The next generation

Kevin Lewis

May 26, 2019

The Formation of Prosociality: Causal Evidence on the Role of Social Environment
Fabian Kosse et al.
Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming

This study presents descriptive and causal evidence on the role of social environment for the formation of prosociality. In a first step, we show that socioeconomic status (SES) as well as the intensity of mother-child interaction and mothers’ prosocial attitudes are systematically related to elementary school children's prosociality. In a second step, we present evidence on a randomly-assigned variation of the social environment, providing children with a mentor for the duration of one year. Our data include a two-year follow-up and reveal a significant and persistent increase in prosociality in the treatment relative to the control group. Moreover, enriching the social environment bears the potential to close the observed gap in prosociality between low and high SES children. A mediation analysis of the observed treatment effect suggests that prosociality develops in response to stimuli in the form of prosocial role models and intense social interactions.

The Effect of Paid Family Leave on Infant and Parental Health in the United States
Lindsey Rose Bullinger
Journal of Health Economics, forthcoming

California’s paid family leave (PFL) policy improved mothers’ labor market outcomes, however, the health impacts of this program are less studied. I compare child and parental health of likely eligible households to a series of control groups before and after California’s PFL program was implemented. I find improvements in parent-reported overall child health and suggestive improvements in maternal mental health status. Findings also suggest a reduction in asthma and a greater likelihood that parents feel they are coping well with the day-to-day demands of parenting. There are no significant effects on respiratory or food allergies, or father’s mental health status. The results are robust to multiple control groups and placebo tests.

Is the Drop in Fertility Due to the Great Recession or a Permanent Change?
Alicia Munnell, Anqi Chen & Geoffrey Sanzenbacher
Boston College Working Paper, March 2019

In the United States, the current birth rate has declined since the Great Recession. The question is whether this decline is a temporary response to the economic downturn or a drift to the lower levels seen in many other large developed countries. This paper identifies factors from the literature - both cyclical and structural - that affect the fertility rate and estimates the magnitude of these effects based on the variation across states. The cyclical analysis shows that while the total fertility rate (TFR) generally appears to be pro-cyclical, it has not rebounded with the recovery from the Great Recession. As a result, the analysis decomposes the structural factors that affect fertility - race/ethnicity, education, religion, the opportunity cost for women, and the explicit costs of raising a child. The results show that an increase in the number of women with a college education, an increase in the ratio of child care costs to income, and an increase in the female-male wage ratio can explain more than half of the decline in the total fertility rate from the period of 2001-2003 to the period of 2014-2016.

The Demand for Season of Birth
Damian Clarke, Sonia Oreffice & Climent Quintana‐Domeque
Journal of Applied Econometrics, forthcoming

We study the determinants of season of birth for married women aged 20‐45 in the US, using birth certificate and Census data. We also elicit the willingness to pay for season of birth through discrete choice experiments implemented on the Amazon Mechanical Turk platform. We document that the probability of a spring first birth is significantly related to mother's age, education, race, ethnicity, smoking status during pregnancy, receiving WIC food benefits during pregnancy, pre‐pregnancy obesity and the mother working in “education, training, and library” occupations, whereas among unmarried women without a father acknowledged on their child's birth certificate, all our findings are muted. A summer first birth does not depend on socioeconomic characteristics, although it is the most common birth season in the US. Among married women aged 20‐45, we estimate the average marginal willingness to pay (WTP) for a spring birth to be 877 USD. This implies a willingness to trade‐off 560 grams of birth weight to achieve a spring birth. Finally, we estimate that an increase of 1,000 USD in the predicted marginal WTP for a spring birth is associated with a 15 pp increase in the probability of obtaining an actual spring birth.

Cognitive ability and fertility among Swedish men born 1951-1967: Evidence from military conscription registers
Martin Kolk & Kieron Barclay
Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, May 2019

We examine the relationship between cognitive ability and childbearing patterns in contemporary Sweden using administrative register data. The topic has a long history in the social sciences and has been the topic of a large number of studies, many reporting a negative gradient between intelligence and fertility. We link fertility histories to military conscription tests with intelligence scores for all Swedish men born 1951-1967. We find a positive relationship between intelligence scores and fertility, and this pattern is consistent across the cohorts we study. The relationship is most pronounced for the transition to a first child, and men with the lowest categories of IQ scores have the fewest children. Using fixed effects models, we additionally control for all factors that are shared by siblings, and after such adjustments, we find a stronger positive relationship between IQ and fertility. Furthermore, we find a positive gradient within groups at different levels of education. Compositional differences of this kind are therefore not responsible for the positive gradient we observe - instead, the relationship is even stronger after controlling for both educational careers and parental background factors. In our models where we compare brothers to one another, we find that, relative to men with IQ 100, the group with the lowest category of cognitive ability have 0.56 fewer children, and men with the highest category have 0.09 more children.

Is Adoption Equally Beneficial to Different Aspects of Youth’s Behavioral Health? Findings From Comparing Adopted Chinese Youth With Non-Adopted American and Chinese Youth
Tony Xing Tan & Zhiyao Yi
Youth & Society, forthcoming

To test whether adoption differentially benefited adopted youth’s behavioral health, 243 female American youth who were adopted from China were compared with 234 non-adopted American peers, and 955 non-adopted Chinese peers living in China on four composite scales: School Problems, Internalizing Problems, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Personal Adjustment. The adopted youth were from high socioeconomic status (SES) families, while the two comparison groups were from average SES families. Self-report data were collected with the third edition of the Behavior Assessment System for Children (BASC-3). Effect sizes showed that the adopted youth outperformed their non-adopted American and Chinese peers. Latent mean comparison using Mplus 8 showed that, controlling for age difference, the adopted youth’s advantages over the comparison groups in some subscales dissipated. These findings were explained with possible compensating effects afforded by growing up in high SES adoptive environment, as well as on children’s differential susceptibility to the benefit of intervention.

Evidence of large genetic influences on dog ownership in the Swedish Twin Registry has implications for understanding domestication and health associations
Tove Fall et al.
Scientific Reports, May 2019

Dogs were the first domesticated animal and, according to the archaeological evidence, have had a close relationship with humans for at least 15,000 years. Today, dogs are common pets in our society and have been linked to increased well-being and improved health outcomes in their owners. A dog in the family during childhood is associated with ownership in adult life. The underlying factors behind this association could be related to experiences or to genetic influences. We aimed to investigate the heritability of dog ownership in a large twin sample including all twins in the Swedish Twin Registry born between 1926 and 1996 and alive in 2006. Information about dog ownership was available from 2001 to 2016 from national dog registers. The final data set included 85,542 twins from 50,507 twin pairs with known zygosity, where information on both twins were available in 35,035 pairs. Structural equation modeling was performed to estimate additive genetic effects (the heritability), common/shared environmental, and unique/non-shared environmental effects. We found that additive genetic factors largely contributed to dog ownership, with heritability estimated at 57% for females and 51% for males. An effect of shared environmental factors was only observed in early adulthood. In conclusion, we show a strong genetic contribution to dog ownership in adulthood in a large twin study. We see two main implications of this finding: (1) genetic variation may have contributed to our ability to domesticate dogs and other animals and (2) potential pleiotropic effects of genetic variation affecting dog ownership should be considered in studies examining health impacts of dog ownership.

Emotional insecurity as a mediator of the moderating role of dopamine genes in the association between interparental conflict and youth externalizing problems
Patrick Davies et al.
Development and Psychopathology, forthcoming

This study tested whether the association between interparental conflict and adolescent externalizing symptoms was moderated by a polygenic composite indexing low dopamine activity (i.e., 7-repeat allele of DRD4; Val alleles of COMT; 10-repeat variants of DAT1) in a sample of seventh-grade adolescents (Mean age = 13.0 years) and their parents. Using a longitudinal, autoregressive design, observational assessments of interparental conflict at Wave 1 predicted increases in a multi-informant measurement of youth externalizing symptoms 2 years later at Wave 3 only for children who were high on the hypodopaminergic composite. Moderation was expressed in a “for better” or “for worse” form hypothesized by differential susceptibility theory. Thus, children high on the dopaminergic composite experienced more externalizing problems than their peers when faced with more destructive conflicts but also fewer externalizing problems when exposed to more constructive interparental conflicts. Mediated moderation findings indicated that adolescent reports of their emotional insecurity in the interparental relationship partially explained the greater genetic susceptibility experienced by these children. More specifically, the dopamine composite moderated the association between Wave 1 interparental conflict and emotional insecurity 1 year later at Wave 2 in the same “for better” or “for worse” pattern as externalizing symptoms. Adolescent insecurity at Wave 2, in turn, predicted their greater externalizing symptoms 1 year later at Wave 3. Post hoc analyses further revealed that the 7-repeat allele of the dopamine receptor D4 (DRD4) gene was the primary source of plasticity in the polygenic composite. Results are discussed as to how they advance process-oriented Gene x Environment models of emotion regulation.

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