Friday, January 20, 2023

Economic Consequences of Kinship: Evidence from US Bans on Cousin Marriage

Economic Consequences of Kinship: Evidence from US Bans on Cousin Marriage. Arkadev Ghosh, Sam Il Myoung Hwang, Munir Squires. January 18, 2023.

Abstract—Close-kin marriage, by sustaining tightly-knit family structures, may impede development. We find support for this hypothesis using US state bans on cousin marriage. Our measure of cousin marriage comes from the excess frequency of same-surname marriages, a method borrowed from population genetics that we apply to millions of marriage records from the 18th to the 20th century. Using census data, we first show that married cousins are more rural and have lower-paying occupations. We then turn to an event study analysis to understand how cousin marriage bans affected outcomes for treated birth cohorts. We find that these bans led individuals from families with high rates of cousin marriage to migrate off farms and into urban areas. They also gradually shift to higher-paying occupations. We also observe increased dispersion, with individuals from these families living in a wider range of locations and adopting more diverse occupations. Our findings suggest that these changes were driven by the social and cultural effects of dispersed family ties rather than genetics. Notably, the bans also caused more people to live in institutional settings for the elderly, infirm or destitute, suggesting weaker support from kin.

JEL: D00, N00.

Growing evidence suggests that intergroup contact, psychology’s most-researched paradigm for reducing prejudice, has the “ironic” effect of reducing support for social change in disadvantaged groups

Reimer, N. K., & Sengupta, N. K. (2023). Meta-analysis of the “ironic” effects of intergroup contact. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 124(2), 362–380. Jan 2023.

Abstract—Growing evidence suggests that intergroup contact, psychology’s most-researched paradigm for reducing prejudice, has the “ironic” effect of reducing support for social change in disadvantaged groups. We conducted a preregistered meta-analytic test of this effect across 98 studies with 140 samples of 213,085 disadvantaged-group members. As predicted, intergroup contact was, on average, associated with less perceived injustice (r = −.07), collective action (r = −.06), and support for reparative policies (r = −.07). However, these associations were small, variable, and consistent with alternative explanations. Across outcomes, 25%–36% of studies found positive associations with intergroup contact. Moderator analyses explained about a third of the between-sample variance, showing that, at least for perceived injustice, associations with intergroup contact were most consistently negative in studies that measured direct, qualitatively positive contact among adults. We also found evidence for an alternative explanation for the apparent “ironic” effects of intergroup contact as, after controlling for the positive association of negative contact with support for social change, positive contact was no longer associated with any of the outcomes. We close by discussing the strengths and limitations of the available evidence and by highlighting open questions about the relationship between intergroup contact and support for social change in disadvantaged groups. 

How and Why We Want to Be More Moral; as known, the bigger predictor of moral motivation was the extent to which we believed that making the change would have positive consequences for our own well-being

How and Why People Want to Be More Moral. Jessie Sun, Joshua Wilt, Peter Meindl, Hanne M. Watkins, Geoffrey P. Goodwin. Journal of Personality, January 18 2023.

Abstract—What types of moral improvements do people wish to make? Do they hope to become more good, or less bad? Do they wish to be more caring? More honest? More loyal? And why exactly do they want to become more moral? Presumably, most people want to improve their morality because this would benefit others, but is this in fact their primary motivation? Here, we begin to investigate these questions. Across two large, preregistered studies (N = 1,818), participants provided open-ended descriptions of one change they could make in order to become more moral; they then reported their beliefs about and motives for this change. In both studies, people most frequently expressed desires to improve their compassion and more often framed their moral improvement goals in terms of amplifying good behaviors than curbing bad ones. The strongest predictor of moral motivation was the extent to which people believed that making the change would have positive consequences for their own well-being. Together, these studies provide rich descriptive insights into how ordinary people want to be more moral, and show that they are particularly motivated to do so for their own sake.

From the ungated version:

General Discussion
How do people conceptualize moral improvement, and when do they feel more motivated 
to undertake such improvements? Table 7 shows a summary of the key findings. Across two 
large studies that featured two very different samples ( vs. CloudResearch) and 
methods (expert codings vs. self-codings), we find that people conceptualize moral improvement 
in diverse ways. A wide range of traits was represented, but the most common goal was to 
become more compassionate, followed by goals to become less reactive and more honest. People 
were somewhat more inclined to conceptualize moral improvement in terms of starting or 
increasing positive tendencies (rather than stopping or decreasing negative ones). People were 
less motivated to make agreeableness-related improvements. They were more motivated to make 
improvements that they perceived as being within their control. They were also more motivated 
to make improvements that they believed would benefit themselves, and to a less pronounced
extent, others.

Diverse Concepts of Moral Improvement
Moral relevance norms from past studies show that compassion, respectfulness, honesty, 
fairness, bravery, and loyalty are among the most prototypical moral traits (Goodwin et al., 2014; 
Strohminger & Nichols, 2015; Sun & Goodwin, 2020). Do people think of moral improvements 
in terms of these prototypical moral virtues? Demonstrating the diversity of people’s concepts of 
moral improvement, moral improvement goals spanned more than 20 trait categories in both 
studies. Goals to become more compassionate, more honest, and more respectful, however, were 
among the five most-frequently mentioned moral improvements in at least one of the two 
samples. In contrast, goals to become more loyal and more fair were mentioned less than 5% of 
the time in both samples.


It is particularly striking that goals to become more compassionate were, by far, the most 
frequently mentioned moral improvements. Indeed, in Study 2, compassion was mentioned 
almost three times more frequently than the second most common trait category (goals to 
become less reactive). Why might this be the case? There are at least two non-mutually-
exclusive interpretations for why some trait categories (e.g., becoming more compassionate)
were more frequently mentioned than others (e.g., becoming more honest, fair, or loyal). First, 
perhaps these are the traits that are most relevant to the moral situations people encounter in 
everyday life. Providing some support for the relevance hypothesis, an experience sampling 
study of moral events in daily life suggests that Care/Harm (which corresponds most closely with 
the trait of compassion) was the most frequently mentioned moral domain (Hofmann et al., 
2014). Thus, perhaps people most frequently mentioned goals to become more compassionate in 
part because this is the most relevant moral domain in everyday life.
A second possibility is that people tend to perceive more opportunities for improvement 
on the traits that they more frequently mentioned. Compassion may be distinct from traits such as 
honesty, fairness, and loyalty, in at least two ways. First, judgments of honesty, fairness, and 
loyalty may be based more on behavior than are judgments of compassion. That is, whereas 
honest behavior (vs. “honest thoughts” or “honest feelings”) may be the primary basis for 
judging oneself as being an honest person, people might consider themselves to be truly
compassionate only if they think, feel, and act compassionately. Second, honesty, fairness, and 
loyalty may have consequences for a smaller set of potential targets compared to compassion. 
For example, one could be loyal to a romantic partner, friends, company, or a nation, but not to 
everyone in the world. In contrast, the scope of one’s compassion could be extended beyond 
close others to not only strangers in one’s community (e.g., homeless people), but also those in
foreign countries (e.g., people who are dying from preventable diseases), nonhuman animals, and 
future generations (Singer, 1981). For these reasons, it may be easier to perfectly fulfil one’s 
duties to be honest (by being completely truthful), fair (by being entirely unbiased), and loyal (by 
never betraying others), whereas the opportunities for becoming more compassionate seem 
almost endless by comparison (Trammell, 1975; see also Trafimow & Trafimow, 1999).
Interestingly, improvements to several traits that are not inherently moral traits—
decreased reactivity and increased open-mindedness, productiveness, and self-control—were 
also among the most frequently-mentioned moral improvements. These results suggest that even 
if certain traits are not inherently or specifically moral (e.g., self-control can be deployed towards 
moral, immoral, or morally neutral ends; Landy et al., 2016; Hofmann et al., 2018), people may 
still see such traits as being additional means to achieving moral ends.

Self-Interest is a Key Motivation for Moral Improvement

What motivates people to be more moral? From the perspective that the function of 
morality is to suppress selfishness for the benefit of others (Haidt & Kesebir, 2010; Wolf, 1982), 
we might expect people to believe that moral improvements would primarily benefit others 
(rather than themselves). By a similar logic, people should also primarily want to be more moral 
for the sake of others (rather than for their own sake).
Surprisingly, however, this was not overwhelmingly the case. Instead, across both 
studies, participants were approximately equally split between those who believed that others 
would benefit the most and those who believed that they themselves would benefit the most
(with the exception of compassion; see Figure S2). The finding that people perceive some 
personal benefits to becoming more moral has been demonstrated in recent research (Sun & 
Berman, in prep). In light of evidence that moral people tend to be happier (Sun et al., in prep)
and that the presence of moral struggles predicts symptoms of depression and anxiety (Exline et 
al., 2014), such beliefs might also be somewhat accurate. However, it is unclear why people 
believe that becoming more moral would benefit themselves more than it would others. 
Speculatively, one possibility is that people can more vividly imagine the impacts of their own 
actions on their own well-being, whereas they are much more uncertain about how their actions 
would affect others—especially when the impacts might be spread across many beneficiaries.
However, it is also possible that this finding only applies to self-selected moral 
improvements, rather than the universe of all possible moral improvements. That is, when asked 
what they could do to become more moral, people might more readily think of improvements 
that would improve their own well-being to a greater extent than the well-being of others. But, if 
we were to ask people to predict who would benefit the most from various moral improvements 
that were selected by researchers, people may be less likely to believe that it would be
themselves. Future research should systematically study people’s evaluations of how various 
moral improvements would impact their own and others’ well-being.
Similarly, when explicitly asked for whose sake they were most motivated to make their 
moral improvement, almost half of the participants admitted that they were most motivated to 
change for their own sake (rather than for the sake of others). However, when predicting 
motivation from both the expected well-being consequences for the self and the well-being 
consequences for others, we found that people’s perceptions of personal well-being 
consequences was a significantly stronger predictor in both studies. In other words, if anything,
people are relatively more motivated to make moral improvements for their own sake than for 
the sake of others. This is consistent with the findings of another study which examined people’s 
interest in changing a variety of moral and nonmoral traits, and showed that people are 
particularly interested in improving the traits that they believed would make them relatively 
happier (Sun & Berman, in prep). Here, it is striking that personal fulfilment remains the most
important motivator of personal improvement even exclusively in the moral domain