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Uncommon Knowledge

What happens to birth control if the Affordable Care Act is repealed?

Demonstrators protest against religious objections to offering contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Doug Mills/The New York Times

Romneycare family values

If Republicans “repeal and replace” Obamacare with something less generous, there may be unintended consequences. A study found that Massachusetts health reform (which was a model for Obamacare) increased the birth rate among married women ages 20 to 34 in Massachusetts by around 1 percent, as births became more affordable. Meanwhile, the birth rate among unmarried women of the same age group decreased by around 8 percent, as contraception became more affordable. In other words, relatively more babies were born in wedlock than out of it.

Apostolova-Mihaylova, M. & Yelowitz, A., “Health Insurance, Fertility, and the Wantedness of Pregnancies: Evidence from Massachusetts,” Contemporary Economic Policy (forthcoming).


Tough with diversity

In all-white counties, an analysis of nationwide survey data found, people with an authoritarian mindset — as measured by strict parenting beliefs — were no more intolerant (on political, racial, or immigration matters) than non-authoritarians, after controlling for other factors. However, in more diverse counties, authoritarians became more intolerant, while non-authoritarians became less intolerant. This pattern was confirmed in a survey of students at a Midwestern public university who were randomly assigned to dorms with different levels of racial diversity: When a dorm had some minority students, authoritarians and non-authoritarians became polarized on attitudes towards nationalism, military intervention, and refugees.

Velez, Y. & Lavine, H., “Racial Diversity and the Dynamics of Authoritarianism,” Journal of Politics (April 2017).

Beware of inbred schools

Analysis of data collected over decades from the high school Class of 1957 in Wisconsin revealed that those who graduated from schools with greater genetic diversity — as measured by dissimilarity in particular genes ended up with more education, a better first job, and higher family income later in life. (The sample was almost entirely white; researchers also controlled for IQ, sex, graduating-class size, parents’ socioeconomic status, and county.) High school genetic diversity was also associated with extroversion and openness to experience, suggesting that these personality traits, and career success, were enhanced by social interaction among genetically diverse peers.


Cook, J. & Fletcher, J., “High School Genetic Diversity and Later-life Student Outcomes: Micro-level Evidence from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study,” National Bureau of Economic Research (June 2017).

Better is bigger, and vice versaResearchers at the City University of New York found that students perceived the same painting to be physically larger and closer if it was described as having been painted by a master, rather than as a forgery or a student painting. Conversely, paintings that were larger or mounted higher were judged to be better.

Seidel, A. & Prinz, J., “Great Works: A Reciprocal Relationship between Spatial Magnitudes and Aesthetic Judgment,” Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts (forthcoming).

Blacker cities, stiffer fines

Municipalities with a higher proportion of black residents tend to issue significantly more fines per capita, even controlling for other municipal fiscal and demographic factors (including the Hispanic share of the population) and various county-level political and law-enforcement factors. The size of this association is cut in half when there’s at least one black representative on the city council.

Sances, M. & You, H., “Who Pays for Government? Descriptive Representation and Exploitative Revenue Sources,” Journal of Politics (July 2017).

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