Saturday, April 30, 2011

Diversity helps US claim first prize in single parent department

The OECD report that made it into news cycles earlier this week for having discovered that children in the US are more likely to live in single parent households than children in other developed countries grabbed my attention for illustrating why ignoring racial realities and instead relying only on culture (or 'propositionalism') has significantly obfuscatory policy implications. The AP story reads:
Experts point to a variety of factors to explain the high U.S. figure, including a cultural shift toward greater acceptance of single-parent child rearing. The U.S. also lacks policies to help support families, including childcare at work and national paid maternity leave, which are commonplace in other countries.
The logic of the second sentence seems backwards to me--shouldn't a lack of childcare and paid maternity leave discourage single people from having children more than it should discourage married people from doing so? In the latter's case, there is potentially already a stay at home option, with the on site childcare being a nice fringe benefit but not a necessity. In the case of the single person, it probably means private childcare, which makes low-end employment barely economically viable.

That aside, the point is to highlight the fallacy of identifying the US' single parent rate as higher than in other wealthy countries and then, in a robotic fashion, proceed on to suggestions that the US adopt the policies x, y, and z that distinguish these countries from the US. This almost always works to the detriment of those in the US who are opposed to the expansion of the welfare state, because our uniquely multiracial society means Americans as a whole consistently underperform residents of other Western countries on a slew of social indicators. Why? Because race matters. It matters more than the availability of paid paternity or maternity leave does.

Of the 27 European and European-descended countries (plus Japan and South Korea) listed, the percentage of children under the age of 18 living in single parent households has the dubious distinction of being the very worst. But if NAMs are removed from the equation*, the US jumps ahead of Sweden, Denmark, Great Britain, Estonia, Canada, New Zealand, and Ireland. Still near the back of the pack, but no longer sticking out like a sore thumb as the conspicuous worst.

Parenthetically, the data the OECD report draws from are copious but require a sea gate oracle to filter through. In getting to what I was after, a came across some other interesting figures, including the 2009 rates on female labor force participation and total fertility. Might there be an inverse relationship there, with more women running the rat race corresponding to fewer of them making babies?

Not really. The correlation is inverse, but it's weak (.18) and statistically insignificant (p = .26). Eyeballing the numbers, the high female participation rates and high TFRs of the island nations--Great Britain, Iceland, and New Zealand--stand out as especially bucking the weak trend. Removing them from the regression ups the inverse correlation to .28 (p = .10).

Another should make Walter Williams smile. The following table shows the percentage of impoverished married couples with children in which both spouses are working, by country:

1. Norway
2. Denmark
3. Germany
4. Czech Republic
5. Australia
6. New Zealand
7. Great Britain
8. Finland
9. Sweden
10. Slovak Republic
11. The Netherlands
12. Ireland
13. Slovenia
14. Belgium
15. Italy
16. Austria
17. France
18. Hungary
19. Estonia
20. Israel
21. Greece
22. Canada
23. Iceland
24. Portugal
25. Spain
26. South Korea
26. Luxembourg
28. Poland
29. Chile
30. United States
31. Japan
32. Mexico
33. Russia
34. Turkey

The keys to staying out of poverty in the first world are to marry and hold down a job. If these two things are present, for more than 19 out of 20 parents in the developed world, poverty is not. This gets to the heart of Half Sigma's assertion that one of the best things public schools can do for children from working and underclass backgrounds is to try and instill middle class values in them. Easier said than done, of course, but more worthy than the pie in the sky aspirations of legislation like No Child Left Behind.

* The report does not break down national statistics by race, so I used data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation that does and applied it to the OECD figures. The foundation's numbers are a bit higher across the board as it includes the children of unmarried women who are cohabiting as being in single parent households, while the OECD does not (more usefully, in my view).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

PNSer PNSing

... to describe someone who is pointing and sputtering, er, pointing 'n sputtering. Orally, each of the first three letters are pronounced individually, followed by the appropriate suffix. It fits--they do tend to be whiny little bitches, after all.

Like father (country), like son

The CIS recently released a detailed study on welfare usage by immigrant households in the US using Census data. That immigrants are more likely to use welfare programs than natives are hardly constitutes a novel discovery, though it's rarely acknowledged in Congressional and popular media debates on the subject. This could easily be remedied by the institution of a selective immigration system with the well-being of current US citizens rather than of aspiring migrants in mind, but that's not the purpose of the post.

What grabbed my attention is just how predictable welfare usage by country of origin is. Table 4 of the CIS report shows welfare usage rates of immigrant households with children by householder's country of origin. Near the bottom of the list are affluent, functional nations like Great Britain and South Korea. Topping the list are places you don't want to be (for more than a week or two, anyway) like Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

Picking up on an old habit, I looked at mean national IQ of the 20 sending countries listed and welfare usage rates of immigrants from those countries who were residing in the US in 2009. The correlation is an inverse .57 (p = .01). That relationship is tempered by Indian immigrants, who constitute a conspicuous exception to the general rule (only those from Great Britain use fewer welfare programs than they do). Removing India from the regression ups the correlation to .64 (p = .00). The Indian demographic landscape is an incredibly complicated one, but it's clear that Indians living in the US are not representative of the country they were born in.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Catholic and Protestant fertility over time

Talking to my dad and brother, we somehow got into Catholic fertility in the US. After describing a family with five or six kids, it's still fairly common to hear the quip, "Are they Catholic?" I'm aware of the stereotype, though it wasn't formed from actual firsthand experience. The more noticeable distinction I've picked up on is between those who are genuinely religious and those who are only nominally so (or not at all). My dad guessed greater Catholic fertility remained the case today, though maybe not as pronounced as it had been when he was growing up.

Fortunately, the GSS contains relevant self-reported data on the question extending back to the early seventies. The following graph shows the mean number of children among white Protestants and Catholics in the US over time. To avoid issues with uncompleted procreation while simultaneously trying to minimize unnecessary overlap, only respondents in their forties at the time they participated in the survey are included. The question does not specifically inquire exclusively about biological children, but it insinuates as much. A handful of respondents likely included adopted or step children, but the number is probably insignificant and anyway presumably effects both Protestant and Catholic respondents equally:

Looks like the fecundity gap exists and was a bit wider a generation ago than it is now, but over the last four decades at least has not been very significant and is barely existent at all today.

From the view of the churches, though, Catholics do have the upper hand, since among Hispanics in the US Catholics outnumber Protestants by about five-to-one, and Hispanic birthrates are far higher than white birthrates are.

GSS variables used: RELIG(1)(2), YEAR, RACE(1), CHILDS, AGE(40-49)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hello Helen

Pew recently released the results from the March 2011 News IQ quiz, a series of 11 multiple choice questions concerning current events given to a random sample of ~1,000 US adults. Previously, I posted on how men consistently outperform women on this quiz, and the most recent survey was no exception to this rule. I've updated the original post accordingly.

The one question women fared better than men on concerned No Child Left Behind legislation. The Simpsons got it right in electing to give the "Won't somebody please think of the children?" catchphrase to a female character.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Rationed by income

Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen on the Paul Ryan budget plan:
This Republican Plan simply rations health care and choice of doctor by income.
What bizarre rhetoric for a US politician in one of the country's major political parties to use. Everything we buy that is not subject to government price controls, directly or indirectly, is "rationed" by income. In the vernacular, this simply means the thing in question has a price to be paid by the person who wants to consume it, as everything must in a free market. The car, the house, the soap, and the sandwich you buy are all rationed by income, or more precisely, by money. It's basic supply and demand, the most rudimentary concept in economics.

I don't follow mainstream political punditry very closely, though I've not heard it being seized on by the popular right. Maybe the Rasmussen poll from a couple of years ago finding only a very slight majority of the public saying capitalism is a better economic system than socialism means it's rhetorically trickier than I'd imagine it to be, and maybe public sentiment is in favor of shielding health care costs entirely from the individual and collectivizing them in their entirety, but Van Hollen's statement reveals a socialistic mindset if ever one did--the idea that if an individual must pay the market rate for something, that thing is being "rationed", with all the negative connotations that go along with such a word choice in contemporary America.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Scientific literacy by belief

As an excuse to continue milking the GSS science module for posts, Top Arguments suggests breaking down answers by theism (or lack thereof).

The following table shows differences in responses, by theistic confidence (for whites only), to the science module of items deployed by the GSS during 2004 and 2006 (except for the last 3 questions, which were asked in 1993, 1994, and 2000). Theistic confidence is characterized by breaking respondents up into three groupings: 1) Atheists and agnostics (8.2%), 2) those who believe in an undefined higher power or fluctuate between theistic belief and doubt (34.1%), and 3) those who are express certainty in God's existence (57.6%). Some of the questions are inverted from the GSS for viewer ease so that in all cases, the higher the percentage, the more knowledgeable the group is. Green indicates the relatively best performance; black indicates middling performance; and red indicates relatively poor performance:

Astrology is not scientific77.2
The benefits of science exceed the harms80.3
Understands the need for control groups in testing90.6
The earth's core is very hot97.8
Demonstrates a basic understanding of probability97.2
Not all radioactivity is man-made92.7
Father, not mother, determines a child's sex72.7
Lasers are not made by condensing sound waves85.2
Electrons are smaller than atoms83.8
Antibiotics do not kill viruses69.0
Continental drift has and continues to occur97.5
Humans evolved from other animals91.1
The earth revolves around the sun91.5
It takes the earth one year to rotate around the sun93.4
Respondent will eat genetically modified foods83.4
The north pole is on a sheet of ice76.1
Not all man-made chemicals cause cancer when eaten58.6
Exposure to radioactivity doesn't necessarily lead to death82.9
Exposure to pesticides doesn't necessarily cause cancer75.0

It's a blowout. Atheists and agnostics demonstrate higher levels of basic scientific knowledge across the board, the only exceptions being a marginal difference with skeptics over the presumed benefits of scientific progress and the question regarding whether the mother or father determines an offspring's sex, where believers shine. They're the ones having kids, after all, so they should know.

I would've predicted non-believers to be more inclined to grant scientific legitimacy to astrology, but that's not the case.

That fewer than one-third of firm theists believe that macroevolution has occurred is a fraction even smaller than I thought it would be. Evolution really is the contemporary defining issue for the fight between science and religion. Parenthetically, I wonder how the 9% of atheists and agnostics who do not believe in evolution account for humanity in its current state.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Percentages of believers who don't attend religious services

Spurred by Sgt Joe Friday, I used the GSS to take a look at what percentage of self-identified firm theists do not attend religious services with any regularity (defined as going less frequently than once a month). He expressed surprise at how many on the right still attend churches that increasingly incorporate leftist causes (ie, environmentalism and open borders) into their services.

To some extent, the political alliance between pious Christians and the GOP is a consequence of the latter welcoming the former while over the last few decades the Democratic party has come to be seen as increasingly inhospitable to many believers, especially white Protestant evangelicals, more than it being a result of these pious Christians sharing Rand Paul's views on taxation and government regulation of private enterprise. As long as SWPL views on deeply held Christian faith (among whites, anyway) remain disdainful, there will be a sizable contingent of white evangelicals who stick with the GOP even though their political beliefs aren't particularly rightist.

Anyhow, considering only responses from this millennium for contemporary relevance, we find that 39.5% of firm believers show up less than once a month, and 17.9% don't even make it on Christmas. Among conservatives, the figures are 28.4% and 11.8%, respectively. For moderates, 44.9% and 21.0%. And for liberals, 50.1% and 24.3%. A quarter of conservative believers and half of liberal believers don't go to church.

GSS variables used: POLVIEWS(1-3)(4)(5-7), GOD(6), ATTEND(0-3)

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Cletus is such a throwback

Syncretism makes three suggestions for Ngrams. When I was in middle school, I remember my older cousin's reaction when watching an episode of The Simpsons where Cletus returns a pair of boots to a telephone pole where he found them and says, "Back you go, to wait for a woman of less discriminating taste." My cousin burst out laughing. I didn't appreciate at the time that Cletus was revealing the high regard he held for his girlfriend, thinking instead that he was insulting her for being a shoe racist or something. Recalling that, I included "discriminating" alongside "discrimination", to capture the transformation of the word from complimentary adjective, which implied perspicacious discernment, into its present form as the wicked noun, found in the hearts of acrimonious, mean-spirited souls (click on each image for higher resolution):

The identification of the hate crime, a revolutionary advance in criminal justice, came about in the late eighties. And not a moment too soon, as it finally gave law enforcement an effective way to prosecute people for assault and homicide. Despite being told that racism has been around since at least the age of colonization, it actually sprung up during the sixties. Who would have thought?

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Hispanic birth rates declining more steeply than non-Hispanic birth rates

The Arizonan trend showing a steeper decline in the Hispanic fertility rate than in the non-Hispanic black and white fertility rates over the last several years is not an anomaly, but instead illustrative of the same sort of fertility pattern at the national level. Over the three year period from 2007-2009, Hispanic fertility declined at three times the rate of the non-Hispanic white fertility decline. The rates for non-Hispanic blacks, Asians, and Native Americans declined at at a slightly faster clip than for non-Hispanic whites:

This is not to confuse the pace of declines with absolute fertility rates. Hispanics, even in 2009, were still considerably more fecund than non-Hispanics. The following table shows the total fertility rate of women by race in 2007 and also in 2009:

If trends continue at the same pace for each classification (which strikes me as highly unlikely), there will be near birthrate parity, at 50 births per 1000 women, for all five racial groups in 2031--a situation in which the TFR for all groups would be well below what is needed for population replacement to occur.

Thanks to Mark Wethman, who keeps a keen eye on these things, for the heads-up.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Scientific literacy by sex

The science module rolls on, looking this time at sexual differences in performance. Discussing sexual differences is not without its own risks, but it is far more culturally (and somewhat more politically) acceptable than discussing racial differences is.

Many sexual differences are so blatantly obvious that media obfuscation of them can't be taken seriously by most people. Anyone who has played coed sports or visited a gym in their lifetimes can intuit that men are faster and physically stronger than women, especially from the waist up. And unlike interracial mingling, which is an uncommon experience for large swaths of the American population, virtually everyone living outside of a convent interacts with both men and women on a daily basis. Although the feminist push to merge distinct expectations for men (bring home the bacon, man up, etc) and women (raise children, restrict sexual access, etc) together, cultural traditions and biological realities are tenacious little buggers.

Racial expectations, in contrast, don't differ much. Society, by and large, doesn't define success for white men differently than it defines success for black men--top male athletes, CEOs, BAMFs, and the like are celebrated in the West whatever their race, while men who are weak and uncoordinated, have low earning power, and are whiny or apprehensive, are correspondingly held in low esteem. Athleticism, earning power, and toughness are not factors women, irrespective of race, are judged nearly as acutely on--in contrast, excelling in any of these areas has potentially deleterious effects for women in the status market.

Two high profile individuals, familiar to those in the Steveosphere, illustrate the much greater toleration for discussion of sexual differences than of racial ones. After having suggested that a wider normal distribution of IQ scores for men relative to women accounts for the disproportionate number of men among top science and research institutions, Larry Summers went on to be appointed director of the National Economic Council by President Obama. James Watson was forced out of Cold Springs Harbor Laboratory, which he'd spent almost four decades building into a premier research and educational institution, for suggesting that sub-Saharan Africans have lower IQs than people of European descent, and consequently Western solutions to African problems are flawed from their beginnings.

The following table shows differences in responses, by sex (for whites only), to the science module of items deployed by the GSS during 2004 and 2006 (except for the last 3 questions, which were asked in 1993, 1994, and 2000). Some of the questions are inverted from the GSS for viewer ease so that in all cases, the higher the percentage, the more knowledgeable the group is. Black indicates relatively better performance; red indicates poorer performance:

Astrology is not scientific68.8%
The benefits of science exceed the harms74.0%
Understands the need for control groups in testing81.7%
The earth's core is very hot91.7%
Demonstrates a basic understanding of probability96.2%
Not all radioactivity is man-made82.2%
Father, not mother, determines a child's sex66.5%
Lasers are not made by condensing sound waves80.1%
Electrons are smaller than atoms74.0%
Antibiotics do not kill viruses53.6%
Continental drift has and continues to occur91.3%
Humans evolved from other animals57.2%
The earth revolves around the sun84.2%
It takes the earth one year to rotate around the sun80.9%
Respondent will eat genetically modified foods75.9%
The north pole is on a sheet of ice68.4%
Not all man-made chemicals cause cancer when eaten51.9%
Exposure to radioactivity doesn't necessarily lead to death74.7%
Exposure to pesticides doesn't necessarily cause cancer66.7%

The types of people who are into astrology are the same types of people who self-describe as "spiritual, but not religious". These types of people are women more often than not.

Women do better on questions dealing with nurturing and physical well-being, while men do better on everything else. Even where women on incorrect on this account, as in the cases of pesticides and or radiation exposure, they error on the side of caution. The thinking goes something like, "Even if it is more costly and less efficient to use pesticides or nuclear energy, you can't put a price on my health or the health of my children".

Just as you will rarely hear in the media that NAMs are more inclined towards creationism than whites are, the fact that women are more hostile towards evolution than men are is similarly squelched. That white men (and Asian men even more so) are the biggest bulwark against creationism being introduced into science education curricula around the country would give the NYT fits, so the newspaper ignores it.