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IDEAS

Social Studies: How to frame the news; robust immigrants; silver linings from an earlier coronavirus

Children wore masks during ballet lessons to protect themselves from the SARS virus in Hong Kong in 2003.
Children wore masks during ballet lessons to protect themselves from the SARS virus in Hong Kong in 2003.Vincent Yu/Associated Press

Influencers

In several experiments, Americans read a news item presenting the pros and cons of a policy proposal such as changing state tax law or outsourcing air traffic control. If the news item mentioned partisan positions on a proposal, the level of support among partisan readers became more polarized than if the news stories didn’t mention partisan positions on the policy. But this effect was reduced by half if the news item also mentioned that positions on the policy were potentially influenced by lobbying and donations. This was true regardless of whether the position was typical for the party.

Robison, J., “Partisan Influence in Suspicious Times,” Journal of Politics (forthcoming).

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Send these tempest-tossed to me

Immigrants to the United States, even those from developing countries, appear to be in better health than the average American. Data from the National Center for Health Statistics and the Census Bureau reveal that the life expectancy of immigrants now exceeds that of US natives by several years. The divergence is so stark, the researchers write, that “foreign-born male life expectancy exceeds that of Swiss men, the world leaders in male life expectancy,” while “life expectancy for foreign-born women is close to that of Japanese women, the world leaders in female life expectancy.”

Hendi, A. & Ho, J., “Immigration and Improvements in American Life Expectancy,” SSM - Population Health (September 2021).

Bouncing back better

Analyzing data from a nationally representative survey of people age 45 and older in China that was conducted a decade after the SARS outbreak of the early 2000s, researchers found that people who had lived in communities where outbreaks occurred exhibited better verbal memory (as measured by immediate and delayed recall of 10 spoken words), compared with members of communities in the same area that didn’t experience outbreaks, even controlling for age, gender, marital status, number of adult children, self-reported health, household spending, and community affluence. Some of this association was explained by intergenerational relationships, greater participation in social activities, and regular physical exercise, suggesting that affected communities responded by improving their lifestyles.

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Wen, S. et al., “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You ‘Smarter’: The Long-Term Association Between Exposure to Epidemic and Cognition,” Social Science & Medicine (forthcoming).

Feeling secure

Psychologists hypothesize that making people feel secure in their personal relationships can help people take responsibility for climate change, because such security can bolster empathy for others. In experiments, participants indeed took more responsibility for climate change after recalling a time when they could depend on their personal relationships, or even after seeing pictures depicting parental support. The latter kind of manipulation was especially effective with conservatives.

Nisa, C. et al., “Secure Human Attachment Can Promote Support for Climate Change Mitigation,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (September 2021).

Self-fulfilling punishment

Analyzing data on a large sample of at-risk children whose progress was followed from the beginning of elementary school to age 18, researchers found that suspension from school at ages 13 and 14 was associated with arrest and offending behavior at age 18, particularly because suspension was associated with subsequent friendships with delinquent peers. In other words, suspension can worsen misbehavior, ostensibly by labeling students as delinquent.

Novak, A. & Krohn, M., “Collateral Consequences of School Suspension: Examining the ‘Knifing Off’ Hypothesis,” American Journal of Criminal Justice (October 2021).

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