June 30, 2012

Chinese Cheating

The NYT has an article on the gaokao, the national college admissions exam in China:
Each year, cheating scandals become the talk of China. One common tactic was for students to give their identification cards to look-alikes hired to take the test; later, many provinces installed fingerprint scanners at test centers.

Do even the Chinese find that other Chinese rather look alike?
In 2008, three girls in Jiangsu Province were caught with mini-cameras inside their bras; their aim was to transmit images of the exam to people outside the classroom who would then provide answers. This year, the big scandal involved students in Huanggang, Hubei Province, famous in the past decade for churning out students with high scores; several dozen students were caught there last month for using small monitors costing nearly $2,500 that resembled erasers and that allowed the students to receive electronic messages with test answers.

It's all relative: Racial records in 100m dash

It's hard for humans to evaluate data from two different perspectives at once. For example, let's take another look at my old reliable data source, men's 100 meter sprint records.

Poking around at the Wikipedia page on National Records in Athletics, I come up with these estimates of racial records (I am no doubt missing some):

West African: 9.58 (Jamaica)
Southwest African: 9.86 (Namibia)
South East Africa: 9.89 (Zimbabwe)
European: 9.92 (France)
Australia Aborigine-White Mix: 9.93
East Asian: 10.00 (Japan)
East African: 10.26 (Kenya)
Pacific Islander: 10.26 (Fiji)
South Asian: 10.30 (India)
Papuan: 10.40 (Papua New Guinea)

As of ten days ago (it's currently prime time for track and field, so this probably has changed), 81 men had run under 10.00 seconds in the 100m dash, and all but two were black. So, that's a big difference.

On the other hand, consider the difference between the best time of Usain Bolt of Jamaica (the world record of 9.58 seconds) and the two Indians who have run India's national record time. Now, India is not a very sports-oriented society, but the difference is still only 0.72 seconds, or well under 10%. So, compared to, say, tortoises and hares, human racial groups are pretty similar at sprinting.

On the other other hand, these racial differences really do make a difference in the real world. 

It's hard to keep all of that straight in one's head simultaneously, so most people don't. It's easier just to assume that a person who understands things you don't must be evil.

"Shahs of Sunset"

I finally got around to watching 15 minutes of the Shahs of Sunset reality show about a bunch of rich Iranians in Beverly Hills who, in the grand tradition of such shows, shop and complain. 

Anyway, I thought it was interesting enough to spend 15 minutes watching because we are frequently told that America must go to war with the New Nazi Germany to halt Tehran's juggernaut of anti-Semitism.

Yet, L.A. is full of complaining and shopping Iranians: some are Muslim, some Jewish, some Bahai, but they all identify as "Persian." There's virtually nothing going on in L.A. that would suggest that Jews are terribly oppressed in Iran. Persian Jews in L.A. are not famous for, say, undergoing combat training to ready themselves for playing a role in the inevitable war. They're more into brunch.

As was foretold ...

From the L.A. Times:
Analysis: Romney-Obama race dividing U.S. along fault lines 
By Paul West 
Increasingly, the 2012 presidential election appears to be dividing along a pair of fault-lines. 
The first is demographic: old versus new America. 
President Obama’s reelection depends increasingly on a coalition of minorities and younger voters, the same groups that helped put him in office. Their overall numbers are increasing, but the president’s ability to turn them out this year at anywhere close to 2008 levels remains in doubt (at least among Latinos and younger whites; the black vote is virtually certain to be there again for Obama). Their potential explains why Democrats have sought to portray the election as the future against the past. 
Mitt Romney, meanwhile, is likely to become president only if he can improve on John McCain’s performance among whites, who represent a declining share of the U.S. population. The GOP candidate’s  recent campaign swings have been through areas where whites make up a disproportionate share of the population — including portions of the old Midwest Rust belt and southwest Virginia. A potential key to mobilizing conservative whites: voter drives by Christian organizations to sign up millions of unregistered evangelicals; one of Romney’s biggest advantages over Obama, according to the Gallup Poll, comes from religious whites, who favor the Republican by better than 2-to-1.

The huge advantage that Obama possesses is that in The Narrative, his pandering (e.g., declaring he won't enforce immigration laws to get more Hispanic votes) is admirable because he's on the side of the right kind of people (e.g., gays, Latinos, single moms, etc.). In contrast, what Romney has to do is shameful because they are the wrong kind of people. 

On the other hand, twine and duct tape coalitions like Obama's are inherently unstable. But doing anything to exploit that would be "divisive," and we can't have that.

Signaling theory: black first names

There aren't that many sports that girls really like, so the level of competition in the handful that many little girls very much care about, such as gymnastics, is high, requiring years of dedication. 

A friend notes that two African American girls have a shot at making the U.S. Olympic tumbling squad.
They are Gabrielle Douglas and Elizabeth Price.  
Signaling theory: both have normal names, have parents with normal names, and sibs with normal names. 

Steven Levitt and Roland Fryer's study of a huge number of black first names in California concluded that black children who get saddled by their parents with oppositional ghetto names were probably doomed anyway by everything else they get (or don't get) from their parents.

I don't really buy that, however. I'm more of a believer in nurture than Levitt on this. I think nurture works most effectively through class and caste. Unfortunately, the challenges of coming up with a methodology to prove this are daunting.

Black Italian soccer star Mario Balotelli: Nature v. nurture

Italy won the World Cup in 2006 with an all white team by playing their traditional miserly Mediterranean peasant style (imagine the mean, cunning farmers in Jean de Florette who outsmart city-slicker Gerard Depardieu -- and, yes, I know that's a French movie). They beat France's much more diverse team in the Final. The media had been in a frenzy promoting the French team as the triumph of diversity, but then France's Berber superstar Zinedine Zidane got suckered into going all Bob Hoskins on an Italian player and was kicked out and Italy won the draw on penalty kicks.

But, the times they are a changing. A reader writes:
You've got to get on top of this.  Mario Balotelli (2 goals to upset Germany in the semifinals of the Euro tournament) has biological parents from Ghana, but was born in Italy and raised from an early age by a Jewish family in a wealthy Italian village.  Sandra Scarr could only dream of case studies like this.  Read the Wikipedia article on him and guess his IQ.

From Wikipedia:
He joined Manchester City in August 2010, where his performances and off-field activities have continued to be enigmatic and unpredictable.

To summarize a long list of tabloid tales, despite his privileged upbringing, Balotelli's not strong on what psychologists call "executive function." A legal name change to something like "Metta World Peace" would seem a distinct possibility.

June 29, 2012

Contra Kanazawa

Feds considering declaring Arabs eligible for affirmative action

It's often argued that in the future, as white racism slowly loses influence, more people will be allowed to declare themselves white, just like, as everybody knows, the Irish weren't white back in the days of John L. Sullivan, but now they are.

In reality, however, the trend appears to be in the opposite direction. For example, the federal government is currently pondering whether to declare Arabs to be a minority for the purpose of receiving minority business development goodies.

The decision to enlist members of the Arab American business community as socially or economically disadvantaged has been postponed by a business development agency hearing the case.  
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the largest grassroots civil rights organizations in the United States for Arab Americans, was expecting the U.S. Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) to make a final verdict on whether Arab American business people can be categorized as a minority on Wednesday, but the decision was postponed.  
“The date has been moved up 30 days to late July,” said Abed Ayoub, Legislative Director of ADC, in an email to Al Arabiya. 
Groups that are eligible for MBDA services included Hasidic Jews, Asian Pacific Americans and Asian Indians who have eligible for assistance from the MBDA.
If ADC’s petition passes through, more grants and funding will be funneled to the Arab American business community.  
There will also be more contracts for the community that can be applied on the federal, local and state levels, Fay Beydoun, Executive Director of Arab American Chamber of Commerce, told Al Arabiya. ... 
ADC’s petition is full of details and descriptions on how the Arab community is as a distinct one whether in their skin color, food habits and music, and how the group has had faced discrimination ever since their migration to the U.S. in the 19th century. ...  
It brought up a case by Dr. H. el-Kouri, a Syrian physician in Birmingham, who defended Arabs against derogatory public comments made by congressman John L Burnet in 1907.


The federal government is requesting comments on this proposal here.

Here's Wikipedia's list of famous Arab-Americans, which looks like a list of random famous white people.

June 27, 2012

Mexican Mustaches

Judging from the candidates in the Mexican Presidential election, the mustache is finally fading from fashion south of the border after a really long run, peaking in the days of Vicente Fox, who broke the PRI monopoly on power by being 6 and a half feet tall and having a formidable mustache. Of the three male nominees in 2012, only fourth party candidate Gabriel Quadri is sporting a 'stache, and it's really not a good look. But why the mustache's long run in Mexico? Was it to reassure people you were not so Indian you couldn't grow a mustache?

Brazilian Blowouts

I'm not up to speed on this kind of stuff, but we're apparently back into a fashion era when women will go to any lengths to have straight hair, including the popular, but sometimes carcinogenic, Brazilian Blowout. Now, why would Brazil be the world leader at straightening hair?

Did hippies have German roots?

Back in the 1960s, where did hippies come from? They emerged with incredible suddenness over about a one year period between 1966 and 1967. Did they have any precursors? My new Taki Magazine column considers the question of one luridly famous example of social change to see if the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Read the whole thing there.

June 26, 2012

Dr. Vibrant's Back: Richard Florida Redux

For over a decade, I've periodically debunked the theory of Richard "Rise of the Creative Class" Florida, who has pocketed near-Gladwellian speaking fees by telling local leaders what they want to hear: the way to make your little backwood burgh rich is to bring in a lot of gays, artists,   bohemians, and immigrants. Notice how San Francisco has a lot of gays? Well, did you also notice that San Francisco is also the Tech Capital? Huh?

Now he's trying to milk his 2002 book The Rise of the Creative Class further with a tenth anniversary edition.

Modern American doesn't have much of an intellectual immune system. Institutional America has an endless appetite for hucksters of ideas for politically correct theories about how to make money, ideas that frequently make far more money for their spokesperson than for the poor saps who try to implement them.

My role has often been to play rogue white blood cell in the English-speaking world's undergunned intellectual immune system.

So, way back in 2002, I wrote in VDARE:
These research high technology centers are not actually located in the cities of San Francisco, Boston and New York at all, but in their much less diverse suburbs. The authors’ methodological blunder is obvious: they use overly expansive definitions of “metropolitan areas.” Thus, they label “San Francisco” both the Gay Capital and the Tech Capital, even though Castro Street in San Francisco and Sand Hill Road in Palo Alto might be 90 minutes apart – in normal traffic. 
All across the country over the last 45 years, the pattern has been unmistakable: the techno-innovators congregate out in the far suburbs, a long, long way from what is normally called “diversity.” … 
Obviously, colleges can play important roles in creating tech centers, as can nice weather and good scenery. Yet the Bay Area’s technopolis didn’t grow up around UC Berkeley, as the Florida & Gates’ theory would predict, but around Stanford – the school for smart rich kids way off in the orchard-filled Santa Clara Valley. … 
Bohemians don’t invent technology. Nerds do. … Nerds tend to be especially devoted family men, possibly because they find chasing women so painful. And the most important component of any serious technology company’s workforce is married men with children. 
The suburban high tech nerdistans (to use Joel Kotkin’s phrase) are diverse in the sense that they are full of not only white nerds, but also Chinese and Asian Indian nerds. But that’s not exactly what most pundits mean when they talk about Diversity. 

In 2005, I wrote in the Washington Examiner:
“And, sure, booms and bohemians tend to correlate, but who really attracts whom to a metroplex? Do the engineers and salesguys actually pursue the gay art dealers and immigrant restaurateurs, or are Dr. Florida’s footloose favorites more likely to follow the money generated by the pocket-protector boys? 
“In the 1970s, for example, Houston suddenly became one of the gayest cities in America, even though Houston was not famously tolerant. No, Houston got (briefly) hip because gays, immigrants, and artistes flocked there because OPEC had raised prices, making Houston’s unhip oil companies rich for a decade. 
“In contrast, famously tolerant New Orleans and Las Vegas (“Sin City”) rank today near the bottom of Dr. Florida’s talent tables because his kind of folks can’t make much money in either. 
“So, he appears to have gotten the arrow of causality mostly backwards.”

And in 2008, I reviewed one of Florida's self-help books in The American Conservative:
When he's not intentionally unhelpful, he's obtuse. For example, in Who's Your City, he reprints a popular map of America he put up on his blog in 2007 showing that the largest surpluses of extra single men are in Southwestern cities, near the Mexican border. Having had a year to think it over, Dr Vibrant asserts, "The best ratio for heterosexual women was in greater Los Angeles, where single men outnumber single women by 40,000." 
So if a bachelorette doesn't quite have the looks to land a husband in, say, Cincinnati, she should hightail it to L.A., where there's much less competition from attractive women. Yeah, right … 
The obvious reason there are so many more single men than single women in the Southwest is that there are so many illegal alien males there. The kind of single women who buy hardcover advice books probably aren't that interested in a Mixtec-speaking drywaller, but Dr. Vibrant ignores such potentially controversial topics. 
He has, after all, built his success on telling business and civic leaders that if they want their dreary little burgh to become the next Silicon Valley, they'll need a lot of homosexuals, like in San Francisco. He says, "Gays predict not only the concentration of high-tech industry, but also its growth …"

Slowly, a few other people have started to notice the obvious problems in Florida's theory. In "The Fall of the Creative Class," writer Frank Bures, who moved to Madison, WI a decade ago because it seemed like the Next Big Thing in Floridian breakthroughs, calls up several social scientists to ask how the evidence is working out for Creative Class theorizing: not good. 

The most fun part is a section on Penelope Trunk, a less slick version of Dr. Florida, whom, to my surprise turns out to be a real person.
One of these peo­ple was a woman named Pene­lope Trunk, a brand­ing expert, a Gen Y prog­nos­ti­ca­tor, and a ruth­less, relent­less self-promoter. Her arrival in Madi­son could not have been more dif­fer­ent than ours. She announced on her blog that she’d done exhaus­tive research and con­cluded that the best place in the coun­try for her to live was Madi­son,  Wis­con­sin. Trunk’s name was splashed across the papers, and seemed to con­firm every Florid­ian sus­pi­cion. Local cap­i­tal­ists bankrolled her new com­pany, Brazen Careerist. She blogged and blogged and blogged about how best to choose the place to work and live. She was an apos­tle of Florid­ian doc­trine and flew around giv­ing speeches about how places could attract the shock troops of the cre­ative econ­omy the way Madi­son had attracted her. 
One day I met Trunk for cof­fee. She was loud and brash and talked over the din of the other peo­ple. She seemed to be under the impres­sion that I’d come to her for career advice, which she gave and to which I politely lis­tened. And while I liked her energy, I could tell by the way peo­ple shot her dirty looks that Madi­son was going to be a tough fit. 
Four years later, Trunk left town, which seemed odd, given her much-ballyhooed arrival. By then, we had fallen out of touch, and I was never quite clear on her rea­son for leav­ing. So I called her to find out what had gone wrong. Trunk now lives on a farm in south­west Wis­con­sin, (she divorced her hus­band and mar­ried a farmer). On the phone, she was still brash and bom­bas­tic and as she told it, her hon­ey­moon with the city started to end almost as soon as she got there. One day her ex-husband was googling, “sex offend­ers,” and he dis­cov­ered there were four reg­is­tered on their block. Next, she dis­cov­ered that the pub­lic schools were ter­ri­ble. “I started talk­ing to every­one,” Trunk said. “And I said, ‘Hey, aren’t you upset the schools suck? How is every­one send­ing their kid here?’ And peo­ple said, ‘Oh, no, I really love my school. I make sure for my kid it’s all about val­ues.’ I mean the bull­shit that peo­ple were telling me was utterly incred­i­ble. Then it just became like an onslaught. Tons of lies. Madi­son is a city full of peo­ple in denial. Peo­ple don’t leave Madi­son, so they don’t real­ize what’s good and not good.” 
I asked her if she had any regrets, or if the move was a wrong one, or if she had any advice for other peo­ple look­ing to relo­cate. Or maybe, I sug­gested, life was just messier than research? 
“No,” she said. “Life is totally clear cut. It’s exactly what the research is. All the research says go live with your friends and fam­ily. Oth­er­wise, you have to look at why you’re not doing that. If you want to look at a city that’s best for your career, it’s New York, San Fran­cisco or Lon­don. If you’re not look­ing for your career, it doesn’t really mat­ter. There’s no dif­fer­ence. It’s split­ting hairs."

That's cartoonishly overstated, but the "friends and family" part makes a lot of sense. Keep in mind that you aren't going to make friends as easily the older you get, so if you've got a pretty good class of friends by the time you get out of college, try to hang onto them.

And don't overlook the huge contribution that a good grandmother can make to your family life. My aunt, for instance, has driven at least a million miles to take care of her grandchildren who live on opposite sides of Greater Los Angeles. 

I had a terrific mother-in-law, a bright, energetic woman who really liked me. But, then, a few months before our first son was born, she was killed in a car crash. The 1990s turned out significantly more difficult for us than if we had had her around to pitch in.

Particularism and rock bands

David Brooks returns from following Bruce Springsteen's tour around Europe, where 50,000 Spaniards sang along to songs about New Jersey's industrial wastelands, and writes:
It makes you appreciate the tremendous power of particularity. If your identity is formed by hard boundaries, if you come from a specific place, if you embody a distinct musical tradition, if your concerns are expressed through a specific paracosm, you are going to have more depth and definition than you are if you grew up in the far-flung networks of pluralism and eclecticism, surfing from one spot to the next, sampling one style then the next, your identity formed by soft boundaries, or none at all. 
Maybe this is why younger rock bands can’t fill stadiums year after year, while the more geographically defined older bands like U2, Springsteen and the Beach Boys can.

Probably not the main reason, but it's still an interesting point. There is a real hunger among fans for a band to be from somewhere, even if they hadn't actually gotten there yet. Kurt Cobain wasn't from Seattle, he was from a hick town and then from Olympia, but he was hoping to eventually get to the big city. So, Nirvana got swept up in a narrative powered by the general rise of Seattle in the late 1980s (Starbucks, Nordstrom's, Microsoft, etc.)

One big change is the decline of the Southern tradition in rock. A huge fraction of electric guitar bands were once either explicitly Southern or wanna-bes (the Rolling Stones at their peak in Honky Tonk Women era). But that seems to have gotten suburbanized away, with assertively Southern musicians going to Nashville instead of into rock. 

June 25, 2012

Amy Wax: "The iron law of personnel selection"

Amy L. Wax, a tenured professor at the U. of Pennsylvania Law School, writes in The Dead End of 'Disparate Impact' in National Affairs:
Contrary to the Supreme Court's assumption in Griggs, the comparative power of IQ extends even to relatively uncomplicated positions requiring modest skills, such as clerical or retail work. What this means is that hiring on the basis of intelligence — as opposed to other, non-cognitive personal attributes or talents — will almost always produce better-performing workers. 
As for alternatives to written tests, it is revealing that no relevant research findings were adduced (either by New Haven or in the amici briefs for the city's case) to support the assertion in Ricci that alternative job screens can achieve better results while promoting diversity. Although studies show that written tests of job knowledge are robust predictors of performance in public-safety jobs like policing and firefighting, "assessment center" procedures like those touted in the Ricci briefs rarely achieve comparable validity. And even when such procedures reduce adverse impact, the effects are usually too modest to satisfy legal standards. All told, there is essentially no credible evidence that "better" selection methods — ones that are equally or more valid but have less adverse impact — exist or can be readily devised. 
This is not for lack of trying. An entire cottage industry is now devoted to refining personnel selection with the goal of increasing work-force diversity without compromising an employer's search for the most able employees. This quest has spawned a voluminous literature; the basic approach in nearly every case is to de-emphasize the academic and analytic measures on which minorities lag behind in favor of other abilities that yield smaller or non-existent racial differences. 
This work has produced uniformly disappointing results. Except in highly specialized circumstances or in staffing for the least competitive jobs, adopting alternative screening methods that minimize the significance of abilities related to intelligence almost always results in the selection of less capable workers. The reason is simple: The paucity of non-Asian minorities in competitive positions reflects real differences in human capital and skill. Thus changing entry requirements to create a more diverse work force, including scrapping existing civil-service exams, will generally not result in a more qualified work force. For now, the diversity-validity tradeoff remains the iron law of personnel selection. 
The bottom line, therefore, is that most employers who engage in genuinely meritocratic skill-based hiring using a broad range of valid personnel practices will fail to meet the disparate-impact doctrine's threshold diversity targets. Indeed, as IOP experts Paul Sackett and Jill Ellingson have observed, most employers have no hope of even coming close to satisfying the Griggs four-fifths requirement. Group performance differences, or d values, commonly viewed as small — for example, 0.2, which is far lower than the one standard deviation black-white difference in pure tests of cognitive ability — can produce violations of the four-fifths rule in even modestly competitive hiring situations. This means that businesses that strive to hire the best workers will routinely violate the four-fifths proportionality rule for minority hires and thus expose themselves to potential disparate-impact challenges.

The disparate impact racket is four decades old now, but what percentage of the intelligentsia even knows it exists (as opposed to affirmative action in college admissions, which is vastly more discussed but probably far less important)? Five percent? And what percentage understand it?

Maybe it helps to be as smart as Amy Wax to grasp it. Here's her bio:
A native of Troy, New York, Amy Laura Wax received a B.S. summa cum laude in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale in 1975. She was then a Marshall Scholar in Philosophy, Physiology, and Psychology at Somerville College at Oxford University. She earned an M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1981, training as a neurologist, and received a J.D. from Columbia in 1987, where she was an editor of the Law Review. She was a Law Clerk to the Honorable Abner J. Mikva, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from 1987-88. From 1988-94, she served as Assistant to the Office of the Solicitor General in the U.S. Department of Justice, where she argued 15 cases before the United States Supreme Court. Wax was a member of the Legal Affairs Committee, American Academy of Neurology from 1986-1992. In 1994, she joined the faculty of UVA. She taught courses in civil procedure, labor law, and poverty law and welfare policy. She became Class of 1948 Professor of Scholarly Research in Law from 2000-01. After becoming a visiting professor to Penn Law School in 2000, she joined its faculty in 2001.

Not quite as boring as most Olympic track posts

Random notes on the decathlon:

Nobody cares much about the Olympic decathlon anymore, but the competition for the "World's Greatest Athlete" used to be a big deal. For example, Bruce Jenner rode his 1976 gold medal to being Kim Kardashian's stepfather. He says that when he's on his deathbed, he intends to hold an auction between Coke and Pepsi over who gets to slap their logo on his coffin.

Here's a picture of Ashton Eaton, who just set a new world's record in winning the decathlon at the U.S. Olympic track & field trials, which, as usual, are being held in Eugene, Oregon, because Oregon is the only place that still cares about t&f.

Eaton is from a small town in Oregon. His mom is a redhead. Dad hasn't been around since he was two.

Dennis Dale recently pointed out in the comments that Obama just barely squeezed through the Novelty Window: Guys with a white mom and a black dad who isn't around have quickly gone from representing Hope and Change to being depressingly common.

My guess is that being part but not fully black is helpful in the ten event decathlon: e.g., Daley Thompson, the British 1980 and 1984 gold medalist, one of the Dave and Dan guys from 1992, and Bryan Clay, the half-Japanese half-black American who won at Beijing.

Anthropologist Henry Harpending has talked about how a racial group that forms out of two larger races will eventually develop a "type," a characteristic look over a number of generations. Most African-Americans look more blended, more like the type than they used to.

I recall watching some Black History Month documentary on PBS and my wife pointed to the sepia toned photos from several generations ago and noted that black people used to look different.

Blake Griffin of the NBA Clippers is an example of a first generation cross who doesn't look well-blended. But this Ashton Eaton fellow doesn't even look black at all, he looks like a dark Asian Indian. But he runs like he's black.

A general theory of Guilt v. Shame

Tommy comments:
Look at the low crime Omanis or Jordanians versus the high crime "youfs" in France versus the Japanese or Koreans. Oman is what happens when you have the kings, sultans, or sheiks to crack the whip on a shame-based people. Suburban France is what happens when you have a shame-based people living in a society that depends on a certain measure of guilt. Japan is what happens when you don't need emirs, ayatollahs, or clans to enforce the rules strictly and hurt or embarrass offenders.  
My suspicion is that all the following generally run together in social, psychological, neurological and genetic terms: 
= social orderliness in the absence of severity
= good manufacturing
= suicide in the face of defeat or embarrassment
= highly organized war crimes
= personal intolerance of the disorderly
= high level of visuospatial relative to verbal intelligence
= high latitude evolutionary environment
= personal responsibility, low narcissism and high collectivism
= rapid industrialization once the way forward is obvious
= high levels of cultural and institutional formalization
= low corruption or at least relative ease of ridding society of corruption once it becomes a priority
= less humor
= a certain degree of traditionalism related to formalization 
= disorderliness in the absence of severity
= poor manufacturing
= unwillingness to commitment suicide (unless its suicide by enemy while doing something homicidal) in the face of defeat
= poorly organized and personally emotional massacres
= personal tolerance of disorderliness
= high verbal to visuospatial IQ ratios (not necessarily absolutely high verbal intelligence though)
= low latitude evolutionary environment
= seeking credit and avoiding blame, high narcissism, low collectivism
= poor industrialization
= low levels of cultural and institutional formalization
= high corruption and resistance to reform in this area
= more humor
= traditionalism that seems more emotional and nostalgic and has little to do with prior formalization of customs 
All this may sound good for guilt-based societies, but I suspect that those that are too too guilt-based may be somewhat uncreative. 
I would argue that in Europe the Germans are (or at least were) a shade more guilt-based than the English. The English beat the Germans to the Industrial Revolution (maybe in part because the English are a bit more free-wheeling than the Germans?), but Germany underwent industrialization even more rapidly than Britain. 

Is it any wonder firms are slow to hire new workers?

From the NYT:
U.S. Push on Illegal Bias Against Hiring Those With Criminal Records 
In April, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission signaled that it would begin to crack down on employers who use the criminal histories of job applicants to discriminate against them illegally. ...
The notion that using criminal records in employment decisions could constitute discrimination has been government policy since at least the 1970s. The E.E.O.C. has in the past issued policy statements, called enforcement guidance, about how employers may use criminal records without running afoul of the Civil Rights Act, but in April the agency published new enforcement guidance. 
The new guidance “consolidates and supersedes” those earlier policies, the commission said in an accompanying question-and-answer document. And while the underlying theory of what actions constitute discrimination appears not to have changed, labor lawyers say the new policy requires companies to establish procedures to show they are not using criminal records to discriminate by race or national origin. 
... Employment discrimination provisions of the act apply to companies with more than 15 employees and define two broad types of discrimination, disparate treatment and disparate impact. ... 
Disparate impact is more complicated. It essentially means that practices that disproportionately harm racial or ethnic groups protected by the law can be considered discriminatory even if there is no obvious intent to discriminate. In fact, according to the guidance, “evidence of a racially balanced work force will not be enough to disprove disparate impact.” 
As the E.E.O.C. establishes in its guidance, members of some minority groups are much more likely to be arrested and convicted than whites. From the commission’s perspective, the Civil Rights Act serves to make certain that disparity is not compounded in the workplace. 
In its guidance, the commission warns employers not to use arrest records at all in hiring decisions. ... 
A conviction, on the other hand, “will usually serve as sufficient evidence that a person engaged in particular conduct, given the procedural safeguards associated with trials and guilty pleas,” according to the guidance. But convictions seem to have put the E.E.O.C. in a bind. The document cites Department of Justice statistics that show a Hispanic man is nearly three times as likely as a white man to be incarcerated, and an African-American man is nearly six times as likely. In 2008, according to the commission, “African-Americans and Hispanics were more likely than whites to be arrested, convicted or sentenced for drug offenses even though their rate of drug use is similar to the rate of drug use for whites.” 

Uh, what's their rate of drug dealing? A large fraction of people in jail on "drug possession" charges are drug dealers, just as Al Capone was in jail on tax fraud charges. Forensic chemists are harder for drug dealers to terrify into not testifying against them than are people in their own neighborhoods.
“The underlying assumption is that there’s disproportionate enforcement of the law in minority communities,” said Mr. Stuart, the lawyer. 
Under the guidelines, an employer can exclude applicants with criminal convictions provided it can demonstrate that the exclusion is “job-related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity” — a phrase that appears in the law itself and is not defined in the guidance. The easiest way for employers to do that, according to the E.E.O.C., is to develop a “targeted screen considering at least the nature of the crime, the time elapsed and the nature of the job.” 
Ideally, Mr. Stuart said, employers would prefer hard-and-fast criteria and a simple yes-or-no answer to a hiring decision. But instead, he said, the E.E.O.C. wants employers to first determine what criminal convictions might rule applicants out for each job and then judge each candidate against the job in question, which could be a painstaking process. Mr. Stuart recommended that employers start by thinking about broad categories of criminality: theft, violent crimes involving felonies, sex crimes, drug crimes. 
If employers conclude that on the basis of three factors — the nature of the crime, the time elapsed and the nature of the job — an applicant is ineligible, “then they have to do an individual assessment, and there are eight different factors that the E.E.O.C. says you have to look at,” said Pamela Q. Devata, a Chicago partner in the law firm Seyfarth Shaw. “The employer has to have a dialogue with the individual, or at least give the individual an opportunity to provide a response about the fact that the criminal history makes them unable to do the job.” 
Andrea Herran, a human resources consultant in the Chicago area, said that the new procedures would subject small businesses to a legal cross-fire, especially businesses with employees who work in the field. Those companies are potentially liable for the actions of an employee in a client’s home or office. 
“It’s almost like you’re being squeezed on both sides of the law,” Ms. Herran said. “If somebody’s making them nervous with their criminal history, and they’re worried about getting sued on the other side, what’s a business owner supposed to do?

Hire as few people as possible is the usual answer.

The next best answer is to demand a college degree or even an advanced degree. The EEOC, which is run 100% by people with college degrees, is mostly fine with that kind of discrimination!
... Even if an employer develops a job-related and business-necessary rationale for excluding some criminal convictions, the exclusion could still be considered discriminatory if there is a less discriminatory alternative that would achieve the same result. For example, Mr. Stuart said, an employer that has a legitimate reason to exclude convicted drug criminals could presumably achieve the same result by screening job candidates with drug tests. 
The guidance specifically discourages employers from asking about criminal history on an application, and Mr. Stuart said that he was telling his clients that to avoid a fight, they should wait to ask about criminal convictions “until they have determined that the person is qualified and in the pool of people who would be offered a job.” 
Ms. Devata said that when employers did ask about criminal convictions, they should tailor the question narrowly to the job at hand.

Because nobody ever gets promoted. So, don't try to hire people who are more likely to be promotable if you know what's good for you.
Ms. Devata warned that the E.E.O.C. seemed to be preparing for battle on this issue. “The E.E.O.C. has indicated that they are already investigating hundreds of charges related to the use of criminal history in employment,” she said. “The implications of that is that the E.E.O.C. has been looking into this area, and will continue to do so, likely with more force and effect, now that the new guidance is out.”

Hiring is an anti-discrimination minefield, and firing even more so, so the best thing to do is to hire as few people as possible and work them really hard.

Supreme Court's Arizona immigration decision: bad or disastrous?

The LA Times reports:
The Supreme Court’s mixed decision on Arizona’s tough immigration law gave both sides an opportunity to celebrate, criticize and, inevitably, point fingers. Above all, it underscored the tricky politics surrounding the emotional issue — for both parties — especially in the midst of a fiercely fought presidential campaign. 
President Obama offered qualified praise for the ruling, saying he was pleased the Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the Arizona law, including parts that would have made it a state crime for illegal immigrants to seek work or fail to carry proper documentation. 
But Obama, like many Latino activists, expressed concern the court upheld perhaps the most controversial portion of the state crackdown, a provision allowing police officers, making lawful stops, to check the immigration status of people who they suspect may be in the country illegally.

But that sounds more like the Best Case Scenario.

A commenter recently pointed out that there's no good reason for the Supreme Court to be based in Washington D.C. What, they don't have email these days? They have to go look up precedents in paper files only available in D.C.?

The Justices (other than Clarence Thomas, who loves RVing around the country) just get encapsulated in the D.C. Bubble. In particular, Washington D.C. based folks are a generation behind most of the rest of the country in understanding the impact of illegal immigration. White people in D.C. are all for it because, deep down, they see it as a way to push blacks out of D.C. 

Either move the Supreme Court permanently to, say, Kansas City, or make it move around the country every couple of years. 

Japanese: Guilt or Shame?

A Western journalist who has written a true crime book about the hunt for a Tokyo serial rapist complains that Japanese police aren't very good at the police procedural stuff that makes for popular true crime books in the West because the Japanese people are so law-abiding:
The [Japanese] police believe that because Japan is one of the world’s most crime-free societies, they must be great crime fighters. In fact, the opposite is true: Japan is peaceful, safe and regimented not because of, but despite, the frequently disgraceful performance of its guardians. ... Certain policing — the local, grass-roots work of directing traffic, helping confused pedestrians and reassuring people that everything is under control — is done very well in Japan. But against out-of-the-ordinary crimes, the Japanese police are ill equipped. 
One reason: Japanese investigators rely on confessions far more than their Western counterparts. The police are skilled at persuading suspects — guilty or not — to confess. (In this they are aided greatly by their ability to hold a suspect without charge for up to 23 days). Without an admission of guilt, prosecutors are reluctant to charge. But the dependence on confessions means Japanese detectives are not used to building cases and proving guilt. 
In researching a book about the notorious killer and serial rapist Joji Obara, who operated for years under the noses of the police, I talked to detectives who were almost indignant about his refusal to confess. The idea that cunning, stubbornness and lies were to be expected from a criminal — that it was in order to deal with such people that the police existed — didn’t seem obvious to them at all. In their minds, they weren’t incompetent or unimaginative or lazy. They were the unlucky victims of that rare thing in the world’s most law-abiding country: the dishonest criminal.
Richard Lloyd Parry, the Asia editor for The Times of London, is the author of “People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished From the Streets of Tokyo — and the Evil That Swallowed Her Up.” 

The Japanese take confessing and apologizing seriously. In the U.S., when a company screws up, the initial impulse is to pin the blame not on the CEO but on some hapless underling. When a Japanese roller coaster broke and killed somebody in Osaka in 2007, however, the head of the roller coaster company practically disemboweled himself on national TV. 

Is this guilt or shame? That's one of those distinctions that sounds really useful in theory, but I have a hard applying in the real world.

Whither the white working class vote?

Thomas Edsall in the New York Times has a post, White Working Chaos, on the various disputes among social scientists such as Andrew Gelman, William Frey, and Larry Bartels on the voting patterns of the white working class. 

Allow me to offer a theory that I haven't tested directly, but doesn't even come up: a main cause of confusion is overlooking the voting impact of the decline of being married among the white working class.

As I pointed out after the 2004 election:
Bush carried merely 44% of the single white females but 61% of the married white women—a 17 point difference. 
Among white men, Bush won 53% of the singles and 66% of the married—a 13 point difference.

Now, that's for all classes, but as Charles Murray's Coming Apart finally got the chattering class to notice, the upper classes of white people continue to be married at a fairly high rate, but not so for the white working class and lumprenproles.

Logically, this would suggest that the GOP would favor policies that would encourage white people to marry -- e.g., the Ben Franklin idea of high wages and low land prices -- but that's simply off the mental radar.

June 24, 2012

Cousin marriage v. democracy

From the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology:
Consanguinity as a Major Predictor of Levels of Democracy: A Study of 70 Nations 
Michael A. Woodley and Edward Bell 
This article examines the hypothesis that although the level of democracy in a society is a complex phenomenon involving many antecedents, consanguinity (marriage and subsequent mating between second cousins or closer relatives) is an important though often overlooked predictor of it. Measures of the two variables correlate substantially in a sample of 70 nations (r = –0.632, p < 0.001), and consanguinity remains a significant predictor of democracy in multiple regression and path analyses involving several additional independent variables. The data suggest that where consanguineous kinship networks are numerically predominant and have been made to share a common statehood, democracy is unlikely to develop. Possible explanations for these findings include the idea that restricted gene flow arising from consanguineous marriage facilitates a rigid collectivism that is inimical to individualism and the recognition of individual rights, which are key elements of the democratic ethos. Furthermore, high levels of within-group genetic similarity may discourage cooperation between different large-scale kin groupings sharing the same nation, inhibiting democracy. Finally, genetic similarity stemming from consanguinity may encourage resource predation by members of socially elite kinship networks as an inclusive fitness enhancing behavior.

A correlation of -0.6 is fairly strong in the social sciences. 

Stanley Kurtz, Randall Parker, HBD Chick, and myself have been saying roughly this for awhile.  Stephen Colbert's book I Am America (And You Can Too) touches upon cousin marriage.

It would be interesting to measure the effects of topography on the rates of cousin marriage. In the U.S., which has extremely low rates of cousin marriage and high degree of hostility to the very idea, it was notoriously most common among hillbillies. In general, there's been a lot to be said for living in broad river valleys, of which northern Europe has an abundance.

But even up in the hollers, consanguinity was much lower than in much of, say, the Middle East. And Iraq, the land between the rivers, has very high cousin marriage rates.

Here's a converse of this theory that cousin marriage undermines democracy off the top of my head. I don't have any evidence regarding it, but maybe somebody will do a solid study of it someday: a big war is followed by more than a few guys coming home and marrying an old war buddy's sister. And I suspect that the effect is the opposite of cousin marriage: it builds social capital by creating broader-based networks of in-laws. 

Unfortunately, I can't even think of any anecdotal evidence for either part of this hypothesis. But it sounds kind of right to me.