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“Gayborhoods” and Heat Waves at This Year’s AEA Meetings

Jon Hilsenrath of The Wall Street Journal reports on the most offbeat papers of this year’s American Economic Association meetings.   One of our favorites — in light of our recent “Are Gay Men Really Rich?” podcast — is this one:


Janice Madden of the University of Pennsylvania and Matthew Ruther of the University of Colorado studied census tract data and the American Community Survey to examine the locations of gay male and lesbian partnerships in 38 large U.S. cities. They found that census tracts that start the decade with more gay men experienced significantly greater growth in household incomes and, in the Northeast and West, also greater population growth over the next decade than those census tracts with fewer gay men. Census tracts with more lesbians at the start of the decade saw no difference in population or income growth.

Another favorite examines the long-term outcomes of children conceived during heat waves.


Joshua Wilde, a University of South Florida assistant professor, and Bénédicte Apouey, a researcher at the Paris School of Economics, studied 22 countries and found that children conceived during heat waves have higher literacy rates, more years of schooling, higher income later in life and lower rates of disability than children conceived during periods of normal temperatures. One reason: More educated and wealthier women are more likely to conceive during heat waves because individuals with higher incomes can more easily place themselves in comfortable places to copulate. “Sexual activity decreases in heat waves,” they say, and, “those decreases are disproportionately large for lower income individuals.” Another possible reason, the authors said, is that fetuses of the poor and uneducated might be less likely to survive in utero. Those fit enough to survive “are likely to be more educated and healthier in adulthood,” they said. The paper raises all kinds of difficult questions about natural selection which we won’t entertain here. But it is worth noting that the paper shows the dynamics of climate and the economy are very complex and can be counterintuitive. Beware economists and climate scientists who claim to have all the answers.

(HT: The .Plan: A Quasi-Blog)