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Social Studies: Asian Americans and affirmative action, COVID on the frontier, gender roles

Demonstrators protested perceived anti-Asian discrimination in Harvard University's admissions policies in Boston in 2018. New research suggests Asian American students denied admission to their top choice schools had similar self-esteem and perceptions of their own ability as those accepted to their top-choice schools.NYT

Distanced from voting

Analyzing nationally representative voter data, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania found that voters in ZIP codes where there were longer wait times to vote in the 2012 election were subsequently less likely to vote in 2014, controlling for voter and area demographics. A similar pattern was seen among precincts in Boston and Florida, where closing-time delays (typically due to people waiting in lines) were associated with lower turnout in subsequent elections, controlling for precinct demographics. The estimated effect implies the loss of roughly 200,000 votes across the US in 2014, especially among minorities.

Pettigrew, S., “The Downstream Consequences of Long Waits: How Lines at the Precinct Depress Future Turnout,” Electoral Studies (forthcoming).


To affirm, or not to affirm

Recent anti-affirmative action lawsuits have argued that Asian Americans are harmed when denied admission to top-choice colleges. While there are obviously status differences between colleges, a new study compared survey responses from freshman year and senior year among Asian Americans who did and did not get into their first choice. Controlling for high school GPA, SAT score, gender, and first-generation college status, the findings indicate “limited, if any, statistical difference” with regard to self-perceived academic performance, ability, self-esteem, student involvement, or civic interest.

Nguyen, M. et al., “Asian Americans, Admissions, and College Choice: An Empirical Test of Claims of Harm Used in Federal Investigations,” Educational Researcher (forthcoming).

Frontier life (and death)

Economists at Boston University and Amherst College find that counties that were on the frontier (i.e., unsettled) for longer during the period from 1790 to 1890 have exhibited a weaker response to the current pandemic, even controlling for demographic and climatic differences. Residents of these counties practiced less social distancing (as measured by cell phone data) and reported being less likely to wear masks, and county governments were less likely to enact public health mandates. This is attributed to a legacy of rugged individualism, which manifests in weaker civic institutions, stronger anti-government partisanship, and less trust in science.


Bazzi, S. et al., “Rugged Individualism and Collective (In)action During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Boston University (August 2020).

Gender reveal

In an experiment, university students earned money if they got correct answers on a multiplication task on a computer while simultaneously avoiding failure in a monitoring task on the same screen. There was no difference in male and female performance on these tasks. However, when the multiplication task was labeled as “employment” and the monitoring task was labeled as “care” for a baby, male students tended to specialize in the multiplication task, while female students tended to specialize in the monitoring task, particularly when asked to coordinate with an anonymous partner who happened to be of the opposite gender.

Roncolato, L. & Roomets, A., “Who Will Change the ‘Baby?’ Examining the Power of Gender in an Experimental Setting,” Review of Economics of the Household (September 2020).

Corporate news

A study by several finance professors finds that the acquisition of a local TV station by Sinclair Broadcast Group — a conservative media conglomerate — is associated with a subsequent decline in the social responsibility ratings of corporations headquartered in the area. This was especially the case in Republican-leaning areas and for sin industries (alcohol, tobacco, gambling). The affected corporations also subsequently performed worse in the stock market.

Kaviani, M. et al., “Conservative TV and Corporate Social Responsibility,” Temple University (July 2020).