Friday, January 08, 2010

UN Department of Economic And Social Affairs (DESA) Working Paper Series

The DESA Working Papers are preliminary documents circulated in a limited number of copies and posted on this website, to stimulate discussion and critical comment on the broad range of economic, social and environmental issues associated with the United Nations Development Agenda.

Readers are invited to submit their comments directly to the authors. The views and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations Secretariat. The designations and terminology employed may not conform to United Nations practice and do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Organization.

Link to DESA Working Papers website

Many Americans Mix Religious Beliefs and Practices

Pew Forum Poll Finds Eastern, New Age Beliefs Widespread

The religious beliefs and practices of Americans do not fit neatly into conventional categories. According to a new report based on a recent national survey by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life, large numbers of Americans engage in multiple religious practices, blending elements of diverse traditions.

The survey, conducted Aug. 11-27 among 4,013 adults reached on both landlines and cell phones, finds that many Americans say they attend worship services of more than one faith or denomination, even when they are not traveling or going to special events like weddings and funerals.

Source: Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life

Download full pdf report | Link to online summary

Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be...Lawyers

This essay treats a legal education as an investment, and asks the question of whether, based on known costs and expected benefits, such investment should be undertaken. The inquiry will necessarily differ from one potential law student to another. But for three posited “typical students,” the investment is shown to be a bad one.

Source: Vanderbilt Law and Economics Working Paper No. 09-29 [via SSRN

Download complete pdf publication | Link to SSRN

Health Care on Aisle 7 : The Growing Phenomenon of Retail Clinics

Presents information on the growing phenomenon of retail medical clinics, the types of patients they serve and the types of care they provide, and whether some common claims about retail clinics are supported by evidence.

Source: RAND Corporation

Download full pdf publication | Link to online summary

Understanding Commanders' Information Needs for Influence Operations

From the online Summary:
The objectives of this study were to develop a better understanding of commanders' information requirements pertaining to cultural and other “soft” factors (e.g., networks and hierarchies, cultural norms, attitudes) in order to improve the effectiveness of combined arms operations, and to develop practical ways for commanders to integrate information and influence operations activities into combined arms planning and assessment in order to increase the usefulness to ground commanders of such operations. The monograph describes commanders' own views of their information needs for information and influence operations, identifies principal sources of commanders' information needs for these operations, and sets out important challenges associated with improving the ability of field commanders to plan, execute, and assess successful information and influence operations. Also included is a review of various indicators related to information and influence operations that have been used in the field; specific message themes that were used in Bosnia; a detailed analysis of tasks related to information and influence operations; an implementation plan for a metrics-based planning and assessment approach for information and influence operations that was developed in an earlier study; a taxonomy of information operations tasks and effects; and assessments of the suitability of two analytic techniques — expected utility modeling and social network analysis — for information and influence operations.

Source: RAND Corporation

Download full pdf publication | Link to online summary

Working Paper : "Calorie Posting in Chain Restaurants"

From Press Release:

A new study released Jan. 6 examined consumer behavior before and after calorie counts were posted, and determined that when restaurants post calories on menu boards, there is a reduction in calories per transaction. Based on transaction data provided by Starbucks, researchers from the Stanford Graduate School of Business found that calorie-posting in New York City in 2008 led to a 6% reduction in calories per transaction. According to the study, beverage choices at Starbucks are unaffected by calorie posting. However, calorie posting leads consumers to buy fewer food items, and to switch to lower calorie food items.

Source: Stanford School of Business

Download full pdf publication | Link to online summary

Worldwide Study Finds Few Gender Differences in Math Abilities

From the Press Release:

Gender Gaps Linked to Status of Women, According to New Analysis

Girls around the world are not worse at math than boys, even though boys are more confident in their math abilities, and girls from countries where gender equity is more prevalent are more likely to perform better on mathematics assessment tests, according to a new analysis of international research.

Source: American Psychological Association

Download full pdf publication : Cross-National Patterns of Gender Differences in Mathematics

Mullahs, Guards, and Bonyads : An Exploration of Iranian Leadership Dynamics

The Islamic Republic of Iran poses serious challenges to U.S. interests in the Middle East, and its nuclear program continues to worry the international community. The presidential election of June 2009 that returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power and led to broad protests and a government crackdown presents yet another cause for U.S. concern. Yet the U.S. ability to “read” the Iranian regime and formulate appropriate policies has been handicapped by both a lack of access to the country and the opacity of decisionmaking in Tehran. To help analysts better understand the Iranian political system, the authors describe

* Iranian strategic culture, including the perceptions that drive state behavior
* the informal networks, formal government institutions, and personalities that influence decisionmaking in the Islamic Republic
* the impact of elite behavior on Iranian policy formulation and execution
* factionalism, emerging fissures within the current regime, and other key trends.

Source: RAND Corporation

Download full pdf publication
| Download pdf Executive Summary | Link to online summary

Who Regulates Whom? An Overview of U.S. Financial Supervision

Federal financial regulation in the United States has evolved through a series of piecemeal responses to developments and crises in financial markets. This report provides an overview of current U.S. financial regulation: which agencies are responsible for which institutions and markets, and what kinds of authority they have. There are two traditional components to U.S. banking regulation: deposit insurance and adequate capital. Commercial banks accept a quid pro quo that was adopted in response to widespread bank failures during the 1930s. Through deposit insurance, the federal government provides a safety net for some banking operations and in return the banks that are exposed to depositor runs accept federal regulation of their operations, including the amount of risk they may incur. Since the 1860s, federal banking regulation has sought to prevent excessive risk taking by banks that might seek to make extra profit by reducing their capital reserves--at the time called "wildcat" banks. There are five federal bank regulators, each supervising different (and often overlapping) sets of depository institutions. Federal securities regulation is based on the principle of disclosure, rather than direct regulation. Firms that sell securities to the public must register with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), but the agency has no authority to prevent excessive risk taking. SEC registration in no way implies that an investment is safe, only that the risks have been fully disclosed.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Download full pdf publication
| Link to online summary

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

New PEW survey results : Internet, broadband, and cell phone statistics

From Overview

In a national survey between November 30 and December 27, 2009, we find:

74% of American adults (ages 18 and older) use the internet -- a slight drop from our survey in April 2009, which did not include Spanish interviews. At that time we found that 79% of English-speaking adults use the internet.

60% of American adults use broadband connections at home – a drop that is within the margin of error from 63% in April 2009.

Download full pdf report | Download Survey Questions (pdf) | Link to online overview