Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Whoo-ee! Only a geek like me would be this jazzed about the 2006 General Social Survey data now being available online! Let's make the first dip into the data a fun one: which ethnic group in the United States is still stuck in the 15th century and thinks that the sun revolves around the earth? I'll limit the analysis to those groups with at least 50 respondents:

Percent who think the sun goes around the earth

American Indians 33.8
Blacks 24.5
Mexicans 24.1
Italians 21.8
Germans 21.8

USA 19.2

Irish 16.2
English/Welsh 12.6
Scots 4.0

An Indian might be good for helping you track game, but don't ask him for answers to the astronomy exam. And Galileo in his grave would rotate on his axis if he could see his paisanos numbers. And damn those Scots are smart. Makes me want to exaggerate the share of my ancestry.
Ingmar Bergman, RIP: In honor of Bergman's death, I watched The Seventh Seal again tonight. It's theme of death seemed fitting. I watched and admired most of his movies in my 20s, but have not seen any in many years. With all my additional experience and development into a pro-religion conservative, I had planned to mount an attack on the film, but now the desire is not there. The Seventh Seal is simply a masterpiece. The tragedy, terror, and beauty of life and death; the ache for meaning and God; seeing only emptiness. But look beyond the textbook stuff: this movie, of all movies, is often funny and light and hopeful. And it shows Biblical verse as the poetry that it is.

So thank you Mr. Bergman for making life a little more interesting, and I for one hope that someone more pleasant than a man in a black cloak was waiting for you.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Question: Can you name a female serial killer who murdered people because it gave her sexual pleasure? I just watched the movie "Mr. Brooks" where a man kills because he gets off on it, and he later learns that his daughter has inherited the same disorder. While I'm glad to see Hollywood showing the importance of genes for behavior (my students NEVER raise genes as a possible cause of crime), I couldn't buy the idea of a girl as a lust killer. I'll admit I'm no expert, but the few female serial killers we know of kill for money, or in the case of Aileen Wuornos, perhaps revenge as well.

Evidently, serial killers reveal the sex differences of normal people. Men are motivated by sex, and women are motivated by money and status. Men get status in order to get laid (Bill Clinton is a classic case) while women use sex to get status. I'm not absolutely sure this is true, but I say it in the hope that it will offend someone.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

It's hard to believe two bordering countries could be so different: I promised to look at the World Values Survey to see in which ways Mexico is a distinctive country, and to compare its profile with that of the United States. Following the same method as I did with the U.S., I list below those questions where Mexicans ranked in the top 3 or bottom three among samples of countries. More than 300 questions were asked:

Top 3

Believes life has no meaning
Would take political action by occupying a building or factory
Proud of country's scientific achievements
Country is run by a few big interests

Bottom 3

Currently married
Partner shares moral, social, political attitudes
Trusts TV newscasters
Trusts government
Claiming govenment benefits one is not entitled to is never justified
Avoiding fare on public transportation is never justified
Cheating on taxes is never justified
Buying stolen goods is never justified
Taking someone's car for a joyride is never justified
Using marijuana or hashish is never justified
Keeping money you found is never justified
Accepting a bribe is never justified
Failing to report hitting someone's car is never justified
Threatening workers who will not join a strike is never justified
Assassinations are never justified
Throwing litter in public is never justified
Drinking and driving is never justified

Okay, let's create a profile from this.

Profile of Mexico according to the World Values Survey

Willing to take violent political action (e.g, occupying buildings, assassinations)
Believes country is run by a few big interests
Weak on marriage
Distrusts government
Embraces corrupt, dishonest, reckless, and criminal behavior
Accepts littering

I don't know about you, but I'm not impressed. According to the World Values Survey, the United States and Mexico do not share a single distinctive value. In fact, they are polar opposites in at least two respects: Americans trust government, and husbands and wives are very similar to each other.

As Mexican immigrants continue to pour into the country, there is every reason to believe that America is going to become more corrupt, more antisocial, dirtier, more nihilistic, more politically extreme, and contrary to what the rosy Republicans tell us, Americans will have weaker, not stronger families.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

How close is the connection between lesbianism and feminism? You guys know how much I like to evaluate stereotypes. I looked at the GSS, and the only question with enough lesbian respondents is if you are in favor of abortion for any reason. Here is the breakdown:

Percent in favor of abortion on demand

Straight women 45.1
Bisexual women 73.5
Lesbians 57.6

So bisexuals have the highest number, probably because they are trendy types and actually have a chance of getting accidentally impregnated. (From a purely practical point of view, you'd expect straights to be most in favor of abortion on demand since they have the babies--this issue goes beyond practical considerations to the desire for a symbol of female autonomy). Anyway, while the lesbian estimate is high, about 40% of lesbians would not pass the basic litmus test for being feminist.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Race, Class, Crime IV: A reader asked about the relationship between race/family structure interaction and being arrested. Maybe the simplest way to look at how the impact of family structure varies by race is to list the percent ever arrested by the relevant combinations:

Percent ever arrested

Mother-only black males 32.4
Mother-only white males 23.4
Two-parent black males 24.9
Two-parent white males 17.0

Mother-only black females 11.1
Mother-only white females 5.7
Two-parent black females 4.4
Two-parent white females 3.7

Notice how white men from single parent families fare better than black men from two-parent homes. Research shows the same pattern for poverty: a famous study by Marvin Wolfgang showed that middle-income blacks were more criminal than low-income whites.

Not surprisingly, growing up in a two-parent home does help everyone, and according to these data, it helps black girls the most. Maybe dad is able to keep her away from bad boys (girls often become delinquent through the influence of boys).

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Race, Class, and Crime III: One possibility not considered in the previous two posts is that the correlation between race and crime is eliminated when family structure is controlled. I recoded the variable on family arrangements at age 16 to 1 for living with both parents and zero for everything else. Here are the multivariate results:

Logistic regression coefficients (t-statistic in parentheses)

Black .43 (3.29)
Mother's educ .00 (.15)
IQ -.02 (-.84)
Male 1.62 (15.25)
Age -.03 (-8.64)
Living with mom and dad at 16, -.48 (-4.28)

Number of valid cases 4,782

Family structure is related to being arrested, but it reduces the race-crime link only a little bit, according to GSS data.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Race, class, and crime II: Readers have wondered what the link between race and crime (discussed below) would be if additional factors were controlled. Someone mentioned using mother's education for social class, and another asked about IQ. Myself, I was concerned that age might change the results, so here are the logistic coefficients for race and several controls, with ever having been arrested as the dependent variable:

Logistic regression coefficient (t-statistic in parentheses)

Black .53 (4.17)
Mother's education .01 (.39)
IQ -.02 (-1.00)
Male 1.62 (15.36)
Age -.03 (-8.98)

Number of valid cases 4,831

As a rule of thumb, the t-statistic needs to be at least 2 for the relationship to be considered statistically significant. All thrown in together, neither mother's education or IQ exert an significant net effect on arrest. Using the t-value as an indicator of the magnitude of the relationships, the impact of race is not as strong as sex or age. But keep in mind something I wrote in the comments section of the previous post: there is research comparing self-reports with police reports that suggests that black males underreport being arrested. Evidently, they don't trust interviewers.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Does social class explain the race-crime link? I'm getting tired of these so-called experts who say that the relationship between race and street crime is explained by social class as if that has ever been demonstrated by research. It hasn't. I'm quite familiar with the data and the impact of race, especially on violence, is much stronger than class. The amazing dilemma is that very few studies have examined this question directly. Everyone repeats the mantra, but no one bothers to actually check it out. Well, the General Social Survey has a way of calling bullshit on all the squishy talk.

Using logistic regression, I examined data on 7,477 black and white Americans. The dependent variable is whether you have been arrested or not. When race alone is included in the model, its coefficient is .432, and it is significant at the .001 level. If conventional wisdom is correct, this coefficient should be reduced to zero when parents' class is included. I used father's completed years of school as a measure of this. When it is included in the model along with race, its coefficient is -.026 (significant at the .01 level). (Do not compare the coefficients since the measures are in different metrics, but trust me, race is more powerful).

So does race drop to zero with class thrown in? Absolutely not--in fact, it increases to .461. Class explains nothing.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Americanness according to the World Values Survey: Readers and I listed in an earlier post those values that we thought of as elements of "Americanness," but what do the data tell us? I looked at responses of representative samples of people from countries all around the globe to more than 300 hundred questions from the World Values Survey. Sample sizes range from around a dozen to about 50 countries, and I included the question in the list below if America ranked in either the top 3 or the bottom 3:

Top 3

Belongs to a religious organization
Belongs to an educational, cultural, art, or music organization
Belongs to an organization that does youth work
Belongs to a women's group
Does voluntary work for a religious organization
Does voluntary work for educational, cultural, art, or music organization
Does unpaid work for an environmental group
Does voluntary work for a group that does youth work
Does voluntary work for a women's group
Does voluntary work for organization concerned with health
Does voluntary work out of compassion for those in need
Does voluntary work to give something back

Felt proud in the past few weeks because of a compliment about behavior
Feel like you have control over how your life turns out
People are poor out of laziness and lack of will power
Proud of work
I work because I have to; I wouldn't if I didn't have to
The owners should run the business or appoint managers
If boss and I disagree, I should follow the boss

Believes in the soul
Believes in the devil
Believes in hell
Believes there is a personal God
Partner shares religious, moral, social, and sexual attitudes
Faithfulness is important for a successful marriage
It is important that children learn religious faith at home

Personal freedom is more important than equality
Has confidence in the political system
Proud of my country because of scientific achievements
Proud of country
Trusts neighboring countries

Bottom 3

Does voluntary work because of extra time and wanted to do something worthwhile
Does volunteer work to meet people

Doesn't want Jews for neighbors

When jobs are scarce, people should be forced to retire
When jobs are scare, preference should be given to own nationality over immigrants

A child need both a mother and a father
A woman needs a child to be fulfilled

Government ownership of business and industry should be increased
The state should take more responsibility to ensure that everyone is provided for
Success is a matter of luck and connections
If an unjust law were passed, I could do nothing about it

Okay, let's attempt a description of what makes the U.S. distinctive in terms values. Americans value volunteer work, and they do it out of compassion and because they want to return the favor done for them.

Americans feels thay have control over their lives, and they can change things. If someone is poor, it's his own fault.

Americans are very proud of their work, but strangely wouldn't do it if they didn't need to make a living. They believe in top-down business organization.

They identify with a religion, they are theists, and they believe religion is important for children.

The country is feminist.

Americans are very proud of their country; they believe in personal freedom over equality; they have faith in the political system; and they trust neighboring countries. They are tolerant and pro-immigration. They are anti-socialist.

Let's reduce that to a list like the one before:

Americanness based on the World Values Survey

belief in volunteerism
belief in free will
hierarchical at work

Keep in mind that, according to these data, the United States is somewhere in the middle on more than 80% of the questions asked. These questions cover just about anything you can think of on politics/government, religion, family, work--all the stuff sociologists are interested in.

The next step is to see if immigrants to the U.S. are likely to change these values. Any guesses which country I'll look at next?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Cowshit, YES! When you think about it, isn't it funny that so many people these days want their tomatoes grown in cowshit? When I was a boy, I used to drive a John Deere with a manure spreader on the back, up and down the fields that belonged to my cow milker boss. That spreader would throw the stuff everywhere, and I got a kick out of telling people that I threw cowshit for a living (kind of like a politician, come to think of it).

I can see the protesters with their signs: "Chemicals, NO! Cowshit, YES!"

Monday, July 09, 2007

"Americanness": On July 5th, Peter Beinhart and Jonah Goldberg debated immigration on their "What's Your Problem" web TV show, but I was interested in their raising the question of what is "Americanness." This seems to me to be a very important topic that people are starting to talking more about. Off the top of my head, I'd say a values list would include the following:

freedom (minimum limitations)
work ethic
belief in progress
belief in enlightened self-interest
cultural egalitarianism
nuclear over extended family

I'm focusing more on cultural than political values. Other ideas? Am I wrong on any of these? If I can get a list together, I can look at the data to see if the values are currently held, and I can look to see what kinds of immigrants support such values, and which do not.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

One part of America I don't love: In the past I could say that I love my country, but I can no longer do that. The best I can say is that I love parts of it. Let me give an example why.

I watched a documentary yesterday called "Gay Sex in the 70s." It recounted with graphic footage how homosexuals after Stonewall and before AIDS first hit in 1981 had sex like bonobo chimps, without the discretion. Now I get disgusted when I hear wild tales of casual heterosexual sex, but add to that a type of sex that makes your stomach turn, and add to that that guys are doing it in massive orgies in very public places (like Central Park or on an abandoned pier) and I must confess there are parts of America that I loathe. Someone in the documentary said this kind of sex has not been witnessed in the Western world since the days of Rome, and I'm not pleased that it was America that brought it back.

Now gay sex alone is just gross to me, but when it is combined with libertinism, irresponsibility, obsessiveness, audacity, and radical politics, I'm looking to join a group that advocates that homosexuals be banished to some island. And I don't mean Manhattan. I mean some place that is not America, because I don't want to be associated with it. One fortunate thing that has come out of the tragic AIDS epidemic is that gay men have been forced to grow up. They're less obnoxious now than in the 70s.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Thirty percent of really liberal people have a history of mental illness: The 4th makes me think of politics, and politics makes me think of liberals, and it occurs to me that I haven't taken a jab at them in months. Using General Social Survey data, I did a cross-tabulation of political orientation and a history of mental illness. Here are the results:

Percent having had a mental illness

Extremely liberal 30.0
Liberal 11.5
Slightly liberal 12.1
Moderate 4.7
Slightly conservative 7.8
Conservative 5.6
Extremely conservative 5.1

Hmmm. I seem to vaguely recall a whole body of scholarship claiming that conservatism is a symptom of mental illness. It looks like the "liberalism is a mental disorder" rants by Michael Savage are closer to the truth.

Liberal scholars neglected the obvious way to see if there was a connection between political orientation and mental problems: ask people their political orientation and ask them if they have had a mental problem.

One possible link is being neurotic: I can see the Woody Allen type on the couch, riddled with a long list of insecurities, anxieties, and feelings of guilt. Government serves as Dominatrix, pleasing masochistic tendencies through high taxation, affirmative action, and the like. Maybe mentally ill people just want their SSI checks increased. Whatever the case, psychiatric disorders are common among really liberal people.

But let me anticipate comments by liberals passing through: only liberals are sufficiently self-aware to admit they are sick.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Atheists are the most faithful to their spouses? In a number of previous posts, I showed that atheists and confident believers have the best behavior, while the uncertain fare the worst. (There have been one or two exceptions.) Cheating on your spouse shows the same pattern. The numbers below are the percent of married people who cheated on their partner in the past year, according to General Social Survey data:

Percent cheating on spouse in past year by belief in God:

Do not believe 2.5
No way to find out 4.0
Some higher power 3.6
Sometimes believe 4.0
Believes but has doubts 3.9
Knows 3.1

Keep in mind that these differences are small, but these results conform to the emerging picture that people with confident beliefs, whatever they are, act in more constructive ways. Data from the GSS are demonstrating that atheists, as a group, are not maladjusted like religious folks believe.

Are gun owners mentally ill?

  Some anti-gun people think owning a gun is a sign of some kind of mental abnormality. According to General Social Survey data, gun owners ...