Friday, November 27, 2009

Supplementals on Lady Leftism

The treatment potentially accorded those who make a Watson- or Summers-esque comment in a public setting usually limits my discussion of HBD issues to face-to-face conversations or pseudonymous online postings.

There are times when discipline fails me, though. A friend answered in a facebook social interview question asking what she'd talk to Barack Obama about by responding that she hoped the two of them wouldn't do much talking. Trying to maintain levity, I commented:
Great illustration of another reason it was a mistake to give women the vote! Because politicians of prominence tend to be in their early forties at the youngest, female politicians are sexually invisible to most men (with rare exceptions like Sarah Palin, who apparently puts lead in the pencils of many middle-aged guys). Women fall for social dominance, which consists primarily of financial affluence, social prestige, good frame (physical attractiveness, deep voice, facial symmetry, etc) and occupational success--all hallmarks of successful politicians (our current President being no exception). And men don't wilt in their twenties, occasionally remaining in full bloom into their senior years (see Silvio Berlusconi). So we have women voting for politicians in the hopes that it'll somehow bring their personal fantasies to fruition!
Even though I've known for several years most of the people who unleashed it, two minutes of hate awaited my next login. After addressing specific charges, this:
The gender ratio of politicians in the US alone makes it obvious that women are more likely to be influenced by the sexual appeal of their elected leaders than men are. This is not inherently a bad thing, but it is unique. In fact, it's about the only instance in which female behavior is more influenced by sex drive than male behavior is. In every other situation, we're the ones who are calculating how this move or that remark will move us closer to the girl nearby. And that is hardly an evil thing. As the joke (to which there is more than a kernel of truth) goes: "Civilization is man's attempt to impress women."

There is something to the argument that the more expansive suffrage becomes, the further to the left the electorate as a whole will calibrate, since you're moving further 'down' the productivity/power structure, and people (especially those on the economic margins) tend to vote for their own monetary interests (read redistribution). But the civic cost strikes me as too high to assent to that position, despite the fact I'm generally opposed to Robin Hood policies.
A guy a few years younger than me, of whom I used to be a sort of mentor and who is now a grad student in environmental science, subsequently made a comment that deserves consideration here:
If even you, AE, can respect the civic significance of women's suffrage, then you shouldn't act surprised when someone like me tells you to get your head out of your ass.
That people like him either miss the significance of (or enjoy the results too much to put them at risk by) pointing out the systemic consequences of a leftward shift was my point about the expansion of the vote, in this particular case to women. As John Derbyshire notes in We Are Doomed (p88-89), the sex variance in political attitudes was identified as far back as 4th century BC, in Aristophanes' play Assemblywomen. Taking power in Athens, women vote in socialism:
Everyone is to have an equal share in everything and live on that; we won't have one man rich while another lives in penury, one man farming hundreds of acres while another hasn't got enough land to get buried in... No one will be motivated by need; everybody will have everything.
In Freedomnomics (p160-165), John Lott traces the relationship between female suffrage and per capita government expenditures in the US at the state level (several states 'preempted' the 19th amendment, Wyoming and Utah by half a century) and finds that as the percentage of women voting increased, the amount of per capita governmental spending rose as well, at faster rates than it did in states where women were prohibited from voting.

That women vote to the left of men is indisputable. Exit polling confirms it, as the gender breakdown of modern presidential elections illustrate. The percentage of men and of women who voted for the Democratic candidate:

1980 (Carter):
Men -- 38%
Women -- 46%

1984 (Mondale):
Men -- 38%
Women -- 42%

1988 (Dukakis):
Men -- 42%
Women -- 49%

1992 (Clinton):
Men -- 41%
Women -- 45%

1996 (Clinton):
Men -- 44%
Women -- 55%

2000 (Gore):
Men -- 43%
Women -- 54%

2004 (Kerry):
Men -- 44%
Women -- 51%

2008 (Obama):
Men -- 49%
Women -- 56%

The sex gap is not only observed at the presidential level. When electing House representatives, women are reliably more supportive of the Democratic party than men are. The percentage of people voting Democratic:

Men -- 45%
Women -- 52%

Men -- 50%
Women -- 55%

Men -- 52%
Women -- 56%

The sex differences are more pronounced on economic issues than they are on social issues. Given a dichotomous choice between the government reducing taxes or spending more on social programs, quite a chasm is evident:

Gov't should...MenWomen
Reduce taxes48.6%32.8%
Spend more51.4%67.2%

That's a 16 point sex gap. Women are more risk-averse than men are. This likely has an evolutionary basis in the fact that women are the limiting factor in reproduction. Males have more incentive to roll the dice whenever they are able to do so. With potentially unlimited reproduction capabilities, procreation is a question of quantity more than it is of quality. For females, the male's prospects of good genes and future material provision are crucial, since mating opportunities are at maximum restricted to a little more than once a year for a steadily closing window that shuts completely after a few decades.

In contrast, on social issues, the sex variances are less pronounced. On the question of abortion, it amounts to little more than a gap in the sidewalk:

Abortion for any reasonMenWomen

Death penalty?MenWomen

Same-sex marriage?MenWomen

Legalize weed?MenWomen

Compared to the 16 point gap on the issue of taxation and socialism, the abortion spread is nil, for the death penalty it is 9 points, 7 points on same-sex marriage, and 8 points on legalization (with men holding the more conventionally leftist view).


Monday, November 23, 2009

2008 Presidential election electoral maps, circa 1870

If my mom has ever voted for a Democrat, it was before I'd become a twinkle in my dad's eye. She's not especially political, but was so disgusted by McCain's "rush back to Washington" that she sold her vote to me (vote 199,314 for Baldwin/Castle). Yet at the Republican caucus last February, she reacted as viscerally as I expected she would to my extending a hand toward the people filing into the auditorium* and remarking to a friend, "This is why the Republican party should do whatever it can to keep this country as white as possible".

As embarrassed as she was by her son's gross impropriety, the visual spoke for itself. In the same spirit, here for consideration are some hypothetical electoral maps for the 2008 Presidential election:

If adjustments are made to reflect only white state populations, McCain handily beats Obama, 325-213. Based on the contemporary electoral count, he wins 316-222. In the worst Presidential election for the GOP since Clinton's first term, and the worst election for the right since Goldwater's defeat, the Republican candidate obliterates his Democratic opponent by 100 electoral votes.

If the US looked like Nebraska, it wouldn't necessarily follow that we'd have a two-party system consisting of a perpetual majority and an ever-defeated opposition. Instead, general election campaigns would be as competitive as they are today. But they'd look like Republican primaries do now. The demographic transformation the US is currently undergoing is driving a stake through the heart of political conservatism. Indeed, we are doomed.

So Euros are incorrigibly bigoted. Unless you stepped out of a time machine from the 1950s, this is surely not news! The truly interesting stories, of course, are found among the vibrantly diverse political ideas of the vibrantly diverse segments of our society. While white America looks straight ahead, marching along in the solidarity inherent in its groupthink, the rest of the citizenry eagerly darts this way and that, leaving no thought or idea unturned across the vast plane of modern political discourse:

Well, hope and change runs the entire gamut, doesn't it? Under the current electoral distribution, Obama wins 538-0. If population adjustments are made to exclude whites from state population counts, Obama comes out on top, uh, 538-0.

Various thinkers on the right have explored how female suffrage has steadily pushed the US leftward. Men and women vote similarly by ancestry, geographic position, and station in life, with the latter being shifted five or six points to the left. This matters in setting the parameters and deciding outcomes at the margins, but it's not nearly as determinative as race is:

Banishing the double-Xs would not have been nearly enough to keep the country's first community organizing President out of the White House. Had the 19th amendment been revoked last November, Obama would have still easily won, 325-213. If Xanth's harpies ruled the roost, with the rare males serving as cultural princes, he would've won 393-145.

What if the worst of both worlds were the only ones granted the ballot, as had been the case when the country elected slave owners to the Presidency?

What a hideous cartographic image that makes! For sadistic pleasure, I awarded Minnesota, Iowa, and Rhode Island to McCain, though exit polling showed their voting white men to be evenly split. With population adjustments, the vet wins by some margin between 416-122 and 441-97, depending on how the three toss-up states go. As the electoral map is currently comprised, McCain wins by somewhere between 408-130 and 429-109.

And so the progress takes away what forever took to find.

* Kansas' caucus process allows representatives for each candidate to give a short speech prior to ballots being handed out to those in attendance at the designated voting locations.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sea marshals?

No need for a dramatic rescue this time around:

The Maersk Alabama, the American-flagged ship captured briefly by pirates in April before a dramatic rescue of its captain, came under fire early Wednesday morning off the Somalia coast, but evaded the attackers.

Four men in a skiff sped within 300 yards of the container ship, firing automatic weapons in an attempt to board it, according to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet. A security team aboard the Alabama fired back and managed to fend off the attack, the Navy said.
My instinctive reaction is to cheer the virility the Maersk has acquired over the last year. Whether or not it is economically prudent for cargo ship operators to hire private security forces is another question for which it is difficult to get precise data. Annually, around 20,000 ships pass through the Gulf of Aden, the globe's piracy hotspot. From January to September of last year, there were 63 attempted or successful ship hijackings. That translates to 1 in 235 trips resulting in a pirate encounter. The WSJ article excerpted above also reports on an apparently successful piracy operation:

On Tuesday, pirates released 36 crew members from a Spanish tuna trawler after
holding them hostage for more than six weeks. A man who told the Associated Press he was a pirate said the captors had been paid a $3.3 million ransom.
If the average hijacking attempt results in half that payoff, it comes to $7,000 per ship journey through this susceptible area heading toward the Suez canal. A week's worth of a ten-man security team is going to cost more than that. Obviously these are very rough calculations, but presumably the ultimate conclusion is the same--a cargo ship with firepower doesn't make financial sense for ship operators, else most of them would load their ships up. Other deterrents like arming crew members or randomly equipping some ships with security could conceivably be more cost effective than putting security forces on all of them would be. The problem with the latter tactic is that those who don't lock-and-load become free riders of those who do, like I benefit from several neighbors who own guns, even though I don't have any.

If the free rider problem exists and it is not cost-effective to equip every ship with a security detail, I wonder if something akin to sky marshals for cargo ships would be desirable (the US Coast Guard has a sea marshall program, but it involves boarding searches by identifiable military personnel to ensure in-bound ships do not pose a threat to the harbors receiving them). The current generation of Navy servicemen haven't seen the action those in the Army and Marines have. The capacity is there, so why not use it? These pirates are legitimate military targets. After all, they have official spokesmen:

"It narrowly escaped and opened fire on us," said the man, who identified himself as Abdullahi Nor, a pirate spokesman. "One of our colleagues was injured in the attack." Mr. Nor said he had spoken to the would-be hijackers by satellite phone.
If you're aware of the subject being addressed in detail, please point me to the source in the comments.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Black churches create hostility toward whites, or merely cater to it?

++Addition++OneSTDV asks:
To consider my specific argument, wouldn't you have to look at those that actually attend BLACK churches?
From Pew's religious landscape survey, a breakdown of blacks by religious affiliation in the US:

Black churcher52.6
Protestant (Evangelical)16.2
Protestant (Mainline)4.2
Jehovah's Witness1.3
Other (Christian)0.4
Other (non-Christian)0.3

The majority of American blacks belong to black churches, but it isn't overwhelmingly so. Among Christians (including Witnesses), two-thirds are members of black churches.

It is conceivable that active black churchers are more racialist than blacks in aggregate are. The corrolary to this, though, is that other active churchgoers are far less racialist than their black churcher counterparts are, to an extent that they move the religiously active average further toward the non-racialist side than black churchers (and presumably black Muslims) move it toward the racialist side, despite being outnumbered by black churchers. Or, as OneSTDV also suggests, there could be an issue with representativeness among GSS samples.

I'm not aware of data that would offer a conclusive answer one way or the other.


In a post on the practical benefit of piety among the less endowed, OneSTDV concludes that the primary consequence of the black church experience tends to be an accentuation of black animosity toward whites:

The black church creates a racially charged cohort eagerly blaming failure on
white racism and lacking any impulse control in what they perceive to be an
unfair society.
I know a lot of underclass blacks, and I've found those who go to church tend to be a cut above the rest as far as middle class values are concerned (expressing moral outrage rather than personal vindictiveness when insulted, preferring hip hop artists whose fortes are love (Outkast, Mario) over those whose trade is the glorification of violence (50 Cent, Young Jeezy), inquiring about how things have been going in my life--my interactions are limited in scope, but I think the patterns I recognize have more than just a subjective basis).

I've speculated in the past that the South's religiosity might be especially beneficial for blacks. The data underlying that line of thinking--that the white-to-black imprisonment ratio is higher there than in the rest of the country--are vaguely suggestive at best, and could well be the consequence of the ethnic composition of southern whites more than anything else.

Whatever the case, is there evidence that religiously active blacks are more racialist than are non-religious blacks? The following table compares the attitudes and perceptions of religiously active (defined as attending at least nearly every week) and religiously inactive blacks (attending less than once a month to never at all). The side with the higher value is relatively less racialist than the other. The variables are more fully defined in the endnote*:

AA hurts whites44.7%48.3%
Blacks should not push38.6%32.8%
People rewarded for intelligence, skills65.9%57.5%
Feelings towards whites6.906.48
Feelings towards blacks8.117.48
Feel high level of personal freedom in US63.8%54.6%
Americans freer today than in the past63.6%55.3%
Discrimination doesn't explain differences35.2%34.7%

The first thing that jumps out is the lack of much difference between blacks who attend church and those who do not, other than on the issue of feelings towards others. Like blacks who don't go to church, churchgoers feel considerably warmer toward their fellow blacks than they do toward whites. Churchgoers, however, feel considerably warmer about both blacks and whites than non-churchgoing blacks do. The command to love your neighbor gets more play in the pews than it does on the street.

The question concerning whether or not affirmative action hurts whites is the only one in which non-attenders hold a less racialist view than attenders do. What to take from this response isn't clear, though. It could be that benefitting blacks at the expense of whites is viewed as affirmative action functioning optimally. Thus, the question might be a measure of wishful thinking--the number of blacks who approve of whites being hurt by affirmative action--more than regret that whites suffer through positive discrimination. Another question queries respondents on whether or not they support programs giving special preferences to blacks in hiring and promotional considerations. Among attenders, 40.5% support such programs. Among non-attenders, it's a majority at 52.3%.

That non-attenders are even a bit more racially aggrieved than are attenders does not invalidate the assertion that black churches are racially-charged perpetuators of a narrative that sees blacks as forever victims of an oppressive white society. But black churches do not create this perception--they cater to what already exists. Black culture actively works to separate itself from mainstream American culture to the extent that sports (football, really, as the NBA is no longer front-and-center in the world of the white man's sports, and blacks continue to turn away from baseball) are too often the only shared experience white guys and black guys find easy to talk about. The perception is as prevalent on the FM hip hop station, at the local council meeting, or on the front porch as it is in the sanctuary.


* AA hurts whites: "What do you think the chances are these days that a white person won't get a job or promotion while an equally or less qualified black person gets one instead?" The table includes those who responded with "very likely" or "somewhat likely".

Blacks should not push: "Negroes/blacks/African-Americans shouldn't push themselves
where they're not wanted." The table includes those who responded with "agree strongly" or "agree slightly".

People rewarded for intelligence and skills: "In America people get rewarded for their intelligence and skills." The table includes those who responded with "strongly agree" or "agree".
Feelings towards whites (blacks): "In general, how warm or cool do you feel towards white (black) or Caucasian (African) Americans?" On an inverted scale of 1-9, higher values indicate warmer feelings. One standard deviation for the question regarding whites is 1.90. For blacks, it is 2.05.

Feel high level of personal freedom in US: "Would you say right now that you have complete freedom, a great deal of freedom, a moderate degree of freedom, not much freedom, or no freedom at all?" The table includes those who responded with "complete freedom" or "a great deal of freedom". This question does not concern the issue of free will vs. predestination--it is part of a module on personal rights and liberties in contemporary American society.

Americans freer today than in the past: "Do you think Americans today have more freedom, less freedom, or about the same amount of freedom as in the past?" The table includes those who responded with "more freedom".

Discrimination doesn't explain differences: "On the average negroes/blacks/African-Americans have worse jobs, income, and housing than white people. Do you think these differences are mainly due to discrimination?" The table includes those who responded with "no".

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Political orientation by partisan affiliation over time

In response to a recent post, The Undiscovered Jew writes:

The partisan divide has increased because the Republicans have become much more conservative (and the Democrats more liberal) than they were between 1933 and Reagan's victory over Jimmy Carter in 1980.

People will scoff at the idea that the GOP post-1980 is much more conservative than before 1980, but the facts prove my case.
He continues on to present a general overview of how the Presidents of the last fifty years illustrate this shifting.

Fortunately, there exists an empirical method for examining this assertion. The GSS asks respondents about both their political orientations and their partisan affiliations. The following graph shows the mean political index values of white Democrats and Republicans by year. Positive values indicate conservatism and negative values indicate liberalism, with zero representing exact political moderation. One standard deviation is 1.35 index points.

Indeed, the political gap between Democrats and Republicans has trebled to become a chasm over the last few decades.

My working narrative is largely confirmed by this. With Reagan's asendancy, conservative Democrats began drifting away from the Democratic party and liberal Republicans backed away from the increasing social conservatism of the Republican party. After Reagan and the effective end of communism, the blue-blooded George HW Bush came to signify a more centrist GOP resembling what had existed before Ronnie (with the Iran-contra affair, for which Reagan's popularity suffered, playing a role in tarnishing the conservative label). In a few years, that had faltered and conservatism again came to define GOP voters with the 'Republican Revolution' of 1994. We continue on this political trajectory today.

GSS variables used: PARTYID(0-2)(5-6), POLVIEWS, YEAR, RACE(1)

Hope your job will be saved next!

This White House press release:
The Obama Administration today reported that recipients of Recovery Act funds have informed the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board that they have created or saved 640,329 direct jobs in reports covering approximately $160 billion, which represents a little less than half of the funds put to work through September 30, 2009. These reports, covering only directly created jobs and less than half the funds spent thus far, support government and private forecaster’s estimates that overall the Recovery Act has created or saved over one million jobs to-date. The majority of the jobs reported were in the construction and education sectors, indicating the Recovery Act is not only bolstering private sector companies during the economic downturn, but also making critical investments in keeping America competitive in the 21st century.
... brings to mind this release from the Ministry of Plenty:
"Comrades!" cried an eager youthful voice. "Attention, comrades! We have glorious news for you. We have won the battle for production! Returns now completed of the output of all classes of consumption goods show that the standard of living has risen by no less than 20 per cent over the past year. All over Oceania this morning there were irrepressible spontaneous demonstrations when workers marched out of factories and offices and paraded through the streets with banners voicing their gratitude to Big Brother for the new, happy life which his wise leadership has bestowed upon us."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Partisan positions on social issues over time

A month ago, the polymath looked at changes in the religious composition of the two major US political parties over time. The short version is that Catholics are becoming a relatively smaller piece of the Democratic party, while Protestants are taking it in the chin in both parties to make room for those who lack any religious affiliation.

As someone whose firsthand memory of politics extends back only to the 2000 Presidential election, I'm interested in how partisan positions on major social issues have shifted over the last several decades. The accusation is commonly made by libertarian types and those on the 'religious left' that the Religious Right has steadily moved to overtake the GOP. Implicit in this charge is the insinuation that the socially conservative positions these theocons hold have come to be shared by a greater percentage of Republican voters than before the hijacking. Conversely, National Defense Democrats of a pious disposition, like Zell Miller, are said to have been abandoned by an increasingly secular, progressive Democratic party.

The social positions of the two parties feel pretty static to me, but that's a result of my limited frame of reference. I realize history didn't start yesterday, or even the turn of the last millenium. Fortunately, the GSS is a useful tool for helping me fill myself in. The change over time in positions on five major social issues can be tracked back to the seventies. The following graphs depict those changes among self-identified Republicans, Democrats, and indepedents* over the last 35 years.

Other than on the issue of school prayer, the partisan divide has increased modestly over time, lending some truth to the oft-repeated claim that the US is becoming increasingly polarized along political lines, though things do not appear to have changed that much. Partisan alignments on four major social issues have remained pretty stagnant over the last few decades.

The issue of abortion, by contrast, has undergone some shifting along partisan lines. Up to the end of the eighties, there was scarcely a distinguishable difference between Republicans and Democrats on the question, with Republicans actually tending to be slightly more supportive of the right to an abortion for rape victims than Democrats were. That has changed over the last couple of decades, to the extent that one in three Republicans now support granting human rights to the developing fetus of a woman impregnated via rape (and in my view imprudently serving up the rapist with a Darwinian success he shouldn't be permitted to enjoy).

Support for marijuana legalization has crept up across the board from its lows during the crack epidemic of the eighties and early nineties. Independents are generally more supportive of legalization than even Democrats are. Views on capital punishment and wealth redistribution** have reliably retained their partisan alignments, and the distance between Republican and Democratic positions on them have increased. Opposition to the 1963 US Supreme Court ruling in favor of Schempp has declined a bit for each group but the slight partisan divide has held fairly steadily.

GSS variables used: YEAR, PARTYID(0-1)(2-4)(5-6), GRASS, ABRAPE, CAPPUN, EQWLTH, PRAYER

* Respondents are asked to describe their party affiliation by choosing among eight possible options. "Other party" is ignored for the purposes of this post. I've elected to include "Independent, near Republican" and "Independent, near Democrat" in the independent category, with "Not strong Republican/Democrat" and "Strong Republican/Democrat" the two potential choices earning inclusion under the Republican/Democrat classifications. This yields a 36% Democrat, 25% Republican, and 36% indepdent split, which seems preferable to only classifying unadultered independents (15%) as, well, independents. And the respondents are, after all, self-describing as independents leaning toward one party or the other, not partisans leaning toward the center.

** The representation is computed from responses on an inverted (to facilitate viewing the graph) seven-point scale, with a 7 representing the highest level of support for the government reducing income differences and a 1 representing the lowest level of support for it. Annual responses are averaged by year for each political classifcation.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Religious affiliation by ethnicity in the United States

++Addition++In the comments, "silly girl" suggests:
Maybe more than 2/3's of those who identify as Native Am. are also more than 2/3's white themselves.

What percentage of people who identify as Native American are actually at least 51% Native American? I don't know but there are incentives for identifying as Native.
Very relevant point. Nearly 5% of GSS respondents self-described their ethnicity as Native American, far higher than the 1% or so of the total US population the Census lists as being Native Americans of only one race. There are probably some people with a Cherokee great grandmother who are telling GSS interviewers they are ethnically Native American. Adds a nice mystical element to one's constitution!


I'm regularly vexed by my inability to seamlessly rehash empirical data in conversation when I'd assumed it would easily stick as I came upon it for the first time. It's hardly a frustration unique to me, and the conventional explanation that it takes ingesting information three times to internalize it seems to be generally accurate in my experience. Sometimes, though, I am surprised by the inaccuracy of my preconceived notion--which tends to be embarrassing, given how starkly actual data contradicts it--to such an extent that I know without a doubt that a single exposure is sufficient to permanently equip myself with it. Razib's parenthetical remark in a post considering why Catholics are Democrats is the latest instance:
The majority of people of Irish descent today in the United States are Protestant, but I suspect they’re less obviously “Irish” in their cultural markers in part because of their religious break from tradition.
The explanation for why this isn't popularly obvious strikes me as spot on. It describes why I was under the impression that it the split was roughly 60%/40% in Catholicism's favor among those claiming a religious affiliation, with much of the Protestant minority coming from British-controlled northern Ireland (that my maternal grandfather was an Irish Catholic probably had some influence, too). Among those of Irish descent, Catholic church attendance is higher than it is among Protestants (34.6% to 28.8% attending services at least once a week). The variances are minor, but this is in contrast to frequency of attendance among American Catholics and Protestants at large (30.0% to 31.8% weekly or more). Irish Catholics are slightly more pious than their co-religionists in the US are, while Irish Protestants are a bit less so.

As for my errant conception, I had the Catholic/Protestant ratio backwards. It's actually 57%/43% in Protestantism's favor.

The following table shows the Protestant/Catholic/Jewish/unaffiliated breakdown by ethnicity. To balance the desire for contemporary relevance with adequate sample sizes, data are from the last two decades. Sample sizes are at least 100 (okay, technically 98 so that Austrians can be included) for all ethnic groups shown:

ProtestantCatholicJewishNo affiliationOther
Canadian (British)
Canadian (French)19.371.
Puerto Rican24.157.20.714.23.8
Native American70.

In the case of the Chinese, Greek, and Indian, "other" primarily consists of Buddhist, Orthodox, and Hindu (and to a lesser extent Muslim), respectively. Americans largely consist of Appalachian whites (referred to as Ulster-Scots or Scots-Irish) whose ancestors formed the basis of David Hackett Fischer's fourth set of British folkways.

Perusing* the table, I'm relieved to see that only in the case of Irish descent was I way off the mark. I've tended to regard those of Russian descent as Jewish unless they happened to be Eastern Orthodox, but a sizable minority (28.5%) have Protestant or Catholic affiliations.

The size of the Catholic contingent among non-French Canadians (for clarity, I term them British Canadians here rather than using the GSS label "other Canadians") is higher than I expected it to be, though I guess I shouldn't be surprised as nearly half of Canadians are at least nominally Catholic.

Also a bit surprising is that more than two-thirds of Native Americans are Protestants, with fewer than 1 in 20 maintaining adherence to traditional tribalistic beliefs. Aggregating all Protestant denominations under a single heading is an oversimplification, of course, but the Native American affiliation profile is nearly identical to the Swedish one! I would not have expected to be able to say that.

As a Catholic of Indian descent, Bobby Jindal wins the rarity award among politicians with some level of national prominence. He's 1 in nearly 2,000 on these two dimensions, easily beating out other affirmative action GOP big shots Sarah Palin and Michael Steele.

GSS variables used: ETHNIC, RELIG, YEAR(1988-2008), ATTEND

* Pursuant to the correct meaning of the word!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Live within your means, and credit cards are blessings

Tangentially related to the recent post looking at the relatationship between intelligence, conscientiousness, and credit scores at the state level are discussions over tactics to build (or more accurately, inflate) one's individual credit rating. Not long ago, Razib emphasized a few ways of going about this (the web is, incidentally, brimming with this kind of advice), but that's not where the impetus for this post comes from. Instead, it springs from the following:

I talked to another GNXPer recently who didn't have a credit card. Until last year I didn't have one either. My theory was that I lived within my means, have few expenses, was healthy, etc. etc. I know plenty of people like me, young, intelligent and not too interested in signalling with positional goods and such, who didn't get caught up in the real estate craze, and so made a calculation that there was no need for credit (at least for the time being).

Disregard the issue of needing to build good credit for a moment. I've had a credit card since turning 18, despite the personal irrelevance of my credit score, since I've never borrowed money (and never will borrow money) for anything in my life. Yet credit is the virtually exclusive way I go about paying for stuff. As long as you're not so interested in signalling with positional goods that you find yourself unable to pay off your balance each month, there are no reasons not to have a credit card and several economic costs incurred by way of not having one:

- You forgo the TVM advantage of being able to enjoy your half of an economic transaction now without having to pay for it until later. If you have $2,000 a month in total living expenses and it all goes on the card, you're holding $1,000 for 30 days longer every month, give or take. At 6%--which, a couple of years ago was attainable with the safety of a money market--that's $5, twelve times a year. Additionally, if uncertain circumstances create a need to pay for something immediately but for which you lack the necessary funds in your account until tomorrow, it doesn't present a problem.

- So $60 is chump change, not even worth thinking about over the course of a year. Au contrare! It buys me this and this. And anyway, it's effortless. Receive statements online, tie them to a liquid account with online bill pay, and a month's worth of stuff is taken care of with a couple clicks of the mouse. That's less of an energy expenditure than is fumbling around with paper bills or punching in your PIN repeatedly. More and more retailers are moving away from even requiring a signature on small credit purchases.

- Speaking of fumbling around with bills, plastic means you don't have to. No more getting nickel and dimed to death by losing the nickels and dimes given to you in change. Debit cards provide this benefit as well, of course, but if your debit card is lost or stolen, you risk your account being cleaned out without much in the way of recourse. With credit, if you didn't make the purchase, you're not on the hook to pay for it. In reality, it's not quite that simple, but the debt obligation lies with the card provider, not the account holder, and the major players--Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and especially American Express--will, for their own good, go to bat for you.

- There are a slew of different bonus and rewards programs for credit card users to take advantage of. If frequent flyer miles don't elevate you, go for cash back to the tune of 1-2%. That's free money*.

- It's the quickest, easiest way to do business online. While services like Paypal are also convenient, if the item shipped is defective (or never shows up), securing a refund is more of a hassle (not to mention more of an open question) than it will be if you had paid with credit.

* Sort of like government-provided universal healthcare is free. Retailers and service providers essentially remit around 2% of each transaction price paid via credit to the card providers for the 'privilege' of being able to accept their plastics as a form of payment. In the case of products with razor thin margins, like gasoline, in practice this often means Visa is making more revenue on the sale than the retailer is making in profit. This is a cost imposed on retailers and service providers that is factored into the prices they charge for the things they provide. Thus those who pay with cash (no fees) and debit (lower fees) are subsidizing those who use credit. What, do you feel a fiduciary obligation to Macy's? Or Macy's high-risk cash customers? Use your damned credit card! It's one of the few ways you, as a prudent, self-reliant person, are able to be rewarded for your self sufficiency, rather than being punished for it.

Monday, November 02, 2009

High conscientiousness predicts poor credit score?

I am intrigued by personality variations among populations for many of the same reasons I am interested in how IQ relates to other social attributes, but have been skeptical of the reliability of state level measurements of the Big 5. Eyeballing the research released last year by Peter Jason Rentfrow of Cambridge University, I've had trouble recognizing much in the way of plausibility. Anyway, Razib swiftly highlighted the interesting correlations that have been found to exist (some of which are expected, others which are not). Rentfrow's data suggest, for example, that North Dakota is the nation's most extraverted state--not quite what is expected from an old, sparsely populated state primarily comprised of Norwegians, Germans, and Native Americans, groups not traditionally known for loquacity.

Running a state-level analysis comparing the relationships of estimated conscientiousness (C) and estimated IQ with average credit score does nothing to dissuade me from this skepticism. Because only state rankings (rather than actual figures) are available from Rentfrow's research on Big 5 personality factors, average credit scores and IQ are also displayed in the form of 1-50 rankings. Consequently, both relationships with credit scores appear more linear (and thus more vigorously correlated) than they actually are. The first graph shows how C and credit score relate to one another:

Yes, you are interpreting that correctly. Quite surprisingly, the relationship is an inverse one, yielding an r-value of -.47 (p=.0006). That is, as conscientiousness apparently increases, credit scores decrease.

A credit score measures a person's creditworthiness--how likely he is to pay back what he borrows in a timely and complete manner, live within his means, and effectively manage his personal finances. Government interference notwithstanding, it determines how able he is to achieve home ownership. The traits resulting in higher credit scores are largely captured by a person's level of C. Wikipedia defines conscientiousness as follows:

The trait of being painstaking and careful, or the quality of acting according to the dictates of one's conscience. It includes such elements as self-discipline, carefulness, thoroughness, organization, deliberation (the tendency to think carefully before acting), and need for achievement. It is an aspect of what has traditionally been called character. Conscientious individuals are generally hard working and reliable.
Might the credit scores released by be unreliable? Very doubtful given the strong, positive correlation between a state's average credit score ranking and average IQ (+.83, p=0). The proceding graph depicts this relationship:

My intention is not to dismiss Rentfrow's research, though it is difficult not to be hesitant in endorsing it when the reported findings so sorely lack face validity. As a result, I am presently unsure of what to do with his work, but have in mind other correlations to investigate.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Kaus is off; clockwise the way to cross through intersection on foot

Mickey Kaus profers some poor advice for navigating four-way intersections on foot (via Steve):
Just realized that pedestrians should always go around intersections counterclockwise. Otherwise left-turners get you. You're welcome.
As one who has run and biked regularly for a decade, I vehemently dispute this. The following is applicable whether you are obeying pedestrian traffic laws or not (I admit I rarely do and simply cross as soon as I am able to, without obstructing traffic of course. When I'm on bike at a light, I hop the curb and become a pedestrian until I've made it through the intersection, at which point I merge back on to the road again). First, an analysis of the counterclockwise move (sorry for not bringing the helicopter a little lower before snapping these shots):

You're on the southeast corner, attempting to head north (orange arrow). You can see the car potentially turning left from the north end of the intersection to head east (blue lines), so he's not going to hit you. However, the car coming from the south and looking to turn right and head east may go at any time, irrespective of whether or not his light is red. That you are able to see his traffic signal makes no difference. As he is preparing to turn, he is primarily looking at the car on the west side of the intersection (purple arrows). Additionally, if this is a two-lane road, he is checking to see the car on the north end is not about to make a left and head east just as he is (if there are four or more lanes, this isn't much of an issue and he is entirely focused on the west end car). Unless he is especially wary of pedestrians, he is definitely not looking to his east, where you are crossing, since there is no chance another car will be coming at him from there.

This is the essence of why you should always progress through an intersection in a clockwise direction--those making right-hand turns are the only ones who are consistently not looking where they're going. Even if there is not a car waiting to turn right when you begin crossing, it doesn't take long for one to appear. Because drivers often roll through right turns on red*, you are vulnerable.

As you cross the lane(s) heading east and into the lane(s) heading west, you are again at risk of a car on the east end of the intersection wanting to turn right and head north. He is looking in your general direction, but he's not looking at you. And as pedestrians and drivers alike know, until a driver makes eye contact with a man on foot, the safe bet is that the driver has not seen him.

Finally, when moving counterclockwise, if the light changes on you halfway across, you're faced with cars a couple of feet away whose paths are through you.

Now the more prudent clockwise move:

As you begin to cross, you are able to easily navigate past your biggest threat, the south end car turning right to head east. You have an opportunity (which you should take) to make eye contact with him, or if need be you can just run behind him.

The west end car turning right to head south is a potential problem because he is not going to be looking at you as he turns. However, you have been directly in front of him for as long as he's been sitting there and continue to be as you cross. Thus there is a better chance he will see you than the east end car heading north will in the counterclockwise scenario. More importantly, you are easily able to see him during the entire duration of your crossing.

The east end car turning left and heading south is really you're only concern. You are able to see his light, so if this is a left-turn signal only intersection, you're golden. If left turners just have to yield on green, you have the west end traffic heading east directly in view. If there is a steady flow of cars moving through in this direction, they protect you and again you're golden. If not, you have to turn your head at a 90 degree angle to see whether or not a left turner is coming toward you as you go through the second half of the crossing. If he is initially waiting at the east end, you should attempt to make eye contact with him before you begin.

If the light changes on you halfway through, the cars bearing down on you have the length of the intersection--rather than just a few feet--to go before flattening you.

* When I was a senior in high school, I got the only two traffic tickets I've ever received. Seeing there were no cars coming from my left, I rolled (slowly) through a right on red. A cop was behind me, but I'd always driven in such a manner and so thought nothing of it. Exactly one mile later I did the same thing. The officer then pulled me over and handed me two citations for the same damn thing--running a red light! Truly a dick, I know.