Monday, October 29, 2012

Plurality of Americans see the Arab Spring as bad for the US

As well aware of public sentiment as I like to think I am, I'm not impervious to the occasional surprise, this one of the pleasant variety. The following graphic comes from Pew Research's recent report on how Americans feel about our involvement in the Middle East and North Africa generally and the 'Arab Spring' in particular:

Quite encouraging. Americans were instinctively skeptical of the uprisings as the numbers from the beginning as the March/April 2011 show--pluralities thought they would "not lead to lasting improvements" and would "be bad for the United States" and an outright majority, in defiance of neocons and the interventionist left, expressed a preference for stable governments over democratically formed ones in the Arab world. Since then, these "America First" positions have only become firmer.

Further, the Republican electorate appears to have lost some of the enthusiasm for preaching messianic democracy with the aim of remaking the rest of the world in our own image over the last decade:

 That shouldn't be oversold, though:

The GOP has long way to go before it's the party of Rand Paul, but the country is inching in his direction. I'll gladly take evidence that the ratchet doesn't have to inexorably move in just one direction all the time where I can get it.

Welcome news as this may be, however, it's disheartening that most Americans don't have a presidential candidate from either of the major parties who shares their sentiments on our nation's relations with Muslim countries.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Penis size and infant mortality

As a sort of tribute to the recently deceased Philippe Rushton, let's take a look at the data on presented by Rushton's colleague Richard Lynn in the journal Personality and Individual Differences on average penis size and how that relates to the late professor's embrace of E. O. Wilson's r/K selection theory applied to humans (a framework whose time seems to have come and gone).

Lynn's data collection methods and subsequent transcribing of said data have come in for a fair share of criticism throughout the duration of his academic career, and his data on self-reported penis size--apparently entirely lacking in the way of any controls--aren't devoid of it. But hey, he's working in the inherently incurious and obfuscating environment that is contemporary academia. Don't make the good the enemy of the perfect.

Being the autistic nerdling that I am, I located the full data set rather than just information on the few select countries that showed up in all the write ups about the research when it was announced a month or so ago. Correlating those numbers on average erect male penis size from 119 participating countries with the most recent data on infant mortality rates yields a whopping r-value of .11, p = .23 (that is, the results are not statistically significant).

In other words, there is essentially no relationship between penis size and a population's spot on the r/K continuum, or at least no evidence of such from the data Lynn presents.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Intelligence and fertility by class, over time

Channeling Charles MurrayRandall Parker comments on the increasing social stratification that has come to define the contemporary Western world:
This isn't the 1950s when people could expect to pair up with a husband or wife and get a factory job that put them at similar status level to a large portion of the total population. We've got a much wider spread of classes and far more cognitive sorting. The poor are dumber on average and the upper classes are smarter on average. The classes have less in common: less shared understanding, fewer shared values, fewer shared experiences with cultural products such as TV and radio shows.
On the one hand, inequality has been public enemy number one for multiple generations now. On the other hand, one major consequence of a shrinking world is that cognitive sorting keeps getting easier to do and is continually approaching ubiquity in practice.

I wondered what insights the GSS might offer. The survey has a question for which respondents are asked which of four social classes they feel they belong to--lower, working, middle, or upper. The following graph shows mean wordsum scores by self-identified class membership over time. The three variables have not been cross-referenced for every year the survey has been conducted (not sure why, as each has independently been included since its inception, but it is what it is), which is why the years displayed jump around as they do. To avoid issues of English language fluency, the foreign-born are excluded:

Steady as she goes. Of course, this doesn't necessarily speak to potential changes in material or cultural class differences over the last several decades per se, but the cognitive sorting by class isn't blatantly obvious, at least not by this measure.

And because detecting dysgenic trends is a hobby horse here, the mean number of children by class over time:

Sample sizes are smaller for the lower and upper classes (self-assessment rates split about 5%-45%-45%-5%) so their respective lines bounce around more, but the pattern over time is pretty consistent--higher class means somewhat lower (and later) fertility, and people across the social spectrum are having fewer children today than their parents had.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Gypped by Japan

As an addendum to Half Sigma's paean to Japan, a reason I'm a favorably inclined comes from the WVS. The fifth and most recent wave includes a question querying respondents on how they feel about their respective countries providing foreign aid. Specifics aren't given, and the amount is simply .1% of each respective country's "national income" (stated on a per capita basis so as not to skew the results towards a larger population leading to less putative generosity), so it's basically a measure of magnanimity towards the rest of the world at the expense of the homeland's fiscal health. The following table ranks countries in which the question was asked (the affluent ones plus, oddly, Thailand) by what I'll call a sucker index, computed by simply taking the percentage of people who think that defined amount is "too low" and subtracting from it the percentage who deem it "too high":

CountrySucker score
1) Andorra70.5
2) Switzerland45.9
3) Spain45.5
4) Sweden43.6
5) Norway38.3
6) Australia31.0
7) Finland29.5
8) Canada27.4
9) Germany20.6
10) Thailand9.9
11) United States8.5
12) Japan(1.6)

Germany's nicer than we are and they still get called Nazis by Greeks with their hands out. Time for us to start listening to Rand Paul and for the West to start sharing more of the Japanese sentiment.

WVS variables used: V175

Thursday, October 11, 2012

SWPL state, prole state

As an interesting aside to the previous post, there are only two states where those making at least six figures voted more heavily for Obama than those earning five figures or less did. They are the SWPL states of Oregon and Colorado. Portland, of course, is often noted for its distinction as the US' most SWPL city. And I've been to Estes Park.

Taking the Democratic-Republican margin among high income earners and comparing it to the same margin among low income earners is probably a fairly decent way of assessing state-level SWPLness, actually. I'm sure there are more direct measures that would be superior to that approach, however.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

2008 Presidential electoral map, $100k+ only

One of my more instructive (and favorite, personally) posts shows hypothetical electoral maps from the 2008 presidential election when varying selected demographic restrictions are introduced. I'll do the same this November and as a refresher for doing so, here is a look at how things would've shaken out if only those from households earning at least six figures had been eligible to vote:

In this scenario, McCain wins 298-240. In reality, of course, Obama crushed McCain, 365-173.

Half Sigma has on several occasions spoken of how the wealthy are increasingly turning away from the GOP and towards the Democratic party, repelled by the former's increasing Palinism. That sounds a bit dated nearly four years later, with the ascension of the tea party movement, the transformation of the Obama image from a SWPL into a racialist redistributor, the relegation of the former Alaska governor to bit segments on Fox News, and the elevation of a sharp, sober, successful, socially moderate guy to the top of the Republican ticket, but I'd argue that he oversold it at the time as well, as the map above illustrates.

Discounted gift cards

From time to time, I receive eBay 10% off purchases under $100 due to some disruption in an auction on an item I'm bidding on. I'm not that active a member, probably using the site a couple of times a month on average, yet this has still occurred on multiple occasions. The coupons' expiration dates are just a few weeks out, so I usually don't have anything to spend them on. What to do in this situation? Buy a gift card to a retailer like WalMart or Whole Foods. These are readily available at face value with free shipping. Save yourself $10 in 60 seconds.