Showing posts with label Sociology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sociology. Show all posts


Ich weiß ja nicht, mit wem Jan Fleischhauer so abhängt

Will Wilkinson meint, Mad Men sei für viele männliche Zuschauer so attraktiv, weil die Serie zu zeigen scheint, "how sweet it would be to have women take care of all the annoying details of life and smoke at work." Laut Jan Fleischhauer geht es vielen Deutschen mit mit Vladimir Putin ähnlich:
Nicht trotz, sondern wegen der Erziehung zu Pazifismus, Geschlechtersensibilität und fortwährender Antidiskriminierung ist ein Gutteil der Deutschen so fasziniert von Russland und seinem Anführer.

Putin steht für das unterdrückte Andere, das gerade, weil es so selbstbewusst und unverstellt auftritt, einen unwiderstehlichen Reiz ausübt.
Diese Erklärung wäre freilich überzeugender, wenn erst mal etabliert würde, dass der zu erklärende Tatbestand überhaupt zutrifft. Mir zumindest ist in Deutschland keine besondere Putin-Begeisterung aufgefallen.

Vielleicht täusche ich mich aber auch, und Fleischhauer hat recht. Das Problem ist, dass weder Fleischhauer noch ich valide Repräsentativdaten zu der Meinung der Deutschen über Putin haben. So hängt die Weltwahrnehmung dann von dem ab, was man so mitkriegt. Ein grundlegender Wahrnehmungsfehler der Menschen ist es, "das, was man so mitkriegt" für repräsentativer zu halten als es ist. Soziologen machen sich nicht deshalb so einen Kopf um Sampling-Probleme und Frageformulierungen, weil man so toll gelehrte Artikel darüber schreiben kann, sondern weil sie bemüht sind, über das Niveau der Alltagswahrnehmung hinauszugehen.


If You Make One Wrong Assumption, All Kinds of Shit Can Follow

From Steve Sailer's review of Gregory Clark's new book, The Son Also Rises (which I have not  read but might):
Economists [...] assumed that social mobility multiplies at the same rate with each new generation. If the correlation coefficient [...] of income between father and son is 0.4, then between grandfather and son it was imagined to be 0.4 squared or 0.16. Instead, it’s somewhat higher (0.26 in one study) due to regression toward the mean [...]. If a rich man has a son of only average income, his grandson is likely to earn somewhat above average.
This doesn't seem like such an advanced insight to come up with, so one might think that someone should have thought of it long ago and convinced all the others.

But then, it is not that surprising. Mainstream economics is a blank-slate science, as is the other discipline studying intergenerational mobility, sociology. To paint with a broad brush, the two differ in the timing of the influences they deem important. Standard economics sees everybody as basically the same, but subject to different opportunities and restrictions in a given situation. In contrast, sociologists typically think that people enter situations exhibiting vast differences, which result from social influences from birth onwards. Neither considers that large and important differences may already exist at birth (Hence, how could regression to the mean be important? What mean?).

This assumption has been known to be wrong for decades. Clinging to it causes all kinds of problems. Perhaps the main symptom of this in sociology is researchers' tendency to view a host of things as exogenous which are, in fact, endogenous. Such as, oh, socioeconomic status, the discipline's favourite variable. Once you realize there may be an endogenous component to status, you'll start doing lots of eyerolling when reading sociology journals. After a while, eyeache sets in.


Around the Blogs, Vol. 106

2. "Nonshared environment" might best be conceived of as noise, not environment, says Kevin Mitchell.

3. External validity alert: Are patients in medical trials selected for large treatment effects? (Andrew Gelman/Paul Alper)

4. Chris Bertram makes a surprisingly good case for the argument "Squeezing the rich is good: even when it raises no money".

5. "Is there no racial bias precisely because it seems like there is?" Ole Rogeberg takes us into the mind of the microeconomist.

8. 50 great book covers from 2013, collected by Dan Wagstaff (via)

9. The low-hanging fruit of immigration: Bryan Caplan offers another metaphor.

12. What's it like to hear voices that aren't there? (Christian Jarrett/L. Holt and A. Tickle)


The Best Blog Posts of 2013

It's about time, so here.

As usual, brackets are appended to each link to indicate whether the post is Long, Medium lenght or Short; High-Brow, Mid-Brow or Low-Brow, and Funny or Not.

For other years' lists, use the tag.

15. Offsetting Behaviour: "Social Costs and HPV", by Eric Crampton

14. Discover: "Why Race as a Biological Construct Matters", by Razib Khan (L; HB; N)

13. The Power of Goals: "Home Sweet Home", by Mark Taylor (L; MB; N)

12. Crooked Timber: "New Tools for Reproducible Research", by Kieran Healy (S; MB; F)

11. German Joys: "The Metamorphosis (US Summer Movie) Elevator Pitch", by Andrew Hammel (S; MB; F)

10. Code and Culture: "You Broke Peer Review. Yes, I Mean You", by Gabriel Rossman (L; MB; N)

9. EconLog: "The Homage Statism Pays to Liberty", by Bryan Caplan (M; MB; N)

8. Scatterplot: "Annals of Self-Refuting Tweets", by Jeremy Freese (S; MB; F)

7. Overcoming Bias: "Future Story Status", by Robin Hanson (M; HB; N)

6. Gulf Coast Blog: "Defamiliarization, Again for the First Time", by Will Wilkinson (L; MB; N)

5. Armed and Dangerous: "Preventing Visceral Racism", by Eric S. Raymond (L; MB; N)

4. Askblog: "It Is Sometimes Appropriate . . .", by Arnold Kling (M; HB; N)

3. EconLog: "Make Your Own Bubble in 10 Easy Steps", by Bryan Caplan (M; LB; N)

2. Armed and Dangerous: "Natural Rights and Wrongs?", by Eric S. Raymond (M; HB; N)

1. Falkenblog: "Great Minds Confabulate Like Small Minds", by Eric Falkenstein (L; HB; N)

Thanks and congrats to all above.


Why Should You Talk to Your Friends?

Most people would agree that (i) one of the reasons people have conversations is to exchange information, (ii) there are other reasons. An interesting question in this respect is to what extent voluntary, private conversations serve the purpose of exchanging information. It seems to me that even portions of conversation that appear to be about the exchange of information are not, actually. I am saying this because of experience. Sometimes I have been asked stuff that I couldn't answer right away, or couldn't answer in a way I would have deemed appropriate, and offered to follow up on this later on. Once I was asked my opinion about a topic (I don't remember what it was) and answered that my view was quite complex and I probably wouldn't be able to appropriately express it spontaneoulsy, but, fortunately, I had written a blog post about it in which everything was laid down in a well-structured manner and would be happy to send a link. That didn't go down well. If you would like to adjust your estimate of what percentage of private conversation is for exchanging information downwards, you should try something similar sometimes.

So, what is the purpose of having private conversations? Reasons given sometimes include stuff such as affirming group identity, exchanging jokes (laughing is fun, as is having one's jokes laughed at), getting into the other person's knickers, and so forth. All of these are real, but it seems that the main reason for having conversations with people you like is having conversations with people you like, which is pleasurable in itself. It's like listening to music. The purpose of which is not gaining information about sounds.

A related thought: You could do the following. Write down the five or ten points that you think best define the way you view the world. Then have someone you consider a good friend guess what you wrote. I am not saying you should do this. I haven't and I won't. Happy new year.


Three Answers to the Question, "What Is Intelligence?"

The Quip: “Intelligence is what you need when you don’t know what to do”. Carl Bereiter coined this elegant phrase. [...]
The Explanation: “Intelligence is a very general mental capability that, among other things, involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience. It is not merely book learning, a narrow academic skill, or test-taking smarts. Rather, it reflects a broader and deeper capability for comprehending our surroundings — ‘catching on,’ ‘making sense’ of things, or ‘figuring out’ what to do.” Linda Gottfredson and 52 leading psychometricians agree with this explanation. [...]
The formula: g+group+specific skill+error, where g accounts for about 50% of the variance. [...]
That is from James Thompson's blog Psychological Comments, which I've added to my roll. It has what it says on the label with a focus on - you've guessed it - intelligence. I'm particularly grateful to him for providing me with a label for an error (popular with sociologists and the general public) that has long been getting on my nerves. The error is automatically interpreting correlations between socioeconomic status (not my favourite concept in the first place) and some outcome as an effect of the former on the latter, without even considering the possibility that there may be psychological constructs that influence both SES and the outcome (e.g., see my discussion here). He calls it the sociologist's fallacy. Not that imaginative, really, is it? Man, I really should have thought of that myself.

Anyway, the blog's recommended.


Around the Blogs, Vol. 102

1. The experiment Milgram chose not to publish (Tom Bartlett/Gina Perry) (via)

6. Why people dislike photos of themselves: Mirrors meet the mere exposure effect (Robert T. Gonzales). But don't miss the link in the last paragraph.

7. 26 great words from the OED (Carolyn Kellogg/Ammon Shea)

11. Paging Quetelet: Why song lenghts are not normally distributed (Gabriel Rossman) (via)

13. Feelings of extreme bliss produced by targeted brain stimulation (Christian Jarrett/Fabienne Picard, Didier Scavarda, and Fabrice Bartolomei). Gimme, gimme, gimme!

14. Why wages don't fall during recessions (Bryan Caplan/Truman Bewley)

16. Another bonkers graphic presented by Kaiser Fung.

17. The impact on wages of: height; smoking; testosterone (Economic Logician/Petri Böckerman and Jari Vainiomäki/Julie Hotchkiss and Melinda Pitts/Anne Gielen, Jessica Holmes and Caitlin Myers).


Around the Blogs, Vol. 101: Long Wait, Long List

Because I've been collecting for so long, it's so many links. Because it's so many links, I'm posting it early.

1. If the effect in question was found in a particularly small sample, should that strengthen or weaken your belief in the effect? (Eric Falkenstein) From the same author: A critique of Stevenson and Wolfers' happiness research.

2. Thoughtful, personal essay by Eric S. Raymond about the emotion and cognition of racism.

3. A body-mind theory of lefties and righties (Agnostic)

4. "Annals of Self-Refuting Tweets" (Jeremy Freese presents the American Sociological Association make an ass of itself)

5. Wie intensiv werden die Deutschen eigentlich von der eigenen Regierung ausgespäht? Man weiß es nicht. (Niko Härting) (via)

6. "A conservative estimate is that we’re spending a million dollars per year per terrorist, maybe more – that’s not even counting Iraq and Afghanistan." (Gregory Cochran)

7. The case against (eating lunch) outside (Matthew Yglesias) (via)

8. Matthew Desseem reviews Rififi.

9. Person fixed effects and psychological testing.

10. The theory that Marcia Lucas contributed more to Star Wars' quality than is usually acknowledged. (Fabio Rojas)

11. A discussion of reviewing and reviewers (with a focus on sociology) (olderwoman and commenters)

12. Is US violent crime actually down? Looking at non-police data. (Steve Sailer)

13. "William Boyd’s Taxonomy of the Short Story" (Will Wilkinson)

14. How not to get published. (Andrew Gelman/Brian Nosek, Jeffrey Spies, and Matt Motyl)

15. Getting the priorities straight (Foseti) (on this blog)

16. Male feminists: Demand and supply. (Nick Borman)

17. Real life cases of amnesia that are stranger than fiction. (Christian Jarrett)

18. Season of birth is endogenous (Eric Crampton/Kasey S. Buckles and Daniel M. Hungerman)

19. A model of how the internet works (Marco Arment) (via)


Around the Blogs, Vol. 98

1. Race as a biological and social construct (Razib Khan)

2. The case for taxing oral sex (Eric Crampton)

3. "My hypothesis is that progressives, conservatives, and libertarians view politics along three different axes." (Arnold Kling)

4. Don't try to become good at something (Ben Casnocha)

5. If you really set your mind to it, you can find unfair inequalities everywhere. Scatterplot's mike3550 shows how to.

6. "Want to Know What Someone Really Thinks?" (Gretchen Rubin) The case seems way overstated to me, but you may want to add that tool to your box.

7. Wikipedia's most controversial topics (Samuel Arbesman/Taha Yasseri, Anselm Spoerri, Mark Graham, János Kertész) (via). Who would have guessed that the most controversial topic in German Wikipedia is Croatia?

That Rise in U.S. Crime [Edited]

The FBI released preliminary data on crimes known to the police in 2012. The New York Times will let you know only about a portion of the data. Their author Timothy Williams doesn't tell you that property crimes are down by .8%, but presents a story about how violent crime has increased by 1.5%. Then he find an academic who's willing to go into story time:
Joseph Pollini, another John Jay College professor, said that one possibility was that there were fewer police officers on patrol in some metropolitan areas that have cut spending sharply in recent years because of the recession.

“You’re dealing with depleted police resources,” he said of budget cuts that have caused a reduction in the size of nearly every urban police department.
That's a foolish statement to make even if the rise in overall crime were 1.5%, which it is not. That's because 1.5% is very little. It doesn't call for a big explanation. That's not to say that the rise in violent crime is uncaused, but rather, that you'll have a hard time explaining such a small rise. And, to reiterate, property crime is down (calling into question Pollini's police story). The tables I've found won't give you numbers for total index crimes, but given that property crimes known to the police are much more common than violent crimes (e.g., a ratio of about 8:1 in 2011), this means that the overall number of crimes known to the police is down, contrary to the impression you could get from reading the New York Times.

Of course, one might wonder how valid these numbers are in the first place. O'Brien (1996; gated link) concludes that changes in violent crime were measured with high accuracy between 1973 and 1992, and if the convergence between victimization and police data in more recent years (e.g., here, pp. 391-393) is anything to go by, one may think that the accuracy of police data has gone up rather than down. Taken together with other research, this literature leads me to believe that changes reported by the FBI are probably close to the true change rate for overall violent crime, robbery (+.6), burglary (-3.6), and motor vehicle theft (+1.3). Taken together, this still ain't much of a trend. 


Rational Choice of the BMI

A 2011 paper by Thomas Klein, called "Durch Dick und Dünn: Zum Einfluss von Partnerschaft und Partnermarkt auf das Körpergewicht", studies the intersection of mating and health-related outcomes, namely the BMI. Here's the English-language abstract to the paper which is both written in German and gated for maximum inaccessibility:
This article analyzes how body weight is associated with the existence of an intimate partner and with the sex ratio in the marriage market. The data rely on a representative sample of the 16–55 years old population in Germany, carried out in 2009 (Partner Market Survey 2009). In this data set, individuals’ mating opportunities for the first time are measured by their integration in a network of friends as well as in foci of activity as conceptualized by Scott Feld. Results confirm a weight increase after an intimate relationship has started (negative protection) and they also confirm a mating disadvantage corresponding to high weight (selection). Further results lead to the discovery that the weight difference between individuals with and without a partner varies according to the sex ratio in the marriage market: higher competition in the marriage market obviously corresponds to relatively lower weight of individuals without partner. Moreover, similar BMI of partners is not a result of adaption between partners over time but solely is a result of assortative mating. Consequently, mating patterns with respect to obesity have no effect on the individuals’ weight.
So, there is a number of results; I'll highlight two. Perhaps the most convincing one gives an answer to a question many people will have wondered about (and that, according to the author, no previous study has addressed): How come partners are similar in BMI? According to Klein's results, this is solely a selection effect; treatment - measured as the coefficient yielded by an interaction between the partner's BMI and the length of the relationship - seems to play practically no role.

Another key finding is that single people (but not others) appear to react to the sex ratio in their social circles: When there are more potential partners and fewer competitiors, they exhibit higher BMIs (controlling for other stuff). It's as though people don't try as hard when there's little competition. I have a few quibbles with these analyses, however. It's unclear exactly how the sex ratio measure was operationalized and it is never explained why it was logged rather than used in its original (linear) form, which would seem the most plausible functional form a priori. Further, Klein asserts, but does not show, that only the sex ratio in a person's social circles counts - I would have liked to see the local sex ratio as an additional independent variable. I also bet the size of the local market has an influence. More generally, none of the regressions presents a particular identification strategy beyond controlling for confounds.

Nonetheless, these are interesting results. There are (at least!) two views on when rational choice explanations will not work so well. One holds that rational choice will work poorly when decisions involve strong emotions. Another is that rational choice cannot contribute much to explaining decisions when the stakes are low, but will be powerful when they are high. The continuing flow of results showing that rational choice has a lot to contribute to the study of mating is evidence in against the former view, and in favour of the latter.


Three Quick Shots

1. If you like outlandish academic papers, how about "An examination of Rushton’s theory of differences in penis length and circumference and r-K life history theory in 113 populations" by Richard Lynn? Here's the abstract:
Rushton’s (1985, 2000) r-K life history theory that Mongoloids are the most K evolved, Caucasoids somewhat less K evolved, and Negroids the least K evolved is examined and extended in an analysis of data for erect penis length and circumference in three new data sets. These new data extend Rushton’s theory by presenting disaggregated data for penis size for European and North African/South Asian Caucasoids; for East Asian and Southeast Asian Mongoloids; for Inuit and Amerindians and Mestizos, and for thirteen mixed race samples. The results generally confirm and extend Rushton’s r-K life history theory.
Seriously, though, this paper is pretty uninformative for the same reason that most research on sex differences is pretty uninformative: It uses nonrepresentative samples.

2. A NY Times comment by Thomas Edsall (via) discusses disagreements about economic inequality. Basically, economists seem to have different opinions on whether consumption inequality is more important than income inequality, and if so, which consumption counts and how it should be measured. This illustrates a pervasive point about the inequality debate in both academic circles and society in general. Few people care about economic inequality per se; what they really mean is human well-being. But the psychological theory that would tell you how inequality translates into well-being is, basically, absent, and people work with implicit assumptions all the time. For example, if you think that consumption inequality is the only kind that matters, you are implying (whether or not you're aware of it) that nobody's ever suffered because his colleague down the hall earned ten percent more. Speaking of which, the concept of the reference group is old, but, unless I've missed something, social scientists have yet to come to a conclusion on what the relevant reference group for a person is. I suspect that has nothing to do with social scientists' laziness and a lot with reality not lending itself to a general answer.

3. Via Steve Sailer, here are some results from a study of the representation of women among authors of academic papers (the dots represent subfields within a discipline, such as "socilology of the family"):
You could explain the differences in representation between economics and sociology as a consequence of economics being much more mathematical than sociology, combined with the fact that women tend to be underrepresented where maths features heavily. Unfortunately, this theory runs into the immediate problem of women being underrepresented in economics even relative to probability and statistics. However, both observations are consistent with a two-step selection model. In a first step a person either does or does not go into a social science field, and in a second step, the more specific discipline is selected. This is basically the same explanation I've offered for why there are no romantic comedies for men. Well, sort of.


Around the Blogs, Vol. 90

The next few Fridays will bring another playlist, so let's empty out the Around the Blogs folder:

2. Attempts to answer the questions, "What is science?" and "What is love?", collected by Maria Popova.

3. How women think about love. (Penelope Trunk)

4. Let's Potato (Andrew Hammel and his brother).

5. "Infographic Names 21 Emotions with No English Word Equivalents" (Erin McCarthy) (via). Large version of graph here. "Saudade" seems especially useful.

7. I want that drug! (Jon M)


The Growing Social Gradient in U.S. Educational Attainment and the Shadow of Meritocracy

Poor students have long trailed affluent peers in school performance, but from grade-school tests to college completion, the gaps are growing. With school success and earning prospects ever more entwined, the consequences carry far: education, a force meant to erode class barriers, appears to be fortifying them.

“Everyone wants to think of education as an equalizer — the place where upward mobility gets started,” said Greg J. Duncan, an economist at the University of California, Irvine. “But on virtually every measure we have, the gaps between high- and low-income kids are widening. It’s very disheartening.”

The growing role of class in academic success has taken experts by surprise since it follows decades of equal opportunity efforts and counters racial trends, where differences have narrowed.
Class an increasingly good predictor of academic success after decades of equal opportunity efforts? That's just what my theory of the changing relative importance of external resources and personality predicts.

The article presents a laundry list of possible influences on the phenomenon, all of which probably explain some of the variance. My theory suggests that a nonnegligible portion of the growth of the gap is explained by growing differnces in the personality characteristics that you need to succeed academically. And indeed:
Income has always shaped academic success, but its importance is growing. Professor Reardon, the Stanford sociologist, examined a dozen reading and math tests dating back 25 years and found that the gap in scores of high- and low-income students has grown by 40 percent [...].
Reasons given for this: The rich provide more "enrichment" and enjoy an "advocacy edge". Again, that probably plays some role, and data is cited to the effect that lower-class students finish college less often even holding skills constant. But I don't think you can understand that kind of phenomenon unless you look at past meritocracy, and acknowledge that children will tend to resemble their parents no matter what.

I predict that we're going to see a lot of handwringing like this in the coming years and decades. As societies stay relatively meritocratic, class will become a better and better predictor of education. This will lead to more pressure to tackle the remaining deficits in meritocracy. This will only help to solidify the phenomenon it was meant to rectify. And so on, and so forth, civil war.