Gender Differences in Religiosity Among U.S. Elites

Check out the graph below:

Schnabel_final color

The data come from a 2016 study on the religiosity of high-earning men and women. The author explains,

Among high earners, women are no more religious than men. High-earning men are just as likely as high-earning women to be religiously affiliated, to pray daily, to identify as a strong member of their religion, and to attend religious services weekly. This convergence occurs because the relationship between earnings and religiosity operates differently for women and men. High-earning women are consistently less religious than low-earning women, and high-earning men are consistently more religious than low-earning men.

Why is this the case?:

One likely explanation is the gendered norms around work and family in family-centric congregations. Previous research has shown that even progressive congregations still value and provide services around the assumption of a 1950s family with a bread-winning father and a stay-at-home mother. Therefore, high-earning men may receive positive validation from family-centric religious congregations and identities because they are fulfilling their “proper” role as providers for their family (and are seen as important congregation members with leadership potential). High-earning women, however, may receive less validation than women who are perceived as less career oriented and more family oriented. In fact, women with high-powered careers may feel marginalized when many “women’s activities” are centered on homemaking and scheduled during the work day.

Although scholars have come up with complex explanations for why women are more religious than men, the difference may simply be due to social expectations and social benefits. People may expect women, who are also expected to fill caring roles in their family and in society, to be more religious. These expectations could be especially strong in Christian contexts where religion is associated with family-centrism and sympathy (gender gaps in religiosity are usually smaller or non-existent in non-Christian religions). Relatedly, it is possible that the average woman simply gets more out of Christianity than the average man (e.g., opportunities to socialize outside the home, existential security, etc.). Among high earners, however, women may no longer get more out of religion than men.

Regardless of exactly why earning more money means something different depending on whether you’re a man or woman, there are no gender differences in religiosity among high earners, and differences among women and men are just as large as the average differences between them. Therefore, gender differences in religiosity shouldn’t be reduced to sex categories and hormones.

Are CON Regulations Barriers to Entry?

Image result for con regulations

A 2016 Mercatus working paper argues that “certificate-of-need (CON) laws restrict healthcare institutions from expanding, offering a new service, or purchasing certain pieces of equipment without first gaining approval from regulators.” Drawing on data from the Standard Analytic Files and the American Health Planning Association, the authors review the 21 states with CON requirements “for at least one of three regulated imaging services: MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scanners, CT (computed tomography) scanners, and PET (positron emission tomography) scanners. Medicare claims provide an estimate of the utilization of these different services and allow their utilization and accessibility to be compared between CON and non-CON states.”

The results?:

  • CON Regulations Have a Negative Effect on Nonhospital Providers
  • The association of a CON regulation with nonhospital providers is substantial, ranging from −34 percent to −65 percent utilization for MRI, CT, and PET scans. Nonhospital providers in CON states experience significant decreases in the utilization of imaging services compared to hospital providers.
  • CON Regulations Have No Effect on Hospitals, Thus Increasing Their Market Share
  • CON regulation has no measurable effect on hospitals’ utilization of imaging services. The volume of services provided in hospitals is not affected by CON regulation. This may explain why hospital providers have a stronger market presence in CON states than in non-CON states.
  • Consumers Are Driven to Seek Imaging Services in Non-CON States

The researchers conclude,

CON laws act as barriers to entry for nonhospital providers and favor hospitals over other providers. In consequence, consumers of MRI, CT, and PET scanning services are driven to seek these services either out of state or in hospitals. More research is needed to determine whether additional costs and barriers in the healthcare industry restrict specific market providers and affect where procedures occur. 

Millennials: An Oppressed Group?

“Roughly a quarter of the world’s people—some 1.8 billion—have turned 15 but not yet reached 30,” reports The Economist.

In many ways, they are the luckiest group of young adults ever to have existed. They are richer than any previous generation, and live in a world without smallpox or Mao Zedong. They are the best-educated generation ever—Haitians today spend longer in school than Italians did in 1960. Thanks to all that extra learning and to better nutrition, they are also more intelligent than their elders. If they are female or gay, they enjoy greater freedom in more countries than their predecessors would have thought possible. And they can look forward to improvements in technology that will, say, enable many of them to live well past 100.

So how can these youngsters be described as “oppressed”?

Many of their woes can be blamed on policies favouring the old over the young. Consider employment. In many countries, labour laws require firms to offer copious benefits and make it hard to lay workers off. That suits those with jobs, who tend to be older, but it makes firms reluctant to hire new staff. The losers are the young. In most regions they are at least twice as likely as their elders to be unemployed. The early years of any career are the worst time to be idle, because these are when the work habits of a lifetime become ingrained. Those unemployed in their 20s typically still feel the “scarring” effects of lower income, as well as unhappiness, in their 50s.

Housing, too, is often rigged against the young. Homeowners dominate the bodies that decide whether new houses may be built. They often say no, so as not to spoil the view and reduce the value of their own property. Over-regulation has doubled the cost of a typical home in Britain. Its effects are even worse in many of the big cities around the world where young people most want to live. Rents and home prices in such places have far outpaced incomes. The youngsters of Kuala Lumpur are known as the “homeless generation”. Young American women are more likely to live with their parents or other relatives than at any time since the second world war.

Young people are often footloose. With the whole world to explore and nothing to tie them down, they move around more often than their elders. This makes them more productive, especially if they migrate from a poor country to a rich one…[And yet,] many governments discourage not only cross-border migration but also the domestic sort. China’s hukou system treats rural folk who move to cities as second-class citizens. India makes it hard for those who move from one state to another to obtain public services. A UN study found that 80% of countries had policies to reduce rural-urban migration, although much of human progress has come from people putting down their hoes and finding better jobs in the big smoke. All these barriers to free movement especially harm the young, because they most want to move.

…[M]any governments favour the old: an ever greater share of public spending goes on pensions and health care for them. This is partly the natural result of societies ageing, but it is also because the elderly ensure that policies work in their favour. By one calculation, the net flow of resources (public plus private) is now from young to old in at least five countries, including Germany and Hungary. This is unprecedented and unjust—the old are much richer.

…The young are an oppressed minority—albeit an unusual one—in the straightforward sense that governments are systematically preventing them from reaching their potential. That is a cruel waste of talent. Today’s under-30s will one day dominate the labour force. If their skills are not developed, they will be less productive than they could be…What is more, oppressing youngsters is dangerous. Countries with lots of jobless, disaffected young men tend to be more violent and unstable, as millions of refugees from the Middle East and Africa can attest.

We tend to forget that “the poor” often means “the young.”

Want to Be More Caring? Focus

Developing the ability to focus may actually increase your capacity to care, according to a 2016 study. Sampling from 51 participants at a 9-week compassion meditation program, the researchers found

that a wandering mind can be less caring. Specifically, mind-wandering to unpleasant or neutral topics (rather than pleasant topics) predicted less caring behavior toward oneself and others on a given day. Meanwhile, mind-wandering to pleasant topics actually predicted more caring behavior toward oneself and others.

Given prior research suggesting that when our minds wander we’re unhappy, it’s possible that mind-wandering to negative events produces negative emotions that narrow our attention and lead us to miss opportunities for caring. In contrast, when our minds wander to positive events, we may experience positive feelings that broaden our attention and allow us to more fully engage in the present moment and the potential for caring. Past research is a bit mixed on whether people are actually happier when thinking about pleasant topics rather than engaging in the present, so additional studies are needed to explicitly investigate this.

Image result for focus meditationFortunately, our research suggests that training in compassion may be able to alter the habitual patterns of mind-wandering. Prior to the compassion program, participants’ minds were wandering about 59.1 percent of the time, a higher rate than earlier studies have reported (46.9 percent). At the end of the nine-week program, however, their overall mind-wandering had decreased to 54.5 percent of the time, including a slight increase in mind-wandering to pleasant topics.

More importantly, when participants reported engaging in compassion meditation practices on a given day, they also reported less mind-wandering to unpleasant topics and more mind-wandering to pleasant topics. Thus, regular compassion practice may have the dual effect of increasing and decreasing different types of mind-wandering.

Focus is not only important for reasons of well-being and productivity, but morality as well.

Would Raising Top Earners’ Income Tax Rates Decrease Wealth Inequality?

Probably not. Reporting on a 2016 study, RealClearScience explains,

To distill the finding, a team of researchers based out of Tel-Aviv University first developed an algorithm to model wealth inequality in the United States between 1930 and 2010. Primarily based on income from wages, income from wealth (profits, rents, dividends, etc.), and changes in capital value (property, shares, etc.) the resulting model correlated closely (p=.96) with historical data on wealth inequality.

The researchers then used their model to predict the future. What would happen, they wondered, if income inequality was varied? In their model, income inequality was tied to a metric called the Gini index, a statistical measure of inequality used for decades. They found that altering income inequality to a Gini index of 0.1 (very low inequality) resulted in the top 10% controlling 78.6% of wealth in 2030, while raising income inequality to a Gini index of 0.9 (very high inequality) resulted in the top 10% controlling 79.3% of wealth in 2030, hardly a significant difference.

The article continues,

According to the researchers, the lack of effect isn’t actually surprising.

“When income tax is increased, the top earners, who are not necessarily the wealthiest individuals in the population, have a larger difficulty of accumulating wealth, with respect to the wealthiest. On the other hand, it barely affects the wealthiest individuals. Therefore, such an increase might even deepen the wealth gap.”

“Progressive taxation, which might have a significant effect on the distribution of income, will have a small effect on wealth inequality,” they add.

The team behind the current study is not the only group to return such a result. Just last year, experts at the Brookings Institute created their own model and found that increasing the top tax rate from 39.6% to 50% wouldn’t even dent income inequality, let alone wealth inequality.

Does Coworker Complementarity Matter?

Image result for coworkers

According to a new Harvard working paper, the answer is “yes”. Not only that, it demonstrates the importance of specialization. The paper concludes,

Division of labor allows workers to specialize, but also makes them dependent on one another. That is, specialization often implies co-specialization: coworkers need to acquire different, yet complementary expertise. I have quantified these interdependencies in terms of the match and substitutability among coworkers, using Swedish administrative data that describe workers’ educational attainment in terms of 491 different educational tracks. Coworker match is measured by how often these tracks co-occur in establishments’ workforces, whereas substitutability is measured as the degree to which different educational tracks give access to the same occupations.

The effects of coworker match on wages are positive and substantial. Causal estimates imply that working with well-matching coworkers yields returns of a similar magnitude as having a college degree. Moreover, better coworker matches are associated with lower job-switching rates. In contrast, being easily substituted by coworkers diminishes wages and is associated with elevated job-switching rates. Given the positive wage effects, I have argued that the component of a worker’s coworker match that is orthogonal to coworker substitutability can be thought of as a measure of how complementary a worker is to her coworkers. This coworker complementarity rises over the course of a worker’s career in a way that closely tracks the Mincer curve. Furthermore, I have shown that well-established wage premiums are to some extent contingent on working with complementary coworkers. For instance, college-educated workers who have few complementary coworkers earn about the same as workers who only completed secondary school. Similarly, the urban wage premium is about nine times larger for workers in the top quintile of the complementarity distribution compared to those in the bottom quintile. Finally, for workers with post-secondary degrees or higher, the large-plant premium, i.e., the relatively high wages paid by large establishments, can be wholly attributed to the fact that these establishments employ larger numbers of complementary coworkers.

These findings highlight a salient fact of modern societies: high levels of specialization make skilled workers reliant on coworkers who specialize in areas that are complementary to their own field of expertise. This interdependence of coworkers has consequences for how we should think about returns to schooling at a societal level, for the implied coordination challenges in upgrading education systems, and for the role urban labor markets play as places where workers match to coworkers, not just to employers (pgs. 41-42).

Check it out.

Total BS: Short Video featuring Harry Frankfurt

Image result for on bullshitSeveral years ago, philosopher Harry Frankfurt released his brief essay On Bullshit through Princeton University Press. The basic idea was that bullshit was different from a lie. A liar knows (and cares about) what the truth is and attempts to hide or distort it. Bullshitters, on the other hand, are more interested in persuading without any regard for the truth. The rhetoric could be true or false, but the only thing that truly matters to a bullshitter is that the audience is convinced. In short, liars conceal the truth. Bullshitters (sometimes) conceal their disinterest in the truth.

You can see Frankfurt discussing this concept in the fairly new video below.

What is the Impact of Immigration on Labor Markets?

Yes, this is another immigration post.

A 2017 article in the St. Louis Fed’s The Regional Economist looks at the impact immigration has on U.S. labor markets. The researchers drew on “state-level data from the U.S. Census Bureau for the years 2000, 2005 and 2010 for wages and immigration figures…For wages, we used inflation-adjusted pretax wages and salary incomes of the employed population between the ages of 18 and 60. Finally, we used the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate.”

The data “reveals that the relationship between unemployment and immigration is weak to nonexistent, even during this crisis period.”

Furthermore, it “reveals a weak to nonexistent correlation” between wages and immigration, even during economic crises.

But what about the impact on low-skilled workers? “A study by economist David Card addresses this question,” the authors write. “It discusses the consequences of the Mariel boatlift episode, when about 125,000 Cubans emigrated from Cuba’s Mariel port to Miami between May and September 1980. These immigrants had relatively low skills (i.e., less than the average Cuban worker). Card found no evidence that low-skilled wages and the unemployment rate among low-skilled workers changed in Miami.” This is most likely due to the fact that “immigrants and native workers may not be perfect substitutes. It was suggested in one study that immigrants do not so much compete directly with natives as they create conditions for increased specialization by which natives perform more communication-intensive work and immigrants do manual tasks.”

Just more evidence to consider in this controversial debate.

Gorsuch Would “Walk Out the Door” If Asked to Overturn Roe

President Donald Trump introduces Gorsuch, accompanied by his wife, as his nominee for the Supreme Court at the White House on January 31, 2017. (Public Domain)

The following was an exchange between Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch and Republican Senator Lindsay Graham during yesterday’s marathon confirmation hearings:

Graham: I don’t think there’s any reason to suggest you’re his [Trump’s] favorite. Had you ever met Mr. Trump personally?

Gorsuch: Not until my interview.

Graham: In that interview, did he ever ask you to overrule Roe v. Wade?

Gorsuch: No, Senator.

Graham: What would you have done if he had asked?

Gorsuch: Senator, I would have walked out the door.

This exchange is getting all kinds of coverage, and most of the analysis concludes or strongly implies that Gorsuch’s statement is a commitment not to overturn Roe v. Wade. As one example, here is Sophie Tatum’s take for CNN, where she puts Gorsuch’s statement at the hearing in the context of Trump’s promise to nominate a pro-life judge and then segues into “Gorsuch also defended the value of precedent…” This kind of analysis is making some of my pro-life friends furious and some of my pro-choice friends breathe a sigh of relief, but it’s a misunderstanding of what Gorsuch actually meant.

First, Gorsuch was not rejecting the possibility of overruling Roe v. Wade in particular or of overturning court cases generally. This is pretty clear from ths rest of his statement. After saying, “I would have walked out the door,” Gorsuch paused for a long moment before continuing: “That’s not what judges do.” So what, exactly, did Gorsuch mean here? What is it that “judges [don’t] do” and that would have prompted him to walk out on an interview with the President?

The answer is that Gorsuch is committed to rule of law, and that means that as a judge he is bound to only rule on the merits of the cases actually brought before him in light of the law and the relevant facts. To commit to the President–or to anyone–how he would rule on a hypothetical case that hasn’t even been brought yet is a flagrant violation of the judicial process that would have substituted politics for law. Gorsuch reacted so strongly not because he was defending Roe v. Wade, but because he was defending judicial process. In other words, it doesn’t matter which Supreme Court case Trump had asked about, the answer in any case would have been to “[walk] out the door.” You do not nominate anyone to the Supreme Court as a way of setting policy. You do it as a way of sustaining the Constitution. Therefore, Gorsuch’s reply here tells us absolutely nothing about how he would actually rule in a case involving Roe v. Wade other than that it would depend on the specifics of the case as it was actually argued before the Court.

Second, we still have every indication that Gorsuch is most likely an extremely pro-life nominee. The evidence for this comes from his book The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. I haven’t read the book, but here are two quotes that I think reveal quite a lot about Gorsuch’s thinking in ways that are directly relevant to abortion. The first comes from a Vox article, I read Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s book. It’s very revealing, and it sums up Gorsuch’s argument in the book:

Gorsuch’s core argument in the book is that the US should “retain existing law [banning assisted suicide and euthanasia] on the basis that human life is fundamentally and inherently valuable, and that the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”

Right off the bat, this is characteristically pro-life rhetoric. For all that they are derided as merely “anti-abortion,” the pro-life movement is united in opposition to abortion and euthanasia by a commitment to the idea that “human life is fundamentally and inherently valuable.” You simply never hear the pro-choice side use this kind of language.

In terms of logic, the key here is that “human life” is a broad category, and if it is broadened to include unborn human beings, then Gorsuch’s argument against legalized assisted suicide and euthanasia also applies to abortion. This is made clear in the second quote, this one from a New York Times article:

What gives individuals such an inviolable right, he has reasoned, is a status that legal scholars call “constitutional personhood,” defined by the 14th Amendment. Under that amendment, a state is prohibited from denying any constitutional person “life, liberty or property, without due process of law,” and cannot “deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

The Roe decision expressly excluded human fetuses from that definition. As the court put it in 1973, “the word ‘person,’ as used in the 14th Amendment, does not include the unborn.” But if the Supreme Court were ever to recognize fetuses as constitutional persons, however unlikely that might seem now, then under Judge Gorsuch’s framework, the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause would require that they be entitled to the same legal protection as constitutional persons. Laws that prohibit murder thus would have to be extended to them.

Judge Gorsuch has said as much himself. In his book, he wrote, “Abortion would be ruled out by the inviolability-of-life principle I intend to set forth if, but only if, a fetus is considered a human life.” He noted that had the court “found the fetus to be a ‘person’ for purposes of the 14th Amendment, it could not have created a right to abortion because no constitutional basis exists for preferring the mother’s liberty interests over the child’s life.”

The real give-away for me here, again, is Gorsuch’s very broad language. When he talks about “fetus” and “person” we can infer basically nothing, but when he says “if…a fetus is considered a human life“, then we’re talking about language that is interesting in two regards. First, it is deliberately secular/scientific as opposed to philosophical/theological. This is characteristic of Gorsuch’s thinking which, according to a quote from another article at The Atlantic, relies on “secular moral theory” rather than the stereotypically religious grounds common to much of the pro-life movement. What’s more: once we’ve entered that secular/scientific realm, the question of whether or not a fetus counts as “a human life” has an unambiguous, objective, and absolutely conclusive answer: of course it is.

So let’s recap:

  1. Gorsuch’s comment about walking out the door if Trump had asked him to overrule Roe v. Wade was not a defense of Roe v. Wade. It was a defense of judicial process, and it tells us nothing one way or the other about Gorsuch’s views on abortion in general or Roe v. Wade in particular.
  2. Gorsuch’s book opposes legalziation of assisted suicide and euthanasia under an argument that he explicitly states would apply in abortion as well if… the fetus is considered a human life,” in ways that suggest (as science dictates) that this is in fact the case.

Taken together, I’d say that Gorsuch comes across as about the most unambiguously pro-life candidate that you could possibly hope for in someone who has not ruled on abortion cases or made explicit statements about the subject. It’s certainly not open-and-shut. He’s a smart person, and smart person and capable of all kinds of weird, circuitous, unexpected twists and turns in their thinking and philosophy. He  may indeed be pro-choice, but that’s not where I’d lay my money.

Final thought: I listened to parts of the confirmation hearing yesterday, and there was one exchange I have not been able to find (it was either from around 5:20 or around 8:40) when Gorsuch talked about the motivation for his euthanasia book. It came down to concern for the most vulnerable in society: the poor, the disabled, and minorities. Left unspoken was “the unborn,” but it fit so perfectly in that list–and with Gorsuch’s philosophy as I understand it thus far–that it almost didn’t need to be spoken.


Roots of the Gender Wage Gap

I’ve written about the gender wage gap before. An October 2016 article in the St. Louis Fed’s The Regional Economist “examine[s] the evolution of the wage gap by cohorts” as well as “the evolution over the life cycle to gain further insight into the patterns and possible causes of the gender wage gap.” The researchers find that

the gap increases with age, at least after the age of 24, which is the age by which the majority of individuals have completed their education. Thus, the gender gap when workers are 24 is substantially smaller than the gap when workers are in their mid-30s. This fact is well-known, and one of the main reasons for this pattern is that men and women make different choices over the life cycle. As they get older, women are more likely than men to work fewer hours outside the home and have breaks in their labor force participation (yielding less accumulated experience and possibly fewer labor market skills) and are less likely to hold highly compensated jobs with promotion prospects.

But why a gap at all?

Specifically, firms often have costs of hiring and training workers. When they hire people for jobs with good promotion prospects and jobs that require training and long hours, they are likely to seek individuals who are less likely to leave the labor force or to reduce their hours substantially. While some women are more inclined to participate in the labor market and work full time, women in general are still more likely to reduce hours or leave the labor force, especially during childbearing years, relative to what men are likely to do. This can lead to lower wages for equally qualified women. Furthermore, since many factors affecting labor supply are not known to employers at the time of hiring, even women who are likely to work long hours and are attached to the labor market as much as men are may earn lower wages because, on average, women with the same qualifications as men are less attached to the labor force than men are.

This type of discrimination is often called statistical discrimination because group affiliation and group averages adversely affect individuals in the group. Over time, employers can typically observe work experience, whether individuals were working and whether they were working full time or part time. Therefore, employers can increasingly identify workers who are less attached to the labor market and, as a result, discrimination of the type described above goes down with age. Since this type of discrimination is more likely to be directed at women, the wages of women who work full time continuously may grow relative to the wages of men due to a decline in discrimination.

They note,

We investigated the changes in the education composition of men and women who work full time continuously in each cohort. For the group working full time continuously in the first cohort [1941-1950], females were more educated than males up to age 28; however, the wage gap is declining when males are more educated than females. In the second cohort [1951-1960], the education gap among those working full time continuously declines (with females being more educated than males in all age groups). Thus, education composition does not explain the evolution of the gender pay gap differences in that group.

They conclude,

By comparing the differences in the evolution of the gender pay gap not only by age but by full-time/part-time status, we demonstrated the importance of statistical discrimination and its relationship to labor force participation of women. As one would expect, this type of discrimination plays a smaller role for the third cohort (born 1961-1970) because women in this cohort are more attached to the labor force than women in the past.