Would greater female political leadership lead to lesser conflict among countries? Evidence from European politics between the 15th and 20th century suggests otherwise. European states led by queens were more likely to engage in war than the ones led by kings, according to research by Oeindrila Dube, professor at the University of Chicago, and S.P. Harish, post-doctoral fellow at McGill University. Specifically, married queens were more likely to pursue war as they could often enlist the support of their spouse to oversee military affairs and forge alliances, which reflected prevailing gender norms. On the other hand, married kings were less inclined to utilize a similar division of labour. The paper also shows that unmarried queens were more vulnerable to attacks compared to kings, while married ones were likely to be bigger attackers in comparison to married kings. While the authors do not draw any simple extrapolation from these findings for current times, they do suggest that largest gender-based effects would rise in weakly institutionalized settings, where families continue to play a large role in trust in leadership.
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Persons of all ideological inclinations are vulnerable to readily believing and disseminating “fake news” if it conforms to their beliefs, according to a study by Peter H. Ditto, professor of psychology and social behaviour at University of California, Irvine, and others. Their research, focusing on American political debates, shows that such partisan bias is equally present in those who identify themselves as liberals and conservatives and dispels the notion that conservatives might be more biased. The study uses meta-analysis, i.e. combines data from multiple studies, covering over 12,000 participants and discerns bias over various issues of political importance in the US, ranging from drone policy to abortion.
Stress in early adult life could be a big factor weighing on health in later life, according to research by John Cawley and Daniel Grossman, economists with the Cornell University and West Virginia University, respectively. The US-focussed study uses a novel measure of stress: the risk of being inducted into the military during Vietnam War. The prolonged uncertainty about whether one would be conscripted into military service between the ages of 18 and 26 arguably caused large amounts of stress on young men. The study only focuses on those men who did not serve in the military during the War, but nevertheless were under constant stress over the possibility of conscription. The research shows that such early-adult stress significantly increased risks of being overweight or in poor health in later life.
The sustained growth of standard of living over the past few centuries might be less on account of economic growth and more on account of limiting the incidence of economic “shrinking”, i.e. decline in economic output and people’s incomes. Using annual data from the 13th century to the present, a recent research paper authored by Stephen Broadberry and John Joseph Wallis, economists with the Oxford University and the University of Maryland, respectively, argues that the improvement of economic performance over the long run has occurred primarily because the frequency and rate of shrinking have both declined. One important factor would be the declining importance of agriculture in GDP, which is often prone to weather or climate-related shocks. Going ahead, the problem of development becomes one of reducing the variability of short-run growth rates, rather than increasing short-run growth rates.
Land reforms enacted by various Indian states in the years following Independence could be an important factor explaining the differences in industrialization across India. Specifically, land ceiling legislations, which defined the ceiling size of land holdings, have affected firms’ decisions to invest in land and capital, according to a recent research piece by Sarmistha Pal, professor of economics at the University of Surrey, and others. Analyzing the behaviour of publicly-listed companies between 1996 and 2012, they argue that companies invested relatively lesser amounts in states with lower land ceilings because lower ceilings meant that the companies had to negotiate with a large number of small landholders to buy land and invest in capital. They further argue that the results hold true even if outliers like Kerala and Bengal are excluded from the analysis. Given the increasing scarcity of land in India, the authors call for keeping in mind the diversity of states while making such policies in future.
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