterns, movements in the stock market political revolutions, box-office revenues, consumer behaviour and many other important phenomena. However, privacy considerations and the sheer scale of data available online are quickly making global monitoring infeasible, and existing methods do not take full advantage of local network structure to identify key nodes for monitoring. Here, we develop a model of the contagious spread of information in a global-scale, publicly-articulated social network and show that a simple method can yield not just early detection, but advance warning of contagious outbreaks. In this method, we randomly choose a small fraction of nodes in the network and then we randomly choose a friend of each node to include in a group for local monitoring. Using six months of data from most of the full Twittersphere, we show that this friend group is more central in the network and it helps us to detect viral outbreaks of the use of novel hashtags about 7 days earlier than we could with an equal-sized randomly chosen group. Moreover, the method actually works better than expected due to network structure alone because highly central actors are both more active and exhibit increased diversity in the information they transmit to others. These results suggest that local monitoring is not just more efficient, but also more effective, and it may be applied to monitor contagious processes in global–scale networks.

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Income and Income Inequality as Social Determinants of Health: Do Social Comparisons Play a Role?

Patrick Präg, Melinda Mills & Rafael Wittek
European Sociological Review, April 2014, Pages 218-229

Abstract:
Two of the most prominent phenomena in the study of social determinants of health, the socio-economic gradient in health and the income inequality–health association, have both been suggested to be explainable by the mechanism of status comparisons. This, however, has rarely ever been tested in a direct fashion. In this article, we explicate and test this mechanism by assessing the role of social comparison orientation. Research has shown that individuals vary in their propensity to engage in social comparisons, and those with a higher propensity are also more likely to be affected by the outcomes of such comparisons. In our analysis, we check whether the tendency to compare one’s income to that of others can contribute to explaining socio-economic disparities in health. Using individual-level data (N = 18,356) from 23 European countries on self-rated overall health and psychological well-being, we show that a high-income comparison orientation neither moderates the negative effect of income inequality on health nor the health differences by relative income. Our findings cast doubt on the crucial role that researchers such as Wilkinson and Pickett (2010) have attributed to the mechanism of status differentiation as the link between social stratification and health outcomes.

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When Does Education Matter? The Protective Effect of Education for Cohorts Graduating in Bad Times

David Cutler, Wei Huang & Adriana Lleras-Muney
NBER Working Paper, May 2014

Abstract:
Using Eurobarometer data, we document large variation across European countries in education gradients in income, self-reported health, life satisfaction, obesity, smoking and drinking. While this variation has been documented previously, the reasons why the effect of education on income, health and health behaviors varies is not well understood. We build on previous literature documenting that cohorts graduating in bad times have lower wages and poorer health for many years after graduation, compared to those graduating in good times. We investigate whether more educated individuals suffer smaller income and health losses as a result of poor labor market conditions upon labor market entry. We confirm that a higher unemployment rate at graduation is associated with lower income, lower life satisfaction, greater obesity, more smoking and drinking later in life. Further, education plays a protective role for these outcomes, especially when unemployment rates are high: the losses associated with poor labor market outcomes are substantially lower for more educated individuals. Variation in unemployment rates upon graduation can potentially explain a large fraction of the variance in gradients across different countries.

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Resveratrol Levels and All-Cause Mortality in Older Community-Dwelling Adults

Richard Semba et al.
JAMA Internal Medicine, forthcoming

Importance: Resveratrol, a polyphenol found in grapes, red wine, chocolate, and certain berries and roots, is considered to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer effects in humans and is related to longevity in some lower organisms.

Objective: To determine whether resveratrol levels achieved with diet are associated with inflammation, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and mortality in humans.

Design: Prospective cohort study, the Invecchiare in Chianti (InCHIANTI) Study (“Aging in the Chianti Region”), 1998 to 2009 conducted in 2 villages in the Chianti area in a population-based sample of 783 community-dwelling men and women 65 years or older.

Results: Mean (95% CI) log total urinary resveratrol metabolite concentrations were 7.08 (6.69-7.48) nmol/g of creatinine. During 9 years of follow-up, 268 (34.3%) of the participants died. From the lowest to the highest quartile of baseline total urinary resveratrol metabolites, the proportion of participants who died from all causes was 34.4%, 31.6%, 33.5%, and 37.4%, respectively (P = .67). Participants in the lowest quartile had a hazards ratio for mortality of 0.80 (95% CI, 0.54-1.17) compared with those in the highest quartile of total urinary resveratrol in a multivariable Cox proportional hazards model that adjusted for potential confounders. Resveratrol levels were not significantly associated with serum CRP, IL-6, IL-1β, TNF, prevalent or incident cardiovascular disease, or cancer.

Conclusions and Relevance: In older community-dwelling adults, total urinary resveratrol metabolite concentration was not associated with inflammatory markers, cardiovascular disease, or cancer or predictive of all-cause mortality. Resveratrol levels achieved with a Western diet did not have a substantial influence on health status and mortality risk of the population in this study.

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Targeted Health Department Expenditures Benefit Birth Outcomes at the County Level

Betty Bekemeier et al.
American Journal of Preventive Medicine, June 2014, Pages 569–577

Purpose: This study used unique, detailed LHD [local health department] expenditure data gathered from state health departments to examine the influence of maternal and child health (MCH) service investments by LHDs on health outcomes.

Methods: A multivariate panel time-series design was used in 2013 to estimate ecologic relationships between 2000−2010 LHD expenditures on MCH and county-level rates of low birth weight and infant mortality. The unit of analysis was 102 LHD jurisdictions in Washington and Florida.

Results: Results indicate that LHD expenditures on MCH services have a beneficial relationship with county-level low birth weight rates, particularly in counties with high concentrations of poverty. This relationship is stronger for more targeted expenditure categories, with expenditures in each of the three specific examined MCH service areas demonstrating the strongest effects.

Conclusions: Findings indicate that specific LHD investments in MCH have an important effect on related health outcomes for populations in poverty and likely help reduce the costly burden of poor birth outcomes for families and communities. These findings underscore the importance of monitoring the impact of these evolving investments and ensuring that targeted, beneficial investments are not lost but expanded upon across care delivery systems.

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Public Estimates of Cancer Frequency: Cancer Incidence Perceptions Mirror Distorted Media Depictions

Jakob Jensen et al.
Journal of Health Communication, May 2014, Pages 609-624

Abstract:
Compared with incidence rates, certain cancers are over- or underrepresented in news coverage. Past content analytic research has consistently documented these news distortions, but no study has examined whether they are related to public perception of cancer incidence. Adults (N = 400) completed a survey with questions about perceived cancer incidence, news consumption, and attention to health news. Cancer incidence perceptions paralleled previously documented news distortions. Overrepresented cancers were overestimated (e.g., blood, head/brain) and underrepresented cancers were underestimated (e.g., male reproductive, lymphatic, thyroid, and bladder). Self-reported news consumption was related to perceptual distortions such that heavier consumers were more likely to demonstrate distorted perceptions of four cancers (bladder, blood, breast, and kidney). Distortions in risk perception and news coverage also mirrored discrepancies in federal funding for cancer research. Health care professionals, journalists, and the public should be educated about these distortions to reduce or mitigate potential negative effects on health behavior and decision making.

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Association between resting heart rate across the life course and all-cause mortality: Longitudinal findings from the Medical Research Council (MRC) National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD)

Bríain Ó Hartaigh et al.
Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, forthcoming

Background: Resting heart rate (RHR) is an independent risk factor for mortality. Nevertheless, it is unclear whether elevations in childhood and mid-adulthood RHR, including changes over time, are associated with mortality later in life. We sought to evaluate the association between RHR across the life course, along with its changes and all-cause mortality.

Methods: We studied 4638 men and women from the Medical Research Council (MRC) National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD) cohort born during 1 week in 1946. RHR was obtained during childhood at ages 6, 7 and 11, and in mid-adulthood at ages 36 and 43. Using multivariable Cox regression, we calculated the HR for incident mortality according to RHR measured at each time point, along with changes in mid-adulthood RHR.

Results: At age 11, those in the top fifth of the RHR distribution (≥97 bpm) had an increased adjusted hazard of 1.42 (95% CI 1.04 to 1.93) for all-cause mortality. A higher adjusted risk (HR, 95% CI 2.17, 1.40 to 3.36) of death was also observed for those in the highest fifth (≥81 bpm) at age 43. For a >25 bpm increased change in the RHR over the course of 7 years (age 36–43), the adjusted hazard was elevated more than threefold (HR, 95% CI 3.26, 1.54 to 6.90). After adjustment, RHR at ages 6, 7 and 36 were not associated with all-cause mortality.

Conclusions: Elevated RHR during childhood and midlife, along with greater changes in mid-adulthood RHR, are associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality.

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Sub-therapeutic Antibiotics and the Efficiency of U.S. Hog Farms

Nigel Key & William McBride
American Journal of Agricultural Economics, April 2014, Pages 831-850

Abstract:
A substantial share of U.S. hog producers incorporate antimicrobial drugs into their livestock's feed or water at sub-therapeutic levels to promote feed efficiency and weight gain. Recently, in response to concerns that the overuse of antibiotics in livestock could promote the development of antimicrobial drug-resistant bacteria, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration adopted a strategy to phase out the use of antibiotics for production purposes. This study uses a stochastic frontier model and data from the 2009 USDA Agricultural Resource Management Survey of feeder-to-finish hog producers to estimate the potential effects on hog output and output variability resulting from a ban on antibiotics used for growth promotion. We use propensity score nearest neighbor matching to create a balanced sample of sub-therapeutic antibiotic (STA) users and nonusers. We estimate the frontier model for the pooled sample and separately for users and non-users — which allows for a flexible interaction between STA use and the production technology. Point estimates for the matched sample indicate that STA use has a small positive effect on productivity and production risk, increasing output by 1.0–1.3% and reducing the standard deviation of unexplained output by 1.4%. The results indicate that improvements in productivity resulted exclusively from technological improvement rather than from an increase in technical efficiency.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Monday, May 26, 2014

People's republics

Delivering Stability — Primogeniture and Autocratic Survival in European Monarchies 1000–1800

Andrej Kokkonen & Anders Sundell
American Political Science Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
Building a strong autocratic state requires stability in ruler-elite relations. From this perspective the absence of a successor is problematic, as the elite have few incentives to remain loyal if the autocrat cannot reward them for their loyalty after his death. However, an appointed successor has both the capacity and the motive to challenge the autocrat. We argue that a succession based on primogeniture solves the dilemma, by providing the regime with a successor who can afford to wait to inherit the throne peacefully. We test our hypothesis on a dataset covering 961 monarchs ruling 42 European states between 1000 and 1800, and show that fewer monarchs were deposed in states practicing primogeniture than in states practicing alternative succession orders. A similar pattern persists in the world's remaining absolute monarchies. Primogeniture also contributed to building strong states: In 1801 all European monarchies had adopted primogeniture or succumbed to foreign enemies.

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Democracy Does Not Promote Well-Being Except in Rich Countries With Demanding Climates

Evert Van de Vliert & Tom Postmes
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Is democracy really a good thing because it improves well-being? Everywhere? Here we use multiple regression analysis to examine continuous associations between democracy and well-being across 137 countries. The results are clarified by breaking them down for 20 poor countries with demanding winters or summers (threatening habitats), 48 poor countries with undemanding temperate climates (unthreatening habitats), 23 rich countries with undemanding temperate climates (unchallenging habitats), and 46 rich countries with demanding winters or summers (challenging habitats). We show that democratic governance is negatively related to satisfaction with freedom of choice and overall happiness in threatening habitats and unrelated in unthreatening and unchallenging habitats. Only in challenging habitats of rich countries with demanding climates is democracy positively related to satisfaction with freedom of choice and overall happiness. This pattern of findings, which persists when controlling for a variety of societal risks, might suggest that the link between democracy and well-being can be particularly strengthened by empowering poorer populations in more demanding climates to generate more income.

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Good Fences: The Importance of Setting Boundaries for Peaceful Coexistence

Alex Rutherford et al.
PLoS ONE, May 2014

Abstract:
We consider the conditions of peace and violence among ethnic groups, testing a theory designed to predict the locations of violence and interventions that can promote peace. Characterizing the model's success in predicting peace requires examples where peace prevails despite diversity. Switzerland is recognized as a country of peace, stability and prosperity. This is surprising because of its linguistic and religious diversity that in other parts of the world lead to conflict and violence. Here we analyze how peaceful stability is maintained. Our analysis shows that peace does not depend on integrated coexistence, but rather on well defined topographical and political boundaries separating groups, allowing for partial autonomy within a single country. In Switzerland, mountains and lakes are an important part of the boundaries between sharply defined linguistic areas. Political canton and circle (sub-canton) boundaries often separate religious groups. Where such boundaries do not appear to be sufficient, we find that specific aspects of the population distribution guarantee either sufficient separation or sufficient mixing to inhibit intergroup violence according to the quantitative theory of conflict. In exactly one region, a porous mountain range does not adequately separate linguistic groups and that region has experienced significant violent conflict, leading to the recent creation of the canton of Jura. Our analysis supports the hypothesis that violence between groups can be inhibited by physical and political boundaries. A similar analysis of the area of the former Yugoslavia shows that during widespread ethnic violence existing political boundaries did not coincide with the boundaries of distinct groups, but peace prevailed in specific areas where they did coincide. The success of peace in Switzerland may serve as a model to resolve conflict in other ethnically diverse countries and regions of the world.

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Respect for Human Rights has Improved Over Time: Modeling the Changing Standard of Accountability

Christopher Fariss
American Political Science Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
According to indicators of political repression currently used by scholars, human rights practices have not improved over the past 35 years, despite the spread of human rights norms, better monitoring, and the increasing prevalence of electoral democracy. I argue that this empirical pattern is not an indication of stagnating human rights practices. Instead, it reflects a systematic change in the way monitors, like Amnesty International and the U.S. State Department, encounter and interpret information about abuses. The standard of accountability used to assess state behaviors becomes more stringent as monitors look harder for abuse, look in more places for abuse, and classify more acts as abuse. In this article, I present a new, theoretically informed measurement model, which generates unbiased estimates of repression using existing data. I then show that respect for human rights has improved over time and that the relationship between human rights respect and ratification of the UN Convention Against Torture is positive, which contradicts findings from existing research.

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“The People Want the Fall of the Regime”: Schooling, Political Protest, and the Economy

Filipe Campante & Davin Chor
Journal of Comparative Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
We provide evidence that economic circumstances are a key intermediating variable for understanding the relationship between schooling and political protest. Using the World Values Survey, we find that individuals with higher levels of schooling, but whose income outcomes fall short of that predicted by their biographical characteristics, in turn display a greater propensity to engage in protest activities. We discuss a number of interpretations that are consistent with this finding, including the idea that economic conditions can affect how individuals trade off the use of their human capital between production and political activities. Our results could also reflect a link between education, “grievance”, and political protest, although we argue that this is unlikely to be the sole explanation. Separately, we show that the interaction between schooling and economic conditions matters too at the country level: Rising education levels coupled with macroeconomic weakness are associated with increased incumbent turnover, as well as subsequent pressures toward democratization.

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Military Rule

Barbara Geddes, Erica Frantz & Joseph Wright
Annual Review of Political Science, 2014, Pages 147-162

Abstract:
Military rule as a form of autocratic governance can mean either rule by a military strongman unconstrained by other officers or rule by a group of high-ranking officers who can limit the dictator's discretion. We label the latter form a military regime. Both military strongmen and military regimes are more likely to commit human rights abuses and become embroiled in civil wars than are civilian dictatorships. The behavior of strongmen diverges from that of more constrained military rulers in other areas, however. Military strongmen start more international wars than either military regimes or civilian dictators, perhaps because they have more reason to fear postouster exile, prison, or assassination. Fear of the future may also motivate their resistance to transition. Military strongmen are more often ousted by insurgency, popular uprising, or invasion than are military regimes or civilian dictators. Their tenures rarely end in democratization, whereas the opposite is true of military regimes.

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Electoral Rules and the Quality of Politicians: Theory and Evidence from a Field Experiment in Afghanistan

Andrew Beath et al.
NBER Working Paper, May 2014

Abstract:
We examine the effect of electoral rules on the quality of elected officials using a unique field experiment which induced randomized variation in the method of council elections in 250 villages in Afghanistan. In particular, we compare at-large elections, with a single multi-member district, to district elections, with multiple single member districts. We propose a theoretical model where the difference in the quality of elected officials between the two electoral systems occurs because elected legislators have to bargain over policy, which induces citizens in district elections to vote strategically for candidates with more polarized policy positions even at the expense of candidates' competence. Consistent with the predictions of the model, we find that elected officials in at-large elections are more educated than those in district elections and that this effect is stronger in more heterogeneous villages. We also find evidence that elected officials in district elections have more biased preferences.

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Taxation and democracy: An instrumental variable approach

Nurullah Gur
Applied Economics Letters, Summer 2014, Pages 763-766

Abstract:
Our article investigates the effect of taxation on democracy. We exploit exogenous variation in taxation driven by wars from the pre-modern era and document a positive and highly significant first-stage relationship between pre-modern war casualties and taxation. Using this instrumental variable strategy, we find that taxation has a positive effect on democracy.

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Coup d’état or Coup d'Autocracy? How Coups Impact Democratization, 1950–2008

Clayton Thyne & Jonathan Powell
Foreign Policy Analysis, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper considers how coups impact democratization. Current research focuses on coups as a threat to consolidated and fledgling democracies. Policymakers have adapted to this viewpoint by treating coups as unjustifiable maneuvers that must be curtailed, with states frequently terminating aid and IOs suspending membership following a coup. While coups clearly confound democratic consolidation, it is notable that the vast majority of coups do not happen in democracies. Therefore, we focus on authoritarian regimes in seeking to discover how coups might open paths toward democratization. We first argue that successful coups should promote democratization because leaders have incentives to democratize quickly in order to establish political legitimacy and economic growth. Second, we view failed coups as credible signals that leaders must enact meaningful reforms to remain in power. Empirical analyses strongly support the argument that coups promote democratization, particularly among states that are least likely to democratize otherwise.

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Rewarding Bad Behavior: How Governments Respond to Terrorism in Civil War

Jakana Thomas
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Although violent organizations often use terrorism as a means to achieve political aims, recent studies suggest the tactic is ineffective because it fails to help groups gain concessions. While focused exclusively on concessions, these studies overlook other important markers of success, specifically whether groups are invited to participate in negotiations as a result of their use of terrorism. Extant studies also conduct statistical analyses on overly aggregated data, masking any effect terrorism has on important bargaining outcomes. Using new monthly data on the incidence of negotiations and the number of concessions offered to groups involved in African civil wars, this paper demonstrates that rebel groups are both more likely to be granted the opportunity to participate in negotiations and offered more concessions when they execute a greater number of terror attacks during civil wars.

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Resource Concentration and Civil Wars

Massimo Morelli & Dominic Rohner
NBER Working Paper, May 2014

Abstract:
This paper highlights the importance of natural resource concentration and ethnic group regional concentration for ethnic conflict. A new type of bargaining failure due to multiple types of potential conflicts (and hence multiple threat points) is identified. The theory predicts war to be more likely when resource and group concentration are high, and the empirical analysis, both at the country level and at the ethnic group level, confirms the essential role of geographic concentration variables for civil war.

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Income Growth, Ethnic Polarization, and Political Risk: Evidence from International Oil Price Shocks

Markus Brückner & Mark Gradstein
Journal of Comparative Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper studies the effects of growth in countries’ national incomes on political risk. To address causality, we use the annual growth rate of the international oil price weighted with countries’ average oil net-export GDP shares as an instrument for national income growth. Our instrumental variables analysis yields two main results: (i) income growth has on average a significant negative effect on countries’ political risk; (ii) the marginal effect of income growth on political risk is significantly decreasing in cross-country differences in ethnic polarization, so much so that at high levels of ethnic polarization income growth increases political risk while at low levels of ethnic polarization income growth reduces political risk.

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Intergroup Violence and Political Attitudes: Evidence from a Dividing Sudan

Bernd Beber, Philip Roessler & Alexandra Scacco
Journal of Politics, forthcoming

Abstract:
How do episodes of intergroup violence affect political opinions toward outgroup members? Recent studies offer divergent answers. Some suggest violence deepens antagonism and reduces support for compromise, while others contend it encourages moderation and concessions to prevent further conflict. We argue that violence can fuel both hostility toward the outgroup and acceptance of outgroup objectives and provide evidence from a unique survey of 1,380 respondents implemented by the authors in greater Khartoum in Sudan in 2010 and 2011. We find that Northerners who experienced rioting by Southerners in Khartoum in 2005 were more likely to support Southern independence but less likely to support citizenship for Southerners remaining in the North. In combination, these results suggest that political violence hardens negative intergroup attitudes and makes individuals willing to concede separation to avoid living alongside outgroup members.

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Sexual violence in armed conflict: Introducing the SVAC dataset, 1989–2009

Dara Kay Cohen & Ragnhild Nordås
Journal of Peace Research, May 2014, Pages 418-428

Abstract:
Which armed groups have perpetrated sexual violence in recent conflicts? This article presents patterns from the new Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict (SVAC) dataset. The dataset, coded from the three most widely used sources in the quantitative human rights literature, covers 129 active conflicts, and the 625 armed actors involved in these conflicts, during the period 1989–2009. The unit of observation is the conflict-actor-year, allowing for detailed analysis of the patterns of perpetration of sexual violence for each conflict actor. The dataset captures six dimensions of sexual violence: prevalence, perpetrators, victims, forms, location, and timing. In addition to active conflict-years, the dataset also includes reports of sexual violence committed by conflict actors in the five years post-conflict. We use the data to trace variation in reported conflict-related sexual violence over time, space, and actor type, and outline the dataset's potential utility for scholars. Among the insights offered are that the prevalence of sexual violence varies dramatically by perpetrator group, suggesting that sexual violations are common – but not ubiquitous. In addition, we find that state militaries are more likely to be reported as perpetrators of sexual violence than either rebel groups or militias. Finally, reports of sexual violence continue into the post-conflict period, sometimes at very high levels. The data may be helpful both to scholars and policymakers for better understanding the patterns of sexual violence, its causes, and its consequences.

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The Distributive Politics of Enforcement

Alisha Holland
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Why do some politicians tolerate the violation of the law? In contexts where the poor are the primary violators of property laws, I argue that the answer lies in the electoral costs of enforcement: Enforcement can decrease support from poor voters even while it generates support among nonpoor voters. Using an original data set on unlicensed street vending and enforcement operations at the subcity district level in three Latin American capital cities, I show that the combination of voter demographics and electoral rules explains enforcement. Supported by qualitative interviews, these findings suggest how the intentional nonenforcement of law, or forbearance, can be an electoral strategy. Dominant theories based on state capacity poorly explain the results.

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Authoritarian Parochialism: Local Congressional Representation in China

Melanie Manion
China Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract:
This article draws on evidence from loosely structured interviews and data from original surveys of 5,130 delegates in township, county and municipal congresses to argue that congressional representation unfolds as authoritarian parochialism in China. It makes three new arguments. First, popularly elected local congresses that once only mechanically stood in for the Chinese mass public, through demographically descriptive and politically symbolic representation, now work as substantively representative institutions. Chinese local congressmen and women view themselves and act as “delegates,” not Burkean trustees or Leninist party agents. Second, this congressional representation is not commonly expressed in the quintessentially legislative activities familiar in other regime types. Rather, it is an extra-legislative variant of pork-barrel politics: parochial activity by delegates to deliver targeted public goods to the geographic constituency. Third, this authoritarian parochialism is due to institutional arrangements and regime priorities, some common to single-party dictatorships and some distinct to Chinese authoritarianism.

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Regime Spoiler or Regime Pawn: The Military and Distributional Conflict in Non-Democracies

Atsu Amegashie
Journal of Comparative Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
I consider a model in which an autocrat can be removed from power either through a military coup or a revolution by the citizens. In the event of a revolt by the citizens, the military may choose to support the autocrat to crush the revolt or play a passive role. The autocrat determines the distribution of the country’s wealth among himself, the military, and the citizens. I find that, under certain conditions, there exists a unique Markov perfect equilibrium in which there are no coups, the citizens revolt in each period, and the military fights on behalf of the autocrat. Under a different set of conditions, there is another equilibrium in which there are no coups, the citizens always revolt, but the military does not fight the revolt. However, peace (no revolts) is also an equilibrium of the model. The model is consistent with the persistence of social unrest or civil wars in certain countries and the different roles played by the military in different countries. Surprisingly, I find that if the citizens’ outside option (i.e., payoff in a democracy) improves, this is likely to make them worse off. Furthermore, an increase in natural resources is likely to make the citizens worse off because it reduces the probability of a transition to democracy or the prospect of good governance in autocracy. I discuss other implications of the model and relate it to real-world events.

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Yesterday’s heroes, today’s villains: Ideology, corruption, and democratic performance

Daniel Gingerich
Journal of Theoretical Politics, April 2014, Pages 249-282

Abstract:
This paper develops a game-theoretic model for assessing the relationship between ideological divisions in a society and prospects for good governance. Synthesizing the insights of the literature on political career concerns with those from the literature on issue framing, the model emphasizes that ideological balance — rough equality in the ideological component of utility the median voter derives from government and opposition — is the key to good governance. Polities which are ideologically balanced are ruled by elites who attempt to impress their merit upon the electorate through the provision of public goods. Ideologically imbalanced polities are ruled by elites who use public resources for their own consumption and who court voters through socially unproductive issue framing. The cases of pre-revolutionary Cuba, post-apartheid South Africa, and post-Pinochet Chile are used to illustrate the crucial importance of ideological balance for good governance.

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A Checkpoint Effect? Evidence from a Natural Experiment on Travel Restrictions in the West Bank

Matthew Longo, Daphna Canetti & Nancy Hite-Rubin
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Does nonviolent repression prompt subject groups to obey or rebel? By what mechanism does it do so? To address these questions, we exploit a natural experiment based on a 2009 policy toward the “easement” of checkpoints — nonviolent impediments to movement — in the West Bank. We sample populations across 17 villages (n = 599), beside one checkpoint slated for easement (treatment) and one that will undergo no change (control), before and after the intervention. We then pursue difference-in-difference estimation. This design is experimental, as easement was orthogonal to Palestinian attitudes; for robustness, we test our findings against an independent panel (n = 1,200). We find that easement makes subject populations less likely to support violence; we suggest humiliation as the mechanism bridging nonviolent repression with militancy. This warrants rethinking Israeli security policy, as short-term concerns over Palestinian mobility may be compromising Israel's long-term interests. By extension, checkpoint easement may positively affect peace negotiations.

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On the Wrong Side of the Law – Causes and Consequences of a Corrupt Judiciary

Stefan Voigt & Jerg Gutmann
International Review of Law and Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Empirical research on the determinants of corruption has made substantial progress over the last decade. To date, the consequences of different structures of the legal enforcement institutions have, however, only played a marginal role. This contribution deals with both the determinants of corruption in the judiciary and the consequences of judicial organization for corruption at large. Regarding the latter, it is shown that the actual independence of the judiciary as well as that of prosecution agencies is correlated with lower levels of corruption. This is also true for a third indicator that measures the degree to which judges are held accountable for their decisions (“judicial accountability”). Furthermore, independence and accountability function as complements in preventing corruption – judicial accountability without independence appears to be ineffective, whereas judicial or prosecutorial independence alone can even have adverse effects.

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The Returns to Office in a “Rubber Stamp” Parliament

Rory Truex
American Political Science Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
Are there returns to office in an authoritarian parliament? A new dataset shows that over 500 deputies to China’s National People’s Congress are CEOs of various companies. Entropy balancing is used to construct a weighted portfolio of Chinese companies that matches companies with NPC representation on relevant financial characteristics prior to the 11th Congress (2008–2012). The weighted fixed effect analysis suggests that a seat in the NPC is worth an additional 1.5 percentage points in returns and a 3 to 4 percentage point boost in operating profit margin in a given year. Additional evidence reveals that these rents stem primarily from the “reputation boost” of the position, and not necessarily formal policy influence. These findings confirm the assumptions of several prominent theories of authoritarian politics but suggest the need to further probe the nature of these institutions.

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Capitalism and (versus?) democracy: Stock markets and democratization in transition

Christopher Hartwell
Applied Economics Letters, forthcoming

Abstract:
This article takes a look at the determinants of democracy in transition economies, with reference to the role of financial markets. Using three different proxies for financial market development, I find that stock exchanges appear to correlate with lower levels of democracy on average, although the most successful democracies also have the largest stock markets. Nonlinearities thus appear to exist in the relationship between financial markets and political institutions in transition.

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Curriculum and Ideology

Davide Cantoni et al.
NBER Working Paper, May 2014

Abstract:
We study the causal effect of school curricula on students’ stated beliefs and attitudes. We exploit a major textbook reform in China that was rolled out between 2004 and 2010 with the explicit intention of shaping youths’ ideology. To measure its effect, we present evidence from a novel survey we conducted among 2000 students at Peking University. The sharp, staggered introduction of the new curriculum across provinces allows us to identify the effects of the new educational content in a generalized difference in differences framework. We examine government documents articulating desired consequences of the reform, and identify changes in textbook content and college entrance exams that reflect the government’s aims. These changes were often effective: study under the new curriculum is robustly associated with changed views on political participation and democracy in China, increased trust in government officials, and a more skeptical view of free markets.

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The election trap: The cycle of post-electoral repression and opposition fragmentation in Lukashenko's Belarus

Konstantin Ash
Democratization, forthcoming

Abstract:
Recent work on competitive authoritarianism has not explored the full consequences of electoral participation for opposition movements. While prominent work argues that the government must employ a mix of side-payments and repression to fragment opposition to its rule, Belarus’ history since the ascension of President Alexander Lukashenko in 1994 shows that the opposition has been repressed after most parliamentary and presidential elections without any substantial co-optation. I argue that electoral contestation and subsequent post-electoral repression have led to the Belarusian opposition's fragmented state. This state is grounded in competition for foreign aid, which creates a need among Belarusian opposition leaders to demonstrate their ability to mobilize support through campaigns. Invariably, successful opposition leaders emerge as the principal challengers to the regime, leading to their arrest or exile. Repression then fosters division within anti-government movements and restarts the cycle for new aid-seeking parties and leaders. A quantitative test establishes that repression concentrates in post-electoral periods and a qualitative assessment shows that opposition fragmentation stems from the arrest or exile of opposition leaders. The empirical findings provide contrasting evidence to work on co-optation in autocracies while suggesting an adverse effect of foreign democracy assistance around the world.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Sunday, May 25, 2014

When the going gets tough

Modifying Resilience Mechanisms in At-Risk Individuals: A Controlled Study of Mindfulness Training in Marines Preparing for Deployment

Douglas Johnson et al.
American Journal of Psychiatry, forthcoming

Objective: Military deployment can have profound effects on physical and mental health. Few studies have examined whether interventions prior to deployment can improve mechanisms underlying resilience. Mindfulness-based techniques have been shown to aid recovery from stress and may affect brain-behavior relationships prior to deployment. The authors examined the effect of mindfulness training on resilience mechanisms in active-duty Marines preparing for deployment.

Method: Eight Marine infantry platoons (N=281) were randomly selected. Four platoons were assigned to receive mindfulness training (N=147) and four were assigned to a training-as-usual control condition (N=134). Platoons were assessed at baseline, 8 weeks after baseline, and during and after a stressful combat training session approximately 9 weeks after baseline. The mindfulness training condition was delivered in the form of 8 weeks of Mindfulness-Based Mind Fitness Training (MMFT), a program comprising 20 hours of classroom instruction plus daily homework exercises. MMFT emphasizes interoceptive awareness, attentional control, and tolerance of present-moment experiences. The main outcome measures were heart rate, breathing rate, plasma neuropeptide Y concentration, score on the Response to Stressful Experiences Scale, and brain activation as measured by functional MRI.

Results: Marines who received MMFT showed greater reactivity (heart rate [d=0.43]) and enhanced recovery (heart rate [d=0.67], breathing rate [d=0.93]) after stressful training; lower plasma neuropeptide Y concentration after stressful training (d=0.38); and attenuated blood-oxygen-level-dependent signal in the right insula and anterior cingulate.

Conclusions: The results show that mechanisms related to stress recovery can be modified in healthy individuals prior to stress exposure, with important implications for evidence-based mental health research and treatment.

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Entering Adulthood in a Recession Tempers Later Narcissism

Emily Bianchi
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Despite widespread interest in narcissism, relatively little is known about the conditions that encourage or dampen it. Drawing on research showing that macroenvironmental conditions in emerging adulthood can leave a lasting imprint on attitudes and behaviors, I argue that people who enter adulthood during recessions are less likely to be narcissistic later in life than those who come of age in more prosperous times. Using large samples of American adults, Studies 1 and 2 showed that people who entered adulthood during worse economic times endorsed fewer narcissistic items as older adults. Study 3 extended these findings to a behavioral manifestation of narcissism: the relative pay of CEOs. CEOs who came of age in worse economic times paid themselves less relative to other top executives in their firms. These findings suggest that macroenvironmental experiences at a critical life stage can have lasting implications for how unique, special, and deserving people believe themselves to be.

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Untreated Depression Predicts Higher Suicide Rates in U.S. Honor Cultures

Marisa Crowder & Markus Kemmelmeier
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Osterman and Brown demonstrated that U.S. honor states had higher rates of suicide than non-honor states and related this phenomenon to the higher incidence of depression and a reduced readiness to seek antidepression treatment in honor states. The present study critiques their research and re-examines the origin of the association between honor culture and suicide using a more expansive multi-year data set and controlling for culturally relevant factors (i.e., climate, gun ownership, population density, collectivism, access to health care, economic deprivation). Replicating some of their findings, higher rates of depression were related to higher levels of suicide in honor states but not non-honor states. In addition, we found state levels of antidepressant drug prescriptions to be related to lower levels of suicide in honor states but not non-honor states. A mediation analysis further revealed that levels of antidepressant drug prescriptions, but not levels of depression, mediated the relationship between honor culture and suicide, consistent with higher suicide rates in honor states being the result of a lack of treatment. The discussion focuses on clinical and cultural implications for suicide prevention in honor states.

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High Positive Affect Shortly After Missile Attacks and the Heightened Risk of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Among Israeli Adolescents

Yael Israel-Cohen, Gabriela Kashy-Rosenbaum & Oren Kaplan
Journal of Traumatic Stress, forthcoming

Abstract:
Previous research has demonstrated that positive emotions help build psychological resources and facilitate adaptation to stress, yet few studies have considered the possible negative effects of positive emotions on stress. This study examined the relationship between high arousal, positive and negative affect, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms among 503 Israeli adolescents following a period of escalated missile attacks on their city. Our findings revealed that not only negative affect, but also positive affect at very high levels exhibited 2 weeks following missile attacks were independently associated with PTSD symptoms 2½ months later (η2 = .09, η2 = .02, respectively). Although the literature recognizes the risk factor of negative affect on the development of PTSD, we suggest that also positive affect at high levels immediately after such experiences may be a case of emotion context insensitivity and thus a maladaptive response to trauma. Further research should examine the mechanisms associated with positive emotions and PTSD.

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The Home Foreclosure Crisis and Rising Suicide Rates, 2005 to 2010

Jason Houle & Michael Light
American Journal of Public Health, June 2014, Pages 1073-1079

Objectives: We examined the association between state-level foreclosure and suicide rates from 2005 to 2010 and considered variation in the effect of foreclosure on suicide by age.

Methods: We used hybrid random- and fixed-effects models to examine the relation between state foreclosure rates and total and age-specific suicide rates from 2005 to 2010 (n = 306 state-years).

Results: Net of other factors, an increase in the within-state total foreclosure rate was associated with a within-state increase in the crude suicide rates (b = 0.04; P < .1), and effects were stronger for the real estate–owned foreclosure rate (b = 0.16; P < .05). Analysis of age-specific suicide rates indicated that the effects were strongest among the middle-aged (46–64 years: total foreclosure rate, b = 0.21; P < .001; real estate–owned foreclosure rate, b = 0.83; P < .001). Rising home foreclosure rates explained 18% of the variance in the middle-aged suicide rate between 2005 and 2010.

Conclusions: The foreclosure crisis has likely contributed to increased suicides, independent of other economic factors associated with the recession. Rising foreclosure rates may be partially responsible for the recent uptick in suicide among middle-aged adults.

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Authenticity and self-esteem across temporal horizons

William Davis et al.
Journal of Positive Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Extending research on optimal self-esteem and authenticity, three studies tested the hypothesis that authenticity would be a stronger predictor of self-esteem levels when time was perceived as limited as opposed to open ended. Study 1 provided a cross-sectional examination of the relationship between authenticity, future time perspective, and self-esteem in an adult sample, and Studies 2 and 3 assessed this relationship using repeated measures methodologies across both the short term and long term in college student samples. Results supported the hypothesis that authenticity would be a stronger predictor of self-esteem levels when time was perceived as limited. Across studies, individuals who felt inauthentic reported lower levels of self-esteem when they perceived time as limited.

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Is Having a Taste of Luxury a Good Idea? How Use vs. Ownership of Luxury Products Affects Satisfaction with Life

L. Hudders & M. Pandelaere
Applied Research in Quality of Life, forthcoming

Abstract:
Previous research showing that luxury consumption can be beneficial for one’s well-being equate consumption with ownership. The current paper experimentally investigates whether the impact of luxury consumption on one’s satisfaction with life differs when this consumption implies ownership versus mere use of (democratized) luxury products. While we find that ownership of luxury products is associated with a higher satisfaction with life compared to ownership of non-luxury products, the mere use of luxuries decreases an individual’s satisfaction with life. This finding is obtained for both a durable (a pen) and a non-durable (a chocolate).

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Motivated Happiness: Self-Enhancement Inflates Self-Reported Subjective Well-Being

Sean Wojcik & Peter Ditto
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Three studies support the contention that self-enhancement motivation distorts self-reports of subjective well-being (SWB). Both individual differences in self-enhancement (Studies 1 and 2) and experimental manipulations of self-enhancement motivation (Study 2) predicted an increased likelihood of reporting SWB at unrealistically favorable levels relative to others — a “happier-than-average effect.” Study 3a and 3b showed that both trait self-enhancement and experimentally manipulated differences in self-enhancement motivation also affected self-reports on established measures of SWB. Specifically, individuals prone to self-enhancement were more affected than low self-enhancers by the desirability of happiness when reporting SWB. The current studies suggest that reports of SWB are susceptible to the same self-enhancement biases that influence self-reports of other positively valued traits. Implications and recommendations for the measurement of SWB and the use of well-being data in policy decision-making are discussed.

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Economic indicators predict changes in college student optimism for life events

Heather Lench & Shane Bench
Journal of Applied Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
This investigation explored the extent to which an economic recession predicted changes in college students' optimism about the length and quality of their futures. In a cross-sectional design, college students in the United States rated their likelihood of divorcing, being unhappy in their career, and living past age 60, at time points before, during, and in the aftermath of an economic recession (2007–2010). Economic indicators, particularly gas prices, predicted decreased optimism as the indicators worsened. After the recession, however, optimism rebounded. The findings reveal that people's expectations for their personal futures are generally sensitive to the state of the national economy.

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Birth Order and Suicide in Adulthood: Evidence From Swedish Population Data

Mikael Rostila, Jan Saarela & Ichiro Kawachi
American Journal of Epidemiology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Each year, almost 1 million people die from suicide, which is among the leading causes of death in young people. We studied how birth order was associated with suicide and other main causes of death. A follow-up study based on the Swedish population register was conducted for sibling groups born from 1932 to 1980 who were observed during the period 1981–2002. Focus was on the within-family variation in suicide risk, meaning that we studied sibling groups that consisted of 2 or more children in which at least 1 died from suicide. These family–fixed effects analyses revealed that each increase in birth order was related to an 18% higher suicide risk (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.14, 1.23, P = 0.000). The association was slightly lower among sibling groups born in 1932–1955 (hazard ratio = 1.13, 95% CI: 1.06, 1.21, P = 0.000) than among those born in 1967–1980 (hazard ratio = 1.24, 95% CI: 0.97, 1.57, P = 0.080). Further analyses suggested that the association between birth order and suicide was only modestly influenced by sex, birth spacing, size of the sibling group, own socioeconomic position, own marital status, and socioeconomic rank within the sibling group. Causes of death other than suicide and other external causes were not associated with birth order.

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Psilocybin-Induced Decrease in Amygdala Reactivity Correlates with Enhanced Positive Mood in Healthy Volunteers

Rainer Kraehenmann et al.
Biological Psychiatry, forthcoming

Background: The amygdala is a key structure in serotonergic emotion-processing circuits. In healthy volunteers, acute administration of the serotonin 1A/2A/2C receptor agonist psilocybin reduces neural responses to negative stimuli and induces mood changes towards positive states. However, it is little-known whether psilocybin reduces amygdala reactivity to negative stimuli and whether any change in amygdala reactivity is related to mood change.

Methods: This study assessed the effects of acute administration of the hallucinogen psilocybin (0.16 mg/kg) vs. placebo on amygdala reactivity to negative stimuli in 25 healthy volunteers using blood oxygenation level-dependent functional magnetic resonance imaging. Mood changes were assessed using the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule and the state portion of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. A double-blind, randomized, cross-over design was used with volunteers counterbalanced to receive psilocybin and placebo in two separate sessions at least 14 days apart.

Results: Amygdala reactivity to negative and neutral stimuli was lower after psilocybin administration than after placebo administration. The psilocybin-induced attenuation of right amygdala reactivity in response to negative stimuli was related to the psilocybin-induced increase in positive mood state.

Conclusions: These results demonstrate that acute treatment with psilocybin decreased amygdala reactivity during emotion processing, and that this was associated with an increase of positive mood in healthy volunteers. These findings may be relevant to the normalization of amygdala hyperactivity and negative mood states in patients with major depression.

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Sad Mood and Music Choice: Does the Self-Relevance of the Mood-Eliciting Stimulus Moderate Song Preference?

Christa Taylor & Ronald Friedman
Media Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Recent findings regarding the influence of sad mood on music preference have been inconsistent, with some research suggesting that sadness promotes selective exposure to happy music and other work suggesting the very opposite. In three experiments, we investigated whether this discrepancy may have resulted from differences in the extent to which sadness was elicited by having participants think about personally relevant versus personally irrelevant negative events. To this end, we manipulated sad mood via a guided visualization technique in which participants were led to imagine experiencing a loss that was relevant either to their own or to an unfamiliar individual's concerns. Results revealed that irrespective of the self-relevance of the mood induction, individuals in sad, relative to happy, or neutral moods preferred to avoid expressively happy music. This aversion was partially mediated by beliefs that choosing happy music while sad would be inappropriate and thereby ineffectual in mood repair. Together, these findings contribute to resolving discrepancies in the literature and help advance understanding of the influence of mood on music choice.

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Pubertal Timing, Peer Victimization, and Body Esteem Differentially Predict Depressive Symptoms in African American and Caucasian Girls

Elissa Hamlat et al.
Journal of Early Adolescence, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study prospectively examined pubertal timing and peer victimization as interactive predictors of depressive symptoms in a racially diverse community sample of adolescents. We also expanded on past research by assessing body esteem as a mechanism by which pubertal timing and peer victimization confer risk for depression. In all, 218 adolescents (53.4% female, 49.3% African American, 50.7% Caucasian) completed both a baseline assessment and a follow-up assessment approximately 8 months later. Early maturing Caucasian girls and late maturing African American girls experienced the greatest increases in depressive symptoms at follow-up if they experienced higher levels of peer victimization between baseline and follow-up. Furthermore, body esteem significantly mediated the relationship between pubertal timing, peer victimization, and depressive symptoms for girls of both races. The interaction of pubertal timing and peer victimization did not predict depressive symptoms for boys of either race. These results support body esteem as a mechanism that contributes to increased depression among girls in adolescence — despite a differential impact of pubertal timing for Caucasian and African American girls.

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Multi-modal frontostriatal connectivity underlies individual differences in self-esteem

Robert Chavez & Todd Heatherton
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, forthcoming

Abstract:
A heightened sense of self-esteem is associated with a reduced risk for several types of affective and psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. However, little is known about how brain systems integrate self-referential processing and positive evaluation to give rise to these feelings. To address this, we combined diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to test how frontostriatal connectivity reflects long-term trait and short-term state aspects of self-esteem. Using DTI, we found individual variability in white matter structural integrity between the medial prefrontal cortex and the ventral striatum was related to trait measures of self-esteem, reflecting long-term stability of self-esteem maintenance. Using fMRI, we found that functional connectivity of these regions during positive self-evaluation was related to current feelings of self-esteem, reflecting short-term state self-esteem. These results provide convergent anatomical and functional evidence that self-esteem is related to the connectivity of frontostriatal circuits and suggest that feelings of self-worth may emerge from neural systems integrating information about the self with positive affect and reward. This information could potentially inform the etiology of diminished self-esteem underlying multiple psychiatric conditions and inform future studies of evaluative self-referential processing.

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Enhancing the Gene-Environment Interaction Framework Through a Quasi-Experimental Research Design: Evidence from Differential Responses to September 11

Jason Fletcher
Biodemography and Social Biology, Spring 2014, Pages 1-20

Abstract:
This article uses a gene-environment interaction framework to examine the differential responses to an objective external stressor based on genetic variation in the production of depressive symptoms. This article advances the literature by utilizing a quasi-experimental environmental exposure design, as well as a regression discontinuity design, to control for seasonal trends, which limit the potential for gene-environment correlation and allow stronger causal claims. Replications are attempted for two prominent genes (5-HTT and MAOA), and three additional genes are explored (DRD2, DRD4, and DAT1). This article provides evidence of a main effect of 9/11 on reports of feelings of sadness and fails to replicate a common finding of interaction using 5-HTT but does show support for interaction with MAOA in men. It also provides new evidence that variation in the DRD4 gene modifies an individual’s response to the exposure, with individuals with no 7-repeats found to have a muted response.

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Can irritability act as a marker of psychopathology?

Melissa Mulraney, Glenn Melvin & Bruce Tonge
Journal of Adolescence, June 2014, Pages 419–423

Abstract:
Irritability is ubiquitous in child and adolescent psychopathology. This study aimed to determine if the Affective Reactivity Index (ARI), a measure of irritability, could be used to screen for psychopathology in adolescents. The clinical sample comprised 31 adolescents with a DSM-IV diagnosis. The control sample was 31 gender and age matched adolescents recruited through schools. Both samples completed a test battery that included the Affective Reactivity Index. The clinical participants reported significantly higher levels of irritability than the control sample by both self- and parent-report. Using ROC analysis a cut off value of 4 on the self-report ARI was found to be optimal for indicating psychopathology; with a specificity of 77.4% and a sensitivity of 77.4%, the area under the curve was 0.86. This paper provides evidence to suggest that irritability may be used as a general predictor of psychopathology in adolescents.

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Cognitive Vulnerabilities Amplify the Effect of Early Pubertal Timing on Interpersonal Stress Generation During Adolescence

Jessica Hamilton et al.
Journal of Youth and Adolescence, May 2014, Pages 824-833

Abstract:
Early pubertal timing has been found to confer risk for the occurrence of interpersonal stressful events during adolescence. However, pre-existing vulnerabilities may exacerbate the effects of early pubertal timing on the occurrence of stressors. Thus, the current study prospectively examined whether cognitive vulnerabilities amplified the effects of early pubertal timing on interpersonal stress generation. In a diverse sample of 310 adolescents (M age = 12.83 years, 55 % female; 53 % African American), early pubertal timing predicted higher levels of interpersonal dependent events among adolescents with more negative cognitive style and rumination, but not among adolescents with lower levels of these cognitive vulnerabilities. These findings suggest that cognitive vulnerabilities may heighten the risk of generating interpersonal stress for adolescents who undergo early pubertal maturation, which may subsequently place adolescents at greater risk for the development of psychopathology.

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Difference By Sex But Not By Race/ethnicity in the Visceral Adipose Tissue-Depressive Symptoms Association: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis

Rosemay Remigio-Baker et al.
Psychoneuroendocrinology, forthcoming

Background: Prior studies have investigated the association of clinical depression and depressive symptoms with body weight (i.e. body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference), but few have examined the association between depressive symptoms and intra-abdominal fat. Of these a limited number assessed the relationship in a multi-racial/ethnic population.

Methods: Using data on 1,017 men and women (45-84 years) from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) Body Composition, Inflammation and Cardiovascular Disease Study, we examined the cross-sectional association between elevated depressive symptoms (EDS) and CT-measured visceral fat mass at L2-L5 with multivariable linear regression models. EDS were defined as a Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression score ≥ 16 and/or anti-depressant use. Covariates included socio-demographics, inflammatory markers, health behaviors, comorbidities, and body mass index (BMI). Race/ethnicity (Whites [referent group], Chinese, Blacks and Hispanics) and sex were also assessed as potential modifiers.

Results: The association between depressive symptoms and visceral fat differed significantly by sex (p = 0.007), but not by race/ethnicity. Among men, compared to participants without EDS, those with EDS had greater visceral adiposity adjusted for BMI and age (difference = 122.5 cm2, 95% CI = 34.3, 210.7, p = 0.007). Estimates were attenuated but remained significant after further adjustment by socio-demographics, inflammatory markers, health behaviors and co-morbidities (difference = 94.7 cm2, 95% CI = 10.5, 178.9, p = 0.028). Among women, EDS was not significantly related to visceral adiposity in the fully-adjusted model.

Conclusions: Sex, but not race/ethnicity, was found to modify the relationship between EDS and visceral fat mass. Among men, a significant positive association was found between depressive symptoms and visceral adiposity. No significant relationship was found among women.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Saturday, May 24, 2014

My sense is

The Power to Control Time: Power Influences How Much Time (You Think) You Have

Alice Moon & Serena Chen
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, September 2014, Pages 97–101

Abstract:
Time, because of its unrenewable nature, has often been called an equalizing resource. Though objectively, time is identical for everyone, time perception has been found to be a subjective experience that can be distorted by psychological cues; however, little research has examined individual and situational factors that influence time availability. Based on past research on power and illusory control, we hypothesized that powerful individuals would perceive having more available time as a consequence of their perceived control over time. Four studies experimentally demonstrated that power increases perceptions of available time, and that perceived control over time underlies this effect (Study 3). Finally, we provided initial evidence that increases in perceived time availability leads powerful individuals to feel less stressed (Study 5).

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Supernatural believers attribute more intentions to random movement than skeptics: An fMRI study

Tapani Riekki, Marjaana Lindeman & Tuukka Raij
Social Neuroscience, July/August 2014, Pages 400-411

Abstract:
A host of research has attempted to explain why some believe in the supernatural and some do not. One suggested explanation for commonly held supernatural beliefs is that they are a by-product of theory of mind (ToM) processing. However, this does not explain why skeptics with intact ToM processes do not believe. We employed fMRI to investigate activation differences in ToM-related brain circuitries between supernatural believers (N = 12) and skeptics (N = 11) while they watched 2D animations of geometric objects moving intentionally or randomly and rated the intentionality of the animations. The ToM-related circuitries in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) were localized by contrasting intention-rating-related and control-rating-related brain activation. Compared with the skeptics, the supernatural believers rated the random movements as more intentional and had stronger activation of the ToM-related circuitries during the animation with random movement. The strength of the ToM-related activation covaried with the intentionality ratings. These findings provide evidence that differences in ToM-related activations are associated with supernatural believers’ tendency to interpret random phenomena in mental terms. Thus, differences in ToM processing may contribute to differences between believing and unbelieving.

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Free will and paranormal beliefs

Ken Mogi
Frontiers in Psychology, April 2014

Abstract:
Free will is one of the fundamental aspects of human cognition. In the context of cognitive neuroscience, various experiments on time perception, sensorimotor coordination, and agency suggest the possibility that it is a robust illusion (a feeling independent of actual causal relationship with actions) constructed by neural mechanisms. Humans are known to suffer from various cognitive biases and failures, and the sense of free will might be one of them. Here I report a positive correlation between the belief in free will and paranormal beliefs (UFO, reincarnation, astrology, and psi). Web questionnaires involving 2076 subjects (978 males, 1087 females, and 11 other genders) were conducted, which revealed significant positive correlations between belief in free will (theory and practice) and paranormal beliefs. There was no significant correlation between belief in free will and knowledge in paranormal phenomena. Paranormal belief scores for females were significantly higher than those for males, with corresponding significant (albeit weaker) difference in belief in free will. These results are consistent with the view that free will is an illusion which shares common cognitive elements with paranormal beliefs.

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What you hear shapes how you think: Sound patterns change level of construal

Jochim Hansen & Johann Melzner
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, September 2014, Pages 131–138

Abstract:
Psychological distance and abstractness primes have been shown to increase one’s level of construal. We tested the idea that auditory cues which are related to distance and abstractness (vs. proximity and concreteness) trigger abstract (vs. concrete) construal. Participants listened to musical sounds that varied in reverberation, novelty of harmonic modulation, and metrical segmentation. In line with the hypothesis, distance/abstractness cues in the sounds instigated the formation of broader categories, increased the preference for global as compared to local aspects of visual patterns, and caused participants to put more weight on aggregated than on individualized product evaluations. The relative influence of distance/abstractness cues in sounds, as well as broader implications of the findings for basic research and applied settings are discussed.

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Gaze direction and brightness can affect self-reported emotion

Xiaobin Zhang, Qiong Li & Bin Zuo
Journal of Environmental Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Previous studies revealed that emotion (pleased or depressed) could bias perception in a metaphorically consistent manner (e.g., happy = white (up), depressed = dark (down)). The present study extended this view by investigating whether these metaphors can also affect the emotion of an observer in a metaphorically consistent manner. In Experiment 1, after gazing at a black screen, participants became more depressed and less pleased temporarily. Conversely, after gazing at a white screen, participants became more pleased and less depressed temporarily. Results from Experiment 2 revealed that after gazing at the top of the screen, participants felt more pleased and less depressed temporarily but felt the reverse when gazing at the bottom of the screen. These results suggest that metaphors can, at least temporarily, affect the emotion of an observer along a pleased-depressed dimension.

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Failure to see money on a tree: Inattentional blindness for objects that guided behavior

Ira Hyman, Benjamin Sarb & Breanne Wise-Swanson
Frontiers in Psychology, April 2014

Abstract:
How is it possible to drive home and have no awareness of the trip? We documented a new form of inattentional blindness in which people fail to become aware of obstacles that had guided their behavior. In our first study, we found that people talking on cell phones while walking waited longer to avoid an obstacle and were less likely to be aware that they had avoided an obstacle than other individual walkers. In our second study, cell phone talkers and texters were less likely to show awareness of money on a tree over the pathway they were traversing. Nonetheless, they managed to avoid walking into the money tree. Perceptual information may be processed in two distinct pathways – one guiding behavior and the other leading to awareness. We observed that people can appropriately use information to guide behavior without awareness.

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Soft Assurance: Coping with Uncertainty Through Haptic Sensations

Femke van Horen & Thomas Mussweiler
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, September 2014, Pages 73–80

Abstract:
Uncertainty is an inescapable element of human life. But how do people deal with it? To date, most research has focused on the cognitive strategies people adopt to do so. In four experiments we examine, whether people may also use an alternative experiential route to cope with uncertainty. We demonstrate that (1) when faced with uncertainty, people seek soft haptic sensations (Experiments 1 and 2) and (2) that doing so is functional (Experiments 3 and 4). More specifically, we show that people shift their preference to objects with soft (i.e., soft-grip pen, soft candy) rather than hard properties (i.e., hard-grip pen, hard candy) when feeling uncertain. Furthermore, we show that holding something soft (i.e., a soft-grip pen, a soft cloth) as compared to something hard (i.e., a hard-grip pen, a hard cloth) reduces uncertainty on a subsequent ambiguous task and helps to shield against uncertainty in daily life by increasing tolerance towards uncertainty. Overall, this research reveals that humans may use their oldest and most fundamental sense – touch – as a basic experiential device to cope with uncertainty.

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Speakers’ Acceptance of Real-Time Speech Exchange Indicates That We Use Auditory Feedback to Specify the Meaning of What We Say

Andreas Lind et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Speech is usually assumed to start with a clearly defined preverbal message, which provides a benchmark for self-monitoring and a robust sense of agency for one’s utterances. However, an alternative hypothesis states that speakers often have no detailed preview of what they are about to say, and that they instead use auditory feedback to infer the meaning of their words. In the experiment reported here, participants performed a Stroop color-naming task while we covertly manipulated their auditory feedback in real time so that they said one thing but heard themselves saying something else. Under ideal timing conditions, two thirds of these semantic exchanges went undetected by the participants, and in 85% of all nondetected exchanges, the inserted words were experienced as self-produced. These findings indicate that the sense of agency for speech has a strong inferential component, and that auditory feedback of one’s own voice acts as a pathway for semantic monitoring, potentially overriding other feedback loops.

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If looks could kill: Anger attributions are intensified by affordances for doing harm

Colin Holbrook et al.
Emotion, forthcoming

Abstract:
Emotion perception is necessarily imprecise, leading to possible overperception or underperception of a given emotion extant in a target individual. When the costs of these two types of errors are recurrently asymmetrical, categorization mechanisms can be expected to be biased to commit the less costly error. Contextual factors can influence this asymmetry, resulting in a concomitant increase in biases in the perception of a given emotion. Anger motivates aggression, hence an important contextual factor in anger perception is the capacity of the perceived individual to inflict harm. The greater the capacity to harm, the more costly it is to underestimate the extent to which the target is angry, and therefore the more that perception should be biased in favor of overestimation. Consonant with this prediction, in two studies, U.S. adults perceived greater anger when models were holding household objects having affordances as weapons (e.g., garden shears) than when they were holding objects lacking such affordances (e.g., a watering can) or were empty-handed. Consistent with the unique relationship between anger and aggression, this positive bias did not appear in judgments of other negative emotions.

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Close Replication Attempts of the Heat Priming-Hostile Perception Effect

Randy McCarthy
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, September 2014, Pages 165–169

Abstract:
DeWall and Bushman (2009; Experiment 2) reported a study in which participants were exposed to heat-related, cold-related, or neutral (i.e., non-temperature-related) primes prior to reading an ambiguously aggressive vignette. Participants exposed to the heat-related primes judged the vignette’s protagonist as more hostile than participants in the cold-priming condition (d = 0.67) or neutral-priming condition (d = 0.63). This suggests that people mentally associate heat-related constructs with aggression-related constructs. To test the reliability of the effect and to estimate a more precise effect size, the current studies closely replicated DeWall and Bushman in two independent samples, each of which were more than two and a half times greater than the samples in the original study (total N = 688). These replication attempts failed to find any evidence that exposure to heat primes affected hostile perceptions relative to the cold primes (ds < − 0.06) or neutral primes (ds < 0.00). Further, a meta-analysis estimated that the difference in hostile perceptions between those in a heat priming condition and those in a neutral condition was about one-fifth of a standard deviation and not significantly different from zero, d = 0.18, 95% CI[− 0.09, 0.44]. Thus, I conclude that priming individuals with heat-related constructs does not reliably affect hostile perceptions.

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Producing a commentary slows concurrent hazard perception responses

Angela Young, Peter Chapman & David Crundall
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, forthcoming

Abstract:
Commentary driver training involves teaching drivers how to verbally acknowledge their perceptual and cognitive processes while driving, and has been shown to improve performance in driving-related tasks. However, those studies demonstrating benefits of commentary training have not done so under conditions of live commentary, which is the typical protocol used with advanced drivers. In the current study we present the results of 2 experiments that show that producing a commentary can actually slow responses to hazards on a concurrent hazard perception task. In Experiment 1, participants producing a live commentary showed significantly longer hazard response times than an untrained, silent, control group. In Experiment 2, a shorter, clipped commentary was introduced to attempt to reduce the demands placed upon participants. However, both the clipped and full commentary conditions showed reduced accuracy and longer response times, relative to a silent condition, and no difference was observed between the 2 types of commentary. Analysis of eye movements in both experiments revealed that fixation durations were shorter when a commentary was produced but time to first fixate the hazard was not affected. This suggests that commentaries encourage more active interrogation of the visual scene, but that this can be detrimental to performance in average drivers.

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Stress enhances reconsolidation of declarative memory

Marieke Bos et al.
Psychoneuroendocrinology, August 2014, Pages 102–113

Abstract:
Retrieval of negative emotional memories is often accompanied by the experience of stress. Upon retrieval, a memory trace can temporarily return into a labile state, where it is vulnerable to change. An unresolved question is whether post-retrieval stress may affect the strength of declarative memory in humans by modulating the reconsolidation process. Here, we tested in two experiments whether post-reactivation stress may affect the strength of declarative memory in humans. In both experiments, participants were instructed to learn neutral, positive and negative words. Approximately 24 h later, participants received a reminder of the word list followed by exposure to the social evaluative cold pressor task (reactivation/stress group, nexp1 = 20; nexp2 = 18) or control task (reactivation/no-stress group, nexp1 = 23; nexp2 = 18). An additional control group was solely exposed to the stress task, without memory reactivation (no-reactivation/stress group, nexp1 = 23; nexp2 = 21). The next day, memory performance was tested using a free recall and a recognition task. In the first experiment we showed that participants in the reactivation/stress group recalled more words than participants in the reactivation/no-stress and no-reactivation/stress group, irrespective of valence of the word stimuli. Furthermore, participants in the reactivation/stress group made more false recognition errors. In the second experiment we replicated our observations on the free recall task for a new set of word stimuli, but we did not find any differences in false recognition. The current findings indicate that post-reactivation stress can improve declarative memory performance by modulating the process of reconsolidation. This finding contributes to our understanding why some memories are more persistent than others.

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Hippocampal Neurogenesis Regulates Forgetting During Adulthood and Infancy

Katherine Akers et al.
Science, 9 May 2014, Pages 598-602

Abstract:
Throughout life, new neurons are continuously added to the dentate gyrus. As this continuous addition remodels hippocampal circuits, computational models predict that neurogenesis leads to degradation or forgetting of established memories. Consistent with this, increasing neurogenesis after the formation of a memory was sufficient to induce forgetting in adult mice. By contrast, during infancy, when hippocampal neurogenesis levels are high and freshly generated memories tend to be rapidly forgotten (infantile amnesia), decreasing neurogenesis after memory formation mitigated forgetting. In precocial species, including guinea pigs and degus, most granule cells are generated prenatally. Consistent with reduced levels of postnatal hippocampal neurogenesis, infant guinea pigs and degus did not exhibit forgetting. However, increasing neurogenesis after memory formation induced infantile amnesia in these species.

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It Feels Fluent, But Not Right: The Interactive Effect of Expected and Experienced Processing Fluency on Evaluative Judgment

Yuwei Jiang & Jiewen Hong
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, September 2014, Pages 147–152

Abstract:
In this research, we examined the malleability of processing fluency from the angle of people's a priori expectation of how fluently stimuli will be processed. Results from three studies suggest that the value of the fluency experience is contingent on how easy or difficult people expect the incoming information would be processed. Specifically, participants had higher evaluations of the target when their experienced processing fluency conformed (vs. did not conform) to their expected processing fluency. We also found that the interactive effect between expected fluency and experienced fluency was mediated by a sense of assurance when people’s subjective fluency experience conformed to their expectations. Moreover, we showed that a positive effect of processing fluency occurred when people are under cognitive load (affective route); and interpreting the fluency experience in terms of one's expected fluency occurs when people had enough cognitive capacity (interpretive route).

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Sample size bias in judgments of perceptual averages

Paul Price et al.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, forthcoming

Abstract:
Previous research has shown that people exhibit a sample size bias when judging the average of a set of stimuli on a single dimension. The more stimuli there are in the set, the greater people judge the average to be. This effect has been demonstrated reliably for judgments of the average likelihood that groups of people will experience negative, positive, and neutral events (Price, 2001; Price, Smith, & Lench, 2006) and also for estimates of the mean of sets of numbers (Smith & Price, 2010). The present research focuses on whether this effect is observed for judgments of average on a perceptual dimension. In 5 experiments we show that people’s judgments of the average size of the squares in a set increase as the number of squares in the set increases. This effect occurs regardless of whether the squares in each set are presented simultaneously or sequentially; whether the squares in each set are different sizes or all the same size; and whether the response is a rating of size, an estimate of area, or a comparative judgment. These results are consistent with a priming account of the sample size bias, in which the sample size activates a representation of magnitude that directly biases the judgment of average.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Friday, May 23, 2014

Casting for votes

Attacks without Consequence? Candidates, Parties, Groups, and the Changing Face of Negative Advertising

Conor Dowling & Amber Wichowsky
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Prior work finds that voters punish candidates for sponsoring attack ads. What remains unknown is the extent to which a negative ad is more effective if it is sponsored by a party or an independent group instead. We conducted three experiments in which we randomly assigned participants to view a negative ad that was identical except for its sponsor. We find that candidates can benefit from having a party or group "do their dirty work," but particularly if a group does, and that the most likely explanation for why this is the case is that many voters simply do not connect candidates to the ads sponsored by parties and groups. We also find that in some circumstances, a group-sponsored attack ad produces less polarization than one sponsored by a party. We conclude by discussing the implications our research has for current debates about the proper role of independent groups in electoral politics.

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Rain and Representation: The Effect of Margin of Victory on Incumbent Legislative Behavior

John Henderson & John Brooks
Yale Working Paper, March 2014

Abstract:
We develop and assess an elite-information account of representation. Accordingly, politicians face uncertainty about voter opinion, and use previous vote-margins to gauge their future electoral prospects. Unexpected losses in prior support will elicit ideological moderation given new information about an electorate. To test this account, we use rain around Election Day as a natural experiment in congressional voting. In studying U.S. House races from 1956 to 2008, we find each additional inch of election rainfall exogenously dampens Democratic vote-margins by 1.3 to 2.9 percentage points, and shifts incumbents rightward in their roll call positions in subsequent Congresses. We find this responsiveness mainly in competitive districts with the greatest risk of defeat, and by Democrats rather than Republicans suggesting asymmetry in party representation. Overall, we show that idiosyncratic electoral effects can meaningfully impact legislative behavior, and highlight an information mechanism that may help explain representation.

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Accuracy of Combined Forecasts for the 2012 Presidential Election: The PollyVote

Andreas Graefe et al.
PS: Political Science & Politics, April 2014, Pages 427-431

Abstract:
We review the performance of the PollyVote, which combined forecasts from polls, prediction markets, experts' judgment, political economy models, and index models to predict the two-party popular vote in the 2012 US presidential election. Throughout the election year the PollyVote provided highly accurate forecasts, outperforming each of its component methods, as well as the forecasts from FiveThirtyEight.com. Gains in accuracy were particularly large early in the campaign, when uncertainty about the election outcome is typically high. The results confirm prior research showing that combining is one of the most effective approaches to generating accurate forecasts.

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Policy-Induced Risk and Responsive Participation: The Effect of a Son's Conscription Risk on the Voting Behavior of His Parents

Tiffany Davenport
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
When do government policies induce responsive political participation? This study tests two hypotheses in the context of military draft policies. First, policy-induced risk motivates political participation. Second, contextual-level moderators, such as local events that make risk particularly salient, may intensify the effect of risk on participation. I use the random assignment of induction priority in the Vietnam draft lotteries to measure the effect of a son's draft risk on the voter turnout of his parents in the 1972 presidential election. I find higher rates of turnout among parents of men with "losing" draft lottery numbers. Among parents from towns with at least one prior war casualty, I find a 7 to 9 percentage point effect of a son's draft risk on his parents' turnout. The local casualty contextual-level moderator is theorized to operate through the mechanism of an availability heuristic, whereby parents from towns with casualties could more readily imagine the adverse consequences of draft risk.

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Emotional, Sensitive, and Unfit for Office? Gender Stereotype Activation and Support Female Candidates

Nichole Bauer
Political Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Women are underrepresented at all levels of elected office. It is suspected that gender stereotypes hinder the electoral success of female candidates, but empirical evidence is inconclusive on whether stereotypes have a direct effect on voting decisions. This empirical conflict stems, in part, from the assumption that voters automatically rely on gender stereotypes when evaluating female candidates. This study explicitly tests the assumption of automatic stereotype activation. I suggest that stereotype reliance depends on whether stereotypes have been activated during a campaign, and it is only when stereotypes are activated that they influence evaluations of female candidates. These hypotheses are tested with a survey experiment and observational analysis. The results show that campaign communication activates stereotypes when they otherwise might not be activated, thereby diminishing support for female candidates.

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Early Processing of Gendered Facial Cues Predicts the Electoral Success of Female Politicians

Eric Hehman et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
This research examined how the typicality of gender cues in politicians' faces related to their electoral success. Previous research has shown that faces with subtle gender-atypical cues elicit cognitive competition between male and female categories, which perceivers resolve during face perception. To assess whether this competition adversely impacted politicians' electoral success, participants categorized the gender of politicians' faces in a hand-tracking paradigm. Gender-category competition was indexed by the hand's attraction to the incorrect gender response. Greater gender-category competition predicted a decreased likelihood of votes, but only for female politicians. Time-course analyses revealed that this outcome was evident as early as 380 ms following face presentation (Study 1). Results were replicated with a national sample, and effects became more pronounced as the conservatism of the constituency increased (Study 2). Thus, gender categorization dynamics during the initial milliseconds after viewing a female politician's face are predictive of her electoral success, especially in more conservative areas.

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Gender Bias or Gender Benefit? Estimating the Effect of Candidate Gender on Voting Behavior: A Regression Discontinuity Approach Using Close House Primaries

Jason Anastasopoulos & Morris Levy
University of California Working Paper, May 2014

Abstract:
Can gender discrimination explain the limited growth of female election to the House of Representatives? Do female politicians lead to female voter empowerment? We answer these questions with a novel regression discontinuity design using close House primaries between 1982-2012. We find that female candidates do not effect political participation among women, but do effect participation among partisans. Female Republican candidates consistently depressed turnout among Democrats and had differential effects on Republican turnout across time. While they decreased turnout among Republicans in earlier elections, female Republican candidates increased turnout among Republicans in later elections. An analysis of the effect of female candidates on turnout by gender and party identification reveals that female candidates do not encourage women to vote. To the contrary, they were more likely to increase turnout among men. Female Democratic candidates increased turnout only among male Democrats while female Republican candidates differentially increased turnout only among male Independents.

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Does the Descriptive Representation of Gender Influence Accountability for Substantive Representation?

Philip Edward Jones
Politics & Gender, June 2014, Pages 175-199

Abstract:
Does the descriptive representation of gender affect how constituents respond to their legislators' substantive policy records? Previous work offers two distinctly opposing theories: the first, that descriptive representation may weaken accountability for substantive representation, if it leads female constituents to misperceive the incumbent's positions or give them a "free pass" on policy congruence; the second, that it may strengthen accountability, if it leads female constituents to pay greater attention to the incumbent and his or her record. Using survey data from three electoral cycles, I show that women are more likely to correctly identify their U.S. senators' policy records and weigh that record more heavily in their evaluations when they are represented by women. The descriptive representation of gender thus strengthens the links between the policy positions legislators take in office and how they are evaluated by their constituents.

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Weight bias in US candidate selection and election

Patricia Roehling et al.
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Spring 2014, Pages 334-346

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to use data from the 2008 and 2012 US Senate elections to examine the relationship between candidate size (obese, overweight, normal weight) and candidate selection and election outcomes.

Design/methodology/approach: Using pictures captured from candidate web sites, participants rated the size of candidates in the primary and general US Senate elections. ?2 analyses, t-tests and hierarchical multiple regressions were used to test for evidence of bias against overweight and obese candidates and whether gender and election information moderate that relationship.

Findings: Obese candidates were largely absent from the pool of candidates in both the primary and general elections. Overweight women, but not overweight men, were also underrepresented. Supporting our hypothesis that there is bias against overweight candidates, heavier candidates tended to receive lower vote share than their thinner counterparts, and the larger the size difference between the candidates, the larger the vote share discrepancy. The paper did not find a moderating effect for gender or high-information high vs low-information elections on the relationship between candidate size and vote share.

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Campaign Finance in U.S. House Elections

Kei Kawai
NYU Working Paper, April 2014

Abstract:
This paper structurally estimates a dynamic model of fund-raising, campaign spending, and accumulation of war chest with unobserved candidate quality. We present an identification strategy similar to the one developed in the context of production function estimation that allows us to recover the quality (vote-getting ability) of the candidates. In our counterfactual experiment, we consider the equilibrium effects of government subsidies to challengers. We find that the subsidies substantially crowd out the challenger's fund-raising and increase the incumbent's fund-raising. Analysis that ignores these equilibrium effects substantially overestimates the effect of the policy.

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Senate Responsiveness to Minority Constituencies: Latino Electoral Strength and Representation

Jeffrey Fine & James Avery
Social Science Quarterly, forthcoming

Objective: While most research on minority representation in Congress finds that the African-American constituency size influences representation of the group's interests, most recent studies examining Latinos find no such relationship. We argue that the failure to find a relationship stems from the focus of prior research on the proportion of the Latino population in the total geographic constituency rather than the proportion of Latinos in the electoral constituency, what we term "Latino electoral strength" (LES).

Methods: Using data on Latino turnout at the state level, we examine the effect of LES on representation of Latino interests in the U.S. Senate. We use ordinary least squares (OLS) regression that accounts for the time serial, cross-sectional (TSCS) nature of our data.

Results: Consistent with other studies, we find no influence of Latino population size on Latino representation. However, LES has a significant, negative effect on Latino representation.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that greater LES leads to worse representation of their interests, and that this relationship increases as LES grows. This is consistent with existing studies of racial threat theory.

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Candidates' policy strategies in primary elections: Does strategic voting by the primary electorate matter?

James Adams & Samuel Merrill
Public Choice, July 2014, Pages 7-24

Abstract:
Empirical research reports conflicting conclusions about whether primary election voters strategically account for candidates' general election prospects when casting their votes. We model the strategic calculations of office-seeking candidates facing two-stage elections beginning with a primary, and we compare candidates' policy strategies in situations where primary voters strategically support the most viable general election candidate against candidate strategies when voters expressively support their preferred primary candidate regardless of electability. Our analyses - in which the candidates' appeal is based on their policy positions and their campaigning skills - suggest a surprising conclusion: namely, that strategic and expressive primary voting typically support identical equilibrium configurations in candidate strategies. Our conclusions are relevant to candidates facing contested primaries, and also to political parties facing the strategic decision about whether or not to use primary elections to select their candidates - a common dilemma for Latin American (and some European) parties.

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The Fates of Challengers in U.S. House Elections: The Role of Extended Party Networks in Supporting Candidates and Shaping Electoral Outcomes

Bruce Desmarais, Raymond La Raja & Michael Kowal
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Extended party network (EPN) theory characterizes political parties in the United States as dynamic networks of interest groups that collaboratively support favored candidates for office. Electoral predictions derived from EPN theory have yet to be tested on a large sample of races. We operationalize EPNs in the context of organized interest contributions to U.S. House campaigns. We deduce that support by a partisan community of interests signals the ideological credibility and appeal of a candidate. EPN integration overcomes voter ambiguity surrounding challengers' ideological preferences, and resources provided by these coordinating interest groups promote a consistent message about the candidate. Using data from the 1994-2010 cycles, we apply network analysis to detect EPN support of challengers and find that EPN integration substantially improves the electoral prospects of challengers. The effect of EPN integration is distinct from that of campaign resources. The findings provide support for EPN theory, as applied to congressional elections.

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From Voter ID to Party ID: How Political Parties Affect Perceptions of Election Fraud in the U.S.

Emily Beaulieu
Electoral Studies, September 2014, Pages 24-32

Abstract:
This paper uses a survey experiment to assess what individuals understand about election fraud and under what circumstances they see it as a problem. I argue that political parties are central to answering both these questions. Results from the 2011 CCES survey suggest respondents are able to differentiate between the relative incentives of Democrats and Republicans where fraud tactics are concerned, but whether voters see these tactics as problematic is heavily influenced by partisan bias. The results show little support for the notion that partisan ideology drives fraud assessments, and suggest support for the idea that individual concerns for fraud are shaped by a desire for their preferred candidate to win. These results offer insights that might be applied more broadly to questions of perceptions of electoral integrity and procedural fairness in democracies.

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The electoral consequences of two great crises

Johannes Lindvall
European Journal of Political Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Who benefits from deep economic crises: the left, the right or neither? On the basis of evidence from elections in 1929-1933 and 2008-2013 in all states that were democracies in both periods, it is argued in this article that the electoral consequences of the Great Depression and the Great Recession were surprisingly similar: in both periods, right-wing parties were at first more successful than left-wing parties, although this effect only lasted for a few years. The manner in which a crisis develops over time should be taken into account when examining the effects of deep economic downturns on the electoral fortunes of the left and the right.

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Gubernatorial Endorsements and Ballot Measure Approval

Craig Burnett & Janine Parry
State Politics & Policy Quarterly, June 2014, Pages 178-195

Abstract:
Voters often make decisions on ballot measures with limited information. Research shows, however, that elite endorsements can help voters overcome their information deficiencies. Using survey experiments, we evaluate the effect of a gubernatorial endorsement on three recent ballot measures. We find that identifying the governor as a proponent of a particular measure has a significant effect on respondents' support for only one of the three ballot measures we examine: a highly publicized health initiative in 2000. For two lower profile referendums on bonds supporting higher education (in 2006) and roads (in 2011), a gubernatorial endorsement proved ineffective. These results hold even when we restrict our sample to respondents who are the most likely to be influenced by the treatment. As a result, we tentatively conclude that gubernatorial endorsements, while valuable to some voters, are highly conditional.

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Scary Pictures: How Terrorism Imagery Affects Voter Evaluations

Shana Kushner Gadarian
Political Communication, Spring 2014, Pages 282-302

Abstract:
Journalists, candidates, and scholars believe that images, particularly images of war, affect the way that the public evaluates political leaders and foreign policy itself, but there is little direct evidence on the circumstances under which political elites can use imagery to enhance their electoral chances. Using National Election Studies (NES) panel data as well as two experiments, this article shows that, contrary to concerns about the manipulative power of imagery, the effect of evocative imagery can enhance candidate evaluations across partisan lines when they originate from the news but are more limited when they are used for persuasive purposes. By looking over time, the three data sets demonstrate different circumstances in which terrorism images have different effects on candidate evaluations -crisis versus non-crisis times and through news exposure versus direct use by a candidate. The NES data reveal that exposure to watching the World Trade Center fall on television increased positive evaluations of George W. Bush and the Republican party across partisan boundaries in 2002 and 2004. The news experiment that exposed subjects to graphic terrorism news in a lab in 2005/2006 increased approval of Bush's handling of terrorism among Democrats. Lastly, an experiment where hypothetical candidates utilized terrorism images in campaign communication in 2008 demonstrates that both parties' candidates can improve evaluations of their foreign policy statements by linking those statements to evocative imagery, but it is more effective among their own party members.

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The Relationship between Genes, Psychological Traits, and Political Participation

Christopher Dawes et al.
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Recent research demonstrates that a wide range of political attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors can be explained in part by genetic variation. However, these studies have not yet identified the mechanisms that generate such a relationship. Some scholars have speculated that psychological traits mediate the relationship between genes and political participation, but so far there have been no empirical tests. Here we focus on the role of three psychological traits that are believed to influence political participation: cognitive ability, personal control, and extraversion. Utilizing a unique sample of more than 2,000 Swedish twin pairs, we show that a common genetic factor can explain most of the relationship between these psychological traits and acts of political participation, as well as predispositions related to participation. While our analysis is not a definitive test, our results suggest an upper bound for a proposed mediation relationship between genes, psychological traits, and political participation.

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Cortisol and politics: Variance in voting behavior is predicted by baseline cortisol levels

Jeffrey French et al.
Physiology & Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Participation in electoral politics is affected by a host of social and demographic variables, but there is growing evidence that biological predispositions may also play a role in behavior related to political involvement. We examined the role of individual variation in hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) stress axis parameters in explaining differences in self-reported and actual participation in political activities. Self-reported political activity, religious participation, and verified voting activity in U.S. national elections were collected from 105 participants, who were subsequently exposed to a standardized (nonpolitical) psychosocial stressor. We demonstrated that lower baseline salivary cortisol in the late afternoon was significantly associated with increased actual voting frequency in six national elections, but not with self-reported non-voting political activity. Baseline cortisol predicted significant variation in voting behavior above and beyond variation accounted for by traditional demographic variables (particularly age of participant in our sample). Participation in religious activity was weakly (and negatively) associated with baseline cortisol. Our results suggest that HPA-mediated characteristics of social, cognitive, and emotional processes may exert an influence on a trait as complex as voting behavior, and that cortisol is a better predictor of actual voting behavior, as opposed to self-reported political activity.

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The Persuasive Effects of Partisan Campaign Mailers

David Doherty & Scott Adler
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract:
A substantial literature has used field experiments to assess the mobilization effects of non-partisan mailers. However, little work has examined whether partisan mailers affect voters as intended. We report findings from two field experiments conducted in cooperation with partisan campaign strategists that allow us to assess the effects of negative and positive mailers. We find that mailers can affect voters - particularly their recognition of candidate names and their intent to turn out to vote. Notably, we find evidence that both negative and positive mailers stimulate intent to turn out.

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The Let Down Effect: Satisfaction, Motivation, and Credibility Assessments of Political Infotainment

Nicholas Browning & Kaye Sweetser
American Behavioral Scientist, May 2014, Pages 810-826

Abstract:
Using experimental design, this study compares first-time voters' gratifications and uses of a traditional News format with the increasingly popular fake news format. The data here found that while indeed young people may have initially assessed a greater level of gratification associated with the fake news genre, the group was significantly "let down" after exposure to such a program. Though first-time voters understand that traditional surveillance-type information-seeking activities are better associated with traditional News, they were ambivalent about approaching and avoiding both traditional News and fake news genres.

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Negativity, Information, and Candidate Position-Taking

John Geer & Lynn Vavreck
Political Communication, Spring 2014, Pages 218-236

Abstract:
The purpose of this paper is to advance our understanding of how negativity affects voters' assessments of the positions candidates take on issues. We argue that the inferences people make about candidates' positions on issues differ depending on whether the information they encounter comes from attack or self-promotional statements. Specifically, we posit that attacks offer two pieces of information to voters - insight into the positions of the target and the sponsor - whereas, positive information only affects perceptions of the sponsor. Further, we contend that attacks offer important correctives to candidates' often misleading self-promotional claims. By drawing attention to the differences between the informational content of negative and positive appeals, we offer new insights into the inferences voters make about candidates' positions on issues. We support these claims using data from an internet-based experiment employing a nationally representative sample of nearly 4,000 people. The paper concludes by teasing out a series of implications that arise from these insights.

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The Impact of Candidate Name Order on Election Outcomes in North Dakota

Eric Chen et al.
Electoral Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
A number of studies have explored the possibility that the ordering of candidates' names on the ballot might influence how those candidates perform on election day. Strong evidence of an order effect comes from investigations of election returns in states that implemented quasi-random assignment of candidate name orders to voters. Although most such studies have identified benefits for earlier-listed candidates, much of the evidence comes from a limited set of elections in only handful of states. This paper expands our understanding of order effects to 31 general elections held in North Dakota between 2000 and 2006; these include all state-wide races involving 2-candidates. In an extension of prior studies, a primacy effect appeared in 80% of the contests. The first ballot position reaped the largest benefits in non-partisan contests and in presidential election years. These findings are consistent with earlier studies from other states and provide evidence in line with proposals that a lack of information and ambivalence underlie candidate name order effects.

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Moderators of Candidate Name-Order Effects in Elections: An Experiment

Nuri Kim, Jon Krosnick & Daniel Casasanto
Political Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Past studies of elections have shown that candidates whose names were listed at the beginning of a list on a ballot often received more votes by virtue of their position. This article tests speculations about the cognitive mechanisms that might be responsible for producing the effect. In an experiment embedded in a large national Internet survey, participants read about the issue positions of two hypothetical candidates and voted for one of them in a simulated election in which candidate name order was varied. The expected effect of position appeared and was strongest (1) when participants had less information about the candidates on which to base their choices, (2) when participants felt more ambivalent about their choices, (3) among participants with more limited cognitive skills, and (4) among participants who devoted less effort to the candidate evaluation process. The name-order effect was greater among left-handed people when the candidate names were arrayed horizontally, but there was no difference between left- and right-handed people when the names were arrayed vertically. These results reinforce some broad theoretical accounts of the cognitive process that yield name-order effects in elections.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Thursday, May 22, 2014

God's will

Good for god? Religious motivation reduces perceived responsibility for and morality of good deeds

Will Gervais
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming

Abstract:
Many people view religion as a crucial source of morality. However, 6 experiments (total N = 1,078) revealed that good deeds are perceived as less moral if they are performed for religious reasons. Religiously motivated acts were seen as less moral than the exact same acts performed for other reasons (Experiments 1–2 and 6). Religious motivations also reduced attributions of intention and responsibility (Experiments 3–6), an effect that fully mediated the effect of religious motivations on perceived morality (Experiment 6). The effects were not explained by different perceptions of motivation orientation (i.e., intrinsic vs. extrinsic) across conditions (Experiment 4) and also were evident when religious upbringing led to an intuitive moral response (Experiment 5). Effects generalized across religious and nonreligious participants. When viewing a religiously motivated good deed, people infer that actually helping others is, in part, a side effect of other motivations rather than an end in itself. Thus, religiously motivated actors are seen as less responsible than secular actors for their good deeds, and their helping behavior is viewed as less moral than identical good deeds performed for either unclear or secular motivations.

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Does Religiousness Increase Self-Control and Reduce Criminal Behavior? A Longitudinal Analysis of Adolescent Offenders

Steven Pirutinsky
Criminal Justice and Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Previous research suggests that religiousness correlates with less criminal behavior and that this relationship is partially mediated by higher self-control. Because most studies are cross-sectional, causality remains uncertain as stable between-subject factors may influence self-control, religiousness, and offending, confounding their relationships. Moreover, directionality may be reversed with higher self-control leading to both higher religiousness and less offending. The current research aimed to directly exclude these possibilities using longitudinal data from 1,354 adolescents participating in the Pathways to Desistance Study. Results indicated that short-term, within-subject increased religiousness predicted decreased future criminal behavior and that this effect was partially mediated by increased self-control. A reversed model in which past self-control predicted future religiousness was not significant. These findings suggest that religiousness may be causally related to offending, and self-control is likely one of multiple mediating processes. Additional research in this area appears warranted and may yield effective strategies for reducing criminal behavior and improving self-control.

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Religion and Punishment: Opposing Influences of Orthopraxy and Orthodoxy on Reactions to Unintentional Acts

Kristin Laurin & Jason Plaks
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
We hypothesize that two distinct facets of religiosity — orthodoxy (an emphasis on belief) and orthopraxy (an emphasis on behavior) — predict differential sensitivity to an actor’s intent when making moral judgments. Participants judged actors who performed misdeeds intentionally or unintentionally. In Study 1, high orthopraxy predicted harsher judgments of the unintentional actor, while high orthodoxy predicted more lenient judgments. In Study 2, we investigated a potential explanation for these effects, priming participants with either an “action focus” or a “thought focus.” Action-focused participants judged the unintentional actor more harshly than did thought-focused participants. In Study 3, participants from an orthopraxic tradition (Hinduism) judged the unintentional actor more harshly than did those from an orthodox tradition (Protestantism). These findings contribute to a growing literature on the multifaceted nature of religion. They also carry broader implications for understanding people’s responses to actions as a function of the actor’s mental state.

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Red States, Blue States, and Divorce: Understanding the Impact of Conservative Protestantism on Regional Variation in Divorce Rates

Jennifer Glass & Philip Levchak
American Journal of Sociology, January 2014, Pages 1002-1046

Abstract:
Why do states with larger proportions of religious conservatives have higher divorce rates than states with lower proportions of religious conservatives? This project examines whether earlier transitions to marriage and parenthood among conservative Protestants (known risk factors for divorce) contribute to this paradox while attending to other plausible explanations. County-level demographic information from all 50 states is combined from a variety of public data sources and merged with individual records from the National Surveys of Family Growth to estimate both aggregated county and multilevel individual models of divorce. Results show that individual religious conservatism is positively related to individual divorce risk, solely through the earlier transitions to adulthood and lower incomes of conservative Protestants. However, the proportion of conservative Protestants in a county is also independently and positively associated with both the divorce rate in that county and an individual’s likelihood of divorcing. The earlier family formation and lower levels of educational attainment and income in counties with a higher proportion of conservative Protestants can explain a substantial portion of this association. Little support is found for alternative explanations of the association between religious conservatism and divorce rates, including the relative popularity of marriage versus cohabitation across counties.

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Is There an Attendance Effect? Examining the Causal Link Between Religious Attendance and Political Participation

Sky Ammann
American Politics Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Does the act of attending religious services “cause” individuals to participate in politics? There is no known literature that examines this question using longitudinal, individual-level data. Therefore, using the Youth Parent Socialization Panel Study, this analysis examines three theoretical possibilities: the indirect, direct, and null relationships. The results show that changes in religious attendance are primarily indirectly linked to political participation through civic activity, a factor highly correlated with political participation. There is also some limited evidence for a direct effect. As individuals increase their political participation over time, they are slightly more likely to participate in political activities and vote. But, the findings also imply that the previous literature has likely overstated the role of religious attendance in generating political participation. Once individuals start participating politically, they continue to do so regardless of changes in their attendance at places of worship.

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The effect of religious imagery in a risk-taking paradigm

Jessica Shenberger, Brandt Smith & Michael Zárate
Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, May 2014, Pages 150-158

Abstract:
The drug cartel violence occurring at the U.S.–Mexico border requires an investigation of the social and cultural factors that influence risky behaviors. The current study tested to what extent religious imagery leads individuals to follow suggestions for increased risk-taking behaviors. We used culturally relevant religious imagery primes and nonreligious imagery primes and measured the extent to which individuals followed a confederate’s suggestions to engage in risky behaviors on a lab-based risk task. As predicted, the effect of confederate suggestions led to greater risk taking in the religious imagery condition than in the nonreligious imagery condition. The findings have important implications for current narco-terrorism and in other contexts where terrorists use religious imagery to influence the behaviors of their group members. The current study demonstrates that when individuals are exposed to religious concepts, they are more susceptible to the influence of others to engage in risky behaviors.

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Everything Is Permitted? People Intuitively Judge Immorality as Representative of Atheists

Will Gervais
PLoS ONE, April 2014

Abstract:
Scientific research yields inconsistent and contradictory evidence relating religion to moral judgments and outcomes, yet most people on earth nonetheless view belief in God (or gods) as central to morality, and many view atheists with suspicion and scorn. To evaluate intuitions regarding a causal link between religion and morality, this paper tested intuitive moral judgments of atheists and other groups. Across five experiments (N = 1,152), American participants intuitively judged a wide variety of immoral acts (e.g., serial murder, consensual incest, necrobestiality, cannibalism) as representative of atheists, but not of eleven other religious, ethnic, and cultural groups. Even atheist participants judged immoral acts as more representative of atheists than of other groups. These findings demonstrate a prevalent intuition that belief in God serves a necessary function in inhibiting immoral conduct, and may help explain persistent negative perceptions of atheists.

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A sociofunctional approach to prejudice at the polls: Are atheists more politically disadvantaged than gays and Blacks?

Andrew Franks & Kyle Scherr
Journal of Applied Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Prejudice against atheists is pervasive in the United States. Atheists lag behind virtually all other minority groups on measures of social acceptance. The sociofunctional approach suggests that distrust is at the core of anti-atheist prejudice, thus making it qualitatively different than prejudice against other disadvantaged groups. Accordingly, this research examined political bias against atheists, gays, and Blacks and the affective content accompanying such biases. Results indicated that atheists suffered the largest deficit in voting intentions from Christian participants, and this deficit was accompanied by distrust, disgust, and fear, thereby suggesting that the affective content of anti-atheist prejudice is both broader and more extreme than prejudice against other historically disadvantaged groups. Theoretical and applied implications are discussed.

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Is There an Islamist Political Advantage?

Melani Cammett & Pauline Jones Luong
Annual Review of Political Science, 2014, Pages 187-206

Abstract:
There is a widespread presumption that Islamists have an advantage over their opponents when it comes to generating mass appeal and winning elections. The question remains, however, as to whether these advantages — or, what we refer to collectively as an Islamist political advantage — actually exist. We argue that — to the extent that Islamists have a political advantage — the primary source of this advantage is reputation rather than the provision of social services, organizational capacity, or ideological hegemony. Our purpose is not to dismiss the main sources of the Islamist political advantage identified in scholarly literature and media accounts, but to suggest a different causal path whereby each of these factors individually and sometimes jointly promotes a reputation for Islamists as competent, trustworthy, and pure. It is this reputation for good governance that enables Islamists to distinguish themselves in the streets and at the ballot box.

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Voting Islamist or voting secular? An empirical analysis of voting outcomes in Egypt’s “Arab Spring”

May Elsayyad & Shima’a Hanafy
Public Choice, July 2014, Pages 109-130

Abstract:
This paper studies empirically the voting outcomes of Egypt’s first parliamentary elections after the Arab Spring. In light of the strong Islamist success at the polls, we explore the main determinants of Islamist versus secular voting. We identify two dimensions that affect voting outcomes at the constituency level: socioeconomic profile and the electoral institutional framework. Our results show that education is negatively associated with Islamist voting. Interestingly, we find significant evidence suggesting that higher poverty levels are associated with a lower vote share for Islamist parties. Exploiting the sequential voting setup, we show that later voting stages have not resulted in stronger support for the already winning Islamist parties (i.e., there is no bandwagon effect).

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Creating Partisan “Footprints”: The Influence of Parental Religious Socialization on Party Identification

Sky Ammann
Social Science Quarterly, forthcoming

Objective: No studies in the American context consider the influence of parental religious socialization on the development of individuals’ party identifications (PIDs). This study attempts to fill the gap. The theory posits that parental religious socialization plays an important developmental role in shaping a child's PID. However, the precise relationship between a parent's religion and the child's PID may vary over time and across generations in response to changing religio-partisan conflicts.

Methods: The expectations are tested using child-parent pairs from the Youth–Parent Socialization Panel Study. Conventional bivariate and multivariate techniques are employed to estimate a child's seven-point PID. Measures of parental religious belonging, beliefs, and behaviors, as well as a parent's PID, other parental sociodemographic controls, and measures of a child's religion are included in the multivariate models.

Results: In the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, a pre-Boomer parent's religious belonging and to a very limited extent religious behavior are more influential for the Baby Boomer child's PID than religious beliefs. However, for the younger generation included in the study, in the 1990s, a Baby Boomer parent's religious beliefs become more influential to his or her post-Boomer child's PID than does the parent's religious belonging or behavior.

Conclusions: The findings imply an important and evolving role of parental religious socialization in shaping individuals’ PIDs.

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A Relationship With God? Connecting with the Divine to Assuage Fears of Interpersonal Rejection

Kristin Laurin, Karina Schumann & John Holmes
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
We examine the possibility that people can leverage their “relationship” with God as a stand-in for interpersonal relationships. More specifically, we hypothesize that people will seek closeness with the divine when facing the threat of interpersonal rejection and that conversely, they will seek interpersonal closeness when facing the threat of divine rejection. We test this idea across four studies. Along the way, we test additional predictions derived from the close relationships literature, concerning the consequences of this process and the moderating role of self-esteem. Taken together, our findings add to the literature on God as a relationship partner and connect this idea to the dynamic ebb and flow of interpersonal connection.

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A Religion of Wellbeing? The Appeal of Buddhism to Men in London, United Kingdom

Tim Lomas et al.
Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, forthcoming

Abstract:
Against a backdrop of increasing secularization, the number of Buddhists in Britain continues to rise (Office for National Statistics, 2012). However, few studies have explored the reasons people are drawn toward Buddhism, with none focusing on men specifically. Uniquely, we conducted in-depth narrative interviews with 30 male meditators in London, United Kingdom, to explore the appeal Buddhism held for them. Buddhism was portrayed as a nexus of ideas and practices that improved men’s lives. Analyzed through the prism of a multidimensional biopsychosocial model of wellbeing, Buddhism appeared to have the potential to promote wellbeing in biological terms (e.g., health behaviors), psychological terms (e.g., generating subjective wellbeing), and social terms (e.g., offering a supportive social network). From a gendered perspective, Buddhism offered men the opportunity to rework their masculine identity in ways that enhanced their wellbeing. This was a complex development, in which traditional masculine norms were upheld (e.g., Buddhism was constructed as a ‘rational’ framework of ideas/practices), yet also challenged (e.g., norms around alcohol abstinence). Our study offers new insights into the hazards and the attractions — particularly for men — of engaging with Buddhism.

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The Impact of Communal Intervention Programs on Jewish Identity: An Analysis of Jewish Students in Britain

David Graham
Contemporary Jewry, April 2014, Pages 31-57

Abstract:
During the 1990s, Jewish communal leaders in Britain reached a consensus that Jewish education, in the broadest sense, was the principal means of strengthening Jewish identity and securing Jewish continuity. This belief motivated considerable investment in communal intervention programs such as Jewish schools, Israel experience trips, and youth movements. Twenty years on, it is pertinent to ask whether, and to what extent, this intervention has worked. The Institute for Jewish Policy Research’s (JPR) 2011 National Jewish Student Survey contains data on over 900 Jewish students in Britain and presents an opportunity to empirically assess the impact such intervention programs may have had on respondents’ Jewish identity by comparing those who have experienced them with those who have not. Regression analysis is used to test the theory based on a set of six dimensions of Jewish identity generated using principal component analysis. The results show that after controlling for the substantial effects of Jewish upbringing, intervention has collectively had a positive impact on all aspects of Jewish identity examined. The effects are greatest on behavioral and mental aspects of socio-religious identity; they are far weaker at strengthening student community engagement, ethnocentricity, and Jewish values. Further, the most important intervention programs were found to be yeshiva and a gap year in Israel. Both youth movement involvement and Jewish schooling had positive but rather limited effects on Jewish identity, and short-stay Israel tours had no positive measurable effects at all.

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Competition between Judaism and Christianity: Paul's Galatians as Entry Deterrence

Mario Ferrero
Kyklos, May 2014, Pages 204–226

Abstract:
This paper sets forth a theory of competition between exclusive religions as an entry deterrence game, in which the incumbent may find it profitable not to accommodate but to deter the competitor's entry by precommitting to sufficient capacity expansion in the event of entry. If entry costs are high enough, deterrence is optimal and the incumbent remains a monopolist, although the entry threat distorts its effort upward. The model is then used to explain the Jews' withdrawal from proselytism in the face of Christian competition in the first century CE. We review the historical evidence on conversion to Judaism before and after the first century and argue that the demise of Jewish proselytism was due not to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE but to the apostle Paul's strategic decision, in his letter to the Galatians, that Gentiles need not convert to Judaism to become Christians.

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Family Formation and Religious Service Attendance: Untangling Marital and Parental Effects

Cyrus Schleifer & Mark Chaves
Sociological Methods Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
The positive relationship between family formation and regular weekly religious service attendance is well established, but cross-sectional data make it difficult to be confident that this relationship is causal. Moreover, if the relationship is causal, cross-sectional data make it difficult to disentangle the effects of three distinct family-formation events: marrying, having a child, and having a child who reaches school age. We use three waves of the new General Social Survey panel data to disentangle these separate potential effects. Using random-, fixed-, and hybrid-effect models, we show that, although in cross-section marriage and children predict attendance across individuals, neither leads to increased attendance when looking at individuals who change over time. Having a child who becomes school aged is the only family-formation event that remains associated with increased attendance among individuals who change over time. This suggests that the relationships between marriage and attending and between having a first child (or, for that matter, having several children) and attending are spurious, causal in the other direction, or indirect (since marrying and having a first child make it more likely that one will eventually have a school-age child). Adding a school-age child in the household is the only family-formation event that directly leads to increased attendance.

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Can Religion Insure against Aggregate Shocks to Happiness? The Case of Transition Countries

Olga Popova
Journal of Comparative Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper examines the effects of reforms and religion on happiness in transition economies. Earlier literature suggests that religiosity insures happiness against various individual stressful life events. This phenomenon is well-explored in developed countries but rarely studied in post-communist countries, where religion was officially suppressed for a long period. These countries have undergone considerable economic transformations over the past two decades. Using cross-sectional Life in Transition Survey data and historical data on religions, I examine if religion insures against economic reforms. The endogeneity of religion is taken into account. The findings suggest that economic reforms may have both positive and negative effects on happiness. Religiosity indeed insures happiness and perceptions of economic and political situations against economic reforms.

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Forgiveness of in-group offenders in Christian congregations

Chelsea Greer et al.
Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, May 2014, Pages 150-161

Abstract:
Religious communities, as other communities, are ripe for interpersonal offenses. We examined the degree to which group identification predicted forgiveness of an in-group offender. We examined the effects of a victim’s perception of his or her religious group identification as a state-specific personal variable on forgiveness by integrating social identity theory into a model of relational spirituality (Davis, Hook, & Worthington, 2008) to help explain victim’s responses to transgressions within a religious context. Data were collected from members of Christian congregations from the Midwest region of the United States (Study 1, N = 63), and college students belonging to Christian congregations (Study 2, N = 376). Regression analyses demonstrated that even after statistically controlling for many religious and transgression-related variables, group identification with a congregation still predicted variance in revenge and benevolence toward an in-group offender after a transgression. In addition, mediation analyses suggest group identification as one mechanism through which trait forgivingness relates to forgiveness of specific offenses. We discuss the importance of group identity in forgiving other in-group members in a religious community.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

From top to bottom

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all? Thinking that one is attractive increases the tendency to support inequality

Peter Belmi & Margaret Neale
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, July 2014, Pages 133-149

Abstract:
Five studies tested the hypothesis that self-perceived attractiveness shapes people's perceptions of their social class (subjective SES), which, in turn, shape how people respond to inequality and social hierarchies. Study 1 found that self-perceived attractiveness was associated with support for group-based dominance and belief in legitimizing ideologies, and that these relationships were mediated by subjective social class. Subsequent experiments showed that higher self-perceived attractiveness increased subjective SES, which in turn, increased SDO (Study 2 and Study 5); promoted stronger beliefs in dispositional causes of inequality (Study 3); and reduced donations to a movement advocating for social equality (Study 4). By contrast, lower self-perceived attractiveness decreased subjective SES, which in turn, led to a greater tendency to reject social hierarchies and to construe inequality in terms of contextual causes. These effects emerged even after controlling for power, status, and self-esteem, and were not simply driven by inducing people to see themselves positively on desirable traits (Study 4 and Study 5).

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A Sense of Powerlessness Fosters System Justification: Implications for the Legitimation of Authority, Hierarchy, and Government

Jojanneke van der Toorn et al.
Political Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
In an attempt to explain the stability of hierarchy, we focus on the perspective of the powerless and how a subjective sense of dependence leads them to imbue the system and its authorities with legitimacy. In Study 1, we found in a nationally representative sample of U.S. employees that financial dependence on one's job was positively associated with the perceived legitimacy of one's supervisor. In Study 2, we observed that a general sense of powerlessness was positively correlated with the perceived legitimacy of the economic system. In Studies 3 and 4, priming experimental participants with feelings of powerlessness increased their justification of the social system, even when they were presented with system-challenging explanations for race, class, and gender disparities. In Study 5, we demonstrated that the experience of powerlessness increased legitimation of governmental authorities (relative to baseline conditions). The processes we identify are likely to perpetuate inequality insofar as the powerless justify rather than strive to change the hierarchical structures that disadvantage them.

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The Political Economy of Ownership: Housing Markets and the Welfare State

Ben Ansell
American Political Science Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
The major economic story of the last decade has been the surge and collapse of house prices worldwide. Yet political economists have had little to say about how this critical phenomenon affects citizens' welfare and their demands from government. This article develops a novel theoretical argument linking housing prices to social policy preferences and policy outcomes. I argue that homeowners experiencing house price appreciation will become less supportive of redistribution and social insurance policies since increased house prices both increase individuals' permanent income and the value of housing as self-supplied insurance against income loss. Political parties of the right will, responding to these preferences, cut social spending substantially during housing booms. I test these propositions using both microdata on social preferences from panel surveys in the USA, the UK, and a cross-country survey of 29 countries, and macrodata of national social spending for 18 countries between 1975 and 2001.

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Does Radical Partisan Politics Affect National Income Distributions? Congressional Polarization and Income Inequality in the United States, 1913-2008

Roy Kwon
Social Science Quarterly, forthcoming

Objective: Recent research indicates that political polarization in Congress and income inequality share a closely linked positive association. But virtually no studies examine the direction of influence between these variables as it is assumed that income inequality causes political polarization. The major purpose of this investigation is to examine the temporal causal ordering of these variables.

Methods: This study constructs a time series national-level data set with information for the years 1913 to 2008. Vector autoregression and granger causality tests are utilized to explore the temporal causal ordering of congressional polarization and the income share of the top 0.1, 1.0, 5.0, and 10.0 percent of earners in the United States. Autoregressive conditional heteroskedasticity regressions are also employed to assess the strength of the association between congressional polarization and top incomes net of relevant control variables.

Results: The findings indicate that the past values of congressional polarization are better predictors of top income shares than vice versa. The results also demonstrate that polarization in the House of Representatives produces a more consistent and robust connection with top incomes than polarization in the Senate. Lastly, congressional polarization only produces robust associations with the income share of the top 0.1 and 1.0 percent of earners but not for the top 5.0 and 10.0 percent.

Conclusion: While the Senate possesses more powerful negative agenda control procedures to stifle the legislative processes vis-à-vis the House, it is polarization in the latter that returns the more robust associations with income inequality.

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Social class differences produce social group preferences

Suzanne Horwitz, Kristin Shutts & Kristina Olson
Developmental Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Some social groups are higher in socioeconomic status than others and the former tend to be favored over the latter. The present research investigated whether observing group differences in wealth alone can directly cause children to prefer wealthier groups. In Experiment 1, 4-5-year-old children developed a preference for a wealthy novel group over a less wealthy group. In Experiment 2, children did not develop preferences when groups differed by another kind of positive/negative attribute (i.e. living in brightly colored houses vs. drab houses), suggesting that wealth is a particularly meaningful group distinction. Lastly, in Experiment 3, the effect of favoring novel wealthy groups was moderated by group membership: Children assigned to a wealthy group showed ingroup favoritism, but those assigned to a less wealthy group did not. These experiments shed light on why children tend to be biased in favor of social groups that are higher in socioeconomic status.

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The Decline of the U.S. Labor Share

Michael Elsby, Bart Hobijn & Ayşegül Şahin
Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Fall 2013, Pages 1-63

Abstract:
Over the past quarter century, labor's share of income in the United States has trended downward, reaching its lowest level in the postwar period after the Great Recession. A detailed examination of the magnitude, determinants, and implications of this decline delivers five conclusions. First, about a third of the decline in the published labor share appears to be an artifact of statistical procedures used to impute the labor income of the self-employed that underlies the headline measure. Second, movements in labor's share are not solely a feature of recent U.S. history: The relative stability of the aggregate labor share prior to the 1980s in fact veiled substantial, though offsetting, movements in labor shares within industries. By contrast, the recent decline has been dominated by the trade and manufacturing sectors. Third, U.S. data provide limited support for neoclassical explanations based on the substitution of capital for (unskilled) labor to exploit technical change embodied in new capital goods. Fourth, prima facie evidence for institutional explanations based on the decline in unionization is inconclusive. Finally, our analysis identifies offshoring of the labor-intensive component of the U.S. supply chain as a leading potential explanation of the decline in the U.S. labor share over the past 25 years.

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Crowding Out Culture: Scandinavians and Americans Agree on Social Welfare in the Face of Deservingness Cues

Lene Aarøe & Michael Bang Petersen
Journal of Politics, forthcoming

Abstract:
A robust finding in the welfare state literature is that public support for the welfare state differs widely across countries. Yet recent research on the psychology of welfare support suggests that people everywhere form welfare opinions using psychological predispositions designed to regulate interpersonal help giving using cues regarding recipient effort. We argue that this implies that cross-national differences in welfare support emerge from mutable differences in stereotypes about recipient efforts rather than deep differences in psychological predispositions. Using free-association tasks and experiments embedded in large-scale, nationally representative surveys collected in the United States and Denmark, we test this argument by investigating the stability of opinion differences when faced with the presence and absence of cues about the deservingness of specific welfare recipients. Despite decades of exposure to different cultures and welfare institutions, two sentences of information can make welfare support across the U.S. and Scandinavian samples substantially and statistically indistinguishable.

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Economic Background and Educational Attainment: The Role of Gene-Environment Interactions

Owen Thompson
Journal of Human Resources, Spring 2014, Pages 263-294

Abstract:
On average, children from less economically privileged households have lower levels of educational attainment than their higher-income peers, and this association has important implications for intergenerational mobility and equality of opportunity. This paper shows that the income-education association varies greatly across groups of children with different versions of a specific gene, monoamine-oxidase A (MAOA), which impacts neurotransmitter activity. For children with one MAOA variant, increases in household income have the expected positive association with education. For children with another variant, who comprise over half of the population, this relationship is much weaker. These results hold when the interactive effects are identified using genetic variation between full biological siblings, which genetic principles assert is as good as randomly assigned.

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Personality and the Reproduction of Social Class

Michael Shanahan et al.
Social Forces, forthcoming

Abstract:
A burgeoning literature in psychology and economics examines how personality characteristics predict indicators of attained status. We build on this research by suggesting that connections between personality and attained status are also socially contingent: Valued personality characteristics are stronger predictors of attainments at lower levels of parent education (the resource substitution hypothesis), but such characteristics are less likely among the children of less educated parents (the structural amplification hypothesis). We examine these possibilities by drawing on the Mini-IPIP (a standardized instrument assessing personality), the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, and a statistical framework to test for moderated mediation. Results reveal that (1) personality characteristics have notable associations with educational attainment, hourly wages, and self-direction at work; (2) personality often has stronger associations with status attainments at lower levels of parent education; and (3) personality is a weak mediator of associations between parent education and attained status. That is, the children of less educated parents may benefit more from valued personality characteristics, but they are slightly less likely to possess such characteristics. These results are discussed in terms of new avenues for research into diverse forms of capital and status attainment.

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Globalization and Top Income Shares

Lin Ma
U.S. Census Bureau Working Paper, February 2014

Abstract:
How does globalization affect the income gaps between the rich and the poor? This paper presents a new piece of empirical evidence showing that access to the global market, either through exporting or through multinational production, is associated with a higher executive-to-worker pay ratio within the firm. It then builds a model with heterogeneous firms, occupational choice, and executive compensation to model analytically and assess quantitatively the impact of globalization on the income gaps between the rich and the poor. The key mechanism is that the "gains from trade" are not distributed evenly within the same firm. The compensation of an executive is positively linked to the size of the firm, while the wage paid to the workers is determined in a country-wide labor market. Any extra profit earned in the foreign markets benefits the executives more than the average worker. Counterfactual exercises suggest that this new channel is quantitatively important for the observed surge in top income shares in the data. Using the changes in the volume of trade and multinational firm sales, the model can explain around 33 percent of the surge in top income shares over the past two decades in the United States.

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Trends in Earnings Differentials across College Majors and the Changing Task Composition of Jobs

Joseph Altonji, Lisa Kahn & Jamin Speer
American Economic Review, May 2014, Pages 387-393

Abstract:
We show that, among college graduates, earnings differentials across field of study have increased substantially since the early 1990s. We study the degree to which this increase can be accounted for by changes in the labor market return to skills associated with a major. To do so, we define major-specific measures of the relative importance of abstract, routine, and manual tasks on the job, by linking majors to the occupations they typically lead to. Changes in the relationship between earnings and these measures can account for about two-thirds of the rise in inequality.

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Bringing Productivity Back In: Rising Inequality and Economic Rents in the U.S. Manufacturing Sector, 1971 to 2001

Arthur Sakamoto & ChangHwan Kim
Sociological Quarterly, Spring 2014, Pages 282-314

Abstract:
Using data on earnings and productivity for U.S. manufacturing industries from 1971 to 2001, we investigate economic rents and rising income inequalities. The results suggest that rents are most significant for managers, professionals, middle-aged workers, and older workers. Conversely, negative rents are evident for women, Hispanics, single men, and blue-collar workers. The underpayment of Hispanics appears to have increased while African Americans have gone from being underpaid to being overpaid. Workers with a college degree have become overpaid (i.e., "credentialism") while "gift-exchange" efficiency wages have declined. The marginal productivity of labor input has increased but is increasingly underpaid.

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Taxation and the Allocation of Talent

Benjamin Lockwood, Charles Nathanson & Glen Weyl
University of Chicago Working Paper, April 2014

Abstract:
Income taxation affects the allocation of talent by blunting the material incentives to enter high-paying professions. If, as the literature suggests, the ratio of social to private product is lower in high-paying professions (e.g., finance and law) than in low-paying professions (e.g., teaching and scientific research), progressive taxation is justified even absent a redistributive motive. Optimal taxes are highly sensitive to the size of externalities, which are currently poorly measured. Under our baseline calibration drawn from the literature, the Reagan tax reforms account for a fifth of the increase in pre-tax top income shares and reduce output.

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The Draft and the Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital

Moiz Bhai
University of Illinois Working Paper, March 2014

Abstract:
Understanding the transmission of success from generation to the next remains a salient issue for public policy. The peacetime draft in the United States provides a large scale natural experiment to explore the impacts of an intensive policy intervention. Draftees incurred large wage penalties during and beyond their initial period of military service. Economists have consequently characterized the draft as a tax. Using an instrumental variables research design with data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, the present study investigates the intergenerational human capital spillovers of the draft. I find the intergenerational costs of the draft for children of men that were drafted during peacetime to be two-thirds of a year less of schooling than children of men that were not drafted. Further analysis of the effects by the gender of children reveals considerably stronger impacts on boys than girls. In contrast, children of men from the whole military sample show a negligible impact of paternal military service on their educational attainment.

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Living Among the Affluent: Boon or Bane?

Louis Tay, Mike Morrison & Ed Diener
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study examined whether national income can have effects on happiness, or subjective well-being (SWB), over and above those of personal income. To assess the incremental effects of national income on SWB, we conducted cross-sectional multilevel analysis on data from 838,151 individuals in 158 nations. Although greater personal income was consistently related to higher SWB, we found that national income was a boon to life satisfaction but a bane to daily feelings of well-being; individuals in richer nations experienced more worry and anger on average. We also found moderating effects: The income-SWB relationship was stronger at higher levels of national income. This result might be explained by cultural norms, as money is valued more in richer nations. The SWB of more residentially mobile individuals was less affected by national income. Overall, our results suggest that the wealth of the nation one resides in has consequences for one's happiness.

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The Wage Premium Puzzle and the Quality of Human Capital

Milton Marquis, Bharat Trehan & Wuttipan Tantivong
International Review of Economics & Finance, September 2014, Pages 100-110

Abstract:
The wage premium for high-skilled workers in the United States, measured as the ratio of the 90th-to-10th percentiles from the wage distribution, increased by 20 percent from the 1970s to the late 1980s. A large literature has emerged to explain this phenomenon. A leading explanation is that skill-biased technological change (SBTC) increased the demand for skilled labor relative to unskilled labor. In a calibrated vintage capital model with heterogenous labor, this paper examines whether SBTC is likely to have been a major factor in driving up the wage premium. Our results suggest that the contribution of SBTC is very small, accounting for about 1/20th of the observed increase. By contrast, a gradual and very modest shift in the distribution of human capital across workers can easily account for the large observed increase in wage inequality.

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Is Universal Child Care Leveling the Playing Field?

Tarjei Havnes & Magne Mogstad
Journal of Public Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
We assess the case for universal child care programs in the context of a Norwegian reform which led to a large-scale expansion of subsidized child care. We use non-linear difference-in-differences methods to estimate the quantile treatment effects of the reform. We find that the effects of the child care expansion were positive in the lower and middle part of the earnings distribution of exposed children as adults, and negative in the uppermost part. We complement this analysis with local linear regressions of the child care effects by family income. We find that most of the gains in earnings associated with the universal child care program relate to children of low income parents, whereas upper-class children actually experience a loss in earnings. In line with the differential effects by family income, we estimate that the universal child care program substantially increased intergenerational income mobility. To interpret the estimated heterogeneity in child care effects, we examine the mediating role of educational attainment and cognitive test scores, and show that our estimates are consistent with a simple model where parents make a tradeoff between current family consumption and investment in children. Taken together, our findings could have important implications for the policy debate over universal child care programs, suggesting that the benefits of providing subsidized child care to middle and upper-class children are unlikely to exceed the costs. Our study also points to the importance of universal child care programs in explaining differences in earnings inequality and income mobility across countries and over time.

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A Comparison of Upward and Downward Intergenerational Mobility in Canada, Sweden and the United States

Miles Corak, Matthew Lindquist & Bhashkar Mazumder
Labour Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
We use new estimators of directional rank mobility developed by Bhattacharya and Mazumder (2011) to compare rates of upward and downward intergenerational mobility across three countries: Canada, Sweden and the United States. These measures overcome some of the limitations of traditional measures of intergenerational mobility such as the intergenerational elasticity, which are not well suited for analyzing directional movements or for examining differences in mobility across the income distribution. Data for each country include highly comparable, administrative data sources containing sufficiently long time spans of earnings. Our most basic measures of directional mobility, which simply compare whether sons moved up or down in the earnings distribution relative to their fathers, do not differ much across the countries. However, we do find that there are clear differences in the extent of the movement. We find larger cross-country differences in downward mobility from the top of the distribution than upward mobility from the bottom. Canada has the most downward mobility while the U.S. has the least, with Sweden in the middle. We find some differences in upward mobility but these are somewhat smaller in magnitude. An important caveat is that our analysis may be sensitive to the concept of income we use and broader measures such as family income could lead to different conclusions. Also, small differences in rank mobility translate into rather large differences in absolute mobility measured in dollars, due to large differences in income inequality across countries.

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Income inequality in today's China

Yu Xie & Xiang Zhou
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 13 May 2014, Pages 6928-6933

Abstract:
Using multiple data sources, we establish that China's income inequality since 2005 has reached very high levels, with the Gini coefficient in the range of 0.53-0.55. Analyzing comparable survey data collected in 2010 in China and the United States, we examine social determinants that help explain China's high income inequality. Our results indicate that a substantial part of China's high income inequality is due to regional disparities and the rural-urban gap. The contributions of these two structural forces are particularly strong in China, but they play a negligible role in generating the overall income inequality in the United States, where individual-level and family-level income determinants, such as family structure and race/ethnicity, play a much larger role.

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The Great Compression of the French Wage Structure, 1969-2008

Gregory Verdugo
Labour Economics, June 2014, Pages 131-144

Abstract:
Wage inequality decreased continuously in France from 1969 to 2008. In contrast to the US and the UK, this period was also characterised by a substantial increase in the educational attainment of the labour force. This paper investigates whether differences in the timing of educational expansion over the last forty years can explain the divergent evolution of upper tail wage inequality in France relative to other countries. Using a model with imperfect substitution between experience groups, the estimates suggest that the rapid increase in the supply of educated workers during the 1970s and 1990s produced a substantial decline in the skill premium within cohorts. As a result, between a third and half of the decline in wage inequality at the top of the distribution in France during this period is explained by the increase in the educational attainment of the labour force.

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Using vehicle value as a proxy for income: A case study on Atlanta's I-85 HOT lane

Sara Khoeini & Randall Guensler
Research in Transportation Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
In the two previous decades, high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes have been used to provide shorter and reliable travel option utilizing congestion pricing. To investigate the disproportionate distribution of the HOT lane benefits among demographic groups, previous studies have conducted surveys from a small portion of the travelers. Considering the high cost and time-intensiveness of surveys, this study proposes the application of vehicle value as a proxy for income on the Atlanta I-85 HOT corridor. More than 300,000 license-plate records were collected across all the lanes during peak periods of spring and summer 2012. The State vehicle registration database was employed to obtain vehicle characteristics from license-plate observations, which were then processed to estimate vehicle value. The results show that there is 23% difference between average vehicle value across HOT lane and general purpose lanes. To support the proposed methodology, the research team used targeted market income data which demonstrates notably similar trends of differences across the lanes. This study once again rejects the concept of "Lexus Lane" by illustrating that significant amount of low-income users are using the HOT lane; however, very high income travelers are using HOT lane twice as frequent as low-income travelers.

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Jumping off of the Great Gatsby curve: How institutions facilitate entrepreneurship and intergenerational mobility

Christopher Boudreaux
Journal of Institutional Economics, June 2014, Pages 231-255

Abstract:
Income inequality is often attributed to declines in income mobility following the Great Gatsby curve, but this relationship is of secondary importance in determining the factors of income mobility if one considers that changing rules is more important than changing outcomes under defined rules. Rather, improvements in institutional quality are hypothesized to increase income mobility by allowing entrepreneurs the freedom to pursue their dreams. This paper is the first to empirically analyze the institutional determinants behind entrepreneurship, and their effect on income mobility. The findings from a cross-country analysis suggest that secure property rights and less corruption are associated with less income persistence, leading to higher income mobility, independent of the Great Gatsby effect. This suggests that reducing corruption and protection of property rights increase income mobility through the channels of entrepreneurship.

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Why Inequality Makes Europeans Less Happy: The Role of Distrust, Status Anxiety, and Perceived Conflict

Jan Delhey & Georgi Dragolov
European Sociological Review, April 2014, Pages 151-165

Abstract:
Are more equal societies 'better' societies? This article addresses the question as to whether and why income inequality lowers the degree of Europeans' subjective well-being. While in broad international comparisons typically no clear-cut link between income inequality and (un)happiness exists, we can demonstrate that Europeans are somewhat less happy in more unequal places. We further discuss and empirically test three explanations as to why Europeans are inequality-averse, namely (dis)trust, status anxiety, and perceived conflicts. Each of these three potential mediators is hypothesized to be shaped by the extent of a nation's income inequality, and in turn to result in lower subjective well-being. A multilevel mediation analysis with data from the European Quality of Life Survey 2007 for 30 countries reveals that distrust and status anxiety are important mediators of inequality aversion, whereas perceived conflict is not. We can further show that trust is the crucial mediator among affluent societies, whereas status anxiety is crucial among the less affluent societies. The results are discussed with reference to the Spirit Level theory developed by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.

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Field experiments of success-breeds-success dynamics

Arnout van de Rijt et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 13 May 2014, Pages 6934-6939

Abstract:
Seemingly similar individuals often experience drastically different success trajectories, with some repeatedly failing and others consistently succeeding. One explanation is preexisting variability along unobserved fitness dimensions that is revealed gradually through differential achievement. Alternatively, positive feedback operating on arbitrary initial advantages may increasingly set apart winners from losers, producing runaway inequality. To identify social feedback in human reward systems, we conducted randomized experiments by intervening in live social environments across the domains of funding, status, endorsement, and reputation. In each system we consistently found that early success bestowed upon arbitrarily selected recipients produced significant improvements in subsequent rates of success compared with the control group of nonrecipients. However, success exhibited decreasing marginal returns, with larger initial advantages failing to produce much further differentiation. These findings suggest a lesser degree of vulnerability of reward systems to incidental or fabricated advantages and a more modest role for cumulative advantage in the explanation of social inequality than previously thought.

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Preschoolers Reduce Inequality While Favoring Individuals With More

Vivian Li, Brian Spitzer & Kristina Olson
Child Development, May/June 2014, Pages 1123-1133

Abstract:
Inequalities are everywhere, yet little is known about how children respond to people affected by inequalities. This article explores two responses - minimizing inequalities and favoring those who are advantaged by them. In Studies 1a (N = 37) and 1b (N = 38), 4- and 5-year-olds allocated a resource to a disadvantaged recipient, but judged advantaged recipients more positively. In Studies (N = 38) and (N = 74), a delay occurred between seeing the inequality and allocating resources, or stating a preference, during which time participants forgot who was initially more advantaged. Children then favored advantaged recipients on the preference and resource allocation measures, suggesting an implicit "affective tagging" mechanism drives the tendency to favor the advantaged. In contrast, reducing inequalities through resource allocation appears to require explicit reasoning.

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Badly off or better off than them? The impact of relative deprivation and relative gratification on intergroup discrimination

Silvia Moscatelli et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
This research examines for the 1st time the effects of relative deprivation and relative gratification, based on social comparison, on implicit and overt forms of discrimination toward the outgroup in a minimal group setting. Study 1 showed that compared to a control condition, relative deprivation and relative gratification enhanced implicit discrimination - measured through variations of linguistic abstraction in intergroup descriptions. Whereas both relative deprivation and relative gratification produced linguistic ingroup favoritism, linguistic productions of relatively deprived groups also conveyed outgroup derogation. Study 2 showed that relatively deprived and relatively gratified groups were overtly discriminatory in intergroup allocations of negative outcomes. The effects of relative deprivation were mediated by perceived intergroup rivalry and, in part, by perceived common fate. Perceived common fate partly accounted for the effects of relative gratification. Study 3 focused on mediators of relative gratification. First, members of relatively gratified (vs. control) groups worried about losing the ingroup advantage, which together worked as sequential mediators of discrimination. Second, relatively gratified groups reported higher existential guilt, which, in turn, was related to expectations of discrimination by the relatively deprived outgroup, and these sequentially mediated the effects of relative gratification. Overall, these studies highlight that both relative deprivation and relative gratification enhance intergroup discrimination and contribute to the understanding of the underlying processes.

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Numerosity effects in income inequality perceptions: Why relative increases in income seem bad

Christophe Lembregts & Mario Pandelaere
Journal of Economic Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Most research on income inequality implicitly assumes that a fixed percentage increase in income across all income levels does not alter income inequality. In contrast with this assumption, we show that relative increases in income lead to increased perceptions of inequality, even when buying power is held constant. In a second experiment, we extended these findings using a fictitious currency, thereby eliminating effects of using a familiar currency. In study 3, we demonstrate that feelings of envy and fairness are affected by a fixed percentage income increase.

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Inequality in democracies: Testing the classic democratic theory of redistribution

Brandon Pecoraro
Economics Letters, June 2014, Pages 398-401

Abstract:
The classic democratic theory of redistribution claims that an increase in the mean-to-median (MM) income ratio causes a majority coalition in the electorate to collectively demand more redistribution. The functional dependence of redistribution on the MM income ratio is tested in parametric and nonparametric regression frameworks using an OECD panel dataset. While the parametric regression model is found to be misspecified rendering subsequent inference invalid, the robust nonparametric regression model fails to uncover evidence that the MM income ratio is relevant for predicting redistribution.

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U.S. Pensions in the 2000s: The Lost Decade?

Edward Wolff
Review of Income and Wealth, forthcoming

Abstract:
The last three decades saw a sharp decline in traditional defined benefit (DB) pensions and a corresponding rise in defined contribution (DC) plans. Using the Survey of Consumer Finances from 1983 to 2010, I find that after robust gains in the 1980s and 1990s, pension wealth experienced a marked slowdown in growth from 2001 to 2007 and then fell in absolute terms from 2007 to 2010. Median augmented wealth (the sum of net worth, pensions, and Social Security wealth) advanced slower than median net worth from 1983 to 2007 and its inequality rose more, as DB wealth fell off. However, from 2007 to 2010, the opposite occurred. While median wealth plummeted by 41 percent and inequality spiked by 0.032 Gini points, median augmented wealth fell by only 21 percent and its Gini coefficient rose by only 0.009 points. The differences are due to the moderating influence of Social Security wealth.

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Money in the Bank: Feeling Powerful Increases Saving

Emily Garbinsky, Anne-Kathrin Klesse & Jennifer Aaker
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Across five studies, this research reveals that feeling powerful increases saving. This effect is driven by the desire to maintain one's current state. When the purpose of saving is no longer to accumulate money, but to spend it on a status-related product, the basic effect is reversed and those who feel powerless save more. Further, if money can no longer aid in maintaining one's current state, because power is already secure or because power is maintained by accumulating an alternative resource (e.g., knowledge), the effect of feeling powerful on saving disappears. These findings are discussed in light of their implications for research on power and saving.

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What Catches the Envious Eye? Attentional Biases Within Malicious and Benign Envy

Jan Crusius & Jens Lange
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
We investigated how early attention allocation is biased in envy. Recent research has shown that people experience envy in two distinct forms: malicious envy, which is associated with the motivation to harm the position of a superior other, and benign envy, which is associated with the motivation to improve oneself by moving upward. Based on a functional account of the two forms of envy, we predicted that within malicious envy the cognitive system is geared more strongly toward the other person than toward the superior fortune of the other. In contrast, only within benign envy the cognitive system should be geared toward opportunities to level oneself up. We investigated these hypotheses with dot probe tasks. In line with our reasoning, Experiments 1 (N = 84) and 2 (N = 78) demonstrate that within malicious envy, attention is biased more toward the envied person than toward the envy object, whereas in benign envy, this difference does not occur. Experiment 3 (N = 104) provides evidence that within benign envy, but not in malicious envy, attention is biased toward means to improve one's own outcome. The results suggest that within benign and malicious envy, early cognitive processing is tuned toward different stimuli and thus highlight the utility of functional and process-oriented approaches to studying envy.

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Living the high life: Social status influences real estate decision making

Sarah Tower-Richardi et al.
Journal of Applied Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Social status is associated with the vertical spatial dimension, with people conceptualizing higher social status with higher vertical positions. Two experiments tested whether this association influences relatively real-world decisions about others by asking participants to act as real estate agents, aiding in the relocation of clients who explicitly or implicitly varied in social status. Across experiments, higher status clients were placed into higher elevation housing options. This influence of social status persisted when strategy-aware participants were removed from analysis, and was not influenced by individual differences in social dominance or locus of control. Abstract concepts of social status are understood through associations with vertical space, and these mapping of abstract concepts to concrete percepts prove influential in guiding daily decisions.

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Switching Regression Estimates of the Intergenerational Persistence of Consumption

Sheng Guo
Economic Inquiry, forthcoming

Abstract:
The influential economic theory of intergenerational transfers predicts a negative connection between credit constraints and intergenerational mobility of consumption. Existing work has used bequest receipt to signal a parent's access to credit markets when investing in his children's human capital. However, measurement error in bequest receipt generates misclassification error and, in turn, attenuation bias. Employing switching regressions with imperfect sample separation to deal with this error, we show that the intergenerational persistence of consumption in the United States for credit constrained families is much higher than that for unconstrained families, contrary to what the theory implies. This means that children from constrained families are more likely to have consumption levels similar to those of their parents than children from unconstrained families. Our results are robust to the choice of bequest variables and other predictive variables in the switching equation.

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Instability and Concentration in the Distribution of Wealth

Ricardo Fernholz & Robert Fernholz
Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, forthcoming

Abstract:
We consider a setup in which infinitely-lived households face idiosyncratic investment risk and show that in this case the equilibrium distribution of wealth becomes increasingly right-skewed over time until wealth concentrates entirely at the top. The households in our setup are identical in terms of their patience and their abilities, and we assume that there are no redistributive mechanisms - neither explicit in the form of government tax or fiscal policies, nor implicit in the form of limited intergenerational transfers. Our results demonstrate that the presence of such redistributive mechanisms alone ensures the stability of the distribution of wealth over time.

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Molecular genetic contributions to socioeconomic status and intelligence

Riccardo Marioni et al.
Intelligence, May-June 2014, Pages 26-32

Abstract:
Education, socioeconomic status, and intelligence are commonly used as predictors of health outcomes, social environment, and mortality. Education and socioeconomic status are typically viewed as environmental variables although both correlate with intelligence, which has a substantial genetic basis. Using data from 6815 unrelated subjects from the Generation Scotland study, we examined the genetic contributions to these variables and their genetic correlations. Subjects underwent genome-wide testing for common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). DNA-derived heritability estimates and genetic correlations were calculated using the 'Genome-wide Complex Trait Analyses' (GCTA) procedures. 21% of the variation in education, 18% of the variation in socioeconomic status, and 29% of the variation in general cognitive ability was explained by variation in common SNPs (SEs ~ 5%). The SNP-based genetic correlations of education and socioeconomic status with general intelligence were 0.95 (SE 0.13) and 0.26 (0.16), respectively. There are genetic contributions to intelligence and education with near-complete overlap between common additive SNP effects on these traits (genetic correlation ~ 1). Genetic influences on socioeconomic status are also associated with the genetic foundations of intelligence. The results are also compatible with substantial environmental contributions to socioeconomic status.

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Voters, dictators, and peons: Expressive voting and pivotality

Emir Kamenica & Louisa Egan Brad
Public Choice, April 2014, Pages 159-176

Abstract:
Why do the poor vote against redistribution? We examine one explanation experimentally, namely that individuals gain direct expressive utility from voting in accordance with their ideology and understand that they are unlikely to be pivotal; hence, their expressive utility, even if arbitrarily small, determines their voting behavior. In contrast with a basic prediction of this model, we find that the probability of being pivotal does not affect the impact of monetary interest on whether a subject votes for redistribution.

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Evidence for Two Facets of Pride in Consumption: Findings From Luxury Brands

Brent McFerran, Karl Aquino & Jessica Tracy
Journal of Consumer Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper documents the multifaceted nature of pride in consumer behavior. Drawing on recent psychological research on pride, we provide evidence for two separate facets of pride in consumption. In a series of studies, we propose a model wherein luxury brand consumption and pride are systematically interrelated. Whereas authentic (but not hubristic) pride leads to a heightened desire for luxury brands, hubristic (but not authentic) pride is the outcome of these purchases, and is the form of pride signaled to observers by these purchases. Further, we show that these effects are generally exacerbated for those low in narcissism. These findings shed new light on why consumers purchase luxury brands, highlighting a paradox: these purchases are sought out of heightened feelings of accomplishment (and not arrogance), but they instead signal arrogance to others (rather than accomplishment).

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Low-status aversion: The effect of self-threat on willingness to buy and sell

Caitlin Pan et al.
Journal of Applied Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Consumption decisions are inherently rooted in both what to consume and what to forgo. Although prior research has focused on consumption, we instead examine what compels consumers to steer clear of particular goods. In two studies, we demonstrated that individuals experiencing self-threat avoid low-status goods to prevent further damage to their self-worth. Individuals facing self-threat showed a decreased willingness to buy (Study 1), and a correspondingly greater willingness to sell (Study 2) low-status goods, as compared with nonthreatened individuals. Notably, these effects emerged even when such behaviors were associated with economic costs (Study 2). Together, these results highlight how the motive to preserve the self can affect market exchanges, thereby painting a more complete portrait of the relationship between consumption, status, and the self.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Manage it

Hierarchy, leadership, and construal fit

Yair Berson & Nir Halevy
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, forthcoming

Abstract:
Three studies tested the hypothesis, derived from construal-level theory, that hierarchical distance between leaders and followers moderates the effectiveness of leader behaviors such that abstract behaviors produce more positive outcomes when enacted across large hierarchical distances, whereas concrete behaviors produce more positive outcomes when enacted across small hierarchical distances. In Study 1 (N = 2,206 employees of a telecommunication organization), job satisfaction was higher when direct supervisors provided employees with concrete feedback and hierarchically distant leaders shared with them their abstract vision rather than vice versa. Study 2 orthogonally crossed hierarchical distances with communication type, operationalized as articulating abstract values versus sharing a detailed story exemplifying the same values; construal misfit mediated the interactive effects of hierarchical distance and communication type on organizational commitment and social bonding. Study 3 similarly manipulated hierarchical distances and communication type, operationalized as concrete versus abstract calls for action in the context of a severe professional crisis. Group commitment and participation in collective action were higher when a hierarchically proximate leader communicated a concrete call for action and a hierarchically distant leader communicated an abstract call for action rather than vice versa. These findings highlight construal fit’s positive consequences for individuals and organizations.

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Selfish Play Increases during High-Stakes NBA Games and Is Rewarded with More Lucrative Contracts

Eric Luis Uhlmann & Christopher Barnes
PLoS ONE, April 2014

Abstract:
High-stakes team competitions can present a social dilemma in which participants must choose between concentrating on their personal performance and assisting teammates as a means of achieving group objectives. We find that despite the seemingly strong group incentive to win the NBA title, cooperative play actually diminishes during playoff games, negatively affecting team performance. Thus team cooperation decreases in the very high stakes contexts in which it is most important to perform well together. Highlighting the mixed incentives that underlie selfish play, personal scoring is rewarded with more lucrative future contracts, whereas assisting teammates to score is associated with reduced pay due to lost opportunities for personal scoring. A combination of misaligned incentives and psychological biases in performance evaluation bring out the “I” in “team” when cooperation is most critical.

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Workforce Reductions at Women-Owned Businesses in the United States

David Matsa & Amalia Miller
Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Spring 2014

Abstract:
The authors find that privately held firms owned by women were less likely than those owned by men to downsize their workforces during the Great Recession. Year-to-year employment reductions were as much as 29% smaller at women-owned firms, even after controlling for industry, size, and profitability. Using data that allow the authors to control for additional detailed firm and owner characteristics, they also find that women-owned firms operated with greater labor intensity after the previous recession and were less likely to hire temporary or leased workers. These patterns extend previous findings associating female business leadership with increased labor hoarding.

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Happiness and Productivity

Andrew Oswald, Eugenio Proto & Daniel Sgroi
Journal of Labor Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Some firms say they care about the well-being and ‘happiness’ of their employees. But are such claims hype, or scientific good sense? We provide evidence, for a classic piece-rate setting, that happiness makes people more productive. In three different styles of experiment, randomly selected individuals are made happier. The treated individuals have approximately 12% greater productivity. A fourth experiment studies major real-world shocks (bereavement and family illness). Lower happiness is systematically associated with lower productivity. These different forms of evidence, with complementary strengths and weaknesses, are consistent with the existence of a causal link between human well-being and human performance.

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The Risk Preferences of U.S. Executives

Steffen Brenner
Management Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
In this paper, I elicit risk attitudes of U.S. executives by calibrating a subjective option valuation model for option exercising data (1996 to 2008), yielding approximately 65,000 values of relative risk aversion (RRA) for almost 7,000 executives. The observed behavior is generally consistent with moderate risk aversion and a median (mean) RRA close to one (three). Values are validated for chief executive officers (CEOs) by testing theory-based predictions on the influence of individual characteristics on risk preferences such as gender, marital status, religiosity, and intelligence. Senior managers such as CEOs, presidents, and chairpersons of the boards of directors are significantly less risk averse than non-senior executives. RRA heterogeneity is strongly correlated with sector membership and firm-level variables such as size, performance, and capital structure. Alternative factors influencing option exercises are tested for their influence on RRA values.

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Hollywood Deals: Soft Contracts for Hard Markets

Jonathan Barnett
Duke Law Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
Hollywood film studios, talent and other deal participants regularly commit to, and undertake production of, high-stakes film projects on the basis of unsigned “deal memos,” informal communications or draft agreements whose legal enforceability is uncertain. These “soft contracts” constitute a hybrid instrument that addresses a challenging transactional environment where neither formal contract nor reputation effects adequately protect parties against the holdup risk and project risk inherent to a film project. Parties negotiate the degree of contractual formality, which correlates with legal enforceability, as a proxy for allocating these risks at a transaction-cost savings relative to a fully formalized and specified instrument. Uncertainly enforceable contracts embed an implicit termination option that provides some protection against project risk while maintaining a threat of legal liability that provides some protection against holdup risk. Historical evidence suggests that soft contracts substitute for the vertically integrated structures that allocated these risks in the “studio system” era.

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I Used To Work At Goldman Sachs! How Firms Benefit From Organizational Status In The Market For Human Capital

Matthew Bidwell et al.
Strategic Management Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
How does employer status benefit firms in the market for general human capital? On the one hand, high status employers are better able to attract workers, who value the signal of ability that employment at those firms provides. On the other hand, that same signal can help workers bid up wages and capture the value of employers’ status. Exploring this tension, we argue that high status firms are able to hire higher ability workers than other firms, and do not need to pay them the full value of their ability early in the career, but must raise wages more rapidly than other firms as those workers accrue experience. We test our arguments using unique survey data on careers in investment banking.

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Why Stars Matter

Ajay Agrawal, John McHale & Alexander Oettl
NBER Working Paper, March 2014

Abstract:
The growing peer effects literature pays particular attention to the role of stars. We decompose the causal effect of hiring a star in terms of the productivity impact on: 1) co-located incumbents and 2) new recruits. Using longitudinal university department-level data we report that hiring a star does not increase overall incumbent productivity, although this aggregate effect hides offsetting effects on related (positive) versus unrelated (negative) colleagues. However, the primary impact comes from an increase in the average quality of subsequent recruits. This is most pronounced at mid-ranked institutions, suggesting implications for the socially optimal spatial organization of talent.

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Born Lucky? A Study of the Birthdates and Ages of Paradigm-Shifting Entrepreneurs

Julian Lange et al.
Babson College Working Paper, March 2014

Abstract:
We studied the age of entrepreneurs at the time when they started companies that made significant contributions to the birth and growth of the micro/personal computer industry; we also looked at their birthdates. The main reason for our study was to test Gladwell’s widely disseminated assertion that paradigm changers in that industry were born between 1953 and 1955 and were 25 years old or younger when they started their ventures. In contrast to Gladwell’s sample of just three companies, Apple, Microsoft, and Sun Microsystems, and the seven entrepreneurs who founded them, our data set comprised 74 companies and 89 entrepreneurs. Unlike Gladwells’s seven entrepreneurs, all of whom were born between 1953 and 1955, our 89 entrepreneurs — including the Gladwell seven — were born between 1917 and 1965 and their average age when they started their ventures was 34.

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At the Helm, Kirk or Spock? Why Even Wholly Rational Actors May Favor and Respond to Charismatic Leaders

Benjamin Hermalin
University of California Working Paper, April 2014

Abstract:
When a leader makes a purely emotional appeal, rational followers realize she is hiding bad news. Despite such pessimism and even though not directly influenced by emotional appeals, rational followers' efforts are nonetheless greater when an emotional appeal is made by a more rather than less charismatic leader. Further, they tend to prefer more charismatic leaders. Although organizations can do better with more charismatic leaders, charisma is a two-edged sword: more charismatic leaders will tend to substitute charm for real action, to the organization's detriment. This helps explain the literature's "mixed report card" on charisma.

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Does It Pay to Be Moral? How Indicators of Morality and Competence Enhance Organizational and Work Team Attractiveness

Anne-Marie van Prooijen & Naomi Ellemers British
Journal of Management, forthcoming

Abstract:
Based on a social identity analysis, the authors argue that people are attracted to teams and organizations with positive features. Such features can refer to the competence and achievements of the organization, or to its moral values and ethical conduct. However, in work contexts, ethics and achievements do not necessarily go together. The paper reports three studies that examine the relative and combined impact of perceived competence vs morality of a team or organization on its attractiveness to individuals. Study 1 (n = 44) reveals that students prefer to seek employment in a moral rather than a competent organization, when forced to choose between these organizational features on a bipolar scale. Study 2 (n = 100) replicates these findings in a design where the competence and morality of a fictitious organization were manipulated orthogonally. Study 3 (n = 89) examines responses to experimental task teams that systematically differed from each other in their competence and morality. Results of all three studies converge to demonstrate that the perceived morality of the team or organization has a greater impact on its attractiveness to individuals than its perceived competence. The authors discuss the theoretical and practical implications of these findings.

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Explaining Changes in Organizational Form: The Case of Professional Baseball

Andrew Hanssen, James Meehan & Thomas Miceli
Journal of Sports Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
In this article, we investigate changes over time in the organization of the relationship between Major League Baseball and minor league baseball teams. We develop a model in which a minor league team serves two functions: talent development and local entertainment. The model predicts different modes of organizing the relationship between majors and minors based on the value of these parameters. We then develop a discursive history. Consistent with the model’s predictions, we find that when the value of minor league baseball’s training function was low but the value of its entertainment function was high, major and minor league franchises operated independently, engaging in arms’-length transactions. However, as the training function became more important and the local entertainment function less important, formal agreements ceded control of minor league functions to major league franchises. Finally, as the value of local entertainment rose once again in the late 20th century, the two roles were split, with control of local functions accruing to local ownership and training functions to major league teams. This analysis helps shed light on factors that influence the boundaries of the firm.

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Awards at work

Susanne Neckermann, Reto Cueni & Bruno Frey
Labour Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Social incentives like employee awards are widespread in the corporate sector and may be important instruments for solving agency problems. To date, we have little understanding of their effect on behavior. Unique panel data from the call center of a Fortune 500 financial services provider allow us to estimate the impact of awards on performance. Winning an award for voluntary work behaviors significantly increases subsequent core call center performance. The effect is short-lived, mainly driven by underperforming agents, and is reflected mostly in dimensions of the job that are hard to observe. We discuss various theories that could explain the effect.

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Uncovering unknown unknowns: Towards a Baconian approach to management decision-making

Alberto Feduzi & Jochen Runde
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, forthcoming

Abstract:
Bayesian decision theory and inference have left a deep and indelible mark on the literature on management decision-making. There is however an important issue that the machinery of classical Bayesianism is ill equipped to deal with, that of “unknown unknowns” or, in the cases in which they are actualised, what are sometimes called “Black Swans”. This issue is closely related to the problems of constructing an appropriate state space under conditions of deficient foresight about what the future might hold, and our aim is to develop a theory and some of the practicalities of state space elaboration that addresses these problems. Building on ideas originally put forward by Bacon (1620), we show how our approach can be used to build and explore the state space, how it may reduce the extent to which organisations are blindsided by Black Swans, and how it ameliorates various well-known cognitive biases.

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Not too much, not too little: The influence of constraints on creative problem solving

Kelsey Medeiros, Paul Partlow & Michael Mumford
Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, May 2014, Pages 198-210

Abstract:
Although, traditionally, constraints are held to inhibit creative thinking, more recent research indicates that constraints can, at times, prove beneficial. Constraints, however, come in many forms. In the present study, 318 undergraduates were asked to develop advertising campaigns for a new product, a high-energy root beer, where campaigns were evaluated for quality, originality, and elegance. Prior to starting work on these campaigns different constraints were, or were not imposed, with constraints being established based on fundamentals in marketing, themes in marketing, environmental information, and task objectives. It was found that task objective constraints resulted in better creative problem solving when participants were motivated. However, imposition of multiple constraints led to poorer creative problem solving. Thus the number and nature of the constraints imposed on creative problems must be balanced. The implications of these observations for understanding creative problem solving are discussed.

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The Productivity of Working Hours

John Pencavel
Stanford Working Paper, April 2014

Abstract:
Observations on munition workers, most of them women, are organized to examine the relationship between their output and their working hours. The relationship is nonlinear: below an hours threshold, output is proportional to hours; above a threshold, output rises at a decreasing rate as hours increase. Implications of these results for the estimation of labor supply functions are taken up. The findings also link up with current research on the effects of long working hours on accidents and injuries.

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The tortoise versus the hare: Progress and business viability differences between conventional and leisure-based founders

Phillip Kim, Kyle Longest & Stephen Lippmann
Journal of Business Venturing, forthcoming

Abstract:
Social science researchers have long pursued answers to the puzzle of why some people achieve certain milestones more quickly than others and whether rate of progress matters for long-run outcomes. This “tortoise versus hare” puzzle raises the question of whether speed is a valid indicator of viability in an undertaking: Are those with slower rates of progress any less off in terms of long-run achievement when compared to their faster counterparts? We investigate this “tortoise and hare” puzzle in the context of business formation, an activity pursued by millions in the United States. Our analysis of a nationally representative survey of U.S. business founders revealed that leisure-based founders were slower to make progress initially, but after a certain time threshold, their progress was no different than other conventional types of founders. More importantly, leisure-based founders showed more favorable initial economic and non-economic outcomes, as these founders were more likely to consistently report early sales and profitability and were more committed to investing time into their ventures. Our study findings have both theoretical and practical implications for the evaluation of venture performance, when the rate of progress is considered to be a leading indicator of new business viability.

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The Effects of Opportunities and Founder Experience on New Firm Performance

John Dencker & Marc Gruber
Strategic Management Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
Much prior research in entrepreneurship has focused on the role of the founder's knowledge in affecting new firm performance. Yet, little is known about how and why the entrepreneurial opportunity itself shapes outcomes in this arena. We begin filling in this critical gap in the literature by examining how the riskiness of the opportunity not only affects start-up performance, but also conditions the relevance of the founder's distinct knowledge endowments. Analyses of a sample of 451 new firms shows that the riskier the opportunity, the greater the performance of the start-up, above and beyond founder characteristics. Moreover, the value of founder knowledge is relative to the type of opportunity exploited: high-risk opportunities favor founders with managerial experience, whereas low-risk opportunities favor founders with industry experience.

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The Pric(z)e of Hard Work. Different Incentive Effects of Non-Monetary and Monetary Prizes

Andrea Hammermann & Alwine Mohnen
Journal of Economic Psychology, August 2014, Pages 1–15

Abstract:
Do non-monetary or monetary prizes induce the highest work performances in competitions? We conducted a real-effort lab experiment to test for differences in the effect of both incentives on work productivity. Our main findings are that the performances of subjects in pursuit of a monetary prize exceed those of subjects in pursuit of non-monetary incentives. However, the work quality and the retrospective feeling of having had fun at work, which is associated with the received prizes, decrease in combination with greater effort. Furthermore, a competition with monetary prizes appears to label winners and losers. If non-monetary prizes are used, losers are, to a certain extent, more able to adjust their feeling of satisfaction by changing the subjectively perceived prizes.

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The Effects of Corporate Spin-offs on Productivity

Thomas Chemmanur, Karthik Krishnan & Debarshi Nandy
Journal of Corporate Finance, August 2014, Pages 72–98

Abstract:
Using a unique sample of plant level data from the Longitudinal Research Database of the U.S. Census Bureau, which enables us to correctly identify the parent and spun-off entities prior to spin-offs, we establish that efficiency improves following spin-offs. A spin-off refers to the separation of the management of some assets of a firm into a separate entity (which we term as the spun-off entity or subsidiary). We investigate the underlying mechanisms and the real effects of spin-offs after correcting for potential endogenous selection using treatment effect estimators and propensity score matching in our analysis. We identify how (the precise channel and mechanism), where (parent or subsidiary), and when (the dynamic pattern) efficiency improvements arise following spin-offs. We show that spin-offs increase total factor productivity (TFP) and that such productivity improvements are long-lived. This post spin-off productivity improvement can be attributed to cost savings but not to higher sales. Further, such improvements arise primarily in plants remaining with the parent. However, contrary to speculation in the previous literature, we show that plants that are spun-off do not underperform parent plants prior to the spin-off. We identify acquisitions following spin-offs and find that while productivity improvements occur immediately after the spin-off in non-acquired plants, they start only after being taken over by another firm in acquired plants. Finally, we show that unrelated spun-off entities show greater improvements in productivity compared to related spun-off entities.

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When Does the Devil Make Work? An Empirical Study of the Impact of Workload on Worker Productivity

Tom Fangyun Tan & Serguei Netessine
Management Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
We analyze a large, detailed operational data set from a restaurant chain to shed new light on how workload (defined as the number of tables or diners that a server simultaneously handles) affects servers' performance (measured as sales and meal duration). We use an exogenous shock — the implementation of labor scheduling software — and time-lagged instrumental variables to disentangle the endogeneity between demand and supply in this setting. We show that servers strive to maximize sales and speed efforts simultaneously, depending on the relative values of sales and speed. As a result, we find that, when the overall workload is small, servers expend more and more sales efforts with the increase in workload at a cost of slower service speed. However, above a certain workload threshold, servers start to reduce their sales efforts and work more promptly with the further rise in workload. In the focal restaurant chain, we find that this saturation point is currently not reached and, counterintuitively, the chain can reduce the staffing level and achieve both significantly higher sales (an estimated 3% increase) and lower labor costs (an estimated 17% decrease).

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Pay Harmony: Peer Comparison and Executive Compensation

Claudine Madras Gartenberg & Julie Wulf
Harvard Working Paper, March 2014

Abstract:
This study suggests that peer comparison affects both wage setting and productivity within firms. We report three changes in division manager compensation following a 1991-1992 controversy over executive pay. We argue that this controversy increased wage comparisons within firms, particularly those with geographically-dispersed managers – managers with the greatest information frictions. Following the controversy, pay in dispersed firms co-moves more and is less sensitive to individual performance. Relatedly, pay disparity between managers located in different states decreases relative to that of co-located managers. Finally, division productivity falls in dispersed firms, particularly among managers at the low end of the wage distribution.

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Does Ethical Leadership Matter in Government? Effects on Organizational Commitment, Absenteeism, and Willingness to Report Ethical Problems

Shahidul Hassan, Bradley Wright & Gary Yukl
Public Administration Review, May/June 2014, Pages 333–343

Abstract:
Recent ethical scandals involving managers in government organizations have highlighted the need for more research on ethical leadership in public sector organizations. To assess the consequences of ethical leadership, 161 managers in a large state government agency and 415 of their direct reports were surveyed, and personnel records were obtained to measure absenteeism. Results indicate that after controlling for the effects of employee characteristics, perceptions of procedural fairness, and supportive leader behavior, ethical leadership reduced absenteeism and had a positive influence on organizational commitment and willingness to report ethical problems. Implications of the findings and suggestions for future research are presented.

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Getting to Know Each Other: The Role of Toeholds in Acquisitions

Paul Povel & Giorgo Sertsios
Journal of Corporate Finance, June 2014, Pages 201–224

Abstract:
We analyze the role of toeholds (non-controlling but significant equity stakes) as a source of information for a bidder. A toehold provides an opportunity to interact with the target and its management and in the process get a better sense of the possible synergies from a merger or takeover. A bidder considering taking over a target will take a toehold beforehand if the informational benefits are large. Our model makes the following predictions: (i) a toehold is more beneficial if a target is opaque, i.e., if it is generally harder to value potential synergies with the target; (ii) a toehold is incrementally more beneficial if a bidder initially finds it harder than others to assess the value of potential synergies; (iii) that incremental benefit is less important, however, if the target is opaque; (iv) the benefits from having a toehold are smaller if the number of potential rival bidders is higher. We test these predictions using a large sample of majority acquisitions of private and public companies for which we have information regarding whether the acquirer had a toehold in the target company prior to the majority acquisition. We find evidence consistent with our hypotheses, and thus with the idea that potential acquirers of a target use toeholds to improve their information about possible synergies with the target.

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Sorting Effects of Performance Pay

Maris Goldmanis & Korok Ray
Management Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Compensation not only provides incentives to an existing manager but also affects the type of manager attracted to the firm. This paper examines the dual incentive and sorting effects of performance pay in a simple contracting model of endogenous participation. Unless the manager is highly risk averse, sorting dampens optimal pay-performance sensitivity (PPS) because PPS beyond a nominal amount transfers unnecessary (information) rent to the manager. This helps explain why empirical estimates of PPS are much lower than predictions from models of moral hazard alone. The model also predicts that sorting under asymmetric information causes the firm to turn away more candidates than would be efficient; PPS increases in the cost of hiring the manager and in the manager's outside option, but decreases in output risk, information risk, and managerial risk aversion; and the firm becomes more selective in hiring as either the manager's outside option, the cost of hiring, risk aversion, output risk, or information risk increases.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM


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