Jason Malloy's latest collection
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Jason Malloy of GNXP has collected a bunch of interesting abstracts from the National Bureau of Economic Research, including Ted Joyce's latest on the Steven Levitt abortion-cuts-crime theory:
1. No link Abortion and Crime US and UK 2. Genetically closer nations more likely to go to war 3. Taller people are happier 4. B-W gap narrowed b/c Southern hospital desegregation 5. Fat white women and fat black men dislike themselves 6. Educated women are having more babies 7. Latin Americans are poor b/c they have low IQ 8. People just as likely to help different races
1. Abortion and Crime: A Review Theodore J. Joyce

Abstract ——

Ten years have passed since John Donohue and Steven Levitt initially proposed that legalized abortion played a major role in the dramatic decline in crime during the 1990s. Criminologists largely dismiss the association because simple plots of age-specific crime rates are inconsistent with a large cohort affect following the legalization of abortion. Economists, on the other hand, have corrected mistakes in the original analyses, added new data, offered alternative tests and tried to replicate the association in other countries. Donohue and Levitt have responded to each challenge with more data and additional regressions. Making sense of the dueling econometrics has proven difficult for even the most seasoned empiricists. In this paper I review the evidence. I argue that the most straightforward test given available data involves age-specific arrest and homicide rates regressed on lagged abortion rates in the 1970s or indicators of abortion legalization in 1970 and 1973. Such models provide little support for the Donohue and Levitt hypothesis in either the US or the United Kingdom.


So, after a decade, we're back to where we were in August 1999 right after the debate in Slate between Steven Freakonomics Levitt and me: there's just not much convincing evidence for Levitt's abortion-cut-crime theory. On the other hand, Levitt's net worth is a lot higher than in August 1999, so, from a bottom line point-of-view, why should he care about whether he was right or not?
2. War and Relatedness Enrico Spolaore, Romain Wacziarg

Abstract ——

We develop a theory of interstate conflict in which the degree of genealogical relatedness between populations has a positive effect on their conflict propensities because more closely related populations, on average, tend to interact more and develop more disputes over sets of common issues. We examine the empirical relationship between the occurrence of interstate conflicts and the degree of relatedness between countries, showing that populations that are genetically closer are more prone to go to war with each other, even after controlling for a wide set of measures of geographic distance and other factors that affect conflict, including measures of trade and democracy.


Dynastic marriages were often arranged in Europe to ensure piece between different countries, although they generally just caused worse problems in later generations by multiplying the number of claimants to the throne. One common type of war well into the 18th Century were Wars of Succession between rival claimants who ruled other countries to a vacant throne. For example, in 1066, William the Conqueror of Normandy first put forward his claim to the throne of England based upon three different genealogical lines of descent. Similarly, English predation on France in the Hundred Years War was justified based on various genealogical theories legitimizing the King of England's claim to the French throne. Joan of Arc was one of the first to forcibly advance the modern nationalist view that the English should just go home to their island and leave the French alone.

It would be interesting to see examples of adjoining peoples who aren't closely related to each other. The most obvious I can think of are Tibetans and lowland Indians. I suspect they haven't fought that much because they don't want each other's land. Indian women can't reliably bear children at Tibet's altitude and Tibetans suffer grievously from malaria below about 5000 feet.

3. Life at the top: the benefits of height Angus S. Deaton, Raksha Arora

Abstract ——

According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index daily poll of the US population, taller people live better lives, at least on average. They evaluate their lives more favorably, and they are more likely to report a range of positive emotions such as enjoyment and happiness. They are also less likely to report a range of negative experiences, like sadness, and physical pain, though they are more likely to experience stress and anger, and if they are women, to worry. These findings cannot be attributed to different demographic or ethnic characteristics of taller people, but are almost entirely explained by the positive association between height and both income and education, both of which are positively linked to better lives.


The British Tory cabinet of 1895, the last to be dominated by members of the House of Lords, averaged over six feet in height. I suspect it wasn't just better nutrition and fewer infections, but also selection for height in the mating market.

Back when Hollywood used to make femme fatale movies, the femme fatales were notable for their long legs. It was a signal to the audience that the regular guy hero was getting himself in over his head.

4. Birth Cohort and the Black-White Achievement Gap: The Roles of Access and Health Soon After Birth Kenneth Y. Chay, Jonathan Guryan, Bhashkar Mazumder

Abstract ——

One literature documents a significant, black-white gap in average test scores, while another finds a substantial narrowing of the gap during the 1980's, and stagnation in convergence after. We use two data sources — the Long Term Trends NAEP and AFQT scores for the universe of applicants to the U.S. military between 1976 and 1991 — to show: 1) the 1980's convergence is due to relative improvements across successive cohorts of blacks born between 1963 and the early 1970's and not a secular narrowing in the gap over time; and 2) the across-cohort gains were concentrated among blacks in the South. We then demonstrate that the timing and variation across states in the AFQT convergence closely tracks racial convergence in measures of health and hospital access in the years immediately following birth. We show that the AFQT convergence is highly correlated with post-neonatal mortality rates and not with neonatal mortality and low birth weight rates, and that this result cannot be explained by schooling desegregation and changes in family background. We conclude that investments in health through increased access at very early ages have large, long-term effects on achievement, and that the integration of hospitals during the 1960's affected the test performance of black teenagers in the 1980's.


Basically, being a black sharecropper in the Jim Crow South stunk.
5. Obesity, Self-esteem and Wages Naci H. Mocan, Erdal Tekin

Abstract ——

Obesity is associated with serious health problems, and it can generate adverse economic outcomes. We analyze a nationally-representative sample of young American adults to investigate the interplay between obesity, wages and self-esteem. Wages can be impacted directly by obesity, and they can be influenced by obesity indirectly through the channel of obesity to self-esteem to wages. We find that female wages are directly influenced by body weight, and self-esteem has an impact on wages in case of whites. Being overweight or obese has a negative impact on the self-esteem of females and of black males. The results suggest that obesity has the most significant impact on white women's wages. http://papers.nber.org/papers/w15101

Upper middle class people are least likely to be obese, but those who are obese are probably most likely to suffer low self-esteem since it's most disfavored among their class. (This is one of those abstracts where you wonder if they looked at IQ.)
6. Opting For Families: Recent Trends in the Fertility of Highly Educated Women Qingyan Shang, Bruce A. Weinberg

Abstract ——

Observers have argued about whether highly-educated women are opting out of their careers and for families. If so, it is natural to expect fertility to increase and, insofar as children are associated with lower employment, further declines in employment. This paper provides a comprehensive study of recent trends in the fertility of college-graduate women. We study fertility at a range of ages; consider both the intensive and extensive margins, explore a range of data sets; and study the period from 1940 to 2006. In contrast to most existing work, we find that college graduate women are indeed opting for families. Fertility increases at almost all ages along both the intensive and extensive margins since the late 1990s or 2000 and this recent increase in fertility is consistent across datasets.


I do have a sense that upper middle class Americans are carving out of the rubble left over from the changes of the 1960s a semi-sustainable culture based on a lot of unspoken rules (monogamy, births within marriage, intensive investment in children, etc.). Still, they're in danger of getting swamped: the birth data shows that from 2005 to 2007, the number of babies born in the United States to married women declined 0.3 percent. In contrast, the number born to unmarried women grew 12.3 percent.
7. Schooling, Cognitive Skills, and the Latin American Growth Puzzle

Eric A. Hanushek, Ludger Woessmann

Abstract ——

Economic development in Latin America has trailed most other world regions over the past four decades despite its relatively high initial development and school attainment levels. This puzzle can be resolved by considering the actual learning as expressed in tests of cognitive skills, on which Latin American countries consistently perform at the bottom. In growth models estimated across world regions, these low levels of cognitive skills can account for the poor growth performance of Latin America. Given the limitations of worldwide tests in discriminating performance at low levels, we also introduce measures from two regional tests designed to measure performance for all Latin American countries with internationally comparable income data. Our growth analysis using these data confirms the significant effects of cognitive skills on intra-regional variations. Splicing the new regional tests into the worldwide tests, we also confirm this effect in extended worldwide regressions, although it appears somewhat smaller in the regional Latin American data than in the worldwide data.


Not surprising.
8. Do Race and Fairness Matter in Generosity? Evidence from a Nationally Representative Charity Experiment Christina M. Fong, Erzo F.P. Luttmer

Abstract ——

We present a dictator game experiment where the recipients are local charities that serve the poor. Donors consist of approximately 1000 participants from a nationally representative respondent panel that is maintained by a private survey research firm, Knowledge Networks. We randomly manipulate the perceived race and worthiness of the charity recipients by showing respondents an audiovisual presentation about the recipients. The experiment yields three main findings. First, we find significant racial bias in perceptions of worthiness: respondents rate recipients of their own racial group as more worthy. Second, respondents give significantly more when the recipients are described as more worthy. These findings may lead one to expect that respondents would also give more generously when shown pictures of recipients belonging to their own racial group. However, our third result shows that this is not the case; despite our successfully manipulating perceptions of race, giving does not respond significantly to recipient race. Thus, while our respondents do seem to rate ingroup members as more worthy, they appear to overcome this bias when it comes to giving.


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