Uncommon Knowledge: From rent to rivalry


The rent is up in the air

There’s been a longstanding debate in Massachusetts and elsewhere about whether Airbnb — the website that allows residential property owners to rent out rooms or homes like a hotel — negatively affects the real-estate market. In a study that was just accepted for publication in the Journal of Housing Economics, economists from UMass Boston found that Airbnb does indeed take long-term rental units off the market and increases asking rents in Boston neighborhoods, even controlling for characteristics of the rental unit and the neighborhood.

Horn, K. & Merante, M., “Is Home Sharing Driving Up Rents? Evidence from Airbnb in Boston,” Journal of Housing Economics (December 2017).

Points of discrimination

The immigration bill (“RAISE Act”) that was recently endorsed by President Trump would curtail even legal immigration and begin awarding green cards based on a skills-based points system. But for many people, the ostensibly economic motivation for favoring high-skill immigration is really just a cover for ethnic discrimination. Survey experiments found that Americans — particularly those who were prejudiced — more strongly favored high-skill immigration when considering Mexicans, compared with Canadians or Swedes.

Newman, B. & Malhotra, N., “Economic Reasoning with a Racial Hue: Is the Immigration Consensus Purely Race Neutral?” Stanford University (August 2017).

Stop laughing

A study by an international team of researchers (“partially supported by the Minerva Initiative at the US Department of Defense”) suggests that we should respect other people’s dignity and importance, if only out of self-interest. According to surveys of imprisoned insurgents in the Philippines and Sri Lanka, those who felt more humiliated and laughed at were less tolerant of ambiguity and uncertainty. That, in turn, was associated with more extremism. An experiment here yielded similar results: Americans who were randomly assigned to write about being laughed at subsequently reported more politically extreme views.

Webber, D. et al., “The Road to Extremism: Field and Experimental Evidence That Significance Loss-Induced Need for Closure Fosters Radicalization,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (forthcoming).

Boy talk


Researchers videotaped preschoolers and their primary caregivers in their homes every four months for several years and found that boys’ and girls’ use of unique size and shape words (such as “little” and “square”) did not differ early on, but parents did use such words more with boys early on. This appeared to explain the fact that boys eventually used such words more than girls.

Pruden, S. & Levine, S., “Parents’ Spatial Language Mediates a Sex Difference in Preschoolers’ Spatial Language Use,” Psychological Science (forthcoming).

Taking a chance on a rival

Researchers analyzed play-by-play data from NFL regular-season games. When the teams were well-known rivals, they were more likely to go for it on fourth down at a given field position or try for two-point conversions, even controlling for other factors. Likewise, in an experiment at the University of Arizona with students who were invested in the school’s rivalry with Arizona State, participants took more risks in a card game against someone wearing an ASU hat than against a player in a University of Colorado hat.

To, C. et al., “Going for It on Fourth Down: Rivalry Increases Risk-Taking, Physiological Arousal, and Promotion Focus,” Academy of Management Journal (forthcoming).

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