Learn More about Wrongful Death

A death caused by the negligent or unjust actions of another individual is referred to as a wrongful death. While all deaths are devastating to the family and friends of the deceased, wrongful deaths can be exceptionally traumatic due to the fact that they could have been prevented. A variety of accidents and intentional harms can lead to the wrongful death of others, including car accidents, medical malpractice, product liability, workplace negligence, and even acts of violence or murder. When the numbers are added up, it is clear to see how unfortunately common wrongful deaths can be.According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 37,000 prescription drug-related fatalities occurred in 2009. The Department of Transportation reports that for the same year, 33,883 traffic accident fatalities occurred. Workplace accidents also contribute significantly, with over 4,500 accident-related fatalities reported in 2010 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And, research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that approximately 225,000 individuals die each year as a result of medical malpractice.When an individual suffers a wrongful death, a personal representative of the deceased’s estate is allowed under law to bring forth a civil case against the individual (or individuals) who were either partially or fully responsible for the death. In order to be successful, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant was either negligent, acted with intent to cause harm, or was strictly to blame regardless of any fault attached to their actions (or failure to take action).Each state has its own wrongful death statutes that define time limits within which a wrongful death suit can be filed, and which often place specific regulations on the damages that can be pursued for individual types of accidents. In the aftermath of an unexpected and tragic death, bereaved family and friends are distraught, angry, and often in shock at what has transpired to their loved one. The complexity and individualistic nature of wrongful death laws and lawsuits underscore the importance just how important it is for grieving families to secure the help of a qualified attorney. …

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Education boosts brain function long after school, study shows

European populations are growing older on average, a trend that could pose serious challenges to health care, budgets, and economic growth. As a greater proportion of a country’s population grows into old age, average cognition levels and national productivity tend to decline, and the incidence of dementia increases.”Finding ways to improve the cognition of seniors is of central importance to the economic well-being of aging countries,” says IIASA researcher Vegard Skirbekk, who worked on the study with researchers Nicole Schneeweis and Rudolf Winter Ebmer at Linz UniversityThe study examined variation in years of schooling arising from compulsory educational reforms implemented in six European countries during the 1950s and 1960s, measuring mental functioning in seniors with various levels of schooling. It shows that the burden of demographic change is likely to depend more on how healthy and mentally fit people are at different ages than on the exact age structure of people in a population. The study also shows that education tends to significantly boost brain function, and that this effect persists as a person ages.The study shows that people who attended school for longer periods because of new regulations performed better in terms of cognitive functioning than those who did not. Using data from individuals aged around 60 from the Survey of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe, the researchers found a positive impact of schooling on memory scores. The fact that young people or their parents did not choose whether to go longer to school strongly suggests that schooling is the cause rather than personal characteristics that would affect this choice and could also explain the differences in cognitive function.”Examining the variation in compulsory schooling was key.” It allowed us to find out that education was the cause of better cognitive function, and not a simple correlation,”,” says Winter-Ebmer.Furthermore, the study finds evidence for a protective effect of schooling for the brain: more education slows cognitive decline. The researchers say that education can be an important measure for maintaining cognitive functioning and protecting against cognitive decline, thereby alleviating the challenges that population aging would otherwise present.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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First large-scale study of stock market volatility, mental disorders

Falling stock prices lead to increased hospitalizations for mental disorders, according to new research published today in the journal Health Policy and Planning.Researchers assessed the relationship between stock price movements and mental disorders using data on daily hospitalizations for mental disorders in Taiwan over 4,000 days between 1998 and 2009. They found that a 1000-point fall in the Taiwan Stock Exchange Capitalisation Weighted Stock Index (TAIEX) coincided with a 4.71% daily increase in hospitalizations for mental disorders.A downward daily change in stock price index coincided with significantly increased hospitalizations for mental disorders — when the stock price index decreased by 1% in a single day there was a 0.36% increase in hospitalizations for mental disorders on that same day. The researchers also found that falls in stock price index on consecutive days were associated with a 0.32% daily increase in mental disorders hospitalizations — when the stock price index falls consecutively for 5 days there was a 1.6% increase in the number of mental disorder hospitalizations on the fifth day.These effects were found to be significant for both genders, with daily and consecutive changes in stock price index having a greater impact on men’s mental health. Low stock price index and daily change in stock price index had a significant effect on hospitalizations for the 35-54 age groups while consecutive change affected the 45-54 age groups.The research, led by Dr Chung-Liang Lin at Dong Hwa University and Dr Chin-Shyan Chen and Dr Tsai-Ching Liu at Taipei University, is the first of its kind to investigate a potential relationship between stock market volatility and nationwide prevalence of mental disorders. The results suggest that the mental health of middle-aged males may be critically influenced by the stock market — when the stock price index is low, hospitalizations for mental illness are relatively high.Previous research has suggested that mental disorders are more likely to affect disadvantaged members of society, with financial hardship having a negative impact on psychological health. The global financial crisis led to a decline in wealth for many and subsequent research has looked at the links between national economic conditions and the general health of the public. Data have also shown that economic recession has an exacerbating effect on the use of mental health services and decline in reported happiness. Most research on economic recession looks at involuntary job loss; few studies have looked at the effects of a fluctuating stock market on population health outcomes.The researchers used stock market movements as a proxy for changes in economic conditions and assessed the relationship with mental disorders using data from the National Health Insurance Research Dataset published by the National Health Research Institute of Taiwan.Dr Lin, Assistant Professor of Economics, said: “The stock market became the most watched indicator for much of the economic recession. Drops in the value of stocks can, and often do, announce a reduction in wealth and the multiplication of business failures with consequential pay cuts or layoffs. Indeed, it is reasonable enough for people to have dire fears about the future, and those fears are heavily reinforced by media coverage. …

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The Hunt for A Cure: W&C responds to WSJ article

The Wall Street Journal, which is in the business of putting asbestos trial lawyers out business, contacted me over a year ago. They wanted to run an article about my donations to medical research.As a journalist myself in college, it didn’t take long for me to figure out their angle. They wanted to show that somehow my practice of sponsoring medical research, as opposed to spending oodles on TV and Google ads, was “fishy” if not “rotten.”The result of that year long quest appeared today in the crusty WSJ under the byline of reporter Dionne Searcey. The title: “Mesothelioma Doctors, Lawyers Hunt for Valuable Asbestos Cases.”Right away you get a feel for the slant. We are “hunters.” Now, I’ve gotten to know Ms. …

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Americans living longer, more healthy lives

Sep. 12, 2013 — Thanks to medical advances, better treatments and new drugs not available a generation ago, the average American born today can expect to live 3.8 years longer than a person born two decades ago. Despite all these new technologies, however, is our increased life expectancy actually adding active and healthy years to our lives? That question has remained largely unanswered — until now. In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) have found that the average 25-year-old American today can look forward to 2.4 more years of a healthy life than 20 years ago while a 65-year-old today has gained 1.7 years.Synthesizing data from multiple government-sponsored health surveys conducted over the last 21 years, Allison Rosen, MD, associate professor of Quantitative Health Sciences at UMMS, Susan Stewart, researcher at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and David Cutler, professor of economics at Harvard University, were able, for the first time, to measure how the quality-adjusted life expectancy (QALE) of all Americans has changed over time. The study’s findings are described in a paper published today in the American Journal of Public Health.”QALE tells us more than how long a person can expect to live,” said Dr. Rosen, senior author on the study. “It tells us what the relative quality of those added years are in terms of physical, emotional and mental well-being. Though many studies have measured this in different ways, this is really the first time we’ve been able to capture this type of information across the whole U.S. population over an extended period.”The data shows that Americans are living longer, reporting fewer symptoms of disease, have more energy and show fewer impairment in everyday tasks such as walking than a generation ago. …

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Delaying climate policy would triple short-term mitigation costs

Sep. 12, 2013 — Higher costs would in turn increase the threshold for decision-makers to start the transition to a low-carbon economy. Thus, to keep climate targets within reach it seems to be most relevant to not further postpone mitigation, the researchers conclude.”The transitional economic repercussions that would result if the switch towards a climate-friendly economy is delayed, are comparable to the costs of the financial crisis the world just experienced,” lead-author Gunnar Luderer says. The later climate policy implementation starts, the faster — hence the more expensive — emissions have to be reduced if states world-wide want to achieve the internationally agreed target of limiting global warming to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. A binding global agreement to implement the emissions reductions required to reach this target is currently still under negotiation, while global emissions have continued to rise.”For the first time, our study quantifies the short-term costs of tiptoeing when confronted with the climate challenge,” Luderer says. “Economists tend to look at how things balance out in the long-term, but decision-makers understandably worry about additional burdens for the people and businesses they are responsible for right now. So increased short-term costs due to delaying climate policy might deter decision-makers from starting the transformation. The initial costs of climate policies thus can be more relevant than the total costs.”Future energy price increases could be limitedThe researchers investigated a number of cost dimensions, including climate policy effects on energy prices. If emissions reductions are delayed beyond 2030, global energy price levels are likely to increase by 80 percent in the short term. Such price increases are of particular concern because of the burden they put on the world’s poor. …

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Cultivation of algae, mussels, common reed and microbes could help to improve the Baltic Sea’s condition

Sep. 3, 2013 — The Finnish Environment Institute SYKE has participated in the SUBMARINER project, jointly performed by eight countries in order to investigate new ways of utilising the Baltic Sea’s resources. Over three years, the project has looked at various ways of utilising macroalgae and microalgae, mussels, common reed and microbes. New fish farming methods and future use of wave energy installations in the Baltic Sea were also examined, along with opportunities for using offshore wind park areas for other economic activities.”Executed correctly, these new ways of using the sea would cause no harm to the marine environment. Instead, by cultivating algae, mussels or common reed we can remove nutrients from the sea and even improve its condition,” explains Senior Researcher Jukka Seppälä from SYKE’s Marine Research Centre.With the exception of Russia, all Baltic Sea coastal states are participating in the project. Finland is represented by SYKE. The project is mainly funded by the EU’s Baltic Sea Region Programme, which is aimed at promoting an economically and ecologically sustainable Baltic Sea region.New methods of removing nutrients from the Baltic SeaFinland’s part of the project involved testing of macroalgae cultivation in the sea in Rymättylä and Tvärminne. In addition, the possibilities of cultivating microalgae in under Nordic conditions were investigated.It was discovered that cultivating mussels on substrates constructed of ropes was a more efficient method of removing nutrients from the sea than macroalgae cultivation. The Baltic Sea region’s ice winters pose a specific challenge to mussel and macroalgae cultivation, as the substrates need to be lowered below the water level. The project also looked into the possibilities of using mussel and algae mass as animal feed, fertiliser or in the production of biogas. …

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Women happier when they gain weight, even though they are not as healthy, study suggests

Sep. 3, 2013 — Body weight has a great influence on our quality of life. While physical health deteriorates when weight is gained, mental well-being seems to improve, especially in women. This has been reported by scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum München in the International Journal of Public Health. These results offer valuable information for preventive strategies in the fight against obesity.Share This:Scientists from the Institute of Health Economics and Health Care Management (IGM) and from the Institute of Epidemiology II (EPI II) discovered that weight gain leads to deterioration in physical health. Female study participants, however, experienced improved mental quality of life as their weight increased, a result that was observed even in women who were already overweight when the study began. For this study, Professor Dr. Rolf Holle, Michael Laxy and their team evaluated data from the population-based longitudinal KORA study on the association between body weight and health-related quality of life. Over a period of seven years, the weight of more than 3000 people was measured, the body-mass index (BMI) was calculated and the health-related quality of life was assessed on the basis of a standardized questionnaire.”The results show that the influence of body weight on physical and mental health is complex,” Holle explains. “However, the understanding of these associations is crucial for developing medically effective and cost-effective strategies to prevent and manage obesity. …

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Language and tool-making skills evolved at the same time

Sep. 3, 2013 — Research by the University of Liverpool has found that the same brain activity is used for language production and making complex tools, supporting the theory that they evolved at the same time.Researchers from the University tested the brain activity of 10 expert stone tool makers (flint knappers) as they undertook a stone tool-making task and a standard language test.Brain blood flow activity measuredThey measured the brain blood flow activity of the participants as they performed both tasks using functional Transcranial Doppler Ultrasound (fTCD), commonly used in clinical settings to test patients’ language functions after brain damage or before surgery.The researchers found that brain patterns for both tasks correlated, suggesting that they both use the same area of the brain. Language and stone tool-making are considered to be unique features of humankind that evolved over millions of years.Darwin was the first to suggest that tool-use and language may have co-evolved, because they both depend on complex planning and the coordination of actions but until now there has been little evidence to support this.Dr Georg Meyer, from the University Department of Experimental Psychology, said: “This is the first study of the brain to compare complex stone tool-making directly with language.Tool use and language co-evolved”Our study found correlated blood-flow patterns in the first 10 seconds of undertaking both tasks. This suggests that both tasks depend on common brain areas and is consistent with theories that tool-use and language co-evolved and share common processing networks in the brain.”Dr Natalie Uomini from the University’s Department of Archaeology, Classics & Egyptology, said: “Nobody has been able to measure brain activity in real time while making a stone tool. This is a first for both archaeology and psychology.”The research was supported by the Leverhulme Trust, the Economic and Social Research Council and the British Academy. It is published in PLOS ONE.

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Average height of European males has grown by 11 centimeters in just over a century

Sep. 2, 2013 — The average height of European males increased by an unprecedented 11 cm between the mid-nineteenth century and 1980, according to a new paper published online today in the journal Oxford Economic Papers. Contrary to expectations, the study also reveals that average height actually accelerated in the period spanning the two World Wars and the Great Depression.Timothy J. Hatton, Professor of Economics at the University of Essex and the Research School of Economics at Australian National University in Canberra, examined and analysed a new dataset for the average height (at the age of around 21) of adult male birth cohorts, from the 1870s to 1980, in fifteen European countries. The data were drawn from a variety of sources. For the most recent decades the data were mainly taken from height-by-age in cross sectional surveys. Meanwhile, observations for the earlier years were based on data for the heights of military conscripts and recruits. The data is for men only as the historical evidence for women’s heights is severely limited.Professor Hatton said, “Increases in human stature are a key indicator of improvements in the average health of populations. The evidence suggests that the improving disease environment, as reflected in the fall in infant mortality, is the single most important factor driving the increase in height. The link between infant mortality and height has already been demonstrated by a number of studies.” Infant mortality rates fell from an average of 178 per thousand in 1871-5 to 120 per thousand in 1911-15. …

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Sweaty palms and racing heart may benefit some negotiators

Aug. 26, 2013 — The idea of having to negotiate over the price of a new car sends many into the cold sweats, but new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggests that sweaty palms and a racing heart may actually help some people in getting a good deal.As researchers Ashley D. Brown and Jared R. Curhan of the Sloan School of Management at MIT demonstrate in two experiments, physiological arousal isn’t always detrimental:”It turns out that the effect depends on whether you are someone who dreads or looks forward to negotiating,” Brown explains. “It’s not inherently harmful.”In their first experiment, Brown and Curhan assessed participants’ attitudes toward negotiation. Several weeks later, they had participants walk on a treadmill while negotiating over the price of a used car. Some participants walked quickly to increase their heart rates, while others walked at a slower pace.Among the participants with negative attitudes toward negotiation, those who had increased heart rate expressed being less satisfied with their negotiations in comparison to the slow-walking participants.Those who initially reported positive attitudes, on the other hand, were more likely to express greater satisfaction with the negotiation after walking at a faster pace.Results from a second experiment in which participants negotiated an employment compensation package suggest that physiological arousal may even enhance the negotiating abilities of those with positive attitudes toward negotiation.Brown and Curhan found that participants who look forward to negotiating and who walked while doing so achieved higher economic outcomes than those who sat during the negotiation session. In contrast, participants who dread negotiating and who walked during the negotiation performed worse.Ultimately, the new research suggests that the effects of physiological arousal are driven by subjective interpretation. People who can’t stand negotiating seem to interpret arousal as a negative sign of nervousness, and physiological arousal therefore has a detrimental effect on their performance. But those who relish a chance to negotiate seem to interpret arousal as a positive sign of excitement, making them feel “revved up,” and the arousal boosts their performance.Given these findings, Brown and Curhan wonder whether the conventional advice to “just relax” might be outmoded. …

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Future flood losses in major coastal cities: Costly projections

Aug. 19, 2013 — Climate change combined with rapid population increases, economic growth and land subsidence could lead to a more than nine-fold increase in the global risk of floods in large port cities between now and 2050.”Future Flood Losses in Major Coastal Cities,” published in Nature Climate Change, is part of an ongoing project by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to explore the policy implications of flood risks due to climate change and economic development. This study builds on past OECD work which ranked global port cities on the basis of current and future exposure, where exposure is the maximum number of people or assets that could be affected by a flood.The authors estimate present and future flood losses — or the global cost of flooding — in 136 of the world’s largest coastal cities, taking into account existing coastal protections. Average global flood losses in 2005, estimated at about US$6 billion per year, could increase to US$52 billion by 2050 with projected socio-economic change alone.The cities ranked most ‘at risk’ today, as measured by annual average losses due to floods, span developed and developing countries: Guangzhou, Miami, New York, New Orleans, Mumbai, Nagoya, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Boston, Shenzen, Osaka-Kobe, and Vancouver. The countries at greatest risk from coastal city flooding include the United States and China. Due to their high wealth and low protection level, three American cities (Miami, New York City and New Orleans) are responsible for 31 per cent of the losses across the 136 cities. Adding Guangzhou, the four top cities explain 43 per cent of global losses as of 2005.Total dollar cost is one way to assess risk. Another is to look at annual losses as a percentage of a city’s wealth, a proxy for local vulnerability. Using this measure, Guangzhou, China; Guayaquil, Ecuador; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; and Abidjan, Ivory Coast are among the most vulnerable.To estimate the impact of future climate change the study assumes that mean sea-level, including contributions from melting ice sheets, will rise 0.2-0.4 meters by 2050. …

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Great Recession onset spurs harsh parenting

Aug. 5, 2013 — The onset of the Great Recession and, more generally, deteriorating economic conditions lead mothers to engage in harsh parenting, such as hitting or shouting at children, a team of researchers has found. But the effect is only found in mothers who carry a gene variation that makes them more likely to react to their environment.The study, conducted by scholars at New York University, Columbia University, Princeton University, and Pennsylvania State University’s College of Medicine, appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).”It’s commonly thought that economic hardship within families leads to stress, which, in turn, leads to deterioration of parenting quality,” said Dohoon Lee, an assistant professor of sociology at NYU and lead author of the paper. “But these findings show that an economic downturn in the larger community can adversely affect parenting — regardless of the conditions individual families face.”The researchers found that harsh parenting increased as economic conditions worsened only for those with what has been called the “sensitive” allele, or variation, of the DRD2 Taq1A genotype, which controls the synthesis of dopamine, a behavior-regulating chemical in the brain. Deteriorating economic conditions had no effect on the level of harsh parenting of mothers without the sensitive allele. Just more than half of the mothers in the study had the sensitive, or T, allele.Likewise, the researchers found that mothers with the sensitive allele had lower levels of harsh parenting when economic conditions were improving compared with those without the sensitive allele.”This finding provides further evidence in favor of the orchid-dandelion hypothesis that humans with sensitive genes, like orchids, wilt or die in poor environments, but flourish in rich environments, whereas dandelions survive in poor and rich environments,” said Irwin Garfinkel, a co-author of the paper and the Mitchell I. Ginsberg Professor of Contemporary Urban Problems at the Columbia University School of Social Work.The findings were based on data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFS), a population-based, birth cohort study conducted by researchers at Princeton and Columbia of nearly 5,000 children born in 20 large American cities between 1998 and 2000. Mothers were interviewed shortly after giving birth and when the child was approximately 1, 3, 5, and 9 years old. Data on harsh parenting were collected when the child was 3, 5, and 9 years old. In Year 9, saliva DNA samples were collected from 2,600 mothers and children.Harsh parenting was measured using 10 items from the commonly used Conflict Tactics Scale — five items measured psychological harsh parenting (e.g., shouting, threatening, etc.) and five gauged corporal punishment (e.g., spanking, slapping).The researchers supplemented these data with measurements of economic conditions in each of the 20 cities where the FFS mothers lived. …

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Study lays groundwork for norovirus anti-viral treatments

July 22, 2013 — An animal model of the human norovirus created at the University of Michigan Health System lays the groundwork for understanding the biology of the pesky virus and developing antiviral drug treatment.Well-known as the virus that impacts cruise ship vacations, norovirus leads to misery on land too. The virus spreads quickly from person to person in any closed-in space, such as schools, nursing homes, or day-care centers.”The first virus in this group was discovered in 1972 following a disease outbreak at a school in Norwalk, Ohio in 1968. Since then research has been underway to culture noroviruses in the laboratory and develop animal models,” says lead researcher Christiane Wobus, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Michigan Medical School.An international group of scientists from the U.S. and Germany authored the study published in mBIO, a journal of the American Society of Microbiology.”Norovirus research has been hampered by the absence of a norovirus cell culture and a genetically manipulable small animal model,” Wobus says. “This new model gives us the tool to test potential antiviral compounds and may lay the foundation to culture these viruses in the lab.”The new model was developed by determining whether human noroviruses can infect “humanized” mice, that is mice containing human immune cells. These mice are widely used for study of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), a virus which can only infect human cells.The study identified macrophages, a vital immune cell in the body, as the cell type infected by the virus.Very few particles of the virus can lead to infection. Estimates are as few as 18 particles can cause gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines) and lead to diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain. In the U.S. norovirus causes approximately 21 million cases of acute gastroenteritis a year, and 800 deaths.”Most people can cope with the symptoms, but deaths are more likely among the elderly mainly because of dehydration,” Wobus says.Only the common cold is more widespread than the norovirus, which can remain on surfaces for weeks, ready to cause more infections. Because it lacks a lipid envelope, norovirus is not susceptible to common disinfectants and alcohol-based sanitizers.The economic impact of these infections is staggering with an economic cost for norovirus associated food-borne outbreaks alone of $5.8 billion in the U.S.There is no vaccine for preventing norovirus infection and no drug to treat it. …

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A woman’s work is never done?

July 22, 2013 — One of the greatest social changes across Europe in recent decades has been the increase of women in the labour market. However, changes in women’s work patterns have not always been matched by changes in the division of household tasks between the sexes, reveals a study from the European Social Survey.So perhaps not unfairly women often feel their work is never done, with those working full-time still responsible, on average, for around two-thirds of the total time heterosexual couples spend on housework. However, with women doing most of the housework this can lead to feelings of work-life conflict – for men!The ‘double-burden’ of paid and domestic work on women’s experiences of work-family conflict was also explored, which found that despite the added burden of being responsible for most of the housework, women in these countries working full-time did not experience greater feelings of work-life conflict than men working similar hours. In fact, these findings from a large study by the ESS suggest that it may be men rather than women who have the most to gain from a more equal distribution of housework between the sexes.Northern European men whose female partners did most of the housework were more likely to experience work-family conflict, compared with men who took on a larger share of the housework. Perhaps men in this situation feel guilty for not doing their fair share or perhaps the unequal division of household tasks creates tension between them and their partner?Additional key findings include:It is still common for women to do the majority of housework, even when they hold down a full-time job; The distribution of household labour is most equal in Nordic countries and least equal in southern Europe; In the UK, 70% of all housework is done by women and still nearly two-thirds of all housework is done by women even if they work over 30 hours per week; In Greece, over 80% of all housework is done by women and for those women working 30 hours or more per week, more than three quarters of them still have responsibility for household chores; Swedish women seem to have the most helpful partners with only two-thirds of all housework done by women, and this figure improves again if they are working more than 30 hours per week. These are some insights into attitudes on moral and social issues that have been revealed in newly published findings from the European Social Survey (ESS) and shows that significant differences between countries still remain despite closer European integration.ESS, whose fieldwork in the UK has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), has collected data from more than 250,000 interviews in 30 countries over the last decade on a wide range of topics that tap into key issues facing contemporary Europe. These include people’s experience of working in a recession, welfare state, political participation, immigrants’ civic participation, fear of crime, well-being, ageism and homosexuality.Paul Boyle, Chief Executive of ESRC, commented: “This latest selection of findings from the European Social Survey provides a valuable insight into attitudinal and behavioural trends across Europe. Despite the closer integration of these countries through the European Community, it highlights that significant differences remain. Only through the production of such rigorous, cross-national data will key stakeholders and policy makers be able to interpret how the social, political and moral fabric is not only changing within individual countries but also throughout Europe as a whole.”Director of the ESS, Rory Fitzgerald, said: “The European Social Survey has been measuring social attitudes and behaviour across Europe for just over a decade. The data paints a fascinating picture of the differences and similarities across Europe and highlights important regional variation. …

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Evolutionary changes could aid fisheries

July 18, 2013 — Sustainable fishing practices could lead to larger fishing yields in the long run, according to a new study that models in detail how ecology and evolution affect the economics of fishing.Evolutionary changes induced by fisheries may benefit the fishers, according to a new study published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. But if fisheries are not well-managed, this potential benefit turns into economic losses, as stocks decline from overfishing and further suffer from evolution.The bad news is that today very few fisheries are managed in a way that will lead to yield increases in the long term. While these fisheries may not be in danger of collapsing, IIASA Evolution and Ecology Program Leader Ulf Dieckmann says, “There is a big difference between preventing stocks from collapsing and managing them so as to achieve an optimal harvest.”The new study, led by 2005 IIASA YSSP participant and Peccei Award winner Anna Maria Eikeset, examines Northeast Arctic cod, one of the most commercially important fisheries in the world. It builds on a growing body of work showing that fisheries-induced evolution typically leads to faster growth and earlier maturation.These evolutionary changes may harm a fishery, since they tend to lead to smaller adult fish and could push the animals to reproduce at too early an age, when they are not yet good at it. On the other hand, the changes can also lead to greater reproduction and hence more fish. But nobody knew how these negative and positive effects balance out economically.The new study shows that the balance depends on how aggressively a stock is fished: if the fish are harvested optimally, evolution helps, whereas if the fish are harvested too aggressively, evolution harms the economic interests of fishers and fishing nations.Consequently, to reap these long-term benefits, fisheries managers must first cut back substantially on the amount of fish that are harvested today.”Harvesting Northeast Arctic cod optimally means taking 50% less fish,” says Dieckmann. “Our model shows that by making this substantial cut and waiting for the stock to rebuild, evolution and natural growth could lead to sustainable yields over 30% greater than today.”

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Cheerful women are not associated with leadership qualities, but proud ones are, study finds

June 4, 2013 — Women are perceived as being more willing to lead if they show that they are proud of their personal performance. If, however, they give a cheerful impression, they are judged to have less willingness to leadership roles than men who display similar emotions. This is one of the initial findings of a long-term project in which economic researchers at Technische Universität München (TUM) are investigating the selection and assessment of leaders. They found that women themselves still expect more leadership qualities from men. In the next stage of their project, the TUM researchers want to develop gender-neutral HR management training programs.To increase their share of leadership positions, women are expected to tick a range of boxes — usually demonstrating improved negotiation skills, networking strengths and the ability to develop a strategic career ladder. “But even these skills are not enough,” maintains Professor Isabell Welpe of TUM’s Chair for Strategy and Organization. “They ignore the fact that there are stereotypes that on a subconscious level play a decisive role in the assessment of high achievers. Leaders should be assertive, dominant and hard-lined; women are seen as mediators, friendly, social.”Economic researchers from TUM decided to investigate the mechanisms behind the selection and assessment of leaders in business and academia and ways to challenge stereotypes. They presented their initial findings at a symposium yesterday.In a number of studies, researchers presented a variety of scenarios with (potential) leaders and their employees to randomly selected individuals. They then asked the study participants about their perceptions and expectations.It emerged that the same behavior exhibited by women and men in leadership positions is assessed in different ways. …

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For development in Brazil, two crops are better than one

Apr. 22, 2013 — It’s not just about agriculture. Growing two crops a year in the same field improves schools, helps advance public sanitation, raises median income, and creates jobs.

New research finds that double cropping — planting two crops in a field in the same year — is associated with positive signs of economic development for rural Brazilians.

The research focused the state of Mato Grosso, the epicenter of an agricultural revolution that has made Brazil one of the world’s top producers of soybeans, corn, cotton, and other staple crops. That Brazil has become an agricultural powerhouse over the last decade or so is clear. What has been less clear is who is reaping the economic rewards of that agricultural intensification — average Brazilians or wealthy landowners and outside investors.

Leah VanWey, associate professor of sociology at Brown University and the study’s lead author, says her results suggest at least one type of agricultural intensification — double cropping — is associated with development that improves well-being for average rural Brazilians.

Looking at agricultural and economic data from the last decade, VanWey found that in municípios (counties) where double cropping is common, GDP and median per capita income were both substantially higher. Double cropping was also associated with higher quality schools and better public sanitation. “We looked at two indicators of private goods and two indicators of public goods,” VanWey said. “Overall, we find this really nice pattern of impacts on development associated with double cropping. These benefits seem to be widespread through the population.”

Meanwhile, intensification to single-crop fields from pasture with low stocking rates was not associated with development gains, the research found. VanWey says that is probably because double cropping is more labor intensive, which creates jobs, and more lucrative, which creates more tax revenue that can be invested in public goods. That was evidenced by a case study of two counties within Mato Grosso that was part of this new research.

“The community with the most double cropping also has a soy processing plant that employs thousands of workers as well as complementary poultry and swine raising and processing,” VanWey said. “In the long run there isn’t much money in just growing things and selling them, but processing allows the local area and workers to retain more of the per-unit cost of the final product.”

The findings are published in an issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B focused on agricultural development in Brazil.

Mato Grosso has drawn much attention from scholars in recent years. It is not only the heart of Brazil’s agricultural production but also sits on the border of the nation’s cerrada (savanna) biome and the Amazon rainforest biome. Some evidence over the last decade suggests that even as agricultural production in the state has increased, deforestation in the Amazon region has slowed. For that reason, the state is seen by many as a model for agricultural development that minimizes harm to the environment.

To understand how land use is associated with economic development, VanWey teamed with John Mustard, professor of geological sciences at Brown, and Stephanie Spera, Mustard’s graduate student. Spera and Mustard used imaging from NASA’s Terra satellite to track land use changes in Mato Grosso from 2000 to 2011. They captured satellite images of the region every 16 days for a year. They looked for peaks in the greenness of the fields followed by a rapid loss of greenness, indicating the ripening and subsequent harvesting of a crop. Two peaks in greenness in the same year is an indicator that a field is double-cropped. Spera and Mustard recorded images from 2000 to 2001, and again from 2010 to 2011, to see how usage had changed over the decade. They found substantial increases in both single- and double-cropped fields.

VanWey then matched those data to local economic data, with the help of Brown undergraduates Rebecca de Sa and Dan Mahr.

The research showed that intensification to single-crop fields from pasture had no effect on economic variables. Double cropping, however, was associated with strong gains. For example, where double cropping was common, median income was substantially higher. According to VanWey’s calculations, median income for citizens of Mato Grosso would be decreased from 346 Brazilian reals per month (about $190) to 144 reals without the effects of double cropping. On the other hand, if all areas double cropped, monthly income would increase to 459 reals.

“[Double cropping] increases median incomes in an entire county, not just among people working in agriculture,” VanWey said. “So I’m arguing that it’s going to have these effects on the entire economy by providing employment that’s related to the agriculture.”

The positive association with public goods such as schools was strong as well. For that analysis, VanWey looked at a 10-point quality assessment scale used by the Brazilian government. She calculated that if all areas of Mato Grosso double cropped, scores on the assessment for public schools would increase from an average of 4.2 to 5.4.

The increases in measures of both personal wealth and public goods suggest widespread economic development associated with double cropping, VanWey concludes. However she’s not yet ready to advocate for public policy steps like blanket subsidies for double cropping. More research needs to be done, she says, to find out why double cropping thrives in some places but not others.

She and her colleagues are working on those questions now.

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Weekends are the best time to buy airline tickets, study finds

May 22, 2013 — While folk wisdom has its place, the “folks” may not be so wise when it comes to shopping for airline tickets, say researchers at Texas A&M University.

“There’s been this industry folk wisdom that says Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the best days to purchase airline tickets,” says Steven Puller, an associate professor of economics at Texas A&M who specializes in industrial organization. “But we couldn’t find any systematic analysis to back that up.”

Rather, he says, the weekend is the best time to book airline tickets because airlines are more likely to discount fares on Saturday and Sunday.

In the study “Price Discrimination By Day-Of-Week Of Purchase: Evidence From The U.S. Airline Industry,” published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Puller and co-author Lisa Taylor, a former Texas A&M graduate student, found that tickets purchased on the weekend were, on average, 5 percent cheaper than similar tickets purchased on weekdays.

“We find that when you control for a large set of factors — the day-of-week of travel, whether the ticket was refundable, the number of days in advance that the ticket was purchased, how full the flights were, and other factors — that tickets purchased on the weekends were sold, on average, for a 5 percent discount,” Puller explains.

The study further finds this weekend purchase discount is greatest on routes with a mix of both business and leisure customers. There is not much of this type of discount for leisure destinations such as Orlando or Las Vegas, Puller notes.

The researchers suggest, although do not definitively conclude, that this weekend purchase effect reflects a common practice known as “price discrimination.”

This happens when the same service is sold at different prices to different buyers, in this case, based on the day of the week that an airline ticket is purchased.

Puller says the airlines try to play the odds when deciding how to price flights.

“Take a route that serves both business and leisure travelers,” he explains. “If the business travelers primarily purchase tickets on weekdays, then the typical traveler buying on the weekend is more likely to be a price-sensitive leisure traveler than a business traveler. There is an incentive for the airlines to lower fares on the weekends to try to entice the price-sensitive leisure traveler to buy a ticket.”

But how do the airlines know if a particular buyer is travelling for leisure or business? “They don’t,” Puller contends. “They’re playing the odds.”

The researchers conducted the study by looking at a historical archive of actual tickets purchased on all major airlines. Puller says the study compared tickets with similar characteristics rather than simply looking at the cheapest fare available.

“If you’re a traveler who just wants to get from point A to point B for the cheapest price possible, then these findings may not apply to you,” he notes. “But many people do care about these factors.”

The researchers only studied round-trip flights with nonstop service. The study did not examine first-class airfare or the holiday travel periods around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.

Puller says these results could have implications for other industries that have the ability to change prices daily based on the types of customers who purchase on a specific day. “The software systems that are used in airline pricing are used in other industries such as cruises, hotels, car rentals,” he explains. “We’ve only analyzed airline pricing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if similar pricing practices are used in these other industries as well.”

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