Thursday, July 21, 2011

Absurdly naive study of the effects of marriage on children

Excerpt from a media report below. The researchers found that children tended to have similar levels of educational achievement to their parents regardless of whether the parents were married or not. Any student of IQ could have predicted that. IQ is overwhelmingly hereditary and negligibly influenced by the family environment. And IQ is the chief determinant of educational success. So the finding tells us nothing new or relevant

What is interesting is the socio-emotional progress of the child. What the study found was that parents reported satisfactory development in that respect regardless of whether they were married or not.

But that finding is entirely consistent with the children of marriages being better off in social development. It could well mean that married couples expect more of their children and so are less satisified even though the kids are quite good by objective standards

I note however that I have not been able to find online the full details of the study. The so-called more detailed report put online by the IFS is very scant on detail.

And what are economists at a fiscal studies body doing carrying out such research? When non-psychologists do psychological research they very commonly make methodological howlers. And even many psychologists can be psychometrically naive and end up using invalid measuring instruments. Being a psychometrician, I must have had a hundred or more academic publications pointing that out.

NO conclusions would seem warranted by this study

David Cameron's promised tax-break for couples has been dealt a blow after an influential think tank found that marriage actually provides few benefits to children.

Instead, the Institute for Fiscal Studies says that parents' qualifications are more likely to help or hinder the educational and emotional development of a child. It found there was 'little or no evidence' to support the idea that marital status affects children in the commonly held belief, pouring cold water on Mr Cameron's plans to fix 'Broken Britain.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies concedes that there is a difference but says this is down to the education attainment of a child's mother and father.

The report from the IFS concluded: 'We can find no strong evidence that marriage leads to better cognitive or social outcomes for children than cohabitation. 'Policies aimed at encouraging parents to get married before they bear children thus require a rationale other than one based on the impact of marriage on child development.'

Ellen Greaves, research economist at the IFS, said: 'It is true that children born to married couples are on average more cognitively and emotionally successful than children born to cohabiting couples.

'But careful analysis shows that this largely reflects the differences between the types of people who decide to get married and those who don't. 'On average those who marry tend to come from more advantaged families, and are more cognitively and emotionally successful themselves, than those who cohabit.

'This explains the differences in outcomes for children. Marriage itself appears to confer little, if any, benefit in terms of child development.'

The children were broken up into three different age groups and then asked to carry out tasks. The three-year-olds had their vocabulary tested by being asked to identify pictures.

Five-year-olds had to recognise patterns and also had their vocabulary tested while the seven-year-olds were given basic maths problems and had to answer word recognition.

The second part of the study, sponsored by the Nuffield Institute, involved the questioning of parents to find out how they believed their child was developing through a series of 40 questions.

For their study the IFS used information from the Millennium Cohort Study, a sample of children born in the UK in the early 2000s; and the British Cohort Study, a census of individuals born in a particular week in 1970, whose children were surveyed in 2004.


The BBC's bias has been one of the most shaming aspects of this entire sorry saga

Ten years ago, BBC2’s Newsnight devoted an entire show to the resignation of Peter Mandelson as Northern Ireland Secretary. I described it in these pages as one of the most shocking programmes I had ever seen.

Though this was the second occasion on which the accident-prone Mr Mandelson had been forced to resign, the programme was almost entirely sympathetic to him. Only political allies were summoned to mutter reverentially over his political corpse. For a terrifying moment, the BBC was synonymous with New Labour.

A BBC boxwallah later conceded that the coverage had been unbalanced, and issued a kind of half apology. Will the Corporation make amends for an equally shocking example of bias on Tuesday evening’s Newsnight?

The subject under discussion was Rupert Murdoch. Various people were gathered to offer their point of view. Virtually everyone was hostile. The media mogul was by common consent a thoroughly bad thing.

There were contributions from the veteran American investigative journalist Carl Bernstein, Earl Spencer (brother of Princess Diana), the novelist Will Self and a Tory MP called Louise Mensch. All were in varying degrees critical of Mr Murdoch and his newspapers, and some widened their attack to include the whole of the popular Press.

The lugubrious Mr Self even opined that Mr Murdoch had introduced the culture of envy into British society. Perhaps he should re-read a few Victorian novels when he has the time. Needless to say, this idiocy was not even questioned by the Newsnight presenter, Gavin Esler.

Not only was there no one present to speak up for Mr Murdoch, there weren’t even any neutral parties to say what I happen to believe — that there are good things and bad things about the Press tycoon and his influence on our culture, and it is facile to portray him in a wholly negative way.

I appreciate that Newsnight is hardly mainstream viewing, and that it enjoys a small audience. But it is worth citing as a kind of bellweather of BBC coverage, which has been unremittingly hostile to Mr Murdoch and his newspapers over the past couple of weeks. For all his sins, wasn’t he the man who saved newspapers by defeating rapacious trade unions? Hasn’t he kept The Times going for 30 years despite losses of hundreds of millions of pounds?

Let me restrict myself to other examples of BBC bias from the past 48 hours. Tuesday evening’s News At Ten reported Mr Murdoch saying that he had been asked to enter No 10 by the back door so as to escape notice when visiting David Cameron, but cut his subsequent remark that he did exactly the same when calling on Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Later in the bulletin, the Corporation’s political editor, Nick Robinson, and its business editor, Robert Peston, lined up like a couple of undertakers to pass judgment on Mr Murdoch’s performance, and that of his son James, in front of the Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.

Much as I respect Mr Robinson, and accept that he normally strives to be even-handed, his account of Rupert Murdoch being uniformly doddery and out of touch with his company was somewhat selective. He also came close to suggesting that David Cameron had been ‘compromised’, and declared that he was in a ‘quagmire’.

Perhaps he is, but this is the kind of judgment one expects from a newspaper commentator, not a supposedly neutral reporter on our public service broadcaster. BBC journalists who used to restrict themselves to reporting events are increasingly drawn into punditry, and so are bound to sound partial. In recent weeks that has meant being virulently ‘anti-Murdoch’.

On yesterday’s Today programme on Radio 4, Sarah Montague interviewed Trevor Kavanagh, a columnist on the Murdoch-owned Sun.

Though he has no executive responsibilities, and does not even visit the Sun’s offices, Ms Montague insisted he state that phone hacking had never occurred on his newspaper. Mr Kavanagh, who handled himself well, should have demanded the same assurance from her about the BBC.

Later on the programme, the same Sarah Montague interviewed the distinguished novelist P.D. James, who is 91 in a couple of weeks. Lo and behold, after a few moments Ms Montague turned the subject around to the BBC’s unflagging obsession — phone hacking.

I could go on. Anyone with a grouse against Rupert Murdoch is invited to dilate without any requirement to produce evidence. A Panorama ‘special’ about him on BBC1 on Monday evening was a straightforward hatchet job in which ‘victims’ of the News of the World (some of them men whom you would not necessarily invite home to meet your mother) queued up to denigrate him and his newspapers. Barely a word was said in his favour.

Naturally, I don’t deny that the phone-hacking affair is an extremely important story, which has rightly been covered extensively by all media organisations. My point is that the BBC has not treated Rupert Murdoch fairly. It has conjured up a rampant monster. Moreover, its preoccupation with the scandal has been so all-consuming that it has downplayed or ignored other important stories, such as the increasingly worrying tribulations of the Eurozone and the worsening economic prospects in this country.

None of this would matter very much if the BBC were not a subsidised public sector broadcaster with a greater ‘reach’ than all of its rivals combined. (How much of it would survive if it were forced to compete in the cut and thrust of the commercial market?) By the way, the estimated audience of all BBC news bulletins on television and radio is some 20 times greater than that of the Murdoch-controlled Sky News, which has been reporting the scandal with commendable objectivity — unlike the BBC.

As an institution, the BBC loathes Murdoch because he has brilliantly built BSkyB into a formidable programming rival, and in particular shattered the Corporation’s former pre-eminence in sports coverage. And, of course, many Left-leaning BBC journalists (which means most of them) regard him as an anti-Christ for being Right-wing, unashamedly pro-American, and a free marketeer.

He is too powerful, and so I am glad he is not proceeding with his bid to acquire the rest of BskyB. He has in some respects impoverished our culture — for example, by introducing ‘Page 3 girls’. But he has also done some good things, and however much it may distress high-minded liberals such as the aforementioned Carl Bernstein, of Watergate fame, millions of people choose to buy and read his newspapers.

Incidentally, Mr Bernstein would do well to ponder the fact that nearly all American newspapers driven by obsessive liberal agendas are dying — undermined by unappealing journalism and the kind of pomposity he displayed this week.

Yesterday, Mr Cameron announced that broadcasting organisations including the BBC will also be investigated by Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry into Press ethics. Will the inquiry panellists (most of whom are of a distinctly centre-Left hue) look at the Corporation’s coverage of this scandal? I’m not betting on it.

But I still hope that the BBC — the only media organisation in Britain that regulates itself — will examine its shaming coverage of this scandal, and in particular Tuesday’s edition of Newsnight.

Imagine the Murdoch media writing about a crisis in the BBC in the sort of biased and tendentious way that the Corporation has covered his travails. There would be an outcry, and rightly so. That is the measure of the failings of our impregnable public service broadcaster in reporting this story.


Herman Cain Catches Heat Over Mosque Comments

Bob McCarty

When I saw Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain come under fire over the weekend for comments he made about the construction of mosques in the United States, I couldn’t help but chuckle. Why? Because, in my not-too-distant past, I worked with churches nationwide as an audio-video design and installation consultant. From my office at Norman, Okla.-based Fowler, Inc. I traveled the country and was involved in the construction process from project design and blueprints to final construction.

For almost five years during the late 1990s, I worked with hundreds of Christian leaders across the country whose churches were engaged in new construction projects. I witnessed firsthand how, in many parts of the United States, it required a minimum of several months of cutting through bureaucratic red tape for church bodies to gain approval of new construction or renovation projects from their respective local government planning and zoning commissions. Sometimes, it took years as members of those government bodies seemed to work overtime in putting up roadblocks.

Six years have passed since I left Norman, but my contacts in the industry tell me little has changed. Though I have no way of knowing whether or not the delays stem from anti-Christian bias, I suspect some do. But do you read about the delays caused by local government bureaucrats? Rarely.

On the flip side of the coin, however, it becomes headline news across the country for citizens in a U.S. town or city to oppose construction of a mosque — or for a presidential candidate like Cain to hold such a position.

An Atlanta radio talk show host and former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, Cain generated a lot of buzz Sunday when he used Murfreesboro, Tenn., as an example. In short, he told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace that protests and legal challenges to a planned mosque in that city are an example of local residents pushing back. Painted as most controversial, however, was his contention that his view doesn’t amount to religious discrimination, because Muslims are trying to inject Shariah law into the U.S.

Cain’s comments fall in line with the thinking that allowing Shariah Law in this country is akin to committing national suicide.

When all is said and done, however, the controversy above leads to two logical conclusions: As Americans, we must promote the spread of Christian family values in order to stem the spread of Islamic beliefs and Sharia Law. In addition, we must get involved in politics at every level of government — down to and including the planning and zoning commissions — in order to prevent the possibility of anti-Christian bias via government bodies.


Rick Perry's Christianity is Good for America

Ben Shapiro

For those who couldn't tell from my name, I'm a Jew. Not only am I Jew, I'm an Orthodox Jew. I pray three times a day to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I keep kosher. I wear phylacteries in the morning, and I say the Shema at night.

And I love Texas Gov. Rick Perry's "The Response."

On August 6, Perry is hosting a "day of prayer and fasting" in Houston. "With the economy in trouble, communities in crisis, people adrift in a sea of moral relativism, we need God's help," Perry said in announcing the event. "That's why I'm calling on Americans to pray and fast, like Jesus did, and as God called the Israelites to do."

The left has entered the same bizarre and fetishistic anti-religious frenzy they always do when someone on the right mentions God. Asking God's help and guidance constitutes abdication of personal responsibility according to Justin Elliott of Salon, who headlined his idiotic piece on The Response, "Rick Perry Platform: Let God Figure it Out." Barry Lynn, executive director of the secularist Americans United for Separation of Church and State, remarked, "I have never seen a governor initiate and lead this kind of Christians-only prayer rally." The Freedom from Religion Foundation sued to try to stop Perry from attending the rally, even though it's not a state-sponsored event.

There is nothing wrong with Perry's "The Response." In fact, it is profoundly right to request that God look kindly and benevolently on the United States of America. Even those who don't believe in God should be able to recognize that peaceful public displays of faith strengthen the unity of our nation.

Reliance on God allows Americans to stop turning on one another, as President Obama would prefer. Class warfare is simply un-Christian; it is profoundly anti-religious, since it presumes that property is not God's to distribute, but man's to redistribute. There is a reason why Marx despised religion and why Marxism's first dictate in any country is the destruction of Christianity. Furthermore, there is no question whatsoever that the religious community in America provides more charity per capita than the non-religious community.

As to the odd notion that Christians such as Perry are Waiting for Godot to create jobs and solve unemployment, Perry's own record contradicts that. Under his watch, Texas has created more jobs than all the other states combined during Perry's time as governor. If Perry's Christianity is a factor in his politics, there are plenty of other governors who might want to open up the Bible.

Those who are concerned about Perry's openly Christian worship are again wrongheaded. For folks who love to spout about diversity, they sure hate to see it in action when the word "Jesus" is used.

This is where the rubber meets the road for Perry's Jewish critics. "There are many houses of worship here in Texas, not just Christian churches," said Kim Kamen of the American Jewish Committee about "The Response." "As the leader of our state, we hope he will bear that in mind." Overall, the Jewish community remains uneasy about public displays of Christianity.

They shouldn't. Perry is Christian, yes. So are the vast majority of those who will attend "The Response." In fact, so are almost 80 percent of Americans. And Perry's brand of Christianity is what maintains the sacredness of Judaism and the unbreakable bond between America and Israel. Invocation of Jesus shouldn't just be tolerated uncomfortably by the American Jewish community -- it should be welcomed.

The same people who believe deeply in Jesus are now standing shoulder-by-shoulder with the Jewish state. While fellow Jews like Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic babble that people shouldn't donate money to help Israel fight fires because Israel is "a rich country," Christians like Perry donate the cash that helps put out the fires. Would that we had more Perrys in the world and fewer Goldbergs.

Overall, "The Response" is a net positive for the country, without a doubt. Those who despise traditional religion in general -- pro-abortionists, militant gay-marriage activists -- oppose "The Response" for their own reasons. But everyone else, religious and secular, should recognize the overwhelming good that displays like "The Response" do for the nation. Americans still stand for God and country. Remove one half of that equation, and the rest of the structure falls.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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