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Uncommon Knowledge

4? Uh-oh. How the address can change your house’s value

And more surprising insights from the social sciences

Wealth address vs. death address

If you’re in the market for a house in a diverse city like Boston, it helps to know the superstitions of local ethnic groups. An analysis of home sales in Vancouver revealed that home addresses can be worth a fortune. “Given a mean nominal house price of about CAD$400,000 over the sample period, we have found that in neighborhoods where the percentage of ethnic Chinese residents exceeds the average of 18%, houses with address numbers ending with the ‘death’-ridden ‘4’ are sold at a $8,000 discount and those ending with the ‘wealth’-laden ‘8’ are sold with a $10,000 premium in comparison to houses with address numbers ending with any other digit.”

 Fortin, N. et al., “Superstition in the Housing Market,” Economic Inquiry (forthcoming).

His wife stays home? Watch out, women

When you hire a new guy, one background fact may predict whether that hire ends up being good for gender relations in your organization overall: whether he has a wife who doesn’t work. That’s the implication of a recent study on the attitudes of men toward women in the workplace. In several surveys and experiments, men with a stay-at-home wife responded with more negative attitudes when asked to evaluate working women or organizations where women were salient, whereas men with a working wife responded in the opposite direction. Moreover, in a survey of British men who were initially single, men who later married a stay-at-home wife subsequently adopted more negative attitudes toward working women, whereas men who later married a working wife subsequently adopted more positive attitudes. These results remained even when taking into account factors like the man’s age, education, income, religion, race, number of children, and his mother’s education and working history.

 Desai, S. et al., “The Implications of Marriage Structure for Men’s Workplace Attitudes, Beliefs, and Behaviors toward Women,” Administrative Science Quarterly (forthcoming).

What Social Security does to health costs

The growth in health care costs as a share of the economy has become a national concern. Various explanations for cost growth have been proposed—widespread insurance, technological innovation, and the increasing importance of health and longevity in an affluent society—but an economist at the University of Connecticut says there’s something else that can explain over a third of this cost growth: the parallel growth of Social Security. That’s because Social Security redistributes money to the elderly, who are much more likely to spend it on health care than the young, and also because Social Security makes a dignified retirement more likely, encouraging the elderly to spend to extend their longevity. This also means that, if Social Security were eliminated tomorrow, Medicare would become a much smaller program too.

 Zhao, K., “Social Security and the Rise in Health Spending,” Journal of Monetary Economics (forthcoming).

When stereotypes cancel each other out

Many people fear being discriminated against because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. But sometimes negative stereotypes can cancel each other out, resulting in no net discrimination. At least that’s what a sociologist at Princeton found. In evaluating a resume for an assistant manager position at a retail store, white people recommended a higher salary for the same resume if it came from a straight white man (“Brad Miller”) than if it came from a straight black man (“Darnell Jackson”) or a gay white man (“Brad Miller” who was president of the “Gay Student Advisory Council”). However, there was no discount for a gay black man (“Darnell Jackson” who was president of the “Gay Student Advisory Council”), apparently because “stereotypes about gay men as effeminate and weak will counteract common negative stereotypes held by whites that black men are threatening and criminal.”

 Pedulla, D., “The Positive Consequences of Negative Stereotypes: Race, Sexual Orientation, and the Job Application Process,” Social Psychology Quarterly (March 2014).

Pray for a female judge

As Doug Llewelyn of “The People’s Court” used to advise, if you’re involved in a dispute with another party, “Don’t take the law into your own hands; take ’em to court.” And, according to a recent analysis of thousands of civil rights and personal injury cases in four federal district courts (including Massachusetts), you should hope that once you get there, you get a female judge. Cases assigned to female judges were more likely to settle—and faster to settle—than cases assigned to male judges, ostensibly because female judges are more liable to “foster collaboration, bridge-building, and negotiation in their case management environments.”

 Boyd, C., “She’ll Settle It?” Journal of Law and Courts (Fall 2013).


Kevin Lewis is an Ideas columnist.
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