Do blondes have more fun?

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Eric Barker  -  
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We can’t be sure about fun, but female blondes do make more money:

This study contributes to the economics literature that links physical characteristics to labour market outcomes, by investigating the influence of hair colour on women’s own wages and also their spouse’s wages. Using U.S. panel data, we find that blonde women receive large wage premiums.

Source: “Physical appearance and wages: Do blondes have more fun” from Economics Letters

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Everybody hates commuting. Why do we do it?

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Funny, I’d been planning to do a bit on commuting for a while.

Yesterday I saw Jonah Lehrer‘s excellent post on the subject and figured now might be a good time.

As he and David Brooks both note, commuting dramatically and negatively affects happiness. I agree.

Everyone hates commuting. Even sex offenders hate commuting.

Married women have a pretty dramatic relationship with commuting — it stops them from working:

These points were confirmed when Black and his coauthors examined Census data from 1950 through 2000 for white, married women in 50 U.S. metropolitan areas. The variation in employment rates held steady even when accounting for differing education levels and for women with and without children. For example, in Minneapolis, 79 percent of married women are employed, while only 49 percent are in New York. This disparity can be attributed to the fact that the labor supply of married women grew more rapidly over the last 60 years in Minneapolis than New York.

Black examined a variety of factors—local housing prices, child care costs, and local unemployment rates—but one stood out: commute times in metropolitan areas. Through an analysis of Census commuting time data and National Transportation statistics for the last three decades—the only period for which such information has been recorded—the authors found that on average women have a shorter trip to the office than men, and women with children commute even less. The cities with the longest commute times are New York; Washington, DC; and Chicago, and those with the shortest are Dayton, Oklahoma City, and Buffalo.

The authors predicted, and confirmed, that cities with longer commutes are associated with fewer married women who work—a link that is strongest for high school graduates. On average for this group, a one-minute increase in daily commute time appears to be correlated with 0.4 to 0.5 percent decrease in the labor force participation rate.

Source, Full paper here.

There are a number of theories on why this is the case for women who don’t have children, including the more even distribution of traditionally female jobs.

So with commuting being such an issue, why does anyone do it? Certainly there are the cognitive biases that Lehrer mentions. Another huge issue is money:

A search model of the labor market is augmented to include commuting time to work. The theory posits that wages are positively related to commute distance, by a factor itself depending negatively on the bargaining power of workers. Since not all combinations of distance and wages are accepted, there is non-random selection of accepted job offers. We build on these ingredients to explore in the data the relationship between wages and commute time. We find that neglecting to account for this selection will bias downward the wage impact of commuting, and marginally affect the coefficients on education, age and gender. The correlation between the residuals of the selectivity equation and the distance equation is -0.70, showing the large impact of commute time on job acceptance decisions. We also use the theory to calculate the bargaining power of workers which largely varies depending on demographic groups: it appears to be much larger for men than that for women and that the bargaining power of women with young children is essentially zero.

Source: “Commuting, Wages and Bargaining Power”

Let’s hope the quote from Repo Men isn’t true: “The more you drive, the less intelligent you are.”

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Drink too much? Smoke too much? Wanna clean up your act? Have a daughter, not a son.

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Little is known about why some human beings make risky life-choices. This paper provides evidence that people’s health decisions and addictive actions are influenced by the gender of their children. Having a daughter leads individuals — in micro data from Great Britain and the United States — to reduce their smoking, drinking, and drug-taking. The paper’s results are consistent with the hypothesis that human beings “self-medicate‟ when under stress.

Source: “The Effects of Daughters on Health Choices and Risk Behaviour” from Department of Economics and Related Studies, University of York

And the effect is significant:

…every additional daughter rather than son makes a person approximately 6% more likely to quit smoking and 7% less likely to have an alcohol or drug problem.

So why might people who have boys continue to drink and smoke? Because having young boys is more stressful and drinking/smoking/drugs help parents reduce stress:

Why would there be a link between people‟s health actions and the gender of their children? There is research evidence that bringing up sons is inherently more stressful than bringing up daughters; male children are more aggressive, noisier, more worrisome, and harder to placate… Human adults can if they wish choose to “self-medicate‟. They may do this, when under strain, by using substances such as tobacco and alcohol. A combination of these two assumptions leads to the prediction that the parents of boys will be observed to consume larger quantities of cigarettes and of alcoholic drinks than the parents of girls.

Next time I meet someone with five sons, drinks are on me.


How to quickly and easily become a better person

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Spend more time out in nature:

Four studies examined the effects of nature on valuing intrinsic and extrinsic aspirations. Intrinsic aspirations reflected prosocial and other-focused value orientations, and extrinsic aspirations predicted self-focused value orientations. Participants immersed in natural environments reported higher valuing of intrinsic aspirations and lower valuing of extrinsic aspirations, whereas those immersed in non-natural environments reported increased valuing of extrinsic aspirations and no change of intrinsic aspirations. Three studies explored experiences of nature relatedness and autonomy as underlying mechanisms of these effects, showing that nature immersion elicited these processes whereas non-nature immersion thwarted them and that they in turn predicted higher intrinsic and lower extrinsic aspirations. Studies 3 and 4 also extended the paradigm by testing these effects on generous decision making indicative of valuing intrinsic versus extrinsic aspirations.

Source: “Can Nature Make Us More Caring? Effects of Immersion in Nature on Intrinsic Aspirations and Generosity” from Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

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Here’s How The Season Of Your Birth Affects Your Future Health And Success

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No, I’m not talking about astrology. (If you’re a regular reader of this blog you can guess what my feelings on astrology might be.) This connection is indirect and has to do with who has babies when:

Research has found that season of birth is associated with later health and professional outcomes; what drives this association remains unclear. In this paper we consider a new explanation: that children born at different times in the year are conceived by women with different socioeconomic characteristics. We document large seasonal changes in the characteristics of women giving birth throughout the year in the United States. Children born in the winter are disproportionally born to women who are more likely to be teenagers and less likely to be married or have a high school degree. We show that controls for family background characteristics can explain up to half of the relationship between season of birth and adult outcomes. We then discuss the implications of this result for using season of birth as an instrumental variable; our findings suggest that, though popular, season-of-birth instruments may produce inconsistent estimates. Finally, we find that some of the seasonality in maternal characteristics is due to summer weather differentially affecting fertility patterns across socioeconomic groups.

Source: “Season of Birth and Later Outcomes: Old Questions, New Answers” from National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 14573, December 2008

From the paper:

…we find that the fraction of children born to women without a high school degree is about 10 percent higher (2 percentage points) in January than in May. By way of comparison, this 2-percentage-point-effect on the fraction of mothers without a high school degree is about ten times larger than the effect from a one-percentage-point increase in unemployment estimated by Dehejia and Lleras-Muney (2004). We also document a 10 percent decline in the fraction of children born to teenagers from January to May. This effect, which is observed every spring, is about as large as the decline in the annual fraction of children born to teenagers observed over the entire 1990s. We show similar seasonality in maternal characteristics using the 1960, 1970, and 1980 censuses.

A 10% swing? Holy crap. If you have an “at-risk” teenage girl, lock her in the closet during the summer.

There are times I just want to read the abstract and move on, but sentences like “Finally, we find that some of the seasonality in maternal characteristics is due to summer weather differentially affecting fertility patterns across socioeconomic groups” make me very curious…

Given that the relationship between season of birth and later outcomes seems in part driven by fertility patterns among different groups of women, it is natural to ask what causes these different fertility patterns. We explore one possibility, which is that the fertility-decreasing effects of hot summer temperatures disproportionately affect low socio-economic populations. To test this, we document fertility patterns for married and unmarried women, and add controls for weather at conception. We find that including weather controls attenuates the dip in births to unmarried women in the spring (nine months after the peak of summer heat), but does not affect fertility patterns for married women. This suggests that differences in exposure to extreme temperatures can account for some of the relationship between season of birth and family background.

And the possible reasons for this:

Lam and Miron (1996) show that extreme heat may reduce conceptions, in part because heat reduces sperm count and sperm motility. Low SES individuals may be more exposed to temperature extremes, and work has also shown that temperature may have larger effects on the health outcomes of low SES populations than others. If low SES women or their partners are more responsive to summer heat than other women, this may explain the dip in spring births in Figure 3 (nine months after the hottest months of summer)… There is some evidence that women would like to avoid giving birth in the winter—for example, Rodgers and Udry (1988) survey undergraduate students, and find that almost half of the respondents name either December or January as the worst month for birth. The winter dip to married women in Figure 3 could be generated if high-SES women are either more likely to have these preferences, or are better at executing them (perhaps because their births are more likely to be planned).

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