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IDEAS

Social Studies: When dating is too easy; trustworthy CEOs; the seeds of generosity

A wedding photo shoot in Lebanon on April 3, 2021.Hassan Ammar/Associated Press

The more the marrier?

An analysis of decades of census data reveals that people are much less likely to marry or cohabitate if the population has a relatively large number of people in their age group. This pattern was seen at the national level and across states. Although one might expect that having more peers would make finding a partner easier — plenty of fish in the sea — it appears that men in such situations do less to make themselves valuable partners.

Bronson, M. and Mazzocco, M., “Cohort Size and the Marriage Market: Explaining Nearly a Century of Changes in US Marriage Rates,” Journal of Labor Economics (forthcoming).

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Trusting values

A study finds that CEO compensation is tied less closely to a company’s stock price if the company is headquartered in a county with a high level of trust (as measured by surveys asking whether people can be trusted). This suggests that a local culture of trust substitutes for incentives that companies would otherwise be compelled to offer executives. To test this more rigorously, the study used the shock of allegations from the Catholic Church sex-abuse scandal as a sort of randomized experiment. Counties where allegations surfaced experienced a drop in trust relative to other counties, and the compensation of CEOs in those counties became more sensitive to stock price.

Hilary, G. and Huang, S., “Trust and Contracting: Evidence from Church Sex Scandals,” Journal of Business Ethics (January 2023).

Bonus for charity

In experiments, people were paid a small amount of money to do a word-search task. Some were awarded a small extra bonus for completing the task but had to donate it to charity. This subset of participants was subsequently more willing to do tasks to earn money for charity, compared with those who weren’t given money to donate. This suggests that seeding an initial donation begets donations — a finding that was confirmed in a more realistic setting. People who were given a gift card to buy one of several items from AmazonSmile (which donates a portion of the price to a charity of the buyer’s choice) were subsequently more willing to donate a bonus to charity, compared with those who made the same purchase on the regular Amazon website.

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Kassirer, S. et al., “Giving-by-Proxy Triggers Subsequent Charitable Behavior,” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (forthcoming).

Luck of the Irish

New research indicates that 19th-century Irish immigrants to the United States experienced greater upward socioeconomic mobility than has previously been understood. The researchers used records from New York’s Emigrant Savings Bank, which Irish immigrants who had come to this country before the Irish famine founded in order to serve refugees from the famine. The bank kept extensive biographical information on customers. The files show that half of the men among the immigrant customers started in unskilled occupations, but only a quarter remained in such jobs later in life.

Anbinder, T. et al., “‘The Best Country in the World’: The Surprising Social Mobility of New York’s Irish-Famine Immigrants,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History (Winter 2023).