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Uncommon Knowledge: Interracial dating, morality and humor, and “benevolent sexism”


Learning to love diversity

Analyzing data from a nationally representative sample of adolescents who were first surveyed in the mid-1990s and then interviewed over a decade later as adults, researchers found that white adults were more likely to have dated a black person if there had been more black students of their own gender in the same grade back in school. For example, “going from the average of 8 percent blacks of the same gender in the cohort to 10 percent would increase the probability of dating a black as an adult by approximately 0.6 percentage points, which is 13 percent of the mean.” This seems to be explained by different attitudes, not school-linked social networks.


Merlino, L. et al., “More than Just Friends? School Peers and Adult Interracial Relationships,” Journal of Labor Economics (forthcoming).

Morally serious

People with a strong moral identity — and people who were randomly assigned to think about being moral — judged jokes and captions to be less funny, wrote captions that were less funny, and were less willing to tell jokes, particularly for humor involving moral violations. Surveys of employees in China and the United States found that co-workers and managers with a strong moral identity were perceived to be less funny, which in turn made them less likable, although this was counteracted by greater trust.

Yam, K. et al., “Why So Serious? A Laboratory and Field Investigation of the Link Between Morality and Humor,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (forthcoming).

To remove or not to remove

Researchers at Brown University used data from the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families — and the fact that investigators with different propensities to remove children from their families were randomly assigned to child abuse/neglect cases — to estimate the long-term effects of removal. Only young girls benefited from removal with respect to standardized test scores. This didn’t appear to be explained by differences in case characteristics or school enrollment.


Bald, A. et al., “The Causal Impact of Removing Children from Abusive and Neglectful Homes,” National Bureau of Economic Research (January 2019).

Donors choose

A survey of partisan donors found that “Republican donors’ views are especially conservative on economic issues relative to Republican citizens, but are closer to Republican citizens’ views on social issues. By contrast, Democratic donors’ views are especially liberal on social issues relative to Democratic citizens, whereas their views on economic issues are closer to Democratic citizens’ views. . . These differences are very large: For example, the gap between Republican donors’ and Republican citizens’ views on economic issues is as large as the gap between Republican citizens’ and Democratic citizens’ views,” and “the gap between Democratic citizens’ and donors’ views on social issues is nearly as large as the gap between Democratic and Republican citizens’ views.” These gaps were even larger for the top 1 percent of donors.

Broockman, D. & Malhotra, N., “What Do Donors Want? Heterogeneity by Party and Policy Domain,” Stanford University (November 2018).

Benevolent or sexist?

The term “benevolent sexism” has been coined by psychologists to describe attitudes and behavior that treat women as special and in need of protection. While this isn’t the hostile form of sexism, research has nevertheless found an association with various sexist attitudes and outcomes. Regular people, though, are still unaware of this association, as a new study confirms. Instead, benevolent-sexist men “were incorrectly perceived to be more inclined to support abortion rights, and less inclined to disapprove of public breastfeeding, blame rape victims, justify domestic violence, or enjoy sexist humor.”


Hopkins-Doyle, A. et al., “Flattering to Deceive: Why People Misunderstand Benevolent Sexism,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (February 2019).

Kevin Lewis is an Ideas columnist. He can be reached at kevin.lewis.ideas@gmail.com.