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Interesting Findings And World Unfolding Through My Eyes.

Monday, April 7, 2008

UnCommon Knowledge

Do conservative values and conservative economics go hand in hand? A sociologist looked at broad surveys of Americans to find out whether conservative Protestants - the 25 percent of the population belonging to churches that emphasize a literal reading of the Bible, personal conversion, and social activism - accumulated more wealth than other people. The data indicated that conservative Protestants actually accumulated less wealth during their lives; their estimated median net worth was less than half of what it was for the general population. Conservative Protestants do give more of their income to church, but they are also less likely to pursue higher education, they are more likely to have earlier and bigger families, and women are less likely to work. It may be that religious differences can explain a significant portion of economic inequality in the United States, the author says.

Keister, L., "Conservative Protestants and Wealth: How Religion Perpetuates Asset Poverty," American Journal of Sociology (March 2008).

SOCIAL SCIENTISTS HAVE long observed that more boys were born around the time of the two world wars than at other times, but it has not been clear why. A sociologist thinks he has an answer. A sample of records of soldiers who served in the British Army during World War I revealed that taller soldiers were more likely to survive. In a more recent sample of American men, he also found that taller men were more likely to have male children. Thus, the culling of shorter men from the population may have increased the number of boys born within a few years of the war. Why have taller men been less likely to die in combat? He doesn't know.

Kanazawa, S., "Big and Tall Soldiers Are More Likely to Survive Battle: A Possible Explanation for the 'Returning Soldier Effect' on the Secondary Sex Ratio," Human Reproduction (November 2007).

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ALTHOUGH GIRLS SEEM to be doing better than boys in school nowadays, there is still a lot of concern that girls are being discouraged from pursuing degrees and careers that boys have traditionally dominated. To see if such a bias could be systematically quantified, an economist analyzed testing data for public high-school students in Israel, where students were given two tests for each of their core subjects. One test was graded anonymously by the state, and another was graded non-anonymously by the student's teacher. The girls got a boost when the grader knew who they were. (They also did better than the boys on the anonymously graded tests, but the margin was smaller.) The bias was widespread and appeared to be a result of teacher-specific attitudes.

Lavy, V., "Do Gender Stereotypes Reduce Girls' or Boys' Human Capital Outcomes? Evidence from a Natural Experiment," Journal of Public Economics (forthcoming).

. . .

WE ALL KNOW that sex sells. But a new study shows that it also does something else: it makes men impatient. A team of researchers conducted several experiments where men were either exposed to neutral stimuli or to sexual stimuli, by looking at images of sexy women or just being in the presence of a bra. The men were then asked how much they would trade off a reward - money, or even soda or candy - today for a reward in the future. Men who were exposed to a sexual stimulus were more impatient to get their reward today. The researchers also found that making men feel poor - by forcing them to compare their own wealth against a much bigger benchmark - exacerbated the impatience effect.

Van den Bergh, B. et al., "Bikinis Instigate Generalized Impatience in Intertemporal Choice," Journal of Consumer Research (June 2008).

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