‘An offer you can’t refuse’ from Italian officials

This week in Uncommon Knowledge: mafia relocation, non-human entities, and the benefits of immigration.
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An offer you can’t refuse

For several decades, government officials in Italy could legally force suspected mafia members to move to other areas of the country, to separate them from their home turf. While receiving locations may not have been enamored with this, a study found no clear increase in crime and homicide rates in areas that received more mafia members per capita. And there was more good news: “One extra relocated mafioso per 100,000 inhabitants corresponds to an increase of about 3 percent in employment in construction.” This was particularly true in areas with fewer pre-existing bank branches per capita, “which suggests that the mafia seizes construction investment opportunities that are otherwise left unexploited because of liquidity constraints.”

Scognamiglio, A., “When the Mafia Comes to Town,” European Journal of Political Economy (forthcoming).

Family visas

One argument for immigration is that immigrants tend to bring strong work and family values. A new study suggests that natives get a boost in these values too. Greater immigration to a city in the early 20th century was associated with greater marriage and fertility rates for young natives in that city in subsequent years, as immigration was associated with greater business activity and native men getting more and better jobs.

Carlana, M. & Tabellini, M., “Happily Ever After: Immigration, Natives’ Marriage, and Fertility,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology (April 2018).

It’s our roots, mate

A study out of Australia found that areas with higher 19th-century ratios of men to women — remember, it was a convict colony — had higher marriage rates and lower employment rates for women back then, and these differences have persisted. Native-born Australian couples in these same areas today have more conservative attitudes about women’s role in the labor force. Women in these places work less, are less likely to work in high-end jobs, and have more leisure time.

Grosjean, P. & Khattar, R., “It’s Raining Men! Hallelujah? The Long-Run Consequences of Male-Biased Sex Ratios,” Review of Economic Studies (forthcoming).

All in the (fund) family


Traditional antitrust regulation has focused on market share. But new research is uncovering another anticompetitive threat: large, diversified stock-market investors, such as mutual funds. They often own large chunks of multiple companies in the same industry, which gives them less incentive than less-diversified investors (for example, corporate raiders or hedge funds) to push management to be more competitive. In the airline industry, for example, “ticket prices are approximately 3 to 7 percent higher in the average US airline route than would be the case under separate ownership.” In fact, when one large investor bought another large investor in 2009, ticket prices on affected routes may have risen by 10 to 12 percent.

Azar, J. et al., “Anticompetitive Effects of Common Ownership,” Journal of Finance (forthcoming).

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Researchers found that people who strongly believe that general human attributes (such as skills or personality traits) are gendered also tend to endorse traditional gender stereotypes, whereas people who strongly believe that non-human entities (such as colors, food, numbers, or shapes) are gendered tend not to endorse traditional gender stereotypes. When belief in non-human gendering was experimentally enhanced — by having participants read a purported scientific statement supporting it — participants refrained from stereotyping and thought a tough female boss was more effective and should be paid more.

Martin, A. & Slepian, M., “Dehumanizing Gender: The Debiasing Effects of Gendering Human-Abstracted Entities,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (forthcoming).

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