Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Shootings by Police Officers: Self-Control and More

I stumbled on a recent paper in the Police Quarterly entitled “Quick on the Draw: Assessing the Relationship Between Low Self-Control and Officer-Involved Police Shootings.”

The authors are Christopher M. Donner, Jon Maskaly, Alex R. Piquero, and Wesley G. Jennings from Loyola, U of Texas at Dallas, U of Texas at Dallas and U of South Florida, respectively.

Quoting from the paper:

While the extant literature on police use of deadly force is voluminous, it is fairly limited with regard to the influence of officer characteristics. Moreover, this is the first known study to explore an individual-level criminological theory(i.e., self-control) in the context of police officer-involved shootings. In building on previous studies linking low self-control to negative police behavior more generally (Donner et al., 2016; Donner & Jennings, 2014), this study uses data from a sample of 1,935 Philadelphia police officers to investigate the extent to which Gottfredson and Hirschi’s (1990) general theory can predict officer-involved shootings specifically.

Based on theory and related research, it is hypothesized that officers with lower levels of self-control will be more likely to have used deadly force because police shooting incidents would provide low self-control officers (those who are more impulsive, self-centered, short-sighted, thrill-seeking, and easily provoked) with an opportunity to engage in a behavior that it is often spontaneous, can provide immediate gratification, is adrenaline-inducing, and can provide an outlet for frustration.

Data and Sample
In this study, we use data collected by Greene et al. (2004) for an National Institute of Justice (NIJ)-sponsored study on police integrity in the PPD. The initial collaboration between Temple University and the PPD began in an effort to help create an information system that would assist the PPD with integrity oversight. To aid this process, baseline information concerning possible predictors of negative police behavior was needed. The data set includes background files, academy training records, and personnel information for 2,094 police officers across 17 academy classes from 1991 to 1998. Due to missing files and incomplete academy training among some officers, the final sample of cases included 1,935 officers. Additional methodological details may be found in Greene et al. (2004).

On average, the sample was almost 27 years of age (range: 18–55), and approximately two thirds of the sample was male. There was virtually equal representation among White (44.5%) and Black (46.0%) officers, and the sample included a smaller number of Hispanic (7.4%) and other race or ethnicity (2.1%) officers. The average education level and length of service was 13 and 3 years, respectively. About one fifth (21%) of the sample was married and one tenth (10.9%) had a parent who served in law enforcement. Additional descriptive statistics may be found in Table 1.

The paper goes on:

Dependent Variable
Greene et al. (2004) were granted access to various databases maintained by the PPD Internal Affairs Division and Police Board of Inquiry. Specifically, these databases contained information relating to, among other things, citizen complaints, officer-involved shootings, other internal investigations, and depart-mental disciplinary actions. These data were collected in the Year 2000; thus,officers in the sample had been out of the police academy for roughly 2 to 9 years. The outcome variable of interest in this study, police shootings, is measured dichotomously (0 = No; 1 = Yes) and reflects whether an officer had ever been involved in a police shooting in which they discharged their firearm.

The primary independent variable, low self-control, was constructed from selected behavioral indicators contained within an officer’s Personal Data Questionnaire (PDQ).2 Individuals, who apply to be a Philadelphia Police Officer and pass the entrance examination, are referred to the Background Unit of the police department. Here, qualified applicants are given a PDQ.The PDQ collects self-reported background information, including among other things the applicant’s identifying information, family background, residence history, educational history, employment history, credit history, military record, motor vehicle history, adult and juvenile criminal history, and drug-use history. This information is validated through an interview with a background investigator, a full background investigation, and subsequently a polygraph examination.

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What do we owe Raf & Laura Brannigan?

Self Control is one of the defining music hits of the 1980s. It was first released in 1984 by Italian singer-songwriter Raf (his first single). It was also released almost contemporaneously by Laura Brannigan.

The song includes these lyrics:

You take my self you take my self control
I I live among the creatures of the night
I haven’t got the will to try and fight

The first line of the quote I provided is wrong. Not in the sense that those words aren’t lyrics for the song, but in the sense that a person’s self-control does not get taken by someone else. I’ve stumbled on a number of papers published recently that noted something along these lines:

While the link between low self-control and several behavioral and social problems is widely supported, debate remains regarding the stability of and the genetic and environmental sources of variation in self-control. Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class 1998–1999 restricted data set, a sample of 360 twins was compared to a sample of 423 non-twins in order to examine the stability in self-control. The twin sample was also used to examine the genetic and environmental sources of stability in self-control. Findings indicated two stable classes for both the twin and singleton samples, and substantial stability in average self-control from kindergarten through fifth grade in both samples. The ACE decomposition model indicated strong genetic contributions to self-control (76%) with the remaining variation attributed to non-shared environment. Overall, the data suggest that self-control is identifiable early in life, stable across childhood, increasingly influenced by genes, and thus, is a critical focus for early intervention.

And it turns out that other papers show that self control really matters:

Policy-makers are considering large-scale programs aimed at self-control to improve citizens’ health and wealth and reduce crime. Experimental and economic studies suggest such programs could reap benefits. Yet, is self-control important for the health, wealth, and public safety of the population? Following a cohort of 1,000 children from birth to the age of 32 y, we show that childhood self-control predicts physical health, substance dependence, personal finances, and criminal offending outcomes, following a gradient of self-control. Effects of children’s self-control could be disentangled from their intelligence and social class as well as from mistakes they made as adolescents. In another cohort of 500 sibling-pairs, the sibling with lower self-control had poorer outcomes, despite shared family background. Interventions addressing self-control might reduce a panoply of societal costs, save taxpayers money, and promote prosperity.

Its been pointed out before that some aspect of criminality is also genetic. And criminal tendencies are also tied to behaviors that can increase the likelihood someone is poor.

All of which leads to some ethical dilemmas. I think most people are comfortable with the idea that society works better if there is a safety net that helps people who through no fault of their own are down on their luck. The “through no fault of their own” argument applies very easily to a hard working conscientious guy whose job got outsourced to China. Does it apply as smoothly to someone who accepts his natural tendency to avoid labor altogether? What about the 17 year old whose lack of self-control caused him to fail several grades and landed him in juvie for assault? Do you want him in the same classroom with your eighth grader?

But those are the stuff of late night college BS sessions. Try this out if you want a thorny problem… We all know there is a genetic component to homosexuality. What we don’t all know is that there is also a genetic component to homophobia. The study of genes is in its early stages and it is naive to think there aren’t many other examples of “trait X is heritable” and “dislike of trait X is heritable.” Can we all just get along if our genes can’t all get along?

The universe does not have a sense of humor.

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Poverty, Crime and Causality

I was bouncing around my twitter feed and landed on this tweet which in turn took me to a paper entiteld Childhood family income, adolescent violent criminality and substance misuse: quasi-experimental total population study. The paper appeared in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2014. Here’s the basic summary:

Low socioeconomic status in childhood is a well-known
predictor of subsequent criminal and substance misuse
behaviours but the causal mechanisms are questioned.

To investigate whether childhood family income predicts subsequent violent criminality and substance misuse and whether the associations are in turn explained by unobserved familial risk factors.

Nationwide Swedish quasi-experimental, family-based study following cohorts born 1989–1993 (ntotal = 526 167, ncousins = 262 267, nsiblings = 216 424) between the ages of 15 and 21 years.

Children of parents in the lowest income quintile experienced a seven-fold increased hazard rate (HR) of being convicted of violent criminality compared with peers in the highest quintile (HR = 6.78, 95% CI 6.23–7.38). This association was entirely accounted for by unobserved familial risk factors (HR = 0.95, 95% CI 0.44–2.03). Similar pattern of effects was found for substance misuse.

There were no associations between childhood family income and subsequent violent criminality and substance misuse once we had adjusted for unobserved familial risk factors.

Declaration of interest

Because the British (let alone the Swedes) seem incapable of doing proper American, it might be worth translating the paper into something we English speakers can follow. Here goes. The study looked at 526,167 Swedish kids, or about 89% of all kids born in Sweden from 1989 to 1993. (Kids were excluded from the sample if they died or emigrated before their 15th birthday, if they were born with birth defects, if they couldn’t be linked to their birth parents, or if the authors were unable to determine the parents’ level of income.)

The authors found (no surprise to anyone) that kids born into the lowest income twentieth percentile of the population are far more likely to get convicted of violent criminal activity or become substance abusers. But, by accounting for changes in a family’s income over time and how that affected (or didn’t) criminality and substance abuse outcomes of siblings and cousins, the authors were able to conclude that a family’s income was not associated with violent criminal activity or substance abuse except insofar as income was being driven by some other unobserved factor(s) that itself was associated with negative outcomes. That unobserved factor (or factors) runs in families.

The authors are not as clear as I’d like in describing the data adjustment, and the process they use is not one I have employed myself at any point.  But if I understand the limited description of the process correctly, they are basically noting that a kid in a 60th percentile income family is no less likely to become a criminal than his younger brother will be several years later when the family has dropped to below the 20th percentile of income.   Furthermore, within each income level, crime tends to run in families.

To take the paper’s findings a bit further, there is a serious implication here: it isn’t so much that poverty drives people into crime, but that families whose members have a tendency toward criminal behavior have an increased likelihood of ending up poor. Perhaps those who lack empathy are both more likely to commit crimes and less willing or able to behave in ways that allow them to get and retain good jobs. Of course, some of the smarter criminals can fake empathy enough to do quite well for themselves. It is also important to note that most poor people are not criminal. Nevertheless, the reason crime correlates with poverty is not that poverty leads to crime, but rather that for a not insignificant piece of the population, criminal tendencies are associated with traits that increase a person’s likelihood of being in poverty.


update…  grammatical error in the last line of the post corrected, July 7, 5:52 AM PST

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Shooting in Little Rock

I used to live in Little Rock,  so waking up this morning to the news of the shooting in Little Rock was a bit of a shock.  Fortunately, the expletive expletive who did the shooting was a bad shot and nobody got killed.

I don’t even know how to comment on this, though, so I’m going to just to put it up… This is a screenshot I just took from the night club’s website which shows the act that was performing last night. I guess what with the events of the last few hours it didn’t occur to anyone to take it down:
power lounge screen shot 1


Click to embiggen.

There’s a video floating around (look for it yourself) showing the shooting.   There were an awful lot of shots fired very, very quickly.  No innocent bystander with another gun could have stopped the shooter before he killed quite a few people; the only saving grace is that the shooter was incompetent.

I don’t have much to add except that there must be some happy medium, some better outcome for a country than where we are now.  We need to arrive at a point of where there are fewer guns that can shoot as quickly, or fewer such guns in the hands of people who would use them, or fewer people who would use them floating around.  I suspect all of the above is the best option, but I have no practical ideas how to get there.



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Some Examples of the Hiring Process

A just-released paper by the Behavioral Economics Team of the Australian Government (BETA) looks at hiring processes in the Australian Public Service Commission. Here’s the summary:

This study assessed whether women and minorities are discriminated against in the early stages of the recruitment process for senior positions in the APS, while also testing the impact of implementing a ‘blind’ or de-identified approach to reviewing candidates.

Over 2,100 public servants from 14 agencies participated in the trial. They completed an exercise in which they shortlisted applicants for a hypothetical senior role in their agency. Participants were randomly assigned to receive application materials for candidates in standard form or in de-identified form (with information about candidate gender, race and ethnicity removed).

We found that the public servants engaged in positive (not negative) discrimination towards female and minority candidates:

– Participants were 2.9% more likely to shortlist female candidates and 3.2% less likely to shortlist male applicants when they were identifiable, compared with when they were de-identified.
– Minority males were 5.8% more likely to be shortlisted and minority females were 8.6% more likely to be shortlisted when identifiable compared to when applications were de-identified.
– The positive discrimination was strongest for Indigenous female candidates who were 22.2% more likely to be shortlisted when identifiable compared to when the applications were de-identified.

Interestingly, male reviewers displayed markedly more positive discrimination in favour of minority candidates than did female counterparts, and reviewers aged 40+ displayed much stronger affirmative action in favour for both women and minorities than did younger ones.

Overall, the results indicate the need for caution when moving towards ’blind’ recruitment processes in the Australian Public Service, as de-identification may frustrate efforts aimed at promoting diversity.

Ignoring the authors’ failure to write in proper American, I can think of four very obvious reasons for the results described in the paragraph that begins with the word “Interestingly.” I wonder whether the people who did this study realized what was going on and decided to opt for discretion over valor.

On not-quite-the-same topic, here’s a 2010 paper by Ruffle and Shtudenter:

Job applicants in Europe and in Israel increasingly imbed a headshot of themselves in the top corner of their CVs. We sent 5312 CVs in pairs to 2656 advertised job openings. In each pair, one CV was without a picture while the second, otherwise almost identical CV contained a picture of either an attractive male/female or a plain-looking male/female. Employer callbacks to attractive men are significantly higher than to men with no picture and to plain-looking men, nearly doubling the latter group. Strikingly, attractive women do not enjoy the same beauty premium. In fact, women with no picture have a significantly higher rate of callbacks than attractive or plain-looking women. We explore a number of explanations and provide evidence that female jealousy of attractive women in the workplace is a primary reason for the punishment of attractive women.

So, who are the fiends discriminating against unattractive men and attractive women? Well, it turns out that they are the people staffing the HR department in various companies. And who staffs the HR department?

In light of the above, the jealousy explanation seems especially fitting when we consider that 93% of the respondents in our sample were female (as determined by their voice when they left a voicemail message, their name when they sent an email or by a discreet phone call to the company when there was any doubt as to the respondent’s sex). One may be concerned that the person calling back to invite the candidate for an interview may not be the same discriminating person who screened the CVs. Yet, human resource departments in Israel and indeed throughout the West are staffed predominantly by women. To verify this stereotype, we asked to speak with the person who screens candidates’ CV when conducting the post-experiment survey. In 24 of the 25 (96%) companies we interviewed that person is a female. Moreover, these woman are young (ranging in age from 23 to 34 with an average age of 29) and typically single (16/24 or 67%) – qualities more likely to be associated with a jealous response when confronted with a young, attractive competitor in the workplace.

I think the authors are on pretty safe ground when they note that this phenomenon is largely due to the gender of those typically staffing HR departments.  I am not as convinced that jealousy is the root cause of their behavior, though.

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Explaining the Gender Wage Gap

From Thomas Edsall in the NY Times

At one end of the scale, men continue to dominate.

In 2016, 95.8 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs were male and so were 348 of the Forbes 400. Of the 260 people on the Forbes list described as “self-made,” 250 were men. Wealth — and the ability to generate more wealth — must still be considered a reliable proxy for power.

But at the other end of the scale, men of all races and ethnicities are dropping out of the work force, abusing opioids and falling behind women in both college attendance and graduation rates.

Edsall’s comments are very compatible with this by Deary et al:

There is uncertainty whether the sexes differ with respect to their mean levels and variabilities in mental ability test scores. Here we describe the cognitive ability distribution in 80,000+ children—almost everyone born in Scotland in 1921—tested at age 11 in 1932. There were no significant mean differences in cognitive test scores between boys and girls, but there was a highly significant difference in their standard deviations (P<.001). Boys were over-represented at the low and high extremes of cognitive ability. These findings, the first to be presented from a whole population, might in part explain such cognitive outcomes as the slight excess of men achieving first class university degrees, and the excess of males with learning difficulties.

It is also compatible with this by Lynn and Kanazawa:

This paper presents the results of a longitudinal study of sex differences in intelligence as a test of Lynn’s (1994) hypothesis that from the age of 16 years males develop higher average intelligence than females. The results show that at the ages of 7 and 11 years girls have an IQ advantage of approximately 1 IQ point, but at the age of 16 years this changes in the same boys and girls to an IQ advantage of 1.8 IQ points for boys.

Lynn and Kanazawa’s paper sample is for all kids born in Great Britain during one fine week in March of 1958. The abstract and the paper focuses on mean differences.  They seem to mean a lot to the two authors, and most especially Lynn, but to me the differences in mean are small and of lesser importance than other things they note.   To mangle a metaphor, the multiplier (when it comes to differences in population outcomes) is the standard deviation.  To see what I mean, here are a couple of tables from the Lynn and Kanazawa paper:

Lynn and Kanazawa tables

Notice the standard deviations are larger for males in every sub-sample. What they tell you is that even if the mean intelligence of men and women is the same, you expect far many more idiots and far many more geniuses among men than among women in most areas of human endeavor that require something identifiable as cognition or IQ.

But it’s not just at the tails; you expect to see more “pretty stupid” and “pretty smart” men than women. The female population simply displays less variance at all ends of the spectrum.

Neuroscientists are also finding that there is more variability in men’s brains than in women’s. Which is to say, patterns of variability in measures of cognition observed in the studies mentioned earlier are very likely to apply to other fields as well.

Now, consider making money. Everyone does it to some extent. But we should see more variation men’s earnings than women’s earnings.

Throw on one more detail: income distributions are truncated at the bottom. There is a minimum wage, after all. People simply don’t get paid less than that. But even in the absence of a minimum wage, people who don’t make enough to survive are very euphemistically removed from the distribution.  In fact, in most careers, there is a baseline and most people earn closer to that baseline than to the level that superstars in the field make.  People’s abilities may fall on a standard normal distribution, but incomes are described by something that more closely resembles a Chi-Squared distribution.

Which is to say, chunks are taken out from the bottom end of the female and male income distributions. However, a larger proportion of the low end of the male distribution is removed because, due to the larger male variance, more men fall below the floor.

That right there is the gender wage gap, as well as Edsall’s observation.

You disagree? Does today’s America’s differ from what you would expect in a world were men and women have similar intelligence, but men have a great deal more variance? If it does, tell me how.

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Gay Pride Around the World

We begin in the US:

…the Dyke March Collective also ejected three people carrying Jewish Pride flags (a rainbow flag with a Star of David in the center).
According to one of those individuals—A Wider Bridge Midwest Manager Laurel Grauer—she and her friends were approached a number of times in the park because they were holding the flag.

“It was a flag from my congregation which celebrates my queer, Jewish identity which I have done for over a decade marching in the Dyke March with the same flag,” she told Windy City Times.

She added that she lost count of the number of people who harassed her.

One Dyke March collective member asked by Windy City Times for a response, said the women were told to leave because the flags “made people feel unsafe,” that the march was “anti-Zionist” and “pro-Palestinian.”

“They were telling me to leave because my flag was a trigger to people that they found offensive,” Grauer said. “Prior to this [march] I had never been harassed or asked to leave and I had always carried the flag with me.”

Another of those individuals asked to leave was an Iranian Jew named Eleanor Shoshany-Anderson.

“I was here as a proud Jew in all of my identities,” Shoshany-Anderson asserted. “The Dyke March is supposed to be intersectional. I don’t know why my identity is excluded from that. I fell that, as a Jew, I am not welcome here.”

A statement posted June 25 on the Dyke March Twitter account read, in part, “Sadly, our celebration of dyke, queer and trans solidarity was partly overshadowed by our decision to ask three individuals carrying Israeli flags superimposed on rainbow flags to leave the rally. This decision was made after they repeatedly expressed support for Zionism during conversations with Dyke March Collective members.”

“Sadly, our celebration of dyke, queer and trans solidarity was partly overshadowed by our decision to ask three individuals carrying Israeli flags superimposed on rainbow flags to leave the rally. This decision was made after they repeatedly expressed support for Zionism during conversations with Dyke March Collective members.”

“People asked me if I was a Zionist and I said ‘Yes, I do care about the state of Israel but I also believe in a two-state solution and an independent Palestine,'” Grauer said. “It’s hard to swallow the idea of inclusion when you are excluding people from that. People are saying ‘You can be gay but not in this way.’ We do not feel welcomed. We do not feel included.”

In their statement, Dyke March Collective organizers singled out Grauer’s organization A Wider Bridge for what they called “provocative actions at other LGBTQ events [and] for using Israel’s supposed ‘LGBTQ tolerance’ to pinkwash the violent occupation of Palestine.”

Social-media posts in support of the Dyke March Collective also claimed that a rainbow flag with a Star of David is a form of pink washing (a theory postulated by a City University of New York professor which claims that Israeli support of LGBTQ communities is designed to detract attention from civil and human rights abuses of Palestinian people.)

At about the same time, in Turkey:

Turkish police on Sunday prevented an attempt by Gay Pride activists to hold a parade in Istanbul, the country’s largest city, in defiance of an official ban by the local authorities.
Police fired rubber bullets at a group of around 40 activists, an AFP journalist reported, a day after the city governor’s office banned the march citing safety and public order concerns.

Small groups gathered at Taksim Square but witnesses said there was a heavy police presence which outnumbered the activists, and at least four people were detained.

It is the third year in a row that the march has been banned, and organisers denounced the move.

“We are not scared, we are here, we will not change,” the Pride Committee said in a statement.

Of course they were not scared – there were no stars of David around.

In other gay pride news, last month in Tel Aviv:

Some 200,000 people took part in Tel Aviv’s Gay Pride Parade on Friday, of which approximately 30,000 had joined the celebrations from abroad, organizers said. With many roads closed to traffic for the occasion, the parade made its way through the heart of the city to the waterfront in a display of floats, music, dancers and rainbow flags.

It was the city’s 19th pride parade and according to Tel Aviv’s municipality, the largest in the Middle East and Asia, with a high number of international revelers arriving over the course of the week to take part in the parade and its related events. This year, the theme of the parade was “bisexual visibility.”

Not everyone at the parade was there to celebrate, however. Dozens of Israeli LGBTQ activists at one point blocked the Tel Aviv parade in protest against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The protesters erected a mock separation barrier upon which was written, “There’s no pride in occupation,” the website +972 Magazine reported. The protesters prevented the parade from proceeding through the city center for a few minutes, but were swiftly moved by police.

Pride parades are expected to be held in Be’er Sheva and Haifa and August in Jerusalem later on this month.

Also last month

A gay Palestinian man appealed to the High Court of Justice on Thursday to overturn the Interior Ministry’s decision to refuse him residency status, saying he risks death if he returns to the West Bank.

His petition testified that Palestinian police had arrested, tortured and severely beaten him because he is openly gay. Most members of his family have disowned him, and those who haven’t have warned him by phone to never come home, he stated.

The man has lived in Tel Aviv — widely hailed as one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world — with his partner for the last decade. The couple say that the Interior Ministry has repeatedly rejected their petition to legalize the Palestinian’s residence in Israel.

People who don’t understand how the world works do stupid things, make stupid assumptions, and ask stupid questions:

Why won't

Usually that sort of stupid brings on horrible consequences. Fortunately, the universe occasionally displays a sense of humor.
cbs sitcom

Click on images to embiggen.


More on the above photo here.

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George Borjas on the New Immigration Meme

George Borjas, perhaps the US’ pre-eminent immigration economist notes:

Maybe it’s just me because I instinctively read in between the lines whenever I read anything about immigration, but I’m beginning to detect such a seismic shift in the immigration debate. We all know the party line by now: Immigrants do jobs that natives don’t want to do. As a result, natives do not lose jobs, and natives do not see their wages reduced. And anyone who claims otherwise is obviously a racist xenophobic moron. They obviously don’t like immigrants, and they obviously are not educated/credentialed enough to understand and appreciate expert opinion.

The flurry of immigration restrictions proposed by the Trump administration demands a switch in tactics–with a corresponding switch in the argument linking immigration and wages. The party line must now be that less immigration is bad. But how can one show that in simple-to-grasp economic terms that can be mass-marketed to the masses? By far the simplest way is to come up with examples that less immigration raises labor costs and makes us miserable because everything becomes more expensive.

Borjas goes on:

There is no upper bound to the hypocrisy of experts. It might be a lot of fun to keep track of this over the next few years, watching the dominos fall and all those “immigration-does-not-affect-wages” experts fall all over themselves as they switch to proving the economic awfulness of Trump’s actions because fewer immigrants mean higher labor costs, higher prices, more inflation.

But don’t hold your breath for any admission that they were wrong in the past. They will instantly switch to the former party line the minute the Trump immigration restrictions fade into history.

I have nothing to add.

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Men, Woman, Cooperation and the Gender Pay Gap

Here is a working paper by Leonie Gerhards and Michael Kosfeld entitled I (Don’t) Like You! But Who Cares? Gender Differences in Same Sex and Mixed Sex Teams. The abstract reads as follows:

We study the effect of likability on female and male team behavior in a lab experiment. Extending a two-player public goods game and a minimum effort game by an additional pre-play stage that informs team members about their mutual likability we find that female teams lower their contribution to the public good in case of low likability, while male teams achieve high levels of cooperation irrespective of the level of mutual likability. In mixed sex teams, both females’ and males’ contributions depend on mutual likability. Similar results are found in the minimum effort game. Our results offer a new perspective on gender differences in labor market outcomes: mutual dislikability impedes team behavior, except in all-male teams.

Aside from that, the paper seems interesting though I should be fair and note I only had time to skim it. Still, if the paper holds up, it requires an explanation.

The first thing to note is that the paper deals with perceived likability rather than actual likability, and the measures come from how participants in the experiment rate photographs of other participants. However, these measures seem to be reasonably stable – an individual rated as likable by one person tends to be rated as likable by others.

Beyond this, we get to a very non-PC explanation for the results the authors found: men and women are said to approach social interactions differently. One often hears that men are more insensitive or otherwise don’t observe social cues the same way women do. There is also some evidence from biology that “males are predisposed to be more ready than females to repair their relationship.” Put another way – it would seem that in a group of people, men are less likely to have friction with others than are women. Two individuals who “get over it” are more likely to successfully cooperate than two individuals who maintain animosity toward each other. And even if only one person is unable to “get over it” that will negatively impact the team performance.

If this result replicates, and if it translates outside a lab environment, it may imply something about the gender pay gap. Playing well with others – coworkers, customers, and other third parties – is an important though often unstated part of every job.

As a sort of aside… I remember once watching a comedy sketch in which the comedian (sorry, I cannot remember who) talked about how, if two women found themselves at a party wearing the same outfits, they’d spend the rest of the rest of the party avoiding each other. On the other hand, according to the comedian, each of two men wearing the same outfit at a party, upon spotting each other would have a new best friend.

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