I was recently reading Sexual Behavior in the United States: Results from a National Probability Sample of Men and Women Ages 14–94. At N ~ 6,000 it’s a large sample of American sexual behavior around 2010. There was one descriptive result which I thought was interesting, though not surprising. Before the age of 25 it seems that women are more likely to have sex in a given year than an equivalent age man. After the age of 25 this starts to reverse, and men are more likely to be having sexual intercourse in a given year. The dynamics underlying this phenomenon seem to be easily subject to various speculations, so I’ll leave that to readers. Rather, I offer the graph (data drawn from the paper linked above):
A commenter below notes:
Also, in modern society, doesn’t just about everyone reproduce, such that not only is any particular advantage competing against other countervailing pressures as you note, but also that the “less fit” genomes are not removed from the overall population, but rather are added back to the mix? In other words, the less-preferred short males don’t die and have zero kids, they also get married and their genes get thrown back into the pot.
First, let’s not get caught in the assumption that for genes to be disfavored one has to have zero fitness in individuals carrying those genes. If, for example, in a situation of demographic expansion you had individuals who had eight children vs. those who had one child, there would be selection for the traits which were passed by those with eight children in relation to those who had one child. But, it did make me realize I wasn’t intuitively aware of the distribution of number of offspring in the population. I assumed that the median was around two, but that’s about it.
So, I looked at the GSS CHILDS variable for individuals born in 1950 or earlier from the year 2000 on (COHORT and YEAR variables). I also separated out the results by sex. Do not take these results as definitive because the GSS data set is not entirely representative. But, it does give you a general sense.
As someone with mild concerns about dysgenic (albeit, with a normative lens that high intelligence and good looks are positive heritable traits) trends, I’m quite heartened that Marissa Mayer is pregnant. Of course she’s batting well below the average of some of her sisters, but you take what you can get in the game of social statistics. Quality over quantitative thanks to assortative mating.
This brings me to a follow up of my post from yesterday, People wanted more children in 2000s, but had fewer. A reader was curious about limiting the data set to females. Therefore, I did. The same general pattern seems to apply (the limitations/constraints were the same). The only thing I’ll note is that there were only ~40 women in the data set with graduate degrees in the 1970s who were also asked these particular questions, so take this with a grain of salt.
Prompted by a comment below I was curious as to the correlation between intelligence and income. To indicate intelligence I used the GSS’s WORDSUM variable, which has a ~0.70 correlation with IQ. For income, I used REALINC, which is indexed to 1986 values (so it is inflation adjusted) and aggregates the household income. Finally, I limited my sample to non-Hispanic whites over the age of 30 (for what it’s worth, this choice also limited the data set to respondents from the year 2000 and later).
The results don’t get at the commenter’s assertions, because 10 out of 10 on WORDSUM does not imply that you’re that smart really. But the trendline is suggestive. Note that aggregated 0-4 because the sample size at the lower values is small indeed.
In the further interests of putting quantitative data out their instead of vague impressions, I noticed two GSS variables which might be of interest. One queries the impression of effect on the environment of genetically modified crops. The second asks about whether science does more harm than good. The latter question exhibited almost no year to year variation of note, so I just threw them in a pot together. But for the environment and genetically modified crop question I show responses for the year 2000 and 2010. As you can see there is a modest difference in regards to the first where liberals are more skeptical.
In the comments Chad says:
The Right is not inherently anti-science. Yes there are some morons out there who glorify in their ignorance, but lets recognize them for who they are, extremist idiots. This does not describe the majority of those on the Right. It doesn’t even describe the majority of creationists who are for the most part more concerned with work and children to be bothered to think about the origins of life in an average week. One can also point to similar kooks on the Left. Not just the genetic denialism described here, but also rejection of animal research, genetic engineering, organic farming, anti-vaccinations, etc.
First, I’m going to reiterate something: the majority of the human race consists of individuals who are not very smart. This is not meant as an insult, but it’s basically the truth. We may not be talking about idiots, but the average person on the street can not come close to reasoning like A. V. O. Quine. But the main issue I have with these equivalences is that though there is a valid point here, the reality is that it seems to be that the political Right in the USA has taken a bolder anti-science stance than the Left.
And that basically comes down to evolution. If you presuppose that the Left opposes animal research, by and large you will note that the arguments against this are normative. Yes, there are some arguments about the lack of utility and informativeness of this research, but really you are talking about values. In contrast, though some Creationists have made the argument that evolution is about values, you are really talking about a major analytic framework in biology. In fact, evolutionary processes are riddled throughout biological phenomenon. Rejecting evolution is not in the same league as rejecting Newtonian mechanics, but it is rather close.
Not only that, my perusal of the General Social Survey suggests that the gap between liberals and conservatives is likely far greater than between liberals and conservatives on other scientific topics, with the exception of highly politicized ones such as anthropogenic climate change. Unfortunately I haven’t found information on vaccination, but there are some questions about nuclear weapons and genetically modified organism. Compare & contrast.
A few decades ago, Darwinians and creationists had a de facto nonaggression pact: Creationists would let Darwinians reign in biology class, and otherwise Darwinians would leave creationists alone. The deal worked. I went to a public high school in a pretty religious part of the country–south-central Texas–and I don’t remember anyone complaining about sophomores being taught natural selection. It just wasn’t an issue.
A few years ago, such biologists as Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers started violating the nonaggression pact. [Which isn't to say the violation was wholly unprovoked; see my update below.] I don’t just mean they professed atheism–many Darwinians had long done that; I mean they started proselytizing, ridiculing the faithful, and talking as if religion was an inherently pernicious thing. They not only highlighted the previously subdued tension between Darwinism and creationism but depicted Darwinism as the enemy of religion more broadly.
If the only thing this Darwinian assault did was amp up resistance to teaching evolution in public schools, the damage, though regrettable, would be limited. My fear is that the damage is broader–that fundamentalist Christians, upon being maligned by know-it-all Darwinians, are starting to see secular scientists more broadly as the enemy; Darwinians, climate scientists, and stem cell researchers start to seem like a single, menacing blur.
To be generous to Wright this is a hypothesis. I think that it’s probably a wrong hypothesis on the face of it. Anyone who has a passing familiarity with the Creationist scene knows that its roots and origins are deep in the anti-modernist Protestant movements of the turn of the 20th century, though the modern derivations come in different garb (e.g., the Flood Geology of the mid-20th century which was originally promulgated by Seventh Day Adventists, or the Intelligent Design of the 1990s which was designed as a response to unfavorable court rulings). Rather, I think that the “New Atheism” had a brought cultural effect not on the mainstream society, but on the irreligious minority. In many ways I think that the New Atheism is a muscular secularism which is a reaction to the post-modernist relativist ennui which many non-believers in the United States in particular suffered from through the 1990s.
P. Z. Myers naturally pointed out that we have a long record of polling on Creationism, and it’s a rather stable trend line. I assume that short-term large fluctuations are spurious until we see more data points to shift our confidence in our prior expectations. But there’s another way we can explore this question.
The “New Atheism” came to the fore in the mid-2000s. The most influential of these books, The God Delusion, came out in 2006. Luckily for us the General Social Survey has a question, TRUSTSCI, which was asked in 1998 and 2008. We can then directly ask explore whether trust in science vs. religion was impacted by the broadsides against religion by Richard Dawkins et al.
It is sometimes fashionable to assert that higher socioeconomic status whites are the sort who will impose integration on lower socioeconomic status whites, all the while sequestering themselves away. I assumed this was a rough reflection of reality. But after looking at the General Social Survey I am not sure that this chestnut of cynical wisdom has a basis in fact. Below are the proportions of non-Hispanic whites who have had a black friend or acquaintance over for dinner recently by educational attainment:
35% – Less than high school
36% – High school
47% – Junior College
45% – Bachelor
59% – Graduate
I thought this might have been a fluke, so I played around with the GSS’s multiple regression feature, using a logistic model. To my surprise socioeconomic status was positively associated with having a black person over for dinner, and age negatively associated. These two variables in fact tended to exhibit equal magnitude values in opposition, and always remained statistically significant. Just to clear, I created a variable Non-South vs. South below (being Southern increases likelihood of having had a black person over for dinner). All the individuals surveyed are non-Hispanic whites for the year 2000 and later. You can add and remove variables, but SEI and age tend to be rather stable, and statistically significant, throughout.
A few years ago a book came out, American Taliban: How War, Sex, Sin, and Power Bind Jihadists and the Radical Right. The title clearly was aimed to push copies, but the gist of the title has moderately wide circulation. The rough sketch is that conservative American Protestants are roughly equivalent to conservative Muslims. I have always held that this is a qualitatively misleading analogy. The reason is from all I can gather the socially views of mainstream American conservative Protestants are actually in the moderate range of opinion amongst Muslims. But apples-to-apples comparisons are rather difficult in this domain.
But then I realized that the World Values Survey could allow me to do exactly such comparisons. The method is simple. First, you can subsample the data sets, so I could look at Protestants in the United States who identified as political conservatives. I compared these to the view of Muslims in a selection of nations (the WVS doesn’t cover much of the world, and some questions are not asked in some countries).
The results below range from 1, never justifiable, to 10, always justifiable. There is some strangeness in the results below, but they show the general qualitative result: American conservative Protestants are in the main to the center or social liberal end of Muslim public opinion. They are not comparable at all to Muslim reactionaries.
Update: There was a major coding error. I’ve rerun the analysis. No qualitative change.
As is often the case a 10 minute post using the General Social Survey is getting a lot of attention. Apparently circa 1997 web interfaces are so intimidating to people that extracting a little data goes a long way. Instead of talking and commenting I thought as an exercise I would go further, and also be precise about my methodology so that people could replicate it (hint: this is a chance for readers to follow up and figure something out on their own, instead of tossing out an opinion I don’t care about).
A few months ago I listened to Frank Newport of Gallup tell Kai Ryssdal of Marketplace that upper class Americans tend to be Democrats. Ryssdal was skeptical, but Newport reiterated himself, and explained that’s just how the numbers shook out. This is important because Newport shows up every now and then to offer up numbers from Gallup to get a pulse of the American nation.
Frankly, Newport was just full of crap. I understand that Thomas Frank wrote an impressionistic book which is highly influential, What’s the Matter with Kansas, while more recently Charles Murray has come out with the argument in Coming Apart that the elites tend toward social liberalism. I’m of the opinion that Frank is just wrong on the face of it, but that’s OK because he’s an impressionistic journalist, and I don’t expect much from that set beyond what I might expect from a sports columnist for ESPN. Murray presents a somewhat different case, as outlined by Andrew Gelman, in that his “upper class” is modulated in a particular manner so as to fall within the purview of his framework. Neither of these qualifications apply to Frank Newport, who is purportedly presenting straightforward unadorned data.
When the “average person on the street” thinks upper class they think first and foremost money. This is not all they think about, but in the rank order of criteria this is certainly first on the list. We can argue till the cows come home as to whether a wealthy small business owner in Iowa who is a college drop out is more or less elite than a college professor in New York City who is bringing home a modest upper middle class income (very modest adjusting for cost of living). But to a first approximation when we look at aggregates we had better look at the bottom line of money. After that we can talk details. And the first approximation is incredibly easy to ascertain. Below is a table and chart which illustrate the proportion of non-Hispanic whites after 2000 who align with a particular party as a function of family income, with family income being indexed to a 1986 value (so presumably $80,000 hear means what $80,000 would buy in 1986, not the aughts).
A questioner below was curious if vocabulary test differences by ethnic and region persist across income. There’s a problem with this. First, the INCOME variable isn’t very fine-grained (there is a catchall $30,000 or greater category). Second, it doesn’t seem to control for inflation. But, there is a variable, DEGREE, which asks the highest level of education attained. I used this to create a “college” and “non-college” category (i.e., do you have a bachelor’s degree or not). Because of sample size considerations I removed some of the ethnic groups, but replicated the earlier analysis.
Below are two tables. One shows the mean vocab score for region and ethnicity (for whites) for those without college educations, and another shows those with college educations. I decided to generate a correlation over the two rows, even though it sure isn’t useful as a quantitative statistical measure because of the small number of data points. Rather, I just wanted a summary of the qualitative result. The short answer is that the average vocabulary difference seems to persist across educational levels (the exception here is the “German” ethnicity).
We’ll be talking about Iran a lot in the near future in the United States. I doubt we’ll invade the country (thank god). But one thing I think needs to be emphasized: on social issues Iran is more “progressive” than many of our close allies in the region, like Saudi Arabia, and one of the more progressive nations in the region. This is neither here nor there in the domain of geopolitics, but to convince a public about something it is often necessary to make a cartoon or caricature the enemy. I think it is important to remember though that aside from Israel our closest allies in the region are techno-feudal monarchies like Saudi Arabia, not those nations, like Iran, which have made a more thorough accommodation with modernity out of necessity (because oil can’t support the whole economy). It also reminds us that labels like “Islamic Republic” may not be totally useful.
As a gauge of modern outlook, as understood in the West, I poked around the World Values Survey. The results are for wave 4, around ~2000. The question asked was: A wife must always obey her husband. Possible answers:
- Agree strongly
- Neither agree or disagree
- Strongly disagree
Below are two tables with nations which responded to this question. I stratified by sex and educational level of respondents. The sample sizes are in the “Total” column. The other numbers are percentages, summed along the rows to 100%. There are some surprises, but I’ll let the data speak for itself….
In the early 2000s I recall Joel Grus telling me how reality television would become a pretty powerful exploratory tool for social science. I’m not quite sure of that now (there here’s a game-theoretic analysis of Survivor!). For example, consider The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. If you watched this series you might think that we’re still living in the same country where a episode of Star Trek was not shown in the South because of an interracial kiss. In some ways “appointment television” has become a lagging indicator.
Rather, it looks like firms whose bread & butter is “the social web” are where the gold in social science is. Consider the OkTrends blog, which is affiliated with and has access to OkCupid. These companies have sample sizes not in the thousands, but in the millions! The Financial Times has a fascinating piece on the “secret sauce” of Match.com, Inside Match.com: It’s all about the algorithm:
Bhutan famously espouses “gross national happiness”:
The term “gross national happiness” was coined in 1972 by Bhutan’s former King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who has opened Bhutan to the age of modernization, soon after the demise of his father, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. He used the phrase to signal his commitment to building an economy that would serve Bhutan’s unique culture based on Buddhist spiritual values….
Apparently the nation has recent switched from absolute to constitutional monarchy:
Bhutan’s political system has developed from an absolute monarchy into a constitutional monarchy. In 1999, the fourth king of Bhutan created a body called the Lhengye Zhungtshog (Council of Ministers). The Druk Gyalpo (King of Druk Yul) is head of state. Executive power is exercised by the Lhengye Zhungtshog, the council of ministers. Legislative power was vested in both the government and the former Grand National Assembly.
On the 17th of December 2005, the 4th King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, announced to a stunned nation that the first general elections would be held in 2008, and that he would abdicate the throne in favor of his eldest son, the crown prince….
From what I can tell the royal house of Bhutan seems genuinely sincere. More plainly paternalist than deiviously despotic.
Below are some Google Data trend lines comparing Bhutan to some of its smaller South Asian neighbors, as well as Sweden and Equatorial Guinea as comparisons at the high and low ends.
Yesterday I made an admission of my lack of trust after the 2008 financial crisis. I should have been more precise and clarified that my collapse in trust has been particularly aimed at elites and “experts.” In any case, I realized that the General Social Survey has 2010 results available. This means that I could check any changes in public trust and confidence from 2008 to 2010! Below in the set of charts there is one that assesses trust in banks and financial institutions. The direction of change validates my specific implication. But it seems that my intuition was wrong in that American society had slouched toward more general distrust. This makes me less pessimistic about the direction of our culture and the future rationally (I can’t say that my visceral emotional cynicism has been abolished).
As you can see there wasn’t much change between 2008 and 2010. For the broad question of “can you trust people” I also decided to break it down by political ideology, education, and intelligence in two year rages, 1972-1991 and 1992-2010. There are noticeable differences in intelligence and education (less intelligent and less educated people are more distrustful), but not in terms of ideology.
After the bar plots there are another range of line graphs by year showing confidence in a range of institutions (including finance) from 1972 to 2010. It is interesting how much you can see short term volatility due to world events, which quickly recedes back toward the trend line.
Poking around Google Data Explorer I reacquainted myself with an interesting fact: though the teen birth rate in Bangladesh is greater than that in Pakistan, the total fertility rate is far lower. The disjunction has emerged over the last generation, as Bangladesh’s TFR has dropped much faster than Pakistan’s. To the left you see a scatter plot, which shows teen fertility rates (age 15-19) as a function of total fertility rates. I’ve labeled a few nations, and also added the color coding by region. It is notable that the nations above the trend line seem to be Latin American, while those below are disproportionately Middle Eastern. That means that Latin American nations have higher teen fertility in relation to their total fertility, while Middle Eastern nations have lower teen fertility in relation to their total fertility. Sweden actually has a rather high fertility rate in relation to its teen birth rate. The expectation is generated by world wide patterns, so I thought I’d look more closely at the original data sets from the The World Bank. All the data is from 2008. The teen birth rates are per 1,000 of teens in the age range, with TFR’s are per woman.
My contention is this: those nations with high overall fertility despite low teen fertility rates indicate an ideological or operational pro-natalist cultural stance. That means that mature adult women in marriages are presumably having many children. The high teen fertility rates in Bangladesh vis-a-vis Pakistan is probably simply due to lower aggregate development (Pakistan is still higher up on the HDI ranking, though the gap is closing).
Below are some charts. First, a plot with lines of best fit (as generated by R’s loess function). Then, absolute deviations from the line of best fit as a function of fertility. Also, percentage deviations from the line of best fit as a function of fertility. I provide the weighted trend line, but rely on the unweighted fit for the rest of the charts.
The maps above juxtaposes the counties which shifted Republican in the 2008 presidential election vs. 2004 (reddish) and the age-adjusted estimated rates of obesity by county in 2007 (darker blue). One issue which I haven’t seen explored too much are the two faces of Appalachia; the Atlantic facing counties are generally healthier than the lowland countries to their east, even controlling for race. In contrast, the west facing counties have some of the lowest human development indices in the United States. West Virginia is the fattest state. And it seems purely from inspection that the east facing counties of Appalachia which shifted toward the Republicans in 2008 are also amongst the fattest in the nation.
Is this simply a coincidence? A reader queried me about the relationship between politics and weight, wondering about correlations. I don’t follow politics too closely, but apparently there has been some conflict recently between conservatives who oppose the top-down campaign against obesity spearheaded by our cultural and political elites. My perception, which may be wrong, is that some are portraying this as another liberal culture war. To some extent this is dumb, as it seems that the biggest salient predictor of weight is class. The majority of American adults are overweight according to BMI thresholds, and a significant minority are obese. And yet none of the presidential and vice presidential candidates in 2008, or their spouses, were overweight. Take a look at the candidates during the Democratic and Republican debates in 2008, and you can see that they don’t “look like America.” Despite the efforts of NAAFA this is one way that Americans are not too keen on the candidates reflecting themselves. Rather, it seems that Americans were more accepting of fat heads of state when they were a slimmer folk.
Looking in the GSS there’s one variable which might shed light on the question of politics and weight, INTRWGHT. This is basically an interviewer assessment of the weight of the respondent. It was collected in 2004. I limited the sample to non-Hispanic whites to eliminate population stratification.
On occasion I get queries about what distinguishes people with science backgrounds from those who don’t have science backgrounds. I think an anecdote might illustrate the type of difference one is expecting. Back in undergrad I was having lunch with my lab partner, when a friend saw us and decided to chat with us as we ate. This friend is now an academic, and has a doctorate in a humanistic field (something like Comparative Literature, I forget). In any case, she had read something about transgenic organisms, and obviously felt as if it was the time and place to go on a rant about this. She knew that I was totally comfortable with the idea of transgenic organisms, but she recounted the fish-genes-in-tomato patent story to my lab partner to illustrate how gross the outcome could be. My lab partner was a pre-med math major, and she just shrugged and explained that she’d done biomedical research last summer, so she understood the practical necessity of such methods, and admitted that it would take more than a story about “fish genes” in a tomato to freak her out.
Kevin Drum’s post about the lack of Republican scientists makes me want to revisit the issue of science vs. non-science. I think the lack of Republican scientists is pretty straightforward. There’s the clear cultural gap, as the Republican party emphasizes its conservative Christian component, which turns off libertarian-leaning but secular scientists. And, there’s the reality that agencies like the NSF and NIH are often attacked by fiscal conservatives, and many scientists in academia and government depend on this funding. Sarah Palin’s attack on “fruit fly” research combined the two threads neatly and unfortunately.
In any case, there is a major related variable in the GSS, MAJORCOL. The sample sizes are not the best, but at least it was a recently asked demographic variable, 2006 and 2008. I decided to look at three sets, those with “natural science” degrees, those with “cs & engineering” degrees, and the total pot (inclusive of the first two classes). The last is a snapshot of all those with at least a college degree (the sample is restricted to those who completed their degree).
In the tables below each cell gives a percentage of the row in the column class. So in the first table 79% of CS & engineering degree holders are male. 22% of CS & engineering degree holders are Roman Catholic.
Some comments below made me want to look at attitudes toward abortion in the USA by ideology over the decades. I know that political party polarization on social issues has played out mostly over the past 20 years or, but I assumed that this was less evident in ideology (mostly, liberal Republicans became Democrats and conservative Democrats became Republicans). I looked at the ABANY question:
Please tell me whether or not you think it should be possible for a pregnant woman to obtaina legal abortion if:The woman wants it for any reason?
Then I combined years to produce four decades. 1977-1980 = 70s, 1981-1990 = 80s, 1991-2000 = 90s, and 2001-2008 = 00s. I compared this with the POLVIEWS variable, which goes from extremely liberal to extremely conservative. I constrained the sample to whites to control somewhat for population confounds. Below are the results by decade in various formats.