The psychological poverty trap ☀
Shafir has proved that anyone faced with adverse conditions will consistently make bad economic decisions. An experiment he conducted with Mullainathan and Zhao placed financially-savvy Princeton students from prominent families under the stressful and rushed conditions that poor people face every day. They were given questions to answer in a series of timed rounds, but were permitted to “borrow” time from a subsequent round.
"My students at Princeton are well-to-do and intelligent," Shafir says. "They are the sons and daughters of senators and other highly successful people. And yet these brilliant students took precisely 10 minutes to start borrowing too much; they were tending to the present without any thought to leaving something for the future.
"Given enough time, a person will consider the future cautiously. He won’t engage in nonsense and won’t borrow at high interest he can’t afford. But if you put him under strict deadlines and pressure him, he’ll start behaving foolishly. We all put off for tomorrow things that need to be done today, and pay high interest because we didn’t pay on time. All the mistakes poor people make with money we make with time - but for them the price is too high. A person probably doesn’t seem intelligent when he doesn’t have enough time to consider the future, but if he did have enough time he would start acting intelligently. Poverty is an emotional state."
Most Americans Want a Walkable Neighborhood, Not a Big House ☀
The symbol of American success often involves having the biggest house possible, but our outsized fantasies seem to be shifting. According to a new survey, more than three quarters of us consider having sidewalks and places to take a walk one of our top priorities when deciding where to live. Six in 10 people also said they would sacrifice a bigger house to live in a neighborhood that featured a mix of houses, stores, and businesses within an easy walk.
I consider the “Tea Party Movement” to be one of the most brilliant sociological ploys. Perhaps unmatched since a million poor white southern farmers were talked into eagerly and courageously fighting to the death, in order to protect the feudal privileges of a tiny, slave-holding aristocracy. Yes, it is that impressive. Get them to think they are fighting for one thing, while dying for something else. Likewise, by holding up and waving an obsolete and irrelevant old “left-right political-axis,” today’s feudal lords have managed to stir Red America into a frenzy of unparalleled rancor toward every single group or profession that has both knowledge and professional skill — from scientists to teachers, civil servants, academics, medical doctors, attorneys, diplomats, skilled labor… amounting to a “war on smartypants.”
David Brin ☀
There is a vast body of literature drawn from sociology and psychology that debunks the rational, self-interest theory of human behaviour. Economists ignore this research because they rather think they know more about the human mind than any of branch of the social sciences.
Government deficits are the norm ☀
American Grace ☀
Between one-third and one-half of all American marriages are interfaith;
Roughly one-third of Americans have switched religions at some point in their lives;
Young people are more opposed to abortion than their parents but more accepting of gay marriage;
Even fervently religious Americans believe that people in other faiths can get to heaven;
Religious Americans are better neighbors than secular Americans—more generous with their time and treasure, even for secular causes—but the explanation has less to do with faith than with communities of faith;
Jews are the most broadly popular religious group in America today.
The Invention of “Adolescence” ☀
The idea that young people take a decade to grow up, in the meantime inhabiting a space called “young adulthood,” is rather new in American culture. A bit older is the idea of “adolescence,” the idea that there is a stage between childhood and (young) adulthood that is characterized by immaturity and capriciousness: the teenage years. Before these ideas were invented, children were expected to take on adult roles as soon as they were able, apprenticing their parents and transitioning to adulthood with puberty. Shifts in ideas about life stages is a wonderful example of the social constructedness of age.
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