Uncommon Knowledge

Older dads, mutant kids?

Surprising insights from the social sciences

istockphoto/leslie becker/globe staff

Well rested and ready to vote

How important is an extra hour of sleep? So important that it could tip a close election. A political scientist at Iowa State University analyzed turnout history within Indiana (which had a patchwork of daylight-saving-time policies), turnout history for other states, and self-reported turnout in a nationwide survey, and found that turnout was a couple percentage points higher—particularly among less reliable voters—when clocks had been turned back the weekend before the election.

Urbatsch, R., “Time Regulations as Electoral Policy,” American Politics Research (forthcoming).

Older dads, funny-looking kids

Note to single ladies: A handsome older man may seem like a good catch, but your children may not look quite so nice. Austrian researchers analyzed data on people who graduated from Wisconsin high schools in 1957, including ratings of the attractiveness of their yearbook photos. They found that the age of people’s fathers at their birth, but not the age of their mothers, was negatively associated with attractiveness. The researchers theorize that a man is more liable to pass on mutations as he (and his sperm production process) ages, and, they say, “our results thus support the view that mutations are expressed in facial attractiveness.”

Huber, S. & Fieder, M., “Advanced Paternal Age Is Associated with Lower Facial Attractiveness,” Evolution and Human Behavior (forthcoming).

How to make gay guys work long hours

Twenty-one states now prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, though others do not. However, if the states in the second group want to encourage a universally strong work ethic, they might want to consider adding discrimination bans of their own. An analysis of national survey data from the past two decades found that behaviorally gay men—i.e., those who reported having recent same-sex partners—worked an extra 15-20 hours per week after a state passed such a ban, even controlling for the level of intolerance of homosexuality in the state.

Martell, M., “How ENDAs Extend the Workweek: Legal Protection and the Labor Supply of Behaviorally Gay Men,” Contemporary Economic Policy (forthcoming).

What ‘school accountability’ does
to parents


School testing and accountability policies are all the rage these days. But they may be having the unintended effect of corroding parents’ trust in both schools and government. A political scientist at UMass Amherst conducted “an original, nationally representative survey with a large sample of public school parents” and found “disturbing” results that “raise grave questions about the ascendant paradigm in education policymaking today.” Even controlling for other state- and individual-level educational, demographic, and political factors, the author writes, “I find that parents residing in states with more developed assessment systems express significantly lower trust in government, substantially decreased confidence in government efficacy, and much more negative attitudes about their children’s schools. My findings also provide evidence that parents residing in states with more developed assessment systems are significantly less likely to engage in some forms of participation in their children’s education.

Rhodes, J., “Learning Citizenship? How State Education Reforms Affect Parents’ Political Attitudes and Behavior,” Political Behavior (forthcoming).

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It’s one thing to cheat a stranger or an enemy; it’s quite another to cheat one of your own. In deciding whether to accept an opponent’s proposed split of $20 in a bargaining game, white NYU students were more likely to reject an offer from a white opponent than a black opponent for a marginally fair offer ($8). Likewise, Amherst College students—especially those who strongly identified with the school—were more likely to reject such a marginally fair offer from a fellow Amherst student than from a student from a rival college.

Mendoza, S. et al., “For Members Only: Ingroup Punishment of Fairness Norm Violations in the Ultimatum Game,” Social Psychological and Personality Science (forthcoming).

Kevin Lewis is an Ideas columnist. He can be reached at kevin.lewis.ideas@gmail.com.