Culture of Opportunity

Kevin Lewis

September 23, 2021

The Gender-Equality Paradox and Optimal Distinctiveness: More Gender-Equal Societies Have More Gendered Names
Allon Vishkin, Michael Slepian & Adam Galinsky
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Findings in several domains have documented a gender-equality paradox, where greater social and economic gender equality predicts increased gender differentiation. Many of these findings have used subjective rating scales and thus have been dismissed as artifactual due to different reference groups in more versus less gender-equal societies. Although recent research has documented the gender-equality paradox using an objective criterion — pursuit of degrees in STEM — the robustness of this finding has also been challenged. The current investigation offers evidence for the gender-equality paradox using an objective marker of gender differentiation: baby names. We find given names are more phonetically gendered in more gender-equal societies, with female names being more likely unvoiced (a softer sound) and male names being more likely voiced (a harder sound). We offer a theoretical explanation based on optimal distinctiveness theory to explain why increasing gender equality might motivate a preference for greater gender differentiation. 

Individualistic culture increases economic mobility in the United States
Bryan Leonard & Steven Smith
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 14 September 2021

Where an individual grows up has large implications for their long-term economic outcomes, including earnings and intergenerational mobility. Even within the United States, the “causal effect of place” varies greatly and cannot be fully explained by socioeconomic conditions. Across different nations, variation in growth and mobility have been linked to more individualistic cultures. We assess how variation of historically driven individualism within the United States affects mobility. Areas in the United States that were isolated on the frontier for longer periods of time during the 19th century have a stronger culture of “rugged individualism” [S. Bazzi, M. Fiszbein, M. Gebresilasse, Econometrica 88, 2329–2368 (2020)]. We combine county-level measures of frontier experience with modern measures of the causal effect of place on mobility — the predicted percentage change in an individual’s earnings at age 26 y associated with “growing up” in a particular county [R. Chetty, N. Hendren, Q. J. Econ. 133, 1163–1228 (2018)]. Using commuting zone fixed effects and a suite of county-level controls to absorb regional variation in frontier experience and modern economic conditions, we find an additional decade of frontier experience results in 25% greater modern-day income mobility for children of parents in the 25th percentile of income and 14% for those born to parents in the 75th percentile. We use mediation analysis to present suggestive evidence that informal manifestations of “rugged individualism” — those embodied by the individuals themselves — are more strongly associated with upward mobility than formal policy or selective migration. 

Herding, Warfare, and a Culture of Honor: Global Evidence
Yiming Cao et al.
NBER Working Paper, September 2021

According to the widely known ‘culture of honor’ hypothesis from social psychology, traditional herding practices are believed to have generated a value system that is conducive to revenge-taking and violence. We test this idea at a global scale using a combination of ethnographic records, historical folklore information, global data on contemporary conflict events, and large-scale surveys. The data show systematic links between traditional herding practices and a culture of honor. First, the culture of pre-industrial societies that relied on animal herding emphasizes violence, punishment, and revenge-taking. Second, contemporary ethnolinguistic groups that historically subsisted more strongly on herding have more frequent and severe conflict today. Third, the contemporary descendants of herders report being more willing to take revenge and punish unfair behavior in the globally representative Global Preferences Survey. In all, the evidence supports the idea that this form of economic subsistence generated a functional psychology that has persisted until today and plays a role in shaping conflict across the globe.

A Data-Driven Analysis of Sociocultural, Ecological, and Economic Correlates of Depression Across Nations
Zeyang Li et al.
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, forthcoming 

The prevalence of depression varies widely across nations, but we do not yet understand what underlies this variation. Here we use estimates from the Global Burden of Disease study to analyze the correlates of depression across 195 countries and territories. We begin by identifying potential cross-correlates of depression using past clinical and cultural psychology literature. We then take a data-driven approach to modeling which factors correlate with depression in zero-order analyses, and in a multiple regression model that controls for covariation between factors. Our findings reveal several potential correlates of depression, including cultural individualism, daylight hours, divorce rate, and GDP per capita. Cultural individualism is the only factor that remains significant across all our models, even when adjusting for spatial autocorrelation, mental healthcare workers per capita, multicollinearity, and outliers. These findings shed light on how depression varies around the world, the sociocultural and environmental factors that underlie this variation, and potential future directions for the study of culture and mental illness. 

Sociocultural correlates of sexual and physical intimate partner violence across 98 countries: A hierarchical assessment based on economic development
Malachi Willis & Tiffany Marcantonio
Psychology of Violence, September 2021, Pages 465–475

We used secondary country-level statistics compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to assess the sociocultural correlates of IPV in a sample of 98 countries. We tested hierarchical associations using multilevel models.

Countries with higher incomes had lower prevalence rates of IPV, better attitudinal norms toward IPV, and better laws regarding violence against women. A country’s attitudinal norms toward IPV — but not its laws — significantly predicted its prevalence of IPV. However, the association between attitudinal norms and prevalence could primarily be accounted for by the country’s economic development classification. 

Evidence for an increase in cannabis use in Iran -- A systematic review and trend analysis
Yasna Rostam-Abadi et al.
PLoS ONE, August 2021

We searched International and Iranian databases up to March 2021. Pooled prevalence of use among sex subgroups of the general population, university and high school students, combined youth groups, and high-risk groups was estimated through random-effects model. Trends of various use indicators and national seizures were examined.

Ninety studies were included. The prevalence estimates of last 12-month cannabis use were 1.3% (95%CI: 0.1–3.6) and 0.2% (95%CI: 0.1–0.3) among the male and female Iranian general population, respectively. The prevalence of cannabis use disorder among general population in national studies rose from 0% in 2001 to 0.5% in 2011. In the 2016–2020 period, the pooled prevalence estimates of last 12-month cannabis use were 4.9% (95% CI: 3.4–6.7) and 0.3% (95% CI: 0.0–1.3) among males and females of “combined youth groups”, respectively. The linear trend of last 12-month cannabis use among males of "combined youth groups" and among female university students increased significantly from 2000 to 2020.

Social media users produce more affect that supports cultural values, but are more influenced by affect that violates cultural values
Tiffany Hsu et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Although social media plays an increasingly important role in communication around the world, social media research has primarily focused on Western users. Thus, little is known about how cultural values shape social media behavior. To examine how cultural affective values might influence social media use, we developed a new sentiment analysis tool that allowed us to compare the affective content of Twitter posts in the United States (55,867 tweets, 1,888 users) and Japan (63,863 tweets, 1,825 users). Consistent with their respective cultural affective values, U.S. users primarily produced positive (vs. negative) posts, whereas Japanese users primarily produced low (vs. high) arousal posts. Contrary to cultural affective values, however, U.S. users were more influenced by changes in others’ high arousal negative (e.g., angry) posts, whereas Japanese were more influenced by changes in others’ high arousal positive (e.g., excited) posts. These patterns held after controlling for differences in baseline exposure to affective content, and across different topics. Together, these results suggest that across cultures, while social media users primarily produce content that supports their affective values, they are more influenced by content that violates those values. These findings have implications for theories about which affective content spreads on social media, and for applications related to the optimal design and use of social media platforms around the world. 

Early assessment of the relationship between the COVID-19 pandemic and births in high-income countries
Arnstein Aassve et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 7 September 2021

Drawing on past pandemics, scholars have suggested that the COVID-19 pandemic will bring about fertility decline. Evidence from actual birth data has so far been scarce. This brief report uses data on vital statistics from a selection of high-income countries, including the United States. The pandemic has been accompanied by a significant drop in crude birth rates beyond that predicted by past trends in 7 out of the 22 countries considered, with particularly strong declines in southern Europe: Italy (−9.1%), Spain (−8.4%), and Portugal (−6.6%). Substantial heterogeneities are, however, observed.

Understanding Ethnolinguistic Differences: The Roles of Geography and Trade
Andrew Dickens
Economic Journal, forthcoming

I study the role of trade on inter-ethnic linguistic differences in the long run. I hypothesize that the geographic environment of neighbouring ethnic groups determines their potential gains from trade, and that the frequency of inter-ethnic trade — and resulting social interactions — shape the co-evolution of language. As a test of this hypothesis, I build a georeferenced dataset to examine the border region of spatially adjacent ethnic groups, together with variation in the set of potentially cultivatable crops at the onset of the Columbian Exchange, to identify how variation in land productivity impacts linguistic differences between adjacent ethnic groups. I find that ethnic groups separated across geographic regions with high variation in land productivity are more similar in language than groups separated across more homogeneous regions. I develop a model to theoretically ground this link between land productivity variation and inter-ethnic trade, and provide empirical evidence in support of this mechanism, including direct evidence of a causal link between land productivity variation and an ethnic group’s reliance on trade for food and subsistence in pre-modern times. 

Conspicuous corruption: Evidence at a country level
Panos Louridas & Diomidis Spinellis
PLoS ONE, September 2021

People can exhibit their status by the consumption of particular goods or experiential purchases; this is known as “conspicuous consumption”; the practice is widespread and explains the market characteristics of a whole class of goods, Veblen goods, demand for which increase in tandem with their price. The value of such positional goods lies in their distribution among the population — the rarer they are, the more desirable they become. At the same time, higher income, often associated with higher status, has been studied in its relation to unethical behavior. Here we present research that shows how a particular Veblen good, illicit behavior, and wealth, combine to produce the display of illegality as a status symbol. We gathered evidence at a large, country-level, scale of a particular form of consumption of an illictly acquired good for status purposes. We show that in Greece, a developed middle-income country, where authorities cannot issue custom vanity license plates, people acquire distinguishing plate numbers that act as vanity plate surrogates. We found that such license plates are more common in cars with bigger engines and in luxury brands, and are therefore associated with higher value vehicles. This cannot be explained under the lawful procedures for allocating license plates and must therefore be the result of illegal activities, such as graft. This suggests a pattern of “conspicuous corruption”, where individuals break the law and use their gains as status symbols, knowing that the symbols hint at rule-breaking, as long as the unlawful practice cannot be incontestably established. 

The global effectiveness of fact-checking: Evidence from simultaneous experiments in Argentina, Nigeria, South Africa, and the United Kingdom
Ethan Porter & Thomas Wood
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 14 September 2021

The spread of misinformation is a global phenomenon, with implications for elections, state-sanctioned violence, and health outcomes. Yet, even though scholars have investigated the capacity of fact-checking to reduce belief in misinformation, little evidence exists on the global effectiveness of this approach. We describe fact-checking experiments conducted simultaneously in Argentina, Nigeria, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, in which we studied whether fact-checking can durably reduce belief in misinformation. In total, we evaluated 22 fact-checks, including two that were tested in all four countries. Fact-checking reduced belief in misinformation, with most effects still apparent more than 2 wk later. A meta-analytic procedure indicates that fact-checks reduced belief in misinformation by at least 0.59 points on a 5-point scale. Exposure to misinformation, however, only increased false beliefs by less than 0.07 points on the same scale. Across continents, fact-checks reduce belief in misinformation, often durably so.


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