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Making Europe great again. . .for ISIS

Neo-Nazis and other right-wing activists gather in front of Hauptbahnhof railway station in Berlin under the banner "We for Berlin - We for Germany" to protest against German Chancellor Angela Merkel's refugee policy on May 7.Carsten Koall/Getty Images

Many people want their political leaders to take a harder line with immigrants and Muslims, but new research suggests that this approach may, as President Obama has repeatedly asserted, make us less safe. A political scientist (who “worked four years as a counterterrorism research officer in the Israeli Directorate of Military Intelligence”) scoured about 15,000 accounts of ISIS activists and their social networks on Twitter. She “matched users’ location data to local-level administrative data” and found that “local-level vote share for far-right, anti-Muslim parties in France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Belgium is a significant predictor of online radicalization. In substantive terms, an increase of one percentage point in the local-level vote share for far-right parties is associated with a 6 percent, and 3 percent increase, respectively, in the probability of a user being flagged as ISIS-affiliated and being among the top 1 percent posters of radical content.” Local unemployment or immigration were not associated with pro-ISIS Twitter activity; in fact, “the proportion of asylum seekers and/or asylum seeker centers in a location is negatively linked to these radicalization outcomes.” The fact that pro-ISIS Twitter activity increased right after anti-Muslim protests across Europe on Feb. 6, 2016 — but only in those areas with high levels of far-right, anti-Muslim voting — suggests that local voter attitudes are driving local radicalization, not the other way around.

Mitts, T., “From Isolation to Radicalization: The Socioeconomic Predictors of Support for ISIS in the West,” Columbia University (June 2016).

Breaking bread into dough

Perhaps we should amend the Constitution to require politicians to dine together — not just because they’ll get to hang out with each other, but because they’ll get to eat similar food. In several experiments, researchers at the University of Chicago found that people who were assigned to eat the same type of food trusted each other more and came to agreement more quickly and earned more in a negotiation.

Woolley, K. & Fishbach, A., “A Recipe for Friendship: Similar Food Consumption Promotes Trust and Cooperation,” Journal of Consumer Psychology (forthcoming).

Separation of church and pantsuit

It’s a well-known fact in sociology that American women are more religious than American men. But according to a sociologist at Indiana University, this overall difference masks a more nuanced underlying pattern. Women who earn six-figure incomes are significantly less religious — especially in how often they pray — than other women and are no more religious than high-earning men, even controlling for age, race, marital status, parental status, local population, and region. On the other hand, high-earning men are somewhat more religious than other men. These differences were not explained by one’s religious background from childhood or one’s belief in an afterlife. Also, high earnings didn’t make black women less religious.

Schnabel, L., “The Gender Pray Gap: Wage Labor and the Religiosity of High-Earning Women and Men,” Gender & Society (August 2016).

Calculus or shop?

Should a high school in a blue-collar area offer lots of college-prep courses or offer lots of shop classes? The latter may seem like the natural choice, but as a recent study suggests, that choice may end up helping young men at the expense of young women. Young men who attended high school in counties with a high percentage of blue-collar workers benefited — in getting blue-collar jobs with decent wages — from having more shop classes, while young women who attended the same high schools were unlikely to get blue-collar jobs but were also less likely to go to a four-year college and end up in a decent-paying white-collar job, even controlling for academic aptitude early in high school, parental education and income, race, family structure, and various county, district, and school characteristics.

Sutton, A. et al., “Manufacturing Gender Inequality in the New Economy: High School Training for Work in Blue-Collar Communities,” American Sociological Review (forthcoming).

Location, location, location

While many of us contemplate moving somewhere nicer, it’s easier said than done, given our attachments to job, family, and friends. But what if the government made that decision for you? A new study of Japanese-Americans who were interned during World War II finds that, after release, they tended to live near where they were last interned, and that those who were released in higher-income areas went on to have higher incomes, get more education, work in higher-status occupations, adopt more high-achieving views, and live in pricier, higher-quality homes in higher-income neighborhoods.

Shoag, D. & Carollo, N., “The Causal Effect of Place: Evidence from Japanese-American Internment,” Harvard University (June 2016).


Kevin Lewis is an Ideas columnist. He can be reached at