Tuesday, September 21, 2021

From 2013... Women in STEM: Investments and job rewards that generally stimulate field commitment, such as advanced training and high job satisfaction, fail to build commitment among women in STEM

From 2013... What's So Special about STEM? A Comparison of Women's Retention in STEM and Professional Occupations. Jennifer L. Glass, Sharon Sassler, Yael Levitte, Katherine M. Michelmore. Social Forces, Volume 92, Issue 2, December 2013, Pages 723–756, https://doi.org/10.1093/sf/sot092

Abstract: We follow female college graduates in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 and compare the trajectories of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-related occupations to other professional occupations. Results show that women in STEM occupations are significantly more likely to leave their occupational field than professional women, especially early in their career, while few women in either group leave jobs to exit the labor force. Family factors cannot account for the differential loss of STEM workers compared to other professional workers. Few differences in job characteristics emerge either, so these cannot account for the disproportionate loss of STEM workers. What does emerge is that investments and job rewards that generally stimulate field commitment, such as advanced training and high job satisfaction, fail to build commitment among women in STEM.


Our results suggest that there are few significant differences in the demographic and family characteristics of women in STEM jobs compared to women in non-STEM professional jobs, or in the measured work conditions they face (hours, job satisfaction, and job flexibility). Despite stereotypical notions about women in STEM not having families, our sample of women in STEM jobs are just as likely to be married and bear children as women in professional jobs. Women in STEM jobs do show slightly more egalitarian gender attitudes, higher earn-ings, and better work-life amenities, but this should make them less likely to leave STEM employment relative to women in professional jobs, especially for non-market pursuits like homemaking. Yet our findings reveal that women in STEM fields are dramatically less likely to persist in them over time compared to women in other professional fields and that this occurs because women in STEM move to non-STEM jobs at very high rates, not because women in STEM fields disproportionately move out of the labor force. Moves out of the labor force are in fact quite rare for both groups, confirming analyses that show grow-ing labor force attachment among professionals in all fields over time, particularly when workplace supports for parenting exist (Herr and Wolfram 2009; Percheski 2008).Moreover, the women who leave STEM occupations are unlikely to return; only a handful of women ever moved back into a STEM job following a job move out of the field. However, some of these STEM women could be moving from scientific or technical work into the management of scientific or technical work. To check, we looked at the distribution of jobs taken following the last STEM job and report the results in appendix C. Only about 21 percent of moves out of STEM are moves into managerial or administrative ranks; the vast major-ity are not. While some move into health professions (4 percent become health technologists, 1 percent become dietitians, and 1 percent become physicians) or teaching (11 percent), most go into non-professional jobs (50 percent).One reason that so few moves led to management careers may be that these moves occurred early in the respondent’s STEM career, most in the first five years of employment. This suggests not only that promotions into management are unlikely to be the sources of moves out of the field, but that marriage and chil-dren are not the primary propellants of moves out of STEM either. We turn to our multivariate models for clues about this early erosion from STEM employment into other fields among women who have persevered through the educa-tional process to get STEM degrees.

While we expected that women’s token status in STEM fields could be isolat-ing and lead to dissatisfaction with STEM work environments, neither of our measures of tokenism (occupation proportion female or motherhood status) sig-nificantly affect retention in our multivariate models. In addition, results show that most of the workplace characteristics, including hours of work, earnings, and parental leave policies, affect retention in similar ways for women in STEM and professional employment. However, women in STEM fields do not react as positively to increasing job satisfaction, job tenure, and advancing age, suggest-ing that climate issues or lack of “fit” between worker and job persist for lon-ger periods of time in STEM careers. This helps explain the widening retention deficit that STEM women experience over time relative to professional women.The effects of educational credentials on retention, which we initially con-sidered to be another indicator of commitment to STEM, bolster this interpre-tation. While holding an advanced degree does not affect the odds of leaving professional employment for either destination status (different type of job or labor force exit), increasing educational investment in STEM actually decreases retention and increases the odds of leaving STEM employment, suggesting that the STEM jobs held by advanced-degree holders are either more noxious or more isolating than those held by bachelor’s degree recipients. While unexpected, this is consistent with both the competition/demands and token status explanations proffered for the weaker retention of women in STEM employment. Whatever the origin of these effects, the fact that advanced training, increasing job tenure, job satisfaction, and aging do not deepen commitment to STEM fields as they do for most other workers in most other fields is particularly troubling.Family formation events and family characteristics that might decrease occu-pational commitment appear to be more closely associated with leaving STEM employment than with leaving professional employment. Early aspirations to avoid or postpone family obligations emerge as important for STEM employees’ reten-tion in the field while having neutral or negative impacts on field leaving among professionals. Actually getting married negatively affects retention in the field for STEM employees, but having a spouse employed in the same field emerges as sur-prisingly important in discouraging both changing fields and exiting the labor force among women in STEM, while having virtually no effect on field leaving among professional women.The patterning of these results supports the perspective that there may be pecu-liar unmeasured features of STEM jobs that are difficult to combine with fam-ily life, and that these are exacerbated as one goes up the hierarchy of skill and authority in STEM employment. But we hesitate to exaggerate the importance of these indicators of occupational commitment (family statuses and spouse char-acteristics) because the biggest problems in STEM retention occur so early in STEM careers. The large residual unexplained difference in moves out of field between STEM and professional women eludes explanation by family factors and simple job characteristics like earnings or work hours. Even work-life ameni-ties such as flexible scheduling and telecommuting matter little in accounting for the lower retention rates of STEM workers. We suspect that the retention deficit in STEM may be due to the team organization of scientific work combined with the attitudes and expectations of coworkers and supervisors who hold more tra-ditional beliefs about the competencies of women in these rapidly changing fields. The token status of women at higher skill levels, which we could not test, may also contribute to their disproportionate loss compared to skilled professionals.

We acknowledge that our longitudinal data on a single cohort of highly edu-cated women at mid-career cannot capture possible trends in reactions to STEM work environments among women college graduates from the mid-1990s and beyond. Younger women in STEM may differ from the pioneering cohorts of the 1980s and early 1990s, and may hold more conventional desires for marriage and family that discourage continuity in STEM careers. This may be counterbal-anced, however, by the fact that attitudes toward mothers’ employment, nonmar-ital childbearing, and cohabitation have liberalized among women at all levels of education and occupation since the early 1980s. Perhaps women in STEM jobs are more conventional now than in the past, and their family attitudes are more salient in explaining why women leave STEM employment in contemporary cohorts. Recent evidence from college-bound women in 2002, however, shows little evidence that the family plans of young women deter either majoring in STEM or aspiring to STEM occupations (Morgan, Gelbgiser, and Weeden 2013).The focus for future work should be, we believe, on the first few years of employment in STEM jobs, when the greatest attrition out of the field occurs. Our analysis suffers from a lack of detailed information on the characteristics of jobs and the organizational environment in which STEM women labor post-graduation. The interaction patterns between new STEM entrants and supervi-sors and coworkers may be especially relevant, along with the skill content of the job and the prospects for future upward mobility. The distinction between organizational provision of work-life amenities and the ability of employees to actually use amenities without negative consequence may also be important in understanding why women might leave fields that initially seem to have better pay and benefits and greater flexibility. 

Higher education liberalizes moral concerns for most students, but it also departs from the standard liberal profile by promoting moral absolutism rather than relativism; more for individuals majoring in the humanities, arts, or social sciences

College and the “Culture War”: Assessing Higher Education’s Influence on Moral Attitudes. Miloš Broćić, Andrew Miles. American Sociological Review, September 18, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1177/00031224211041094

Abstract: Moral differences contribute to social and political conflicts. Against this backdrop, colleges and universities have been criticized for promoting liberal moral attitudes. However, direct evidence for these claims is sparse, and suggestive evidence from studies of political attitudes is inconclusive. Using four waves of data from the National Study of Youth and Religion, we examine the effects of higher education on attitudes related to three dimensions of morality that have been identified as central to conflict: moral relativism, concern for others, and concern for social order. Our results indicate that higher education liberalizes moral concerns for most students, but it also departs from the standard liberal profile by promoting moral absolutism rather than relativism. These effects are strongest for individuals majoring in the humanities, arts, or social sciences, and for students pursuing graduate studies. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of our results for work on political conflict and moral socialization.

Keywords: moral attitudes, higher education, culture war, socialization, political sociology

According to Bloom (1987:26), behind the curriculum of every educational system lies a latent moral purpose to “produce a certain kind of human being.” Yet recent scholarship has questioned whether the collegiate experience is indeed a deeply formative period. Researchers have demonstrated that differences prior to enrollment explain much of the variation in outcomes across educational levels (Campbell and Horowitz 2016Elchardus and Spruyt 2009Gross 2013), a finding that resonates with work emphasizing the importance of early-life social experiences in forming moral dispositions (Killen and Smetana 2015Vaisey and Lizardo 2016). We test whether higher education shapes morality using four waves of data that follow respondents from high school into young adulthood and models that test or control for selection processes. We find that moral attitudes remain malleable into young adulthood and that higher education is an important institution that facilitates change.

The most consistent predictors of moral change were pursuing graduate education and majoring in the humanities, arts, or social sciences. These educational experiences increased belief that moral principles should adapt to changes in society (moral progressivism), but—in contrast to the typical liberal moral profile—they also decreased moral relativism, suggesting some students are emerging from higher education with a greater conviction in absolute rights and wrongs. However, our data indicate this moral absolutism looks different than the moral absolutism of religious and political conservatives. Rather than supporting traditional norms, these students emerge from university with a moral profile characterized by high concern for others and weak commitment to traditional social order. One interpretation of these results is that some university students—particularly those majoring in HASS or who continue on to graduate education—come to believe that the morals of society must change to remedy historical (and current) injustices (i.e., moral progressivism), but that the moral principles they have learned through their studies represent the real moral truth (moral absolutism).

Evidence of decreased relativism is noteworthy in that it contrasts with prior critiques of higher education by religious and conservative commentators, as well as earlier scholarly accounts that described relativistic tendencies among academics (Hunter 1991Wuthnow 1988). Lazarsfeld and Thielens’s (1958) pioneering study of the U.S. professoriate, for instance, described social scientists as relativists whose keen awareness of historical variation in morality led to contingency in their own beliefs. Consistent with this, we find HASS majors believe morals should be adjusted to social changes, suggesting a more contextual and relativistic moral understanding. However, these students differ from earlier relativists in their willingness to claim there are definite moral truths. This lends prima facie support to recent claims that the moral relativism of years past is transforming into a form of liberal moral puritanism (Campbell and Manning 2018Lukianoff and Haidt 2018).

The apparent discrepancies between our findings and earlier work invite the question of whether key socializing processes in higher education have changed. Our study’s focus on individual-level change limits our ability to assess this directly, but suggestive research allows us to speculate. Growing social closure along the lines of political ideology among university faculty and administrators may partly explain the rise in moral absolutism among students (Gross 2013). In 1969, 28 percent of professors described themselves as conservative, but by 2013 this decreased to 12 percent (Eagan et al. 2014Ladd and Lipset 1975). Data on college administrators are harder to come by, but a recent survey found that among “student-facing” college administrators—those who are most responsible for shaping student experiences on campus—liberals outnumber conservatives by as much as 12 to 1 (Abrams 2018a2018b). Increasing political homogeneity among faculty and/or administrators could create a sense of moral consensus that leaves shared liberal beliefs unchallenged or might even make them seem naturally true. Lack of interpersonal engagement with members of an outgroup can in turn make individuals less politically tolerant, less likely to regard opposing views as legitimate, and more likely to hold extreme attitudes (Huckfeldt, Mendez, and Osborn 2004Mutz 2002)—all traits that coincide with stronger moral conviction (Skitka et al. 2021). These processes could contribute to a sense of liberal moral certitude among students to the extent that university messaging, course content, the types of faculty mentors available, or even informal interactions with faculty and staff communicate moral consensus.

This narrative may be incomplete, however, given that moral certainty also increases for students enrolled in majors that are not heavily associated with liberal moral concerns.11 Another possibility is that growth in moral certainty might also be explained by socialization into the official culture of dominant institutions. According to scholarship in this area, universities are the primary institution for mobility into the professional classes. Consequently, their latent function is to socialize students into dominant status culture by teaching proper etiquette, aesthetic tastes, and moral evaluations that serve to legitimize their advantaged class position (Bourdieu 1984Collins 1971Jackman and Muha 1984). Moral justifications may differ across fields, with educated elites variously casting themselves as “enlightened cosmopolitans” (see Johnston and Baumann 2007Lizardo and Skiles 2015Ollivier 2008) or winners of “meritocratic struggle” (Bourdieu and Passeron 1979Mijs 2016Piketty 2020), but strong moral self-assurance appears to form a common sentiment. Importantly, as cultivation combines with a growing sense of expertise from formal training, educational attainment may impart moral beliefs with a stamp of objectivity (cf. Bottum 2014). Seen this way, moral righteousness might be a consequence of rising social class rather than liberal socialization alone. Of course, the two need not be mutually exclusive—professionalization and liberal attitudes could reinforce one another to the extent that dominant institutions adopt liberal values, policies, or agendas. Some evidence suggests this process might be well under way.12

Recent events suggest higher education’s role in liberalizing moral concerns could have important consequences for social conflict. Scholars have noted the growing salience of the “diploma divide” in politics, with educational attainment being among the strongest predictors of voting against Donald Trump, Brexit, and other events (Gidron and Hall 2017Lind 2020Piketty 2020). Our study speaks to the moral dimension of this divide. When conflict pits nativism against cosmopolitanism and “vulgar” populism against “technocratic” expertise, an educational system that promotes commitment to liberal sensibilities will likely stratify voters according to educational attainment.13 Moral stratification of this sort could pose several risks to civil society. If individuals on the political right come to regard the primary credentialing institution as hostile to their interests, partisan segregation could further escalate by deterring conservative enrollment (Gross 2013). This, in turn, could deepen the distrust toward government, media, and other institutions that employ the credentialled classes that is already evident among the less-educated (Rainie and Perrin 2019). Finally, deliberative democracy could suffer if educational attainment is accompanied by a rising moral conviction that views opposition as too dangerous to engage with or even tolerate (Skitka 2010Skitka, Bauman, and Sargis 2005).14

However, we must be careful not to overstate the political consequences of moral change. Partisans often differ in their moral attitudes (Miles and Vaisey 2015), but it is unclear whether higher education’s effects on moral attitudes will necessarily lead to demonstrable shifts in political behavior. A student leaving the university might well emerge with less regard for traditional conservative morality, yet still vote Republican for economic, foreign policy, or other reasons. Some research even finds that partisan identification precedes moral change, suggesting moral differences may express rather than constitute partisan allegiances (Hatemi, Crabtree, and Smith 2019Smith et al. 2017). The fact that higher education also shapes eventual class position complicates matters further by leaving open the possibility that material interests underlie conflict that on the surface appears morally motivated (Lasch 1994Lind 2020Piketty 2020). Given these considerations, it would be premature to conclude that morality is the only or even necessarily the primary predictor of political behavior. Future research should continue to explore how moral, economic, and political interests intersect among the highly educated, and the effects these have on political behavior. Such research could build on older sociological analyses of the “New Class” emerging from the knowledge economy (Bazelon 1967Bell 1979Gouldner 1978), variously treated as the “Creative Class” (Florida 2002), the “Elect” (Bottum 2014), or the “Brahmin Left” (Piketty 2020) in contemporary discussions.

Our study also speaks to work on moral socialization (Guhin, Calarco, and Miller-Idriss 2021). Contrary to recent accounts emphasizing selection effects, we find that moral socialization occurs within universities in a meaningful way. Consider higher education’s effect as it compares to religious practices. Scholars often depict religion as the defining cleavage of cultural conflict (Castle 2019Gorski 2020Wuthnow 1989), yet our analysis finds that the effect of higher education on moral concerns is comparable to the moral influence of adolescent religion and imparts a sense of moral absolutism that rivals the effect of religiosity. Evidence of moral change invites additional research into what aspects of early morality are stable, and which are open to revision. Theories of moral socialization often acknowledge the possibility of later moral change, but in practice focus on innate moral impulses or moral learning processes that occur early in life (Graham et al. 2009Killen and Smetana 2015). Scholars who consider attitude development during adulthood, moreover, find greater support for a “settled disposition model” emphasizing stability rather than change (Kiley and Vaisey 2020Vaisey and Lizardo 2016). However, our results suggest adolescence and young adulthood remain important periods of moral change worthy of scholarly attention (cf. Hardy and Carlo 2011).

Further work is also needed to understand the processes whereby educational attainment influences moral attitudes. Consistent with the socialization hypothesis, moral change was strongest for HASS students, and comparatively weaker and in some cases absent for other majors. This suggests curricular content matters for moral change. The traditional socialization hypothesis holds that moral relativism is the natural by-product of exposure to cultural diversity, but this was not borne out by our analyses. Instead, we observed an increase in moral absolutism, which may suggest students are being actively taught moral ideals. This, however, remains speculative and requires systematic exploration. Furthermore, the fact that moral relativism decreases across all fields suggests socialization effects likely are not due to curricular content alone and may indicate social learning through noncurricular aspects of the university experience. As discussed earlier, we speculate that formal and informal socialization into official culture might explain this effect, with institutional validation and expertise giving students moral self-assurance, and the mostly liberal direction of this change signaling the elevation of social justice and related liberal concerns within major institutions (Campbell and Manning 2018Lind 2020).

Ideally, future research would address the limitations of this study. For example, future work should use larger samples to increase statistical power to detect effects when cross-classifying educational categories. Furthermore, we believe our research supports a causal interpretation, but this interpretation is necessarily provisional, particularly for our results linking higher education to changing moral concerns for order, given that these were measured only at wave 4. Researchers should collect data on moral concerns at multiple waves so that correlated-random-effects models or equivalent methods can be used to test for and—if needed—correct for the influence of unobserved time-constant confounds. Future analysis could also unpack the causal mechanisms involved by incorporating direct measures of course content and noncurricular aspects of the academic environment (e.g., campus messaging, programming, friendship networks; see Rauf 2021Strother et al. 2020). The moral consequences of cognitive sophistication could also be clarified. Indeed, absolute moral certitude appears at odds with the cognitive hypothesis, which predicts greater intellectual flexibility as a result of sophistication (cf. Adorno et al. 1950Altemeyer 1996Jost et al. 2003). Finally, it is important to replicate our results using recent samples of college-aged adults. Although victimhood culture (under various names) has been discussed since at least the 1980s (Bloom 1987), some scholars argue that manifestations of this moral culture increased sharply beginning in the mid-2010s (Campell and Manning 2018; Lukianoff and Haidt 2018). The final wave of data for the NSYR was collected in 2012 to 2013, which places our data relatively early in these developments. More recent data would allow our findings to be tested in a sample that more closely aligns with the theorized timeline and could provide important insights into the underlying mechanisms.

Developmental Noise Is an Overlooked Contributor to Innate Variation in Psychological Traits

Mitchell, Kevin J. 2021. “Developmental Noise Is an Overlooked Contributor to Innate Variation in Psychological Traits.” PsyArXiv. September 21. doi:10.31234/osf.io/qnams

Abstract: Stochastic developmental variation is an additional important source of variance – beyond genes and environment – that should be included in considering how our innate psychological predispositions may interact with environment and experience, in a culture-dependent manner, to ultimately shape patterns of human behaviour.


The target article (Uchiyama et al., in press) presents a very welcome and much-needed overview of the importance of cultural context in the interpretation of heritability. The authors discuss a range of complex interactions that can occur between cultural and genetic effects, illustrating how already complicated gene-environment correlations and interactions can vary at a higher level as a function of cultural factors or secular trends.

However, the framing with genes and environment as the only sources of variance ignores an extremely important third component of variance, which is stochastic developmental variation (Vogt, 2008). Genetic effects on our psychological traits are mainly developmental in origin, but genetic differences are not the only source of variance in developmental outcomes (Mitchell, 2018).

The genome does not specify a precise phenotype – there is not enough information in the three billion letters of our DNA to encode the position of every cell or the connections of every neuron. Rather, the genome encodes a set of biochemical rules and cellular processes through which some particular outcome from a range of possible outcomes is realized (Mitchell, 2007).

These processes of development are intrinsically noisy at a molecular and cellular level (Raj and van Oudenaarden, 2008), creating substantial phenotypic variation even from identical starting genotypes (Kan et al., 2010). The importance of chance as a contributor to individual differences was recognised already by Sewell Wright in a famous 1920 paper (Wright, 1920) and is ubiquitously observed for all kinds of morphological and behavioural traits across diverse species (Honegger, 2018; Vogt, 2019). For brain development in particular, the contingencies and non-linearities of developmental trajectories mean that such noise can manifest not just as quantitative, but sometimes as qualitative variation in the outcome (Honegger, 2018; Linneweber et al., 2020;  Mitchell, 2018). 

The implication is that individual differences in many traits are more (sometimes much more) innate than the limits of the heritability of the trait might suggest. In other words, not all of the innate sources of variation are genetic in origin, and not all of the non-genetic components of variance are actually “environmental”.

Indeed, a sizeable proportion of the confusingly named “non-shared environmental” component of variance may have nothing to do with factors outside the organism at all, but may be attributable instead to inherently stochastic developmental variation (Barlow, 2019; Kan et al., 2010; Mitchell, 2018). This may be especially true for psychological traits, where heritability tends to be modest, but systematic environmental factors that might explain the rest of the variance have remained elusive (Mitchell, 2018). Proposals that idiosyncratic experiences should somehow have more of an effect than systematic ones (Harris, 1995) provide no convincing evidence that this is the case, nor any persuasive arguments for why it might be so.

This does not overturn any of the important points that the authors make but does suggest an important reframing. Rather than thinking solely of genetic versus environmental sources of variance, and the interaction between them, we can think of the interplay between innate predispositions – which reflect both genetic and developmental variation – and experience. Culture can have a huge influence on this interplay, especially on how much scope it gives for individual differences in psychology to be expressed or even amplified through experience.

However, if such predispositions do not solely reflect genetic influences then the implications of such effects for heritability become less obvious. If genetic variance predominates at early stages, then heritability may increase across the lifespan, as is observed for cognitive ability. On the other hand, if the influence of stochastic developmental variance (included in the non-shared environment term) is larger, then heritability may decrease with age, as observed for example for many personality traits (Briley and Tucker-Drob, 2017). In both cases, innate differences may be amplified, as observed in mice (Freund et al., 2013).

An already complicated picture of interactions and meta-interactions thus becomes even more so. In addition, there may be further interactions at play, as the degree of developmental variability is often itself a genetic trait. This has been observed in various experimental systems, which have found that variability of a trait can be affected by genetic variation and even selected for, with no concomitant effect on the phenotypic mean (e.g., Ayroles et al., 2015).

More generally, the developmental program has evolved to robustly produce an outcome within a viable range (Wagner, 2015). However, that robustness depends on all of the elements of the genetic program and the multifarious feedforward and feedback interactions between them. Increasing genetic variation is therefore expected to not just affect various specific phenotypes, but also to degrade the general robustness of the overall program and thus increase the variability of outcomes from some genotypes more than others.

This is illustrated by the special case of increased variance in many traits in males compared to females, observed across diverse phenotypes in many different species (Lehre et al., 2008). A proposed explanation is that hemizygosity of the X chromosome in males reduces overall robustness of the programs of development and physiology and thus increases variance in males. Strong support for this hypothesis comes from the evidence that the direction of this effect is reversed in species, including birds for example, where females are the heterogametic sex and show increased phenotypic variance (Reinhold and Engqvist, 2013). Sex is thus another factor that may affect patterns of variation of human traits through this kind of general influence on developmental variability. In addition, of course, cultural factors differ hugely between the sexes, which may differentially influence how innate predispositions are expressed by males and females.

One final complication is that environmental conditions may either buffer or further challenge the developmental program, reducing or exposing variability, as demonstrated in classic experiments (Waddington 1957; Wagner, 2007). Overall then, the already complex interactions very thoroughly discussed by the authors should be expanded to include the often overlooked but hugely important third component of variance: noise inherent in the developmental processes by which genotypes become realized as specific phenotypes.

Epistemic hubris is prevalent, bipartisan, & associated with both intellectualism (an identity marked by ruminative habits and learning for its own sake) & anti-intellectualism (negative affect toward intellectuals & the intellectual establishment)

Intellectualism, Anti-Intellectualism, and Epistemic Hubris in Red and Blue America. David C Barker, Ryan Detamble, Morgan Marietta. American Political Science Review, September 13 2021. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/american-political-science-review/article/abs/intellectualism-antiintellectualism-and-epistemic-hubris-in-red-and-blue-america/37C9F95A5DF4F81BAF69677DC6C9C972

Abstract: Epistemic hubris—the expression of unwarranted factual certitude—is a conspicuous yet understudied democratic hazard. Here, in two nationally representative studies, we examine its features and analyze its variance. We hypothesize, and find, that epistemic hubris is (a) prevalent, (b) bipartisan, and (c) associated with both intellectualism (an identity marked by ruminative habits and learning for its own sake) and anti-intellectualism (negative affect toward intellectuals and the intellectual establishment). Moreover, these correlates of epistemic hubris are distinctly partisan: intellectuals are disproportionately Democratic, whereas anti-intellectuals are disproportionately Republican. By implication, we suggest that both the intellectualism of Blue America and the anti-intellectualism of Red America contribute to the intemperance and intransigence that characterize civil society in the United States.

Demand for sexual services might be inelastic to both the market price & the implicit price of stigma; criminalization is not likely to be conducive to decreases in demand as is hoped for; rather, it worsens working conditions & safety

Quashing demand or changing clients? Evidence of criminalization of sex work in the United Kingdom. Marina della Giusta, Maria Laura di Tommaso, Sarah Jewell, Francesca Bettio. Southern Economic Journal, September 21 2021. https://doi.org/10.1002/soej.12532

Abstract: The use of regulation of sex work is undergoing sweeping changes across Europe and client criminalization is becoming very widespread, with conflicting claims about the intended and actual consequences of this policy. We discuss changes in demand for paid sex accompanying the criminalization of prostitution in the United Kingdom, which moved from a relatively permissive regime under the Wolfenden Report of 1960, to a much harder line of aiming to crack down on prostitution with the Prostitution (Public Places) Scotland Act 2007 and the Policing and Crime Act of 2009 in England and Wales. We make use of two waves of the British National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (NATSAL2, conducted in 2000–2001 and NATSAL3, conducted in 2010–2012) to document the changes in both the amount of demand for paid sex and in the type of clients that have taken place across the two waves, and their possible implications for policies that frame prostitution as a form of crime.


As economists, we believe that public policy ought to be based on relative welfare considerations. In other words, under which arrangements are the actors, and the public, better off? As more countries follow the model of criminalization it will become possible to have a more careful assessment of its effects on welfare, but the case for it is certainly not clear cut. Criminalization typically hopes to quash demand, but the evidence is mixed, and ours, though not causal, not supportive.

Poor responsiveness of demand to deterrence—in our case criminalization of clients—is contemplated by different theoretical approaches but leads to similar policy indications. In the stigma model we used for our investigation, the final impact of criminalization on demand may be modest, if negative, depending on the distribution of clients with respect to risk and the resulting, aggregate elasticity of price with respect to stigma.

According to Lowenstein (Loewenstein, 1996; Loewenstein, 2000), so called “visceral factors” may be responsible for poor responsiveness to deterrence of the supply of acts made illegal—buying sex in our case. Loewenstein has long drawn economists' attention to the influence on behavior of “visceral” factors, namely immediate emotional experiences such as anger, fear, thirst, hunger, or sexual desire. The author argues that such factors have been traditionally discounted by economists, but in “hot” states, where visceral factors are operative, individuals “who otherwise display ‘normal’ decision-making behavior… behave in ways that give the appearance of extreme discounting of the future” (Loewenstein, 2000, p. 430, quoted by Cawley & Ruhm, 2011, p. 62). Ghasemi (2015) reviews 15 empirical studies on differential responsiveness to deterrence and finds confirmation that the response is significantly weaker for “crimes” where visceral factors play a stronger role. In the studies reviewed by Ghasemi, the crimes seen to be more affected by visceral factors are murder and assault (versus, say, property crimes) but buying sex would also fit this category. The author argues that in these cases prevention, not deterrence should be considered by policy makers.

Becker's rather different theoretical framework leads to not too dissimilar suggestions. In his original model on crime and punishment (Becker, 1968), sensitivity of crime supply to deterrence is captured by two elasticities respectively measuring how the amount of punishment and the probability of apprehension (and conviction) vary in response to variations in the number of offenses. If the supply of crime is inelastic in both respects, deterrence will not maximize social welfare. In the case of criminalization of prostitution, this obtains if risky clients of prostitution have a low elasticity to the amount of punishment and/or try to reduce the risk of apprehension and conviction by moving to secluded locations.

Becker returns to the same point with a later model, co-authored with Grossman and Murphy (Becker et al., 2006) where the government optimizes expenditure to curb supplies of illegal goods and services by maximizing a welfare function that depends on the difference between the social and private values of consumption of the goods made illegal. In the model, optimal expenditure also depends on the elasticity of demand for these goods, and the implication is that, if demand is inelastic, it does not pay to make goods illegal, unless important, negative externalities make their social value negative. Using this argument and producing evidence of low demand elasticity, Cunningham and Finlay (2015) recently questioned the effectiveness of interventions aimed at methamphetamine input markets.

In this line of reasoning it would still pay to make goods illegal if important negative externalities were involved, and in the case of prostitution, violence might be seen as one such externality. We would argue, however, that violence may increase with criminalization, not the opposite. Sex workers, or prostitutes, face risks to their health, risks of violent assault, and risk of fraud (not getting paid for their services). Clients face also health risks, reputational risks and, where prostitution occurs in criminal environments, risks of violence too. These risks are going to be higher where prostitution is criminalized, partly because criminalization makes collaboration with both medical personnel and law enforcement more difficult. Criminalization of sex work also makes the detection of under-age or trafficked people more difficult. For both clients and for sex workers, demand-side and supply-side, criminalization pushes the market into secluded and, for the workers, isolating places. Flats, clubs and massage parlors are more separate from the rest of society. The welfare of sexually trafficked women decreases in these dangerous environments. Our analysis of the move towards criminalization in the United Kingdom suggests that this has not decreased demand and possibly changed the profile of clients in ways that may worry those who are concerned about the welfare of prostitutes as well as public health. By and large, clients of sex workers tend to be risk-takers. There is a high correlation between paying for sex and engaging in other risky behaviors. To some of these men, criminalized prostitution is actually more attractive than decriminalized or legal sex work, and these are not the ones we necessarily want to encourage.

High levels of partisan polarization are in place well before early adulthood, unlike the developmental pattern that held in the 70s & 80s (early childhood was characterized by blanket positivity toward authority figures & partisanship gradually intruded)

Political Socialization in the Era of Polarization. Shanto Iyengar, Matthew Tyler. August 31, 2021. https://www.dropbox.com/s/5go8ja05l9vwhfx/Socialization_and_Polarization_maintext.pdf

Abstract: Early socialization research dating to the 1960s showed that children could have a partisan identity without expressing polarized evaluations of political leaders and institutions. We provide an update to the socialization literature by showing that children today are just as polarized as adults. We compare our findings to a landmark 1980 socialization study and show that the most dramatic increase in childhood polarization occurs through increased distrust of the opposing party. We go on to show that the onset of polarization in childhood is predicted by parental influence; adolescents who share their parents’ identity and whose parents are more polarized are apt to voice polarized views.


Me: Is this discord endogenous, spontaneously developed?



We have shown that the onset of partisan polarization occurs early in the life cycle with very little change thereafter. Today, high levels of in-group favoritism and out-group distrust are in place well before early adulthood. In fact, our 2019 results suggest that the learning curve for polarization plateaus by the age of 11. This is very unlike the developmental pattern that held in the 1970s and 1980s, when early childhood was characterized by blanket positivity toward authority figures and partisanship gradually intruded into the political attitudes of adolescents before peaking in adulthood.

When we considered the antecedents of children’s trust in the parties, our findings confirm the earlier literature documenting the primacy of the family as an agent of socialization (Jennings and Niemi 1968; Jennings, Stoker, and Bowers 2009; Tedin 1974). Polarized parents seem to transmit not only their partisanship, but also their animus toward opponents. It is striking that the least polarized youth respondents in 2019 are those who have not adopted their parental partisan loyalty.

In closing, our findings have important implications for the study of political socialization. Fifty years ago, political socialization was thought to play a stabilizing role important to the perpetuation of democratic norms and institutions. In particular, children’s adoption of uncritical attitudes toward authority figures helped to legitimize the entire democratic regime. Indeed, researchers cited this functional” role of socialization in justifying the study of political attitudes in childhood (Kinder and Sears 1985; van Deth, Abendschön, and Vollmar 2011).

In the current era, it seems questionable whether the early acquisition of out-party animus fosters democratic norms and civic attitudes. Extreme polarization is now associated with rampant misinformation (Peterson and Iyengar 2021), and, as indicated by the events that occurred in the aftermath of the 2020 election, with willingness to reject the outcome of free and fair electoral procedures. The question for future research is how to transmit party attachments, as occurred in the pre-polarization era, without the accompanying distrust and disdain for political opponents.

The “drunk utilitarian” phenomenon suggests that people are more likely to accept harm for the greater good when they are under the influence of alcohol; this study finds significant effect on moral judgments

Paruzel-Czachura, Mariola, Katarzyna Pypno, Jim A. C. Everett, Michal Bialek, and Bertram Gawronski. 2021. “The Drunk Utilitarian Revisited: Does Alcohol Really Increase Utilitarianism in Moral Judgment?.” PsyArXiv. September 21. doi:10.31234/osf.io/hb69x

Abstract: The “drunk utilitarian” phenomenon suggests that people are more likely to accept harm for the greater good when they are under the influence of alcohol. This phenomenon conflicts with the ideas that (1) acceptance of pro-sacrificial harm requires inhibitory control of automatic emotional responses to the idea of causing harm and (2) alcohol impairs inhibitory control. The current preregistered experiment aimed to provide deeper insights into the effects of alcohol on moral judgments by using a formal modeling approach to disentangle three factors in moral dilemma judgments and by distinguishing between instrumental harm and impartial beneficence as two distinct dimensions of utilitarian psychology. Despite the use of a substantially larger sample and higher doses of alcohol compared to the ones in prior studies, alcohol had no significant effect on moral judgments. The results pose a challenge to the idea that alcohol increases utilitarianism in moral judgments.

Moderate alcohol linked to lower risk of erectile dysfunction, high alcohol linked to higher risk; alcohol should be taken in moderate quantities in order to obtain the dual effect of disinhibition and relaxation

A Meta-Analysis of Erectile Dysfunction and Alcohol Consumption. Li S. · Song J.-M. · Zhang K. · Zhang C.-L. Urologia Internationalis, September 14, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1159/000508171

Abstract: Purpose: The purpose of the study was to evaluate the association between alcohol consumption and risk of erectile dysfunction (ED). Methods: PubMed was searched for reports published before June 2019. Data were extracted and combined odds ratios (ORs) calculated with random-effects models. Results: Finally, 46 studies were included (216,461 participants). The results of our meta-analysis indicated that there was a significant association between regular alcohol consumption and ED (OR 0.89, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.81–0.97). There was no indication of publication bias (Egger’s test, p = 0.37). In the stratified analysis, the pooled OR of ED for light to moderate and high alcohol consumption was 0.82 (95% CI: 0.72–0.94) and 0.82 (95% CI: 0.67–1.00), respectively. No variable related to the source of heterogeneity was found in univariate and multivariate meta-regression analyses. A dose-response meta-analysis suggested that a nonlinear relationship between alcohol consumption and risk of ED was observed (p for nonlinearity <0.001). Conclusion: A J-shaped relationship between alcohol consumption and risk of ED was observed. Alcohol should be taken in moderate quantities in order to obtain the dual effect of disinhibition and relaxation. If taken chronically, it could provoke vascular damages.

Keywords: Alcohol consumptionErectile dysfunctionMeta-analysis

Autistic& nonautistic groups did not differ in age of sexual activity onset or contraction of STIs; autistic males are uniquely more likely to be bisexual; autistic females are uniquely more likely to be homosexual

The sexual health, orientation, and activity of autistic adolescents and adults. Elizabeth Weir, Carrie Allison, Simon Baron-Cohen. Autism Research. September 18 2021. https://doi.org/10.1002/aur.2604

Abstract: Small studies suggest significant differences between autistic and nonautistic individuals regarding sexual orientation and behavior. We administered an anonymized, online survey to n = 2386 adults (n = 1183 autistic) aged 16–90 years to describe sexual activity, risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and sexual orientation. Autistic individuals are less likely to report sexually activity or heterosexuality compared to nonautistic individuals, but more likely to self-report asexuality or an ‘other’ sexuality. Overall, autistic, and nonautistic groups did not differ in age of sexual activity onset or contraction of STIs. When evaluating sex differences, autistic males are uniquely more likely to be bisexual (compared to nonautistic males); conversely, autistic females are uniquely more likely to be homosexual (compared to nonautistic females). Thus, both autistic males and females may express a wider range of sexual orientations in different sex-specific patterns than general population peers. When comparing autistic males and females directly, females are more likely to have diverse sexual orientations (except for homosexuality) and engage in sexual activity, are less likely to identify as heterosexual, and have a lower mean age at which they first begin engaging in sexual activity. This is the largest study of sexual orientation of autistic adults. Sexual education and sexual health screenings of all children, adolescents, and adults (including autistic individuals) must remain priorities; healthcare professionals should use language that affirms a diversity of sexual orientations and supports autistic individuals who may have increased risks (affecting mental health, physical health, and healthcare quality) due to stress and discrimination from this intersectionality.


Autistic adolescents and adults may be less likely to engage in sexual activity than nonautistic individuals but may be more likely to have diverse sexual orientations; further, sex-specific patterns of sexual orientation and activity may be different between autistic and nonautistic adults. Overall, our results do not suggest differences in lifetime risk of STIs or age of sexual activity onset between autistic and nonautistic adolescents and adults. These findings may have important implications for the healthcare of autistic individuals, and in particular regarding sexual health screenings and support for mental health.

Our findings bolster previous evidence that autistic individuals identify with a wider range of sexual orientations than others (Bush, 2019; Bush et al., 2020; Dewinter et al., 2017; George & Stokes, 2018a; Pecora, Hancock, et al., 2020; Pecora, Hooley, et al., 2020; Rudolph et al., 2018). Our results clarify that autistic males are uniquely more likely to identify as bisexual than other males and autistic females are uniquely more likely to identify as homosexual than other females—suggesting that autistic adults do not conform to the same sex-specific patterns of sexual orientation observed in the general population. Autistic individuals are 8.1 and 7.6 times more likely to self-report identifying as asexual or ‘other’ sexual orientation than nonautistic individuals, respectively. These odds ratios are far higher than those previously reported in a large sample of individuals with high autistic traits (ORs: 1.7–3.1) (Rudolph et al., 2018), and in a smaller sample of autistic females (ORs: 2.3–2.4) (Pecora, Hooley, et al., 2020). These results align with previous findings in the field to confirm relatively greater likelihood of identifying as a nonheterosexual sexual orientation and relatively lower likelihood of identifying as heterosexual; however, future research should focus on replicating these findings in population-based samples of both autistic females and males to confirm actual odds of identifying with each sexual orientation and the sex differences therein.

Further, when comparing autistic females and males directly, our results suggest that autistic females tend to identify with a wider range of sexual orientations (except for homosexuality), are more likely to engage in sexual activity, and are more likely to do so initially at a relatively younger age. Further, our results confirm previous findings showing that the majority of both autistic males and females endorsed engaging in sexual activity (Bush, 2019; Dewinter et al., 2013; Sala et al., 2020), even if the relative proportion of individuals was smaller than nonautistic males and females (Bush, 2019; George & Stokes, 2018a).

Our results refute previous findings suggesting that autistic individuals have reduced risk of STIs compared to others (Fortuna et al., 2016; Schmidt et al., 2019), instead supporting that there is no significant difference in relative lifetime risk of STIs. While our age-stratified results suggest that younger autistic adults (aged 16–40 years) may be less likely to engage in sexual activity than younger nonautistic adults, this effect was eliminated after removing individuals who have not ever engaged in sexual activity from the analysis. It is also possible that our results differ from the two previous studies in this area for practical reasons: The first study only included a sample of 255 autistic adults which is unlikely to be demographically representative of all autistic adults (Fortuna et al., 2016) and the second study only considered STI risk among individuals with any intellectual or developmental disability, grouping together a highly heterogeneous sample of individuals with autism, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, spina bifida, intellectual disability, as well as those with fragile X, prader willi, and fetal alcohol syndrome (Schmidt et al., 2019). Thus, it is likely that previous studies have not accurately captured the sexual activity and behavior of sexually active autistic individuals specifically.

The results from our main analyses also support that risk of STIs may be partially mediated by high rates of asexuality and lack of ever engaging in sexual activity among autistic adults overall, as significance and odds ratios attenuated after accounting for these factors separately and additively. Although our study does not directly inquire about interest in sexual activity, our results confirm that asexuality may play a key role in reducing sexual activity among autistic individuals—and particularly among autistic females. The results from Adjusted Model 1 suggest that autistic females were 38% and autistic males were 22% as likely to report ever having engaged in sexual activity compared to sex-matched peers; however, the group differences decreased to autistic females being 48% and autistic males being 24% as likely to report ever having engaged in sexual activity compared to sex-matched peers in Adjusted Model 2, after accounting for self-reported asexuality among the participants. Interestingly, asexuality does not account for all of the variance between autistic and nonautistic females and males (respectively) regarding sexual activity. It is possible that this difference could be accounted for by reduced libido previously reported among autistic individuals (Bejerot & Erikson, 2014; Bush, 2019; Pecora et al., 2019), or that autistic adults' actual sexual activity may not meet their desire for it, due to differences with social communication, sensory sensitivities, or mental health conditions such as anxiety, which can often co-occur with autism (Croen et al., 2015; Hand et al., 2019). Taking into account reports of limited sexual knowledge/ education, low healthcare satisfaction, and high odds of unmet healthcare needs (Dewinter et al., 2013; Mason et al., 2019; Nicolaidis et al., 2013; Pecora, Hancock, et al., 2020), existing research may have underestimated true rates of STIs among autistic adults. Future research should focus on clarifying true lifetime prevalence rates of STIs among autistic and nonautistic adults comparatively.

Our age-stratified results also suggest that older autistic adults may be uniquely likely to identify as bisexual, whereas younger autistic adults may be uniquely likely to identify as homosexual compared to peers of similar age ranges (respectively). These findings provide some evidence that social norms (which change across time) may have affected individuals' acceptance of their specific sexual orientation; yet, our results support overall that autistic individuals of both age groups are more likely than others to identify with diverse sexual orientations and less likely to identify as heterosexual—which may be affected by social norms, biological differences, other factors, or a combination of these. Our findings do not support a difference in the mean age at which autistic and nonautistic adults report first engaging in sexual activity; however, Figure 1 above shows a relatively wider distribution among autistic adults, with a greater number of outliers on both sides. This is particularly concerning regarding sexual activity prior to the age of 13 years, which may relate to child sexual victimization; however, as our study did not define sexual activity specifically or ask about child sexual abuse, no definitive conclusions can be drawn from these findings at this time.

Our online, self-report, and cross-sectional methodology enabled recruitment of a large cohort of autistic adolescents and adults (aged 16–90 years; mean age approximately 41 years), providing the unique opportunity to describe the sexual health and orientation across the lifespan. This is the largest study of sexual orientation of autistic adolescents and adults and the first to consider asexuality and likelihood of ever engaging in sexual activity in measures of sexual health. This is also the first study that quantifies the odds of identifying with a particular sexual orientation, as well as the relative sex differences of those patterns while controlling for key demographic confounders, such as age, sex (where appropriate), ethnicity, education-level, and country of residence.


Despite recruiting a large number of autistic individuals (particular older and female autistic individuals), the results presented are unlikely to represent the experiences of all autistic individuals. Our survey design and recruitment methods inherently exclude individuals without access to a computer and/or the internet, as well as those who are not physically or intellectually able to fill in a self-report survey. They also exclude non-English speakers, as the survey was only distributed in English; this is reflected in the demographics of our sample, as the vast majority of participants reported countries of residence with English as the native language (over 80% of the population resided in the United Kingdom, United States, or Australia). Further, white individuals, UK residents, and females were overrepresented in our sample; as such, our results may not be representative of all individuals. In particular, as attitudes toward sexual orientation and sexual activity may depend on norms within different languages, religions, and cultures, differences between our findings and past work in the area may simply reflect sampling biases (e.g., our study oversampled individuals from the UK and US whereas previous studies may have oversampled individuals from Europe and Australia). Additionally, our recruitment methods may have also biased our control group toward individuals with an interest in autism, including those who may have undiagnosed autism—underestimating true group differences between autistic and nonautistic adults; to minimize this risk, we excluded all individuals who suspect autism, are awaiting autism assessment, and/or self-diagnosed as autistic from both the autistic and nonautistic control groups.

There are also several other limitations of the study that should be considered. First, it is possible that the odds of identifying as a nonheterosexual orientation are greater among actually autistic individuals compared to those with high autistic traits; however, it is also possible that our study is underpowered to provide true effect size differences, and that the odds ratios represented here are artificially inflated due to “winner's curse” (a statistical phenomenon common to epidemiology and genetics where the effect size reported first is greater than the effect sizes reported in later studies of the same group) (Ioannidis, 2008). Second, our survey did not specifically define the terms “sexual activity”, “STIs”, or “sexual orientation”; however, our results largely align with several previous studies in these areas (Bush, 2019; Bush et al., 2020; Dewinter et al., 2017; George & Stokes, 2018a; Pecora, Hancock, et al., 2020; Pecora, Hooley, et al., 2020; Rudolph et al., 2018), and our results did not change when more strictly defining “STIs” in a sensitivity analysis. Third, sexual health and sexual activity are complex and attitudes toward them may change over time; this study cannot accurately describe all aspects of these multifaceted experiences. Fourth, the study relied on a self-report methodology on topics that may have been taboo or sensitive for some participants. For this reason, we explicitly told participants that the survey was anonymous and that all questions regarding sexual health were optional; however, we maintained high response rates even through this section (>99% for all questions related to sexual orientation and health). Still, it is possible that autistic individuals may have been more candid about their experiences than others due to differences in communication style and/or lessened concerns about adherence to social norms. Fifth, as we do not yet understand the factors that contribute to an individual's sexual orientation, the group differences observed regarding sexual orientation may correspond to these factors or to differences in acceptance of one's own sexuality (again, possibly due to differences in communication style/lessened adherence to social norms typical of autism).

Clinical implications

Currently, autistic individuals overall report lower satisfaction and self-efficacy within healthcare, as well as higher odds of unmet healthcare needs than others (Mason et al., 2019; Nicolaidis et al., 2013); and LGBTQA+ autistic individuals may be particularly vulnerable to worse mental and physical health, as well as inadequate healthcare (George & Stokes, 2018b; Hall et al., 2020; Pecora, Hooley, et al., 2020). Previous research that suggests that current sexual education of autistic individuals remains inadequate (Dewinter et al., 2013; Pecora, Hancock, et al., 2020), and that autistic females have self-reported lower rates of cervical cancer screenings (Nicolaidis et al., 2013). Our results also suggest that autistic adults are just as likely to contract STIs as others; further, other studies suggest that autistic females may be more likely to have gynecological and/or hormone-associated conditions (including polycystic ovarian syndrome) (Cherskov et al., 2018; Ruta et al., 2011), which can increase risk of diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, and cancers (Bhupathy et al., 2010; Brand et al., 2011; Cherskov et al., 2018; Mantovani & Fucic, 2014). Thus, improving sexual education and ensuring regular gynecological/ sexual health appointments for autistic adolescents and adults across the spectrum should remain a priority.

Healthcare professionals should be aware of increased risk of sexual victimization and abuse among autistic individuals across the lifespan (Brown-Lavoie et al., 2014; Pecora et al., 2019), and should take extra time and care to communicate effectively with autistic people when discussing relationships, sexual contact, and sexual health to ensure appropriate safeguarding; these risks may be particularly acute for autistic females and those with diverse sexual orientations (Pecora et al., 2019; Pecora, Hooley, et al., 2020). As challenges with social communication are a core feature of autism, practitioners providing these wellness checks (including sexual health screenings, as well as screenings for abuse during pediatric visits) may need extra time with autistic individuals and should focus on asking specific, rather than open-ended questions; further, practitioners should allow individuals to communicate in the way they feel most comfortable, including via written communication (Nicolaidis et al., 2015). Providers should also be aware that autistic individuals may be more likely to identify with a wider spectrum of genders and sexualities, and their language should be affirming and inclusive of all these identities, particularly when discussing sexual education, sexual health, and consent. Psychiatrists should also be aware of possible intersectionality between gender, sexual orientation, and/or disability, as their autistic patients may be particularly likely to experience mental or physical health problems due to discrimination and minority stress (George & Stokes, 2018b; Hall et al., 2020). Healthcare providers should work cooperatively with autistic and nonautistic individuals alike to communicate effectively and make plans to ensure that sexual relationships and sexual contact remain affirming, safe, and fulfilling.