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Weekly Digest: Spreading the Word
Welcome to my weekly digest for June 16, 2023, with the best articles from around the web and a roundup of my recent writings and appearances.
Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!
Spread the Word
As you may have seen, I have a new book, Life in the Negative World: Confronting Challenges in an Anti-Christian Culture, coming out in January with Zondervan Reflective.
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The Beauty Privilege
The Wall Street Journal has a great article talking about all the benefits that accrue to people who are physically beautiful.
Beauty has its privileges. Studies reliably show that the most physically attractive among us tend to get more attention from parents, better grades in school, more money at work and more satisfaction from life. A study published in January in the Journal of Economics and Business found that good-looking banking CEOs take in over $1 million more in total compensation, on average, than their lesser-looking peers. “Good looks pay off,” the authors write.
New research from Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance similarly finds that comely managers of mutual funds lure more investments and enjoy more promotions than their homelier counterparts, even though their funds don’t perform as well. The researchers suggest this performance gap may be because handsome managers approach risk with hubristic levels of confidence.
Scientists attribute the human tendency to give attractive people better treatment to something called the halo effect. Basically, we tend to assume that good looks are a sign of intelligence, trustworthiness and good character and that ugliness is similarly more than skin deep. “Personal beauty is a greater recommendation than any letter of reference,” Aristotle observed. This may help explain why attractive people are less likely to be arrested or convicted, even after controlling for criminal involvement, according to a 2019 study of nationally representative data published in the journal Psychiatry, Psychology and Law.
Xijing Wang, a social psychologist at City University of Hong Kong, addressed these questions in a set of five experiments involving more than 1,300 participants in the U.S. and China, published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior in November 2022. After giving people money and raffle tickets and asking them to share, Wang and colleagues found that those who rated their own looks highly were more likely to keep the items for themselves. Participants who were primed to feel more attractive were also more likely to agree with the statements “I demand the best because I’m worth it” and “I feel entitled to more of everything.”
Her findings reinforce other studies that show that physically attractive people often cultivate self-serving beliefs. A 2014 paper in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, for example, found that those who saw themselves as good-looking sensed they had more power and higher status than their plainer peers. They were also more likely to attribute growing economic inequality in the U.S. to the hard work and talent of those at the top. Participants who were prompted to recall a time when they felt alluring were more inclined to agree with the statements ‘‘Having some groups on top really benefits everybody’’ and ‘‘Some groups of people are simply inferior to other groups.” They were also less likely to donate a $50 gift card to charity than those who were asked to recall a time when they felt ugly.
Politically Polarized Dating
Sociologists Brad Wilcox and Lyman Stone have another interesting piece in the Atlantic about how even romance is becoming politicized.
Marriage rates in America are falling fast: Many men and women are marrying later, and more and more people. are never marrying at all. Marriage is in retreat for a host of reasons, but one overlooked cause is the rising difficulty many young people have finding a partner who meets all of their requirements—emotional, physical, financial, and political. That last requirement has only become more important over time, with fewer Americans willing to date or marry across the aisle.
Dating apps and websites report a growing share of users setting political criteria for matches. The Survey Center on American Life, a project of the American Enterprise Institute, recently found that about two-thirds of liberal and conservative singles would be more likely to “swipe left” and reject a potential match who did not share their politics.
The most striking aspect of these trends is that the past decade has seen the sexes polarizing along ideological and political lines, a pattern that coincides with the rise of social media and the post-Trump political landscape. Young single men have been moving to the right, even as their female peers have been moving even further left. About 10 percent of such men were conservative in the early 1980s, but that share has now risen to about 15 percent (while the proportion of single liberal young men has held steady at about 18 percent in recent years).
As for single young women, the share identifying as liberal surged from about 15 percent in the early 1980s to 32 percent in the 2020s. (Correspondingly, the share of conservative single women declined from 10 percent to about 7 percent over the same period.) Most of this change has happened since 2010. In short, the past decade has seen single young men shift slightly to the right and single young women move markedly left, which means that the ideological divide between the sexes is growing.
The values and attitudes encapsulated in religious and political ideologies also act as a reliable proxy for long-term life goals—especially regarding gender, work, and family—that have a big bearing on whether marriages succeed or fail. For men and women who have similar political views, forming a bond with a mate is simplified. But for those with very different political views, matching is a tougher challenge. Because fewer heterosexual men and women will be able to find a partner who shares their politics, more people may never marry at all.
This political polarization is a less advanced version of what has toxified gender relations in South Korea. See my recent newsletter #75 for more about that country and what it might portend for the future here.
And speaking of South Korea, here’s a new one:
WSJ: Pricey Hurdle Before the Wedding: A Splashy, $4,500 Proposal - South Koreans like to pop the question in a fancy hotel suite, with a new designer handbag to mark the occasion.
Best of the Web
Amy Lim, et. al.: Desire for Social Status Affects Marital and Reproductive Attitudes
We argue that modern desire for social status hijacks psychological mechanisms governing life history strategy, leading to maladaptive delays in marriage and reproduction. A heightened desire to acquire higher social status led to preferences for investing heavily in fewer children rather than spreading one's resources across multiple children (i.e., offspring quality over quantity), and for delayed marriage and reproduction.
Institute for Family Studies: A Sad Time for Alienated Fathers
Richard Reeves of Brookings argues for a post-marital conception of fatherhood. Reeves is the author of the recent book Of Boys and Men.
Mere Orthodoxy: Piety, Technology, and Tradition - Great piece by Jon Askonas about the fundamental threat technology and modern society poses to tradition.
Politico: ‘I Don’t Want to Violently Overthrow the Government. I Want Something Far More Revolutionary.’ - A profile of Patrick Deneen. I do find the respect shown to revolutionary post-liberal Catholic integralism curious in light of the hostility to “Christian nationalism” when the former is more radical as well as being foreign to the American cultural and political tradition.
London Review of Books: A History of Rules
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New Content and Media Mentions
I was also a guest on the Death and Glory podcast this week discussing a post-familial society.
New this week:
In case you missed it, newsletter #77 was a look back at the gender teachings of the infamous pastor Mark Driscoll.
At American Reformer, M. A. Franklin writes about the right books.
There was a bit of Aaron Renn newsletter convergence on Twitter this week: