Self esteem junkies

Here’s some pretty fascinating results (via Sarah Kliff):

The big finding: young adults like and want moments that boost self esteem more than having sex, eating a favorite food, drinking or pretty much any other pleasurable activity the paper studied. [emphasis mine]

Participants in the study were asked to imagine their favorite food, sexual activity and self-esteem building experience, such as getting a good grade or receiving a compliment.Then, participants asked how much they “liked” and “wanted” each of those things. The 130 University of Michigan undergrads “liked” and “wanted” the self-esteem boosts more than either of the other activities. Here’s how they matched up:

Wow!!  I can definitely tell you that I’ll take the first couple choices (pecan pie; not telling) over hearing what a great teacher or father I am (my favorite self esteem boost).  No contest.  But, maybe I’m just jaded from hearing that all the time, :-).  These are college undergrads and Klilff strongly brings up the issue of whether this is a generational phenomenon.  Would be very worthwhile to see similar data on older cohorts.  If this is generational, it certainly suggests that we’ve created a generation of self-esteem junkies we’ve created.   Not my kids– they’re going to hate themselves, damnit.  Just kidding!  But, self esteem– especially unearned– is definitely not the end all and be all.  If you haven’t read Nurtureshock yet– do it.

The key decider for 2012

I honestly don’t know enough about the European mess to say particularly intelligent things about it.  Nonetheless, inchoate ideas have been kicking around my head that Ezra Klein does know enough about to make choate (yes, I know that’s not a word, I always enjoy linguistic backformations).  Ezra:

But here’s the increasingly undeniable truth: the 2012 election is likely to be decided by the actions a handful of European leaders take over the next couple of weeks…

At the moment, Greece is teetering on the edge, and so things could get very bad, very quick. And if they do, our economy is going to get very bad, very quick — and so will President Obama’s reelection chances. If Europe somehow vastly exceeds the market’s expectations and emerges with the strong fiscal union that everyone knows they can form but no one thinks they will create, it could do more to restore global confidence and kickstart an economic recovery than any single piece of legislation we can pass here, and that could do more to secure Obama’s reelection than any message David Plouffe can think up.

Yeah, that.  For Obama supporters this is an, alas, depressing post.  As Ezra also writes, and this may be the key:

Europe has the resources to get through this crisis. But it doesn’t have the governance structures necessary to do so, nor is it clear that it has the political will needed to create them.

If you step back, it really is crazy to think that the results of our next presidential election may very well hinge on the actions of European leaders totally independent of anything President Obama has done.  In no way is that rational.  Presumably, it’s rational to vote out office a president in a bad economy when he’s had four years.  But maybe not.  Or, maybe that President just needs to run against Rick Perry.  We’ll see.

Chart of the day

Found on the FB page of friend-of-the-blog, John F.

Damn, if that doesn’t say it all.  Thanks to this cool chart, I also discovered the Connect the dots folks who are full of similarly effective charts.  I see more of their charts of the day in the future.


So, with Rick Perry suddenly looking all too human, Chris Christie is supposedly the Republican great white hope.  Ummm, only to people who aren’t actually familiar with his record.  Look just a little more closesly, and as you would expect with a Republican governor of NJ, Christie is from the ever-shrinking sanity-based wing of the Republican party.  Nate Silver’s got a really nice post running down the details.  Tim Noah summarizes Silver, so I’ll simply borrow that:

Nate Silver has an interesting post arguing that Chris Christie managed to become a darling of the conservatives without being as conservative as they think he is. He “supported the assault weapons ban and opposed concealed carry laws.” He “stated explicitly that global warming was real and manmade.” He “stated [in 2008] that ‘being in this country without proper documentation is not a crime.’” He has “no issue with same-sex couples sharing contractual rights,” i.e., civil unions, though he does oppose abortion rights and same-sex marriage. He’s softon the “ground zero” mosque (which is actually a couple of blocks away). He declined to challenge Obamacare in court. And he actually put out an Obama-friendly ad during his 2009 gubernatorial campaign.

All this really says, Silver points out, is that Christie is about as conservative as you can get away with being when you’re governor of New Jersey.

Does that sound like somebody who can win over a plurality of this year’s Republican primary electorate?  Sure as hell does not to me.  Perhaps even more importantly, it is getting really late to start a presidential campaign.  We are deep into the “preseason primary” (or, invisible primary, if you prefer) season when, in many important ways, the nomination is actually determined.  Here’s the “preseason” analogy I came up with in class…  The rest of the candidates have already determined their rosters and played a few pre-season games.  It’s too late for Christie to even get any decent free agents and his players haven’t even been through training camp.  Hard to see how he can possibly catch up.  I think he knows that.  And I think he knows that he’s simply too moderate.  Thus, I would be really surprised if he decided to give it a go.  Unless, he decides that this would increase his chances for 2016.  If he does run, I say that’s his calculation.

The fertility divide

Short version: more educated women are having ever fewer children; poorer women are having more and more unplanned children.  Longer version:

 Because the American fertility rate is an average, it obscures the fact that our country is actually more like two countries, which are now experiencing two different, serious crises.

You hear about the “haves” versus the “have-nots,” but not so much about the “have-one-or-nones” versus the “have-a-fews.” This, though, is how you might characterize the stark and growing fertility class divide in the United States. Two new studies bring the contrasting reproductive profiles of rich and poor women into sharp relief. One, from the Guttmacher Institute, shows that the rates of unplanned pregnancies and births among poor women now dwarf the fertility rates of wealthier women, and finds that the gap between the two groups has widened significantly over the past five years. The other, by the Center for Work-Life Policy, documents rates of childlessness among corporate professional women that are higher than the childlessness rates of some European countries experiencing fertility crises.

And, this is bad:

If our overall fertility rate is at replacement level—if we have enough young people in the pipeline to do all the jobs that will need doing going forward—does it really matter so much if some women are having more kids than they are ready for and some are having fewer? Unfortunately for women on both ends of the economic spectrum, it does. Poorer women suffer when they have unintended births—as do their children. Research shows that women with unplanned pregnancies are more likely to smoke, drink, and go without prenatal care. Their births are more likely to be premature. Their children are less likely to be breastfed, and more likely to be neglected and to have various physical and mental health effects. Then, reinforcing the cycle, the very fact of having a child increases a woman’s chances of being poor.

Well, then, the Greene family is doing our part to fight back!  Four(!) planned children who’ve been breastfed and not neglected (we think).  Your turn, educated readers.


Chart of the day

Too busy today to get too much. This will have to suffice:


No wonder my wife can’t remember anything I say

Well, it’s no surprise that women prefer men with deep voices.  Yet, despite the fact that roughly 1/3 of the time telemarketers refer to me as “m’am,” I found a good woman anyway.  Alas, it’s not only a preference for deep voices, women actually remember things better they hear from a lower male voice:

In a recent experiment, researchers asked 45 women to try to remember objects that flashed on their computer screens—innocuous items like “fish” or “microscope.” As the items appeared, either a male or female voice identified them; these voices were either slightly raised in pitch, by audio-editing software, or slightly lowered.

In a follow-up test, the women saw pairs of objects and were asked which ones they’d studied. For the purposes of memorization, there was no effect of pitch alteration when it came to female voices: The participants remembered roughly the same number of objects whether the voices were extra-high or extra-low.

But the women remembered 84.7% of the objects spoken by extra-low male voices, compared with 77.8% for those spoken by a the higher male voices, a statistically significant difference. (A second experiment that incorporated non-altered voices found much the same thing, with the unaltered male voice performing midway between the high and low voices. Again, there was no relationship between female-pitch and memory, with this female audience.)

The two experiments “indicate for the first time,” the authors write, ” … that signals from the opposite sex important for mate choice affect the accuracy of women’s memory.” One hypothesis is that women have learned (in the evolutionary sense) to pay special attention to “conspicuously masculine” men, because these men are 1) potentially attractive mates; and 2) potentially dangerous, because of heightened aggressiveness, for example.

Hmmm, perhaps I’ll take solace in that second hypothesis.  Surely, I don’t lack for attractiveness :-).

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