Friday, July 31, 2009

Dairy industry demonstrates how cheap, pliable labor and technological innovation are at odds

++Addition++Expanding on a post by OneSTDV, Randall Parker looks at specific examples of mechanization adoption among dairy farmers in the US, modelled on the actions of their counterparts in Europe.

---

A couple of paragraphs from a WSJ article on the putative labor shortage (which should actually be thought of as a shortage at the desired wage rates of producers) the US dairy industry faces caught my attention:
Dairy farmers in Europe have begun to use robotic milkers to reduce dependence on manual labor. But due to the high capital investment required, adoption in the U.S. is likely to be slow, Mr. Maloney says.

Phil Martin, an agricultural economist at the University of California, Davis, believes if labor gets much more expensive in the dairy sector, those higher wages could spur investment in technology -- "although it's not clear at what wage," he says. Currently, the average hourly wage for dairy workers in California, for example, is $11.38. Even though minimum wage is lower, he says, "I would suspect a whole lot of 18-year-olds prefer to work at McDonald's for minimum wage than milk cows."
This brings to mind the timeless Platonic adage, "Necessity, who is the mother of invention."

It is difficult to get information on the economic situation of the industry nationwide, presumably because most dairy is produced 'locally' (within 100 miles) and consequently it is less centralized than many other agricultural industries are (if any readers are aware of such data, please share it in the comments--I would ideally like to look at this in more quantitative detail). But if $11 an hour is the going rate in a state with a minimum wage of $8 an hour and economic viability requires it not increase beyond that, even swith as little knowledge of the industry as I have it is clear that if the monetary standard of living is presumed to increase in the US going forward, this is not sustainable without greater mechanization. Yet the availability of cheap labor inhibits this from being adopted.

Low wages and first world status do not mesh. According to a study led by the Heritage Foundation's Robert Rector, low-skilled households created an average net fiscal deficit of more than $22,000 in 2004. Nine percent of natives are classified as low-skilled, as are 25% of legal immigrants and 50% of illegal immigrants. The per family deficit has likely increased during the current recession, as the unemployment rate for immigrants is now, as of the beginning of 2009, higher than it is for natives.

Why subsidize the labor costs of dairy farmers if doing so will retard long-term increases in domestic productivity? I do not see why our immigration policy should encourage the perpetual search for an ever larger, cheaper labor pool at the expense of per capita productivity increases. As Steve Sailer tersely articulates, the inverse of such a formula has led to the historically high living standards Americans have enjoyed:
America's proud history as a middle class country rests fundamentally on two advantages of settling a mostly empty continent: a small supply of labor and a large supply of land.

This meant relatively high wages and low land prices, so Americans could afford to buy their own farms and homes.

In turn, this virtuous cycle encouraged Americans to invent labor-saving devices
like the reaper, the washing machine, the assembly line, and the semiconductor.

Which made Americans even richer and more independent.

Sadly, immigration has created a wasteful abundance of cheap labor and contributed to a shortfall of cheap land.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Savage incorrectly claims 30% to 80% of independents are conservative

Last wednesday, July 22, radio talk show host Michael Savage took issue with a caller who argued that he speaks for conservatives and not for independents (for Savage's part, the former herbalist sees himself as giving voice to independent conservatives), and consequently does not have the electoral heft he claims to have. Savage asked what percentage of political independents are conservative, and when the caller could provide no answer, the host responded by suggesting that somewhere between 30% and 50% of them are (he later upped it to 80%), and that he is a vociferous force acting on their behalf.

When I listen to commentators and pundits make quantitative claims, I'm occasionally able to flatter myself by shooting them down. Given the amount of time I spend thinking about politics, I was embarrassed to realize, however, that the question at hand was not something I've ever looked at empirically.

Fortunately, the GSS provides an answer, and a mundane one at that. Turns out those without a party affiliation tend to self-describe as political moderates, forming something close to a normal distribution tailing off to the left and right, as the following table shows. To ensure contemporary relevance, only responses from 2004-2008 are considered (N = 1390):

Distribution of independents
Extremely liberal1.6%
Liberal8.7%
Slightly liberal11.0%
Moderate53.6%
Slightly conservative12.7%
Conservative9.8%
Extremely conservative2.7%

Savage's low-end estimate of 30% is too high. Given the lowbrow nature of talk radio, hyperbole is stock-in-trade in the broadcasting business.

GSS variables used: YEAR(2004-2008), POLVIEWS, PARTYID(3)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Boromir

... is my favorite character from Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. He is not born with supernatural abilities allowing him to live for centuries or walk through a blizzard as if a snowshoe hare, nor does his lineage secure him membership among the company of kings. The keenness of his martial skills clearly have an innate basis, but it is only in combination with his indefatigable dedication to his craft, today known perhaps as the management of violence, that he is Gondor's greatest fighter. Despite regularly emphasizing the importance of nature and challenging the cultural aggrandizement of nurture, the only trait that impresses me more than diligence is discipline. The evidence for the argument that these sorts of attributes may be no less the products of a person's genetic makeup than his height or his intelligence is growing by the day, but when my disbelief is suspended in the realm of fantasy, they seem freely adopted, not shuffled out.

Speaking of discipline, Boromir has it as well. There is no indication that he has any romantic interests at all, though as the virile, assertive field commander of the most powerful country opposing Sauron, he is an 'alpha' by just about every measure. But just as he will not take part in the sort of political jockeying that nearly destroys Rohan from within, women are a distraction he cannot afford to indulge in. Since he was a young man, Gondor has perpetually been in a state of arms. For king (acting and otherwise) and country he has unflinchingly devoted himself to the cause.

But he tried to forcibly steal the Ring from Frodo. Where is the discipline, let alone the honor, in that? Faramir restrained himself, after all. From the nearly omniscient perspective of the reader, charging the elder brother with treason is understandable. In Boromir's eyes, though, the situation is inane. Here is the single most powerful artifact in all of Middle Earth*, entrusted to a wobbly hobbit who hardly inspires confidence. The ringwraiths are after it, and at the time of the attempted theft, it has nearly been coughed up on multiple occasions. One bad break and it's lost forever. Worse, rather than heading to the only remaining obstacle in Sauron's path, Minas Tirith, Frodo appears determined to deliver the Ring directly to Mordor. Gandalf, who epitomizes the recurring folly of withholding information that crops up repeatedly throughout the world of fiction, doesn't address Boromir's concerns when he should. And why rely on the putative wisdom of Elrond and his council? The elves are AWOL in the fight for Middle Earth. Indeed, benighted humanoid flight is the name of the game for all of the alliance's inhabitants save the humans, and at this point even Rohan's assistance is up in the air.

Boromir has fought on the front lines for decades and although he has seen his share of victories in battle, slowly but steadily the war for Middle Earth is being lost. In this context, his desperation for a gamechanger is not only comprehendable, it is admirable.

When he meets his demise, the untimely rashness of the ring grab is made clear to him. By startling Frodo, he has in part caused the fellowship to be scattered at the most inopportune time. The horn of Gondor isn't enough to re-congeal it in time, and so as he has done all of his life, Boromir draws steel against impossible. This time the outcome is fatal. But as Aragorn watches the life slip away from Gondor's native son, he seems to finally assume the fiery determination required of Middle Earth's savior-king.

I've finally read The Hobbit and LoTR over the last couple of months and am currently taking in Peter Jackson's movies in a piecemeal fashion, so feel free to indulge me with criticism of my take or with analyses of your own on a favorite character in the comments.

* For all the hype, the Ring demonstrates only one ability--it makes its wearer invisible to most mortal creatures. Neat, but not exactly akin to a modern day weapon of mass destruction. I suppose we'll never really know what all the fuss was about. Keeping Sauron 'alive' was potent enough, I suppose.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Half Sigma assertion that Jews more conservative than white Democrats needs qualification

In pointing to a post by the orthogonally edifying TGGP, Half Sigma makes the following assertion:
Jews are more conservative on non-religious issues than white Democrats, and the
majority of Jews strongly oppose affirmative action.
TGGP uses the RACE variable for whites, which means the respondent chose "white" over "black" or "other", instead of using RACECEN1, which includes 16 categories of which "white" is only one (and thus a slightly better measure of non-Hispanic whites).

Using the more specific racial category, the following table shows the percentage of all Jews and of white Democrats who take the conservative position on each of 20 politically salient issues. The more conservative group is shown in bold for each item:

Issue*All JewsWhite Dems
Affirmative Action80.9%85.0%
Legalize marijuana46.4%52.7%
Woman to abort for any reason30.4%46.6%
Legalize same-sex marriage32.6%31.8%
Capital punishment for murder60.1%64.5%
Availability of pornography14.7%31.6%
Suicide allowed for incurable disease16.6%30.5%
Man to work, woman to stay home27.2%28.7%
Government to reduce income differences10.6%6.1%
Minorities never fit into the mainstream10.9%12.4%
Restrictions on handguns17.5%18.3%
Gov't providing healthcare to the sick37.9%58.8%
Immigration from Latin America37.1%45.6%
Serve in military when needed31.5%33.9%
Federal income taxes too high58.4%54.7%
Rich countries pay taxes to poor countries37.5%32.0%
Taxes on the rich19.8%18.7%
Taxes on the poor43.6%67.8%
Blacks should not intrude 10.9%35.1%
Foreign aid45.0%58.8%

Half Sigma's statement is only partially accurate. Jews are more 'conservative' on economic issues than white Democrats are--unsurprisingly so, since they tend to make a lot more money (it might be argued that favoring higher taxes on the poor is actually generally thought of as a conservative position, in which case Jews would be seen as more conservative than white Democrats).

But on every social issue, with the exception of a marginally more conservative Jewish position on same-sex marriage, whether it has a religious tinge to it or not, white Democrats are further to the right than Jews--again, an amalgamation that in addition to liberals includes self-described moderates and conservatives as well--are. And of course Jewish Democrats are even further to the left of Democratic gentiles than Jews as a whole are.

GSS variables used: RACECEN1(1), PARTYID(0-2), RELIG(3), YEAR(2000-2008), AFFRMACT, GRASS, ABANY, MARHOMO, CAPPUN, PORNLAW, SUICIDE1, FEFAM, EQWLTH, ETHNOFIT, HGUNLAW, HELPHLTH, LETINHSP, MILSERVE, TAX, LDCTAX, TAXRICH, TAXPOOR, RACPUSH, NATAID

* The questions as posed to survey participants and the responses I judge to be indicative of a 'conservative' stance follow. If the question allows for a binary response and the popular conservative position is obvious, for the sake of brevity it is not included below.

Affirmative action -- Are you for or against preferential hiring and promotion of blacks? Con = Oppose, strongly oppose

Legalize same-sex marriage -- Homosexual couples should have the right to marry one another. Con = Disagree, strongly disagree

Availability of pornography -- Which of these statements comes closest to your feelings about pornography laws: 1. There should be laws against the distribution of pornography whatever the age. 2. There should be laws against the distribution of pornography to persons under 18. 3. There should be no laws forbidding the distribution of pornography. Con = Response 1

Man to work, woman to stay home -- It is much better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of the home and family. Con = Agree, strongly agree

Government to reduce income differences -- Here is a card with a scale from 1 to 7. Think of a score of 1 as meaning that the government ought to reduce the income differences between rich and poor, and a score of 7 meaning that the government should not concern itself with reducing income differences. What score between 1 and 7 comes closest to the way you feel? Con = 7

Minorities never fit into the mainstream -- To what extent do you agree or disagree that ethnic minorities will never fit into American culture? Con = Agree, strongly agree

Gov't providing healthcare to the sick -- How successful do you think the government in America is nowadays at providing healthcare for the sick? Con = Quite unsuccessful, very unsuccessful

Immigration from Latin America -- Should immigration from Latin America be increased a lot, increased a little, left the same as it is now, decreased a little, or decreased a lot? Con = Decreased a little, decreased a lot

Serve in military when needed -- As far as you are concerned personally on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 is not at all important and 7 is very important, how important is it to be willing to serve in the military at a time of need? Con = 7

Rich countries pay taxes to poor countries -- People in wealthy countries should make an additional tax contribution to help people in poor countries. Con = Disagree, strongly disagree

Taxes on the rich -- Generally, how would you describe taxes on the rich in America today? We mean all taxes together, including social security, income tax, sales tax, and all the rest. Con = Too high, much too high

Taxes on the poor -- Generally, how would you describe taxes on the rich in America today? We mean all taxes together, including social security, income tax, sales tax, and all the rest. Con = Too high, much too high

Blacks should not intrude -- Blacks shouldn't push themselves where they're not wanted. Con = Slightly agree, strongly agree

Foreign aid -- Regarding foreign aid, tell me whether you think we're spending too much money on it, too little money, or about the right amount. Con = Too much

Skin to become a uniform?

In the comments of the previous post, an anonymous reader left the following:
White Christian male here. Who thinks of themselves based on something like their profession before things so existential as race or gender?
To which Billare responded:
Exactly. This is precisely how I find most whites think of themselves, which makes for a much better civic culture, since such framing is more malleable and less existential.
There is good reason for the presumption. Current occupation is one of the ten possible descriptors from which GSS respondents were asked to identify as most important in describing themselves. Among white men, 50.6% of included it among the top three, compared to 36.2% of non-white men.

As the West becomes increasingly multiracial, identifiers will become less malleable. The uniform you wear will be subjugated in importance to the skin you wear.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Racialism in the US by group

In a couple of previous posts, the propensity to self-identify by race or ethnicity was examined by, well, race and ethnicity. In addition to the groups already discussed, results for Jews, Native Americans, those McCain-belt Scotch-Irish types who tell census takers they are simply "American" by ancestry, white Republicans (the question was not cross-referenced with data on political outlook, so partisan labels are the best proxy available), white Democrats, men (all), and women (all) are included here. The following table shows the percentage of respondents who included race or ethnicity as one of the three most important methods of self-identification from a list of ten possible descriptors:

Group*Race importantN
Hispanic43.2%37
Black38.8%150
Asian36.7%43
Native American23.5%48
"American"19.8%25
Men (all races)18.0%526
Women (all races)14.8%658
Italian14.3%56
White Democrat13.3%348
Jewish12.1%30
French11.2%18
White (all ethnicities)10.4%939
Eastern European10.2%49
German9.4%148
Irish8.6%127
White Republican6.3%446
Scandanavian3.0%32
British2.8%138

An apparent relationship between racial or ethnic self-identification and putative social oppression is evident, reinforcing a chip-on-the-shoulder mentality and desire for group solidarity among those who tend to be the least individually successful. This correlation is important to keep in mind when grasping the psychological aversion SWPLs have to ethnic and especially racial self-identification--it's the primitive, trashy rabble that prides itself on race. As non-whites are mostly invisible in the moral posturing competition, their high levels of racial self-identification are not lamentable (if anything, they are actually laudable). White trash proles are the troglodytes SWPLs separate themselves from by shedding racial consciousness. Parenthetically, as noted below, white Democrats are more likely to identify by race or ethnicity than white Republicans are, but I suspect this is driven by working-class white unionist types, not hipsters from Manhattan.

Jews, despite their social and cultural successes, are a little more cognizant of race and ethnicity than white Gentiles are.

Scotch-Irish Americans are concentrated in poorer Southern states, and their relatively high level of racial consciousness among whites meshes with the SWPL conception of these people as shameful, backwards European cousins.

Though the GOP is portrayed as the party of white racists, white Democrats are considerably more racially conscious than white Republicans are. The gap is not marginal and the sample sizes are large.

The tendency of those with the fewest objective reasons to celebrate their biological and cultural associations with their racial or ethnic group to do so extends to gender. As Charles Murray demonstrates in Human Accomplishment, virtually all significant accomplishments in the arts and sciences are the work of men. Yet the percentage of men who include gender among the three most important methods of self-identification from a list of ten possible descriptors is 23.9%, to 32.1% among women.

* Hispanics include those who chose "some other race" as a racial category, as 97% of those who self-identify as such in the US Census are Hispanic. Those who are Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, or "other Asian" constitute the Asian category. Those who simply identify their ancestry as "American" make up the category of the same name. Those who are of Czechoslavkian, Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, or Russian descent comprise the Eastern European category. Scandanavians are made up of those who trace their ancestry to Denmark, Sweden, Norway, or Finland. British includes those of English, Scottish, or Welsh descent.

Friday, July 17, 2009

IQ and economic inequality

There are those, particularly among the libertarian ranks, who are of the mind that an uber-intelligent society is not optimal because there still must be people to wash the dishes and pick up the trash, something those of modest intelligence are putatively better at doing than brainiacs are. But even in an industry such as trucking, higher IQs make for better truckers. And more intelligent people cause less in the ways of costly externalities like crimal activity and poor health. They are also more likely to come up with more efficient and effective ways of doing menial jobs in addition to the more complex ones, and add societal value without recompense (Linux, the blogosphere, or free media-inspired entertainment). For a fuller refutation of the fallacies in this strain of thought, see Randall Parker's classic post, Benthamite Libertarian Collectivists Wrong On Open Borders.

Equality of outcomes is not generally at the top of the libertarian's priority list. It is for many on the left, however. So here's a reason for the left to support policies aimed at raising average IQ (merit immigration, welfare for sterilization, progressive child tax credits, etc): More intelligent states are more economically egalitarian states. As of 2006, the correlation between a state's average IQ and its gini coefficient is .68 (p=0). This means nearly half (46%) of the income inequality in a state is explained by its population's estimated average IQ.

Unfortunately, another ostensible top priority on the left is the maximization demographic diversity, which is at odds (not just in actuality, but even tautologically) with equality. At Taki's Magazine, Austin Bramwell and Robert Spencer have come up with two broad distinctions in libertarian thought, the comic (optimistic) and the tragic (pessimistic). I prefer a binary distinction based on ends and means, and conceptualize the comic and the tragic accordingly. That is, the comic wants ecumenical freedom for the individual and is focused on maximizing positive rights for him in every context, while the tragic is concerned with ensuring what might be termed "cultural federalism" or more simply just "localism"--allowing people to have a hand in determining the laws, mores, and ways of the societies they live in, whatever their nature.

On the right, there are perhaps three major sub-categories of conservatism: The social, concerned with things like abortion and same-sex marriage; the fiscal, concerned with taxation and governmental wealth redistribution; and the national security, concerned with ensuring the US maintains strong, ambitious military capabilities on the global stage.

Is there a similar set of broad distinctions on the contemporary Western left? From my vantage point, an obvious perforated edge along which to tear it in two is on the primacy given to egalitarianism (of outcome, not just isonomic) or to maximizing demographic diversity. I've not seen this distinction given much thoughtful treatment in the US. In Europe, diversity seems subjugated in importance to egalitarianism, and is promoted more as a consequence of equality than as an ends in itself. That is, Muslims vociferously advocating the adoption of sharia law in the UK are supported by the left because they don't want to be seen as limiting the rights of a specific group more than because they want to increase the size of the South Asian and Middle Eastern population in their country. I might be wrong on that, though.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Intelligence of black Republicans, Democrats compared

A handy, brief synopsis of the US Supreme Court's 08-09 session that places the nine Justices on a political spectrum with Clarence Thomas as the most conservative on the bench makes me wonder whether or not black Republicans are cognitively a cut above the mass of their Democratic co-racialists.

The only black Republicans I've met who have made known their party membership to me are a handful of pious Baptists and a tree trunk of a man who played Rudy Giuliani in a mock primary debate in front of a local conservative booster organization back in January of '08 (I was Ron Paul). Yet I am hardly able to name three or four--let alone the 15 or so needed for proportionate representation--major black media figures on the political left for every one on the right. Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, Armstrong Williams, Condoleeza Rice, JC Watts, Walter Williams, Michael Steele, Alan Keyes, just off the top of my head. Good luck naming 100 prominent black Democrats to match!

Does the the larger US black population exhibit the a similar skew toward Republicans? No, not according to the GSS. Converting Wordsum results into IQ scores with a standard deviation of 15 and on the presumption that the white mean is equivalent to a 100 yields 87.8 for black Republicans and 92.5 for black Democrats.

As Michael Steele's selection as head of the RNC and the choice of Bobby Jindal to deliver the GOP's first major televised rebuttal to the Obama administration lead many to suspect, being non-white does not appear to hinder political and punditry aspirants of a conservative bent. The GOP is a white party not because it intentionally screens out non-whites, but because most NAMs do not stand to benefit from the things it putatively stands for.

GSS variables used: RACECEN1(2), PARTYID(0-2)(4-6), WORDSUM, YEAR(2000-2008)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Inflation, the potential stealth tax

Be wary of the stealth tax inflation can hide. It doesn't just destroy dollar-denominated wealth. In a progressive income tax system, such as we have in the US, inflation destroys real income even when that nominal income is effectively indexed for inflation if tax brackets do not undergo an increase corresponding to the increases in inflation and incomes.

For example, if the tax rate is 10% up to $10,000 and 20% for each dollar earned over $10,000, if in year 1 you earn $10,000, you pay $1,000 in taxes. If 50% inflation occurs in year 2, you're now making $15,000. Everything costs 50% more, so it's a wash, right? Except now you are paying $2,000 in taxes--100% more than the year before.

Over the last few years, tax rate schedules have increased at about 3% annually, approximately in line with CPI-measured inflation. But if the leviathan needs to be fed and the farmers and fishers are caught in a secular cycle of declining harvests, its tenders will look for creative, undetectable ways of sucking the necessary sustenance out of the baskets of the producers to grow the beast.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Falk forces thoughts about interactions between cholesterol and mood, aggressiveness

OneSTDV pointed out a rabid response to the previous post, eloquently described by author Geoffrey Falk as "dumbfuckery". Falk's comment section is closed, so I'll respond here to a few of his points of contention. Falk begins by arguing that concerns about image have no influence on why most vegetarians impose food restrictions on themselves:
What else do the underpaid teaching, therapy and social-worker professions have in common? [Being paid less is not synonymous with being underpaid. Relative to other jobs, these require even less productivity and industriousness than their modest pay rates would suggest, which is why people in such occupations make more in the public sector than they do in the private sector.] Maybe the idealistic wish to help other people, even if it means making less money? You know, making personal sacrifices to help others?

Would that perspective have anything, anything at all, in common with the concern for the welfare of animals and for the environment that drives many of the “conversions” to vegetarianism? You know, might the career choices and the diet choices be driven by a common psychological force, rather than by two different forces?

For myself, I had already decided that I should go vegetarian at age nineteen, for animal-rights reasons; but only actually did it when I started following my erstwhile fraud-guru, Yogananda. So you see, I did it for the best of all possible reasons, which had nothing to do with signaling my superiority to others, and which any conservative could and should approve of: I did it for God. And by the way, although I grew up in a very conservative Christian community, I’ve never believed anything in my life that’s even half as ridiculous as what every Christian believes, as their articles of salvation. Frankly, in all seriousness, I’m not even capable of being that gullible.

Uh huh. Well, I'm convinced. No image tied up in this one. Doesn't matter how other people react to such a non-statement. Doesn't matter at all!

After several more paragraphs of moral posturing, Falk takes aim at the substance of my post:
I was quite surprised to see (from a very small sample size of 42) the GSS data (from the same blog post quoting Peter, above) showing that vegetarians have a lower IQ than meat-eaters. But then I did a little Googling. And guess what? High IQ link to being vegetarian:

...

"The study of 8,179 [which, I will point out for those of you whose brains are sluggish from eating too much meat, is somewhat greater than 42] was reported in the British Medical Journal.

Twenty years after the IQ tests were carried out in 1970, 366 of the participants said they were vegetarian—although more than 100 reported eating either fish or chicken.

Men who were vegetarian had an IQ score of 106, compared with 101 for non-vegetarians; while female vegetarians averaged 104, compared with 99 for non-vegetarians."

That’s the same five-point gap which Audacious Epigone found in his number-crunching, but in exactly the opposite direction. From a sample size nearly 200 times larger. Plus, while AE’s numbers are from the 1993-4 GSS, the news item is from December of 2006. So there’s no contest at all about which study to take more seriously. It’s fucking hands down.
Given that he is exploding with righteous indignation throughout, I'm going to give Falk the benefit of the doubt and assume in his haste he accidentally made--and then emphatically repeated--an invalid apples-to-oranges comparison before making another errant comparison, no doubt as honest a mistake as the first.

Firstly, the total respondent pool for the GSS question is 1583, not 42. Falk compares the number of those who abstain entirely from meat from the GSS to all people included in the Southampton University study, the vast majority of whom are not vegetarians. The study is not 200 times larger than the GSS sample. It is five times as large.

Secondly, although the "news item" is from December 2006, the study is based on IQ tests administered in 1970 and data collected on dietary habits in 1990. The GSS data is from 1993 and 1994. But if he insists we use his methodology for determining which results are the most contemporarily relevant, the blog item is from July 2009. Either way, it's hands down for me.

Participants in the university study took IQ tests at age ten. Intelligence is relatively unanchored at that age, which plausibly fits with Peter's conception that vegans/vegetarians tend to be SWPL-types who come from middle- to middle-upper SES backgrounds, but who do not make big bucks in adulthood.

Falk admits causality cannot be determined, but the university study casts doubt on the idea that meatless diets boost intelligence:
There was no difference in IQ score between strict vegetarians and those who said they were vegetarian but who reported eating fish or chicken.
In other words, more than diet it is self-assigned labels (or possibly just avoidance of red meat) that were found to be associated with higher intelligence. SWPL posturing, anyone?

The GSS is a wide-ranging, mutli-year database that is considered the gold standard in social surveying. Still, as has been repeated here several times, the analyses run and the results presented are not claimed to be anything more than suggestive.

Falk insinuates that the research on the relationship between vegetarianism and intelligence is deep and mature. In reality, googling "vegetarianism intelligence" returns page after page of write-ups on the Southampton University study he references. There just isn't much out there.

That paucity is why it's worthwhile to glean what we can from the GSS. It's another source to consider. I'll allow readers to draw their own conclusions as to why Falk reacts so viscerally to it being tapped.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Veggies more educated, less intelligent than omnivores

In the comments of a post at Half Sigma, a perspicacious commenter named Peter (unsure whether or not it's Mr. Iron Rails and Weights) writes:
Veganism is a way for decently educated but lower income people to distinguish
themselves from proles. If you're a teacher or an occupational therapist or a social worker making $50K a year being vegan makes a statement that you're not a
prole despite the fact that many proles earn more money than you do. Veganism can even be a way for an academic or professional in the $100K realm to make a statement that they're superior to the frat boys who went to B school and are now pulling down $300K as sales reps. I wonder how many vegans there are among the overclass? My sense is not that many.
The GSS only probes veganism/vegetarianism (v/v) in a single question posed in 1993 and again in 1994. Respondents were asked how regularly they refuse to eat meat for environmental reasons. I suspect the typical human herbivore's primary motivation for avoiding eating flesh is something other than environmentalism (ie, deontological concerns about animal rights, health or fitness, frugality, etc), but many, and perhaps most, non-meat eaters would probably include it among a host of reasons they abstain if it was suggested to them as a potential reason by somebody else. In any case, to the extent that the framing of the question skews the v/v population, it must be in the SWPL direction.

Despite this, v/vers are not the most vulpine swine in the barnyard. IQ estimates, converted from wordsum scores under the assumption that the mean white result corresponds to an IQ of 100 with a standard deviation of 15, by how often respondents aged 26 and older* refuse to eat meat (thus "always" identifies v/vers; n = 1583):

Avoid meat IQ
Always 94.8
Often 98.3
Sometimes97.5
Never 100.6

The sample size for herbivores is pretty small (42), but the gap between those who always avoid meat for environmental reasons and those who never do is not miniscule.

The above might not be particularly surprising (though it was not what I expected to find). However, in conjunction with the following table showing meat avoidance by mean years of education for those aged 26+, it is quite remarkable:

Avoid meatEducation
Always13.60
Often13.47
Sometimes13.31
Never13.13

As far as I am able to recall, this is the only variable for which educational attainment and intelligence trend in opposite directions.

The GSS does not allow for a satisfactory gauging of economic status. However, as measured by personal income, omnivores--who are relatively less educated--have a marginal edge in earning power over herbivores.

Consequently, I have nothing to add to Peter's apt commentary other than to chime in that Edna Krabappel would serve as a more representative vegetarian than Lisa does.

GSS variables used: WORDSUM, EDUC, AGE(26-89), NOMEAT, REALRINC

* Those under 26 are excluded so students still accumulating years of education do not skew the results of the second table.

Monday, July 06, 2009

BusinessWeek looks at Kurds, Brazilians to explain relationship between immigration and housing market

The feature article of the June 29 issue of BusinessWeek magazine includes one-page profiles of housing markets in seven cities; six because they look to be set for a vigorous, speedy recoveries (Omaha, Seattle, Saratoga Springs, Salt Lake City, Nashville, and Austin) and one, Merced, to serve as an example of how some places will be in the dumps for years to come.

Maybe I've been listening to the Derb's sardonic cynicism too much recently, but the write-ups for Nashville and Merced seem worth looking at for how they demonstrate the invisibility of massive immigration from Mexico and Central America in the eyes of the major media. Invisible, that is, unless the issue is the electoral viability of the GOP, in which case it is actually inflated right alongside predictions of Republican demise unless the party actively courts it, election after election after election.

From the prognosis for Nashville:
Music City U.S.A. is also home to one of the largest Kurdish populations outside the Middle East. The wave of immigration started after the first Gulf War in the early 1990s. Since then, the Kurdish community has swelled to more than 8,000 people, adding to a foreign-born population that's approaching 10% of the city's population.
More immigrants are purchasing homes, making them an important factor in the housing recovery.

...

The immigrant population has been a stabilizing force in Nashville, where mosques and markets occupy a stretch of Nolensville Road south of downtown.

...

Toxic mortgages are less of an issue for Nashville's Kurds. They are forbidden by their Muslim faith from paying interest on a loan. Many potential buyers in the community are instead turning to Habitat for Humanity. The housing charity offers interest-free loans that require borrowers to pay only the principal. In Nashville, Habitat built Providence Park, a subdivision with 138 homes, more than a third of them occupied by Kurds.
Who knew Habitat for Humanity not only subsidized aspiring homeowners in financial need but also those in need of compliance with Sharia law?

Immigration is not an unmitigated benefit, though. No group better demonstrates this than do... Brazilians. In Danbury.

Uh huh. Continuing:
An influx of immigrants can be a double-edged sword, however. Consider Danbury,
Conn. During the housing boom, Brazilians flocked to the town, helping to revive
the former hatmaking capital of the U.S. But many Brazilians in Danbury took out
subprime mortgages. Now, 212 borrowers are in default or foreclosure, according
to research firm RealtyTrac. That's a lot in a city with roughly 25 home sales a
month.
Given that Merced--which the BW article flatteringly refers to as "Ghost Town, USA"--is nearly half Hispanic, one-quarter foreign-born, and has a resident population whose members are about as likely to speak Spanish at home as they are to speak English, it's reasonable to assume that in discussing the city's housing market, the immigration angle would have been given a look.

Not a word, however. The effect of immigration on the housing market appears to be confined to Kurds in Tennessee and Brazilians in Connecticut.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Young women do get around, albeit once every few years

I previously attempted to refute the presumption thick in some areas of the Steveosphere that today's young women are nymphos. The GSS does not lend any credence to blogger Whiskey's assertion that it is not unusual for educated, urban white women to have more than 50 different sexual partners.

He has subsequently questioned the utility of the survey on the grounds that even for questions with 600 responses, for any given year of age there might only be 5 or 10 participants. The criticism is inane. Unless the issue at hand is how 53 year-olds feel about something, that doesn't matter. If it did, polling organizations that gauge things like President Obama's approval rating or the level of support for same-sex marriage would be out of business unless they could devise an economically viable way to 10,000 people for every poll they conducted. Instead, they conduct surveys with 3% margins of error in either direction using samples a tenth that size or smaller. If statistical reliability was desired not just for age in years, but age in months, the required sample size would grow by another order of magnitude.

But Whiskey's is the place for that to be addressed. The purpose here is to show that there is no massive shifting in female sexual behavior currently taking place in the US. The following graph shows the average number of male partners women aged 25-30 report having had since turning 18, beginning in 1989, the first year respondents were queried on it:


The trendline is pretty flat, perhaps rising marginally over the last couple of decades. The anomalously high mean in 2000 is the result of one woman reporting 122 partners. Removing her from the calculation yields a mean of 5.15, nearly identical to the 2002 result. For the last 15 years, young women of middling salacity have, with the exception of 2002, consistently reported having had three partners. The mode (most frequently occuring number of partners) in every year is 1. That is, if you ask a woman in her late-twenties how many people she's had sex with, the reply you are most likely to receive is that she's had just one.

The following table shows the percentage who say they have had ten more more partners as well as the total sample size for women aged 25-30 who were asked about their sexual behaviors:

Year10+N
198911.1%95
19909.3%81
199112.8%90
19938.8%109
199415.3%193
199614.2%176
19989.9%175
200014.5%129
200217.9%138
200414.2%148
200615.7%155
200814.7%104

The prevalence of 10+ women appears to have edged up a bit over the last couple of decades, with about one in seven having had partners in the double-digits by the time they reach the age of 30. Even sleeping with ten different people over ten years hardly qualifies as slutty behavior--it amounts to a different person each year. Not all women are made for long-term relationships, after all.