Soccer/Fútbol Hooliganism Isn’t As Costly As it Used to Be

New research from R. Todd Jewell of the University of North Texas:

Football hooliganism, defined as episodes of crowd trouble inside and outside football stadiums on match days, is commonly perceived to have adverse effects on the sport. We are especially interested in the effects of football-related fan violence on a club’s potential for generating revenues. In this article, we measure hooliganism by arrests for football-related offenses. We analyze two distinct periods in the history of hooliganism in the English Football League: an early period, during which hooliganism was a fundamental social problem (seasons from 1984-1985 to 1994-1995), and a more recent period, in which hooliganism has been less prevalent (2001-2002 to 2009-2010). In the early period, we find evidence of an adverse effect of arrests on football club revenues for English League clubs. This effect disappears in the more recent period, showing that hooliganism, while still present but at lower levels, no longer has adverse effects on club finances. Our results support a hypothesis that recent “gentrification” has reduced hooliganism and thereby has had a positive influence on revenue generation.

Society Needs More Judges With Daughters

From a new study by Adam Glynn and Maya Sen:

In this article, we consider whether personal relationships can affect the way that judges decide cases. To do so, we leverage the natural experiment of a child’s gender to identify the effect of having daughters on the votes of judges. Using new data on the family lives of U.S. Courts of Appeals judges, we find that, conditional on the number of children a judge has, judges with daughters consistently vote in a more feminist fashion on gender issues than judges who have only sons. This result survives a number of robustness tests and appears to be driven primarily by Republican judges. More broadly, this result demonstrates that personal experiences influence how judges make decisions, and this is the first article to show that empathy may indeed be a component in how judges decide cases.

Why Every Racist Mentions Their Black Friend

When something is thoroughly covered by both the New Republic and Urban Dictionary it has clearly reached a point of sufficient social saturation. So there’s no need to go into great detail about the trope of the accused racist who cites minority friends as proof that they don’t have a single racist bone in their body.

But what makes this defense so popular? Why is there such an urge to bring up something as nondescript as having a friend?

A new study by Daniel Effron of the London Business School provides an answer. Effron found that threats to moral identity increase the degree to which people believe past actions have proven their morality. In other words, the threat of appearing racist leads people to overestimate how much their past non-racist actions—like making friends with somebody of another race—are indicative of their non-racist attitudes.

In one set of experiments, participants had the opportunity to make a non-racist choice—for example, reading about a theft and correctly identifying a White rather than Black suspect as the thief. Participants who made the non-racist choice then had to either anticipate a threatening situation (having to defend a statement that compared Blacks unfavorably to Whites) or a non-threatening situation (defending a statement unrelated to race.) Participants then rated how much their initial selection of the White suspect was diagnostic of their non-racist attitudes.

Compared to participants who did not have to face a threatening situation, participants who felt threatened believed their decision to finger the White suspect was significantly more indicative of non-racist attitudes. Threatened participants still believed in the increased importance of their decision even when told that 98% of participants had also chosen the White suspect as the thief.

Might the threatened participants be justified in their beliefs? Do others actually see a previous non-racist decision as meaningful?

Probably not. In follow up experiments outside observers did not believe that selecting the white suspect was a sign of non-racist attitudes. Furthermore, Effron found that overestimating your non-racist “credentials” (e.g. believing you’re not racist because you have a Black friend) is more likely than underestimating your credentials to be seen as a sign of prejudice.

Taken together, the results illuminate the psychological mechanisms behind one of the most popular rationalization of racism. Somebody feels their image of being racially tolerant is under threat, so they overestimate how much previous behavior—having a beer with a Black guy, for example—is a sign of their tolerance. But highlighting this behavior has the opposite of the intended effect because people see the overestimation of the behavior’s importance as a sign of prejudice.

The conclusion is nothing that society hasn’t already figured out. If you’re accused of any kind of inappropriate -ism, don’t defend yourself by citing a particular action or relationship. It’s understandable that doing so seems like the best solution, but it’s probably better to keep your mouth shut. Or at least be prepared to cite 50+ data points rather than the vague existence of “some” friends.
Effron, D. (2014). Making Mountains of Morality From Molehills of Virtue: Threat Causes People to Overestimate Their Moral Credentials Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin DOI: 10.1177/0146167214533131

Do Freedom of Information Act Laws Make a Difference?

Yes! From a study led by Winthrop’s Adriana Cordis:

We assess the effect of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) laws on public corruption in the United States. Specifically, we investigate the impact of switching from a weak to a strong state-level FOIA law on corruption convictions of state and local government officials. The evidence suggests that strengthening FOIA laws has two offsetting effects: reducing corruption and increasing the probability that corrupt acts are detected. The conflation of these two effects led prior work to find little impact of FOIA on corruption. We find that conviction rates approximately double after the switch, which suggests an increase in detection probabilities. However, conviction rates decline from this new elevated level as the time since the switch from weak tostrong FOIA increases. This decline is consistent with officials reducing the rate at which they commit corrupt acts by about twenty percent. These changes are more pronounced in states with more intense media coverage, for those that had more substantial changes in their FOIA laws , for FOIA laws which include strong liabilities for officials who contravene them, for local officials, and for more serious crimes. Conviction rates of federal officials, who are not subject to the policy, show no concomitant change.


Is Our Criminal Justice System Too Aggressive?

I have a new piece in Pacific Standard about research suggesting that fear of the criminal justice system can lead people to opt out of institutions that collect personal information. This could mean forgoing medical care at a hospital or deciding not to open a bank account.

While the study has all the standard caveats that come will correlational research, the results paint a bleak picture:

Even after controlling for demographics, income, health, and behaviors like drug use or carrying a weapon, respondents who had any type of contact with the criminal justice system were 31 percent more likely than those who had no contact to not obtain medical care when they needed it. Even people who were merely stopped by police were 33 percent more likely to not seek medical care. 


The findings tell a convincing story about how fear of the criminal justice system can lead to negative health, financial, and educational outcomes. And because contact with the system is more frequent in low-income and minority communities, these negative outcomes ought to hit them disproportionately hard. A perfect storm of data collection and aggressive criminal justice policies can help to create a society that’s toxic for social mobility.

Go read the whole thing!

Yes, the GOP is the Party of Big Business

Or at least big “economic sectors.” From a new study by the the University of Maryland’s James Gimpel, Frances Lee, and Michael Parrott:

We identify the economic interests in the United States that have a partisan alignment. We disaggregate corporate and trade association political action committees by economic sector, using the most fine-grained classifications available. We then analyze the campaign contributions to House incumbents from each sector, controlling for the majority party, economic geography, committee membership, and electoral competition. We find wide variation in how economic sectors relate to the parties. More than one third have a clear party tilt, with far more leaning toward Republicans than to Democrats. The remainder have no discernible partisan preference, either giving without reference to party or opportunistically to the majority. Republican-leaning sectors concentrate in particular enterprises, especially natural resources extraction, while most professional service sectors are nonpartisan. Business is not a monolith, to be contrasted with “labor” or “ideological interest groups,” but embedded in economic sectors that are more or less politicized in partisan terms.

Does Access to Birth Control Reduce Poverty?

In American politics the proliferation of birth control is important because of how it affects the eternal resting place of our immortal souls. But believe it or not, there are also non-metaphysical policy consequences to increasing access to birth control. A new study by a pair of economists — Stephanie Browne of J.P. Morgan and Sara LaLumia of Williams College — suggests that access to birth control led to a significant reduction in female poverty rates.

This paper examines the relationship between legal access to the birth control pill and female poverty. We rely on exogenous cross-state variation in the year in which oral contraception became legally available to young, single women. Using census data from 1960 to 1990, we find that having legal access to the birth control pill by age 20 significantly reduces the probability that a woman is subsequently in poverty. We estimate that early legal access to oral contraception reduces female poverty by 0.5 percentage points, even when controlling for completed education, employment status, and household composition.

A second analysis with less robust controls found that access to the pill reduced poverty rates by one full percentage point. Given that the mean poverty rate for women over the relevant time period was 10%-15%, the findings suggest that access to the pill led to a 3 to 10 percent reduction in the female poverty rate. According to Browne and LaLumia, the low end of their estimated impact is equivalent to about a 1 percentage point decrease a state’s unemployment rate.

But wait, there’s more! The results also supported previous findings that suggest access to birth control leads to a statistically significant reduction in the chances a woman will get divorced.

So there you have it. Poverty reduction and strong marriages. The pill is everything a social conservative could ever want.
Browne, S., & LaLumia, S. (2014). The Effects of Contraception on Female Poverty Journal of Policy Analysis and Management DOI: 10.1002/pam.21761