From a friend whose young daughter Lea, around 13 years old, grabbed the copy of Think Like a Freak that I send my friend and “is now devouring it.” But that’s not the good part:
She woke up this morning and told me that she had dreamed last night that we were at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees were winning 12-0, and when Lea looked around, everyone in the stands was reading Think Like a Freak.
And here’s a note from “an almost 13-year-old,” Charlotte, which came over the transom:
Ms. Kearney and Mr. Levine examined birth records and Nielsen television ratings, finding that the rate of teenage pregnancy declined faster in areas where teenagers were watching more MTV programming — not only the “16 and Pregnant” series — than in areas where they did not. The study focuses on the period after “16 and Pregnant” was introduced in 2009 and accounts for the fact that teenagers who tuned in to the show might have been at higher risk of having a child to begin with.
“The assumption we’re making is that there’s no reason to think that places where more people are watching more MTV in June 2009, would start seeing an excess rate of decline in the teen birthrate, but for the change in what they were watching,” Mr. Levine said.
The authors found that the show “led to more searches and tweets regarding birth control and abortion, and ultimately led to a 5.7 percent reduction in teen births in the 18 months following its introduction. This accounts for around one-third of the overall decline in teen births in the United States during that period.”
A few weeks ago, we released a podcast called “Who Runs the Internet,” which included Levitt’s thoughts on whether online mayhem, including violent video games, may actually reduce real-world violence. Here’s what Levitt had to say on the matter:
Maybe the biggest effect of all of having these violent video games is that they’re super fun for people to play, especially adolescent boys, maybe even adolescent boys who are prone to real violence. And so if you can make video games fun enough, then kids will stop doing everything else. They’ll stop watching TV, they’ll stop doing homework, and they’ll stop going out and creating mayhem on the street.
The Times of Israel recently reported on a new study confirming Levitt’s theory:
The research, done by The Center for Educational Technology, asserts that video games — even violent ones — are beneficial for children on a scale much bigger than originally thought. The claims are in contradiction to other studies that found that extended gaming led to depression, anxiety and stunted social development, not to mention the physical effects brought on by long hours of sitting. Some studies have also linked between video games and increased violent behavior in children, arguing that simulated violence leads to real-life violence.
The first aim of this study was to investigate whether instant messaging (IM) influences adolescents’ ability to initiate offline friendships. The second aim was to study the validity of two underlying mechanisms that may account for this relationship: (a) the opportunities offered by IM to communicate with a variety of people, and (b) to disclose intimate information. A three-wave longitudinal study was conducted among 690 Dutch adolescents (10–17 years old). Results show that adolescents’ IM use increased their ability to initiate offline friendships over time. Furthermore, IM use indirectly increased adolescents’ ability to initiate offline friendships through the diversity of their online communication partners. These findings suggest that adolescents can practice social skills online and learn to relate to a variety of people, which, over time, may increase their ability to initiate offline friendships.
Every time I visit Australia, one of the first things I see in the news is a discussion of minimum wages. Pay rates in Australia are to some extent set by the government; these days by the Fair Work Commission. Today there is a news story that a labor union will seek to have teenagers paid the same wage as adults for the same job. This increase in youth wages will decrease the quantity of young workers demanded, especially as that demand is typically quite elastic. Worse still, this will prevent some kids from obtaining job experience, thus reducing their human capital and making them less employable in the future. As Peter Seeger sang, “When Will They Ever Learn?”
Is putting a juvenile offender in jail a useful deterrent or one big step in the wrong direction? That’s the question asked in a new working paper (abstract; PDF) by Anna Aizer and Joseph J. Doyle. It appears that the deterrence argument doesn’t hold much water:
Over 130,000 juveniles are detained in the U.S. each year with 70,000 in detention on any given day, yet little is known whether such a penalty deters future crime or interrupts social and human capital formation in a way that increases the likelihood of later criminal behavior. This paper uses the incarceration tendency of randomly-assigned judges as an instrumental variable to estimate causal effects of juvenile incarceration on high school completion and adult recidivism. Estimates based on over 35,000 juvenile offenders over a ten-year period from a large urban county in the US suggest that juvenile incarceration results in large decreases in the likelihood of high school completion and large increases in the likelihood of adult incarceration. These results are in stark contrast to the small effects typically found for adult incarceration, but consistent with larger impacts of policies aimed at adolescents.
A new NBER working paper (abstract; PDF) by University of Chicago researchers Sara Heller, Harold A. Pollack, Roseanna Ander, and Jens Ludwiganalyzes the effects of a Chicago program targeted at “disadvantaged male youth grades 7-10 from high-crime Chicago neighborhoods.” The results of the intervention look promising:
Improving the long-term life outcomes of disadvantaged youth remains a top policy priority in the United States, although identifying successful interventions for adolescents – particularly males – has proven challenging. This paper reports results from a large randomized controlled trial of an intervention for disadvantaged male youth grades 7-10 from high-crime Chicago neighborhoods. The intervention was delivered by two local non-profits and included regular interactions with a pro-social adult, after-school programming, and – perhaps the most novel ingredient – in-school programming designed to reduce common judgment and decision-making problems related to automatic behavior and biased beliefs, or what psychologists call cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). We randomly assigned 2,740 youth to programming or to a control group; about half those offered programming participated, with the average participant attending 13 sessions. Program participation reduced violent-crime arrests during the program year by 8.1 per 100 youth (a 44 percent reduction). It also generated sustained gains in schooling outcomes equal to 0.14 standard deviations during the program year and 0.19 standard deviations during the follow-up year, which we estimate could lead to higher graduation rates of 3-10 percentage points (7-22 percent). Depending on how one monetizes the social costs of crime, the benefit-cost ratio may be as high as 30:1 from reductions in criminal activity alone.
That’s the question asked by an Australian reader named Peter Gartlan:
In 2004, the Australian government introduced a $4,000 lump sum payment for having a baby, known as the Baby Bonus. [Note: it was judged to be somewhat effective.]
The anecdotal evidence is that this instantly created a huge wave of young unmarried teenage mothers from lower socioeconomic communities who saw the BB as a great big “free money” sign. At the time it was also referred to as the “Plasma TV” bonus. Anyway, many teenage mothers had many babies, and received many payments. But obviously the motivation was money, not family. And $4,000 does not go very far when bringing up kids, as you know.
So after I read your “Abortion Reduces Crime” study, I wondered whether the BB would demonstrate the inverse scenario.
We provide new evidence on the extent to which the demand for cigarettes is derived from the demand for weight control (i.e. weight loss or avoidance of weight gain). We utilize nationally representative data [the Health Behavior in School-Aged Children (HBSC) and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES)] that provide the most direct evidence to date on this question: individuals are directly asked whether they smoke to control their weight. We find that, among teenagers who smoke frequently, 46% of girls and 30% of boys are smoking in part to control their weight. This practice is significantly more common among youths who describe themselves as too fat than those who describe themselves as about the right weight.
The derived demand for cigarettes has important implications for tax policy. Under reasonable assumptions, the demand for cigarettes is less price elastic among those who smoke for weight control. Thus, taxes on cigarettes will result in less behavior change (but more revenue collection and less deadweight loss) among those for whom the demand for cigarettes is a derived demand. Public health efforts to reduce smoking initiation and encourage cessation may wish to design campaigns to alter the derived nature of cigarette demand, especially among adolescent girls.
I got in trouble earlier this summer when a teacher caught me surfing the Internet during a “Safe Driving Practices” class I had to attend so that my son could get his Connecticut driver’s license. While a parent has to attend for 2 hours, a 16-year-old must attend for a mind-numbing 8 hours before qualifying to take a written test. The mandatory class is part of Connecticut’s graduated driver licensing requirements, which make it (i) harder for a 16 or 17-year-old to get a learner’s permit, (ii) harder to get a license, and (iii) severely limits the kinds of driving you can do with these licenses.
I was surfing the Internet during class, because something the instructor said about accident statistics since the program was rolled out in 2008 seemed defensive – so I started to look up Connecticut statistics online.
Having attended 2 hours of the training, I seriously doubted that the 8-hour classes serve an educational function. Nonetheless, surfing made me feel somewhat better about having to sit there because I learned that the new requirements are having an impact: they’re deterring young people from getting their licenses. Look, for example, at what happened to the number of 16 and 17-year-olds receiving learner permits in 2008 when the law took effect (which I calculated from this data):