Uncommon Knowledge

The surprising power of political graphics

The GOP gets its shots in
Associated Press

Who gains from conflict?

In a nationwide survey experiment from January 2016, before the Iowa caucuses, participants were presented with a “Democrats vs. Republicans” graphic showing an angry-looking blue donkey butting heads with an angry-looking red elephant. They were twice as likely to indicate support for Donald Trump as when they saw a similar graphic labeled “Democrats & Republicans” with the angry-looking animals pointed away from each other. Showing the more confrontational graphic also increased support for Bernie Sanders, and had no effect for Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, but dampened support for Hillary Clinton — suggesting that amplified partisan conflict hurt her with voters.

Han, L. & Calfano, B., “Conflict and Candidate Selection: Game Framing Voter Choice,” American Politics Research (forthcoming).

The smarter they are, the harder they fall

Adolescents who had high expectations for finishing college — and realistically so, given their intelligence, high-school GPAs, and family educational and income levels — but who hadn’t actually graduated by their late 20s were the most likely to report using marijuana or engaging in delinquent behavior by that age, even compared with individuals who had lower or more unrealistic college expectations. The effect held when controlling for race, sex, and impulsiveness, marijuana use, and delinquency as an adolescent.

Cundiff, P., “Great Expectations Unmet: The Impact of Adolescent Educational Expectations on Deviant Coping during the Transition to Adulthood,” Sociological Inquiry (August 2017).

They found work somehow

Data from the county that contains San Antonio, Texas, reveals that Hispanic immigrants were more likely than non-Hispanics to be arrested for money-related felonies — particularly those related to drug dealing — after the expiration of amnesty and the imposition of employer verification from the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. In other words, some of the immigrants who were in the country illegally turned to drug dealing after being cut off from opportunities for legal work.

Freedman, M. et al., “Immigration, Employment Opportunities, and Criminal Behavior,” American Economic Journal: Economic Policy (forthcoming).

It takes an integrated village


Venture-capital investments were more strongly associated with patenting, entrepreneurship, job creation, and economic growth in metropolitan areas that were more racially integrated, even controlling for other factors. The theory is that, as in organizations, exposure to diversity helps people innovate.

Samila, S. & Sorenson, O., “Community and Capital in Entrepreneurship and Economic Growth,” American Sociological Review (forthcoming).

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Age of responsibility

How corrective is our correctional system? An analysis of court data from Connecticut found that 16-year-olds who were arrested and processed as juveniles in 2010, when that state increased its juvenile-justice cutoff age from 16 to 17, were about half as likely to be re-arrested within two years, compared with 16-year-olds who were arrested and processed as adults in 2009.

Fowler, E. & Kurlychek, M., “Drawing the Line: Empirical Recidivism Results from a Natural Experiment Raising the Age of Criminal Responsibility,” Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice (forthcoming).

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