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    The GSS asks people about the morality of premarital sex between post-pubescent minors (TEENSEX):Most people say "always wrong," so I'll just look at those responses; the other responses have little room to vary since all must add up to 100%. How does opposition vary across demographic groups? [1] As for social class, the elites say...
  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    How much of the response variation could be due to the attitude towards precise speech? I struggle with questions like these — surely there is some situation when almost any behavior is justified? This issue could be answered by adding in the “almost always wrong” responses to see if it changes the curve.

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  • Class is a state of mind, not income. I’m sure class is related to intelligence, but it is not so clear that it’s related to education. 
     
    Possibly I’m thinking of a different type “class” and it is perhaps related to being a cultural southerner.

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  • How do rates of actually having had sex aged 14-16 vary across the demographic criteria used here? 
     
    This is a very good question. 
     
    People say one thing, typically what they are expected to say by society and their social millieu but usually do what their genes have programmed them to do :-)

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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    How do rates of actually having had sex aged 14-16 vary across the demographic criteria used here? If you did have sex before 16 yet suffered no ill consequences, would you be more likely not to think of it as unequivocally wrong? If rates declined with higher socio-economic status, education etc., as did the effect of negative consequences (since at least some of them are mitigable with money), then that could explain the hump in the middle.

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  • One interesting thing is that people of average intelligence/education seem to be more opposed to teen sex than people above or below. I hypothesize there may be some of Kohlberg’s stages of moral development at play here. People at the bottom may simply think “What’s wrong with that? It feels good!”. People in the middle say, “It’s dangerous to have sex that early, it can lead to all sorts of problems. It’s best to not do it at all.” The most educated people are thinking, “Well, it’s not always bad. It does sometimes work out.” 
     
    Another interesting thing is that income doesn’t seem to matter much, while education and intelligence do. I don’t have the numbers. Which is more heritable, income or education level? Knowing this could give a hint as to whether moral views about teen sex are more a product of genes or environment.

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  • It makes me wonder what the approval rates are for sex outside marriage for the various respondent age groups. Do people who disapprove of unmarried teens having sex also disapprove of older unmarried people having sex, and if so, at similar rates?

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  • Other factors that seem obvious: poorer people are more likely to think that their children will become mothers or fathers in their early teens, a poor 16 year old mother is much less likely to be able to get an education and/or a decent career path, wealthier parent/child sets are more likely to all agree that abortion is an acceptable option…

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  • Or, you’re more opposed to something you could actually see your kids doing. Lower class and lower intelligence people have lower future time orientation, and so do their kids. Therefore the parents will be more likely to be strongly opposed to it. 
     
    This still falls under the “fast vs. slow” life history explanation that I gave.

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  • Because “premarsx,” real income, and education all show a pronounced secular trend you really ought to be doing the analysis within a single year or controlling for period effects. 
     
    Do they? For EDUC, yes, due to the education bubble. But checking SEI(c:5,17), REALINC(c:10000,5000), and WORDSUM by YEAR, restricting YEAR to 1986-2006 (when the TEENSEX question was asked), there’s no strong secular trend. 
     
    But I repeated the original searches, only going in roughly 5-year intervals, and the patterns look the same.

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  • Because “premarsx,” real income, and education all show a pronounced secular trend you really ought to be doing the analysis within a single year or controlling for period effects.

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  • Or, you’re more opposed to something you could actually see your kids doing. Lower class and lower intelligence people have lower future time orientation, and so do their kids. Therefore the parents will be more likely to be strongly opposed to it.

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  • [Updated]After declining pretty steadily from 1991 to 2005, in 2006 teen birth rates showed a slight uptick. Rather than swallow what the mass media and doomsaying blogosphere infers, read the report for yourself -- what you want to know is contained in the first 5 to 10 pages. Since most people worry about the long-term...
  • Mark,  
     
    I read that story about the Amish girl who had been molested. The story itself does not address the prevalence of sexual abuse of minors. To expect zero incidence would be naive.  
     
    I did once read an analysis of mental health services for the Amish wherein the Amish surveyed felt that therapy for mental illness obtained outside of their communities was more effective than the help they could get within their community.

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  • I understand your point about the Amish perhaps stealing a cow. However my point was that indoctrination and social structure (which yur example illustrates) are key to low crime. Also, I believe the topic was really violent crime and the Amish have low incidence of murder as well. As for sexual abuse of minors, I haven’t heard of that, but I am not an expert on the Amish. That also may be how you define it. A woman marrying at age 14 might be considered by some to be abuse, but in human history, well, rather ordinary. I have no idea if Amish marry young, perhaps they don’t. Certainly no group of humans can boast perfection, nor its approximation. Any comparison of crime is, of course, relative.

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  • The Amish have _very_ low crime rates. 
     
    But high IQs
     
    Some people who have left the Amish faith or might otherwise be in the know contend that sexual abuse of minors is rampant in Amish communities.

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  • On the Amish: 
     
    Poverty is a factor in the crime rate, but only because crime looks better relative to legal options when you’re poor. In an Amish society, this link is missing– what are you going to steal, a cow
     
    Also, smaller communities tend to have lower crime rates if only because it’s much harder to commit a crime and get away with it. Let’s say you steal a cow– don’t you think your neighbors will notice? 
     
    So Amish communities aren’t the best for comparisons.

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  • The Amish have _very_ low crime rates.

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  • Oh Ok. I apologize to you. I was in a foul mood yesterday. 
     
    I really do enjoy your posts. 
     
    I still think you’re a pussy, however. We understand: you can’t help being a loser.

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  • “Check out the Amish; dirt poor and low crime.” 
     
    Dangerously inexact. Let us say instead that the Amish have few crimes that come to the attention of, or are reported to, outsiders. 
     
    Comparing the law of general society with the law of theirs is of course apples and oranges in any case.

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  • Again anecdotal, but loads of fun if you’re interested in accounts of late 19th early 20th c. Jewish thugs and gang-bangers – try googling “Monk Eastman.”

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  • “It’s only correlated with crime here and now. Look at Ashkenazi Jews and Northeast Asian immigrants anywhere they went in the late 19th and early 20th C — no crime waves. Low IQ, impulsiveness / high time preference, and lack of empathy / psychoticism is what causes crime.” 
     
    um, ashkenazis were at least popularly blamed for crimes waves in the 20s and 30s when they started muscling into organize crime. and the explanation for why jews got into the racket is, predictably enough, “dislocation and poverty.” http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9805E4D71738F93BA3575BC0A962948260 
     
    and of course, the chinese had their tong battles in SF and NYC — there is even a street in NYC’s chinatown that was called “bloody angle” because so many tong killings took place there. http://www.sfmuseum.org/sfpd/sfpd4.html 
     
    that said, my lazy-ass googling of the subject didn’t turn up any hard data (all the evidence i could find is pretty anecdotal), though i’d be curious to know if ashkenaz and chinese actually had comparable, or lower, violent crime rates than gentile whites of the same class at the time.

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  • Agnostic, post my follow-up comment with whatever dumbass editorializing you want. I’ll post what I please.  
     
    Or just acknowledge you are, and always will be, a pussy.. The final desperate words of a total loser. Don’t try to blame others for your lack of social skills and reading comprehension ability. If you can’t figure out what people are talking about, just ask. As of now, you bore me, therefore further retarded comments will be deleted.

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  • I remember upgrading my modem in late 1990 – going from a 2400 to a 9600 IIRC – with the intention of using it for dialup SLIP connection, and also for downloading software updates and patches from Bulletin Boards. When I asked the store owner if he knew of any “good Bulletin boards”, he gave me a knowing smile and said he would be willing to trade numbers – i.e. for porn BB’s – I had no idea what he was talking about, and he abruptly changed the topic and walked off. 
    A few months later I was on the Internet and discover alt.sex.* and other sites, but it could take 2 to 20 minutes to download an image of a bikini clad girl – so wasn’t really worth the hassle, and could barely be called porn by today’s standards. I had better luck downloading from alt.sex.stories 
     
    So I think there was some real online porn, known to a very small percentage of people, but it mostly wasn’t on the Internet per se, but on discreet Bulletin Boards.

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  • Dude- alt.sex wasn’t spontaneously generated and simply let loose. There was a pre-existing demand of internet users that called for its creation. [So what? It's obvious that we're talking about how typical or common something was at some time, not whether 0 or greater than 0 people were using it.] 
     
    When something transitions to “common” I neither know nor care, [Then butt out of the conversation, which IS about this] but the proposition that by 1990 internet porn was not available to anyone with the minimum know-how and desire is incorrect. [The entire thread has been about whether or not the percent of people downloading internet porn was sufficient to cause a decrease in the teen pregnancy rate. It's also clear that "no one" means hardly anyone, as in "no one had a cell phone in 1980," even though greater than 0 did. Natural language is not logical language.]

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  • alt.sex was created on April 3, 1988. By 1990, that cat was way out of the bag. 
     
    That cat was way out of the bag, but hardly anyone was playing with it. 
     
    We’re talking about social history — how the percent of people downloading internet porn has changed over time, or where they got it from if not the internet, etc. 
     
    So when something was created is irrelevant, except to establish a lower-bound for when something was common. I could make a similar autistic argument that the cell phone was “way out of the bag” in 1980. 
     
    Only if we’re talking about some technology that has a huge impact when even a few people own it — nuclear weapons, bulletproof vests, etc. — does its existence matter, rather than the percent of everyone who use it. 
     
    Internet porn does not belong there. We are talking about mass consumption of it, and how that might affect the way people live.

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  • alt.sex was created on April 3, 1988. By 1990, that cat was way out of the bag.

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  • Agnostic: 
    No violent crime is clearly what I meant. 
     
    That actually wasn’t very clear. But now that it is clear, I feel better about not taking the time to debate this with you. : ) We’re not disagreeing as much as I originally thought.

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  • It’s only correlated with crime here and now. Look at Ashkenazi Jews and Northeast Asian immigrants anywhere they went in the late 19th and early 20th C — no crime waves. 
     
    In parts of the US organized crime was controlled by Ashkenazi Jews. The Purple Gang in Detroit is the most famous group. Some of the Jewish neighborhoods were very tough. There’s a memoir called “Jews WIthout Money” and several books about the Jewish mobs.  
     
    Teen pregnancy was highest around 1950-1960. It’s not really a problem if a 16 year old teenager can get an OK job and if the father marries the mother. There are people around here now in their late sixties and early seventies who dropped out of tenth grade to start families. 
     
    The worse the job market is and the higher the training requirements, the worse the effect of teen pregnancy are — including 19 year old pregnancy, and even if the couple marries. The people I know got jobs as laborers or truck drivers and worked their way up, but that life plan is less and less practical. And even so, the successful ones only worked their way up to the lower middle class. Even auto mechanics need schooling now.

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  • Looking at the numbers on the Y-axes on your graphs for whites/Asians and NAMs, I’d say there’s plenty to worry about. Teen pregnancy is the least of it. 
     
    As for teen pregnancy, it seems that it should go up eventually because the quickest way a woman can reproduce her genes is to get pregnant as a teen. If you were a woman who wanted to reproduce your genes, what would you do? Crank out as many babies as possible with the highest quality men you could find (in practice this would probably mean alphas). The state will take care of them if you can’t, and if you are going to do it yourself, better you should do it when your mom is still young enough to help (also better that you should be 30 and not 50 when your little treasure starts cranking out her own bastards). 
     
    I don’t have time to try to confirm or refute this right now – if I did I would try to find out if women who start young have above-average reproduction rates. Maybe tomorrow. But I strongly suspect that they do, that not all of them are going to be susceptible to the harmful (from an evolutionary point of view) trend against teen pregnancy, and that those who aren’t susceptible will tend to increase as long as the strategy is viable.

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  • I tried to write a response before you most recent one agnostic, but for some reason it never got through. Anyway, I’ll address your latest argument. 
     
    15% of households had a computer in 1990, overall, but the numbers were significantly higher for households with some college education (19.4%) and college degrees (23.7%). If we’re talking about upper middle-class, which I’m assuming more readers of GNPX are, then the numbers were probably closer to 20% or 1/5 of families owning computers in 1990. For the sake of argument, say half had the traditional modem connection to the internet. 
     
    If only 10% of households had internet access, would this have made the viewing of internet pornography by teenagers uncommon? I don’t think so. The first kid in class that figured out how to get access to porn would probably share valuable secret this with his friends. From the comments above, and from experience, this kind of sharing seems to be quite common among adolescent boys. Even with only 1 out of every 10 kids with direct access to internet porn, easily 30-40% of kids could have been viewing it in 1990, making it fairly common. Of course, that number would have increased rapidly to the 80-90% we have now. Anyway, this is just to say that your argument based on 15% of households having a computer doesn’t amount to much, although I don’t have any counter-data. 
     
    My missing comments were to the effect that internet porn has always been somewhat of a taboo topic, and is certainly not as innocuous as something like cellphone use, which may explain it’s lack of representation in the popular culture (something which continues today except in R-rated movies).

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  • Or again, show me a pop culture reference to the commonness or ubiquity of internet porn from the early or mid ’90s. It’s trivial to do so for things that were common, like dirty magazines, VHS tapes, etc. 
     
    Okay maybe you’re right about internet porn not really being common until the mid/late 1990′s, but maybe the rise in pornography was through those other things you mention: increase in VHS, magazines, etc. This trend may still be partly responsible for the decrease in teen birth rates. 
     
    I still agree with Keith in a sense though, I think you are underestimating the resourcefulness of the horny teenage boy. It wouldn’t surprise me if they were already sneaking onto adult bulletin boards and newsgroups in the early 1990′s. If it was there, they would have found it; porn is reputed to be ones of main drivers of the growth of the internet. Just because your social group wasn’t clued in, doesn’t mean it wasn’t common. 
     
    And you really think this sort of activity would emerge into pop culture that quickly? Personal porn habits aren’t as innocuous as cell phones. I don’t think internet porn gets the treatment in pop culture even today that it could given its ubiquity. It’s still a somewhat taboo topic, except in R-rated comedies.

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  • OK, forget the prevalence of modems. Just look at rates of computer ownership: 
     
    http://www.bls.gov/opub/ils/pdf/opbils31.pdf 
     
    In 1990, 15% of households had a computer — obviously those with a modem were even fewer. Just under 1/4 of college graduate households had a computer. 
     
    The US Census didn’t even track computer usage until 1994, and didn’t track internet usage until 1997 — reflecting that reality that neither was very common before those dates. 
     
    http://www.nchs.census.gov/cps/computer/sdata.htm

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  • Actually, there was quite a bit of crime amongst the Ashkenazim, just not as much violent crime 
     
    But the context here is whether or not “poverty causes crime,” and no one argues that jaywalking or embezzlement is caused by poverty. No violent crime is clearly what I meant.

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  • Agnostic, in 1990 when my brother and I were on the internet, you were 10 years old, of course you weren’t downloading porn.  
     
    When I was 10, my friends and I stole or otherwise collected pages from our parents’ dirty magazines, or however we got them, and even had a good hiding system (in board games that we never played, or even buried in a nearby area that no one went to). And we had computers with modems. And we had older siblings who knew how to use them. If it were common, we would’ve known about it. 
     
    This kind of information travels fast in high school; a lot of teen boys were doing this in my very typical suburb. 
     
    Your suburb was atypical — everyone would have been doing it by the mid-’90s. And they weren’t — I would have noticed. Just like I would’ve noticed if cell phones were common in 1995 or before (they weren’t — cell phone ownership reached 40% in 2000). 
     
    Show me a graph of the percent of homes in the US that had a modem, as a function of time. They weren’t common then, let alone being used to access the internet. Mainstreaming of internet use is AOL and early web browsers, beginning around 1993 but not being very popular until 1996 or so. 
     
    Or again, show me a pop culture reference to the commonness or ubiquity of internet porn from the early or mid ’90s. It’s trivial to do so for things that were common, like dirty magazines, VHS tapes, etc.

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  • Poverty does not cause crime. The latest “mismanagement” for personal gain on Wall should give you at least some evidence of that. Check out the Amish; dirt poor and low crime. Low crime is the result of indoctrination and social structure.

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  • This is an awesome blog. Everyone else acts like they never took a math class. All this hype about people needing college and then you see the idiocy of comments (from alegedly educated people) about a 1% change in teen pregnancy when the overwhelming majority of “teen” pregnancies are among adult women. The ridiculous headline of pregnancy increase in 26 states. Well duh, that is about half the states. The other 24 went down. With the overall average of practically no change. Do people really expect no variation in incidence of any quantifiable human behavior? Keep up the good work. I vote for no college degrees for anyone who doesn’t pass calculus and statistics.

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  • Agnostic, in 1990 when my brother and I were on the internet, you were 10 years old, of course you weren’t downloading porn. My friends and I were though. Seriously, I have no reason to make this up. We weren’t raging geeks either, just normal teenagers with raging hormones. This kind of information travels fast in high school; a lot of teen boys were doing this in my very typical suburb.

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  • On Venice, its nobility was mercantile. While it may have somewhat aped the manners and outlook of other aristocracies in Latin Christendom, they were in no sense a feudal protect/predate-peasants warrior-landholder group. Their income mostly came from trade and commerce. Venice is just not typical of Latin Christendom at the time in any sense. It never had a popular revolt, for example but did have equality before the law and a highly democratic system amongst its citizens. (The nobles: only nobles were citizens of Venice, most of the population were technically subjects, but the law did not grant any special status to citizens beyond the constitutional differences.) 
     
    It also gave us words such as ghetto, arsenal, the first quarantine rules (after they lost 50% of their population to the black death) and deficit financing. It was also an important example for Madison when he was doing his failure analysis of republics (1,000 years old and still going at the time, though Napoleon was about to end its independence.)

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  • No, you’re wrong. I was born in 1980, as were all my peers (or ’81 / ’82), and no one downloaded porn from the internet until about ’95 – ’96. (We knew how to pilfer our parents’ Playboys as early as 3rd or 4th grade.) Even then, it was a small offering of crappy still pictures, worse than you could find in Playboy or something. Video clips weren’t until about 1999. 
     
    In the 1990s, you were still looking at a Playboy-type magazine or VHS tapes, whether you got them yourself, stole one from your dad, or got one from a friend. 
     
    Bulletin-board sites — your brother was a raging geek, then. A normal person didn’t do anything with the internet until AOL in about 1993. 
     
    Here’s a better movie thought-experiment — when did the theme of internet porn show up in teen movies? That’s suggestive of when it was at all common among adolescents. There is no lag in adoption of technology and when it shows up in movies — you can trace the rise of cell phones in society by seeing when they show up in movies, for instance.

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  • No one had access to the internet in 1991, let alone tons of free porn to download. Internet porn did not become widespread among adolescent boys until the very late ’90s for middle / upper-middle class, maybe early 2000s for others. ” 
     
    Wrong. Porn is what drove the adoption of the internet at least in my house. My younger brother learned from his friends how to get porn from bulletin board-like sites in 1990. We were just normal, average teenagers in the suburbs. And there was plenty of porn to get too, so we weren’t the only ones.  
     
    If you want a cultural time marker, go watch Wargames (1983) and you will see Matthew Broderick using a modem to log onto the internet. People were definitely logging on before browsers came around in the early 90′s.

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  • agnostic: “Look at Ashkenazi Jews and Northeast Asian immigrants anywhere they went in the late 19th and early 20th C — no crime waves.” 
     
    Actually, there was quite a bit of crime amongst the Ashkenazim, just not as much violent crime…much of it tended toward the petty or white-collar sort, insurance fraud, tax evasion, illegal gambling rackets, and so on. 
     
    But there were many Jewish criminals too who caused a lot of mayhem and violence, Jews who were involved in ethnic gangs; see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Jewish_American_mobsters

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  • Orion42: 
     
    “decrease in risky sexual behavior since the early 
    1990s” 
     
    Well, I can’t give you stats but in my case I’m sure its the difference between being 54 and 72 years old.

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  • Thanks for the data and analysis. Stuff like this is why I check out GNXP every day.

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  • Turns out there is some support for my hypothesis, take a look at the section “Effect on sex crimes” on the Wikipedia page for pornography: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pornography 
     
    There are several studies cited there finding an inverse relationship between the availability of pornography and sex crimes. The paper in citation 12 shows that there is -0.307 correlation between state-wide percent households accessing the internet and teen birth rates (for females 15 to 19) (see table 7). 
     
    It also has some interesting quotes like this: “Statistics from Ropelato (2006) find that the 12-17 age group is the largest demographic consumer of internet pornography, and that 80% of 15-17 year olds admit to multiple exposures to hard-core pornography on the internet.”

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  • You make it sound like there was a large enough supply of willing females that the guys were ignoring. If you think a teenage boy would prefer jerking off to doing the real thing with one of his estrogen-dripping schoolmates, you’re insane. 
     
    I’m not saying they’re ignoring them, but guys who didn’t have much of a chance with girls in middleschool/high school might have been less likely to make passes. Their horniness had been somewhat sated by the increase in available porn. 
     
    If you look at some of graphs, the dropoff starts between 1990 and 1995, and continues after that. Maybe the initial drop was due to improving social conditions, but by the late 90′s/early 2000′s it continues to drop below the 80′s numbers due to the effect of internet porn. 
     
    It would be interesting to get some numbers from porn viewing habits, and correlate them with the trend of decreased adolescent sexual activity. Maybe the same thing happened for rape, stds, etc. Who said porn can’t be a good thing for society :P

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  • Here’s a post of mine that has a nice table on crime rates by type of crime and social class in 14th C Venice, from an article by criminologist Manuel Eisner: 
     
    http://akinokure.blogspot.com/2008/07/cultural-products-dont-tell-us-much.html 
     
    Back then, the nobility was far more violent and criminal than other classes, even what we’d call working-class. And I doubt this was atypical of life in the late Middle Ages (more digging around would probably confirm this). 
     
    This all changed when the mercantile classes genetically replaced the aristocracy and poor. The new merchants were smarter, more future-oriented, and had what we’d call “more socialized” personalities. All are heritable, so genetic change led to cultural and social change — a far less criminal society than before. 
     
    Same is true among the Yanamamo tribes in the Amazon. An anthropologist relayed to them the fashionable Romantic theory that they were raiding and killing other tribes because they were poor and desperate. The men guffawed and responded that, “We like meat — but we like women even more.” They were high-status men raiding down-and-out tribes to rape and abduct their women. 
     
    Anyway, the point is that poverty doesn’t cause crime — never has.

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  • if all the teenage boys are at home wacking off at the computer, who is there for the girls to get pregnant by? 
     
    You make it sound like there was a large enough supply of willing females that the guys were ignoring. If you think a teenage boy would prefer jerking off to doing the real thing with one of his estrogen-dripping schoolmates, you’re insane.

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  • I would be interested in knowing what makes you think it doesn’t. 
     
    It’s only correlated with crime here and now. Look at Ashkenazi Jews and Northeast Asian immigrants anywhere they went in the late 19th and early 20th C — no crime waves. Low IQ, impulsiveness / high time preference, and lack of empathy / psychoticism is what causes crime. 
     
    Does anyone else agree with my theory that the decrease in risky sexual behavior since the early 1990′s might be due mostly to the rise of internet porn? I mean… if all the teenage boys are at home wacking off at the computer, who is there for the girls to get pregnant by? 
     
    No one had access to the internet in 1991, let alone tons of free porn to download. Internet porn did not become widespread among adolescent boys until the very late ’90s for middle / upper-middle class, maybe early 2000s for others.  
     
    Same pattern for downloading free mp3s — that was a turn-of-the-millennium thing.

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  • Poverty cases crime… 
     
    Hmmm, got a link to a study or even a good argument that suggests otherwise?

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  • Does anyone else agree with my theory that the decrease in risky sexual behavior since the early 1990′s might be due mostly to the rise of internet porn? I mean… if all the teenage boys are at home wacking off at the computer, who is there for the girls to get pregnant by? 
     
    That’s my theory anyways, that the downward trend in teenage pregnancy has little to do with improving sexual education or a less sexualized society, but to less games of spin-the-bottle among the Ipod generation.

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  • Point 4 is unquestionably true!…

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  • Your last paragraph both amuses me and gives me hope for the future. Where do I cast my ballot for you as dictator?

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  • But according to Gary Becker, poverty does cause crime! : ) 
     
    I would be interested in knowing what makes you think it doesn’t.

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  • In Jason's post on the distributions of hair and eye color, it looks like women are claiming their hair is lighter than it is. The sex differences are the opposite of what is found when the hair is rated by others. Women are lying because they think it makes them look better.If they're going to...
  • Salamander and Aurora Borealis, 
     
    Perhaps you can answer a question for me. As you know well, women expend a great deal of effort, time, and money to counter-act the effects of aging. Billions of dollars are spent on everything from hair coloring to cosmetic surgery for this purpose. Yet, when it comes to technology that may actually eliminate aging in the near future (such as SENS, nanotech, etc) interest on the part of women seems to be lacking. Stuff like cryonics and radical life extension appears to be a “male” thing.  
     
    Why is this?  
     
    I would think that the desire to remain young would translate into interest into the technologies and organizations that could make this happen, for real, in the medium term (2-3 decades) future.  
     
    Yes, for some reason, this does not appear to be the case for most women. Perhaps you can shed some light on this.

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  • So Agnostic admits, ceteris paribus, that blond hair is more attractive than dark hair is? Hehe.

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  • kurt, you may be reacting to a poor color job, too.  
     
    Lower-class gals will tend to rely on home kits instead of shelling out for a professional, and that will often produce a really cheap-looking result.  
     
    It helps the pros will steer a client to a better shade for their skin tone, instead of picking it out out on a whim under the soft glow of Wal-Mart’s flourescent tubes, with little idea how it will react their their natural hair color.

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  • Going blonde is smart for middle-aged women because it is easier to grow it out somewhat gracefully in your sixties or seventies than a dark shade is.  
     
    You kind of wince to see a 75-year-old woman painfully growing out a dark dyejob.  
     
    (but yes, I think blonde distracts from actual facial features, which is kind of good in my case; I’m a very light blonde with a lot of hair who would be thoroughly mediocre-looking if not for the memorable head of hair, lol.)

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  • Going blonde is smart for middle-aged women because it is easier to grow it out somewhat gracefully in your sixties or seventies than a dark shade is.  
     
    You kind of wince to see a 75-year-old woman painfully growing out a dark dyejob.  
     
    (but yes, I think blonde distracts from actual facial features, which is kind of good in my case; I’m a very light blonde with a lot of hair who would be thoroughly mediocre-looking if not for the memorable head of hair, lol.)

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  • I don’t know about the age thing, but my observations are that brunettes who dye their hair blond tend to look “cheap” or slutty. The reason is that brunettes and natural blonds tend to have facial features that differ. Natural blonds tend to have a somewhat “germanic” or “nordic” look, whereas most brunettes have facial features that are different from this. So, when I see a woman with “blond” hair but with facial features that do not match, something registers in my brain that “there is something wrong with this picture”. 
     
    There are plenty of brunette women in their 40′s who look good with “brunette” hair. I just saw on a website a few days ago a photo profile of over 40 year old hollywood women who definitely look as good (if not better) than their younger counterparts. 
     
    The over 40 women who weight lift in the gym to increase muscle-tone and maintain height-weight proportionality look quite good, regardless of hair colour.

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  • tx unicorn-rider. that’s dienekes theory….

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  • Razib, I think you intended that paper for a different comment thread. 
     
    Count me as among those preferring the darker hair. Which one of you was it that pointed out how blonde hair distracts from the face?

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  • I’ll have to take your word on all this — I only buy Playboy for the articles…. 
     
    well, you obviously have internet access, so i’m skeptical of that… :-)

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  • I’ll have to take your word on all this — I only buy Playboy for the articles….

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  • Of course we lighten our hair to compensate for aging!  
     
    First of all, our complexions lose the rosy glow of youth, and after a certain age darker hair just makes you look … haggard.  
     
    Secondly, gray hair is more resistant to haircolor than non-gray hair; the result is that your grays will retain haircolor for a much shorter period than your non-gray hair. You don’t want to color your hair every two weeks, but neither do you want your gray hair to pop back out and contrast with your chestnut locks.  
     
    So, the most practical solution from a maintenance standpoint is to go to a lighter, cooler blond-ish shade with highlights. That camoflauges your gray streaks quite effectively. Once you have large areas of gray, coloring a lighter shade will make regrowth less noticeable (imagine raven black tresses with a half-inch of gray or white new growth at the root — yuck!).  
     
    I suspect that womens’ fondness for blonde hair is based in fairly equal parts on nostalgia for the blonde hair they had as children, and for how practical it is once they start graying.  
     
    As a natural strawberry-blonde myself, I find it easier and less maintenance to go with a cooler ash-blonde shade now that I am hitting 40, because red shades of haircolor are hard to do convincingly (they usually are too red or too brassy) and the red pigments are the first to fade.

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  • There has been a definite and very disturbing hair-related change in Playboy Playmates over the years. You know what I mean.

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  • Our intuition of space and time is to perceive them logarithmically: we place a bunch of tick-marks near "here" and "now," and only measure orders of magnitude as we move outward. The linear scale used by scientists places a tick-mark at evenly spaced intervals. For example, between "here" and 100 miles away, humans may have...
  • This is interesting, I’ve actually thought about this problem before. I tend to also use a logarithmic sort of scale for ranking girls, and that seems to be the general method for most guys, but then I’ve also known guys who gave out 10s to almost any attractive girl – maybe they were reserving the fine detail for the lower end of the spectrum (perhaps that was the best they could get)? 
     
    On a side note, recently an acquaintance of mine was confused by an American TV show she saw (I live in China) where an ugly man was called a 3 by women and an attractive man an 8, and she had no idea what the numbers meant – evidently the 1 to 10 scale for attractiveness does not exist here.

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  • “academic urban legends” 
     
    Yeah, it’s a misattribution of an idea of William Freeland’s that Hamilton specifically argues against in the introduction to “Mate Choice Near or Far” in _Narrow Roads_. It’s unlikely that the person who wrote the bowerbird book actually read the H&Z paper, since the blood parasites they used as an indicator of pathogen load for each species are only transmissible by mosquitoes.

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  • Fisher’s theory sounds circular to me. 
     
    This is a good point; it is indeed a recursive process. But there are ways to “initialize” the self-reenforcement by arriving, by other means, at a weak sexiness for a given trait. The runaway sexual selection (AKA sexy son) mechanism might then amplify drastically both the trait and the tendency to find it sexually attractive. 
     
    How to initialize? One can use one of the other proposed mechanisms of sexiness and sexual selection – such as pre-existing sensory bias, Zahavi handicap, etc.

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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    It sounds to me like this would be an easy thing to test. Any grad students out there looking for a research paper topic? Why not simply take a group of random people and have them rank pictures of others according to their perceived attractiveness? Then it’d be a simple matter to see which type of curve best fits the data. I’m sure you could also glean more hypothesizes from evaluating how the distribution changes from examining subsets of random people (i.e. all normal weight 19-22 year olds, etc), or how rankings of the same picture by the same person change based on pictures they’ve seen prior.

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  • academic urban legends 
     
    To clarify, who originated the idea. The idea is out there, people discuss and test it, but they wrongly attribute it. My interest is always in the ideas themselves. Just don’t make me anyone’s biographer.

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  • Another one of those academic urban legends, I guess. 
     
    For the log nature of 1 to 10 scales, check out the IMDB.com movie rankings by readers 
     
    That’s another good example. Statisticians warn psychologists all the time about these subjective ratings (especially the ubiquitous Likert scales), since you can’t take averages etc. etc. — but they still do it anyway.

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  • For the log nature of 1 to 10 scales, check out the IMDB.com movie rankings by readers: a 6 is an OK run of the mill movie, 7 is pretty good, 8 is very good, a 9 only comes out once every few years. 
     
    The ratings are reasonable to within, say, 0.5: there’s a pretty good chance you’d like a 6.7 more more than you’d like a 6.2. 
     
    Lots of data there to work with.

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  • ok now, let’s not degrade our within-blog asabiya! ;-)

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  • I don’t need to Google, I have his collected papers right here and have actually read them — just re-read and yep, I’m not crazy. When you find a secondary source attributing a dumb theory to a genius, it’s a good idea to go check and see if that’s what he actually said.

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  • Fisher’s theory sounds circular to me. 
     
    Google “sexy sons fisher” and you can get more detail. Basically, it’s a peer pressure argument. In 1994, you may not have found baggy jeans attractive, but if you wanted to fit in, you had to wear them. In Fisher’s view, if the potential mates of your offspring find X attractive, you’d do well to mate with someone who could give X to your offspring. 
     
    and in all three there were greater penalties for looking bad, than rewards for looking good. 
     
    That just follows from the perceived attractiveness scale being logarithmic: on the objective, linear scale, there are larger differences between perceived 1 and 2 than between perceived 9 and 10. So there should be greater penalties as you get uglier since the objective distance separating the tick-marks gets bigger and bigger. 
     
    So if we define attractiveness by revealed treatment instead of survey opinion, then the differences at the ugly end are more finely divided than the differences at the attractive end. 
     
    Again, they were measured on a subjective scale, so harsher treatment of uglies may simply mean that people respond to objective qualities (health, symmetry, etc.), in the same way that our visual system guides our behavior by responding to objective cues of distance (objects being fuzzier, closer together, etc. when farther away). 
     
    But perception tells us what was worth paying attention to: the near-term, the nearby, and the good-looking.

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  • But if that were true for humans (and I’m only talking about us now), then we would finely slice up the attractiveness space near the ugly end, reflecting our worry of getting infected… 
     
    Above study aside, I think there is perhaps some evidence that this is how attractiveness is perceived. 
     
    Dean Hammermesh has three studies looking at wages, performance evaluation, and attractiveness, and in all three there were greater penalties for looking bad, than rewards for looking good. 
     
    So if we define attractiveness by revealed treatment instead of survey opinion, then the differences at the ugly end are more finely divided than the differences at the attractive end.

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  • Fisher’s theory sounds circular to me.

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  • By the by, one study did find something like a nonadditive attractiveness (not in reported ratings, but in revealed ratings), but for males only: 
     
    “Overall, the relationship between outcomes and looks is similar for men and women. However, there is a surprising ?superstar effect? for men. Men in the top five percent of ratings receive almost twice as many first contacts as the next five percent; for women, on the other hand, the analogous difference in outcomes is much smaller.”

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  • I think attractiveness is on a pretty smooth continuum. I also think the upperbound is pretty low. The most attractive kids at highschool weren’t too different from the most popular faces you see in movies.  
     
    [Give me the best guys and girls from your highschool, Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, and some fresh judges, and then tell me some major path dependence isn't at play here.] 
     
    The reason I think you see more hair-splitting about 9s and 10s, etc, is because attractiveness isn’t too objective after a certain point above the average. No men agree about the “hottest” celebrity because 10 is a myth. Endless subjective preferences make the 10.  
     
    [The most popular pornstars often look like transsexuals to me. The most popular fashion models look like adolescent males to Erik Holland. And Holland's "scientifically" attractive glamor models often look like inbred trailer skanks to me.] 
     
    I don’t think any of those cross-cultural experiments or baby experiments, etc, would find any kind of uniformity in preference if we were just comparing pictures of, say, 9s and 10s. Perhaps even 7s, 8s, and above.

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  • Just based on personal observation, this makes sense to me (I apologize for stream of conciousness writing below).  
     
    This goes for many other things to: for example a “strong” radio station may be well over a million times stronger than a “weak” one, where as on a 1-10 scale “strong” may be rated as 8 or 9, and “weak” 2 or 3. A station rated as having strength of “5″ may be 1,000 times stronger than the weak, but only 1/1000 as strong as the “strong” station. Of course for heavily geek populated groups like radio dx’ers, a logarithmic scale is already established…for example “strong” might mean ~90 dBu (w/”very strong” upwards of 110 dBu), medium ~60 dBu, weak ~30dBu.  
     
    The biggest factor I can think of here is that most people find it a lot easier to think in terms of linear, rather than logarithmic scales, even though i think most things in nature are best seen in terms of logarithmic scales. I guess that’s why they call a*10^b notation “scientific” notation.  
     
    IQ is probably another thing best seen in logarithmic terms. By the way I believe the Gaussian distribution is designed for a logarithmized scale; this would make sense as something like height can’t have a negative value, but log (height/avgheight) can, and indeed does about 50 percent of the time.

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  • You’ve misconstrued Hamilton here. 
     
    Google “parasite avoidance,” and the last entry on the first page (from the book *The Bowerbirds*) says what I said. I’m not an expert on Hamilton — maybe he didn’t believe the theory deep down but just proposed it for investigation, or maybe only intended it for birds (as in the Hamilton & Zuk 1982 article). 
     
    What is “true attractiveness” supposed to be 
     
    Some objective measure of good looks. It sounds funny to say that there is attractiveness before perception, but maybe it’s just a composite of health and symmetry. Something like that. 
     
    basically what you’re saying is that people are more concerned with small differences in people they find attractive relative to people they find unattractive, dressed in mumbo jumbo that makes it sound more precise or scientific
     
     
    The difference between a linear and log scale is not mumbo jumbo. It has real consequences too: you can’t do ordinary arithmetic when the variable is measured on a log scale. Simple case — taking the average. Any study that asks subjects to rate a person’s attractiveness, and then takes the arithmetic mean of these ratings, is probably doing something wrong. 
     
    You’d need to transform these ratings so that they were on a linear scale first (ideally by finding out what base the log scale is on, and then exponentiating the ratings using that base). 
     
    In the future, if you don’t know what you’re talking about, don’t comment.

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  • it doesn’t seem like a particularly interesting point to me. basically what you’re saying is that people are more concerned with small differences in people they find attractive relative to people they find unattractive, dressed in mumbo jumbo that makes it sound more precise or scientific

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  • What is “true attractiveness” supposed to be (as opposed to the supposedly untrue 1 to 10 ratings people give)? How would one measure such a thing?

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  • If you’re looking at human behavior, you have to account for the fact that both men and women have an incentive to misrepresent how choosy they really are. Making a great show of finding fault with relatively-attractive-but-not-perfect members of the opposite sex is a standard way of trying to boost your own perceived choosiness and thus desirability. This distorts the picture.

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  • From memory though, the idea came out of his work on Red Queen dynamics — if the purpose of sex is to rapidly churn out new recombinants in order to keep a step ahead of pathogens, then sexual selection should favor hard-to-fake signs of health as signifiers of genes that are currently “hot” for resistance to the commonest bugs. He did a study with Zuk that backed this idea up by correlating degree of “showiness” in male birds of various species with prevalence of blood parasites.

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  • You’ve misconstrued Hamilton here. The thesis you attribute to Wallace was the one he favored. I’ll be re-reading “Mate Choice Near or Far” later on tonight to make sure.

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  • While showing that the super-popularity of blonds is recent, I saw an apparent reversal of the upward trend around 2000, suggesting that perhaps Playboy readers are becoming fatigued by blonds. To get a better feel for what the younger generations prefer, let's look at Maxim magazine (US edition), whose average reader is 27.5 years old...
  • ~ The real test is whether or not a particular hair color is overrepresented relative to the observable hair color in the population 
     
    It depends on what you’re trying to test.
     
     
    What I am trying to test is: 
     
    - the average woman on the street has observable hair color x% X, y% Y, z%Z. 
    - the average Playboy model has observable hair color x’% X, y’% Y, z’% Z. 
     
    Which hair color (X, Y, Z?) is much more often seen in Playboy models compared to its incidence in the general population (e.g., x’>>x)?

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  • @agnostic 
     
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5dcpAWmxCk&feature=related 
     
    Do these girls fit your ideal beauty? They are true Euroasians too.

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  • Interesting post. It looks like a rare-color effect, i.e., the scarcer a color variant becomes in a population, the stronger will be the preference for it. 
     
    I know of three estimates of hair color distribution in English and white American samples. The discrepancies seem to arise over 1) whether strawberry blondes are classified as blondes or redheads and 2) whether black hair is lumped in with brunette hair or treated as a separate category. 
     
    68.1% brunette, 26.8% blond, 5.1% red. (Rich & Cash, 1993)  
    68% brunette, 25% blond, 1% red, 6% black (Takeda et al., 2006) 
    74% brunette, 18% blond, and 8% red (Mather et al., unpublished) 
     
    Whereas the most common variant is brown hair, male preference is strongest for blonde and black-haired women. I suspect preference for red hair also exceeds the actual representation of redheads in the population. 
     
    References 
     
    Mather, F., Manning, J.T., & Bundred, P.E. (unpublished). 2nd to 4th digit ratio, hair and eye colour in Caucasians: Evidence for blond hair as a correlate of high prenatal oestrogen. 
     
    Rich, M.K., & Cash, T.F. (1993). The American image of beauty: Media representations of hair color for four decades. Sex Roles, 29, 113-124. 
     
    Takeda, M.B., Helms, M.M., & Romanova, N. (2006). Hair color stereotyping and CEO selection in the United Kingdom. Journal of human behavior in the social environment, 13, 85-99

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  • You don’t want to control for ethnicity, though, since that’s an intermediate variable. Consider an extreme case: the top 50 NBA players might show 40 Af-Ams, 5 blond Whites, and 5 brown-haired Whites. If you restrict it to Whites, blonds appear overrepresented. 
     
    If you used that NBA example to insinuate that in the last 50 years brunette basketball players have been making major gains on blond players, I guess semantically it’d be correct using the definition of brunette to mean dark, but…

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  • I think red hair and green eyes are a killer combination, and has got to be less than 1% of the female population?!

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  • The real test is whether or not a particular hair color is overrepresented relative to the observable hair color in the population 
     
    It depends on what you’re trying to test. It’s very possible that more men prefer brunettes, but that blondes are sufficiently rare that they are still able to command more attention. We can imagine a situation where 25% of men prefer blondes, 40% prefer brunettes, and the rest have no preference. If 5% of women are natural blondes and 30% are brunettes, the blondes will still be at a premium in some sense (i.e. there will be more incentive for some women to dye their hair blonde even though, numerically, there are fewer men who prefer blondes). 
    As regards the frequency of natural light blondes in the US population, I haven’t come up with hard data despite a bit of looking. But I do notice that the Dutch data you mention show blue/green eyes at a frequency about four times as high as what we actually see in the youthful US population, which does still suggest to me that your baseline is badly skewed. Maybe it’s just because I am not in the upper midwest / pacific northwest (epicenters of US blondeness) but my own observations lead me more to agree with figures like 3-5% that I see thrown around (albeit without any backup).  
    As regards the idea that more men prefer brunettes, here’s a bit of data to support that idea: 
    Amazon salesrank for ‘Playboy Brunettes’: 100,000 
    Amazon salesrank for ‘Playboy Blondes’: 400,000

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  • i have always found that blondes will grab my attention more from a distance (like walking on the other side of the street or from across a bar) but dark haired brunettes set against pale skin are sexier to me up close and personal.

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  • I used published data on hair color frequencies and took the Dutch values instead of the Icelandic ones, since Americans must resemble the former more than the latter.  
     
    The real test is whether or not a particular hair color is overrepresented relative to the observable hair color in the population, not relative to the natural hair color. Since more women lighten their hair than darken it, it follows that there are more observable than natural blondes in the population. Therefore, you are underestimating the advantage of dark browns over light blondes.

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  • Have you done an eye color?

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  • Thanks.

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  • You used the *Dutch* as a baseline for population blondness? 
     
    If you look at the link I provided with published data, it shows that they’re not very different, blonds being a bit more frequent and redheads less frequent in the Dutch. I chose the Dutch since they aren’t isolated and have probably seen more influx of other European groups, compared to the Icelanders, so they seemed like a better choice for Americans. 
     
    Here are the results using Iceland, though (there are two estimates for Iceland, so I took the average): 
     
    For cover girls, chi-squared = 33.7 (p less than 0.0001) for rounding up, and 33.5 (p less than 0.0001) for rounding down. Depending on the rounding convention, light blonds are overrepresented by 51% or 56%, dark browns by 60% or 63%. 
     
    For hometown hotties, chi-squared = 16.4 (p = 0.0003) for rounding up, and 21.8 (p = 0.0001) for rounding down. Depending on the rounding convention, light blonds are overrepresented by 61% or 201%, dark browns by 67% or 75%. Again, the rounding convention here introduces quite a bit more uncertainty than in the cover girl case since the N is a lot smaller. 
     
    Blonds don’t make up a majority of the entire ’08 list, but comprise nearly 2/3s of whites. Isn’t that what you’re actually after? 
     
    I didn’t keep track of ethnicity, but I just scanned the list of cover girls, and there are hardly any non-Whites, maybe a handful of White-looking Hispanics (the Wikipedia entry for Maxim’s US edition has a link to a list of them all, if you’re interested). 
     
    You don’t want to control for ethnicity, though, since that’s an intermediate variable. Consider an extreme case: the top 50 NBA players might show 40 Af-Ams, 5 blond Whites, and 5 brown-haired Whites. If you restrict it to Whites, blonds appear overrepresented.

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  • Great post. Seems like the substantial blond advantage in Maxim’s ’08 hottest list is a fluke, as you’ve now looked at three different sources suggesting otherwise–unless the pendulum is swinging back in the other direction. (Minor point: The Maxim lists weren’t quite consecutive years–yours being ’06, mine ’08). 
     
    What percentage of the Maxim cover girls were non-European? Blonds don’t make up a majority of the entire ’08 list, but comprise nearly 2/3s of whites. Isn’t that what you’re actually after? If your population frequency is from the Netherlands, blacks and Hispanics covers are going to artificially make blonds less frequent, even at 10% combined (the ’08 list is 19% non-European).

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  • Another explanation for the bimodal distribution is that the same men who prefer dark brunettes over light ones also prefer light blondes over dark ones. My preferences are 
    dark brunette > light blonde > dark blonde > light brunette

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  • and took the Dutch values instead of the Icelandic ones 
     
    Are you for real? You used the *Dutch* as a baseline for population blondness?

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  • Agnostic is clearly not getting any blond lovin’.

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