Sunday, May 2, 2021

Parental & sibling incarceration has beneficial effects on some important outcomes for children, reducing their likelihood of incarceration by 4.9 pct points and improving their adult neighborhood quality

The Effects of Parental and Sibling Incarceration: Evidence from Ohio. Samuel Norris, Matthew Pecenco, Jeffrey Weaver. American Economic Review, Apr 2021.

Abstract: Every year, millions of Americans experience the incarceration of a family member. Using 30 years of administrative data from Ohio and exploiting differing incarceration propensities of randomly assigned judges, this paper provides the first quasi-experimental estimates of the effects of parental and sibling incarceration in the US. Parental incarceration has beneficial effects on some important outcomes for children, reducing their likelihood of incarceration by 4.9 percentage points and improving their adult neighborhood quality. While estimates on academic performance and teen parenthood are imprecise, we reject large positive or negative effects. Sibling incarceration leads to similar reductions in criminal activity.

Reactions from academia: Emmerich Davies on Twitter: "What are we even doing here? "Parental incarceration has beneficial effects on some important outcomes for children, reducing their likelihood of incarceration by 4.9 percentage points and improving their adult neighborhood quality."

Check also Parental Incarceration and Children’s Educational Attainment. Carolina Arteaga. Department of Economics, University of Toronto. November 24, 2020.

Abstract: This paper presents new evidence showing that parental incarceration increases children’s educational attainment. I collect criminal records for 90,000 low-income parents who have been convicted of a crime in Colombia, and link them with administrative data on the educational attainment of their children. I exploit exogenous variation in incarceration resulting from the random assignment of defendants to judges, and extend the standard framework to incorporate both conviction and incarceration decisions. I show that the effect of incarceration for a given conviction threshold can be identified. My results indicate that parental incarceration increases educational attainment by 0.78 years for the children of convicted parents on the margin of incarceration.

JEL No. I24,J24,K42


Multiple mechanisms could explain a negative causal effect of parental incarceration on child outcomes. The incarceration of a parent is typically a shocking experience for a child (Parke and Clarke-Stewart, 2003). It is usually followed by financial hardship, disruptions in children’s daily lives, such as unstable childcare arrangements and moves among homes or schools, and growing up without a parent has been linked to adverse outcomes for children (McLanahan et al., 2013). Working in the opposite direction, there are reasons to believe that parental incarceration might be positive for some children. Parents in prison have very high rates of drug and alcohol abuse, are more likely to suffer from mental health disorders and to have experienced childhood trauma, and are also more likely to have engaged in intimate partner violence.1 As a result, for some families, removing a violent parent or a negative role model from the household can create a safer environment for a child. Furthermore, a large literature documents the intergenerational transmission of violence, substance abuse and crime (Hjalmarsson and Lindquist, 2012), and incarceration can help to limit or break such transmission. Ultimately, the sign and size of such effects are empirical matters, motivating the current analysis.

When asked to choose between two similar donation targets, we are more likely to opt out of donating than when asked to donate to a single target; due to a the conflict between the wish to be helpful and the wish to be fair

The Adverse Effect of Choice in Donation Decisions. Danit Ein‐Gar  Liat Levontin  Tehila Kogut. Journal of Consumer Psychology, February 22 2021.

Abstract: Many charitable organizations offer potential donors the option to choose their donation recipients—suggesting that organizations perceive the availability of such choice as beneficial to donation raising. Building upon research on choice aversion in the context of consumer goods and on the identifiable victim effect in the context of donation giving, we propose that the need to choose one target among multiple needy targets might, in fact, hinder donations. Results of six studies show that when prospective donors are asked to choose between two similar donation targets, they are more likely to opt out of donating altogether than when asked to donate to a single target. We show that the effect of choice on opt‐out rates in donation settings is driven by the conflict between the wish to be helpful and the wish to be fair. We further show that when the conflict is resolved and the choice does not raise fairness concerns, the effect is attenuated and opt‐out rates decline.

Accepting non-classical logic is associated with having had a self-transcendent experience; non-realism regarding aesthetics and morality is associated with having used psychoactive substances such as psychedelics and marijuana

The psychology of philosophy: Associating philosophical views with psychological traits in professional philosophers. David B. Yaden & Derek E. Anderson. Philosophical Psychology, Apr 27 2021.

Abstract: Do psychological traits predict philosophical views? We administered the PhilPapers Survey, created by David Bourget and David Chalmers, which consists of 30 views on central philosophical topics (e.g., epistemology, ethics, metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of language) to a sample of professional philosophers (N = 314). We extended the PhilPapers survey to measure a number of psychological traits, such as personality, numeracy, well-being, lifestyle, and life experiences. We also included non-technical ‘translations’ of these views for eventual use in other populations. We found limited to no support for the notion that personality or demographics predict philosophical views. We did, however, find that some psychological traits were predictive of philosophical views, even after strict correction for multiple comparisons. Findings include: higher interest in numeracy predicted physicalism, naturalism, and consequentialism; lower levels of well-being and higher levels of mental illness predicted hard determinism; using substances such as psychedelics and marijuana predicted non-realist and subjectivist views of morality and aesthetics; having had a transformative or self-transcendent experience predicted theism and idealism. We discuss whether or not these empirical results have philosophical implications, while noting that 68% of our sample of professional philosophers indicated that such findings would indeed have philosophical value.


Digest: What Predicts Professional Philosophers’ Views? (updated) | Daily Nous / Justin Weinberg

Some of their results were negative, or findings of a lack of correlation:

  • Age, gender, relationship status, income, ethnicity, professional status yielded no significant findings of correlations with particular philosophical views.
  • None of the five factor model’s list of personality traits (openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism) were associated with specific philosophical views.
  • Neither exercise nor meditation were associated with any views.
  • “Anti-naturalism” (a cluster of beliefs including libertarian notions of free will, nonphysicalism about the mind, belief in God, non-naturalism, belief in the metaphysical possibility of philosophical Zombies, and the further fact view of personal identity) is largely unassociated with particular personality traits or well-being.

But they did find some positive correlations:

  • Theism is associated with agreeableness.
  • Hard determinism is associated with lower life satisfaction and higher depression/anxiety.
  • Consequentialism, realism, physicalism, and correspondence theories of truth are associated with more numerical interest
  • Believing philosophical zombies are metaphysically possible is associated with conscientiousness
  • Theism and idealism are associated with having had a transformative or self-transcendent experience.
  • Accepting non-classical logic is associated with having had a self-transcendent experience.
  • Non-realism regarding aesthetics and morality is associated with having used psychoactive substances such as psychedelics and marijuana.
  • Contextualism about knowledge claims is associated with supporting more public education about philosophy
  • Naturalism is associated with the notion that projects such as this one by Yaden and Anderson have philosophical value

The authors also found evidence of correlations between being an analytic philosopher and supporting certain philosophical views, such as the correspondence theory of truth, realism about the external world, invariantism about knowledge claims, scientific realism, and that one ought to pull the switch (sacrifice one person to save five others) in the bystander part of the trolley problem.

Additionally, they found that being more politically right-leaning was associated with several philosophical views, such as theism, free will libertarianism, nonphysicalist views in philosophy of mind, and the correspondence theory of truth.

From 2012... Evolutionary debunking arguments in three domains: Fact, value, and religion

Evolutionary debunking arguments in three domains: Fact, value, and religion. John S. Wilkins, Paul E. Griffiths. In James Maclaurin Greg Dawes (ed.), A New Science of Religion. Routledge (2012). Phil Papers,

Abstract: Ever since Darwin people have worried about the sceptical implications of evolution. If our  minds are products of evolution like those of other animals, why suppose that the beliefs they  produce are true, rather than merely useful? We consider this problem for beliefs in three  different domains: religion, morality, and commonsense and scientific claims about matters of empirical fact. We identify replies to evolutionary scepticism that work in some domains but not in others. One reply is that evolution can be expected to design systems that produce true beliefs in some domain. This reply works for commonsense beliefs and can be extended to scientific beliefs. But it does not work for moral or religious beliefs. An alternative reply which has been used defend moral beliefs is that their truth does not consist in their tracking some external state  of affairs. Whether or not it is successful in the case of moral beliefs, this reply is less plausible for religious beliefs. So religious beliefs emerge as particularly vulnerable to evolutionary  debunking.

5. Evolutionary skepticism and ethics

Since the late nineteenth century most moral philosophers have rejected attempts to derive moral principles from evolution. But most of these philosophers have not supposed that evolution actively undermines our moral principles. But there is an evolutionary debunking argument which has precisely this implication. The argument suggests is that evolution of the moral sense is an ‘offtrack’ process because it has no intrinsic tendency to produce a moral sense that tracks moral truths. This idea can be found in Darwin’s own discussion of the evolution of morality:

“In the same manner as various animals have some sense of beauty, though they admire widely different objects, so they might have a sense of right and wrong, though led by it to follow widely different lines of conduct. If, for instance, to take an extreme case, men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters; and no one would think of interfering.”(Darwin 1981 [1871])vi

Darwin argues that if our ecology had been different, then we would judge different things to be right and wrong, just as different species of animals judge different things to be beautiful. Animals are aesthetically attracted to things to which it is fitness-enhancing for them to be attracted. Just so, Darwin argues, they will approve whatever actions which it is fitness-enhancing for them to approve. This would seem to imply either that evolution is an off-track process with respect to evaluative truth, or that evaluative truths are truths about what maximises reproductive fitness. If this is right, then the only alternative to moral scepticism would, indeed, be evolutionary ethics.vii There is no Milvian bridge connecting moral truth to pragmatic success and thus defending morality from evolutionary skepticism, because contemporary evolutionary explanations of morality, just like Darwin’s explanation, do not involve any adaptive advantages produced by detecting and acting in accordance with objective moral facts.viii But Kahane notes that the assumption that moral truths correspond to objective moral facts is one that is questioned by many moral philosophers for independent reasons.

The evolutionary skeptical argument against ethics would be better stated as follows:

1. Causal premise. Our evolutionary history explains why we have the evaluative beliefs we have. 

2. Epistemic premise. Evolution is not a truth-tracking process with respect to evaluative truth.

3. Metaethical assumption. Objectivism (moral realism) is the correct account of evaluative discourse 

 C. Evaluative scepticism. None of our evaluative beliefs is justified.

If we deny the assumption that evaluative beliefs denote moral realities then conclusion fails to follow. Non-cognitivist ethical theories, according to which the function of ethical judgments is not to express facts but to express allegiance to a norm, remain viable in moral philosophy (van Roojen 2009). Moreover, it has been argued that some forms of cognitivism also evade the argument because their account of moral truths does not involve the existence of moral facts which need to be ‘tracked’ in the manner envisaged by the argument (Harms 2000; Carruthers and James 2008). So the evolutionary debunking argument is best conceived as an argument against strong forms of moral realism, rather than simply against moral truth. The case of ethics shows that there are two responses to an evolutionary debunking argument. The first is to build a Milvian bridge, and argue that evolution will select cognitive faculties that track truth in a domain. The second is to argue that ‘truth’ in a certain domain is not a matter of tracking some external state of affairs, so that the question of whether evolution is an off-track process in that domain does not arise. In the next section we ask if either of these responses is available when evolutionary skepticism is applied to religious beliefs.