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Links for June 2014

Adorable ten year old Indian child sends a $20 bill to India’s central bank to “help the economy”. Here’s the letter they sent back. This is something I imagine Ozy having done as a ten year old.

Did you know that Kaiser Wilhelm II lived until 1941? Or that he had strong opinions about the Second World War?

Jack Chick’s anti- Dungeons and Dragons tract, “Dark Dungeons”, is being turned into a movie.

Still no flying car, but a pretty neat hoverbike is going on sale in 2017 for only $85,000.

The Netflix Summary Bug accidentally combines summaries for two movies, creating some very interesting films.

Your job is already being automated. Including some doctor jobs. I wonder if I should try to concentrate more in psychotherapy because that will be less automatizable than psychopharmacology.

If we psychiatrists ever have to fight a battle against automatization, I hope we can come up with something at least as hilariously bad as these ads by nurses complaining about medical algorithms.

Oxfam: New research that performance monitoring of charities can make them do worse. I bet this is the sort of thing where if we were able to tease apart “performance monitoring” a little better we’d find some types are good and some types are bad. But it’s useful to keep in mind.

Giant tower in the desert could generate as much power as Hoover Dam.

Apparently whatever I have is contagious, because one of my girlfriends writes things like this, this, and most recently this.

If obesity is rising at the same rate in every demographic group, what does that tell us about the causes? Article points out a lot of interesting things – people are eating better and exercising more over the past couple of years, but obesity rates are still going up. Food deserts have no relationship to obesity whatsoever. People (even the poor) spend a lower percent of their income on food than in the past. Basically, all the social explanations that never work for anything don’t work here either. My money continues to be on either increased sugar consumption or some kind of weird endocrine effect from the chemicals in our environment.

Study shows that less scientifically literate people are more likely to believe in a threat from climate change. This doesn’t surprise me. If you know nothing about science, your best bet is to accept whatever real scientists say. If you think you know something about science, you may be more tempted to try and analyze the problem yourself, tragically unaware that you still don’t know nearly as much as real scientists. On the other hand, this should put the final nail in the coffin of the “anyone who disagrees with me is scientifically illiterate and hates knowledge” theory of politics.

Speaking of climate change, there’s a lot of debate around the study that said 97% of scientists support the consensus. Although I usually approach climate skepticism blogs with an entire ocean’s worth of salt, I was pretty impressed by their investigative reporting on how many of the scientists cited as part of the 97% consensus in the study vehemently deny being part of the consensus and say their papers were misclassified as supporting climate change when they’re actually against it. An author of the study replies, saying that anyone who complains about this is a science denialist and is “cherry-picking”, which doesn’t make much sense to me – kind of like saying “It’s unfair of you to cherry-pick only the data that we falsified”. Possibly a better explanation is that she’s saying her classification process will naturally misclassify a certain small percent of papers, and if you find those and get the scientists involved to make public statements about it, it will cast doubt on the accuracy of a generally very good method? Anyway, a much stronger argument is that the 97% paper used two different methodologies, and the other was asking the scientists involved to classify their own papers, and that one also independently found about 97% consensus. Or that of three different attempts to quantify the consensus by three different teams, they all got about the same numbers – 97% vs. 97.5% vs. 98%. That makes me more confident that, even if some mistakes were made in this study, the general point stands. But as always your best bet is to read the original paper. Also, I continue to feel like political partisans with very very very strong opinions on a subject should not be the ones studying it.

Related: Climate Change Now More Divisive Than Abortion. I will always link articles with terrible stock photos.

The latest thing I learned by living with Ozy is that Texas governor Rick Perry is inexplicably refusing to take common-sense steps to end prison rape, even going so far as to return money the federal government was offering him for free for the purpose. I don’t like calling any issue one-sided, but Ozy’s suspicion that he just wakes up in the morning thinking “What is the most evil thing I can do today?” seems pretty plausible.

New pathway involved in autism discovered. Then again, new pathways involved in autism are discovered all the time. I’m linking this article because it starts with the most forced metaphor I have ever seen in a piece of published writing.

Liberal bloggers are more likely to acknowledge alternative points of view. On the one hand, it’s a plausible claim, and the methodology – looking through liberal and conservative blog posts and having people check how many times opposing arguments are mentioned – seems like it could work. On the other, it’s an article on a liberal website based on a study no doubt by liberal researchers, it’s all based on a grand total of twenty-four blog posts from a small number of blogs, and it’s hard to see how you could blind the raters as to whether a site is liberal or conservative. I would like to read the paper, but the Internet stubbornly refuses to give it to me.

Finally we’re starting to get good evidence that e-cigarettes boost quit rates. Called it! Now we just need people to use this to turn back the tide of trying to ban e-cigarettes.

There have been some good articles on licensing lately. As they put it, almost 1/3 of U.S. workers need a permission slip from the government to get their jobs. This is not just jobs where poor performance could be a disaster, like surgeons and nuclear plant operators, but everything from florists to coffin-sellers. When states with and without licensing requirements are compared, job growth is 20% higher in unlicensed states. And licensing probably increases inequality, because it prevents the poor (who can’t afford the years of education and licensing fees required) from getting good jobs.

Extremely relevant: Uber gloats that although regular cab drivers are paid only about $30,000/year, its drivers in NYC and SF (they don’t give national averages, making all comparisons apples-to-orange) make $70,000 to $90,000. The big difference seems to be that regular cab drivers are employees who give most of their earnings to the large businesses that have ponied up the $1 million necessary to buy a taxi license, whereas Uber drivers mostly just work for themselves and give a small percent back to Uber. ARE YOU STARTING TO SEE WHY PEOPLE CAN CARE ABOUT THE WORKING POOR AND STILL IDENTIFY AS LIBERTARIANS?

…except that Uber is planning to replace all its drivers with self-driving cars in the near future anyway, so I guess I can only claim a partial victory here.

Trust Your Doctor, Not Wikipedia says the BBC, based on a study showing that Wikipedia contains lots of things that contradict medical research. “90% of the entries made statements that contradicted latest medical research.” Yet I notice it doesn’t even come close to proving its headline. I bet that if you asked doctors to talk about a medical concept in as much detail as a Wikipedia article dose, WAY more than 90% of them would say something that contradicts the latest medical research. I’m not even sure that Wikipedia contradicts “the latest medical research” less than “the latest medical research as identified and interpreted by a different person” or “the medical research of six months ago” or “the medical research of six months from now.”

And while we’re on the subject – you know that group that found that non-celiac gluten sensitivity existed, and then did a different study and found that really it didn’t exist? Now it exists again. And it supposedly causes depression.

It looks like mainstream psychiatry is gingerly accepting the mutational load perspective on schizophrenia and other illnesses.

Study finds that cerebral blood flow differences between men and women start at puberty, which is interesting because a lot of male-female gender differences start at puberty as well, and a lot of the work trying to debunk such differences has been taking schoolboys and schoolgirls, finding they do about the same at some young age, and assuming that any differences that later accrue must be cultural.

Kate at G&H makes (see #3) an exactly symmetric argument on the other side. She points out that you can’t conclude that, just because some male-female difference is present very very early (let’s say at age one month) that it’s biological, because differences from differential treatment could have accumulated in their one month of life or even in the womb. I agree. On the other hand, the article she links to says this means we should “stop looking for hardwired differences”. To me, this sounds like a particularly egregious example of the fundamental rule of confirmation bias: if I find evidence I like, I ask “am I allowed to accept it?” and if I find evidence I don’t like, I ask “Am I forced to accept it?”. Just because some male-female difference is present at age one month or one day or in the womb doesn’t mean anyone can “force” you to accept that it’s biological. But if you were going around saying it was definitely because of who played with Barbies more at age ten, you at least have to accept that it’s some evidence you were wrong. No one can *absolutely force you* to accept that some brain differences are innate, but finding them at ever-earlier ages with ever-less opportunity for cultural contamination should sure point you in that direction if you’re a Bayesian. And saying “Stop looking for the differences because you can never 100% prove to me that I am forced to admit they exist” is placing the entire burden of proof on one side in a very un-Bayesian way.

Speaking of gender, Alas A Blog presents lots of statistics on why feminism has been good for family values and improved the lives of men and women alike. Interested in seeing what my more conservative readers have to say about them.

Speaking of men being hurt by insufficient feminism, Female-Named Hurricanes Kill More People Than Male-Named Hurricanes Because People Don’t Respect Them, Study Finds. After eliminating outliers, female-named hurricanes kill almost twice as many people as male-named hurricanes because people don’t fear the female-named hurricanes enough to take precautions. Hilarious if true. But another article more plausibly suggests this might be an artifact of change in hurricane name patterns. (caveat bolded after EVERYONE IN THE WORLD started posting this article to Facebook)

And I will stop talking about gender after this, but did you know that there is a whole subreddit for polite, productive debates between feminists and men’s rights advocates? More cats and dogs snuggling together!

The decline of Detroit in time-lapse.

New research shows, contrary to every urban planner everywhere but totally in accord with my personal biases, that suburbs have healthier communities and better relationships with neighbors than cities.

The CIA Says It Will Stop Doing Fake Vaccination Campaigns. As someone – I think Leah – said, very much closing the stable door after the horse has escaped. But still welcome.

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154 Responses to Links for June 2014

  1. Sean says:

    RE: obesity. The authors simply didn’t do their math and statistics correctly to control for race and age. (Or any number of journalists reported conclusions falsely when the original published authors didn’t even make such claims).

  2. Tom Hunt says:

    Hmm.

    Well, whatever’s happening to obesity rates, obesity is apparently Yet Another Thing Where Good Outcomes Correlate with IQ. (Five seconds of googling gives this, presumably among many others.) It would be interesting to track the degree of that correlation over time, as well. Are increasing obesity rates tracking decreasing IQs? Are higher-IQ cohorts becoming more affected by obesity? The linked study suggests against direct effects of obesity causing lowered IQ (children who later became obese having shown lower IQs since the age of 3 or so); is it solely behavioral, such that lower-IQ people are more prone to act in ways that lead to obesity? (Personally, I’d tend to guess increasing sugar consumption, perhaps with an extra nod in the direction of soda and other sweet drinks. But I am not any sort of specialist in any relevant area, merely an interested layman.)

    • It’s also possible that being hated (especially without group solidarity) lowers IQ.

      • Tom Hunt says:

        Assuming that your proposed mechanism is that obesity leads to social opprobrium leads to lower IQ, that interpretation is also militated against by the linked study. Note that they found lower IQs in children as young as 3 who later went on to become obese; unless there’s some kind of time-travel fat shaming going on, that can’t be the root cause.

        • Said Achmiz says:

          Militated against“, you say…

          What does the study actually do to that interpretation? Provides evidence against? Disproves? Suggests is false…?

        • Tom Hunt says:

          I don’t say “disproves”, because I haven’t read the full study (requires payment) and because anyway “disproves” is a strange word for its certainty. Per the abstract, the authors found a correlation between low IQ, measured at the age of three, and later tendency toward obesity. Therefore, modulo faults in the study and/or the abstract blatantly lying, the study both “provides evidence against” and “suggests is false” the idea that the low-IQ/obesity correlation is due to fat-shaming causing stupidity.

  3. Sniffnoy says:

    You seem to have reversed the BBC’s advice about doctors and Wikipedia…

  4. von Kalifornen says:

    Kaiser Wilhelm Hohenzollern was quite a tragic figure, possibly damaged by British hypermorality.

    Honestly the Austrian emperor fared much better, and his heir had evaded the decadence that now consumes the British and German royals.

  5. Matthew says:

    …After eliminating outliers, male-named hurricanes kill almost twice as many people as female-named hurricanes….

    Should be the other way around.

  6. Oligopsony says:

    The boring (not necessarily wrong) ways to respond to the hurricane gender story are to cite it as evidence of sexism or explain it by other factors. The fun way is to pump policy out of it: give hurricanes more badass names! Hurricane Magog. Hurricane Killfuck Soulshitter. The Hurrikhan.

    • Nornagest says:

      I’d look forward to the inevitable cross-pollination with professional wrestling naming conventions.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      I am reminded of this immortal quote

      MftS: Who the fuck is the one naming hurricanes?
      MftS: They somehow manage to give them the least threatening names ever.
      MftS: If I turned on the news and heard that Hurricane Erin was coming I’d think to myself, “Erin? I could take that slut.”
      MftS: If I turned on the news and heard that Hurricane Dicksmasher was approaching, I’d grab all the money in the house, shove it in my pockets, and get the fuck out of there.

    • Sam Rosen says:

      Hurricane Hexenkampf
      Hurricane Ajax
      Hurricane Thulfeqar
      Hurricane Sludge

      • Nornagest says:

        Hurricane Ripper
        Hurricane Anthrax
        Hurricane Groinsaw
        Hurricane Doom

        Or, if you wanted to be a bit classier about it, you could name them after mythological monsters: Hurricane Tiamat. Hurricane Apophis. Hurricane Leviathan. Hurricane Fafnir.

        Or villains: Hurricane Mordred, Hurricane Surtr, Hurricane Ravana.

      • Fezziwig says:

        “Hexenkampf”? “Battle Witch”?

        Is this a reference to something in particular? Google only gives me German dubs of Charmed.

  7. Carl Shulman says:

    I’m rather skeptical of that climate change study, and more so of your interpretation. They don’t even control for partisan affiliation. Mean levels of scientific literacy, numeracy, and vocabulary are higher for Republicans than Democrats (essentially, the least educated and most-educated break Democrat, while Republicans lead in the middle of the education distribution and wind up with higher mean scores on these tests), and organized climate denial is primarily a conservative/Republican/libertarian phenomenon in the United States.

    Other research finds that higher education is associated with better knowledge (and adoption) of the predominant views of one’s fellow partisans, so the whole (small) effect they find, out of a number of tests (I got a whiff of data fumes at various places), could be driven just by these processes.

    • Oligopsony says:

      Yeah, I’ve actually seen research showing that more educated Republicans were more likely to doubt climate change specifically. Unclear what result is really explaining the other.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’m not sure why you think this is a point against the climate change study, and not that the results of the climate change study have reasons behind them.

      I think the most important take-home from the study is that knowing more about science doesn’t make you more likely to have scientifically-correct opinions, and the explanation for people with scientifically-incorrect opinions is not that they don’t know about science. That survives your critique.

      (my interpretation that maybe scientifically illiterate people are more likely to trust scientists probably doesn’t)

      • Randy M says:

        “I think the most important take-home from the study is that knowing more about science doesn’t make you more likely to have scientifically-correct opinions”

        WHAT?
        ahem…
        How is “more likely to have scientifically -correct opinions” not the definition of “knowing more about science”?

        • Anonymous says:

          knowing more about science (with respect to uncontroversial, scarcely known issues)

          more likely to have scientifically -correct opinions (on controversial, widely known issues)

        • lambdaphage says:

          “How is ‘more likely to have scientifically -correct opinions’ not the definition of “knowing more about science”?”

          Well, for example, people who claim to believe in evolution are apparently no more likely to be able to explain what evolution is than those who don’t. Expressing belief in evolution is, for most people, as much a tribal signal as a considered stand.

          [I don’t remember if that study has been linked here before, but it seems like a very slatestarcodexy sort of result].

      • Carl Shulman says:

        “I think the most important take-home from the study is that knowing more about science doesn’t make you more likely to have scientifically-correct opinions,”

        This is wrong on average across scientific questions, if you don’t limit yourself to the most ideologically charged issues in someone’s political tribe.

        “and the explanation for people with scientifically-incorrect opinions is not that they don’t know about science. That survives your critique.”

        This one does survive, or at least knowledge of science and beliefs about science can come apart. Republicans are more likely to know basic facts about the theory of evolution when asked what it is, but less likely to endorse it because of religious dogmas. This is again likely driven by not being the party of the downtrodden.

        Although as you consider higher and higher levels of knowledge opinion eventually converges towards scientific consensus.

  8. Lila says:

    I’m a bit disappointed in the quality of the sites you linked: the conspiracy theory one about your job being automated (though the article didn’t seem inaccurate) and the chimps article, which was on a tabloid site filled with blatantly false articles.

    Also, you briefly mentioned your polyamory, which reminds me that I want a content warning on that stuff. I guess you can’t understand the almost suicidal feelings of inadequacy and despair that result from romantic jealousy. And then to have people rub their polyamory in your face and say, “hey why don’t you try this, it’s great!” Not saying you were doing that, but it’s… sigh, “triggering”.

    • AG says:

      Huh…

      World News Daily Report is an American Jewish Zionist newspaper based in Tel Aviv and dedicated on covering biblical archeology news and other mysteries around the Globe.

      Our News Team is composed of award winning christian, muslim and jewish journalists, retired Mossad agents and veterans of the Israeli Armed Forces.

      We are based in Tel Aviv since 1988 where are published more then 200,000 copies of our Daily Report paper edition everyday.

      “CIA Reveals Nazis Murdered Tesla, Stole Death Ray Technology”
      “USA: Man Cured of Blindness by Rare Form of Herpes”
      “Snowden Revelation: NSA used Furbies for Domestic Spying”

      It’s not even a tabloid. Looks like a straightforward news parody site. Yup, says so in the disclaimer.

      • Oligopsony says:

        There’s a whole ecosystem of parasitic sites that trade in fake stories that are shocking or “whoah, dude!” without actually being funny, and which lack their shock value once you know it’s fake. I’d complain about it (more,) but they’re probably inevitable – and maybe they’ll encourage people to be more source-critical, but that seems like a long-run thing if it ever becomes a thing.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I find the tone of the job automation article annoying, but everything in it checked out and I thought it made good points.

      I thought I had double-checked the chimp article, but I can’t find it anywhere else now and it might have been a dream. I’ll remove it.

      I’m sorry about the poly. I’ll trigger-warn for it in the future. I do understand the suicidal despair and inadequacy stuff (I think you got off Facebook so you didn’t get the pleasure of seeing some of my rants) and any offense was unintentional.

      [the following is well-intentioned but stupid meddling that will probably make the problem worse, read at your own risk]

      I find it moderately mind-boggling that an attractive female rationalist in a large city has these kinds of problems. Do you have very specific preferences? If not, do you want me to try to see if I can set you up with somebody?

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        I find it moderately mind-boggling that an attractive female rationalist in a large city can’t find a romantic partner. Do you have very specific preferences? If not, do you want me to try to see if I can set you up with somebody?

        See, THIS is why friend networks are important.

      • Lila says:

        Haha thanks. I’m actually in a long-term monogamous relationship, that’s not the issue. The problem is that nominal monogamy hasn’t always occurred in practice.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        Well I’m ugly, low status, and male so presumably you can understand why I’d be totally unable to find a partner. Would you be willing to talk less about your romantic success on my account?

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Well I’m ugly, low status, and male so presumably you can understand why I’d be totally unable to find a partner. Would you be willing to talk less about your romantic success on my account?

          Or maybe even offer to see if you can set him up with somebody?

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            Well, I think the implication was that Scott knew a ton of desperate guys who’d date someone like her (if our host won’t mind me saying so, I think he underestimates how little women like the sort of men who can’t find dates on their own, but no matter.) He was specifically stunned at the existence of a single woman he considered datable.

        • Grognor says:

          or mine, for the same reasons

        • roystgnr says:

          When Scott posted about the conflicting standards of “guys who hit on women they just met are Creeps” vs “guys who hit on women they’ve been friendly to for a while with are evil Nice Guys”, one suggestion I recall from the comments was that the remaining generally approved target audience was “women who are friends with your friends”. Apparently the not-quite-Double-Bind is a Triple-Bind after all, though, if the possibility of benefitting from introductions via friends identifies the beneficiaries as inherently unattractive “men who can’t get dates on their own”.

          …Did that post get deleted, by the way? I could only find an archived version (sans most comments), and the September 2012 index of our host’s old blog seems to have entries 1-3 and 5-9 of that series but not entry 4.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            (Yes, that post was deleted–it got linked to by Marginal Revolution and got more unwanted attention than our host likes. You can find it on archive.org or similar; i will _not_ provide a link for semi-obvious reasons.)

            You’re right that’s a triple bind, but it’s actually a bit worse than you realize: not only are men who can’t find their own dates necessarily creepy losers you won’t introduce to your female friends (acknowledging those men’s existence/problems lowers your status, while we’re at it, which doesn’t help), but many men in that situation don’t _know_ any women and _neither do their social groups_. There are, um, six women within two steps of me on a social graph, because I work in tech. About half of them are in that graph because they’re someone’s girlfriend.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          You’re right that’s a triple bind, but it’s actually a bit worse than you realize: not only are men who can’t find their own dates necessarily creepy losers you won’t introduce to your female friends (acknowledging those men’s existence/problems lowers your status, while we’re at it, which doesn’t help), but many men in that situation don’t _know_ any women and _neither do their social groups_. There are, um, six women within two steps of me on a social graph, because I work in tech. About half of them are in that graph because they’re someone’s girlfriend.

          My cynical/depressive mindset wants to say “good, it’s what we deserve”, in the hopes that being actively awful to other low-status creepy men will signal higher status, and maybe get me out of this crab-bucket.

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        I just found that lj post on archive.org, and now I’m (once again) incredibly jealous of our host’s ability to succinctly explain things that get me in MASSIVE trouble for trying to talk about. I really, really wish he hadn’t deleted that entry, because it’s REALLY good for sparking intuition.

        I wish I had better communication skills. 🙁

  9. Your girlfriend, Treebeard, and I have something in common: “I am not altogether on anybody’s side , because nobody is altogether on my side, if you understand me.’

    As for charities and monitoring: Imposition of order equals escalation of chaos.

    Only one-third of Americans need a *special* permission slip from the government to get their jobs. All Americans need ID these days, I think.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      “I am not altogether on anybody’s side , because nobody is altogether on my side, if you understand me.”

      This seems like a quote that is worth remembering.

      • nydwracu says:

        Welcome to Marxism-Nixonism, comrade!

        • Sniffnoy says:

          I still have no idea what that is, but based on the name I have a suspicion I’d be unlikely to be much in agreement with it.

        • nydwracu says:

          Marxism-Nixonism is the same thing as anarcho-fascism, which is the same thing as any other bizarre, contradictory, and unused political label that can be thought up and used to short-circuit political thede-signaling.

    • Anthony says:

      I didn’t ask for ID from the last guy I hired. But I was only hiring him for a short specific (2-4 hour) job, and I picked him up at Home Depot.

      Everyone who is hired as a (W-4) employee is supposed to have some sort of ID for the I-9 form, but it’s not too hard to work as a 1099 contractor, and make up a taxpayer ID number (or get one); I don’t recall that TIN requires showing any ID.

  10. Sean says:

    The actual published hurricane paper reminds me of something, because it makes a horrible methodological error seen all too often these days.

    It’s only one of many, many thousands of published papers that has random laypeople rate things on scales like 1-7, or 1-10. Now in principle having feedback from your subjects is obviously something that has to be done somehow.

    However, there are some published authors who with then choose to calculate their statistics with the raw values from the study, and some published authors who do so with z-scores. Generally most peer-reviewed papers provide no justification for why their choice was made.

    At least one of these sets of authors should, like, be permanently fired from their jobs. (It could be argued that one practice can be established as so objectively superior that researchers who follow that practice are doing the right thing).

    This is one of the worst p-value hacking practices in existence. It needs to be criticized more widely.

  11. Sniffnoy says:

    Glad to see the third of those Alicorn links. The hypocrisy of “#YesAllWomen” was kind of amazing, after seeing feminists constantly insist that they *cannot* speak for all women. Glad to see an actual woman pointing out that attempting to do this is not a good thing (although just on the general grounds that this is bad in general, not on the more specific grounds that you have explicitly stated you cannot do this).

  12. Randy M says:

    “Speaking of men being hurt by insufficient feminism, ”
    Alternate introduction: Meterologists more concerned with political correctness than saving lives.

    I know, I know, the word ‘Hurricane’ should have given it away. For some reason people expected something named after a woman would be weaker. Maybe there’s a bias that describes assuming names are given to match reality rather than for status purposes?

  13. BenSix says:

    Marcotte writes…

    The divorce rate has actually declined since the 70s, which means that your way—the stifling culture of the 50s—was the way that “broke homes”.

    But this no measure of broken homes, because out-of-wedlock births have been sky-rocketing in recent decades and unmarried parents are far likelier to split.

    …there were twice as many teen mothers in the ’50s than today.

    But the rate of births to unmarried teens has soared. Whether or not teenage motherhood is desirable in any circumstances is a fair question but these are different phenomena.

    This is a very bad argument to make for feminism.

    • adbge says:

      To add to this:

      Huffington Post says that the marriage rate is at an all time low, about a third of what it was in 1920:

      A new report released Thursday by Bowling Green State University’s National Center for Marriage and Family Research found that the U.S. marriage rate is 31.1, or 31 marriages per 1,000 unmarried women. That means for every 1,000 unmarried women in the U.S., 31 of those previously single women tied the knot in the last year. For comparison, in 1920, the national marriage rate was 92.3.

      And a 10 percent increase in the number of people living alone since 1970:

      In its America’s Families and Living Arrangements report this week, the Census Bureau found that the percentage of one-person households has grown over the last 40 years, from 17 percent of total households in 1970 to 27 percent in 2012.

      Over the same time period, the share of family households decreased from 81 percent to 66 percent of total households.

      A bit reminiscent of the arguments over total utilitarianism versus the prior existence view — do we count the families that could-have-been-but-never-were in our moral calculus?

    • nydwracu says:

      Increasing age of marriage is an obvious confounder, yeah. That even gets pointed out in the comments section there. And it’s also cited as a Victory For Feminism that the average age of a new mother has gone up.

      The whole thing looks like an uncritical cherry-picking of positive statistics. If you allow no-fault divorce, then, yes, marriages will be happier on average; that’s not because feminism makes marriages better, but because unhappy marriages end in divorce. This is not necessarily preferable.

      (And anyway, if feminism is about making marriages happier, would that make arranged marriages feminist?)

  14. Douglas Knight says:

    The paper you seek is here, but you may need this.

  15. Douglas Knight says:

    The first Alicorn post is from 2010, so you probably shouldn’t take credit / blame for it.

    • Elizabeth says:

      First and second posts, yes. Unless the causal arrows go… BACKWARDS IN TIME!

      On the other hand, you totally may have infected *me* with TAPAICAL-ack-response.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I started talking to Alicorn in 2010. COINCIDENCE?!?!?!

      • Douglas Knight says:

        I didn’t say it wasn’t contagious; I said you weren’t patient zero.
        The post is from early February, so probably before you started talking.

  16. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    And I will stop talking about gender after this, but did you know that there is a whole subreddit for polite, productive debates between feminists and men’s rights advocates? More cats and dogs snuggling together!

    There’s also a subreddit for debate between subscribers of r/theredpill and r/thebluepill. Mind you, it’s currently undergoing a week-long experiment in which all rules are suspended and no mods are active, so it probably won’t make a very good first impression.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I was going to say “I hope it is named ‘purple pill'”, but sure enough whoever made it has my exact sense of humor.

  17. Troy says:

    On Alas a Blog’s statistics: the discussion strikingly leaves out the number of out of wedlock births and the rise of single parent (usually mother) families. There is abundant evidence that children born out of wedlock have worse life outcomes, and the fact that this correlation remains after various controls and that the increase in out of wedlock births coincided with the crime wave of the 60s suggests to me that there’s a causal relation here. I find it very plausible that the sexual revolution and the pill were contributing causes in the rise of out of wedlock births. Whether one considers these things part of “feminism” depends on what one thinks feminism involves. One could be a feminist in thinking that equal opportunities and expectations should be applied to both men and women while being against extra-marital sex and against birth control. Although I tend to be in favor of mild social expectations in the form of gender roles, it’s not clear to me that the above kind of “conservative” feminism has or would have much negative effect on society.

    I did find interesting the claim that the rate of happy marriages has increased from under 1/3 to over 61% from the 50s until today. Here I’d like to see the particular studies, groups surveyed, etc. I’m willing to accept that many people were in unhappy marriages in the 50s and that more liberal attitudes towards premarital sex and divorce have made it so that more marriages today are happy ones. There are other relevant metrics here, though. Just sticking to self-reported happiness, some people who might have been unhappily married in the 50s might now be unhappily sleeping around. David Myers’ work on happiness finds that self-reported happiness in the United States has remained roughly the same since the 50s, if I remember correctly. And beyond the happiness of couples, there are outcomes for children to consider, and it may be that children of unhappy married parents do better than children of single mothers. (I’ve never actually seen a study controlling for this in particular. I suspect that marriage still helps on average even if it’s unhappy, but would be interested in seeing some data.)

    • Douglas Knight says:

      children born out of wedlock have worse life outcomes…the crime wave of the 60s suggests to me that there’s a causal relation here

      It sure sounds like you’re saying that the crime wave of the 60s was perpetrated by infant bastards. I can imagine other causal claims you could make, but none that involve the first clause.

      • Troy says:

        You’re right, that was pretty sloppy of me. The Pill was legalized in the 50s, but Googling suggests that out of wedlock births only started to really take off around 1964, two years or so before the crime wave started. I do think it’s plausible that changes in social values helped cause the crime wave of the late 60s, but clearly it wasn’t immediately through out of wedlock births. Google also suggests that the divorce rate started to spike around the same time, so to the extent that having divorced parents is environmentally like being born to unmarried parents, that may be a contributing cause.

    • naath says:

      There is abundant evidence that children born out of wedlock have worse life outcomes

      I feel that it would be a better use of people’s effort to devote energy to discovering how to make the children of unmarried parents have better life outcomes than in trying to somehow force/bribe/persuade people to get and remain married when they don’t want to.

      It’s a big question though because those unmarried parents might be all-but-married (but just don’t feel like registering their union with the government) or not even know each other’s names… and I suspect that actually life-outcomes vary between these groups.

      The idea that the Pill somehow causes people to have more bastards is quite baffling to me, although clearly they correlate the causal mechanism doesn’t seem to be there. I would suggest that it is more that during the 50s/60s unmarried pregnant young women decided that they would rather have bastards than a shotgun wedding.

      I would attribute “happiness in married couples has increased” to the increase in the ability of unhappy people to choose not to be married – making “married couples” a self-selecting group that selects (at least in part) on the basis that “being a married couple” makes them happy.

      I also would be *very* interested to see outcomes for children of unhappy marrieds vs children of happy divorced people; I expect the drop in household income to be a significant factor – but the stress of living in an unhappy household may be more important.

      Also no-one seems interested in studying children raised in households with more than 2 adults; that might be interesting too.

      • Anthony says:

        I feel that it would be a better use of people’s effort to devote energy to discovering how to make the children of unmarried parents have better life outcomes than in trying to somehow force/bribe/persuade people to get and remain married when they don’t want to.

        There’s a good argument that either is basically hopeless, as the sorts of people who would have children out of wedlock are the sorts of people who will pass on (genetically) to their descendants the same traits that made them the sort of people who would have children out of wedlock. Which correlates with various other undesirable traits and outcomes, too, otherwise only religious traditionalists would really care.

        • Troy says:

          I don’t think it’s quite this simple, even granting that genetics play a large role. People choose not only how to raise their children but who to mate with. If you’ll forgive the “game” parlance, consider a woman choosing between an alpha cad for a quick fling and a beta dad for a long-term relationship/marriage. Presumably the former will be the one passing on more of the genes that contribute to worse life outcomes. If we can promote government policies and social norms that motivate her to go with the beta dad instead, then it seems this will have a positive effect on the next generation: even if the causal factors at play are primarily genetic.

      • lmm says:

        > I feel that it would be a better use of people’s effort to devote energy to discovering how to make the children of unmarried parents have better life outcomes than in trying to somehow force/bribe/persuade people to get and remain married when they don’t want to.

        Why? Any policy intervention is going to consist of forcing/bribing/persuading people to do something they don’t want to, on some level – otherwise they’d already be doing it. If getting/remaining married when they don’t want to has a positive effect (IIRC from previous months the effect on the spouses is also positive? Certainly the data seems to indicate the effect on children is large and positive), shouldn’t we expend effort encouraging it?.

        > I also would be *very* interested to see outcomes for children of unhappy marrieds vs children of happy divorced people; I expect the drop in household income to be a significant factor – but the stress of living in an unhappy household may be more important.

        From memory, reduced parental discord is strongly correlated with better life outcomes (i.e. this effect is larger than the positive effect of parents being married) – but “successful” divorce is only quite weakly correlated with reduced parental discord, so the overall correlation is that children have better life outcomes when parents who almost-divorce (I guess the study was measuring from couples who started marriage counselling or something? This was a while ago) stay together than when they do divorce. Obvious confounder that maybe those who actually divorce had much bigger problems than those who don’t.

      • Troy says:

        I feel that it would be a better use of people’s effort to devote energy to discovering how to make the children of unmarried parents have better life outcomes than in trying to somehow force/bribe/persuade people to get and remain married when they don’t want to.

        The problem is that the most plausible causal factors in play are either genetic or environmental in the form of children having bad behavior modeled to them, not having positive male role models, etc. Most attempts to “compensate” for these disadvantages through social programs, etc., will incentivize having children out of marriage, which will only increase the influence of the above factors. For example, if the causes are largely genetic, women will be incentivized to have children with the kind of men who pass on the genes that lead to worse life outcomes as opposed to settling down and marrying the kind of men who pass on genes that lead to better life outcomes. If the causes are largely environmental, unmarried parents will be incentivized to continue modeling the kind of behavior to their children that lead to worse life outcomes for those children down the line.

        Anyway, the positive government programs I’d be in favor of would mostly be very non-coercive: e.g., public awareness campaigns, of the “stay in school” kind. Obviously it’s a complete non-starter to expect the government to, say, roll back legalized contraception (to say nothing of the violation of people’s rights that that would involve); and I doubt that even such draconian laws would cause much of a change in social attitudes now — it’s much easier to maintain cultural norms through law than to create cultural norms. Most of what I want from the government is negative — e.g., the elimination of current government programs that incentivize single motherhood. But primarily what I’d like to see is changes in social attitudes towards extramarital sex.

        It’s a big question though because those unmarried parents might be all-but-married (but just don’t feel like registering their union with the government) or not even know each other’s names… and I suspect that actually life-outcomes vary between these groups.

        Yes, this is the persistent difference, often mentioned before on this blog by conservatives, between how progressive values work out for the middle and upper class (who have, e.g., greater impulse control) and how they work out for the lower class.

  18. EoT says:

    The Alas a Blog statistics aren’t too interesting for a real conservative like me. Most conservatives seem to lack perspective about social changes, and think the 1950s were some beacon of traditionalism. In reality, the 1950s represented the peak of a nuclear-family ideal that was fairly short-lived and a lousy idea to start with.

    Kurt Vonnegut has a great quote that I think is highly relevant:

    Having said that, I have made us, for a few hours at least, what most of us do not have and what we need so desperately – I have made us an extended family, one for all and all for one. A husband, a wife and some kids is not a family; it’s a terribly vulnerable survival unit. Now those of you who get married or are married, when you fight with your spouse, what each of you will be saying to the other one actually is, “You’re not enough people. You’re only one person. I should have hundreds of people around.”

    I met a man and a wife in Nigeria – Ibos. They just had a new baby. They had a thousand relatives there in southern Nigeria, and they were going to take that baby around and visit all the other relatives. We should all have families like that.

    The traditional family was much healthier, more stable, more rewarding, and less stressful than the nuclear family ideal. The nuclear family is something that seems really appealing to men–they get to be the king of their own little castle. But for women, it’s a raw deal. They’re left alone with a brood of kids in their isolated suburban house, while their husband gets to associate with adults.

    In traditional societies, women live and work closely with a large number of related/associated people. It’s less isolating, and the presence of large numbers of trusted/related adults makes childcare far less burdensome.

    Extended families also allow for more specialization of labor within the home economy as well.

    • Andy says:

      These traditional extended families, for a liberal feminist firebrand like myself, can also be used to shoot down patriarchal arguments against same-sex families and single mothers – extended families can take up the slack by not having an “ideal” family unit. A little girl being raised by a pair of men with a large extended family of adults and children, related by either blood or friendship to her fathers, could then have a number of female role models around to talk to/look up to/ be around. A working mother could avoid dropping a kid off at daycare if she has a neighbor/cousin/sister who takes care of kids for an entire extended family or neighborhood group.
      Also, if you look at super-patriarchal Western groups today (like the Quiverfull movement) you’ll find that they downplay the role of an extended family in favor of the role of the father as master after God of his house.

      • Joe says:

        But if you discourage large traditonal families then the extended family gets smaller with each generation.

        • Anonymous says:

          The extended family does not have a fixed genealogical size, such as 2nd cousins. More likely, the population is fixed. It fissions when it gets too big. As the size of the nuclear family goes down, the genealogical distance necessary to fill the population increases.

          This is hard to measure, because there are a lot of trends to destroy the extended family, such as geographic mobility, at the same time as the shrinking nuclear family.

        • Andy says:

          But if you discourage large traditonal families then the extended family gets smaller with each generation.

          Extended families do not have to be genetically related, unless you are one of those mistaken people who feels that people can’t ever possibly bond unless they share some DNA. College roommates, family friends, close neighbors, etc, can all be surrogate kinspeople.

        • Creutzer says:

          The two relations that play a role in defining family membership are genetic relatedness and spousehood. That’s what “family” means. Arrangements where people who are not connected by those relations form a family-like arrangement seem rare.

        • nydwracu says:

          No, Andy’s right. My mother had a small family and didn’t like her relatvies very much, so she ended up in a local/college friend-group that she refers to as being like her family. My impression is that this isn’t all that uncommon; it’s at least common enough that “like a family” has become a set phrase.

          As for the organizational model of the nuclear family: it all goes downward. People are connected to their parents, siblings, and spouses, and any extended family interaction just happens to follow from that — so when everyone gets together for Thanksgiving and so on, that’s the main time people who don’t have nuclear-family connections interact.

          It kind of sucks, but at least it’s not completely nuclear yet.

          (An important benefit of having an extended family: less reliance on institutions. After-school holding pens are fucking bullshit and no one should ever have to be put in them. Also: homeschooling.)

      • Multiheaded says:

        Three cheers for this, and the parent.

    • Oligopsony says:

      In one of Vonnegut’s stories, the government assigns people to fictional kinship groups by lot for almost precisely this reason. (Greek Synoecism had some similar features.)

    • Crimson Wool says:

      The nuclear family is something that seems really appealing to men–they get to be the king of their own little castle. But for women, it’s a raw deal. They’re left alone with a brood of kids in their isolated suburban house, while their husband gets to associate with adults.

      It’s not so great for men. For natives to nuclear family societies, all kinds of safety nets are socially unacceptable – moving back in with parents, relying on them financially until you can get back on your feet, etc – and this puts men in a very vulnerable position. If the guy loses his job under that model, and can’t quickly find a new one, he has failed as a man, failed as a provider, and can generally expect severe social censure and very possibly the collapse of his relationship, in a way that wouldn’t happen if it was acceptable and normal for him to call on the resources of a large extended family.

      It’s no coincidence that where you can find things similar to the modern nuclear family in antiquity, it’s only for people who are very financially secure – aristocrats, for example.

  19. Daniel Speyer says:

    The charity performance monitoring thing doesn’t really surprise me. Extrinsic motivation drives out intrinsic, and you can never get your performance metrics to perfectly line up with what you want. In extreme cases, you can select people with skill at gaming metrics at the cost of actual ability. I say cost because optimized situations live at the margin, and at the margin all decisions are tradeoffs.

    Which doesn’t mean performance monitoring is always a bad thing, since sometimes intrinsic motivation is weak (not a common problem for charities) or uses poor metrics itself. It just means to be careful.

  20. nydwracu says:

    New research shows, contrary to every urban planner everywhere but totally in accord with my personal biases, that suburbs have healthier communities and better relationships with neighbors than cities.

    I hate suburbs, but I’m not surprised either.

    That “social homogeneity” may partly explain the closeness of neighbours in the suburbs, says Pierre Filion, a professor of urban planning at the University of Waterloo. Young children often act as social catalysts for their parents, and people in the suburbs tend to have more common ground than the diverse lifestyles crammed into a given city block, he says.

    “People (in the suburbs) are pretty much of the same social class, same social background and so on, which eases interaction between people,” Filion says. “At the other extreme, you can have a whole bunch of people living in a condo, but you’ve got old people, young people, people in between. You won’t have that much interaction because of the differences.”

    I’m sure you can figure out what to read for “old people, young people, people in between”. It’s just irresponsible not to correct for the obvious factor, especially since the article namedrops Robert Putnam. (Though it’s been hypothesized that the general atmosphere with regard to crime has an effect, even beyond the effect of diversity.) We have a term for sudden mass moves to the suburbs, you know…

    And that raises another possibility: there may be relevant differences between the people who left and the people who stayed. I wonder if there are differences in results between the people who were in the suburbs when they were still rural and the people who got there by exit (which is to be understood in the Moldbug/Land feedback-mechanism sense). This is anecdotal, but my family (on both sides) has been out here since back when it was rural, and they seem to have a lot less social capital than the people in that article — or than my uncle, who moved further out and now owns a tractor.

    (When do you use further and when do you use farther? Is there a rule at all? Farther always seems wrong to me.)

    • Andy says:

      I would also look at groups that historically moved into, rather than out of the urban areas. I’d take a look at the gay community, which often left the suburbs to mask itself in the diversity and hustle and bustle of denser urban areas. Also see my comment below about possible methodological problems in the study.
      The gay community around Los Angeles (in West Hollywood, Santa Monica, and Long Beach) became very close-knit, and I would hypothesize that these groups have a great deal more interaction than denser neighbors.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      A century ago, Fowler wrote:

      The fact is surely that hardly anyone uses the two words for different occasions; most people prefer one or the other for all purposes, & the preference of the majority is for further…On the whole, though differentiations are good in themselves, it is less likely that one will be established for farther & further than that the latter will become universal.

      But it didn’t become universal.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’ve always thought farther was for “concrete”/”quantifiable” things, such as distance (“The store is farther down the street”), whereas further was for “abstract”/”conceptual” things (“They took the idea even further”).

        • Douglas Knight says:

          For over a century there has been a campaign to create such a distinction, but it didn’t work.

    • peterdjones says:

      I can’t figure out what to read for old people etc…dog whistle doesn’t convey well across the Atlantic.

      • Andy says:

        Race. Here in the US, white people fled cities for suburbs when the black population began moving in. Suburbs were more likely to have restrictive covenants attached to the deed. (basically an agreement between buyer and seller where the buyer agreed not to sell to anyone “not of the White Race” or “Not Anglo-Saxon.”)
        (I don’t know about other regions, but a lot of older houses in Los Angeles still have these provisions in their covenants, even though they’ve been unenforceable for a long time. Along with the more enforceable provisions dictating paint color, parking restrictions, what kinds of plants you can have in your front garden… these covenants can be very detailed. It’s kind of interesting. To me, at least.)
        Sorry. Got sidetracked. But my point is that for a while, suburbs were all white, and [sarcasm] urban areas had all the scary non-white people who couldn’t possibly be civilized everever. Like the Chinese and Japanese, as well as the African-Americans and the Mexicans.[/sarcasm]

        • nydwracu says:

          Fractally wrong.

          First: one of the major motivators of white flight was busing. Parents were given a choice: have their children spend an hour on a school bus to go to a bad school far away, or move to the suburbs. They picked the suburbs.

          Second: white flight in response to increasing demographic diversity is reasonable. See the Putnam study. (I read a followup study that found the same results for different white ethnicities — that is, the results obtain even within the race — but I can’t find it anymore.)

          Third: white flight in response to an increase in the black population is reasonable. One word: crime. If you want to find the crime rate of an area, find out what percentage of the population is black. (This correlation, however, has gone up over time, and Unz only projects it back to the mid-80s. I don’t know what it was like back then.)

          Fourth: at least today, population percentage of every non-black race — even Hispanics — correlates negatively with crime. As it would, since the correlation between percentage black and violent crime is around .9: a higher percentage of Hispanics means a lower percentage of blacks. What’s interesting is that percentage Hispanic is more negatively correlated with crime rates than percentage white; this may be because Hispanics don’t move to high-crime cities, but whites are already there and can wall themselves off and stick it out. (What I’d like to see is research on the crime rate of the non-immigrant Hispanic population. Seems like a conclusive way of figuring out whether it’s all just poverty or racism or whatever, or if it’s caused by something in black nature-or-nurture.)

          Fifth: exit is a superior feedback mechanism to voice. Talk is cheap and easily manipulated; exit reveals actual preferences. Tim Wise can talk all he wants about how those damn racists are keeping the white man down, but he still lives in a white suburb. The motivations behind progressive attacks on exit, from bashing ‘white flight’ to the Berlin Wall, should be obvious.

        • Nick T says:

          The motivations behind progressive attacks on exit, from bashing ‘white flight’ to the Berlin Wall, should be obvious.

          It’s not obvious to me how these things are like each other. Do Brahmins have more control over or ability to extract value from whites in cities than in suburbs? (Does the model involve keeping people invested in, ex hypothesi self-serving, projects to ‘fix the cities’?)

        • nydwracu says:

          It’s not obvious to me how these things are like each other.

          Well, it’s a general pattern; it’s just that a lot of the examples involve progressivism. If your policies screw people over, they’ll want to leave. If you don’t want to admit your policies suck, you’ll want them not to leave. (If enough people want to leave, you run the economic risk of not having enough workers, and have to either change your policies or build a wall.)

          Of course, sometimes you want people to leave, so you screw them over and hope they get the message. But I don’t think that’s the case here — progressives probably didn’t want all the white people out of the cities (though now they don’t want them back in — that would be gentrification, and displacement of the existing population and so on, which is bad when white people do it) and there’s no way the Communists wanted to depopulate East Germany.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        They’re races. The quote is saying that cities have lower levels of social cohesion because of their higher levels of racial diversity.

        The term for “sudden mass moves to the suburbs” is white flight, BTW.

        • nydwracu says:

          I need to start putting a tag reading “I am deliberately understating this in order to reduce the risk of triggering a memetic immune reaction, and also to provide easy examples of deliberate understatement to increase the readers’ ability to pattern-match, and also to make more salient the existence of the practice, and therefore the necessity, of deliberate understatement” on my comments, I see…

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          Am I to understand, nydwracu, that you would prefer I do not clarify your comments in the future?

        • nydwracu says:

          Ah, never mind, didn’t notice that you were replying to peterdjones. (It happened downthread, so, priming.)

  21. Kibber says:

    Disclaimer: I’m personally about 65% convinced that AGW is real and dangerous.
    This may be pushing the analogy too far, but it seems to me that asking climatologists if AGW is real is a lot like asking theologists if God is real. While it’s possible to be a theologist and an atheist at the same time, I imagine that not believing in God would make one’s work seem less important (both to oneself and to the target audience). Likewise, if AGW is not real, the perceived importance of studying global climate decreases dramatically.

    • lmm says:

      The standard counterargument to that is that there are conservative think-tanks who will pay you very well and make you feel very important if you will study climate and discover that AGW doesn’t exist.

    • Desertopa says:

      I would say that this is pushing the analogy way past its breaking point.

      We had climatologists before we had a hypothesis of anthropogenic climate change. Climatologists continue to study other things in addition to climate change, but climate change is a subject which tends to bear on many other climatological issues.

      Scientists in general tend to gain status if they oppose the dominant paradigm and are validated, so while one risks one’s credibility by aligning with a fringe hypothesis (it’s very embarrassing to be wrong when most people are right,) one also stands to gain a large amount of credibility (it’s impressive to be right when most people are wrong.)

      I would posit that a much closer, if not perfect, analogy, is that the hypothesis of anthropogenic climate change is to climatology more what the theory of evolution is to biology. The hypothesis was proposed via, not prior to, research in the field, is controversial among the general public but not among scientists within the field, it’s not the sole source of study in the field, but it’s the primary hypothesis that outsiders identify with the field, dissenters claim that their views are stifled due to running against scientific orthodoxy, but are can easily find public platforms for their beliefs…

      In fact, one difference between denial of evolution and denial of climate change among scientists is that it’s a lot easier for a scientist to make money throwing their weight against climate change than against evolution. For all that people who disbelieve in anthropogenic climate change often posit that scientists have a forced consensus via loss of their jobs if they depart from the standard orthodoxy, pay is better for industry funded scientists who deny it. Considering that job security these days for scientists seeking university funding is so bad, going into climatology with an intent to throw your weight behind climate change denial would if anything probably be a better career move.

      • Charlie says:

        Actually, the hypothesis of humans changing the climate dates back to Svante Arrhenius, whose job title was “chemist.” It’s sort of mind-blowing to know that by about 1896 he was within a factor of 2 of the right answer for how the average temperature of earth will respond to a doubling of CO2, and that these “chemists” had good enough estimates of CO2 levels and emissions to (by 1908) predict warming within a few centuries.

        Further reading: This excellent page.

  22. Andy says:

    For the suburb link: without being able to find the original study, I would point out that the article does not mention a giant confounding factor of economic class.
    People in suburbs tend to have more money (and more leisure time to belong to hobby clubs) than poorer people in cities. Poorer people may be less trustful of neighbors, and the neglect of American urban communities for the latter half of the 20th century means that we didn’t develop the social adaptations necessary to live healthy lives in the denser conditions of cities.
    I would also look at highly-urbanized cultures (like the Brits or the Japanese) to see if the same urban-suburb differences come up. If not, I would consider it supporting my hypothesis (Americans haven’t developed the cultural adaptations necessary for urban life, and we are developing those adaptations as we urbanize.)

    • Daniel Speyer says:

      As for economic class, a study could be done looking at rich cities like New York and San Francisco. I don’t know if the original researchers did this.

      The article talks a lot about interaction with neighbours. Why such a big deal over that. Isn’t interacting with people of my choosing superior in every way?

      They say that’s effected too, with “belong[ing] to hobby-based clubs”, but that’s implausible enough that I strongly suspect they’ve gotten confounded. Maybe suburban clubs have clearer membership statuses.

      • nydwracu says:

        There are still poor people in NY and SF, and that may affect the general environment.

        Also: it’s not just formal clubs vs. organizations without a clear member list, but also formal clubs vs. informal groups, regular events, etc.

        • Nornagest says:

          For giggles, look up SF on TripAdvisor or a similar site, look through the first couple pages of reviews, and count how many times they mention human urine.

          That may answer your question.

        • Anonymous says:

          I didn’t see human urine once.

          I assume the number of occurrences should have been higher?

        • Nornagest says:

          It probably isn’t TripAdvisor I’m remembering, as it seems pretty hard to find trip reports there for the city as a whole without resorting to the forums.

        • nydwracu says:

          Dammit I’ve tried to reply twice and it got eaten each time. Dunno what’s going on there.

          Anyway, yeah, I’ve been to both of them. My comment was deliberately understated. NYC smells like a burning fast food place and there are beggars everywhere who flip out and start screaming if you don’t give them money. I haven’t seen any urine in SF but I really did not want to go anywhere outside when I was there. BART is littered with paraphernalia of questionable use and there are homeless people everywhere.

        • Said Achmiz says:

          “I’ve been to both of them. … NYC … there are beggars everywhere who flip out and start screaming if you don’t give them money.”

          I’ve lived in NYC for > 20 years. This is a complete lie. Please don’t just make things up.

        • Nornagest says:

          I’ve lived in the SF Bay Area for eight, and while I wouldn’t say they’re everywhere, I’ve run into beggars like that more than once. More than twice, too.

          I don’t recall seeing any questionable paraphernalia on BART, though — used food wrappers are about the worst I’ve seen there, if you throw out one trip on New Year’s Eve as an outlier. (And a single middle-aged and apparently middle-class woman was responsible for that mess.)

        • nydwracu says:

          I’ve lived in NYC for > 20 years. This is a complete lie. Please don’t just make things up.

          How much time do you spend leaving buses to NYC or getting on buses out of NYC? This has happened to me multiple times, but it was always near Port Authority or Penn Station. If it’s invisible to people who live there, or at least who aren’t white guys with backpacks near transport hubs, that’s another issue — but they’re a small problem next to the murders, and it’s never happened to me anywhere but NYC.

          Not even in Baltimore. (I’ve never had any trouble at all in Baltimore. I’m not sure why. When I was regularly traveling from Baltimore to NYC and back, I had to go through some pretty bad areas to get to the bus pickup. The first time I went, I took a wrong turn, landed in an even worse area, and called someone who was near a computer to get directions… at which point someone came up and gave me directions, which were actually accurate.)

          I don’t recall seeing any questionable paraphernalia on BART, though — used food wrappers are about the worst I’ve seen there, if you throw out one trip on New Year’s Eve as an outlier. (And a single middle-aged and apparently middle-class woman was responsible for that mess.)

          I mean, maybe someone forgot a musical instrument or something, that looked suspiciously like some sort of pipe that one would use for smoking things that are not tobacco. But that does not seem very likely.

        • Said Achmiz says:

          Are we to believe that this particular breed of beggars is only encountered around the places where buses enter and leave the city, and not… anywhere else in the subway system, or on the streets, etc.?

          That’s an awfully strange definition of “everywhere” you’re operating with.

      • The one notable advantage to relationships with neighbors is that it’s much easier for neighbors to help each other than for friends who live at a distance to do so.

      • Anthony says:

        It’s my general impression that people in the poorest parts of San Francisco and Oakland are more likely to actually talk to their immediate neighbors on a regular basis than are those who are less poor. There’s probably a huge amount of race confounding there, as the people in the poorest parts of those cities are mostly black, and black culture is not the same as white culture.

        Also, city people with more money and more options are more likely to socialize with people they meet at work or to have the time and money to find and go to “hobby-based clubs”, etc., and are less likely to be regular church attendees or to have kids in public schools, further reducing other localized social outlets.

    • Earnest_Peer says:

      I have to say that, as a European, reading about American suburbs is very weird, because the entire model is upside down. In Europe with its old and naturally grown cities, the most expensive neighbourhoods tend to be dead center, while poor neighbourhoods are those concrete tower cities that you put wherever everyone else doesn’t have to look (c.f. the banlieue (in the modern sense of the word)). And I would be very surprised to find good neighbourhood relations in concrete towers.

      • Said Achmiz says:

        The difference is that American suburbs don’t involve concrete towers (though I totally know what you mean; Russia’s like that too). In the U.S., the equivalent of concrete towers is probably “the projects“, which tend to be in the inner cities and are indeed notoriously crime-ridden and poor.

        I don’t think “naturally grown” is entirely the relevant attribute here, though. New York is relatively old and relatively naturally grown… or at least it was; then the Depression and its consequences happened.

  23. “The CIA Says It Will Stop Doing Fake Vaccination Campaigns.”

    I am totally cynical about this, and when I say totally cynical, I mean every molecule I’ve got agrees that the CIA will do fake vaccination campaigns any time it feels like it.

    I was going to say that the probability of 1 doesn’t get its minus epsilon, but I suppose I need to include that the world could be a simulation which will be shut down before the CIA does another fake vaccination campaign, or we might get hit by a giant asteroid, or the supervolcano under Yellowstone might blow up, so it’s not quite probability 1.

    • B says:

      It’s not so much that the probability that they’ll do it again doesn’t deserve its epsilon, it’s that the information content of the announcement is 0, no epsilon about it. They’ll always say the right thing and then do whatever their bureaucratic random walk leads them past.

  24. Joe says:

    I think the Alas A blog post was interesting. I would argue that the decline in the divorce rate is due to fewer lower class people bothering to get married at all. We have a culture today that discourages marriage until wealth is established and for most folks that nAever happens. So only people with a very high chance of a successful marriage and resources to fix a troubled one get married. Also there were probably more teen mothers in the 50s because it was not uncommon for women to get married at 18 or 19 and start a family. I’m not sure if researchers count teens who have had abortions as mothers I bet if they did we would find that the number of teen mothers have skyrocketed since the 50s.

  25. What exactly is the deal with the Dark Dungeons movie? Before I read that Wired article last month, I was expecting (hoping) that this was a Poe’s Law situation; that is, the filmmakers would be relying on the Chick people not understanding why the tract is ironically enjoyed by gamers, and would make what evangelicals would take to be a straight adaptation but gamers would know to be a parody.

    But the Wired article makes it sound like they’re doing this unironically, and I’m honestly having a hard time understanding why anyone on this side of the cultural divide would do that.

    • Zakharov says:

      I think pretending to be making it unironically is part of their straight man act.

      • No one special says:

        I guess it’s time to go reread _Mother Night_.

      • The problem with that hypothesis is that the author of the Wired article has seen a rough cut of the film, and reports that it really is a straight adaptation.

        • Earnest_Peer says:

          The movie probably doesn’t need to add sarcasm tags, its content will do that all on its own.

          In fact I’m quite happy that they’re playing it straight because going “wink wink nudge nudge” would probably ruin the effect.

  26. georgesdelatour says:

    Regarding climate change. What, specifically, do you have to agree with to agree with the consensus? Simply that CO2 sensitivity falls within the range of values given in IPCC Assessment Reports. The Fifth such report is currently being finalised, but it has already lowered its projection for the least amount of warming we might experience, down to a relatively harmless 1.5ºC.

    There is something of a lack of consensus within the consensus, specifically about sensitivity; which is the key issue everything else depends on. I recommend reading the blog of James Annan (http://julesandjames.blogspot.co.uk), a consensus climate scientist who argues that real CO2 sensitivity is on the low side of the IPCC estimates but still within them. Annan has even co-authored a paper by a sceptic, Chip Knappenberger, who believes sensitivity is lower still. Annan doesn’t agree with Knappenberger, but believes Knappenberger’s interpretation of the data is legitimate.

    • Desertopa says:

      Can you point to a source for +1.5 C being relatively harmless? Last I checked (although I haven’t been keeping current with all the latest research since graduation,) +1.5 C was considered sufficient for fairly catastrophic infrastructure impact (although of course, catastrophe is relative, and this may be a divergence of standard of comparison rather than damage assessment.)

      • georgesdelatour says:

        Climate scientists have been saying for some time that we need to intervene actively to keep temperature rises below 2ºC to be safe (http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v3/n1/full/nclimate1783.html). Since they think 2ºC of warming would be non-catastrophic, I’m simply assuming 1.5ºC would be even less so.

        • roystgnr says:

          That’s 2 degress total, though. Sensitivity estimates aren’t for the total change, they’re for the change after a doubling of CO2. Pre-industrial CO2 was ~275 ppm, multiplying by 2^(2/1.5) gives ~700ppm, and at 2ppm/year (assuming no acceleration…) that would give us a century and a half more before hitting 2 degrees mean warming.

          In the long term these short-term-sensitivity-based approximations are probably garbage, though. The correlation in ice cores isn’t 1.5C per ~275ppm, it’s 1.5C per ~25ppm. There’s either a centuries-timescale CO2->heat effect going on there (in which case we’re already way beyond screwed) or a centuries-timescale heat->CO2 effect (in which case we probably ought to be figuring out the details and modeling it).

  27. US says:

    As for the brain-gender thing, here’s a related quote from the concluding chapter of a book on the topic (‘The female brain: Conceptual Advances in Brain Research’):

    “In the last six chapters, evidence has been presented that (although lean
    in places) clearly supports the premise that there are differences between
    females and males in brain structure and function […] Differences are to be celebrated. They make life rich and exciting. The differences between the female brain and the male brain are just more examples of the enriching diversity in our species. We are only at the beginning of understanding how different we may be, and the next 20 years should bring astonishing discoveries and insights.”

    Seriously, why have so strong feelings about this kind of stuff ‘either way’ (to the extent that it even makes sense in the first place to separate ‘biology’ and ‘environment’)? If the brains of the two genders are slightly different, for which there seems to be some evidence, how is that not interesting to learn more about? Figuring out the details will tell us more about how people work and how they may be different from each other.

    This kind of stuff can incidentally be important in many ways people may not imagine – to take an example, Alzheimer’s disease is much more common in women than in men (“with a ratio of approximately 2:1”, according to the book mentioned), for reasons which are at least partly unrelated to the increased longevity of women – see e.g. this:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20442496. The book mentions that “[t]here is experimental evidence to support a protective role for estrogen
    in AD” – the abstract to which I link above mentions this aspect as well.

    Alzheimer’s isn’t the only disease involving the brain where gender differences exist. In order to understand the details of disease processes it helps a lot to know how things work before they go wrong. Discouraging research on gender differences in brain function may well have unintended consequences, consequences the proponents of such approaches are perhaps not fully unaware of.

    • Leonard says:

      If the brains of the two genders are slightly different, for which there seems to be some evidence, how is that not interesting to learn more about?

      Because people are equal. If people’s very brains are not the same, and given that there is no soul — that’s retarded — then people are not equal. But as Mandolin writes at Amptoons: “women’s equality is a non-negotiable moral good”. Morality must trump interestingness. Therefore learning about sexual inequality is not merely uninteresting, it’s wrong. Please don’t try to argue. Haven’t you heard Mandolin? It is not negotiable. We should speak power to truth.

      BTW, it is not “genders” we are talking about here, but “sexes”.

      • US says:

        “BTW, it is not “genders” we are talking about here, but “sexes”.”

        Right, thank you very much for the correction (although I’d much have preferred not to have made the mistake in the first place). I feel a bit embarrassed about this mistake; my native language isn’t English, but I really should have caught that one. In Danish we use the same word – ‘kønsforskelle’ – for both ‘gender differences’ and ‘sex differences’, which may explain why I made that error.

        (“women’s equality is a non-negotiable moral good”

        If it is then we need to do Everything In Our Power to stabilize the proportion of female sufferers from Alzheimer’s at a good and stable 50% of the total population, right? Perhaps in order to achieve equality we need to understand the brain differences a little better?)

  28. US says:

    The obesity thing: I recently read a textbook arguing that altered sleep patterns may be one of the mechanisms. I wasn’t too convinced by that part of the coverage, in the sense that I think the authors were trying a bit too hard to fit the results to match the conclusions they seemed to prefer (a couple of problematic inferences were made along the way), but it may be one pathway which plays a role. I can’t really be bothered to copy all the stuff I wrote on my own blog here, but if people reading along are interested to know more about the research on those things, I wrote a couple of blogposts about the textbook which they can have a look at if they like.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Scott, where/when did you first see and post that hurricane story? It was on npr and all over the net this morning. I’m tracking information flow for reasons… did the story “break” from this blog or was it already circulating widely when you find it?

  30. Michael says:

    “And licensing probably increases inequality, because it prevents the poor (who can’t afford the years of education and licensing fees required) from getting good jobs.”

    Why “increases inequality”? Why not “increases poverty”?

  31. tgb says:

    I haven’t read the journal paper on performance monitoring of charities (it looks rather tedious), but I have read it’s abstract. I don’t know what the intended meaning of the summary Scott gave was, but I certainly didn’t take it in the way the abstract suggests: “a one standard deviation increase in practices related to incentives and monitoring corresponds to significantly lower projection completion rates of 14%.”

    In other words, monitoring individuals within the project makes the project more likely to fail. I thought Scott was using this as evidence against, say, GiveWell and efficient-charities monitoring the success of the organization. I hope no one else takes it that way.

  32. Army1987 says:

    I think the people who don’t want to reduce prison rape assume that prison rape helps deter people from crime. (I don’t mean to imply anything about whether they are right or wrong.)

  33. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    The latest thing I learned by living with Ozy is that Texas governor Rick Perry is inexplicably refusing to take common-sense steps to end prison rape, even going so far as to return money the federal government was offering him for free for the purpose.

    The link in this sentence is broken.

  34. Anthony says:

    Hurricane naming. A commenter at Althouse did his own analysis and found:

    Hurricanes before 1979 averaged 27 people killed.
    Hurricanes since 1979 average 16 people killed.
    Hurricanes since 1979 with male names average … 16 people killed.
    Hurricanes since 1979 with female names averaged … 16 people killed.

    So obviously, global warming has been making hurricanes less deadly since 1979.

  35. Douglas Knight says:

    What specific common-sense steps does Perry refuse to take? The article you link doesn’t name a single one.

    Do you think federal regulations are a magic cure-all, or do you just hate Perry? If the latter, don’t use circular inference! The article does link to his letter.

  36. Handle says:

    “And I will stop talking about gender after this, but did you know that there is a whole subreddit for polite, productive debates between feminists and men’s rights advocates? More cats and dogs snuggling together!”

    I wish someone would do this with me in terms of a polite, productive, and potentially moderated reactionary / progressive debate series.

    • F. says:

      Just wondering, are you a reactionary or a progressive?

    • Andy says:

      I’d offer, because I’m unemployed and terribly bored for this summer, but I doubt I could be as polite and charitable toward Reactionary ideas as Scott, nor am I as well-read, so it would probably not be polite or productive. But it sounds nice!

      • handle says:

        Thanks for the offer. Perhaps the well-read and productive parts can be supplemented by teaming up with someone and finding mutual gains from trade. You’ve got the unemployed time, and maybe they’ve got the other pieces to the puzzle.

        But I must absolutely insist on strict adherence to stringent norms of politeness, decorum, and respect. If you feel you can’t guarantee that, then I must respectfully decline.

    • Anonymous says:

      Hmm. Well…

      1) what *specifically* would you like to debate? (yay/boo on reactionary or progressive is too vague)

      2) *whom* would you like to debate? Just any old polite progressive who is aware of reactionary politics as a thing?

      • Handle says:

        I am resolved to remain as flexible as possible with regard to topic(s) and individual(s), and I am certainly open to suggestions. Beggars can’t be choosers.

        One option could be to take up a current event or a contemporary debate that is prominent in the chattering classes and present alternative perspectives on the matter.

  37. Anthony says:

    Regarding liberal bloggers – I read something a while back that conservative bloggers were more likely to *link* to liberal sources, and their commenters more likely to actually click through, than the reverse. At least one conservative blogger noted that even when a lefty blog linked something he posted, that almost nobody actually followed the link, but that discussion of things he linked to obviously included a number of people having clicked through to read the source he was linking to (quotes not included in blog post, etc.)

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