Social Studies: Trump’s sleepless nights, trustworthy faces, and importing hate

President Trump's Twitter profile is displayed on a phone.
President Trump's Twitter profile is displayed on a phone.OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images

Every day is a bad day

Data from nationally representative surveys sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that the percentage of people reporting that their mental health was not good on every day of the most recent month increased between 1993 and 2019. This proportion was particularly high among middle-aged white people without college education, rising from 4.8 to 11.5 percent. Much of this was explained by unemployment and the declining availability of manufacturing jobs.

Blanchflower, D. & Oswald, A., “Trends in Extreme Distress in the United States, 1993–2019,” American Journal of Public Health (October 2020).

Good looks


French researchers trained a computer algorithm to evaluate signs of trustworthiness in faces the same way that humans do. Applying this algorithm to Western European paintings since the Middle Ages, the researchers found that faces in paintings have displayed more trustworthiness over time, a phenomenon that is largely explained by increases in economic productivity. The researchers argue that trust between people, including artist and subject, grows as societies become more affluent.

Safra, L. et al., “Tracking Historical Changes in Trustworthiness Using Machine Learning Analyses of Facial Cues in Paintings,” Nature Communications (September 2020).

Importing hate

Economists found that areas in the United States with industries that were more exposed to increasing import competition after the normalization of trade with China experienced an increase in anti-Black hate crimes. The association persisted when controlling for local demographics and unemployment. That suggests that it’s not just joblessness that fuels racial strife, but other factors such as decreases in job quality, job security, and pay.

Ortega, A. et al., “Trade Liberalization and Racial Animus,” Contemporary Economic Policy (forthcoming).

Hard-hitting research

Sociologists at the University of Cincinnati found that kids who played high-contact sports (football, hockey, wrestling, lacrosse) in early adolescence were more likely to report engaging in delinquent behavior at age 15, even controlling for self-reported delinquent and risk-taking behavior at age 12, and controlling for parental involvement, school attachment, peer behavior, race, gender, family income, and other extracurricular activities at age 15.


Maume, D. & Parrish, M., “Heavy-Contact Sport Participation and Early Adolescent Delinquency,” Social Currents (forthcoming).

Sleepy Donald Trump

Researchers at Columbia University used the frequency of the president’s late-night tweeting as an indicator of how much sleep he gets, given that the president’s wake-up time is relatively constant (around 6 a.m.). The president’s late-night tweeting has increased every year during his term, especially in the last year. But there seem to be consequences for the day after: The subsequent tweets he sends get fewer likes and retweets, suggesting a reduction in quality, and his speeches and interviews are less likely to be characterized as happy and more likely to be characterized as angry.

Almond, D. & Du, X., “Later Bedtimes Predict President Trump’s Performance,” Economics Letters (forthcoming).