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Social Studies: Social cohesion and the Trump vote, star vs. team, amputation and racial bias

The New England Patriots' Brandon Bolden (right) hugs James White, who scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime at Super Bowl LI in February 2017. New research suggests that fans are more likely to celebrate sustained individual athletic achievement (by, say, a tennis star) than sustained team achievement (by a team like the Patriots).Jim Davis / Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

The war on racism

European economists found that areas of England and Wales where more Black US soldiers were stationed during World War II became more racially progressive. Decades later, these areas have fewer members of, and provide fewer votes for, a far-right party, compared to similar areas that did not host Black troops. The trend is particularly pronounced in predominantly white rural areas. Likewise, people in areas that hosted Black soldiers exhibit more positive feelings towards Black people.

Schindler, D. & Westcott, M., “Shocking Racial Attitudes: Black G.I.s in Europe,” Review of Economic Studies (forthcoming).

The root of populism

Economists at UCLA found that Donald Trump fared worse in the 2016 Republican primary and in the general election in counties with more social capital, as measured by the level of civic activity, the number of associations, and the degree of trust within the county, even controlling for other factors like population density, demographics, and economic conditions. In other words, Trump’s political appeal is partly driven by a loss of community.

Giuliano, P. & Wacziarg, R., “Who Voted for Trump? Populism and Social Capital,” National Bureau of Economic Research (August 2020).



Using property records from California and Texas, a political scientist at Stanford found that people were more likely to participate in local city council meetings, vote in local elections, and donate to political candidates after they became homeowners. These shifts in political behavior could not be fully attributed to increases in wealth or age.

Yoder, J., “Does Property Ownership Lead to Participation in Local Politics? Evidence from Property Records and Meeting Minutes,” American Political Science Review (forthcoming).

Star over stars

A new study poses the question: Why did Rafael Nadal, a Spaniard, receive a greater ovation than his French opponent at the start of a recent French Open, while the similarly dominant Patriots haven’t received the warmest of national receptions before recent Super Bowls? The authors of the study “propose that people have a greater desire to see exceptional performances by individuals (like Nadal) continue . . . than identical performances by groups (like the Patriots),” because a streak by an individual highlights individual talent and inspires more awe. The same phenomenon was evident in survey experiments asking about various sports, trivia competitions, police department awards, and comparisons of CEOs and their teams.


Walker, J. & Gilovich, T., “The Streaking Star Effect: Why People Want Superior Performance by Individuals to Continue More than Identical Performance by Groups,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (forthcoming).

Equal treatment

Hospitals that adopted computer systems that provide patient-specific treatment recommendations significantly reduced the disparity between Black and white patients in rates of diabetes-related limb amputation, especially when the case for amputation was more ambiguous. This appears to be driven by greater adherence to appropriate tests and consultations.

Ganju, K. et al., “The Role of Decision Support Systems in Attenuating Racial Biases in Healthcare Delivery,” Management Science (forthcoming).