Photo of the day

Something you don’t see every day.  From Atlantic’s photos of the week:A horse is lifted into the air, hanging from a sling beneath a helicopter.

A picture taken in Saignelegier, Switzerland, shows a horse being airlifted by a helicopter during a test by Swiss army forces on April 9, 2021. The exercise was part of a project carried out by the Vetsuisse faculty of veterinary medicine and the Swiss army veterinary service, examining the rapid evacuation and transport of injured horses to a medical veterinary facility. 

Fabrice Coffrini / AFP / Getty

When social science perfectly captures your marriage

Wow– this NYT Parenting column from Jessica Grose could not have more perfectly captured my marriage, “Why Women Do the Household Worrying
And how to get men to do more of it.”

I have been writing about the gender gap in housework and child care among heterosexual couples for almost a decade, and while more and more men are stepping up to do their fair share, there’s one thing that remains frustratingly uneven: the mental load, which is a mostly invisible combination of anxiety and planning that is part of parenting.

The way I usually describe it in my own life is: I can’t make my husband start thinking about summer camp in January, or when we’re running out of refills for the soap dispensers (apparently, a common gripe!). In other words, I can’t export my brain to him. In most aspects of domestic work, we are fairly equal — I probably do more housework and he does more child care, but we feel good about our balance. And yet, the mental load is more on me…

Because of the perniciousness of this issue, I was excited to read the work of Allison Daminger, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology and social policy at Harvard University. She published a paper in the American Sociological Review that breaks down the mental load — “cognitive labor,” in sociological terms — into four parts: anticipate, identify, decide, monitor.

If we’re using the summer camp example, “anticipate” is realizing we need to start thinking about options for the summer before they fill up; “identify” is looking into the types of camps that will suit our family’s needs; “decide” is choosing the camp; and “monitor” is making sure the kids are signed up and their medical forms are sent in.

For this paper, Daminger conducted in-depth discussions with 35 couples, and found that the two parts of the process that are most heavily imbalanced are “anticipate” and “monitor” — women do the vast majority of those steps. “Identify” and “decide” tend to be done by men and women jointly. I talked to Daminger about her study and how parents can try to equalize their cognitive labor; a condensed and edited version of our conversation is below.

Jessica Grose: I loved the way you categorized the mental load into four discrete categories, and I was intrigued that the biggest gender disparity is in “anticipation” and “monitoring.” Can you tell me a little more about that?

A.D.: One of the things that my advisers were a little bit worried about when I started this project was they thought: You’re just going to find that women do more of this. How is that interesting? We know that instinctively.

And that’s why I really wanted to break down not just “women do more,” but what exactly is it that they’re doing more of? And are there aspects of it that are more and less gendered?

But the act of putting the item on the agenda seemed to be overwhelmingly something that women were doing, as well as on the back end, following up once the decisions had been made. And that was true, even in domains of life like household maintenance, where it was pretty clear to both parties that the man was ultimately responsible for clearing the gutters.

Women’s antenna seemed to be constantly up and looking for these things. Whereas men were often very happy to help once their partner had alerted them to the issue and they might’ve gotten to it eventually on their own, but women were consistently getting there first and either doing it themselves or saying: “Hey, this is the thing you need to handle. Are you thinking about it?”

And then the $1 million question is what to do about that…

J.G.: Is it because we have culturally defined good mothering as worrying and doing this sort of mental labor, whereas we don’t define good fathering in quite the same way?

A.D.: I think that’s exactly true. One of the things that I hear often from my respondents is, “She’s anxious, she’s uptight.” And I think part of that is if something goes wrong, like if the kid is not prepared with the materials they need for school that day, the mom is going to be the one who is held to account.

I don’t think that’s necessarily something that is at the top of people’s minds as they’re making decisions, but part of the worry comes from fear of something bad happening. And part of that is: I will be judged as a bad mother. I think notions of good fatherhood are changing. We expect men to help with changing diapers and to do a lot of the physical care work. And yet, we don’t see them as ultimately responsible for the child’s development and happiness in the same way.

Damn did all of this ring so true in my marriage.  And I really am a good husband and father (oh, wait, maybe not).  What’s interesting to me is that, as I’ve often discussed, I really am one of the least anxious people I know,  And my wife, though not anxiety-ridden, would likely consider herself more anxious than average.  So, I’ve just been blaming the unequal distribution of this on our different psychological temperaments, but, honestly, I think that’s hiding the pervasive, gendered approaches to parenting identified here.  Honestly, it probably just makes things worse in our marriage because of my default “what, me worry?” approach to most things.  

Anyway, lots of really good food for thought in here.  I am going to talk to my wife about stepping up and doing more of the monitoring.

More and better policing– it’s complicated!

First of all, a great piece from Planet Money:

Williams and his colleagues, Aaron Chalfin, Benjamin Hansen, and Emily Weisburst, got motivated to answer questions like: What is the measurable value of adding a new police officer to patrol a city? Do additional officers prevent homicides? How many people do these officers arrest and for what? And how do bigger police forces affect Black communities?

They gathered data from the FBI and other public data sources for 242 cities between the years 1981 and 2018. They obtained figures on police employment, homicide rates, reported crimes, arrests, and more. And they used technically-savvy statistical techniques to estimate the effects of expanding the size of police forces on things like preventing homicides and increasing arrests (read their working paper for more depth, and, also spend a few hours reading about “instrumental variable” regression, which is pretty freaking genius).

The Impact Of One More Officer

Williams and his colleagues find adding a new police officer to a city prevents between 0.06 and 0.1 homicides, which means that the average city would need to hire between 10 and 17 new police officers to save one life a year. They estimate that costs taxpayers annually between $1.3 and $2.2 million. The federal government puts the value of a statistical life at around $10 million (Planet Money did a whole episode on how that number was chosen). So, Williams says, from that perspective, investing in more police officers to save lives provides a pretty good bang for the buck. Adding more police, they find, also reduces other serious crimes, like robbery, rape, and aggravated assault.

Very good stuff.  So, implemented correctly, more policing saves lives and reduces crimes– disproportionately benefiting Black Americans.  It also leads to more low-level arrests, disproportionately hurting Black Americans.

So, what we really need is more policing, done better.  And how to we get policing done better?  Taking training way more seriously would be a great place to start.  Olga Khazan with a nice piece in this in the Atlantic:

Police in the United States receive less initial training than their counterparts in other rich countries—about five months in a classroom and another three or so months in the field, on average. Many European nations, meanwhile, have something more akin to police universities, which can take three or four years to complete. European countries also have national standards for various elements of a police officer’s job—such as how to search a car and when to use a baton. The U.S. does not.

The 18,000 police departments in the U.S. each have their own rules and requirements. But although police reform is a contentious subject, the inadequacy of the current training provides a rare point of relative consensus: “Police officers, police chiefs, and everyone agree that we do not get enough training in a myriad of fields,” Dennis Slocumb, the legislative director of the International Union of Police Associations, told me…

The mix of instruction given in police academies speaks volumes about their priorities. The median police recruit receives eight hours of de-escalation training, compared with 58 hours of training in firearms, according to the Police Executive Research Forum, a think tank for police executives…

American police training resembles military training—“polish your boots, do push-ups, speak when you’re spoken to,” Brooks told me. In an article for The Atlantic last year, she described practicing drills and standing at attention when senior officers entered the room. “I don’t think I’ve been yelled at as much since high-school gym class more than three decades ago,” she wrote. Reformers worry that this type of training teaches recruits that the world runs on strict power hierarchies, and that anything short of perfect compliance should be met with force and anger.

Though he generally agrees with the push toward less militaristic police academies, Slocumb thinks the stress of military-style drills can be a useful proving ground for new officers. “You don’t want the first time that you have to make a decision while people are screaming in your face to be out in someone’s living room,” he told me. “It needs to be something you’ve been accustomed to during training.” …

Police should be trained “to be sympathetic, to be guardians, rather than warriors,” Wexler says.

That might mean adding new subjects to the curriculum. Few American officers receive much education about the history of policing or the role of police in a democratic society. “The officer coming out of one of the European training programs, he’s much more likely to have a much broader perspective on what the job is, what your role is, what your society is like, how do you fit into it,” says David Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. “Those things are just not really part of what’s going on in most American police-training programs.”

American police academies are also light on training in “soft skills,” such as how to communicate or use emotional intelligence to see a situation clearly. “We didn’t talk about any of what you might call the big issues in policing: race and policing, policing and excessive force, what is good policing?” Brooks said. (The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department’s curriculum has been updated since Brooks’s 2016 training and “now includes these areas,” according to a police spokesperson.)

American cops are poorly prepared for trauma on the job, too: They get just six hours of training in stress management, compared with 25 hours in report-writing, according to a 2016 study by the U.S. Department of Justice.

And after officers graduate from police academies, such deficits in their training are difficult to make up.

And Leonhardt on some needed political/policy changes:

The two big changes

The recent policy changes fit into two main categories. The first is a set of limits on the use of force. Sixteen states have restricted the use of so-called neck restraints, like Derek Chauvin’s use of his knee on Floyd’s neck. And 21 additional cities now require officers to intervene when they think another officer is using excessive force.
The changes have mostly been in Democratic-leaning states, but not entirely: Kentucky has limited no-knock warrants, which played a role in Breonna Taylor’s death, while Indiana, Iowa and Utah have restricted neck restraints. (Republican legislators in some states are pushing bills that go in the other direction, by strengthening penalties for people who injure officers, for instance, or by preventing cities from cutting police budgets.)
The second category involves police accountability. Several states have mandated the use of body cameras. Colorado, New Mexico, Massachusetts and Connecticut have made it easier for citizens to sue police officers, as has New York City.
In Maryland, David Moon, a state legislator, said that the recent changes were “just light-years beyond” those enacted after Freddie Gray died in the custody of Baltimore police six years ago. The new laws “basically blew up the old system and tried to create a new structure for discipline,” Moon told The Washington Post.
One significant part of the policy changes: States are enacting them, forcing local police departments to abide by them. “States had given great leeway to local jurisdictions to decide how to police themselves,” The Times’s Michael Keller told us. “Now, states are starting to take more control.”

I’m a glass half-full guy and, personally, I’m pleased that we are really taking the problems with policing (and especially race and policing) seriously for the first time ever.  And I think the evidence is that his is already leading to needed improvement.  There’s a long way to go and the path surely will be bumpy, but I really think we’re moving in the right direction.  As I teach in my policy courses, the very first step in policy change is “problem definition” and now, really, for the first time we are pretty accurately defining the problems and what we can do about them.

%d bloggers like this: