Want to Quit Smoking? Get Your Spouse to Do It First

Smoking is one of our favorite topics on this blog -- from the ethics of not hiring smokers to the use of commitment devices to quit. A new NBER paper (gated) by Kerry Anne McGeary looks at smoking in marriages. It finds that one spouse quitting causes the other to quit, through bargaining:

Previous research studying the correlation in smoking behavior between spouses has discounted the role of bargaining or learning. Using the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), which contains information on smoking cessation and spouse’s preferences, this paper presents an essential investigation of the importance of spousal bargaining or learning on the decision to cease smoking. We find, regardless of gender, when one member of [a] couple ceases smoking this induces the other member to cease smoking through bargaining. Further, we find females demonstrate either altruistic behavior toward a spouse, who has suffered a health shock, or learning from their spouse’s health shock.

FREAK-est Links

1. Drew Brees criticized for not tipping enough for takeout. (HT: Steve Schwinger)

2. The People’s Daily Online Public Opinion Monitoring Center: where the Chinese government collects data on Chinese public opinion.

3. The women of the "Opt-Out Revolution" are ready to lean in.

4. In South Korea, where 93 percent of students graduate from high school, "rock star" teachers earn millions.5. Is Boeing buying back old 747s to drive demand for new ones?

Coffee and Suicide

In our hour-long podcast "The Suicide Paradox," we explored some of the facts and myths about suicide. A new Harvard study highlights another interesting fact: coffee drinkers have a lower risk of suicide. From Time:

According to a study performed by the Harvard School of Public Health and published this month in The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry, people who drink two to four cups of java each day are less likely to commit suicide than those who don’t drink coffee, drink decaf, or drink fewer than two cups each day. The study followed over 200,000 people for at least 16 years. And it’s not just a weak link: the researchers found that the suicide risk was cut by around 50 percent for caffeine fiends.

The study doesn't establish causation, but lead researcher Michel Lucas confirmed in a statement that it's definitely caffeine, which previous research indicates may act as a mild antidepressant, that's driving the results.  "Unlike previous investigations, we were able to assess association of consumption of caffeinated and non-caffeinated beverages, and we identify caffeine as the most likely candidate of any putative protective effect of coffee,” he says.

Good News for Child Obesity

We've blogged before about America's rising obesity rate and how to fight it, but the battle may have just gotten a little easier. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows obesity rates dropping for low-income preschool children in 19 states between 2008 and 2011. From the Wall Street Journal:

The obesity analysis, by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, was based on data from 11.6 million children age 2 to 4. The survey group included children eligible for federally funded programs of maternal and child health and nutrition, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as the WIC program.

The decline was greatest in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the obesity rate in such children fell to 11% in 2011 from 13.6% in 2008. Drops of more than one percentage point were also seen in Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Missouri, and South Dakota.

Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, called the results a "bright spot" and a "tipping point."

"For the first time in a generation, we're seeing it go in the right direction in 2- to 4-year-olds," he said on a conference call with reporters, calling the changes "small but statistically significant." He was quick to add, "We're very, very far from being out of the woods."

Of the 43 states measured, obesity rates for preschool children rose in 3 states and remained the same same in 21 states.

Why Do Some Jobs Pay So Little?

A recent one-day strike by fast-food workers has called attention to the low wages in the industry. James Surowiecki offers one reason that the issue's visibility has increased recently:

Still, the reason this has become a big political issue is not that the jobs have changed; it’s that the people doing the jobs have. Historically, low-wage work tended to be done either by the young or by women looking for part-time jobs to supplement family income. As the historian Bethany Moreton has shown, Walmart in its early days sought explicitly to hire underemployed married women. Fast-food workforces, meanwhile, were dominated by teen-agers. Now, though, plenty of family breadwinners are stuck in these jobs. That’s because, over the past three decades, the U.S. economy has done a poor job of creating good middle-class jobs; five of the six fastest-growing job categories today pay less than the median wage. That’s why, as a recent study by the economists John Schmitt and Janelle Jones has shown, low-wage workers are older and better educated than ever. More important, more of them are relying on their paychecks not for pin money or to pay for Friday-night dates but, rather, to support families. Forty years ago, there was no expectation that fast-food or discount-retail jobs would provide a living wage, because these were not jobs that, in the main, adult heads of household did. Today, low-wage workers provide forty-six per cent of their family’s income. It is that change which is driving the demand for higher pay.

Given that reality, Surowiecki writes, raising the minimum wage by a few bucks a hour won't fix the problem. His prescription: more truly middle-class jobs and an expansion of the social safety net. "Fast-food jobs in Germany and the Netherlands," he writes, "aren’t much better-paid than in the U.S., but a stronger safety net makes workers much better off."

How LinkedIn Is Changing Recruiting

Sarah Halzack, writing for The Washington Post, explores how LinkedIn is changing job-searching and recruiting:

As LinkedIn has exploded — perhaps because it has exploded — there has been a major shift in the way employers find new workers. Gone are the days of “post and pray,” a recruiter’s adage for the practice of advertising a job opening and then idly hoping that good candidates swim up to the bait.

Now the process of talent acquisition is something of a hunt.

“We’re really at a point now where all of your employees are vulnerable to being poached. Every single one,” said Josh Bersin, principal and founder of talent consulting firm Bersin by Deloitte.

The change is happening rapidly: A 2013 study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 77 percent of employers are using social networks to recruit, a sharp increase from the 56 percent who reported doing so in 2011. And among the recruiters using social tools, 94 percent said they are using LinkedIn.

Recruiter Chris Scalia told Halzack that the type of candidates he sees on LinkedIn is also changing. “LinkedIn was always known for where you would go to find that really critical, challenging hire,” Scalia said. “It was never really where you would go for a PC technician or something at the lower end of the career mobility scale. Now I see both. It is completely flooded.”

(HT: The Big Picture)

When Good Deeds Are Punished

In our podcast about spite, called "What Do Medieval Nuns and Bo Jackson Have in Common?,” we talked to Benedikt Herrmann about his research on anti-social behavior. Sociologists Kyle Irwin and Christine Horne are also investigating why spiteful behavior occurs. In a recent experiment, they found that social norms drove players to punish too-cooperative members of the lab game. From Ars Technica

Irwin and Horne found that strong social norms encouraged punishment of the cooperative player: the more similar the first four pre-programmed donations were, the higher the punishments tended to be for the overly generous deviant. When there is a clear “right way” to behave, the researchers suggest, people respond more strongly to behaviors that don’t fit the norm.

However, the strength of social norms didn’t affect the punishments of the stingy deviant. Players tended to punish this individual equally under both conditions. The researchers suggest that no matter how high or low conformity is among group members, people always see stinginess as a punishable offense.

Messing With Memory: Mouse Edition

We've blogged in the past about how easy it is to create false memories for people. Now scientists at MIT say they've succeeded in creating false memories in mice. From The New York Times:

In the research reported Thursday, Dr. Tonegawa’s team first put mice in one environment and let them get used to it and remember it. They identified and chemically labeled the cells in the animals’ brains where that memory was being formed. The mice were not shocked in that environment.

A day later, in a completely different environment, the researchers delivered an electric shock to the mice at the same time that they stimulated the previously identified brain cells to trigger the earlier memory.

How Does Stop-and-Frisk Change Attitudes?

New York City's "stop-and-frisk" policy has been the subject of major debates and several lawsuits in recent months.  A new paper (gated) by Stephanie A. Wiley and Finn-Aage Esbensen analyzes the relationship between "police contact" and future attitudes and actual criminal acts among children and teens:

Current police policies are based on assumptions that proactive policing strategies will not only deter crime but will also improve police–community relations. Deterrence theorists argue that general and specific deterrence can be achieved through such policing strategies. Labeling proponents, however, maintain that juveniles stopped and/or arrested by the police, rather than be deterred, will actually engage in more delinquency as a result of this contact. Research to date has provided mixed evidence. The current study seeks to inform this debate by examining the effect of being stopped or arrested on subsequent delinquent behavior and attitudes. Relying on three waves of data from a multisite sample of youth, we use propensity score matching to control for preexisting differences among youth who have and have not experienced police contact. Our findings reveal that being stopped or arrested not only increases future delinquency but also amplifies deviant attitudes.

The BPS Research Digest elaborates:

The key finding is that with participants matched for propensity, those who had contact with the police at time two (compared with those who didn't) said at time three that they'd feel less guilt if they committed various offences from theft to violence; they expressed more agreement with various "neutralisation" scenarios (e.g. it's OK to lie to keep yourself out of trouble); they were more committed to their deviant peers (e.g. they planned to continue hanging out with friends who'd been arrested); and finally, they said they'd engaged in more offending behaviour, from skipping classes to taking drugs or being violent. This pattern of results differed little whether police contact involved being arrested or merely being stopped.

3D Printers for Everyone?

We've blogged before about the potential of 3D food printers, but at the moment such printers seem out of reach for the average consumer.  Perhaps not for long -- a new paper by B.T. Wittbrodt, A.G. Glover, J. Laureto, G.C. Anzalone, D. Oppliger, J.L. Irwin, and J.M. Pearce conducts a cost-benefit analysis of 3D printers for the average household:

This study reports on the life-cycle economic analysis (LCEA) of RepRap technology for an average U.S. household.  A new low-cost RepRap is described and the costs of materials and time to construct it are quantified.  The economic costs of a selection of twenty open-source printable designs (representing less than 0.04% of those available), are typical of products that a household might purchase, are quantified for print time, energy, and filament consumption and compared to low and high Internet market prices for similar products without shipping costs.  The results show that even making the extremely conservative assumption that the household would only use the printer to make the selected twenty products a year the avoided purchase cost savings would range from about $300 to $2,000/year.  Assuming the 25 hours of necessary printing for the selected products is evenly distributed throughout the year these savings provide a simple payback time for the RepRap in 4 months to 2 years and provide an ROI between>200% and >40%.  As both upgrades and the components that are most likely to wear out in the RepRap can be printed and thus the lifetime of the distributing manufacturing can be substantially increased the unavoidable conclusion from this study is that the RepRap is an economically attractive investment for the average U.S. household already. It appears clear that as RepRaps improve in reliability, continue to decline in cost and both the number and assumed utility of open-source designs continues growing exponentially, open-source 3-D printers will become a mass-market mechatronic device.

(HT: Marginal Revolution)