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 TeasersJames Thompson Blogview

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Many Western countries began immigration policies without feeling any need to monitor the long-term results. Indeed, many considered that immigration was an expedient response to labour shortages, and that the labourers, such as Turkish guest-workers in Germany, would probably eventually want to return home with their earnings at retirement. The United Kingdom seems to have begun its largest and most transformative policy in a typical fit of absent-mindedness. Workers were needed by London Underground, and that influx from the Caribbean began a de facto immigration policy, to which permissive legislation was added later, giving rights to all Commonwealth countries. In some sense it seemed a temporary expedient, and nothing more. Travel was by steamer, things happened slowly, and immigration proceeded steadily.

Western governments have rarely carried out large scale and detailed analyses of the benefits and costs of immigration with country-of-origin comparisons. Even now, it is hard to obtain good quality data on immigrants from different countries. For some host countries, even carrying out such analyses was deemed unseemly: immigration was seen as a fundamentally good policy, which should not be questioned. France was an example of a country which deliberately did not study such matters, because every citizen was a citizen, and comparisons are odious in the eyes of the Republic. As a result, French citizens are free to imagine the worst.

However, there are many general studies of immigrants’ contributions to the labour force, usually concluding that young immigrants are net contributors. Only studies which do the accounts over the entire lifetime (i.e. from the moment of birth or immigration to the moment of death or repatriation) give a full picture, in that young people become old, and require more services later in life. Many studies are often restricted to those coming specifically to work in the host country, and don’t include students and asylum seekers.

A typical finding is given in a 2014 OECD study:

https://www.oecd.org/migration/OECD%20Migration%20Policy%20Debates%20Numero%202.pdf

Immigrants are thus neither a burden to the public purse nor are they a panacea for addressing fiscal challenges. In most countries, except in those with a large share of older migrants, migrants contribute more in taxes and social contributions than they receive in individual benefits. This means that they contribute to the financing of public infrastructure, although admittedly to a lesser extent than the native-born.

In contrast to these generally positive claims, albeit they admit some shortcomings, it is a welcome surprise to find that researchers in one country have been able to gather extensive official data from Statistics Netherlands which allows costs and benefits to be studied carefully in the long term, with results tabulated according to reasons for immigration, and by country of origin. At the moment this study of immigration to the Netherlands is in Dutch, but there is an English summary, and a full English translation is being prepared. If you want to contribute to that, so that the study might be read by English speaking governments, then the donation link is given here:

https://gofund.me/0523fc09

“The Borderless Welfare State” Jan van de Beek, Hans Roodenburg, Joop Hartog and Gerrit Kreffer, 2021, Amsterdam School of Economics.

http://www.demo-demo.nl/files/Grenzeloze_Verzorgingsstaat.pdf

(English abstract begins on page 19)

The authors stick closely to the economics of immigration, and report their findings in financial terms, without going into any deeper causes.

The report aimed to answer two questions:

1) What are the fiscal costs and benefits of immigration by migration motive (labour, study, asylum & family migration) and by region of origin?
2) To what extent can immigration provide a solution to the ageing population in the Netherlands?

The current report is an update of the Public Sector chapter of the report Immigration and the Dutch Economy (2003) by the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB). Both reports deploy the method of generational accounting to calculate the net contribution – revenues minus expenses – of immigrants to public finances, measured from the moment of their immigration to the time of repatriation or death. This net contribution is the key concept of the current study.

The study uses microdata from 2016 provided by Statistics Netherlands. These are very detailed, anonymized data of all 17 million Dutch residents, including about two million people with a first-generation migration background and almost two million people with a second-generation migration background.

It is rare to have a dataset of this quality, completeness, and size. The authors took 2016 data and studied 23 cost/benefit items. They then used detailed estimates of the future (post 2016) development of those 23 items used by the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB) in their population ageing studies.

The authors find that:

The rapid pace of immigration into the Netherlands has greatly increased the Dutch population, but not the sustainability of the Dutch welfare state. Of the 17 million Dutch inhabitants at the end of 2019, 13% were born abroad (first generation) and 11% were children of immigrants (second generation).

Currently, per capita expenditures on immigrants are significantly higher than on indigenous people in areas such as education, social security and benefits. Moreover, immigrants pay fewer taxes and social security premiums, which further lowers their net fiscal contribution. The current study looks back at past data as well as forecasts from Statistics Netherlands to calculate the total cost of immigration for the next two decades if policy remains unchanged.

Figure 2.3 gives the immigration history of the Netherlands in a snapshot.

Since 1900 there have always been some Westerners coming in to the country, but non-Westerners started coming in the 1970s and it is predicted (“prognose”) that by 2060 their higher birth-rates and continued immigration will make them about 23% of the population.

There is a very big difference in financial contribution according to the reason for gaining entry to the country:

Those coming to take up a job generate a positive net contribution of, on average, €125,000 ($152,500) per immigrant.

Those coming to study cost €75,000 ($91,500) per immigrant.

Those entering for “family formation” or “family reunification” cost €275,000 ($335,500) per immigrant. (Get one immigrant, then get their marriage partner, then get other family members including elderly parents).

Asylum seekers cost €475,000 ($579,500) per immigrant.

There are also considerable differences by region of origin. On average, Western immigrants make a positive contribution of €25,000 ($30,500), while non-western immigrants cost nearly €275,000 ($335,500). Within the categories of Western and non-Western there is, however, much variation.
Immigration from most Western regions usually has a positive fiscal impact. Immigrants from Japan, North America, Oceania, the British Isles, Scandinavia, and Switzerland, in particular, make a significant positive contribution of roughly €200,000 ($244,000) per immigrant. On the other hand, immigration from Central and Eastern EU-member states costs about €50,000 ($61,000). Immigration from former Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union mainly concerns asylum seekers, who cost much more at €150,000 ($183,000).

Table 0.2 gives detailed results.

 
• Category: Economics, Science • Tags: Immigration, Netherlands, Welfare State 

The British Broadcasting Corporation is one of the world’s largest (35,000 employees including part-timers) and best funded news organisations, against which few can compete. Not only does it have a budget which in 2018-19 amounted to £4.0 billion ($5.6 billion), but it is virtually guaranteed the continuation of that level of income by a government levy, the Licence Fee, so it can plan well into its well-funded future. Many other UK organisations have folded up their own news gathering teams, and use the BBC feed as the starting point for their commentary and reporting, trying to give their own slant to an agenda set by their bigger and better-funded rival. Even in an age when there are other providers of news, this colossus can set the tone and the boundaries of political and cultural life.

Here is a headline which caught my eye: Subnormal: The scandal of black children sent to ‘special’ schools

This was broadcast on 20 May on BBC1, the main national broadcast channel.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-57099654

The opening paragraph of the article asserts:

In 1960s and 70s Britain, hundreds of black children were labelled as “educationally subnormal”, and wrongly sent to schools for pupils who were deemed to have low intelligence. For the first time, some former pupils have spoken about their experiences for a new BBC documentary.

It would be truer to say “In 1960s and 70s Britain, hundreds of children were classified as educationally subnormal because of low intelligence and failure to learn at school, and sent to special schools. Proportionately more black children than white children were sent to those schools”. If the intelligence and behavioural assessments were right, then it was not the wrong policy at all.

As is usual in TV documentaries, proofs will be given in the form of personal testimonies, with some general background remarks. Example:

Black students were sent to these schools in significantly higher proportions. The documentary makers have seen a 1967 report from the now-defunct Inner London Education Authority (ILEA), which showed that the proportion of black immigrant children in ESN schools (28%) was double that of those in mainstream schools (15%).

Should there have been double the number of black immigrant children in schools for the educationally sub-normal? Well, if the cut-off point was being below IQ 70, then there should have been 7 times as many black children as white children (15.9% vs 2.28%), so if there is a scandal, it is that many black children did not get special schooling. However, special schooling was often given to children who were disruptive. Schools can cope with slow learners, but not with very actively uncooperative non-learners who make learning impossible for other children.

So, what can we find in the educational sphere in which the black rate is double the white rate? How about school exclusions. Here are the 2017 figures:

https://www.unz.com/jthompson/excluded-schoolchildren/

The Caribbean rate is 9.69%. almost double the White British rate of 5.23%.

Many wrongly equated race with intellectual ability. But as the late educational psychologist Mollie Hunte argued, the generally poor attainment of black students wasn’t because of their intellectual ability. Instead, the tests used to assess pupils at the time were culturally biased.

Although cultural bias in tests was asserted by critics in Britain and in the US, it turned out that intelligence tests were good predictors of scholastic attainment.

A government enquiry into the education of children from ethnic minority groups published in 1985 found that the low average IQ scores of West Indian children were not a significant factor in their low academic performance. Instead, racial prejudice in society at large was found to play a crucial role in their academic underachievement.

This was the 1985 Swan Report, which makes very interesting historical reading.

http://www.educationengland.org.uk/documents/swann/swann1985.html#04

The report itself concludes that racism is a big cause of black under-performance, and that black IQ is not a significant factor.

2.2 Low average IQ has often been suggested as a cause of underachievement, particularly in the case of West Indians. This has long been disputed, and our own investigations leave us in no doubt that IQ is not a significant factor in underachievement (Paragraphs 4.10-4.14 and Annex D).

The technical reports written by psychologists are different. They don’t actually say that IQ scores are not a significant factor. The late Prof Nick Mackintosh and Dr CGN Mascie-Taylor did a review of the literature, and although Mackintosh was very sympathetic to environmental explanations of racial differences, and against genetic interpretations, he went through the literature carefully enough, showing some of the problems in coming to a strong conclusion at the time. He was circumspect in his judgments, though against the genetic hypothesis. Here is what he said:

These findings tend to argue against those who would seek to provide a predominantly genetic explanation of ethnic differences in IQ, but they equally imply that such differences are not due to a special set of factors unique to the West Indian experience. Although discrimination against West Indian families in this country may have an important indirect effect on their children’s IQ scores by ensuring that they live in impoverished circumstances, there is less reason to believe that such discrimination, whether by society as a whole or by teachers and IQ testers in particular, has any direct effect on the West Indian child’s performance. There is, moreover, relatively little evidence that specifically supports either this or the genetic position. Such imperfect attempts as have been made to study the intellectual development of black and white children brought up in comparable surroundings have found few if any differences in their IQ scores. Conversely, there is not much reason to believe that teachers’ expectations have any large effects on their pupils’ IQ scores (although they may affect other aspects of their performance at school), and although motivational and attitudinal factors have sometimes been found to have significant effects on IQ scores, the effects are neither consistent nor large. At best such factors may make a modest contribution to observed ethnic differences in IQ scores; they are unlikely to be the most important cause.

6. The evidence is not compelling, then, but on balance it does seem to point one way rather than others: ethnic differences in IQ scores are probably largely caused by the same factors as are responsible for differences in IQ within the white population as a whole. And much the same conclusion probably applies to ethnic differences in more specific measures of school performance such as tests of reading or mathematics or public examinations. Here too, such differences as there are between different ethnic groups seem to be largely related to the same social factors that are related to differences within the indigenous populations. If, therefore, we wish to affect the IQ scores of children from ethnic minorities in our society, or indeed their school performance, we might make a start by improving the social and economic circumstances of their families.

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Blacks, Britain, Intelligence, IQ, Public Schools 

If you select for some characteristic, and find that groups differ on other characteristics, it is natural to assume that the variable you selected might be causal. For example, if you select on the basis of genetics, and find differences, it would be understandable if you thought that genetics accounted for the other differences. Equally, if you select on wealth, it would be natural to imagine that any differences you find were due to differences in wealth.

Norway is a special case. It is very rich, and very Norwegian. No-one does fiords like they do. Norwegians are dying out, their total fertility below replacement, so they are of only historical interest, but serve to illustrate what a very rich country can provide its citizens in terms of very high-quality universal health care, and a sovereign wealth fund which hold 1.7% of the world’s wealth, equal to £175,000 ($245,000) per citizen. Even poor Norwegians are extremely rich by global standards, and Norway tops the world in the Human Development Index. Most countries would have to create and save wealth for a century to reach the levels of poor Norwegians.

75% of citizens are genetic Norwegians, and the rest came in over “recent decades” which is a bit vague, but which makes sense for anyone able to look at Human Development statistics. Norwegians like collecting data, for which we should be grateful.

Parental income and mental disorders in children and adolescents: prospective register-based study

Jonas Minet Kinge, Simon Øverland, Martin Flatø, Joseph Dieleman, Ole Røgeberg, Maria Christine Magnus, Miriam Evensen, Martin Tesli, Anders Skrondal, Camilla Stoltenberg … Show more
International Journal of Epidemiology, dyab066, https://doi.org/10.1093/ije/dyab066

https://academic.oup.com/ije/advance-article/doi/10.1093/ije/dyab066/6274255

In this registry-based study of all children in Norway (n = 1 354 393) aged 5–17 years from 2008 to 2016, we examined whether parental income was associated with childhood diagnoses of mental disorders identified through national registries from primary healthcare, hospitalizations and specialist outpatient services.

There were substantial differences in mental disorders by parental income, except for eating disorders in girls. In the bottom 1% of parental income, 16.9% of boys had a mental disorder compared with 4.1% in the top 1%. Among girls, there were 14.2% in the lowest, compared with 3.2% in the highest parental-income percentile. Differences were mainly attributable to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in boys and anxiety and depression in girls. There were more mental disorders in children whose parents had mental disorders or low education, or lived in separate households. Still, parental income remained associated with children’s mental disorders after accounting for parents’ mental disorders and other factors, and associations were also present among adopted children.

Conclusions
Mental disorders were 3- to 4-fold more prevalent in children with parents in the lowest compared with the highest income percentiles. Parents’ own mental disorders, other socio-demographic factors and genetic confounding did not fully explain these associations.

The authors analysed immigrants separately, and excluded those with incomes in the bottom 2% as well. They could also look at adopted children, which was a useful way at looking at genetic factors. They had full data on actual earnings, and calculated family income as the after tax earnings of both spouses, adjusted for inflation. They had health data from official sources, so this study gets round all the problems of self-report. It is also a full representation of massive population size, which puts most other studies in the shade.

Fig 1
Poorer families had more disturbed children. Boys were more disturbed than girls.

Fig 2
However, boys seem to stabilize as they grow older.

Fig 3
Boys are very prone to attention-deficit hyperactivity.

Fig 5
Single parents, parents without degrees, and parents with mental disorder, have disordered children.

Higher parental income was associated with lower prevalence of children’s mental disorders, also in the international adoptee subgroup, although with a less pronounced association, compared with the Norwegian-born. For every decile increase in parental income, there were 0.25% fewer adoptees diagnosed with mental disorders compared with 0.66% fewer per decile in Norwegian-born children. Except for eating disorders, international adoptees had ∼1.5–2 times higher prevalence of any mental disorders compared with Norwegian-born children.

So, adoptees from abroad were more mentally disturbed, but less influenced by Norwegian wealth differences.

Three major conclusions can be drawn from this study. First, despite relatively equal access to health services, childhood mental disorders were found to decrease continuously with parental income and there was no dividing line above or below which additional income was no longer associated with mental disorders. The associations varied with child age and sex. Second, the association with parental income was present for all mental disorders except eating disorders and largest for ADHD. Third, the association of parental income with mental disorders could partly, but not fully, be attributed to parental mental disorder and socio-demographic factors. In addition, the associations were present, but less pronounced, in children genetically unrelated to their parents.

The influence of a genetic component is also suggested. Children of parents with mental illness are at a higher genetic and environmental risk of developing psychopathology. Low income can be a consequence of psychopathology in parents. The largest income difference was found for ADHD, a mental disorder with a strong heritable component, which is also associated with reduced income in adulthood. In contrast, the difference across the income spectrum was smaller for anxiety, which has been shown to have a large environmental component. These differences suggest confounding by underlying genetic susceptibility on the relationship between parental income and offspring mental disorders. In addition, the associations between parental income and mental disorders in adopted children were weaker compared with children living with their biological parents. The differences in the associations with parental income observed among adopted children and Norwegian-born children were also greater for ADHD than for anxiety disorders.

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Mental Illness, Wealth 

One hypothesis about the Anglo-Saxon world is that Britain 1.0 has been superseded by Britain 2.0, such that the latter gets updated first, and the former always lags behind, under threat of being discontinued. As a consequence, the US fashions in race relations have late echoes in the UK. Here are two little stories about two British institutions, one from the entertainment world, and one from a professional society.

The British Academy of Film and TV (BAFTA) gives awards each year, a British version of the Oscars. I declare a lack of interest. I admit that I visited their theatre in 1990 when Peter Greenaway was premiering “A TV Dante”, and in the lobby saw Sir John Gielgud, but did not feel it right to say that we had both been in the film together, given that the importance of our roles differed somewhat. I had known about Greenaway before he started film-making, and subsequently over a long lunch talked about making a film about him and his psychological motivations, which never progressed. In 2014 Greenaway got the Award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema, by which time he had made over 90 films, of which his 1982 “The Draughtman’s Contract” is probably the best known.

In April 2021 Noel Clarke, actor, screen writer and director won that same award, and then had it cancelled. It emerged that, after he had been nominated, BAFTA had received allegations of sexual misconduct, but said they did not act on them because they were third party accounts. After he had been given the award, The Guardian newspaper published 20 first-hand allegations, at which point his award was withdrawn by BAFTA. The serial in which he was the main actor, and which was just about to show the final episode, was also cancelled. This is a curious process, because no legal process has begun, let alone a trial. If suspicion is now judged enough to cancel an award, then those aspersions had already been cast before the award was given, and it could have been shelved until further enquiries had been made. Now the denunciations have been made about bullying and taking sexual advantage, and it is being described as something which was generally known in the business, and thus sufficient to be regarded as a closed case.

The presumption of innocence has gone by the board. Anyone accused of sexual misconduct and named in public is now a target for allegations, which may include a band-waggon effect, in which behaviours of marginal significance become toxic by agglomeration. If it ever comes to trial, we shall be able to judge, but at the moment Noel Clarke has been cancelled after sentence by allegation.

Now to an interesting matter: by what criteria do film makers get an award for outstanding contribution to cinema? I assume there is some yardstick. Looking back at former winners, most seem to have produced, directed or acted in many films, but not all reach the Greenaway standard. It is possible that a new requirement emerged this year.

At the 2nd February 2020 Award ceremony, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, chairman of Bafta bemoaned the lack of racial minorities. It “simply cannot be right in this day and age” that film awards have all-white shortlists.” Speaking at the Baftas, the Duke said it was unacceptable for voters to overlook black and ethnic minority talent.

The committee must have got the message, because the number of minority nominees in 2021 increased such that “The Bafta Film Awards have unveiled a highly diverse nominations list, with 16 of the 24 acting nominees this year coming from ethnic minority groups.” Noel Clarke was one of the 16. So, either there was much minority talent which formerly had been over-looked, or BAFTA suddenly went overboard to comply with the demand for diversity, and changed the nomination criteria.

I see no valid reason why the public should be concerned about the genetics of people such as directors and producers who make films. The public should be able look at whatever entertains them. I think the public is also capable of judging the acting talent of players, whatever their race. This year, they were nudged. I think that the entertainment world should have consistent standards, and I don’t see why minority race should be one of them.

Now to the professional society. The British Psychological Society was founded in 1901, and has 60,000 members. If any institution should be able to guard against unverified personal opinions and self-serving biases, this should be it. Every psychology undergraduate course contains cautionary examples showing how a personal perspective on events can be misleading, due to selective attention and fallible memory, hence the need for impeccable research methods.

In September the CEO of the society (odd, I know, that a learned society has a CEO, but this is a recent development) declared that the Society was institutionally racist. This came out of the blue, since a few months earlier he had said that he doubted that the society was racist. I wrote to him in September as a Fellow of the Society, asking on what basis he had made his remark. Perhaps in this “day and age” I need to explain that a condemnation of this magnitude of an entire professional society should be based on hard evidence. For example, that minority applicants are turned down for membership. For example, that minority members are turned down for appointments on committees. For example, that minorities are not employed by the society in administrative roles. For example, that clinical psychologists will not accept minority patients. For example, that the Society habitually refers to minorities in derogatory terms.

(I had already thought about the methods to be used to search for institutional racism. One would need to look back roughly 20 years to see how many people graduated with psychology degrees, from which universities, and the racial breakdown of those numbers, to establish the baselines for comparison, since society posts usually go to experienced people who are sufficiently secure in their mid or late careers to spend unpaid time on voluntary tasks).

So far, I have not received a reply, so the implication is that no such internal review was carried out. However, it turns out that the CEO is now on extended leave, and the deputy CEO is filling in for him, so I have asked that my inquiry be sent on to her. That was only recently, so something might come of it, albeit 8 months late.

 

I recently commented on the UK report “Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities”, which dared to suggest that systemic racism was not the major cause of race differences in Britain. The wave of criticism continues. One line of attack is that the Commission did not give sufficient weight to studies which show that racial minorities are not invited for job interviews at the same rate as locals. In fact, the commissioners did discuss the issue, and are in favour of name-blind job applications. They discuss UK research on this matter at page 121 in the report, and to their credit they do not regard the results as conclusive of widespread bias. However, the methods do seem to indicate bias, so I thought I would look at the conventional way of researching the issue of racial discrimination in job applications, and contrast it with anonymous job applications.

To see whether racial discrimination exists, researchers send the same CV to employers with the same level of qualifications but different names attached, to see if the foreign-sounding names lead to a greater degree of rejection. They often find that to be the case.

http://csi.nuff.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Are-employers-in-Britain-discriminating-against-ethnic-minorities_final.pdf

Other alterations are carried out on these identical CVs to see whether other aspects, like religion, country of origin and so on are also a cause of rejection. The different rejection rates are then cited as evidence of racism. That might be the case, but there are other possible explanations.

Is there anything wrong with this method?

One thing: it assumes that different racial or religious group members write CVs which are just as good as anyone else. What if one group is over-confident, and boasts in a way which turns off employers? The effects of that boasting would not show up with this method. What if one group is not very organised, and their CVs reveal that? Again, that would not be detected if the standard CV method is used. Indeed, the “standard CV” method is designed to keep all those real-life effects out of the picture.

Does putting a foreign-sounding name on a standard CV really mean that applicants are rejected unfairly? Not quite. Employers may have actually found that some groups make poor employees. They may have learned that qualifications from some universities give an exaggerated picture of skills. They may want to take a chance with a particular minority, but have found that they have been disappointed with the candidates they chose. Furthermore, depending on the laws of the land, they may find that minorities are better placed in law to sue employers for discrimination than would be the case for majority locals. The latter cannot easily claim racial discrimination against them, and will be judged simply by their work record. A minority candidate, plausibly or implausibly, can claim that he was not treated fairly, not given chances open to others, not promoted as quickly as others, and so on.

Is there a better method of judging whether applicants are subject to racial bias from employers? Of course. Get people from the relevant minority groups to write actual job applications themselves, and then send them in to different employers under different names or anonymously, to see whether the employers are responding to the names or to the actual quality of the applications. This technique is usually called anonymous application procedures (AAP) and it is intended to prevent racial bias against women and minority candidates.

Åslund, O., & Skans, O. N. (2012). Do Anonymous Job Application Procedures Level the Playing Field? ILR Review, 65(1), 82–107. doi:10.1177/001979391206500105

This was a large-scale study of a trial of anonymous applications to local authority positions in Sweden. Crucially “Information on schools/universities was explicitly prohibited since it would reveal the ethnicity of many immigrant applicants.” Of course, it would remove any data about the quality of education received, and its relevance to the skills required in the advertised jobs. Educational standards, as shown by PISA type studies, differ considerably in different countries, and are usually lower than Western standards. Real data will be lost here.

The authors found that anonymous application procedures led to more interviews than conventional applications which disclosed sex and race. However, once the applicants from the anonymous method got to the interview stage, they did not do so well.

For women, the results concur with Goldin and Rouse’s (2000) finding of a positive effect on the final outcome of anonymous hiring procedures. However, we fail to find a corresponding effect for the non-Western applicants. In fact, the job offer differentials relative to other applicants are nearly identical under the different regimes. Although the statistical uncertainty is substantial, the results, if taken at face value, mean that the positive effects on interview offers are undone once origin, personal traits, and full credentials are disclosed.

One interpretation is that, once the mask of anonymity is taken away, then prejudicial attitudes come into play at interview. Another interpretation is that in a wide-ranging interview the minority candidates perform poorly, and lack the wider skills required. The authors lean to the first interpretation, but do mention that minorities may lack the “social capital” possessed by native Swedes. In my view the lack of school data in the anonymous applications could have been a big factor in later poor performance at interview, where candidates must think on their feet about job-related demands and problems.

Krause, A., Rinne, U. & Zimmermann, K.F. Anonymous job applications in Europe. IZA J Labor Stud 1, 5 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1186/2193-9012-1-5 This is a review of European experience with anonymous job applications.

The French government initiated an experiment in 2010 and 2011 which was implemented by the French public employment service. It involved about 1,000 firms in eight local labor markets and it lasted in total for about ten months (Behaghel et al., 2011). The experiments’ main findings can be summarized as follows. First, women benefit from higher callback rates with anonymous job applications—at least if they compete with male applicants for a job. However, for roughly half of the vacancies included in the experiment only female candidates or only male candidates applied. Second, migrants and residents of deprived neighborhoods suffer from anonymous job applications. Their callback rates are lower with anonymous job applications than with standard applications.

Why do minorities suffer when applications are anonymous? They should shine in such circumstances. The answer seems to lie in them not getting a sympathetic interpretation of their circumstances and their lower scholastic and occupational attainments:

Besides, context-specific information may be interpreted differently if information about the identity of the candidate is not available—and this can result in disadvantages for the applicant. For example, if recruiters are not aware of the applicant’s family situation, migration background or disadvantaged neighborhood, this information cannot be taken into account to explain, e.g., below-average education outcomes, labor market experience or language skills.

Paradoxically, in Europe a migrant may get the benefit of the doubt for low school grades, which would not be accorded to locals.

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Antiracism, Britain, Political Correctness 

An official UK report “Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities” has got into trouble by coming to the wrong conclusions. It has stated that the UK is not a racist state, and although there are instances of racism, in most ways the UK is a model of non-racism. The report says that the main source of different outcomes is family structures and class differences. Incidentally, this is what James Coleman (1966) found in his famous US report, namely that neither school nor funding was crucial, but family background and socio-economic status determined how well a child would learn. He also found that African-American children were several grade levels behind whites.

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/974507/20210331_-_CRED_Report_-_FINAL_-_Web_Accessible.pdf

Some activist groups are very angry about the report. They consider it a white-wash, and have made bitter accusations against the chairman who led the inquiry. In the political jargon, they judge it to be “off message”.

Many of the criticisms are based on the quaint notion that every desirable occupation should be representative of the racial composition of the nation. Not so. Racial groups may differ in their interests, their cultural attitudes to particular occupations, and above all to the level and type of skills required. For example, not everyone wishes to, nor is able to fix malfunctioning computers. If everyone with this ability and this desire comes from the Indian sub-continent, why should anyone worry? If few men wish to be psychotherapists, so what? If a business desperate to get work fields a sales team which has the same demographics as the company bosses who may buy their wares, and preferably who go to the same golf-clubs, why prevent them from seeking business that way? And anyway, if a new entrant to this same market-place is composed entirely of affable Nigerians who never play golf, why should they be prevented from under-cutting the inflated prices demanded by golfers?

What is the Report like? By this I mean, what is it like to read, something the critics seem to have neglected to do. Not bad at all, and better than some of the many inquiries that went before it. There is a lot of material here, and at times it could have done with more tables and graphs so that patterns could be seen at a glance, rather than being discerned with difficulty from string of percentages in long paragraphs. It has taken a data rich approach, using government statistics and good research on educational achievement. Furthermore, it is in favour of the collection of further and more detailed racial data. The report is argued in a calm manner, with due balance given to different interpretations, though it leans towards particular cultural ones.

Sadly, there is no Reference list. There are numbered references at the bottom of the pages, which is fine enough, but it denies any reader the option to have a quick scan of the reference list, and decide whether the report is worth reading.

Second, the composition of the commission follows what is now a standard pattern on racial pronouncements: the Commissioners on Race and Ethnic Disparities are themselves almost entirely persons of Race and Ethnicity. This is such a commonplace that no one seeks to question it. The underlying argument seems to be “You can’t talk about it unless you’ve been through it yourself”. At one selection committee for aspiring clinical psychologists we decided to set that statement as a question for candidates to debate in their group discussions. The Consultant for Mental Handicap moaned: “Well, that cuts out my speciality”.

Of the 10 Commissioners, 9 appear to fulfil the essential qualification of being race-and-ethnic-in-person, with one apparent European. No fewer than 6 of the minority persons have received a Royal Honour, so they are minorities in terms of race, and extreme minorities in terms of their elevated public status. It is a funny way to lead a discussion on disparities! None of this should matter, but if 8 of the 10 commissioners were European (as per demographics) in the current atmosphere it would have been denounced as a White whitewash. It is an absurdity that factual matters on group differences should be tacitly assigned to judges on a genetic basis. On a brighter note, they are using the government Race and Disparity Unit dataset, which is now building up useful lists of findings, so the numbers should be more important than the ethnicity of the commissioners, which I think turns out to be the case.

https://www.ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/

In his Introduction, the Chairman says:

Put simply, we no longer see a Britain where the system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities. The impediments and disparities do exist, they are varied, and ironically very few of them are directly to do with racism. Too often ‘racism’ is the catch-all explanation, and can be simply implicitly accepted rather than explicitly examined. The evidence shows that geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion have more significant impact on life chances than the existence of racism. That said, we take the reality of racism seriously and we do not deny that it is a real force in the UK.

Minorities are hardly a minor matter. According to the commission, 16 per cent of the UHK population belong to ethnic minorities.69

ONS, (2021), ‘Ethnicity and National Identity in England and Wales: 2011’. Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/culturalidentity/ethnicity/articles/ethnicityandnationalidentityinenglandandwales/2012-12-11

However, the actual link says:

“Whilst the majority of the population gave their ethnic group as “White” in the 2011 Census, results from the past 20 years show a decrease, falling from 94.1% in 1991 down to 86% in 2011.”

That would mean 14% are minorities, so the 16% must be a figure which has been updated from somewhere, or defined in some different way. At other points in the report they give the percentage for whites as 80.5%. Either way, minorities are sizeable proportions of the UK population, with some predictions that on current trends whites will be a minority by 2066.

The Report makes 24 recommendations. Moses got by with 10.

The recommendations are the usual ones, and it is hard to pick out anything which has not been tried before. Here’s one that made me smile: “Prevent harm, reduce crime and divert young people away from the criminal justice system” (The answer seems to be to downgrade Class B drug possession).

Actually, to argue against myself, I found one which would not have been requested in 1963: “Improve the transparency and use of artificial intelligence”. This is the new dilemma: if machine learning picks up racial differences, is that itself proof of bias at the input stage, or additional confirmation of actual differences?

There is also a suggestion that BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) has had its day, and should go the way of Coloured, Afro, African British, and Black British. Their point is that some immigrants do better than the white average, and that other immigrants do worse. Black immigrants tend to be in the latter category.

They ask for an extended school day for “disadvantaged” children.

They ask for funding for all of this, and that the funding be “ring-fenced”.

 

Max Roser does great work at “Our World in Data”, virtually all of which I read and retweet approvingly. He has just written a paper calculating the amount of economic growth which will be required to lift people out of poverty. Lots and lots of growth, he argues.

https://ourworldindata.org/poverty-minimum-growth-needed

I think it likely that lots of economic growth will be required, and am not questioning his thesis in growth terms. It is his particular explanations about the cause of poverty which I find unlikely. Here are some examples:

One of the most important insights of economics is that people live in poverty not because of who they are, but because of where they are. A person’s knowledge, their skills, and how hard they work all matter for whether they are poor or not – but all these personal factors together matter less than the one factor that is entirely outside of a person’s control: whether the place they happen to be born into has a large, productive economy or not.

It seems unlikely that all those personal factors matter less. Jews living virtually anywhere tend to do well, and usually very well. Also, the Chinese do well. The most important thing about Singapore is not the mosquitoes. It’s the Chinese. There are other economic elites, for example in India, who do far better than other Indians, and better than most people elsewhere. Roser implies that human capital, as economists call it, counts for relatively little, and geography counts for far more. Some people “happen to be born into” large productive economies. Some places happen to have those economies lying about, and other countries don’t. It is the luck of the draw where you are born.

A person who happens to be born into a country where the average income is low is almost certainly living in poverty.

Not necessarily. A Japanese person born in Brazil is unlikely to live in poverty. “Happens to be born” is an odd phrase. What is meant, I think, is that people are usually born in a national economy which their parents and grandparents have created. According to what they have built, children growing up in that country will have inherited a different set of circumstances which influence their opportunities. He seems to rank the location more important than the people. Furthermore, circumstances are not insurmountable. A nation state can eradicate mosquitoes if it puts its mind to it. American engineers built the Panama canal, where others had failed before, by the same intervention.

Another reason to think that many countries in the world can make progress against poverty in the future is to consider some of the reasons that were holding these countries back in the past. One important reason why a large number of people live in poverty today is that these countries were exploited by colonial powers that did not allow those economies to grow and instead impoverished them. The actions of rich countries still harm the prospects of poorer countries in many ways, but the end of colonialism was extremely important for the prospects of billions of people in the world and since the end of colonial rule many former colonies did substantially reduce poverty.

If colonial occupation is truly an important factor, then one would expect the nation which liberated itself most recently would be among the poorest, but that is not true of Hong Kong, which was liberated from British rule only in 1997. Also, it leaves out any comparison of the post-colonial achievements of different countries. East Asian countries have made gains which are larger than African countries, though at the time of gaining independence several African states like Kenya seemed to have better prospects than East Asian ones.

Also, if colonialism were an important reason for poverty in Africa then the bad management of a country up till say 1965 would seem to last for at least 56 years. I take 1965 as an average date for African countries throwing off colonial status. They have had 56 years of freedom, and the thesis is that their current poverty is in large part due to their colonial past.

That 56 year hangover would suggest that the exceptionally bad mismanagement of the leadership of Germany and Japan culminating in their destruction in 1945 would still be having deleterious economic effects on those countries in 2001, but in fact both were powerhouses of the world economy by then, and had already substantially recovered by the 1970s.

It is a sideline, but colonialism was practiced by different countries in different ways, and possibly with different apparent outcomes. Sociologists Lange, Mahoney and Hau (2006) have argued that mercantilist Spain colonized areas which were previously densely populated and developed, and Spanish colonialism had negative consequences for post-colonial development; liberal Britain colonized sparsely populated under-developed areas, which had positive consequences for post-colonial development. They did not consider human capital measures, but have a useful list of how long colonialism lasted for each country, and how extensive it was in terms of its influence, both helpful indicators.

https://doi.org/10.1086/499510

A more cynical view held by many Africans is that after liberation the old colonialism was taken over by a new African tribe called the WaBenzi, who mistreated the people of Africa in the most terrible way, stealing from them, corrupting their institutions and destroying their economies. They were named after the cars they drove.

If colonialism is the source of poverty, then it would be good to look at the pre-colonial world, say in the year 1500. By common consent among economic historians, at that time sub-saharan Africa was already a poor part of the world. This is attributed to the fact that Sub-Saharan Africa, already handicapped by diseases, lacked the advantages of the advanced agricultural societies, productive agriculture, diversified manufacturing and the necessary institutional and cultural resources (writing, the maths needed for land surveying, a written legal code, etc) to advance. The slave trade and colonialism would only exacerbate the situation.

Although Roser mentions education, he does not give the comparative figures for different nations, particularly comparing the post-colonial scholastic achievement of former colonies. Asia does well, despite previous poverty, Africa far less so. Here are the Maths scores for countries, including former colonies, including African countries who most of them don’t take part in international assessments, in this case derived from TIMMS items which were included in pan-African scholastic tests. Note that Singapore and Hong Kong were colonies, but do exceptionally well. Malaysia was colonised by the Portuguese, then the Dutch, and does well. Much further down the list, Indonesia had the same colonial sequence. The pattern does not show a convincing primary effect of damaging colonialism.

https://www.unz.com/jthompson/africa-and-the-cold-beauty-of-maths/

An excellent economic history of the world was written by David Landes. His meticulous study included studying the history of industrialization in Africa, and the problems encountered. His tentative conclusions about the behaviours which lead to wealth could be summarised in one word: innovate.

Here are his more detailed suggestions.

Ideal case for material progress and general enrichment:

 
• Category: Economics, Science • Tags: Education, Free market, Human Biodiversity, IQ 

I do not like the sound of “blood clots”. Many European leaders don’t like the sound of them either. Not nice, as my Granny used to say. It seems that some people who have received the AstraZeneca vaccination appear to have developed blood clots, 37 among 17 million people Europeans given the vaccine, so many European leaders have suspended vaccinations on the basis of “the precautionary principle”. I did not know this, but since 2005 this principle has been appended to the French Constitution. Slavish compliance with the precautionary principle is like ensuring your knife is correctly buttoned into its scabbard as you head off to a gunfight. European and international health agencies have told them not to stop vaccinating, so with their refusal we have another festival of confusion across the channel. Essentially, the Continent is cut off by fog, a fog of their own creation.

The back story is that there are blood clots and blood clots. Some happen in 1 in a thousand persons, and others so rarely that it is hard to calculate the base rates. Some account say that it was the latter sort which caused some countries to halt vaccinations. Whatever the reason, other countries followed suit. About a week later the advice came back that they should resume vaccinations. Not all have done so.

The French President had said that the AstraZeneca vaccine was “quasi-ineffective in over 65 year olds” and French health officials are now saying it should not be used on under 55 year olds. So, if official guidance is to be believed, this vaccine works for the 55 to 65 age group only. As Sir John Bell, Regius Chair of Medicine at the University of Oxford said, their policy is “crackers”.

In an attempt to raise all these rows to a war footing, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, is threatening to use an emergency clause in their constitution to justify embargoing the export of vaccines, which might result in AstraZeneca having to break its prior contract with the UK in order to fulfil a later contract with the EU. This is a mystifying plan of action, since at the moment the European factories don’t produce this vaccine, and 90% of it comes from England, and the last 10% from India. However, the European factory is due to come online soon, so the fuss is about who gets the big boost in production.

My impression of many national leaders is that they don’t really know much about industrial production processes, namely how long it takes to perfect a technique, and how widely across the world one has to search for all the ingredients and specialist equipment required for mass production of a new vaccine, at a scale never before achieved. All this threatening behaviour, just to be able to use a vaccine which is only available because the University of Oxford designed it, and because the University of Oxford partnered with AstraZeneca on the condition it was sold to everybody at cost, and because the United Kingdom then bankrolled it in advance, giving the company a guaranteed income flow in return for a pre-booked delivery schedule. The UK also pre-booked lots of other vaccine candidates very early in their development. The French seem to be particularly peeved because their own vaccine, put together by the Pasteur Institute and Sanofi, flopped, leading to lots of morose soul-searching.

To make a repellently absurd, petulant and posturing performance even worse, it turns out that the blood clot fiasco has resulted in 14 million doses of vaccine having been left unused, such that Europe is now facing a third wave of infection, and France has just locked down 21 million citizens, while they work out quite what to do with a population which were already vaccine hesitant, and are now vaccine bewildered and downright hostile. An English friend who lives and works in St Tropez got vaccinated last week. He said that the only people vaccinated while he was there (for about 40 minutes because it included the compulsory waiting time) was himself and another guy who was in a wheel chair. No other patients showed up. He had time to do his own little performance routine, saying he would only accept a vaccine if it was Russian, and then spent time chatting in English with the French medical staff, who said that all the available vaccines worked, if only people would take them.

Gerd Gigerenzer has made a great contribution to the understanding of risk in his 2002 book. What I most liked about his approach is that he designed a simple heuristic to make us smart, namely that when making decisions about risks, we should always draw out a frequency tree and put in actual numbers derived from population base rates. He also suggested that these “natural frequencies” were easier to understand than percentages, particularly when the percentages include decimal points. Only 0.01% of people get those right.

Plotting out the frequencies for all conceivable vaccination side effects, against the effects on those who get Covid would be a simple way of looking at costs and benefits. People with Covid often get blood clots. Recent data from the Netherlands and France suggest that 30-70% of coronavirus patient in intensive care units develop blood clots, one in four develop a pulmonary embolism, and are more likely to suffer a stroke. Not nice at all.

Since the virus kills mostly those above 65 years of age, as already described in my post on 3rd February:

For those between 65 and 75 year of age the risk is 2,500 in 100,000. For those between 75 and 85 years it is 6,000 per 100,000, and for those over 80 years it is 20,000 per 100,000. Individual choices will vary, but from 65 years onwards, a vaccination may look like a good bet.

Currently, the UK is vaccinating its population at a much higher rate than Europe.

Currently, the UK is experiencing fewer cases than most of Europe:

As a pointer for the future, as many more millions get vaccinated across the world, (currently 436 million and rising fast), the number of apparent side effects will rise in absolute numbers. The number of real side effects may also rise. The key issue is whether those side effects justify not being vaccinated and accepting the effects of getting Covid. Also, given that most national programs prioritize the elderly, there will be more and more people who will die shortly after being vaccinated for reasons of age alone. Some of those deaths will be of people who have rare diseases. As more and more millions get vaccinated, one day an elderly patient may die as they get vaccinated.

Saturday was a record day for UK coronavirus vaccinations, with 873,784 people inoculated. Those looking forward to a holiday in France have been told that they should wait before making bookings. No one wants returning tourists bringing back new variants from France. The entente is not so cordial.

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Coronavirus, Vaccines 

A Royal Family is a projective test: it is designed to be an emblem of a nation with which all citizens can identify. They need to see enough in that family to be able to imagine themselves being part of it. This family, by dint of some historical achievement, is chosen as the prime example of a country’s people, to be defended, admired, and copied by them all: it should set an example, and bind the nation together. For the chosen family, it is a Faustian bargain: a very good standard of living in return for good behaviour and embodying the countries’ values. Luxury demands service in return, and part of that service is to be on public display.

In terms of inter-tribal competition, this makes sense. When dealing with the tribe across the mountains you want your representatives to look as good as possible. However impoverished your tribe may be, your representatives must be well-dressed and able to put on an impressive show when receiving visitors, and able to offer presents when visiting other countries in return. Perceptions matter. Making a good impression can lead to better trade relations, and might even avoid a war.

These historical precedents may seem less important now, but it is strange how countries without an official royal family tend to get fascinated by Britain’s Queen, or their own special political families. In US politics, more attention will be paid to those with surnames such as Bush, Clinton, Obama, as well as Kennedy and in future Trump. France guillotined their royals, but still has some interest in the royals over the water. Pedigree is a factor, even when people say it should not be.

YouGov surveys show a big generational difference in how UK citizens perceive Harry and Meghan. The 18 to 24 year-olds are sympathetic to the young couple, those over 50 not. Of course, the age of viewers cannot determine the truth of the matter. Also, plenty of people are not interested, or at least say they aren’t. The very latest polls from YouGov show Harry has fallen 15 points into negative territory at -3, and Meghan down 14 points to a net rating of -27.

The fact-checking has now begun. Doubts have been raised by matters such as which members of the extended royal family get which titles, and which levels of protection. In this the young couple appear to have misunderstood the standard procedures set up in 1917. There are considerable doubts about whether the Archbishop of Canterbury would have married them in a private without witnesses present, and then gone through with a massive charade three days later, against all legal and religious requirements. Also in doubt is the claim about not having access to passports, since there was plentiful foreign travel in that period, and the Queen is the only one who travels without one. Journalists have gone through the proffered specimens of hostile front-page UK press coverage, and find that many were written by the overseas press, or after the couple had already left public life. Much of the earlier negative press was because of their championing global warming precautions while taking private jets. Other claims they made are hard to assess, particularly the one about their baby’s skin colour. More of that later. Curiously, with all this focus on the Royals as a family, the interview made no commensurate examination of the Markles as a family.

Undeniably, people are interested in what Harry and Meghan had to say. A royal family must be somewhat mysterious if it is to serve its symbolic function. It is natural to wonder what the Queen is like. I have been at functions where the Queen was present, and she was gracious and very capable. A little story: at a big lunch she gave for civic leaders she was on the round table next to ours. Afterwards I quizzed the guy sitting next to her, a local butcher. He said that at any reception he had generally found himself on table 20, but this time had to search up the entire board to find, to his great alarm, that he was sitting next to her. Assuming he should only speak when spoken to, he said: “Within 20 seconds it was clear we would be having an ordinary conversation”. I asked what his impressions were. He replied “A really excellent mimic”. Not many people know that.

Today, on a Zoom conference with schoolchildren about science the Queen was asked what Yuri Gagarin was like. Deadpan, she replied: Russian. And then joined in the laughter.

Camilla, attending the opening of a new wing of a hospice, came into to see a dying friend of ours and was charming, talking with her for quite some time. Slightly to my surprise, our friend was very moved by her visit. The Duke of Edinburgh was good fun to talk to, a close friend found. When the Queen visited Trinity College Cambridge she told another friend how much she had enjoyed visiting Charles when he was studying there. I had a long conversation with Lord Linley, son of Princess Margaret, about his fine furniture business. Finding out that I was a psychologist, he quipped: “How am I doing?” and carried on describing his work. Friends had a long friendly conversation with Lady Diana, which they always remember. A casualty consultant told me that a politician visiting the hospital was generally considered a nuisance (he had Thatcher in mind) but if a Royal came along everyone was smiling for at least four days. The royal family meets everybody. It is part of the job description, and they generally appear to enjoy it.

Among those over 50 years of age there is considerable irritation at the Harry and Meghan accusations, and a feeling of betrayal. Their wedding was a big event, designed in the way they wanted, and was very well received by the public. They were very popular. Eventually, their lectures about global warming began to grate on nerves, given their private travels. (Prince Charles had been given the same treatment, for the same reasons). Royals live a charmed life, but are not expected to complain when hypocrisies are exposed.

Now to the skin colour of the baby, based on comments actual or potential. Harry said that racism was a large part of the reason he gave up his royal duties and left his country. The line taken by some commentators is that the accusation requires the royal family to reflect deeply. Well, let’s consider what might happen if they did so. They would note that they had accepted a divorcee into the family, had given the couple a superb and very expensive wedding with priests and choirs that celebrated the brides’ African heritage, gave them a fine house, watched them gain enormous popularity and public affection, and then crash out shortly thereafter, with public accusations of racism. The whole point about crying racism is that the accusation is irrefutable. No good deed counts as absolution. So long as the accuser claims (with all their heart) that they were treated unfairly, the case is proved, and all that remains is to determine the sentence. The royal family, after all that reflection, might be tempted to go back to arranged marriages.

I took the photo of Harry in June 2019 when he was the guest of honour at Founders Day at The Royal Hospital, the retirement home for soldiers “broken by war”. Everyone wanted to meet him, and looked on with interest as he chatted to those presented to him. It seemed that his future lay in helping Army charities, to public acclaim.

Younger critics refer to the couple and “Ginge & Cringe”. Older critics prefer “Duchess Difficult & The Hostage”.

Although there have been many different public reactions, one I often hear is:

Poor Harry.

 
• Category: Culture/Society • Tags: Britain, Prince Harry 

On Monday England was given an indication as to how it will eventually get out of lockdown. Gradually, and in very careful stages, seems to be the answer.

We are in our third lockdown, and have staggered through two false dawns. What is different now is that vaccinations have been completed on 17.7 million citizens (last weekend’s figures), which covers all the most vulnerable people. This should have a big impact on deaths and hospitalizations. The plan is to keep going till all adults have been vaccinated, probably by the end of July. We are now in a transition phase, and each stage will follow the next stage every 5 weeks, so long as four tests are met:

1 The vaccination program continues at the present pace.
2 Vaccinations continue to be effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths.
3 The NHS can cope with the pressure of hospitalizations
4 No risky new variants arise.

So, not exactly a slam dunk, and plenty of wriggle room for the government, but there is a reasonable likelihood of progress towards the usual freedoms of life by midsummer.

Stage 1. Starting 8th March (those vaccinated will have reasonable protection) schools and colleges will open, and small outdoor meetings can commence, and by 29 March more people can meet outside, and outdoor sports can commence.

Stage 2. No earlier than 12 April, all shops allowed to open, restaurants and pubs can serve customers sitting outdoors, and gyms, hairdressers, zoos, theme parks, libraries and community centres can open.

Stage 3. No earlier than 17 May, groups of 30 can meet outdoors or for special events like weddings; but only 6 indoors. Outdoor theatres and cinemas, and hotels can open; international travel can begin, indoor sports, exercise classes and large events also, though subject to number restrictions.

Stage 4. No earlier than 21 June. Everything open.

As the English say: “Fair enough”. Snap polls show general support, with only 16% saying the pace is too slow. However, the chance of getting infected outdoors is very low, and always has been, so why not allow all outdoor activities immediately?

One reason is that although not many of the younger-than-70-years-of-age die, they account for half the patients in hospital. There are more people under 70 than above it, so the prospect of large numbers needing hospital beds is alarming. As always, when epidemics make people very ill, hospitals become a limiting factor. They are designed to deal with our everyday needs, plus a small buffer for winter, but are not well set up for widespread community infections which happen infrequently. Also, although deaths are coming down, they are not coming down quite as fast as hoped.

This is a trifecta: vaccinations are working (but need more time and to be given to more people); many are still getting infected and dying so some restrictions need to be applied; and people have had enough of lockdown and are bursting to get out. The government are looking at the junction point of increasing vaccinations and increasing infections, and trying to balance the effects of possible hospitalizations coming, say, two to three weeks later, and vaccine produced immunity coming four weeks after the first inoculation.

As always, there is a strong political dimension: the UK has one of the highest death rates, and also one of the fastest vaccination deployments. The latter is that rare thing, a moment when the public give grudging support to their leaders, and thankful lip service to Science. They respect lab workers in white overalls, but don’t want to pay them all that much. It is dull work, and requires brains, so is best left to someone else.

As the weeks have gone by the general news about vaccination has been uplifting. The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is highly effective in England, but European citizens are avoiding it, because their leaders have told them to. Vaccines are going to waste, at a time when countries outside Europe would gratefully receive them.

The vaccinated quite understandably want some public recognition of their new status. They have taken a low risk, and are now far less likely to be hospitalized or to pass the virus on. They would like a Vaccination Passport so that they can go on holiday without compulsory quarantine, and also go to theatres, cinemas, or nightclubs. The Greek Government would like British tourists on their beaches, and in their nightclubs.

The government, not initially too happy with the passport idea, is now considering it, so a committee will study the issue, including whether such passports would be discriminatory against those who “for whatever reason” did not get vaccinated. This is an inversion of what was formerly meant by “discrimination” which was that discrimination was a positive attribute showing that a person could distinguish one thing from another, as in the case of fine wines. Persons of discrimination have done a risk calculus and got vaccinated so as to protect themselves and cause less trouble and burden to others, and now the concern is that those who haven’t bothered to take up the free vaccination will be inconvenienced in some way.

Vaccination data for England as at 2 February 2021 shows:

• 14.4% of white people vaccinated so far (7.02 million)
• 9.2% of Asian people vaccinated (411,000)
• 6.8% of Black people vaccinated (135,000)
• 4.7% of people from mixed ethnic groups vaccinated (62,000)

You may remember that the surveys of intention to accept vaccination showed that this was likely some months ago. The “hesitant” remain so, and are procrastinating. The government, aware that not all will be vaccinated, and that no vaccine provides perfect protection, and that more social mixing will generate more cases is also procrastinating, but in cautious stages.

The usual suspects for vaccine “hesitancy” have been rounded up by the Office for National Statistics:

perception of risk, low confidence in the vaccine, distrust, access barriers, inconvenience, socio-demographic context & lack of endorsement, lack of vaccine offer or lack of communication from trusted providers and community leaders. [High Confidence].

To overcome these barriers, multilingual, non-stigmatising communications should be produced and shared, including vaccine offers and endorsements from trusted sources to increase awareness and understanding and to address different religious and cultural concerns (such as whether the vaccine is compliant with the dietary practices of major faiths, or with their ethical positions around medical interventions). Communication should consider the “whole communication journey” for vaccine rollout. [medium confidence]

Community engagement is essential as health messages and vaccine distribution strategies must be sensitive to local communities. Community forums should include engagement with trusted sources such as healthcare workers, in particular GPs, and scientists from within the target community to respond to concerns about vaccine safety and efficacy [medium confidence]

All this is well and good, so scientists and politicians of the relevant races and religions have been photographed loyally getting vaccinated, the better to inspire their genetic and faith cohorts. In times of tribulation, tribes matter.

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Britain, Coronavirus, Vaccines 
James Thompson
About James Thompson

James Thompson has lectured in Psychology at the University of London all his working life. His first publication and conference presentation was a critique of Jensen’s 1969 paper, with Arthur Jensen in the audience. He also taught Arthur how to use an English public telephone. Many topics have taken up his attention since then, but mostly he comments on intelligence research.