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Social Studies: Lunchtime persuasion, vaccines and academic performance, election side effects

New research suggests informal gatherings - like lunch - are more conducive to persuasion than in-office meetings.
New research suggests informal gatherings - like lunch - are more conducive to persuasion than in-office meetings.Shutterstock/bikeriderlondon

Let’s do lunch

In an experiment, political scientists randomly assigned an education lobbyist in Sacramento to meet staffers working for California legislators in their offices or at a nearby restaurant. In both settings, the lobbyist specifically asked for the legislator to make online statements supporting a particular education policy position. Meeting in the restaurant generated additional support; meeting in an office did not. This result would seem to confirm that informal settings are more conducive to persuasion.

Grose, C. et al., “Social Lobbying,” Journal of Politics (forthcoming).

Low expectations

In several surveys, at least a third of Americans reported more moral concern for animals and nature than for people who are marginalized or stigmatized. These respondents were more likely to see animals and marginalized people as having a similar capacity to empathize with others or experience pleasure.


Rottman, J. et al., “Tree‐Huggers Versus Human‐Lovers: Anthropomorphism and Dehumanization Predict Valuing Nature Over Outgroups,” Cognitive Science (April 2021).

All the news that’s fit for wealth

A study finds that newspaper reporting on the economy from the 1980s through the Great Recession was class-biased, in the sense that the tone of coverage was correlated with gains and losses for the rich but largely disconnected from gains and losses for the working class. This wasn’t because reporters were being servile to the rich, researchers argue, but because aggregate economic performance, which gets most of the coverage, had increasingly aligned with gains and losses for the rich. There was no evidence that right-leaning newspapers were more likely to exhibit this bias.

Jacobs, A. et al., “Whose News? Class-Biased Economic Reporting in the United States,” American Political Science Review (forthcoming).

Vaccine side effects

After Texas and Arkansas allowed personal-belief exemptions for school vaccination requirements in 2003, vaccination rates fell among Black and low-income students in those states. Standardized test scores also dropped a decade later for the same group of students. The drop might be explained by a reduction in checkups at doctor’s offices in the early years, which left health issues undiagnosed or untreated and led to an increase in absenteeism.


Hair, N. et al., “Personal Belief Exemptions for School-Entry Vaccinations, Vaccination Rates, and Academic Achievement,” Journal of Health Economics (forthcoming).

Losing from winning

An economist at the Federal Reserve found that areas where a Black candidate narrowly beat a white candidate in a local election experienced an increase in racial prejudice among white people, as measured by scores of local residents on a test of automatic responses to faces of different races. This was especially the case in areas with lower-income people and a larger Black population. The increase in prejudice was associated with a decrease in Black employment, especially in small companies, and a drop in mortgage approvals for Black people.

Sakong, J., “Identifying Taste-Based Discrimination: Effect of Black Electoral Victories on Racial Prejudice and Economic Gaps,” Federal Reserve (March 2021).