Friday, April 26, 2013

Looking good

The New York Times recently had a story on a Dove advertisement about women's views of their own appearance.  According to the story, "Dove executives said the campaign resulted from company research that showed only 4 percent of women consider themselves beautiful."  It didn't say anything more about the research, but a 1999 Gallup poll asked "If you had to describe yourself to someone who didn't know you, how would you describe your physical appearance? Would you say you are Beautiful or handsome; Attractive or above average; Average; Somewhat below average in attractiveness; or Unattractive."  The percentages for men and women:

                                        Women      Men 
Beautiful or Handsome    4%          12%
Attractive                         40%         31%
Average                             53%         54%
Below average                    2%           3%
Unattractive                       1%           0%

Only 4% of women said "beautiful", exactly as Dove's research found, but 44% said they were above average and only 3% thought they were below average.  That is, people are almost as positive about their looks as they are about their driving ability.    More men put themselves in the top category, but it seems to me that "beautiful" is a stronger term than "handsome." 

The Gallup survey followed with two other questions about looks:  "All in all, are you satisfied with how attractive you are, or do you often wish you could be more attractive?" and "All in all, would you say you are generally pleased with the way your body looks, or not?"

On these, there were some differences:  26% of women and only 17% of men said they often wished they could be more attractive, while 80% of men and 66% of women said they they were generally pleased with the way their body looks.  But substantial majorities of women chose the positive response on each one.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A forgotten turning point

Rand Paul recently gave a speech in which he asked "How did the Republican Party, the party of the Great Emancipator, lose the trust and faith of an entire race?"  Charles Blow replied that this was an easy question, and offered a number of causes beginning with Richard Nixon's "Southern Strategy."  Oddly, he left out the first and most important:  the 1964 presidential election, when the Republicans nominated Barry Goldwater, who had not only opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but denounced it as unconstitutional.

According to the American National Election Studies, the Republican candidate averaged 27% of the black vote in the 1952-60 presidential elections, and 0% in 1964.  Of course, that's just the ANES sample, which included only 94 blacks in 1964.  Goldwater undoubtedly got some black support, but it was almost certainly less than 5% (if he actually got 5%, there's a 99% chance that he would get at least one vote in a random sample of 94 from that population).   

Blow isn't alone here.  Goldwater's nomination is widely remembered as a key moment in the development of modern conservatism, but its role in the development of racial divisions in voting often seems to be overlooked.  If the Republicans had nominated someone who had supported the Civil Rights Act, as the great majority of leading Republicans did, they would probably have much better support among black voters--not as much as they'd had in 1952-60, but enough to maintain a foothold.  As far as why the 1964 election has been overlooked, it may be because Goldwater had rehabilitated his reputation pretty effectively by the late 1970s.  He was out of the Senate between 1964 and 1968, and after he returned he took on an "elder statesman" role (for example, endorsing Gerald Ford over Ronald Reagan in 1976 in the interests of party unity).   Nixon was discredited by Watergate, so he made a better villain.    

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Another try

I wasn't satisfied with the analysis in my last post, so I decided to try looking at it another way.  My starting point was the observation that the average rate of growth in 1980-2010 was only about half as large as the average in 1950-80.  But two countries grew faster in 1980-2010 than they had in 1950-80:  Ireland and New Zealand.  Great Britain grew almost as fast, and Australia, and the United States were pretty close.  A pattern is emerging:  those are all English-speaking countries.  The only other (predominantly) English-speaking country in the sample is Canada, and its growth in the second period relative to the first was also above average.  

So I did a regressions of the growth rate in each period on the log of per-capita GDP at the start of the period and a dummy variable for English speaking countries:

g5080=5.30-.499 lgdp50 - .212 English
g8010=3.64-.333 lgdp89 + .104 English

The coefficient on English in the first regression is highly statistically significant at conventional levels (t=3.7), while the coefficient in the second is borderline (t=1.95).  The difference between the estimates is highly significant (t=4.3).   The big developments of the second period include globalization and the growth of the financial sector, and since English is the language of international business, it seems possible that having an English-speaking population really contributed to growth in that period.  It's hard to imagine why being English-speaking would be a negative factor in the first period, but all of the English-speaking countries have similarities in legal and political systems and possibly in culture, and maybe some of those factors affected economic performance.  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Before and After Thatcher

A lot of the commentary (at least in the US) on Margaret Thatcher's death seems to agree that she "turned around" the British economy.  The idea is that her basic policies have been followed by all succeeding governments, and that economic performance has been consistently better ever since she took power.   The first point seems pretty plausible, at least as far as a reduction in the economic and political power of labor unions.  How about the second?  I compared the rate of per-capita GDP (data from the Maddison Project) in the pre-Thatcher and post-Thatcher years.  I take 1980 as the dividing line, although she took office in 1979, on the grounds that it takes a while for any government to make a difference.

In 1950-1980 per-capita GDP in Britain grew by 86%; in 1980-2010 it grew by 84%.   However, in relative terms, post-Thatcher performance in the second period was a lot better:  its 1950-80 growth ranked 19th out of 20 countries in Maddison's Western Europe or "European Offshoots" (US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand), while its 1980-2010 growth was third out of 20.

Further examination of country differences showed a general pattern:  the rate of growth in 1980-2010 can be predicted pretty well from per-capita GDP in 1950 and growth 1950-80.  Countries that were poorer at the start of the period tended to grow faster--that is, they tended to catch up.  That's to be expected.  The surprising thing is that (controlling for GDP in 1950) there is a strong negative relationship between growth in 1950-80 and 1980-2010; countries that grew rapidly in the first period tended to grow slowly in the second one (e. g., Italy), and countries that grew slowly in the first period tended to grow rapidly in the second one (e. g. Ireland).  You could say that "turning it around," for better or worse, was normal.  I don't know why this would be the case, but the pattern is too strong to be plausibly dismissed as a coincidence.

British economic growth in 1980-2010 is almost exactly what would be predicted from those two factors.  Four countries stood out as doing better than expected--Ireland, Norway, Austria, and the United States--while four did substantially worse--Denmark, France, Portugal, and New Zealand.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

More racial resentment

A few weeks ago, I wrote about trends in "racial resentment."  I have found another question that seems relevant, from surveys by Princeton Survey Research Associates.  "Would you say there is a great deal of discrimination, some discrimination, only a little discrimination, or none at all against...whites?"

               2000  2005

Great Deal      7%    6%
Some           40%   37% 
Only a little  27%   23%
None           25%   30%

DK              1%    4%

The change between 2000 and 2005 seems to be statistically significant.  Unfortunately, the question hasn't been asked again.  There was a similar question in an AP/Knowlege Networks survey from 2012: "How much discrimination against...whites do you feel there is in the United States today, limiting their chances to get ahead?"   5% said "a lot," 21% "some," 29% "only a little," and 40% "none at all."   However, I think the addition of the "limiting their chances to get ahead" makes people less likely to agree, so the question isn't really equivalent.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Sundown in America?

A couple of days ago, the New York Times published a piece by David Stockman in which he said that "we’ve had eight decades of increasingly frenetic fiscal and monetary policy activism intended to counter the cyclical bumps and grinds of the free market and its purported tendency to underproduce jobs and economic output. The toll has been heavy."   However, he doesn't give any detailed comparison of economic performance before and after the United States started down the road to ruin, so here are figures for annual growth in per-capita GDP, from data originally compiled by Angus Maddison and maintained at the Maddison Project.  

              Mean    Standard Deviation  
1868-1929     1.82        4.81
1930-1946     2.36       11.71
1947-2010     1.92        2.46

The mean rates of growth are remarkably similar in the first and last period, despite all the other changes that have taken place in society.  But the standard deviation is much smaller in the recent period, meaning that economic ups and downs have been less pronounced.  For example, 2009 was the worst year for economic growth since 1947, at -4.3%.  In the 1868-1929 period, there were four years that were worse than that, but also three years with a growth rate of more than 10%.  

For this comparison, I set the years of depression and world war aside.  According to Stockman, the change took place in 1933, when FDR "opted for fiat money (currency not fundamentally backed by gold), economic nationalism and capitalist cartels in agriculture and industry."  So here is the comparison using 1933 as the dividing line.

                   Mean             Standard Deviation
1868-1932          1.24                5.41 
1933-2010          2.50                4.17

This way, there is a difference in the means, but not the standard deviations.  By either comparison, the differences favor the age of frenetic activism.