Primary Sources

Smart women stay single; why religious Americans fear Muslims; Israel's surprisingly bright demographic future; are the left-handed better in a fight?


Too Smart to Marry

The bad news is coming fast for brainy career women. For one thing, they're less likely to get married—perhaps because (according to a study recently published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior) men prefer to date and marry women who occupy subordinate positions in the workplace, or because (according to a survey carried out by four British universities) female intelligence itself reduces the odds of wedlock. (The latter study found that for every 15-point increase in IQ score above the average, women's likelihood of marrying fell by almost 60 percent.) And another study, led by a professor at Ohio State University, suggests that women who do get married and have children will see their job prospects diminish. Two hundred undergraduates were asked to make hiring and promotion recommendations for a law firm based on résumés that differed only as to sex and whether the applicant was married with children. The result: women with children were less likely to be hired and promoted than either men or childless women, whereas men with children were actually favored in hiring over their childless male counterparts.

"Relational Dominance and Mate-Selection Criteria: Evidence That Males Attend to Female Dominance," Stephanie L. Brown and Brian P. Lewis, Evolution and Human Behavior; "Childhood IQ and Marriage by Mid-life: the Scottish Mental Survey 1932 and the Midspan Studies," Personality and Individual Differences; "Mothers and Fathers in the Workplace: How Gender and Parental Status Influence Judgments of Job-Related Competence," Journal of Social Issues

The Morning After

When the idea of making Plan B, the so-called morning-after pill, available over the counter in America was introduced, last year, advocates predicted that it would reduce the risk of unwanted pregnancy, while opponents predicted that it would encourage risky sexual behavior. Now the results of a trial study of San Francisco—area women aged fifteen to twenty-four, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggest that both predictions were wrong: among the women studied—none of whom intended to get pregnant—neither sexual activity nor conception was affected by the relative ease of access to the pill. Results were the same among those who were given the pill in advance, those who were instructed to pick it up over the counter at a designated pharmacy, and those who were told to get a prescription from a local clinic. About 40 percent of the women in each group reported having unprotected sex, and eight percent in each of the three groups became pregnant. The women who had unprotected sex are part of a national trend: according to the latest government health study on contraceptive use, the proportion of women aged fifteen to forty-four who weren't trying to get pregnant but nevertheless had sex without using birth control in the months surveyed rose from about 5.5 percent in 1995 to about 7.5 percent in 2002—a small but statistically significant increase.

"Direct Access to Emergency Contraception Through Pharmacies and Effect on Unintended Pregnancy and STIs," JAMA; "Use of Contraception and Use of Family Planning Services in the United States: 1982–2002," National Center for Health Statistics

Suspicious Minds

Jesus taught Christians to "love thy neighbor." According to a recent survey by researchers at Cornell University, however, the more religious the American, the less likely he is to love (or at least trust) his Muslim neighbors. For instance, 42 percent of the highly religious (versus only 15 percent of citizens who are "not very religious") believe that American Muslims should have to register their whereabouts with the government; 34 percent (versus 13 percent) say that U.S. mosques should be monitored; and 40 percent (versus 19 percent) look favorably on government infiltration of Islamic civic and volunteer organizations. The highly religious are also more distrustful the more attention they pay to TV news. While it's true that all the 9/11 terrorists were Muslims, none of them were Americans. So why do the religious mistrust American Muslims? The survey contains a hint: 65 percent of "highly religious" Americans believe that Islam is more likely than other faiths to encourage violence.

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"Restrictions on Civil Liberties, Views of Islam, and Muslim Americans," Media & Society Research Group, Cornell University


Overestimating the Palestinians

For some time now Israel has been haunted by fears of demographic doom—fears that a swelling Arab population, both in the Palestinian territories and in Israel itself, will make the Jewish state politically untenable. Now a team of American and Israeli researchers insists that those fears are based on dramatic overestimates of present-day Palestinian population size and birth rates. These overestimates, they argue, are derived from 1997 projections of the Palestine Bureau of Statistics (rather than from actual population counts), which predicted that the Palestinian population would grow by four to five percent a year, and that the occupied territories would experience net immigration. In fact, judging from birth data and border entry/exit data, Palestinian birth rates have dropped far below the projected level, while the West Bank and Gaza have experienced net emigration. The authors estimate the actual Palestinian population at about 2.4 million—not 3.8 million, as commonly asserted. And overall, they add, the Jewish share of the population in Israel and the occupied territories has declined only slightly over the past forty years, from 64 percent in 1967 to just under 60 percent today. Pointing out that Palestinian birth rates are continuing to decline, the authors conclude that there's little reason to expect Jews to become a minority in the Israeli-controlled region—let alone within Israel proper—anytime soon.

"Arab Population in the West Bank and Gaza: The Million-and-a-half Person Gap," Bennett Zimmerman, Yoram Ettinger, et al.

The Once and Future Caliphate

China and India rising, globalization disrupting societies but lifting most boats, an expanding EU with an expanding Muslim population —these are the fairly conventional forecasts offered by the National Intelligence Council in its latest report, "Mapping the Global Future." Less well-grounded but more interesting are the report's "fictional scenarios" for the world fifteen years from now. These include an imaginary diary entry by a UN secretary-general, a text-message exchange by two would-be dealers in weapons of mass destruction, and a letter from a World Economic Forum head on the eve of the 2020 Davos meeting. The most compelling—and unnerving—of these scenarios is titled "A New Caliphate": it envisions a future in which a young and charismatic religious leader is proclaimed the new caliph, setting off convulsions across the Muslim world and into the West. The would-be ruler of all Islam soon claims pockets of followers in most Muslim countries; Pakistan and Afghanistan are plunged into civil war; Muslim athletes proclaim their loyalty to the caliphate at the Olympics; and—in what is perhaps the report's most realistic touch—"histories of early Caliphs suddenly [rise] to be bestsellers on"

"Mapping the Global Future," National Intelligence Council


Booze and Consequences

Homer Simpson once called alcohol "the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems." Recent studies offer evidence to buttress that assertion in its entirety. A glass of beer or wine a day may sharpen your mind, according to a New England Journal of Medicine study, which reports that women who imbibed daily lowered their risk of memory loss and senility in old age by about 15 percent. But too much alcohol (enough to acquire a pair of "beer goggles," shall we say?) has different and less desirable consequences—or so suggests a study by three NBER economists, which finds that disincentives to drink may significantly reduce gonorrhea rates among young men. Working with infection data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the authors report that every 10 percent increase in the excise tax on beer reduces the gonorrhea rate by 4.7 percent among males aged fifteen to nineteen, and by 4.1 percent among those aged twenty to twenty-four. In addition, males aged fifteen to nineteen in states with zero-tolerance drunk-driving laws had gonorrhea rates seven to eight percent lower than those of males in other states. (Interestingly, neither factor had a significant impact on female infection rates.) For those who don't know when to say when, perhaps a compromise is in order—namely, non-alcoholic beer, which is neither mind-sharpening nor STD-increasing but may, according to a Japanese study using lab mice, offer protection against cancer.

"Alcohol Consumption and Cognition," NEJM; "An Investigation of the Effects of Alcohol Policies on Youth STDs," NBER; "Inhibitory Effects of Heterocyclic Amine-Induced DNA Adduct Formation in Mouse Liver and Lungs by Beer," Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry

Sinister Findings

Unless you're trying to fill out your bullpen for a post-season run, the evolutionary usefulness of left-handedness may seem a little puzzling. But it turns out that southpaws may remain in the gene pool because they're good to have around in a fight. A study by two French academics tracked the prevalence of left-handedness across a variety of traditional societies, and found that the more violent ones tended to have a higher percentage of lefties. Among the Dioula people of Burkina Faso, for instance, the homicide rate is just 0.013 murders per thousand inhabitants per year, and left-handers make up only 3.4 percent of the population. In contrast, the more warlike Yanomamo of the Venezuelan rain forest have a homicide rate of four per thousand per year, and southpaws compose roughly 23 percent of their population. What's advantageous in baseball, it turns out, may also be advantageous in a jungle knife fight.

"Handedness, Homicide and Negative Frequency-Dependent Selection," Charlotte Faurie and Michel Raymond, Institute of Evolutionary Sciences, University Montpellier II


Our Brands, Ourselves
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The U.S. government isn't all that's taking a public-relations hit overseas these days: U.S. brands are hurting as well, according to a study of European and Canadian consumers conducted by the market-research company GMI. Roughly 20 percent of people surveyed reported consciously avoiding American products in response to U.S. foreign policy. The brands most at risk, the study noted, are those that have "America" or "American" in their name (such as AOL and American Airlines) or are considered quintessentially American (such as Coca-Cola and McDonald's).

"Half of European Consumers Distrust American Companies," GMI Poll