Fear the monopsony

FILE — A worker at a Walmart fulfillment center in Bethlehem, Pa., Oct. 12, 2017. The economy is sending mixed signals on wages. Figuring out what’s really happening is complicated by data that’s volatile, and may be getting worse. (Sam Hodgson/The New York Times)
Sam Hodgson/The New York Times
Monopsony power could explain a meaningful portion of wage stagnation since the 1970s. Pictured: a worker at a Walmart fulfillment center in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Seller beware

Complaining about monopoly power is all the rage now, but the bigger problem may be monopsony power — that is, when many are willing to supply goods or their own labor, but the buyers are heavily concentrated. A sociologist at Harvard finds that increases in the share of supplier revenue coming from large, dominant buyers have indeed been associated with reduced supplier wages, controlling for other factors. These buyers enjoy more power the longer the buyer-supplier relationship goes on. Their power has intensified in the last decade, and explains a meaningful portion of wage stagnation since the 1970s.

Wilmers, N., “Wage Stagnation and Buyer Power: How Buyer-Supplier Relations Affect U.S. Workers’ Wages, 1978 to 2014,” American Sociological Review (forthcoming).

Right face

Researchers at Harvard, Princeton, and Carnegie Mellon found that faces of Democratic candidates for governor and the US Senate that looked more Republican tended to get more votes from Republicans, but didn’t tend to lose votes from Democrats. This was true even controlling for incumbency, gender, race, and age.

Olivola, C. et al., “Republican Voters Prefer Candidates Who Have Conservative-Looking Faces: New Evidence from Exit Polls,” Political Psychology (forthcoming).

Loosely atheist

Previous research has found that religious individuals are more trusted. In several new experiments, participants viewed profiles of individuals who self-identified as either religious or non-religious. Religious individuals were assumed to be less promiscuous, and this trait — and not other aspects of personality or background — explained the trust advantage, such that a religious, promiscuous individual was trusted significantly less than a non-religious, non-promiscuous individual.

Moon, J. et al., “Religious People Are Trusted Because They Are Viewed as Slow Life-History Strategists,” Psychological Science (forthcoming).

Opposites repel


Democratic and Republican Twitter users were randomly assigned to follow automated Twitter accounts that retweeted messages throughout the day from prominent Twitter accounts with a political orientation opposite to that of the user. After one month, Democrats became slightly more liberal, while Republicans became significantly more conservative.

Bail, C. et al., “Exposure to Opposing Views Can Increase Political Polarization: Evidence from a Large-Scale Field Experiment on Social Media,” Duke University (March 2018).

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Lone wolves

In two experiments at Purdue University, participants were socially excluded or included in what they thought was an online group game. In the first experiment, participants who had been excluded were more receptive to what they thought was a solicitation on behalf of a radical campus group. In the second experiment, excluded people were more open to gang membership.

Hales, A. & Williams, K., “Marginalized Individuals and Extremism: The Role of Ostracism in Openness to Extreme Groups,” Journal of Social Issues (March 2018).

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