Uncommon Knowledge: I know what she did last summer

In this photo taken Feb. 15, 2013, Danny M. Leipziger, center, teaches a macro economics class at George Washington University in Washington. Football player Derrick Dockery, his wife Emma Dockery, and Will Witherspoon, are in the class as they pursue Masters of Business Administration at George Washington as part of an NFL back-to-school program. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
A macroeconomics class at George Washington University.

After controlling for other factors, researchers found that salary offers received by women graduating from an elite MBA program were lower than men — unless they had interned with the employer the previous summer. In other words, direct experience with the candidate appeared to counteract employer discrimination. This was especially true in finance, which has had one of the hardest glass ceilings for women.

Sterling, A. & Fernandez, R., “Once in the Door: Gender, Tryouts, and the Initial Salaries of Managers,” Management Science (forthcoming).

Buying influence via charity

Comparing the tax returns of corporate tax-exempt charitable foundations to corporate lobbying efforts and congressional committee assignments, a team of economists found that corporate charitable donations were more likely to go to tax-exempt charities tied to, or based in the districts of, members of Congress who sit on key committees. Because corporations give far more to charities than they do in direct political contributions, what researchers call “tax-exempt lobbying” is bigger than direct political contributions and represents a large fraction of total corporate spending on lobbying. Arguably, it’s also illegal, since corporate foundations aren’t supposed to be involved in politics.

Bertrand, M. et al., “Tax-Exempt Lobbying: Corporate Philanthropy as a Tool for Political Influence,” University of Chicago (January 2018).

Lie back and relax

In an experiment, participants sat either upright at a desk or reclined in a deck chair. They were asked to write an essay giving hypothetical advice, which was then taken away by the researchers to get feedback ostensibly from another participant. This was simply a cover. All participants were given the same negative feedback, after which participants evaluated the other (bogus) participant’s essay. Participants who were reclined retaliated less with negative feedback against the other participant.

Krahé, B. et al., “Lean Back and Relax: Reclined Seating Position Buffers the Effect of Frustration on Anger and Aggression,” European Journal of Social Psychology (forthcoming).

Deductive reasoning


Contrary to the widely held assumption that the mortgage-interest deduction promotes home ownership, a study “demonstrates that repealing the regressive mortgage-interest deduction decreases housing consumption by the wealthy, increases aggregate home ownership, improves overall welfare, and leads to a decline in aggregate mortgage debt.” This is because the higher after-tax cost of a mortgage lowers home prices. Those who had heavy mortgage burdens do lose out, but closing the deduction would make homeownership easier for those who were previously priced out.

Sommer, K. & Sullivan, P., “Implications of US Tax Policy for House Prices, Rents, and Homeownership,” American Economic Review (February 2018).

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Extreme originalism

An analysis of debate at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 reveals that ideologically extreme delegates — whether for or against a strong national government — spoke the most, even controlling for the delegate’s age, education, legislative experience, and days in attendance. Thus, “those who invoke original intent are actually drawing on a historical record that is biased in favor of ideologues.”

Gelman, D., “Ideology and Participation: Examining the Constitutional Convention of 1787,” Political Research Quarterly (forthcoming).

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