Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Can men and women just be friends?

Males N = 547

Females = 593

My grandmother told me when I was a kid that men and women can't just be friends. Like so many, I suffered from the idealism of youth and didn't want to believe her. Now, I think that it's pretty much true, unless the friends are so hideous, they couldn't imagine sleeping together.

But let's look at the General Social Survey to see how often we see cross-gender best friends. The top graph shows what male respondents had to say about who their best friend is--other than their current partner. I've also broken it down in terms of marital status. I've done the same thing for women in the lower graph.

For men, having a girl as a best friend is quite rare for married men and never married men (8.5% and 10.4%, respectively) but it's close to 20% for separated, divorced, and widowed guys. Younger guys have more (male) friends than older guys, which might explain the low number of female best friends among the never-married. Older men who have been through a breakup or the death of a spouse probably don't have a group of pals anymore and so are more likely to make a close friendship with a women.

Still, I'm a bit skeptical of at least some of these friendships--I imagine one or both friends have thoughts of something more, but don't report it because it hasn't developed that far yet. And of course, cross-sex friendships are rare among married guys. What wife with any sense would let her husband get socially intimate with another woman?

It's the same for married women: only 3.1% have a man as a best friend. Hmm, isn't that estimate also about the same as the number of gay men in the population? It's doubtful that a husband would allow any other type of close male friend. It's also rare for widowed women: perhaps that is due to the fact that men are comparatively scarce among older people. It's a little more common among separated and divorced women. Fourteen percent of never-married girls have a male best-friend. Once again, I wonder if some of these are possible future relationships or one-sided romantic/sexual ones.

Basically, I think Grandma was right.

Obama's stealth socialism: Here's a great piece by Business Investor's Daily on Obama's stealth socialism, via one of Sailer's readers. Given the choice of voting for this character or a root canal, I'd ask them to pull some wisdom teeth while they're at it.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Read your newspaper with a suspicious eye: Marginal Revolution shows three things about this week's MSM story that a recent major study proves that boys are not better at math than girls (and thus that Larry Summers was wrong): 1) the study actually shows greater variance in males (i.e., the means are the same, but more guys are really bad and really good) which goes a long way to explain why so many math experts are men; 2) that journalists don't get these kinds of stories right because they're stupid, gullible, and biased; and 3) that researchers facilitate the misinformation. (Call me cynical, but when I read in the newspaper that the two researchers quoted were women, I said, "Hmmm" to myself.)

Twelve percent of feminists do other women

What percent of feminists are lesbian or bisexual? (Well, duh, I just gave it away in the title). The General Social Survey asked 8,275 women to put themselves on a political continuum ranging from extremely conservative to extremely liberal. The latter group I will label feminists. Women were also asked the gender of the people the had sex with in the past 12 months.

The graphs above shows that 12% of extremely liberal females do other women (along the x-axis from left to right, it goes from extremely liberal to extremely conservative). No other political category has nearly as many lesbians. Among extreme conservatives, for example, only two percent of women dig other chicks.

But hey, don't claim that us rightwingers don't have any Rosies in our ranks. We have a few. Mess with us, and I'll have one of them kick your ass.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

One tiny complaint about The Dark Knight: The Dark Knight was a heck of a movie--at least in some ways--but someone has got to state the obvious. A movie this big, this spectacular, this impressive, has got to have a leading lady who is not homely. I know Maggie Gyllenhaal is a good actress with lots of personality. The word "personality" is a tip-off that the girl is in the wrong movie. I spent half the movie thinking, "This girl is not beautiful enough for Bruce Wayne... Not even close to being beautiful enough for Bruce Wayne... Not even close."

Why does Hollywood do this? You know, I couldn't even remember the actress in Batman Begins, but guess what--that's a GOOD thing. Twenty years from now, I'll be discussing movies with someone and will say, "Oh yeah, The Dark Knight was good, but why did they put Maggie Gyllenhaal in it?" You know you have a problem when people are contemplating casting decisions while they're watching the movie. I mean, geez, Aaron Eckhart is about 10 times better looking than she is. Maggie's brother would have been a better choice. He's played catcher before.

So if any Hollywood people are reading this, I'm just an ordinary moviegoer, but that's what most of us are, and we buy the tickets. Do not, under any circumstances, cast Maggie Gyllenhaal, Sarah Jessica Parker, or Cameron Diaz in a role that calls for a beautiful woman. Allow me to suggest a minimum cutoff: never, never choose someone who is not at least as attractive as Kate Winslett. I only bitched a little during Titanic. Bare minimum.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

More family instability among atheists?

N = 10,999

N = 877

N = 883

In earlier posts, General Social Survey data have pointed to higher rates of problem behavior by atheists (i.e., crime, illegal drugs, and alcoholism). I suggested in the last post that atheists are skeptics in general and might question norms of all kinds, not just the existence of God. It might be that rejecting conventional rules of behavior might throw one back on his free judgment which is influenced by self-interest.

I wondered if this same tendency might be seen with family life. The top chart shows belief in God by one's marital status. Atheists are more likely to have never married (32.1% compared to 18.7% of believers). Younger age might be a factor here, but I found the same pattern among 40-60 year olds. (The younger age does explain lower rates of widowhood). More never-married atheists does not give them lower rates of separation and divorce: 21.1% are one or the other, compared to 17.5% of people who know there is a God.

In the two lower graphs, more atheists than believers are having serious problems with a spouse (13.6 vs. 8.1%) even though fewer of them are married, and a similar difference is seen on the question about breaking up with a fiance (13.6% vs. 5.1%).

The samples for the last two graphs are too small to give us much confidence since atheists are so rare, but the overall pattern suggests more family instability among atheists.
The Israel Lobby: I enjoyed this short documentary on AIPAC that I found on YouTube. Except for the long dramatic pauses, it is well-made.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Age and atheism: Eyeballing the 11,000 responses given by participants in the General Social Survey to the question about belief in God, it looks like the percent who are atheists begins to drop in the 50's age range. But visual inspection isn't very trustworthy, so let's divide people up into under age 50 (N= 6,819) and 60 plus (N = 2,594).

What we get is 2.6% for the younger group (CI: 2.2-3.0) and 1.9% for the older group (CI: 1.4-2.4). Now the confidence intervals do overlap a bit, but readers know that I don't fret too much about statistical significance on this exploratory blog.

If we regress confidence in the belief in God on age, we see a small positive relationship (B .01, Beta .08, T-statistic 7.84, p = .000, R-squared = .01). So it looks like atheism slips a bit as one begins to approach that Great Beyond. It's probably due to fear and hedging one's bets, but I suppose it could be a reconsideration of views developed during one's audacious youth.

(By the way, I didn't realize the percent of Americans who are atheists (of whatever age) was quite this low. I thought it was on the order of 5%, but perhaps surveys throw in agnostics.)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Survey evidence that some whites want a black president: The leftie blogosphere is having the predictable hissy fit over CNN's quoting Steve Sailer's claim that some whites are voting for Obama to show that they're not racists. I have more important things to do--like clipping my toenails--than to debate lacy old women who swoon at the mention of "Sailer"--there's a rumor going around among them that the name is short for Satan Lucifer--but I will address this idea that there is no evidence that race ever works to Obama's advantage among whites.

Lefties freely admit that race is a powerful factor in the run for President. They get on their hinds legs and pant if you offer them the morsel of, "Obama will probably never win this race because there are too many white haters out there." The best we can hope, they say, is that enough white Americans have, like themselves, passed the pearly gates and entered the realm of Race Transcended. (Uhm, strike "pearly"--that's racist--make it "ebony gates.")

But you will get mocked to the point of hospitalization if you think a white guy could ever in a million years root for a black guy as a black guy. Howls of painful laughter. Whites are genetically incapable of outgroup cheerleading. The best we can hope for from these pitiful creatures is to hold their bigoted noses long enough to vote for the brown guy who will give them free health care.

But enough sneering--that makes me no better than the other side. Let me try something that never occurs to these folks: back up my cheap talk with some data.

Here are results from a recent ABC/Washington poll:

An ABC/Washington Post poll conducted June 12-15 indicates that roughly three in ten Americans express “less racially sensitive views,” such as having some feelings of prejudice or generally believing that African-Americans in their communities do not experience discrimination. Sen. John McCain holds a 26-point advantage over Obama with this group of voters...

Among the roughly 2 in 10 white voters with “high racial sensitivity,” however, Obama leads McCain by 19 percentage points. (This group of voters is most likely, among other things, to have interracial friendships and/or believe that African-Americans experience discrimination.) Among white voters with a “medium” level of racial sensitivity, McCain leads Obama 18 points.

Okay. Thirty percent of whites (I presume they mean whites even though they say "Americans") have some issues with blacks or don't think they face discrimination. So, they're not particularly concerned about blacks, and the vast majority of them are voting for McCain. Is this just some coincidence? It goes without saying that every liberal would jump on this finding to demonstrate that some whites are not voting for Obama, at least in part, because of their views on race. They would also probably claim that the 30% is a huge underestimate--whites are actually much more hopeless than that but won't admit it.

On the other side, the vast majority of whites who are concerned about problems that blacks face are voting for Obama. The same lefties will dismissively conclude that these results are just a coincidence. White Obama voters are just compassionate people. There is no racial connection.

This bias is one reason why surveys have not even bothered to asked about racial motivations in voting for Obama. Researchers have asked the excessively blunt, are you voting for Obama because he's black--to which 80% of BLACKS have answered no. People know that you're not supposed to say yes to something that flagrant.

If these guys had made it through Introductory Research Methods, they would realize that the wording should be indirect. Something like: "If Obama wins, he'll be the first black President in the history of the United States. Did that influence your decision to vote for him at all?"

What bothers me about this unwillingness to believe that some whites want to be part of history by voting for Obama is that it shows the animus of whiter people toward regular white people.

I've personally known hundreds of regular white people in my life--people who have felt free to talk to me, another white, frankly about race. The fact is that these are pretty decent folks. Far from perfect of course, but not the wicked little trolls that superior whites believe. Much of my frustration over these issues is driven by the fact that my friends and relatives are much maligned, and they don't deserve it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

For smart people, does IQ matter less and social class matter more?

Via Steve Sailer, I read Half Sigma's theory about how your career success depends on your parent's socioeconomic status the most when you have an above average intelligence:

IQ is more highly correlated with life outcomes for people with below average to average IQs. Most career tracks have an IQ floor, and if your IQ isn't high enough to meet the floor level, you can't perform that job adequately. Few career tracks have IQ floors much higher than 115, so if your IQ is higher than that, your parental wealth and connections become very important.

Thus, the higher your IQ, the more important the wealth of your parents becomes (the very opposite of what most people think). People with exceptionally high IQs but inadequate parents often have poor life outcomes because of the mismatch.

I'll use the General Social Survey ten question IQ test as well as its father's socioeconomic status index (PASEI) and the respondent's income to assess the hypothesis. The 100-115 range seems to be a grey area, so I'll compare the group below that with the group above. To be precise, the two cutoffs I'll go with are 98 and 112.

My reasons for this are two-fold: 1) there are only 11 possible scores on the IQ test (0-10 out of 10 correct) so there are only 11 scores to choose from as cutoffs--98 and 112 are two of those possibilities; and 2) the highest score is only 125--the next lower score is 118, then 112, but I don't want the cutoff to be 118 since that gives very little variation within the high-IQ group.

OLS regression coefficients are shown above (N =1,335). First, the effects are surprisingly weak. I suspect that this is due in part to the truncated IQ measure--the high-end variation is all squeezed together--and the truncated measure of income (the GSS focuses on low income folks, and lumps all those making $110k or more together).

The Betas indicate which indepedent variable has the greater influence, IQ or father's SES. For the low-IQ group, IQ is close to being as strong as social class, and both effects are statistically significant. In the smarter group, IQ drops to non-significance. The effect of social class is weak, but it manages to teeter on statistical signficance at the .05 level.

So, Half Sigma's idea is supported here, but I wouldn't be surprised if the results were stronger if we used occupational prestige instead of income since it is more normally distributed. Maybe I'll look at it later if I find time.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Do atheists use and abuse drugs more than believers?

N = 885

N = 885

N = 2,323

N = 2,326

I suspect that atheists separate themselves from the herd not only on the question of God, but in other areas as well. These are folks who ask more questions, and are more likely to buck convention.

Well, respectable society says illicit drugs are bad, and I can easily see the atheist saying, says who?

In 2003, the General Social Survey asked if people if they had have ever used illegal drugs since 1990. The top graph shows the percent saying yes by one's belief in God. On the left are atheists, and as we move right, we have those who say: there is no way to know; there is some higher power; they believe sometimes; they believe but have doubts; and they know there is a God.

We can see that atheists are much more likely to have used drugs in the past than believers. Now, I thought older people might be more likely to believe in God and less likely to use drugs, so I limited the analysis to a narrow range of people old enough to have used something in the past decade plus. Atheists again were much more likely to be drug users, but the numbers are so low, it's hard to have much confidence.

Another way to look at the relationship is logistic regression. I regressed drug use onto belief in God (treating the measure as increasing confidence in God's existence) and found that atheists are significantly more likely to use (coffiecient of -.390, a T-statistic of 3.56, p-value .000, and a pseudo R-squared of .05, N = 885).

I am assuming that the higher rate of drugs among non-believers is simply due to their non-conventionality, but are they more likely to abuse them as well? Respondents were also asked if they have an alcohol problem. The second graph above summarizes the results. The same pattern is observed.

Once again, the samples size of problem users is very low. Logistic regression shows a significant increase in alcoholism among non-believers (coefficient -.417, T-statistic 2.89, p-value .004, pseudo R-squared .05, N = 885).

Samples are larger if we look at church attendance. The bottom two graphs show that illegal drug use and alcoholism are more prevalent among those who never attend religious services. (From left to right, religious attendance moves from "never" to "more than weekly".)

Overall, we can see that skepticism toward God and staying away from church are associated not only with recreational drug use, but with abuse of alcohol. Now, is it that non-conventionality leads to more use, which in turn raises the risk of getting hooked on the stuff, or is it that some atheists find life without God unpleasant, and so they search in other places for the "spirits" they can't find at church?

Well, I calculated the mean happiness of atheists and believers, and they are basically the same. So GSS data support the conclusion that non-believers use more, and in so doing are more likely to become addicted.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Here's how you answer when someone says, vote for Obama so we can be healed: I heard black moderate John McWhorter yesterday say on the Laura Ingraham radio show that he plans to vote for Obama for president because of the tremendously positive psychological effect that it will have on blacks. Hope will be felt like never before, and race hustlers like nut surgeon Jesse Jackson won't be taken seriously anymore.

Mr. McWhorter, in all his racial excitement, must have neglected to read yesterday's New York Times poll:

The results of the poll... suggested that Mr. Obama’s candidacy, while generating high levels of enthusiasm among black voters, is not seen by them as evidence of significant improvement in race relations.

For the first time ever, the person who is one step away from the most powerful position in the world is black, but still blacks folks don't think things are getting better?!

And that last step--his winning the Presidency--is supposed to return us to the racial Garden of Eden?

Call me cold, but I have a very different take on what will bring an end to the era of accusation. My prediction is that the Jesse's and the Al's and all the black finger-pointing will stop only when it don't pay no mo'. Why waste your breath when the Man just always laughs and gives you the finger?

I learned the term "extinction" in Psych 101. If you want to stop the bird from pecking, stop giving him the frickin' pellet.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sex and scIQ: I showed in an earlier post that the male-female scIQ (basic knowledge of science) gap is around one-third of a standard deviation. Folks of all political stripes would agree that sexism in American society has diminished over the past few decades. If the sciIQ gender gap is due to a pattern of men holding women back that has weakened over time, we should see a larger difference among older Americans and a smaller one among younger people.

Here are the means for the "young" and "old" groups (I equalized the number in each group as much as possible since the sample isn't very big):

Mean scIQ score

Ages 43 and up
Men 98.8
Women 94.5
Gap 4.3
N = 213

Ages 18-42
Men 99.5
Women 95.0
Gap 4.5
N = 221

The gender gap is essentially the same for older and younger Americans. Although it might make some female professors pass out upon hearing the news, the data are consistent with the thesis that the sexes differ in their interest and aptitude for science.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Human nature and political orientation: There seem to be two contrasting images of people on the political right. In a textbook on conservatives, you are likely to read that these folks believe that humans are naturally inclined to do bad things. People are always going to be that way to some extent, says the conservative, and institutions of social contral (if not God himself) are the source of any moral actions that can be wrung out of fallen Man.

But one can easily find among Americans who call themselves conservatives the idea that if society will only let people freely do their thing, social cooperation and order will spontaneously emerge. If you find any trouble among people, chances are that an alien, oppressive government is the culprit. In other words, human nature, if undistorted, freely gravitates toward order and cooperation.

I suppose the first view is the conservative one, while the second is libertarian, but you can find both views on the right, and I'm wondering if they offset each other making the right side of the political spectrum no different than the left on the question of the goodness of human nature.

General Social Survey respondents were asked the following question: "On a scale of 1-7 where would you place your image of the world and human nature between the two contrasting images: human nature is basically good (=1); human nature is fundamentally perverse and corrupt (=7)." I've listed the means below by race and self-identified political orientation (N = 11,254):

Mean human-nature-is-bad score

Extremely liberal
Whites 2.99
Blacks 3.99

Whites 2.81
Blacks 3.36

Slightly liberal
Whites 2.98
Blacks 3.64

Whites 2.98
Blacks 3.52

Slightly conservative
Whites 3.02
Blacks 3.63

Whites 3.28
Blacks 3.73

Extremely conservative
Whites 3.83
Blacks 3.79

All whites 3.04
All blacks 3.58

Overall SD 1.67

Let's mention race first. Blacks are clearly more cynical than whites: roughly 1/3 of a standard deviation difference between overall means. Whether this has something to do with the experiences of blacks in this country, I don't know. As mentioned by a reader regarding the earlier post on trust, the American ethnic groups with the least trust also have the highest prevalence of antisocial members, and people might form their views of human nature, not based on outgroups, but based on the people with whom you interact the most.

Turning to politics, it's really extreme conservatives, among whites anyway, who think that people tend toward evil. They match up best with what we think of as the conservative take on human nature. Generic conservatives have a view that is a bit darker than average, but everyone else has a rosy view. The real exception to this pattern is extremely liberal blacks: they even outdo hardcore conservatives. Anti-white ideology might magnify the pessimism among these folks.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

God, Nietzsche, and Politics

Some people think that religious involvement is a moderating influence. It acts as an anchor and keeps people in the sensible middle. The other view is that deeper religiosity moves one hard right, while atheism moves people hard left.

Along with asking people where they fall on the liberal-conservative continuum, the General Social Survey has also inquired about frequency of church attendance (N = 34,420) and confidence in the existence of God (N = 8,517). The pretty rainbow charts above show the relationships for whites.

In the top chart, we see that extreme liberals (red) have their largest share among those who never go to church (4.9% vs. 1.1% of the most frequent attenders). Extreme conservatives (light blue) are just the opposite: they are 8.2% of people who frequent a church more than once a week, yet they are only 2.8% of non-attenders.

In the bottom chart, we see the same basic pattern for belief in God: 7.4% of atheists are extreme liberals (red) compared to 1.4% of believers. Of those who believe, 4.4% are extreme conservatives (light blue), while only 2.0% of atheists are.

I've been focusing on extremes, but let's focus on the question of moderates. As a slice, moderates shrink--they don't grow--as attendance goes up. Moderates are a larger chunk of believers when compared to atheists. In fact, there are just as many liberal atheists as moderate atheists--30% of the total, each.

Another way of looking at it is that if we lump extremes, solids, and leaners together, a majority of the the most active churchgoers are conservative, while half of atheists are liberals.

So, moderates expand a tad with increasing confidence in the existence of God, but this is the only evidence for the "anchor" idea. The overall picture is that God moves you right, and Nietzsche moves you left.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Another look at scIQ: In the last post on correlates of scIQ, readers wondered if people who are just as knowledgeable about science as anyone else but who holds fundamentalist religious beliefs were receiving an artificially low scIQ score. I eliminated the three questions that touched on the question of creation or the age of the earth (i.e., the Big Bang, continental drift, and human evolution) and re-calculated scores with the remaining eight questions. Here are the results:

Mean scIQ

Whites 100.0
Blacks 82.0
Hispanics 92.9

Religion--all races
Protestants 98.1
Catholics 96.2
Jews 103.7
None 98.0

Religion--whites only
Protestants 101.3
Catholics 97.8
Jews 104.4
None 100.3

Church attendance--all races
Never 95.9
More than weekly 96.8

Church attendance--whites only
Never 98.0
More than weekly 101.9

It does raise the scores of blacks and Hispanics a little when the 3 questions are removed, but it really makes a difference in the area of religion. The Protestant mean goes up a few points when non-whites are omitted, and it goes up again when the 3 questions are removed. And, compared to the very religious, the folks who never go to church no longer have higher scIQs. In fact, the churchgoers' means are higher for whites and all races together.

I mentioned in the last post that there is practically no correlation between IQ and church attendance, and after removing the 3 questions from the scIQ quiz, there is now no correlation between it and going to church--it is .01.

So it's not that people who are informed about science at a basic level are staying away from church; they just reject what science says if it conflicts with their religious beliefs.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Let's look at America's scIQ: In 2006 the General Social Survey asked 437 respondents eleven basic science questions. The first one, for example, was whether the earth's center is hot. I gave each person one point for answering a question correctly, and then summed the scores. My next step was to convert these totals so they resemble IQ scores. I set the white mean at 100, and the standard deviation at 15. Here are some averages:

ScIQ mean scores

Whites 100.0
Blacks 80.3
Hispanics 90.0

Males 99.2
Females 94.9

Less than high school 82.4
High school 94.2
Junior College 96.8
Bachelor 101.2
Graduate 103.1

Protestant 94.1
Catholic 98.7
Jewish 109.3
None 102.8

Never attends church 101.1
Attends more than once a week 87.4

New England 101.4
Middle Atlantic 98.0
East North Central 96.8
West North Central 103.6
South Atlantic 92.8
East South Central 95.7
West South Central 94.3
Mountain 101.8
Pacific 100.9

Interesting stuff. Blacks are well over one standard deviation below whites. This doesn't quite square with all the black doctors and scientists we see on TV. Women are about one-third of a SD below men--score one for Larry Summers.

Educational degree is no surprise; neither is the high Jewish mean. Anyone who completes high school should have been exposed to the information needed to answer the questions correctly. Many of those who finished high school and even attended college missed some of the questions, indicating that people are not understanding or retaining the information.

ScIQ differentiates churchgoers from non-attenders better than IQ does. I calculated Pearson correlations between scIQ and church attendance, and then the latter with IQ: the estimates are -.26 and -.08, respectively. Scientifically-minded people are less likely to go to church than people who are smart in a more general way, which supports the notion that there is intellectual friction between science and religion. By the way, scIQ correlates with IQ at .46.

It is also interesting that the West North Central region (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota) is at the top of the scIQ list, considering that New England tops the IQ list based on GSS data. Is it all the nerdy white folks who live in those parts? The uncool Mountain States are not far behind.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Are Jews the most distrustful of all American ethnic groups? After reading Steve Sailer's insightful piece tonight contrasting the Cuban- and Jewish-American lobbies, I wondered if Jews as a group are more suspicious of people, and perhaps lack of trust comes from a history of negative relations with others. As an example, Ashley Montagu once said, if you meet a gentile, it's a good operating hypothesis that he is an anti-Semite.

The General Social Survey asked 26,201 Americans if people can be trusted. I list the percent who said they cannot be trusted by ethnic group:

Percent who say that people cannot be trusted

Puerto Ricans 79.2
Blacks 79.0
Other Spanish 73.1
Mexican 70.7
Filipino 70.4
Amerindian 69.9
West Indian 69.5
Spanish 63.3
Asian Indian 59.6
Portuguese 58.5
Italian 57.0
Arab 56.9

All Americans 55.9

French Canadian 55.0
Dutch 54.7
Lithuanian 54.3
Greek 54.1
Hungarian 52.6
German 52.2
Polish 51.9
Irish 50.7
French 50.5
Austrian 49.4
Czechs 49.0
Belgian 48.8
Japanese 48.7
Chinese 47.8
Scottish 47.6
Russian 47.3
Romanian 47.2
Jewish 46.9
English/ Welsh 44.6
Danes 43.4
Swiss 41.1
Finns 40.7
Norwegian 39.6

Jews are not distrustful--just the opposite. They are at the bottom of the list, along with those whose ancestors are from northern Europe.

At the top of the list, there are a number of poor and non-white minority groups. The only nonwhites in the bottom half are Japanese and Chinese American--wealthy minority groups like American Jews.

People from southern Europe tend to be distrsutful, but the really striking pattern in my mind is the high scores of all the Hispanic groups. Francis Fukuyama has argued that social trust is necessary for economic prosperity, and you can see that the high-trust groups are successful. The suspiciousness of Hispanics may prevent them from developing the kind of cooperativeness needed for upwardly mobility. This is one more fact that leads one to conclude that mass immigration from the South means more long-term poverty for America.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Criminals and guns: The recent Supreme Court decision on the Second Amendment got me thinking about guns. One argument you hear all the time is that criminals will always have their guns regardless of how many law-abiding folks have them. Frankly, I don't believe it.

While it is true that having a gun makes sense in the places where street criminals are likely to spend their time (not to mention to facilitate their crimes), but the truth is that these guys, as a class, are a lazy, unresourceful, opportunistic lot.

I remember when I read the book Monster, the autobiography of mega-Crip Kody Scott, half the time that he committed a violent crime or was a victim, he was for one reason or another unarmed, and this guy is the hardest of the hardcore. Many criminals are anything but professional--they just occasionally wander into crime--so we can't expect them necessarily to have the proper tools of the trade.

The General Social Survey asked 10,552 people if they have aver been arrested (not a perfect measure of criminality, but it's the best available) and if they have a handgun at home. Here are the percent who do by region:

Percent with a handgun

New England
Criminals 8.8
Non-criminals 6.9

Middle Atlantic
Criminals 12.2
Non-criminals 11.4

East North Central
Criminals 21.1
Non-criminals 18.3

West North Central
Criminals 18.7
Non-criminals 17.0

South Atlantic
Criminals 31.7
Non-criminals 27.2

East South Central
Criminals 28.0
Non-criminals 33.6

West South Central
Criminals 35.6
Non-criminals 31.0

Criminals 40.0
Non-criminals 30.4

Criminals 22.5
Non-criminals 19.7

There are two things to immediately take note of. First, most criminals do not have a gun. In New England, it's less than 10%, and in no region is it more than 40%. This contradicts the idea that handgun ownership among lawbreakers is widespread, much less universal. (I'll concede that many in our sample are not serious crooks). Second, ownership levels for both groups are similar within region: illegal gun ownership seems to follow legal levels. Let's get more precise and run a Pearson correlation: not too impressive--it's only .92.

This finding contradicts the idea that gun possession among criminals is independent of ownership levels among law-abiding folks. Now, it is theoretically possible that this correlation is a reflection of non-criminals responding to criminal gun ownership by acquiring guns for self-defense, but I strongly suspect that the causal arrow in the opposite direction is more important. (As an example of what I mean, around 500,000 guns are stolen each year.)

Don't get me wrong--I'm all for gun rights and agree with the court's decision, but I'm a conservative--the type of person who realizes that life is always, always trade-offs.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Explaining the connection between never going to church and criminality: Razib at Gene Expression made an interesting point about my GSS finding that 43% of men who never go to church have been arrested:

The main question I would have are the affects of the background environment; in many socially conservative environments the expectation of involvement in a church is very strong and unchurched status could be a signal for anti-social tendencies. I know whereof I speak, I grew up for a while in a 3/4 Republican 99% white region of the Mountain West and those who were unchurched were often those who were "up to no good" (a small minority were secular liberals, but only a very small minority). My own prediction would be that this would be a more common phenomenon in a very religious country like the United States.

One way to test this hypothesis is to see if the relationship between church attendance and the risk of arrest is stronger in regions of the United States where people worship more frequently. The General Social Survey divides the country into nine divisions. I calculated mean church attendance for each region (scores range from "never" (=0) to "more than once a week" (=8)):

Mean church attendance score

East South Central 4.51
West South Central 4.28
West North Central 4.13
South Atlantic 4.10
East North Central 3.91
Middle Atlantic 3.67
New England 3.60
Mountain 3.54
Pacific 3.13

My next step was to estimate the association between arrest and attendance for each of the nine divisions: I did this with logistic regression (sample sizes ranged between 460 and 2,306). I then calculated the Pearson correlation between these logit coefficients and the mean attendance scores displayed above. It is .44. This means that the connection between arrest and never going to church is stronger in areas where churchgoing is most common. So Razib might be right that in religious areas many of the well-adjusted folks feel like they should go to church, leaving a high percentage of antisocial people among the ranks of non-attenders.

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 ...