Studies

You Can’t Afford To Be Fat At Work

Even being as little as 13 pounds overweight resulted in $9,000 less per year.

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How Going Cash-Only Helped Me Curb My Spending

I never carry cash. This shouldn’t seem like a big deal, because debit cards can be cancelled if you lose them; parking meters, farmer’s markets, and even jukeboxes in the good dive-y bars all accept Visa these days.

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2013 Median Household Income is 8 Percent Lower Than 2007 Income

I’m a few weeks late to the game, but the US Census Bureau released its latest volume of Income and Poverty in the United States, focusing on calendar year 2013.

There’s a lot of information in this 72-page PDF, including pages and pages of charts. I’m tempted to actually read the whole thing, because I suspect it’s fascinating, but today I want to look at one single piece of information:

Median household income was $51,939 in 2013, not statistically different from the 2012 median in real terms, 8.0 percent lower than the 2007 (the year before the most recent recession) median ($56,436), and 8.7 percent lower than the median household income peak ($56,895) that occurred in 1999.

I had no idea that median household income peaked in 1999. I was a senior in high school that year, getting ready to graduate as a member of the Smoke-Free Class of 2000. They taught us to sing “two-triple-zero, everyone’s a hero or a she-ro.”

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The Economics of Reclining Seats During Flights

During my flight home, the passenger in front of me turned around and mumbled something, and when I said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you,” the passenger across the aisle from her said: “She asked you if it would be okay for her to recline her seat.”

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Link Roundup: Happy Marriage?; Telecommuting; How to Shop IRL

1) Thanks for the cheerful morning read on how most of us will not end up happily married, Quartz!

Just as most Americans want to believe that they will get rich someday, most Americans want to think that they will have a marriage of far-above-average quality. … What we do tell people is that happy couples are really no different from unhappy couples. Either they have found some secret formula for happiness (and if you buy the right book/attend the right seminar/take the right product, you will be happy too!), or they have learned to lower their expectations to the point where they don’t feel the sting of disappointment from incompatibility, loneliness, sexlessness or boredom. The first case is akin to Senator Marco Rubio testifying that America is “a nation of haves and soon to haves.” It is theoretically possible for any single individual to become wealthy, but it is unlikely that we are all going to be rich anytime soon. The second is like saying that rich people don’t have more money than poor people, just a better attitude. 

This is not a well written article. (“There are many theories floating around about why greater gender equality have not put an end to divorce in America.”) Does that mean the thesis is wrong? I hope so. The dream of being contently coupled should be more accessible than the dream of being Scrooge McDuck. There is, after all, an infinite amount of happiness in the world, and only a finite number of gold coins.

2) Women and childless men, don’t ask to work remotely

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The “Give Everyone a Goalie” Kind of Sex Ed

Sex ed is a hot button issue in America because certain folks believe it’s not a good idea for public schools to acknowledge that unmarried humans also have genitals, so we have an alarmingly high teen birth rate compared to other developed nations. That costs everyone money. What if instead of arguing about whether it’s acceptable to have high schoolers roll condoms onto bananas, we gave every lady a goalie instead, i.e., went straight to funding long-term, reversible birth control?

Between 2007 and 2012, Colorado saw the highest percentage drop in birth rates among teens 15 to 19 in the country, according to a report released today by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. During that time, its teen birth rates dropped 39 percent compared to 29 percent nationwide. Abortion rates in the state among teens fell 35 percent between 2009 and 2012 and are falling nationally, as well.

The CDC’s report comes on the heels of Colorado’s own study, which reported a 40 percent decline in births among teens 15 to 19 from 2009 to 2013. The stunning decline in teen birth rates is significant not just for its size, but for its explanation. State public health officials are crediting a sustained, focused effort to offer low-income women free or low-cost long-acting reversible contraception, that is, intrauterine devices or implants. The Colorado Family Planning Initiative, supported by a $23 million anonymous donation, provided more than 30,000 IUDs or implants to women served by the state’s 68 family-planning clinics. The state’s analysis suggests the initiative was responsible for three-quarters of the decline in the state’s teen birth rates. … The state also saw a 50 percent drop in repeat pregnancies among teens. With a second child, the already-high odds are ratcheted up that a low-income mother will not finish high school, remain trapped at the low-paying end of the economic ladder and reliant upon public assistance. (You, taxpayer, may read this as ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching.)

Women who elected to go with condoms, the pill, or the patch instead were twenty times more likely to get pregnancy accidentally than those who got the implant/insertion. Shifting more of them to the long-term methods saved taxpayers $12 billion just in 2010. TWELVE BILLION!@!#!! Several other states are following suit, expanding Medicaid to cover the costs of long-term devices for postpartum women.

God, I hope this is something we can all get behind.

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Millennials All For Socialism, Don’t Know What It Means

According to new research, millennials like, dislike everything. Some of the things they think they like, they simply don’t understand, like socialism: “Only 16% of millennials can accurately define socialism, making it less surprising that up to 42% prefer socialism and 52% favor capitalism.”

Possible definitions of socialism, according to the millennials surveyed: 1) soft-serve ice cream; 2) kittens playing in a box; 3) rain that only falls at night; 4) small, affordable cities with good weather, a cultural scene, public transportation, and available jobs; 5) teleportation.

Anyway, who really knows how to define socialism vs. capitalism? If we pop quizzed you, would you satisfy the test-takers? What’d you get on your Socialism AP Test, huh, smart guy?

Here are some more awesome results

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How Americans Think About Fairness and the Economy

There is massive new Pew Research Center poll (185 glorious pdf pages) that dissects the attitudes of Americans on all sorts of things. There is much to mull over, starting with the study’s division of the American populace into eight ideological groups: Solid Liberals (all left all the time; like me, more or less), Steadfast Conservatives (fiscally and socially conservative), Business Conservatives (corporatist, but not so down on gays and immigrants), Young Outsiders (socially liberal Republicans), Hard-Pressed Skeptics (left-leaning, working class, disillusioned), Next-Generation Liberals (like the Solid Liberals, but unconvinced of the need for social programs or anti-discrimination legislation), Faith and Family Left (like the Solid Liberals, but homophobic), and (boringly) Bystanders, who are what they sound like: disengaged and uninformed.

These groups break down mostly as you’d expect (although the right is more polarized than the left). The study is full of charts that show the spread of each group’s opinions across some typical left-right divide, and they all pretty much look like this one:

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What Correlates To Productivity in Kids And Nations Alike?

Surprise, surprise: Kids whose time is less structured are better able to meet their own goals, and the most productive nation, for the fifth year in a row, is Switzerland, where employees enjoy 28 days of federally mandated vacation time. What can we learn from these two news items, especially together?

1) Take your vacation days. That’s what they’re for, if you’re lucky enough to get them at all. Obvious? Not to most Americans:

Because America leaves firms to their own devices on break policy, the amount of PTO (paid time off) Americans get varies vastly between socioeconomic classes. Only half of low-wage workers (bottom one-fourth of earners) have any paid vacation, the study found. Compare that to 90% of high-wage workers (top one-fourth of earners): The 77% of Americans who do get paid vacation time get an average of 13 days. … working too hard is making us stressed, sick and disengaged from our jobs, says Brigid Schulte in the Washington Post. We rank in the bottom section of the work-life balance scale from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. But part of the blame can be placed on the American workforce itself: Only 56% of Americans take the vacation time that’s given to them, according to a study by the employment firm Hudson.

That’s maddening. If you’re not using your days, give them to me! I’m still only on episode 3 of the new season of “Orange is the New Black.”

2) Let your kids roam free and everyone wins. Less driving for you, more being driven — in an organic, internal way — for them.

Children who spend more time in less structured activities—from playing outside to reading books to visiting the zoo—are better able to set their own goals and take actions to meet those goals without prodding from adults, according to a new study by the University of Colorado Boulder. The study, published online in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, also found that children who participate in more structured activities—including soccer practice, piano lessons and homework—had poorer “self-directed executive function,” a measure of the ability to set and reach goals independently.

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Leave Religion Off Your Resume, With One Big “Unless …”

Science, man. Always bringing us down. The ice caps are melting, the coral reefs are dying, restaurants are less safe than food trucks, everyone’s a little bit racist. The latest blow comes from UConn, where experts took some time off from cheering for their women’s basketball team to figure out whether resumes from job applications that list affiliations with campus religious groups get fewer responses than resumes that don’t. The short answer? Yes, with an “and.” (The “and” being that the effect held true for every religion tested, even a made-up faith, except one.)

Researchers at the University of Connecticut found that applicants who included a religious reference in their applications were less likely to get responses than those who did not, an effect that held true across most faiths. … The study used Catholic, evangelical Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist, pagan and a made-up religion called Wallonian identities across different applications. All in all, résumés with a religion mentioned got 33% fewer responses than the completely secular ones.

There was one outlier — according to the report, résumés listing a Jewish affiliation received more responses than those listing other religions. “Not only did Jewish applicants not face discrimination but they also actually may have received preferential treatment by some employers — that is, they were more likely to receive an early, exclusive or solo response from employers, compared with all other religious groups combined,” the researchers wrote. “This suggests there is a subset of employers who show a preference for Jewish applicants.”

What’s going on here? Scientists don’t like to speculate — as bloggers, that’s our job — so they don’t draw any conclusions except, maybe, leave even your leadership role in your worship group off your resume if you want to get more calls. But we have some deeper thoughts.

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