Primary Sources

The European baby bust; life on two dollars a day; the bovine menace
Ecology

The Bovine Menace

Forget SUVs and tractor-trailers—the world’s livestock play a larger role in global warming than all of our planes, trains, and automobiles combined, according to a report from the Livestock, Environment and Development Initiative (LEAD), an organization that promotes “ecologically sustainable livestock production systems.” Between the deforestation that’s necessary to create grazing lands, the fossil fuels required to manufacture fertilizer for the crops that feed the world’s growing livestock population, and the gases released by animal manure (and yes, animal flatulence as well), livestock are responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions worldwide. The good news: There are ways to reduce these emissions, including more efficient feed production, improved soil conservation, and a better diet for all those gassy cows. Given that the global production of meat and milk is on track to double by 2050, livestock’s current environmental impact would need to be cut in half just to stay within the present level of damage to the global ecosystem.

“Livestock’s Long Shadow,” Livestock, Environment and Development Initiative, H. Steinfeld et al.

The Workforce

A Zero-Sum Game?

Between 1960 and 2000, the employment rate for black men plunged from 90 percent to 76 percent; for “low-skilled” black men (defined as high-school dropouts), in particular, it fell from 89 percent to just 56 percent. Between 1980 and 2000, meanwhile, the incarceration rate for black men rose from just 1 percent to nearly 10 percent. A new study considers this shift in light of large-scale immigration, which may have crowded black men out of the labor market and made a shift to crime more appealing. The researchers found that as immigration increased the supply of workers at a particular education level, the employment rate for black men in that category declined, and the incarceration rate rose. From 1980 to 2000, the authors conclude, immigration accounted for roughly a third of the decline in the black employment rate, and about 10 percent of the increase in the incarceration rate for low-skilled African Americans.

“Immigration and African-American Employment Opportunities,” George J. Borjas, Jeffrey Grogger, and Gordon H. Hanson, National Bureau of Economic Research

Public Health

Reverse Psychology

Does antismoking advertising work? Not if it’s funded by tobacco companies, argues a new study that examines three such ad campaigns. The authors found that, on average, each additional youth-targeted prevention ad that a young person saw was associated with a 3 percent stronger intention to smoke at some point in the future. Exposure to prevention ads targeted at parents, meanwhile—like the Philip Morris campaign urging parents to “Talk. They’ll Listen.”—made older teens less likely to perceive smoking as harmful, more likely to approve of smoking, and more likely to plan to smoke in the future. In these ads, the authors note, “no reason beyond simply being a teenager is offered” to explain why kids shouldn’t smoke, which dovetails with Philip Morris’s stated aim of delaying smoking, not preventing it.

“Effect of Televised, Tobacco Company-Funded Smoking Prevention Advertising on Youth Smoking-Related Beliefs, Intentions, and Behavior,” Melanie Wakefield et al., American Journal of Public Health

The Family

The Divorcing Kind
chart

The divorce rate in America peaked thirty years ago and has declined slightly since—but not for everyone, a study by a sociologist at the University of Maryland points out. A woman’s likelihood of divorcing within ten years of her first marriage rose irrespective of her level of education until the mid-1970s. But after that, divorce rates diverged. Twenty-nine percent of women with a four-year college degree who married between 1975 and 1979 divorced within a decade; among college-educated women who married between 1990 and 1994, the within-ten-years divorce rate had fallen to 16.5 percent. Among women with only a high-school diploma, however, the divorce rate remained roughly constant over the same period, and it rose among women without a high-school diploma. This divorce divide, the author suggests, might be both a consequence and a cause of America’s growing economic inequality. Economic disadvantages can make divorce more likely, and divorce in turn creates further personal and financial difficulties for parents and children alike, which threaten to “perpetuate inequality across generations.”

“Trends in Marital Dissolution by Women’s Education in the United States,” Steven P. Martin, Demographic Research

Consumption

Needful Things

The list of consumer goods that Americans claim they can’t live without just keeps getting longer, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center, which tracks the percentage of Americans who rated various items as “necessities” in 1996 versus 2006. Some of the newly necessary products on the ‘06 list weren’t even on the radar a decade before—high-speed Internet access, for instance, which 29 percent of respondents now can’t live without. But other items that made a leap toward widespread indispensability have been on the market for years or decades—dishwashers, for example, as well as microwaves, clothes dryers, and cable television. Manufacturers and advertisers can rest assured that once we start needing something, we never stop: The report notes that across the products surveyed, “wherever there has been a significant change ... in the public’s judgment about these items, it’s always been in the direction of necessity.”

“Luxury or Necessity?” Pew Research Center

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