Wednesday, September 08, 2010

They Probably Got Government Funding For This

Two econ researchers, Danny Cohen-Zada (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev) and William Sander (DePaul), report that "American women are happier going to church than shopping on Sundays." According to the New York Times, the study:
tracked church attendance and levels of happiness among Americans living in states that had repealed so-called blue laws, which once required most retailers to stay closed on Sundays.

The researchers found that allowing stores to open on Sundays was linked with a decline in church attendance among white women, which led to a subsequent decline in happiness. Among black women, the repeal of the blue laws had no measurable effect, although that may be because the sample size was too small to draw any statistically meaningful conclusions.

Notably, the finding was true only for women. For men, the repeal of blue laws didn’t seem to influence church attendance or levels of happiness.

Since the repeal of blue laws, women are about 17 percent less likely to report being "pretty happy," and more likely to report being "not happy," according to the study, which is still awaiting final publication.

"People know there is a correlation between religiosity and happiness, but there’s not conclusive evidence that there is a causal effect," said William Sander, professor of economics at DePaul. "Our paper tends to provide more conclusive evidence that religiosity among women does affect happiness."
A year-old version of the paper is here.

Where to start? Sunday closing laws are constitutional, McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 444-49 (1961), but are a restriction on freedom I don't favor. Although my observation is consistent with a correlation between faith and happiness, blue laws don't force anyone to attend church. And, in states without blue laws, one can attend church and still shop on Sundays. So, correlation isn't causation.

Still more striking is the Times' favorable coverage of the study. I thought "choice" was the lefty mantra. And I never expected the newspaper to be so relatively positive about religion--shouldn't it be touting First Amendment establishment clause rights?

The contrary spin reflects a larger, more threatening trend among progressives: anti-consumerism. The impact of the hit movie Avatar is one manifestation of a growing movement to roll back progress to return to a supposedly more bucolic past.

This is false and pernicious -- mistaken Malthusian run amok. Considered as a whole, life has been improved immeasurably by markets, capitalism and technology.

Don't misunderstand me: I'm not hostile to faith or church-going. I simply am suspicious when social scientists and the New York Times conspire to conclude consumerism is the culprit.

The Luddites said progress was impoverishing--and were wrong. The new economic study and the Times are too. Because there's no inconsistency between sermons and shopping, or link between shuttered stores and self satisfaction.

More simply, as law prof Ann Althouse quips in response to the NYT's cheerleading for blue laws, "Good Lord."


Lame-R said...

Maybe it's not religiosity that is causing the happiness difference in those women, maybe it's DOMINANCE--getting told they can't do something!? 'Cuz we all know women like to have their minds made up for them, and stuff like that. If we enacted a law that every sunday the wimminz have to make sammiches and fetch beers during the game, I'm confident their happiness AND the men's happiness would go up.

Just throwing it out there in hopes I'll get some government funding for me to do that study... ;)

OBloodyHell said...

> Where to start? Sunday closing laws are constitutional, McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 444-49 (1961)...

Not arguing with your assertion but the idea that they are is patently ludicrous. They're a clear violation of private property rights, and serve no valid wider purpose.

OBloodyHell said...

> Considered as a whole, life has been improved immeasurably by markets, capitalism and technology.

Indeed, as the late, lamented Julian Simon repeatedly demonstrated.

From those ancient days when Wired was worth reading:
The Doomslayer

Also -- from the Salon article about Lee and Malthus:

In other words, we progress by copying, tinkering and making gradual improvements. One of new growth theory's primary insights is that if you put up impediments to the spread of knowledge -- like overly strong patent and copyright laws -- you create friction that slows down economic growth. This does not mean abolishing all intellectual property laws; it means finding the right balance between property rights and the freedom to share and innovate so as to create a more prosperous, equitable society for all.

Yeah, I've been pushing that for around two decades, now.

The Economy of Ideas

Carl said...

Actually, OBH, the Supreme Court said that the valid "wider" purpose was to give people a "day of rest"--regardless of whether they used to to attend church. So it's Constitutional, though I agree it's stupid--and those aren't synonyms. But I knew you'd like that Salon article.

Lamr-R: Given the number of female bureaucrats, good luck getting a government grant for that.