Monday, November 28, 2011

The protocols of religious Jewish advocacy groups in the US

In a recent report on religious advocacy groups in the US, Pew lists the top 40 organizations by advocacy expenditures and policy makers and other government agencies and officials. Unsurprisingly, AIPAC comes in at number one.

The top 40 groups account for 85% of all dollars spent by religious groups for the purpose of influence peddling. Because I tend to use the term "neocon" disparagingly, it follows that I must harbor an envious hatred of Jews and consequently am wondering what percentage of the $330 million spent came out of the coffers of explicitly Jewish advocacy groups!

As it turns out, just over one-third (34.1%) of it. For constituting less than 2% of the nation's total population, with a constituency that is notoriously secular to boot, it would sure seem that 'religious' Jewish groups carry a lot of sway!

And yes, I realize I'm not the first person to make this observation. To those with that reaction, I kindly direct you to the blog's header.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Which division is the NFL's best?

The NFC North is arguably (in sports, what's inarguable, after all?) the best division in the NFL this year. There's a good chance both of the conference's wild card teams will come from it if Detroit is able to steal a big win against the Saints next week and Hanie is able to make things happen the way Cutler does. If the Packers are able to protect Rodgers against the Giant's front four in East Rutherford, it's not difficult to see Green Bay going 19-0. The 49ers have a soft enough schedule to conceivably finish the regular season 14-2, which will be enough to keep the Pack from making preseason games out of their last couple (although the Bears and especially the Lions could both benefit if the 49ers falter down the stretch--before one of them falls to their division foe in the divisional round and maybe the other in the conference championship).

For the NFC North to be so dominant feels unusual. As someone who learned the game while living in Dallas during the early and mid-nineties, I've seen "my" team (which I begrudgingly have to share with the rest of America!) take some tough breaks due to the strength of their division rivals over the years. Every division has its dog except for the two Easts. Talking to a friend last night who lives in the DC area, he suggested what I deem the Redskins (and Bills) "lost decade" was in large part due to the same (though it's hard not to argue that Dan Snyder's capriciousness deserves a lot of blame, too).

To give some relevance to the above, let's use it as a segue into the purpose of the post--creating an empirically determined ranking of the eight NFL divisions since the league tidily realigned itself in 2002 up through the end of last year. The following table shows regular season win percentage among the four teams in each respective division, after backing out all divisional play and excluding the handful of ties that have occurred over those nine seasons:

Win %
1. AFC South
2. NFC East
3. AFC East
4. NFC South
5. AFC North
6. AFC West
7. NFC North
8. NFC West

No surprises in the way the rankings shake out, except perhaps for how far down the list this year's top division falls and that the AFC South rather than the AFC East is king of the hill. Detroit has just been really, really bad for a really long time (they were 37-107 from 2002 to 2010). That, and to a lesser extent the mediocrity of the Vikings, is why. And the Colts have been as stellar as the Lions have been terrible over the same period of time. It's not absurdly hyperbolic to say that Peyton Manning, almost single-handedly, lifted the division to the top. Without him, we're witnessing the division come crashing down. But hey, at least the Texans will finally get that elusive playoff berth and rid the league of its last postseason virgin.

The NFC West's showing is awful. That the Seahawks won it last year despite a losing record typifies what has been unending ugliness since Kurt Warner, Tory Holt, and Marshall Faulk (remember the "greatest show on turf"?) were at their best.

It's worth noting that the geographic dominance of the SEC that shows up in college football (those guys are blacker faster!) also exists to a noticeable extent in the NFL. The South and East divisions are better than the North and West divisions are in both conferences (the AFC North is somewhat exceptional, with two regularly good and two regularly not-so-good teams). I don't follow college football closely enough to have a sense of how much of a role, if any, geographic proximity to where they played in college ends up influencing where the bulk of new professional players sign, though, so maybe this is just coincidental.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

AE on facebook

To avoid privacy issues and still maintain an effortless archival system, I've created an Audacious Epigone facebook account. When I initially began using facebook for blog archiving, the social network still required a unique university email address to be tied to each account to keep it from becoming a myspace where spam accounts proliferated. That was sufficient (and effortless), but awhile back, the privacy settings that had kept the archives private were altered in such a way that it was impossible to continue with that method. Now that it is open to anyone to create as many accounts as they'd like to, this is the obvious solution. It's also another feed option for those who are interested in as much.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

More on the demographics of mental health

In the previous post, we looked at the likelihood to have received treatment for a mental health problem by political orientation based on GSS data. It turns out that self-described political liberals are twice as likely to have been treated for mental health issues as conservatives are, with moderates falling in between*. This spurred several intriguing comments that I'll turn to the GSS again to address.

Firstly, the inevitable racial issue. An anonymous commenter writes:
This generalization is too broad, since I'm sure Caucasian Liberals will have superb mental health compared to Caucasian Conservatives. Since there's studies that shows that those in higher Academia has the least stress and hence the best health.
It turns out he was being tongue-in-cheek, and whites are more prone to experience mental health issues than non-whites are. The percentages who have been treated for mental health problems, by race (n = 1,412):


As blacks are only slightly more likely to identify as liberal than they are as conservative, despite consistently voting Democratic by overwhelming margins, it's conceivable that race obfuscates the association between liberalism and mental health issues. In actuality, however, the relatively good mental health of non-whites attenuates political differences that are even more stark when only whites are considered (n = 1,033):

Whites only

While only 1 in 10 white conservatives have been treated for mental health problems, nearly one-quarter of white liberals have. I am not qualified to explain why this is the case, but perhaps God has something to say about it. In clearing up the confusion about his first comment, the anonymous commenter later writes:
Conservatives should be mentally healthier, because they tend to be more religious, hence making it easier for regulation of mental health.

Liberals worry so much that they actually care about people they don't even know.
Whether or not liberals have more mental issues to deal with because they want to put the weight of the world on their own shoulders, God's most ardent followers tend to come from the conservative ranks, and one of the rewards they receive in return is better mental health. To avoid racial confounding, only whites are included (n = 1,064):

Worship frequency
Weekly or more
More than once a month
At least once a year
Less than once a year

Each classification is exclusive, so the second should actually read "More than once a month but less than weekly or more", etc.

What about Jews? TAE is, loosely defined, part of the alternative right blogosphere, so the question has to be asked! Jews, after all, are as a group more leftist than white Democrats are. Again, God's hand is shown! Not just any god, but our God, an awesome God who reigns from heaven above (n = 1,405):


Unfortunately, the GSS is understandably unable to track ethnic Jewishness among survey participants. Instead, we're looking at Judaism by way of self-described religious affiliation. As Jews are considerably more likely than other Americans to be irreligious, there is presumably a sizable contingent of ethnic Jews in the "none" category.

Another trait that requires attention is intelligence. Writes Ed Tom Kowalsky:
[There is a] need to control for IQ inasmuch as I suspect mental illness tracks with intelligence.
Disappointingly, the best GSS proxy for IQ, Wordsum score, is not cross-referenced with the mental health question so controlling for it is a difficult thing to do. Educational attainment is of course correlated with intelligence, but the relationship is far from perfect. Instead of moving out several degrees by using education to estimate wordsum performance to estimate IQ scores, let's just consider differences in rates of mental health issues by educational attainment, again among whites alone to avoid problems with racial confounding (n = 1,067):

Educational attainment
Less than high school
High school graduate
Some college
Bachelor's degree
Post-secondary education

As was the case with worship attendance, each classification is exclusive, so the second should actually read "High school graduate but no college", etc.

While conservatives are, on average, slightly more intelligent than liberals are, white liberals have an edge over white conservatives, so the association between greater intelligence and more mental health problems might go a little way in explaining why liberals have poorer mental health than conservatives do (though for what my uninformed opinion is worth, I suspect differences in personality traits other than intelligence are far more determinative).

Silly girl contemplates the relationship between criminality, political orientation, and mental health:
I wonder whether folks who have ever been arrested or incarcerated are more likely to be liberal.

I would say that being anti social enough to end up in prison is a pretty good indicator of mental issues.
As Jokah points out, small sample size is a huge (heh) issue here, as the mental health question was only posed in one year of the survey, and the number of people who spend time in prison is in the middle single-digits range. This GSS well is dry.

For what it's worth, in Freedonomics (p182-184), John Lott--who it should be noted is clearly unsympathetic to the Democratic party--reviews multiple studies showing that to the extent that they express political preferences, felons tend to vote even more heavily Democratic than their demographic statistics (which are very Democratic) would predict.

Since we're running the conventional demographic gamut, let's look at marriage and children. To give respondents a chance to have tied the knot if their plans include as much, those under the age of 30 are excluded, while again only whites are considered (n = 926):

Marital status

And finally, kids. We're looking at the number white adults aged 30 and older have had (n = 927):


So, mental health issues are most commonly experienced among well-educated, unmarried, irreligious white liberals who don't procreate (or do the SWPL thing and have one kid after both parents are firmly established in their professional careers). Mental health problems are progressive, baby!

GSS variables used: MHTRTSLF, RACECEN1(1)(2)(4-10)(15-16), MARITAL(1)(2-5), EDUC(0-11)(12)(13-15)(16-17)(18-20), CHILDS(0)(1)(2-8), POLVIEWS(1-3)(4)(5-7), ATTEND(0-1)(2-4)(5-6)(7-8), RELIGION

* As previously noted, the GSS item being utilized here asked respondents if they had ever received treatment for a mental health problem. That's not exactly the same as asking whether or not they had ever suffered from mental health issues, but it's pretty close.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Conservatives are mentally healthier than liberals

Ed Tom Kowalsky asks:
I've often wondered if mental illness is more common among those who self identify as liberal than those who self identify as conservative. I suspect the answer is a resounding "yes," but I don't know if there is solid evidence justifying my suspicion.
I'm not familiar with the relevant science, but a bit of googling turns up some survey results showing that Republicans are more likely than Democrats are to describe themselves as being in good mental health. Another commenter, JOhn, asserts that liberalism and neuroticism are correlated. From what I'm able to gather, the evidence for that is pretty mixed, but again, I'm really not qualified to speak on the subject.

The GSS is another natural place to turn to in seeking an answer, however, and I am qualified enough to report what its data show! In 2006, it asked respondents if they had ever received treatment for a mental health problem. That's not exactly the same as asking whether or not they had ever suffered from mental health issues--I'd guess, ceteris paribus, liberals are more likely than conservatives are to seek out medical treatment for perceived problems that cover all aspects of personal health, whether they be physical, emotional, or psychological--but it's pretty close.

The question is binary, with respondents simply answering "yes" or "no". The following table shows the percentages of people who report having received treatment for a mental health problem at some point in their lives by political orientation (n = 1,356):


So the GSS provides Ed with at least some evidence that his suspicion is correct.

GSS variables used: MHTRTSLF, POLVIEWS(1-3)(4)(5-7)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Old Republican white men know what's going on in the world

Over the last four years, I've tracked the results of Pew's "News IQ" quizzes that are periodically administered to a random sample of around 1,000 Americans. A couple of remarkably consistent results are how men are better informed than women are and that the average American is far less informed than readers of this and similar blogs are.

Unfortunately, as honest as Pew is when it comes to the reports it commissions, politically correct acts of omission are far more common than they should be, if imparting honest information to its readers is truly Pew's primary motivation. Consequently, these quizzes never provide demographic data by race or ethnicity, the categories being limited to sex, age range, educational attainment, and partisan affiliation.

In the official report accompanying the latest survey results released a few days ago, the sex category has been scrubbed as well. When something becomes as depressingly mundane as the fact that men are better informed on current events than women are, it's past time to stop talking about it.

However, sex differences are still available at the political quiz index page that is accessible once a user has completed the quiz. Same old, same old, of course--men averaged 8.5 correct answers, while women answered 6.8 questions correctly on average. Even on the item asking quiz takers to identify a picture of Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor, men outperformed women, although only by a 6 point margin, the narrowest of the 13 questions. The widest sex gap, of 21 points, was on the question about the number of US military fatalities that have occurred in Afghanistan. It involves war, Asia, and numbers--so no surprise there.

The second consistency remains in clear view, however. Take a minute to complete the quiz yourself. Per usual, I scored a perfect 13 of 13 because for someone who follows the news, it's not a difficult thing to do. Yet the average American missed 5 or 6 of them. Most people simply don't pay much attention to what takes place outside of their own personal lives beyond some degree of exposure to various forms of popular entertainment.

As those things are blase, let's consider another aspect of the results that inexplicably don't ever garner media attention, even though they are a lot less threatening to the egalitarian zeitgeist than racial or sex disparities are, since they involve propositional categories. That is, they are not fixed, so with more education and greater awareness, this gap can be closed! The aspect at issue here is partisan affiliation (see p5). On every question posed (including the one asking participants to identify Hillary Clinton by photo that should presumably be skewed in the Democrats' favor), Republicans outscored Democrats, by double-digit margins on a majority of them.

Race presumably accounts for much of the Republican advantage, which is why it would be more interesting to see a partisan breakdown among whites alone. As perverse as it is, in this facet of the status-mongering game, conservatives have a vested interest in ignoring HBD. Because NAMs identify by overwhelming margins more with the Democratic party more than they do with the GOP, measures of knowledge, behavior, and life outcomes inevitably cast Republicans in a better light than they do Democrats.

Finally, take a gander at the results by age range (p6). The online version of the quiz only includes 13 of the 19 items administered in the official survey, but of the full 19, younger people outscored their elders on only two: The ability to correctly identify the crescent star as being associated with Islam and the capability to point out Brazil on a map of South America. In our ever diversifying future, though, these two items are of greater importance than the rest, like who the secretary of state is, what percentage of Americans are unemployed, or where the DJIA is!

* Which, in my case, simply consists of listening to the top of the hour news updates on one of the local AM talk stations or NPR at some point during the day--that limited amount of effort is sufficient to ace these quizzes.

Sayonara sucker

A couple of months ago, I experienced a personal first--a wart on the inside of my right pinky finger. Never having had to deal with such a hideous thing before, I just ignored it for several weeks. It was small and only noticeable at all when my fingers were spread out. I'd heard that the solution involved freezing it off, which isn't something I figured I'd be able to do on my own, and it wasn't something I was going to bring to the attention of anyone else if I could help it.

And help it I did! I'm happy to report that two weeks ago I placed the wart between the fingernails of my left index finger and thumb, pinched as hard as I could, and tore the sucker right off. It bled profusely for several minutes, but now it's all healed up and there is no outward remnant in the form of scar tissue or the like to show where it had been. I was worried it might grow back, but so far not even the slightest bump is detectable.

AE's doing his part to keep cosmetic health care costs in check!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Ness misses home

When I was growing up, my family's moves around the country paralleled my dad's climb up the corporate ladder. Homesickness became an all-too-familiar status ailment of my childhood. I'd spend the first several months in a new state yearning to be back in the one from which we'd just come, and spend the last several months there dreading the next move to to yet another place. Deracinate, re-root, repeat. So I felt a pang of sadness in realizing how accurate Steve Sailer's description of homesickness is in his review of a book on the subject:
Homesickness sounds like the least important topic imaginable. In modern America, a longing for the familiar places and people we are separated from is routinely castigated as an immature character flaw barely tolerable in children at summer camp, much less in adults.
It's not something I'd previously thought about at a societal level before, at least not explicitly. But my previous experiences with uprooting and how acute the pain of relocation can be have certainly affected my adult life. I've turned down promotional opportunities that would mean relocating outside the Kansas City metro area on multiple occasions with, I suspect, far less regret than most of my peers in a similar situation would have. Whether that's from moving frequently when I was younger or from being more naturally inclined towards my old stomping grounds than others are isn't something I can definitively answer, and it's probably some combination of both. But my point is, I get homesickness.

Anyway, there is a larger purpose to this post than mere self-indulgence. In the review, Steve writes:
Human emotions probably don't change much over time, but the words we use to describe them certainly cycle, whipped by fads and social forces. For example, Matt cites a pair of contemporary psychiatrists who note that many of their unhappy patients come to them having already self-diagnosed themselves as "depressed"—a respectable 21st Century malady for which pharmaceutical firms invent and market expensive pills—"but were in fact lonely."
And he quotes the book's author, Susan J. Matt:
"[As] the longtime companion and sometime synonym of homesickness, [nostalgia] has become a less troublesome emotion, signifying a diffuse, unthreatening, and painless longing for the past. ... As an emotion, nostalgia has come to be widely celebrated, perhaps because it is now seen as harmless. Whereas the homesick may believe they can return home, the nostalgic know that moving backwards in time is impossible."
I wondered if the history of the terms "homesick" and "nostalgic" in the American library would reflect this. As the former became tainted as a sign of puerility and the latter something goofily celebrated by SWPLs, we'd expect a decrease and an increase in literary frequencies, respectively. Well, that's exactly what we get (nostalgic, homesick):

The transition began after WWI and was proceeding in earnest by the end of WWII. Today, the term "nostalgic" is three times as common as the term "homesick" is. Go forth and be fruitful, I guess.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Taxes paid and income made in the US, by quintile

Recently, I created a boring graph tracing the federal tax burden over a 15 year period by income quintile. The story has been and will likely continue to be steady as she goes. There are no intended polemical points in that post or in this one--they're just outgrowths of my ignorance and curiosity.

The following table shows the share of federal tax burden as a percentage of total money income (defined here, a couple of pages down) by quintile in 2010. The bottom quintile, for example, pays 1.1% of all federal taxes and 'earns' 3.3% of total income, for a tax-share-as-a-percentage-of-income-share of 33.3%:


Tax planning aside, the federal income tax is still clearly an extremely progressive one in absolute monetary terms. For it to be regressive, the ordering by income quintile would have to be exactly reversed, which would require a seismic shifting in the current tax code that is almost unimaginable. Even a truly "flat tax", where tax burdens and income shares are perfectly aligned, is contemporarily unthinkable.

Friday, November 04, 2011


... now shows human biodiversity as the first definition at Urban Dictionary. Nice work again, everyone.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

White, black, and Hispanic birth rates by state

In the comments of a previous post, I wondered to what extent intra-state birth rates correlated across racial groups. That is, in states where white fertility is high, are black and Hispanic fertility rates also high?

I am unable to find birth rates broken down by race at the state level, but the Kaiser Family Foundation (which maintains a fantastic, data-rich website) does provide live births by race at the state level with data as recent as 2008 and accompanying data from 2009 on population by race at the state level. From that, I was able to compute birth rates per 1,000 people for whites, blacks, and Hispanics in each state*. For the handful of states with insufficient data on black population sizes, the US Census quick facts page is used as a supplemental.

Turns out the correlations are pretty weak: White and black birth rates correlate at a statistically insignificant .14, white and Hispanic birth rates at .27, and black and Hispanic birth rates at a statistically insignificant (.03).

White birth rates (map here) are highest in the Rocky Mountain states and the Midwest, middling in the South, and lowest on the coasts. The one seeming outlier is Hawaii, which shows the highest white fertility rate of any state in the country. Hawaii's population is not young (although I'm not able to find age broken down by race, and a majority of Hawaii's population is Asian or Pacific Islander), so I'm not sure if this is the result of a data transcription error, or if the relatively large percentage of Hawaii's whites who are in the military has something to do with it. Hawaii's overall birth rate is tied for ninth highest in the nation, and its black and Hispanic birth rates are also correspondingly high, so it might be accurate. Far less surprisingly, Mormon Utah comes in at #2.

Black birth rates (map here) are highest in Upper Midwestern states where blacks receive large welfare distributions relative to whites compared to black/white welfare recipient rates in other states. I'm bemused by Maine's high rate, only being able to point out that numbering fewer than 14,000, the black population there is extremely small. The South, where the largest share of the country's black population is concentrated, in contrast, has relatively lower and more middling rates, while birth rates for blacks are lowest in Rocky Mountain states and the Southwest.

Hispanic birth rates (map here) are probably the least reliable and also the least geographically consistent due to states with small Hispanic populations not accurately accounting for the sizes of their respective illegal residents, which may partially explain why rates show up as being astronomical in South Carolina. In contrast, states with large Hispanic populations--most notably the border states--have relatively low fertility rates. It should be noted, though, that Hispanic birth rates are generally considerably higher than black and especially white birth rates across the board. Nationwide, the Hispanic birth rate is nearly double the white birth rate.

* The rates are a bit lower than I'd expect based on national figures across the board (about 80% of states come in with a birth rate among whites that is lower than the national average), for reasons I'm not exactly sure of. Take the maps in more for comparative purposes than for exacting fertility rate measurements by race and state.