Blessed by the Jesuits

Founded in the 16th century, the Jesuit order emphasized education. Soon, it was setting up missions around the world, including among the native Guarani people in and around present-day Paraguay, until the Jesuits were expelled from Spain and Portugal and their colonies later in the 18th-century. An economist found that Guarani areas closer to the historical locations of Jesuit missions became — and are still — more educated and prosperous. There was no similar effect for Franciscan missions among the Guarani.

Valencia Caicedo, F., “The Mission: Human Capital Transmission, Economic Persistence, and Culture in South America,” Quarterly Journal of Economics (forthcoming).

An offer you can’t refuse

In an experiment, sales representatives of a “large multinational consumer products company” were assigned to give a small gift (a sample of six tubes of toothpaste) at the beginning of their negotiations with a random subset of purchasing representatives for drug stores. “The sales representatives generate, on average, more than twice as much revenue” when they lead off with the small gift, but only if the purchasing representative is the store manager and has dealt with the sales representative before.

Maréchal, M. & Thöni, C., “Hidden Persuaders: Do Small Gifts Lubricate Business Negotiations?” Management Science (forthcoming).

Asian or white?

According to surveys, Asian-Americans perceive Asian-white biracial individuals as less Asian than white. This, researchers say, is partly explained by perceived anti-Asian discrimination; Asian-Americans may assume that Asian-white biracial individuals would rather identify as white. This link between perceived discrimination and biracial identity was confirmed in experiments. This pattern was not seen in African-Americans, however — presumably because Asian-white biracial individuals “have more ability to pass as white.” That dynamic prompts more concern among Asian-Americans about group loyalty.

Chen, J. et al., “Whose Side Are You On? Asian Americans’ Mistrust of Asian–White Biracials Predicts More Exclusion from the Ingroup,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (forthcoming).

When trade breaks bad

A study by a professor of economics at Harvard found that the drug-trafficking-related homicide rate increased in areas of Mexico where manufacturing jobs were lost due to increasing competition with China for exports to the United States. “Back of the envelope calculations suggest that if Chinese imports to the US had not changed during this period, the steep increase in drug-related homicides in our sample — totaling around 6,000 in 2007 and over 20,000 in 2010 – would have been around 27 percent lower.”

Dell, M. et al., “The Violent Consequences of Trade-Induced Worker Displacement in Mexico,” American Economic Review: Insights (forthcoming).

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Focus on the family

When releasing prisoners, the correctional system has generally viewed the ex-con’s family as a positive force for rehabilitation, and the ex-con’s friends as a negative force. However, a new study finds that “family conflict relates to significantly higher odds of reincarceration, whereas peer support relates to significantly lower odds of reincarceration . . . Notably, family support and peer crime do not significantly relate to reincarceration in the full model,” controlling for the ex-con’s employment status, relationship status, ongoing offending and substance use, and criminal history.

Mowen, T. & Boman, J., “Do We Have It All Wrong? The Protective Roles of Peers and Criminogenic Risks from Family During Prison Reentry,” Crime & Delinquency (forthcoming).

Kevin Lewis is an Ideas columnist. He can be reached at

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