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Social Studies: White women and interracial marriage, changing views on the death penalty

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Right for her

In survey experiments, participants evaluated couples based only on pictures of them holding hands, with skin colors but not faces visible. A white woman with a black man was evaluated more negatively than the reverse; in fact, the white woman was the only individual in these pairings whose perceived social status was affected at all by the skin color of her partners. Likewise, in a nationally representative survey, white parents were more opposed to the notion of interracial marriage in their families when a higher proportion of their children were female, even controlling for political ideology.

Stillwell, A. & Lowery, B., “Gendered Racial Boundary Maintenance: Social Penalties for White Women in Interracial Relationships,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (forthcoming).


Courting public opinion

Comparing responses to a survey about the Boston Marathon bombing obtained before and after the death sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was announced in May 2015, researchers found that support for a Tsarnaev death sentence increased after the announcement, even controlling for age, gender, education, religion, race, politics, and Boston residency. In other words, the legal judgment was somewhat self-validating in the court of public opinion.

Thompson, R. et al., “National Opinions on Death Penalty Punishment for the Boston Marathon Bomber Before Versus After Sentencing,” Psychology, Public Policy, and Law (forthcoming).

More opportunity, more effort

After a US Supreme Court decision that allowed universities in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi to resume using race in admissions decisions, SAT scores, high school grades, high school attendance, applications to selective universities, and college graduation rates increased for underrepresented minorities, closing some of the gap with white people.

Akhtari, M. et al., “Affirmative Action and Pre-College Human Capital,” National Bureau of Economic Research (September 2020).

Family business

A new analysis finds that companies in states that enacted paid family leave became more productive and gained more in the stock market than similar companies in states that did not enact the policy. This was largely attributed to reduced employee turnover and an increase in the number of female executives.


Bennett, B. et al., “(Forced) Feminist Firms,” National Bureau of Economic Research (September 2020).