Sunday, April 9, 2023

Each year governments worldwide spend an enormous amount of money subsidising businesses; researching the relationship between the allocation of government subsidies and total productivity for Chinese listed firms

China does not pick – or create – winners when giving subsidies to firms. Lee Branstetter, Guangwei Li,Mengjia Ren. CEPR, Mar 9 2023.

Abstract: Each year governments worldwide spend an enormous amount of money subsidising businesses. This column investigates the relationship between the allocation of government subsidies and total productivity for Chinese listed firms. The authors find little evidence that the Chinese government consistently ‘picks winners’. Firms’ ex-ante productivity is negatively correlated with subsidies received by firms, and subsidies appear to have a negative impact on firms’ ex-post productivity growth.

We conduct a two-stage analysis. In the first stage, we estimate standard Cobb-Douglas production functions separately by industry, and compute total factor productivity (TFP) for each firm in each year. In the second stage, we seek to understand the relationship between government subsidies and estimated TFP, using a number of different regression approaches.

Our analysis provides no evidence that the Chinese government consistently ‘picks winners’. There appears to be a statistically significant negative correlation between subsidies and TFP, and a robust positive correlation between subsidies and firm size (as measured by the firm's total assets) and between subsidies and net profit. These results indicate that, overall, subsidies are given to larger and more profitable, but less productive firms.

We also find little evidence that receiving a subsidy is correlated with subsequent growth in TFP. When we aggregate across subsidy types, total subsidies appear to have a statistically significant negative impact on subsequent TFP growth. When we disaggregate across subsidy types, we find that even subsidies given out in the name of R&D and innovation promotion or industrial and equipment upgrading have no measured, statistically significant positive effect on firms’ productivity growth.

On the other hand, receiving a subsidy does seem to be correlated with an increase in firms’ employment. When we aggregate across subsidy types, we find that current subsidies appear to have a positive impact on current employment levels, while the prior year’s subsidies seem to have a negative impact on current employment, potentially indicating that firms might be strategically manipulating employment numbers to get subsidies. In other words, firms are temporarily increasing hiring during the period when they receive subsidies, then cut back on employment during the next period. This is consistent with the view that political considerations might outweigh efficiency considerations in the allocation of direct subsidies in China.

Although conservatives had poorer quality work motivation and values than liberals, they were happier nonetheless

Conservatives Report Less Autonomous Work Motivation and Less Intrinsic Values than Liberals, but are Happier Nonetheless: The Explanatory Role of Psychological Need-Satisfaction. Kennon M. Sheldon. Journal of Happiness Studies, Apr 4 2023.

Abstract: Many studies have compared conservative and liberal personalities in terms of traits and cognitive styles. Fewer studies have compared the motivations and values of the two groups, and fewer still have used the perspective of self-determination theory. Using two large archival datasets (Ns = 16,058 university students and 4314 working lawyers), I tested the hypotheses that conservatives would score lower in autonomous work motivation (H1) and in relative intrinsic value orientation (H2), compared to liberals. Consistent support was found for these two hypotheses. Supporting H3, autonomous work motivation and intrinsic value orientation were positively correlated with subjective well-being (SWB), as is typical. Still, despite their seeming motivational vulnerabilities, conservatives reported more SWB and meaning in life than liberals, consistent with other recent studies (H4). Mediational analyses suggest that the conservative advantage in SWB can be partially explained by conservative advantages in relatedness and/or competence need-satisfaction.

Extradyadic relationships: Participants were highly satisfied with their affairs and expressed little moral regret; plus low relationship quality (i.e., satisfaction, love, commitment) is not a major driver of affairs

No Remorse: Sexual Infidelity Is Not Clearly Linked with Relationship Satisfaction or Well-Being in Ashley Madison Users. Dylan Selterman, Samantha Joel & Victoria Dale. Archives of Sexual Behavior, April 3 2023.

Abstract: Past research on extradyadic relationship experiences (including infidelity) often suffers from restricted sampling and retrospective accounts, which may have given researchers a distorted image of what it is like for people to have affairs. In this research, we shed light on the experiences people have during their affairs with a sample of registered users on Ashley Madison, a website geared toward facilitating infidelity. Our participants completed questionnaires about their primary (e.g., spousal) relationships, as well as personality traits, motivations to seek affairs, and outcomes. Findings from this study challenge widely held notions about infidelity experiences. Analyses revealed that participants were highly satisfied with their affairs and expressed little moral regret. A small subset of participants reported having consensually open relationships with their partners, who knew about their activity on Ashley Madison. In contrast to previous findings, we did not observe low relationship quality (i.e., satisfaction, love, commitment) to be a major driver of affairs and the affairs did not predict decreases in these relationship quality variables over time. That is, among a sample of individuals who proactively sought affairs, their affairs were not primarily motivated by poor dyadic/marital relationships, their affairs did not seem to have a strong negative impact on their relationships, and personal ethics did not play a strong role in people’s feelings about their affairs.


Overall, the findings in this paper highlight the nuanced psychological nature of extradyadic behavior for Ashley Madison users. The descriptive results suggest that people’s experiences with affairs are counterintuitive and, at times, self-contradictory. On one hand, participants reported strong feelings of love toward their primary partners/spouses that would ostensibly impede them from cheating. On the other hand, they also derived considerable physical and emotional pleasure from their affairs and expressed little regret. There were also inconsistent expressions about the monogamous/exclusive nature of their relationships. A small percentage (< 15%) of our sample indicated that they were in consensually non-monogamous relationships, suggesting that they had their partners’ permission to use Ashley Madison to find paramours. However, many of these same participants indicated elsewhere in the survey that their relationships were exclusive or that they did not have an open relationship with their partners. Some participants’ inconsistencies may be because they have not had discussions with their partners about monogamy in their relationships, which is a common phenomenon that leads to misunderstandings and disagreements about infidelity (Warren et al., 2012). Regardless, similar patterns of results emerged whether the participants who reported being in CNM relationships were retained or excluded.

For a sample of people aspiring to have affairs, participants expressed high amounts of romantic love toward their partners, with moderate amounts of satisfaction and conflict, and many taking significant steps to improve their relationships (e.g., marital counseling). Moreover, participants also felt positively about themselves, scoring well on life satisfaction. These factors would ostensibly redirect people away from having affairs. Sexual satisfaction, or lack thereof, appeared to stand out as a variable of interest, with about half of participants saying they were not sexually active with their partners. Sexual dissatisfaction was the strongest motivator for those in our sample to pursue affairs. Our participants also reported high emotional and sexual satisfaction with their affairs, and little regret. In a sense, these results mirror the results from prior studies on attitudes and incidence of infidelity, which most people view disapprovingly, and yet, is commonly experienced.

Some, but not all our directional predictions, were supported by the data. Dyadic variables were not associated with infidelity. Relationship quality (satisfaction, intimacy, conflict) did not predict having affairs, nor did it predict affair regret, nor did it decrease as a function of whether participants had affairs. This challenges findings from some prior work which has shown relationship investment as a key predictor of infidelity in young adults (Drigotas et al., 1999), and that affairs are linked with decreased relationship quality outcomes. However, independent of affairs, relationship quality did (negatively) predict the likelihood of relationship dissolution over time, which is consistent with prior work.

Participants’ motivations for having affairs, which included dyadic factors like anger and sexual dissatisfaction, were linked with worse relationship quality at Time 1, while motivation for autonomy, a non-dyadic factor, was linked with better relationship quality. This is consistent with prior work showing that as people experience relationship deficits, their motivations for affairs reflect those deficits, and that infidelity motivations are not monolithic (Selterman et al., 2019). However, these motivation variables did not predict changes in relationship quality or life satisfaction over time for those who reported having affairs. This shows some preliminary evidence that relationship deficits precede infidelity motivations, but not the other way around. Separately, sexual dissatisfaction predicted an increased likelihood of relationship dissolution/divorce, while lack of love and situational factors were associated with remaining together. This shows how different motivations for infidelity are differentially associated with relationship stability in the long-term. Among those who reported affairs, sociosexuality and motivations for variety and autonomy were not associated with happiness or self-esteem. Sociosexuality did predict sexual satisfaction with affair partners, but autonomy predicted lower sexual satisfaction.

The findings from our sample of Ashley Madison users paint a picture of infidelity experiences that does not follow key assumptions long held in the literature on close relationships. These assumptions include the notion that because infidelity is widely considered immoral and is sometimes linked with conflict and intimate partner violence, therefore those who choose to have affairs must have suboptimal relationships (Barta & Kiene, 2005; Thompson, 1983) or behave in significantly different ways compared to those who maintain sexual exclusivity. We did not observe a robust pattern in our data which would support these ideas. Relationship quality (satisfaction, conflict) was not systematically linked with having affairs. One possible explanation is that there are non-dyadic motivations for infidelity that stem from things like self-esteem, desire for variety, and situational factors, rather than from deficits in people’s marriages or partnerships (Selterman et al., 2019).

Furthermore, relationship quality did not predict feelings of regret after affairs in our sample, nor positive perceptions of alternative partners. Prior studies have pointed to factors such as commitment and interdependence are linked with motivations to derogate or devaluate potential alternatives (Johnson & Rusbult, 1989; Lydon et al., 2003; Miller, 1997). But our participants’ responses to items assessing their perceptions of alternatives (e.g., “Others on the site didn't seem like my type”) were not associated with measures of their marital/relationship quality. Put another way, we found weak evidence that relationship quality was linked with derogation of alternative partners. In addition, affair motivation variables stemming from dyadic elements (such as anger, lack of love, or sexual dissatisfaction) were paradoxically associated with greater concurrent relationship quality, and they did not predict changes in relationship quality or life satisfaction over time.

Circling back to one of the central questions we posed in our introduction, it may seem paradoxical that infidelity would be so widely frowned upon, and yet so common. Our results provide clues as to why extradyadic behavior is normative, in large part because the relationships of cheaters appear similar to the relationships of non-cheaters, at least in the eyes of the individuals who are committing infidelity (their partners may feel differently). Some people may pursue affairs even if their satisfaction is high or perceived conflict is low (Glass & Wright, 1985). Although this may be surprising to those who have long assumed key benefits to monogamous relationships, including higher satisfaction, those who study consensual non-monogamy recognize this alleged benefit is a myth (Conley et al., 20132017). Monogamy comes with trade-offs, and relational or emotional outcomes are not universally positive.

In terms of strengths and limitations, we note several. We planned several analyses with our longitudinal data, anticipating that Sample C, which consisted of matched participants across T1 and T2, would be much larger. However, the matched Sample C was much smaller than the two cross-sectional samples A and B. Thus, we have more confidence in the conclusions from the cross-sectional data, and conversely, we urge caution against overextrapolation from our longitudinal findings (particularly with binary outcomes such as breakups at T2, which were quite underpowered) before they can be independently replicated. We suggest future studies extend on our work by further probing developmental antecedents and outcomes of infidelity.

Our sample reflects a population of middle-aged adults, most of whom are married, in contrast to young adult college students in dating relationships whose infidelities are more frequently studied in the literature. Our findings may generalize to populations of similar age and relationship status, but it may also be possible that Ashley Madison users are somehow different from those who have affairs through other means. Ashley Madison users are investing time, energy, and money into the pursuit of infidelity, whereas others may have affairs that originate more passively. Our sample was also skewed in terms of gender representation as most participants were men (84–90% across samples), which limited our ability to conduct analyses gender as a predictor of infidelity experiences. It may be the case that our findings generalize more to men who have affairs than to women or non-binary individuals.

Existing data suggest that most people who commit infidelity report having affairs with others that they already knew rather than through matchmaking apps (Labrecque & Whisman, 2017), although such services are growing in popularity especially in recent years (Dietzel et al., 2021; Wiederhold, 2021). The existing data do not yet support the idea that Ashley Madison users represent a distinct group relative to others who cheat, although we suggest treating this as an open question for which future research will bear evidence on. At this point, we recommend caution before overgeneralizing findings from Ashley Madison users to the wider population of affair-seekers. It may also be the case that Ashley Madison users are also meaningfully different from affair-seekers who use other internet platforms such as Second Love, although again, presently, we have no data to support this notion. Furthermore, whereas websites/apps such as Ashley Madison offer users additional opportunities to engage in affairs, we do not have data on relationship outcomes for these affairs compared to affairs that originate offline.

Separately, some of our participants indicated having a non-exclusive or consensually open relationship with their primary partners. This group of consensually non-monogamous folks who use websites like Ashley Madison (which facilitate affairs) may be different in some ways compared to others in open relationships who prefer other means of finding extradyadic partners. Some who practice ethical non-monogamy insist that their paramours either be single or in consensually open relationships themselves.

Infidelity remains highly socially stigmatized and there can even be legal consequences for marital adultery, which would theoretically serve as barriers to infidelity. In contexts where infidelity or non-monogamy more broadly are frowned upon, attitudes and experiences are likely to be more restricted, and our current study does not allow for such sociocultural comparisons. Finally, our data do not pertain to lifetime infidelity behaviors, so we did not address questions about developmental aspects of infidelity, either within persons or within relationships.