Assorted Abstracts: War, Crime, Accidents, Death and Blogs

All of the papers mentioned below many well be worth their own post, but I'd have to read them first. They've all been hanging round my desktop for a while now and I just can't seem to find the time. But you may. Links on the titles are to full texts (pdfs or html). My comments are in italics.

Enrico Spolaore and Romain Wacziarg: "War and Relatedness"

We develop a theory of interstate conflict in which the degree of genealogical relatedness between populations has a positive effect on their conflict propensities because more closely related populations, on average, tend to interact more and develop more disputes over sets of common issues. We examine the empirical relationship between the occurrence of interstate conflicts and the degree of relatedness between countries, showing that populations that are genetically closer are more prone to go to war with each other, even after controlling for a wide set of measures of geographic distance and other factors that affect conflict, including measures of trade and democracy.

This sounds highly surprising; I would have predicted the opposite.

Dave E. Marcotte and Sarah Markovitz: "A Cure for Crime? Psycho-Pharmaceutical Sales and Crime Trends" (Preliminary)

In this paper we consider possible links between the advent and diffusion of a number of new psychiatric pharmaceutical therapies and crime rates. We describe recent trends in crime and review the evidence showing mental illness as a clear risk factor both for criminal behavior and victimization. We then briefly summarize the development of many new pharmaceutical therapies for treatment of mental illness, which diffused during the “great American crime decline.” We examine limited international data, as well as more detailed American data to assess the relationship between crime rates and rates of prescriptions of two main categories of psychotropic drugs—antidepressants and stimulants, while controlling for other factors which may explain trends in crime rates. Our goal is to see if increases in prescriptions are associated with changes in crime rates. Any observed reduction in crime as a result of higher prescription rates would suggest that expansions in mental health treatment may have substantial benefits for society as a whole beyond improved health.

Potentially very important. The explanation for The Great American Crime Decline ca. 1995-2000 that has found most acceptance is the decline in open (street) crack markets. Must read!

Jaroslav Flegr, Jiří Klose, Martina Novotná, Miroslava Berenreitterová and Jan Havlíček: "Increased incidence of traffic accidents in Toxoplasma-infected military drivers and protective effect RhD molecule revealed by a large-scale prospective cohort study"

Latent toxoplasmosis, protozoan parasitosis with prevalence rates from 20 to 60% in most populations, is known to impair reaction times in infected subjects, which results, for example, in a higher risk of traffic accidents in subjects with this life-long infection. Two recent studies have reported that RhD-positive subjects, especially RhD heterozygotes, are protected against latent toxoplasmosis-induced impairment of reaction times. In the present study we searched for increased incidence of traffic accidents and for protective effect of RhD positivity in 3890 military drivers.
Male draftees who attended the Central Military Hospital in Prague for regular entrance psychological examinations between 2000 and 2003 were tested for Toxoplasma infection and RhD phenotype at the beginning of their 1 to1.5-year compulsory military service. Subsequently, the data on Toxoplasma infection and RhD phenotype were matched with those on traffic accidents from military police records and the effects of RhD phenotype and Toxoplasma infection on probability of traffic accident was estimated with logistic regression.
We confirmed, using for the first time a prospective cohort study design, increased risk of traffic accidents in Toxoplasma-infected subjects and demonstrated a strong protective effect of RhD positivity against the risk of traffic accidents posed by latent toxoplasmosis. Our results show that RhD-negative subjects with high titers of anti-Toxoplasma antibodies had a probability of a traffic accident of about 16.7%, i.e. a more than six times higher rate than Toxoplasma-free or RhD-positive subjects.
Our results showed that a common infection by Toxoplasma gondii could have strong impact on the probability of traffic accident in RhD negative subjects. The observed effects could provide not only a clue to the long-standing evolutionary enigma of the origin of RhD polymorphism in humans (the effect of balancing selection), but might also be the missing piece in the puzzle of the physiological function of the RhD molecule.

May this contribute to the explanation of long-term trends in traffic accidents?

Mikael Lindahl: "Estimating the Effect of Income on Health and Mortality Using Lottery Prizes as Exogenous Source of Variation in Income"

A vast literature has established a strong positive association of income with health status and a negative association with mortality. This paper studies the effects of income on health and mortality, using only the part of income variation that is due to a truly exogenous factor: the monetary lottery prizes of individuals. The findings are that higher income causally generates good health and that this effect is of similar magnitude as when traditional estimation techniques are used. A 10 percent increase in income increases good health by about 0.01-0.02 standard deviations.

Very important. Among other things, this suggests that Gottredson's explanation for the SES-health link, which I blogged about earlier, is wrong.

Alexia Gaudeuly, Laurence Mathieuz and Chiara Peroni: "Blogs and the Economics of Reciprocal Attention"

We argue in this paper that attention to one’s blog is won by paying attention to other bloggers. We derive properties of blogging networks from a model where bloggers trade attention and content. The predictions from the model are then checked against a novel dataset from LiveJournal, a major blogging community. As predicted, the activity of bloggers is found to be related to the size and level of reciprocity within a blogger’s relational network. We also find that bloggers who do not adhere to reciprocity norms are sanctioned with a lower number of readers.

Doing research on blogging may be a cheap trick to get your paper blogged about. It worked in the case of this blogger (sort of), but maybe the results are a bit too unsurprising to make more of a splash. Better to do reasearch on dead fish.

Given my nonmatching downloading and reading habits, "Assorted Abstracts" may become a regular feature.

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