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Census 2010: Voters more Republican, more Texan, Fatter

The exciting Census headlines:  Texas is the big winner in gaining Congressional seats, Texans vote Republican, Republicans win! Except — the additional Texans are Hispanics, Hispanics vote Democratic, Democrats win!

What a nice illustration of a serious problem in development empirics, known by the lusty, sensuous name of “heterogeneous effects.”  If  you find handing out free bed nets lowers malaria, that still only applies ON AVERAGE to the group covered by the study. Within this group, the effects are likely heterogeneous behind the average positive effect, and there could be some sub-group for which the effect is zero.  This is analogous to the Texas effect on voting– on average, being Texan makes you vote Republican, but this is an average of heterogeneous groups, some of whom — like the burgeoning Hispanics — vote Democratic.

You could solve this problem by analyzing all the possible sub-groups. Unfortunately, both in politics and in development, this is unlimited, while research budgets and data are limited.

To illustrate imaginative sub-group possibles, my own pathbreaking insight is that one reliable group of Republican voters  is, well, how to be polite about this(!?), are persons with somewhat larger belt sizes. Notice how many of the most brownest, reddest states are Red States, while the Blue State strongholds are in the relatively thinner Northeast.  

Also some sub-group effects could be spurious correlations. During my own struggles against middle-aged spread, I have not noticed any more inclination to vote Republican when my jeans size increases.

If this is all too methodological and obscure for you, then, congratualtions, you are normal.   On the off chance that you are willing to work hard on this stuff, you can get many unexpected lessons. For example, if you want a roly-poly Santa for the office party, ask a Republican.

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  1. Sinz54 wrote:

    Many of the fattest people are black people (too much fried food and soul food)–and they vote Democratic.

    African American women have the highest rates of being overweight or obese compared to other groups in the U.S. About four out of five African American women are overweight or obese.

    In 2007, African Americans were 1.4 times as likely to be obese as Non- Hispanic Whites.

    Posted December 23, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Permalink
  2. William Easterly wrote:

    sinz54, thanks for making my point even more compelling! For any given subgroup average, there is a subgroup of the subgroup that is the opposite! Bill

    Posted December 23, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Permalink
  3. Vivekananda Nemana wrote:

    I was going to say something in response to Sinz524, but I think Prof. Easterly already said it much better than I could!

    Posted December 23, 2010 at 6:44 pm | Permalink
  4. All hail Texas! :)

    Posted January 5, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

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  1. By United States of Obesity | FrumForum on December 23, 2010 at 11:41 am

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    The Aid Watch blog is a project of New York University's Development Research Institute (DRI). This blog is principally written by William Easterly, author of "The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics" and "The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good," and Professor of Economics at NYU. It is co-written by Laura Freschi and by occasional guest bloggers. Our work is based on the idea that more aid will reach the poor the more people are watching aid.

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