Monday, September 30, 2013

Here come the Saxons

While there may be a mainstream publication that is more zealously in favor of open borders than the WSJ is, I'm unaware of its existence. So it's a relief to see a letters to the editor section that looks like this in response to Ellis island paeans by a renowned beltway insider like Michael Barone:

Hostility across the board, with the exception of the ethnic activist writing in an official capacity to express solidarity with the thrust of the piece while complaining that 19th century Chinese immigrants to the US were passed over in Barone's xenophilic celebration of settlers.

I say "relief" rather than "hopeful" or "encouraging" because despite popular opposition to continued unchecked immigration, it continues mostly unabated by anything more than economic conditions within the US and the sending countries.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Cartels vs. Insider Trading

Steve Sailer writes:
I'm interested in the topic of cartels and price-fixing, in large part because nobody else seems to be interested in them, which reflects a massive change from as recently as the 1970s.
As an early millennial, I remember hearing a bit about the topics in a college macroeconomics class, but that was about it. I do recall a seemingly inordinate amount of focus on insider trading. The latter is a sexier subject because of the soap opera intrigue and bigger-they-are, harder-they-fall story lines it presents media types with, but in terms of inefficiencies and dead weight losses to the larger economy, the former must be more substantial by orders of magnitude.

Google's Ngram viewer, which tracks incidents of words, terms, and phrases in books over time, reveals:

Steve nails it (surprise, surprise).

Anecdotally but germanely, I've come across two separate stories today on Mark Cuban's alleged insider trading a decade ago that is said to have netted him $750,000, but this is the first I've heard of an auto-parts price rigging operation with a price tag at least 1,000 times as large.

Friday, September 27, 2013

White New England Protestants, a liberal lot they are not

As a myopic provincial, the figure I conceptualize in my mind as politically representative of New Englanders is a theistically ambivalent liberal white Protestant. A SWPL, basically. N/A, proprietor of R/H/E Notes, who has set me straight on misconceptions in the past, may have done so again by showing that Romney enjoyed a comfortable edge among white Protestants in New England in last November's presidential election.

The GSS allows us to look back almost as far as LBJ and the Great Society to see how white New England Protestants have voted over the last forty years. To avoid regional skews (self-identified New England Republicans tending to be to the left of Republicans on the whole, etc), only presidential elections are considered. The following graph traces the percentages of white New England Protestants and the national popular electorate as a whole who voted for the Republican candidate over the last four decades of US presidential elections as though there were only two tickets to choose from:

Sample sizes are small, in the 50-100 range for each election, so some sampling error is surely present, but the trend is clear--most Protestant white New Englanders find their seats on the right side of the national assembly hall. Only in 1996 do they appear more Democratically-inclined than does the public, and then only marginally so. If they built the Cathedral, they haven't been its most pious votaries.

GSS variables used: PRES68, PRES72, PRES76, PRES80, PRES84, PRES88, PRES92, PRES96, PRES00, PRES04, PRES08, RELIG(1), RACE(1), REGION(1)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Denominational doubt and devotion

Agnostic's insights into hair color and heaven (lots of blondes in half-hearted denominations like Episcopalianism, relatively fewer among the more committed, like Baptists) got me wondering about certainty of belief among members of major religious institutions in the contemporary US. And it's not like I need even that flimsy a segue to report as much, because the results fit the blog's tagline quite well. The following table shows the percentages of members of each major religious denomination* who assert that "I know God exists and I have no doubts about it":

1. Mormon88.1
2. Jehovah's Witness87.9
3. Baptist82.6
4. Church of Christ80.4
5. Non-denominational Christian70.8
6. Muslim68.3
7. Methodist64.1
8. Catholic63.7
9. Lutheran62.0
Entire US population61.3
10. Presbyterian60.1
11. Episcopalian 52.6
12. Unitarian44.6
13. Jewish35.7
14. No religious affiliation21.3
15. Buddhist16.0

No big surprises. The only variations between my own predictions and the results are the marginal edge Mormons have over Jehovah's Witnesses (I guessed Witnesses would be the most zealously theistic), Muslims being further down the list than anticipated (I thought they'd be neck-and-neck with Mormons), and Jews coming in under even Unitarians. So obvious even an epigone could call it.

Neither my fiance nor I are religious, but my inclination is to give my kids some exposure to organized religion during their formative years. Her family is Episcopalian, mine Lutheran. If you're going to commit to something, take it seriously! Consequently, I think Lutheran is the way we'll go--it's at least in the respectable middle. Better yet, maybe we'll become Baptists. What we might lose in social connections we'll more than make up for by instilling some earnestness in our offspring.

* Yep, even though only 51 Muslim respondents fell within the relevant parameters, making them the smallest sample represented in the table, they're inclusion is mandatory. After all, Islam has always been part of America and American Muslims have made extraordinary contributions to our country!

GSS variables used: GOD(6), RELIG(2)(3)(4)(6)(9), DENOM(10-18)(20-28)(30-38)(40-48)(50)(70), OTHER(34-35)(58)(61,64)(80-82,95), YEAR(2000-2012)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Expendables are more interesting

Genetically, men are more expendable than women are. Historically for our species around 40% of men and 80% of women reproduced. Alphas ruled the past. But the biological world isn't static and significant evolutionary changes can occur in the geological blink of an eye. Today in the US the gap has narrowed substantially. The GSS shows that 81% of men and 86% of women who've made it through their reproductive careers have procreated. Genetic continuance is a lot more egalitarian than it used to be, especially for men. Fecundity is now a beta trait. Still, while we're not the same people who lived during ancient Roman times, let alone the same people as the first neolithic agriculturalists, we're not an alien species to them, either. Grok is relevant to us, even if he isn't exactly us.

If men are more expendable than women are, a presumable corollary is that, from a woman's perspective, characteristics of sexual attraction in men are more varied, more numerous, and less ubiquitous than the characteristics of sexual attraction in women are from the perspective of men. It takes a lot of time and effort for women to reproduce, and we need just about all of them to do it if the species is going to survive and prosper. Consequently, men overwhelmingly focus on signs of maximum fertility: Waist-to-hip ratio of 0.7, healthy and supple skin, perky breasts that appear to defy gravity, lack of current impregnation, etc. The rest is mostly marginal stuff.

We can afford to be less conservative when it comes to men's contributions, which works out well since male contributions are the stronger drivers of evolutionary changes. Women aren't primed to detect signs of fertility in men. They aren't any better at identifying said signs than (disinterested) men are, and it's presence is usually uncertain (though presumed to be there) unless the last stages of intimacy reveal otherwise. Yes, older and fatter guys are more likely to have issues, but even among these 'at risk' categories, most are capable. Pubescence is just about the only prerequisite--once that box is checked off, female attraction moves on to assess a whole host of other characteristics: Status (ie command of resources and of other people, not evincing a need of approval from other people whether they be male or female, etc), humor, height and general physical fitness, intelligence, kindness, self-confidence, etc, with different women putting varying amounts of emphases on different dimensions of a more variegated (and sometimes seemingly contradictory) suite of desirability markers. Men are more interesting, if not necessarily more infatuating.

Tell me if I'm missing something, merely stating the obvious, or being overly presumptive with an amateur's understanding of evolutionary psychology.

GSS variables used: CHILDS, SEX, AGE(40-65), YEAR(2000-2012)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Uptalk valve

The ultimate in uptalk...

"I know, right?"

Seemingly ubiquitous and horribly conspicuous among people under thirty, its putative purpose is to show affirmation and agreement with an observation or statement made by another person. Yet at the same time, it is also a request that the other person validate said affirmation and agreement.

Not only does it evince an inability to make an assertion of one's own, it even shows an alarming level of uncertainty in simply being able to wholly agree with what someone else says.

Forget leaders, this generation struggles even to be followers!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Certainty of God's existence is now a minority position among young whites

In an intriguing post (when are his anything but?) criticizing the New Atheists' evangelism, Jayman remarks:
This indicates that religious belief – or lack there of – is largely intractable. It is a futile effort to get people to give up religion en masse (or, for that matter, to get non-believers to believe). You may have some individual “successes”, largely because of changing the environmental context of people who already had the genetic potential for whatever belief you want to instill, but you’re not going to achieve broad change in the population.
While we're not looking at a phenomenon operating at anything close to the velocity in the rate of change we've seen in the western world with regards to homosexuality, atheism is on the rise. Heredity isn't the whole story. Theists have more children than non-believers do, and they start having them sooner. That broad pattern has characterized the US for at least the last century, yet rates of belief have gently but steadily declined over that period of time. Correspondingly, professed atheism continues ticking upwards, having more than doubled over the last couple of decades. More than a few atheist spawn are springing from the loins of the faithful.

In this battle between nature (which favors theists) and nurture (which favors atheists), the atheists can scarcely afford to forgo missionary work if they want to maintain and extend upon the gains they've made in the 'culture war'.

The GSS has queried respondents on their belief in God since 1988. The following graph shows the changes that have occurred over the last 25 years. To avoid racial and generational confounding, only whites under the age of 40 are considered:

While atheists and agnostics remain squarely in the minority, their combined representation has doubled over the period under consideration. Meanwhile, the 20-point advantage firm believers ("I know God really exists and I have no doubts about it") had over uncertain theists ("I don't believe in a personal God, but I do believe in a Higher Power of some kind", "I find myself believing in God some of the time, but not at others", and "While I have doubts, I feel that I do believe in God") has completely vanished.

Whether this is because of, in spite of, or uninfluenced by the rise of militant atheism is another question, as is the judgment of whether this is a boon or a bust for society in general, but, while belief in the supernatural might not be especially elastic, it isn't static, either.

GSS variables used: RACE(1), AGE(18-39), GOD(1)(2)(3-5)(6)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Per capita debt + unfunded pension liabilities by state

Randall Parker points to a CNBC article focused on unfunded pension liabilities at the state level that is packed with quite a bit of data on the financial condition of the fifty. I've been after something like this for several years.

There are multiple ways to view the numbers, but probably the most broadly informative involves adding together current state debt and unfunded pension liabilities going forward and then looking at these on a per capita basis. That is, determine the dollars each resident of a state is putatively on the hook for at present to pay what the state currently owes and will expect to additionally owe beyond its projected funds on hand. Of course, debt can be defaulted on and promises reneged--realistically, that, in tandem with some combination of currency devaluation, is my best guess for how this unsustainable situation eventually resolves itself, with varying levels of disruption at varying times in the future.

The following table shows per capita debt-plus-future-obligations ("debt" going forward), with the financially healthiest states at the top of the list and the least solvent states at the bottom:

1. South Dakota513
2. Tennessee847
3. Idaho969
4. Nebraska1,046
5. North Carolina1,138
6. Texas1,514
7. Wyoming1,982
8. Wisconsin1,982
9. Iowa2,296
10. Florida2,320
11. Missouri2,426
12. Georgia2,436
13. Vermont2,688
14. Arkansas2,695
15. Indiana2,707
16. North Dakota2,726
17. Maine2,756
18. Utah2,785
19. Arizona2,939
20. Washington2,961
21. Oklahoma3,237
22. Delaware3,265
23. South Carolina3,487
24. Michigan3,535
25. New York3,548
26. Minnesota3,606
27. Alabama3,746
28. New Hampshire3,762
29. Virginia4,035
30. Montana4,042
31. West Virginia4,223
32. Pennsylvania4,284
33. Kansas4,402
34. Oregon4,611
35. Nevada4,801
36. Maryland4,864
37. Colorado4,996
38. Louisiana5,205
39. California5,650
40. Mississippi5,882
41. Rhode Island5,901
42. New Mexico6,554
43. Ohio7,025
44. Kentucky7,322
45. Massachusetts7,455
46. New Jersey8,480
47. Illinois9,056
48. Hawaii9,878
49. Connecticut10,776
50. Alaska12,363

A visualization of the data with figures is available here, and is reproduced without interaction below:

No blatant trends jump out. Sparsely populated, mostly white flyover states in close proximity of Canada tend to be in the best shape, with the major exception of Alaska. Thank goodness for that petroleum dividend--suspend payouts for a decade or so and the problem is solved!

Illinois, the nation's most demographically representative state, similarly serves as one of the states that comes closest to serving as a microcosm for the nation as a whole, though even it comes up well short. While Illinois' residents are looking at a little north of $9,000 in debt peonage per, these state-level obligations pale in comparison to the debts and empty promises of the federal government, for which debt alone is currently running over $50,000 per person.

The article opens by attributing Detroit's municipal bankruptcy to "underfunded retirement promises to public sector workers". Tautologically so, but no doubt haters have made attributions of their own that are hatefully racist and racially hateful. The correlation between a state's Ice People (non-Hispanic white + Asian) population percentage and its debt is an inverse .21. It runs in the direction haters expect it to run in, though it's a tepid relationship.

How about something to Sean Hannity's taste? The correlation between debt and Obama's share of the 2012 presidential vote is a more robust .39. Blue states really do tend to be less fiscally responsible than red states even though blue states generally have more human capital to work with.

Speaking of human capital, the inverse correlation between debt and estimated state IQ is a statistically insignificant .06. The relationship between median age and debt is more feeble still, at .03. It might be nice to think that the states that have the most time to formulate viable solutions before the bills start coming due en masse are the ones who need that time the most, but alas it isn't so.

In addition to having, on average, modestly less intelligent populations than blue states, red states also tend to be fatter. In light (heh) of the above, then, it comes as little surprise that debt and obesity inversely correlate at .23. In this case, it looks like it's possible to have your cake and eat it, too--those public service health campaigns in Connecticut aren't doing the nutmeg state's bottom line any good!

Parenthetically, as a supporter of full Puerto Rican independence, I can now point to the fact that the island's per capita debt, at $12,487, is higher than that of any state in the union. While Puerto Ricans may not be as affluent as Americans, they're even better at spending money they don't have than we are. Really, what do they need us for?

Thursday, September 05, 2013

NAEP scores and demographics galore

Previously, this provincial took a look at the relationship between scholastic performance and student body racial composition for the two most populous counties on the Kansas side of the KCMO metro area. Let's do the same but this time at the national level, replacing individual schools with states and using data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

The y-axis shows the percentages of each state's public school student bodies that are either non-Hispanic white or Asian (Ice students). The x-axis shows the amalgamated math and reading section scores from the 8th grade NAEP, administered in 2011:

The correlation between Ice student body percentage and combined math and reading scores is a positive .64 (p = .0000003). That's a pretty strong relationship for the social sciences, though it is not as nearly perfectly rigorous as the two-county correlation of .93 is. That's hardly surprising--the differences between the white population of Massachusetts and the white population of West Virginia are more numerous and more substantial than are the differences between the white populations of Olathe and Overland Park.

The farther below the green linear trend line a state falls, the 'better' it is performing relative to what the racial composition of its student body alone would predict. Conversely, the higher above the trend line a state floats, the 'worse' it is doing relative to what race alone would predict. West Virginia, predictably, looks awful. Evidence of the "Texas miracle" is manifest as well. Older Okie license plates hearken back to a time when average was, well, average, rather than an affront to a thing's dignity and self esteem. They read: Oklahoma is Ok. Indeed it is. Broadly speaking, the South puts on sub-par performances while the mid-Atlantic looks pretty good. Not a shocker to people who've read Albion's Seed. Perhaps less predictably, however, is the fact that with the exception of the sterling state of Massachusetts, New England is rather underwhelming.

Racial classification--being the broad, fuzzy concept that it is--isn't definitive, of course. Other disparate considerations like population density, culture, socioeconomic status, geography, ethnicity--hell, maybe even teaching tactics and classroom size--influence testing results. If race was everything, the correlation would be a perfect 1.0. That said, race is definitely predictive, and consequently it matters quite a bit.

Tangentially, interpreting the entrails of this graph, allow me to audaciously play augur and predict that within a generation, Texas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and, most boldly, Mississippi, will all be irretrievably lost to the GOP and will have become reliably blue states--final nails in the coffin of a moribund Republican party, unless it is somehow able to win over upper Midwest states like Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania as compensation in the interim. I'm not putting my money on it.