Raising the Stakes

Kevin Lewis

June 20, 2021

Looking for Safety in All the Right Places: When Threatening Political Reality Strengthens Family Relationship Bonds
Sandra Murray et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming


Elections and pandemics highlight how much one's safety depends on fellow community members, a realization that is especially threatening when this collective perceives political realities inconsistent with one's own. Two longitudinal studies examined how people restored safety to social bonds when everyday experience suggested that fellow community members inhabited inconsistent realities. We operationalized consensus political realities through the negativity of daily nationwide social media posts mentioning President Trump (Studies 1 and 2), and the risks of depending on fellow community members through the pending transition to a divided Congress during the 2018 election season (Study 1), and escalating daily U.S. COVID-19 infections (Study 2). On days that revealed people could not count on fellow community members to perceive the same reality of President Trump's stewardship they perceived, being at greater risk from the judgment and behavior of the collective community motivated people to find greater happiness in their family relationships.

Randomized Manipulation of Early Cognitive Experience Impacts Adult Brain Structure
Martha Farah et al.
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, June 2021, Pages 1197-1209


Does early exposure to cognitive and linguistic stimulation impact brain structure? Or do genetic predispositions account for the co-occurrence of certain neuroanatomical phenotypes and a tendency to engage children in cognitively stimulating activities? Low socioeconomic status infants were randomized to either 5 years of cognitively and linguistically stimulating center-based care or a comparison condition. The intervention resulted in large and statistically significant changes in brain structure measured in midlife, particularly for male individuals. These findings are the first to extend the large literature on cognitive enrichment effects on animal brains to humans, and to demonstrate the effects of uniquely human features such as linguistic stimulation.

World War II, the Baby Boom and Employment: County Level Evidence
Abel Brodeur & Lamis Kattan
Journal of Labor Economics, forthcoming


This paper examines the impact of male casualties due to World War II on fertility and female employment in the United States. We rely on the number of casualties at the county-level and use a difference-in-differences strategy. While most counties in the U.S. experienced a Baby Boom following the war, we find that the increase in fertility was lower in high-casualty rate counties than in low-casualty rate counties. Analyzing the channels through which male casualties could have decreased fertility, we provide evidence that county male casualties are positively related to 1950s female employment and household income.

Consumers Value Effort over Ease When Caring for Close Others
Ximena Garcia-Rada et al.
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming


Many products and services are designed to make caregiving easier, from premade meals for feeding families to robo-cribs that automatically rock babies to sleep. Yet, using these products may come with a cost: consumers may feel they have not exerted enough effort. Nine experiments show that consumers feel like better caregivers when they put more effort into caregiving tasks than when they use effort-reducing products to perform such tasks. The beneficial effect of effort on caregivers' self-perceptions is driven by the symbolic meaning of caregiving (i.e., the task's ability to show love) independent of the quality of care provided (i.e., the task's ability to meet needs), and is most pronounced when expressing symbolic meaning is most important: when caregivers are providing emotional support rather than physical support, when they are caring for another person with whom they have a close relationship, and when there is a relationship norm that investing effort shows love. Finally, this work demonstrates that marketers can make effort-reducing products more appealing by acknowledging caregivers' efforts rather than emphasizing how these products make caregiving less effortful. Together, these findings expand our current understanding of effort, caregiving, and consumer choice in close relationships.

Consequences of Teenage Childbearing on Child Health
Shubhashrita Basu & Devon Gorry
Economics & Human Biology, forthcoming


This paper uses national longitudinal data to analyze the effects of having a teen mother on child health outcomes from birth to young adulthood. We use an empirical strategy that relies on miscarriages to put bounds on the causal effects of teen childbearing. Results show that having a teen mother does not have negative health consequences for children. In addition, children of teen mothers report fewer diagnosed disorders and conditions requiring medical attention. The results suggest that policies focused on delaying teen childbearing will not improve child health outcomes.

The influence of normative misperceptions on alcohol-related problems among school-age adolescents in the U.S.
Aliaksandr Amialchuk & Onur Sapci
Review of Economics of the Household, June 2021, Pages 453-472


Adolescents usually overestimate their peers' alcohol use, and these misperceptions affect adolescents' own alcohol-related behaviors. Using a nationally representative dataset of U.S. adolescents in grades seven to twelve, we estimate the effect of misperception about friends' alcohol use on adolescents' alcohol consumption behaviors and alcohol-related problems. Overestimation of friends' alcohol use significantly increases the likelihood of all alcohol consumption behaviors and all alcohol-related problems approximately one year later. The influence of misperceptions of friends' drinking is significantly larger for male adolescents than for female adolescents in the cases of heavy drinking, vomiting after drinking, and drunk driving.


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