Monday, October 31, 2011

Ethnicity and nihilism

I calculated mean nihilism scores by ethnic group. (The question is about agreement that life serves no purpose, sample size = 3,051):

Mean nihilism score

Mexicans 1.93*
Filipino 1.80
Polish 1.78*
Puerto Rican 1.74
Czech 1.73
French Canadians 1.69
American Indian 1.68
Blacks 1.59
Swiss 1.58
Danish 1.57
Hungarian 1.55

Average 1.55

French 1.51
Italians 1.51
Asian Indian 1.50
Spanish 1.50
Germans 1.50
Chinese 1.50
Scottish 1.48
Jewish 1.48
Dutch 1.47
English/Welsh 1.47
Irish 1.48
Yugoslavs 1.40
Norwegian 1.40
Swedish 1.36**
Russian 1.35
Greek 1.33**
* significantly above average
** significantly below average
Data analyses on this blog have revealed again and again that Mexican Americans are in many ways a distinctive group. The gap between them and Greek Americans is large--three-quarters of a standard deviation. One reason why farm workers are nihilistic (as we saw in the previous post) is because they are disproportionately Mexican.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Finding purpose

For those looking for direction in life, I think I've found a method. Ask yourself what you are willing to die for, and live for that. When I pose the question to myself, the answer that immediately comes to mind is my children.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Occupation and nihilism

General Social Survey (GSS) participants were asked if they agree that life serves no purpose. Answers range from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (5). I calculated the mean by occupation and list below the top and bottom five:

Nihilism--Top Five Means 

Farm workers 2.20
Health aide 1.91
Construction laborers 1.89
Sewing machine operator 1.88
Farmers 1.86
Machine operator 1.86

Nihilism--Bottom Five Means

Sales supevisor 1.30
Other finanical officers 1.25
Financial managers 1.20
Managers 1.19 
Real estates sales 1.17

The difference between farm workers and real estate sales is large--1.3 standard deviations.  Evidently, a sense of meaningless is more of a problem for people with low status, repetitive occupations. Jobs with power and money are correlated with less nihilism.  Perhaps powerlessness is a major source of thinking that life serves no purpose.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Social class and fundamentalism

A reader commented in the "Fundamentalists and delinquency" post that belief in the inerrancy of the Bible is an upper-class phenomenon.

GSS participants were asked: "Which of these statements comes closest to describing your feelings about the Bible? 1. The Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word. 2. The Bible is the inspired word of God but not everything in it should be taken literally, word for word. 3. The Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by men."

Here are mean levels of education by answer for whites (sample size = 19,324):

Word of God 12.01
Inspired word 13.71
Book of fables 14.33
Other 14.13

At the 95 percent confidence level, the Inspired Word group is significantly more educated than the Word of God group, and the Book of Fables group is more educated than both of them.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Racial differences in child abuse deaths

BBC News is making a big deal about the high rate of child abuse deaths in America. Michael Petit, president of Every Child Matters, gives a long list of liberal explanations for the problem. For all his expertise, he somehow forgot to mention race. According to CDC data, the deaths of 0-4 years olds per 100,000 by race for the 1999-2007 period are as follows: Asians 1.6, non-Hispanic whites 2.5, Hispanics 3.2, American Indians 6.6, and blacks 8.3.

Petit, I'm sure, is privately aware of the racial differences, but he might not know about regional differences among non-Hispanic whites:

New England 1.3
Mid-Atlantic 1.7
Pacific 2.0
S. Atlantic 2.5
West North Central 2.6
East North Central 2.8
East South Central 3.0
Mountain 3.1
West South Central 3.1

Coastal whites are less violent.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fundamentalists and delinquency

*significantly more than fundamentalists
White Add Health respondents (sample size = 3,489) were asked, "Do you agree or disagree that the sacred scriptures of your religion are the word of God and are completely without any mistakes?"  The above table shows the percentages who have committed a specific crime at least once in the past 12 months. "Fund" is short for fundamentalist.
You can see a tendency of fundamentalist teenagers to be more law-abiding than youths who don't believe scripture is inerrant.  Keep in mind that fundamentalists have the disadvantages of lower average IQs and socioeconomic status. They are not less violent, just less prone to commit property crime. Perhaps conservative religious people are the same as others on attitudes toward violence, but are more respectful of property.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Trends in Catholic religiosity

In his new book Suicide of a Superpower, Pat Buchanan claims that since Vatican II, American Catholics have gotten less religious and more culturally liberal. The graph (GSS data, sample size = 13,432) shows that he's right. Attending more than weekly (gray) or weekly (pink) is down. The following are up: 2-3 times a month (magenta), once a month (gold), once a year (green), and never (red).

This graph shows that Catholics are slightly more approving of abortion for any reason than they were in the 1970s.

Trends for Mexican Americans (data not shown) are more conservative. Attendance has basically held steady over the past four decades, and support for abortion on demand has actually dropped from 38 to 23 percent. My guess is that the constant infusion of new immigrants from Mexico keeps Catholic Mex-Ams religious and comparatively conservative on abortion.   

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I cannot vote for Herman Cain for President. He just said "no deaf tax" on Meet the Press, and I feel very strongly that the deaf should pay taxes just like the rest of us.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I see that Warren Buffett paid $7 million last year in federal income taxes. He and I are two American citizens who have a duty to contribute to our country. I'm a middle-income college professor. The federal government paid me $2,000 last year (I paid in 2k and got a return of 4k). How am I getting screwed, exactly?

Trends in support for the death penalty

This graph from Gallup reveals a pragmatic streak among Americans on the issue of the death penalty. During periods of low or declining violence (the 30s, 40s, 50s and the past 15 years) more people get compassionate and idealistic. But Americans abandon their idealism when things get dangerous. The 1965-1995 crime wave was accompanied by growing support for executions. My own take is that this pragmatism is an American strength.   

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Mormons and delinquency

These numbers, based on Add Health data, show that Mormons tend to be less delinquent than teens with no religion. Most differences are not statistically significant because the sample includes only 79 Mormons.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Illegal immigration and military spending

According to the GSS (sample = 681), among those who consider immigration to be the single most important national issue, 42.4 percent feel that we don't spend enough on defense. Compare that to only 27.8 percent of all respondents. I suspect that people who are especially concerned about national security tend to be both hawkish and strongly against illegal immigration.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Evangelicals and cheating

Are married born-agains less likely to cheat than others?  Looking at GSS data (sample size = 6,423), the answer is no. Among whites, the percent unfaithful is 16.5 for evangelicals and 17.7 for everyone else. For blacks, it is 24.7 and 26.6 percent. The differences are not statistically significant. I checked to see if controlling for education would change the results. It doesn't.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Birth Order and the Big Five

A new study reports that there is no connection between birth order and Big 5 personality traits:
The hypotheses of Sulloway (1996) regarding birth order differences in five-factor model personality traits were tested in a sample of 231 college students with the NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI; Costa & McCrae, 1992). Data were collected from three sources (self, peer, and parent) to systematically evaluate previous observations that birth order differences are more commonly found when ratings are obtained from family members than from observers outside the family (Ernst & Angst, 1983). Using a between-family design, students were selected only from families with two or three full biological siblings and no half-siblings, step-siblings, or adopted siblings. Firstborn (n = 103) and laterborn (n = 128) students were compared using NEO-FFI ratings by the self, by a same-sex college peer, and by a biological parent. No birth order differences were found for any of the five NEO-FFI scores using any of the three rating sources. Effect sizes (Cohen’s d) were less than .20 for all comparisons.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Libertarianism and atheism

I looked at GSS data to see what percentage of right libertarians are atheists. There is no ideal way I know of to isolate this political group. The best I could do was to focus on people who think marijuana should be legalized who also say that they are conservative on a conservative/liberal continuum. Belief in God looks like this (sample size = 3,239):


Doesn't believe 3.0
No way to know 5.9
Some higher power 10.2
Believes sometimes 4.3
Believes but doubts 20.6
Knows God exists 56.1

And among conservatives who don't want pot legalized:

Doesn't believe 1.3
No way to know 2.2
Some higher power 4.8
Believes sometimes 2.9
Believes but doubts 13.2
Knows God exists 79.6

While a higher percent of libertarians have less confidence in God's existence, the vast majority are not atheists.

The risk of sexual assault

What percent of men are sexually assaulted?  I looked at MIDUS Study data and found that 4.9 percent report at least one victimization. For women, the number is 22.2 percent.

How much of this happens to people who've spent time in jail? Sixteen percent of men who have been locked up have been sexually assualted. Only two percent of never-incarcerated have been victims. For women, 73 percent of women who have served time have been assaulted, compared to 12 percent of women who have never been in jail. Keep in mind that we don't know if assaults happened in jail or not.

The very high figure for criminal women suggests that female victims of male rape are not a random sample of women. Women who are raped are probably more likely to hang out with criminals and to put themselves into dangerous situations.   

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 ...