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Did you know that …?

Archive 2016

Did you know that believing in scientific progress makes people more satisfied with their lives than believing in God?

December, 2016

Religiosity makes people happy – this has been shown in numerous studies. The belief in a higher power helps to preserve a feeling of control even if the here and now turns out to be chaotic. It prevents existential fears by rendering the world well-ordered and predictable.

But in modern societies fewer and fewer people believe in God. In former times, someone who got severely ill would pray to the Almighty Father – today many patients prefer to trust in modern medicine, at least in Western countries. For social scientists, the question about the consequences of this change is an intriguing one.

Can believing in scientific and technological progress convey a sense of control to people and thereby make them happy and satisfied? Olga Stavrova, Daniel Ehlebracht and Detlef Fetchenhauer have investigated this question in an article, analyzing data from two representative international population samples.

To begin with they showed that people in the Netherlands tended to be the more satisfied with their lives the more they believed in the progress of science and technology. The question if they were religious played a less important part. This correlation could partly be explained by the fact that people who believed in progress felt that they could exercise control over their lives.

However, the Netherlands are a quite secular nation – and the authors suspected that belief in progress makes people especially satisfied with their lives when they live in societies in which this belief is comparatively widespread. This is because we feel especially well when others around us perceive the world in the same way as we do: This facilitates social interaction and gives us the feeling to be right with our take on things.

The authors thus also tested their results using data from 72 countries. In 69 of them they found a considerable positive correlation between the belief in progress and life satisfaction while religiosity only correlated positively with life satisfaction in 23 countries and even correlated negatively with it in ten countries.

Once more, people who believed in progress were more likely to have a sense of control over their lives, and indeed they were particularly more content with their lives when many of their fellow citizens shared their belief in progress. Thus, it does not only matter what we believe – but also where we believe it. In any case, the belief in God is not the only one that can make us happy

Did you know that the composition of social contacts in old age affects mortality?

November, 2016

Strong social participation and integration into social relationships are generally considered to be health-promoting. Numerous studies have already shown a connection with lower mortality and therefore higher life expectancy in old age. Many of these studies investigate kin networks. Less is known, however, about the effect of social integration in non-kin networks, that is contacts outside the family, like friends, neighbors and colleagues.

ISS researcher Lea Ellwardt studied this effect together with colleagues from the Free University of Amsterdam and the NOVA Institute in Oslo in more detail. The researchers hypothesized that a complex composition of non-kin networks increases survival in old age. Networks should not only be large, but also manifold in their composition, since they potentially involve a variety of different support resources and reduce the dependence on single useful contacts.

In their recently published study, the researchers analyzed death and survey data of 2440 women and men aged 54 to 100 years, who were interviewed within the LASA Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam over 20 years. The researchers were able to show that individuals with larger and more diverse relationship patterns had greater survival chances than individuals with less diverse relationships with non-kin contacts. This result was independent of the total number of kin and health status.

Overall, differences were rather small. Nonetheless, the researchers conclude that in the future, especially non-kin contacts can make a difference where older people have little access to family support and are increasingly dependent on extra-family assistance.

Did you know that Germans working in Switzerland earn more money than the Swiss?

October, 2016

Low unemployment rates and the prospering economy have made Switzerland a highly attractive destination for a range of migrant groups. The diverse population and a high proportion of skilled labour migrants from Germany were two important reasons for analysing the integration of immigrants in the Swiss labour market in more detail.

The study conducted by ISS researcher Christian Ebner and his colleague Marc Helbling (University of Bamberg) is based on representative data from the Swiss Labour Force Survey (SLFS) for the years 2010 and 2011. The SLFS covers the permanently resident population of Switzerland and in addition to the basic sample, a large number of foreigners have been surveyed. The study population consists of adults aged between 25 and 64 who are working for pay.

The empirical findings indicate that earnings of immigrants vary to a great extent depending on their country of origin. German immigrants, net of education, even earned significantly higher salaries than Swiss-born individuals. Germans speak one of the Swiss national languages and the German education system is very similar to the Swiss education system. They perform specialist tasks and help ameliorate the skills shortage in Switzerland, which gives them more bargaining power in wage negotiations. For many other immigrant groups in Switzerland severe wage disadvantages can be detected. Ethnic disadvantage on the labour market increases as the social distance, which is determined by culture, language and the education system between the sending and receiving societies, grows. Particularly low wages were found for immigrants from the former Yugoslavia and Turkey. Policies should include targeted language training and education.

Did you know that religious Christians in Europe are on average more tolerant towards Islamic education and headscarves for teachers in public schools?

August/September, 2016

A study funded by the European Commission (EURISLAM-Survey) in six European countries showed that religious Christians and Muslims accept the religious rights of the other group to a greater extent than less religious individuals. This finding illustrates that religious individuals solidarize with each other across religious boundaries.

Sarah Carol (University of Cologne), Marc Helbling (University of Bamberg) und Ines Michalowski (WZB) investigated attitudes towards religious rights for Christians and Muslims in Belgium, Germany, France, Great Britain, Netherlands and Switzerland. The analyses are based on the EURISLAM survey conducted among more than 7,000 natives and Muslim minorities from the former Yugoslavia, Turkey, Morocco and Pakistan. The focus lies on attitudes towards Christian religious symbols for teachers (e.g. habit or cross), the headscarf for teachers, Islamic education and Christian education in public schools.

The researchers were able to show that natives do not reject Islamic rights per se, but clearly differentiate between religious symbols for teachers and religious education. They accept Islamic education to a greater extent than the headscarf for teachers. However, also Muslim minorities themselves support the headscarf for teachers to a lesser extent than religious education. Yet, there are differences between ethnic groups: Moroccan and Pakistani minorities are more likely to support religious rights than the Yugoslav or Turkish minority.

Besides differences between ethnic groups, they observe cross-national differences:

Controlled for gender, age and education of the individuals, they find that Dutch natives accept the headscarf to the greatest extent (natives 45%, minorities 79%). In Germany only 36% of the natives and 66% of the minorities said so. On average, Christian and Islamic education is most supported in Germany and Belgium (about 70% of the natives), and least supported in France and Great Britain. Switzerland and Netherlands are positioned in-between. In France, a large gap between natives’ and minorities’ attitudes towards religious education is observed, which is a potential source of conflict.

Did you know that sympathy is more important than economic considerations when it comes to the acceptance of immigrants?

July, 2016

The so-called (PE)GIDA protests and the increasing number of immigrants and refugees coming to Germany have been dominating public and political debates in Germany for more than a year. A central issue is the question who shall be welcome in Germany and who not. A study by Christian Czymara and Alexander Schmidt-Catran takes up this dispute by investigating which characteristics determine the public acceptance of immigrants. To this end, they conducted a factorial survey where respondents had to rate 14 fictitious immigrants. They differentiate respondents’ acceptance along three dimensions: the general right to live in Germany, the right to seek employment in Germany, and the right to receive social benefits from the German welfare state.

Generally, the surveyed sample has a rather positive view on immigrants, many even accepted all 14 fictitious immigrants regardless of their actual characteristics. But a significant amount of respondents also universally rejected all immigrants. The latter is especially true for the right to receive social benefits from the German welfare state, whereas respondents almost consensually agreed on giving immigrants the possibility to work in Germany.

Investigating the effects of an immigrant’s characteristics on her or his acceptance, the study shows that an immigrant’s perceived impact on society as well as on the national economy plays a key role: higher qualification, good skills in the German language, and a prospective job all significantly increase an immigrant’s likelihood of being accepted on all three dimensions. Anticipated competition on the labor market and economic self-interest, on the other hand, fail to predict respondent’s acceptance.

Most acceptance, however, is shown toward individuals who flee from political persecution. This points to the possibility that sympathy may be able to reduce considerations about an immigrant’s profitability under certain circumstances. Non-economic aspects are important, too: individuals from France, which is arguably culturally more similar to Germany, have a higher likelihood of being accepted as compared to those coming from Kenia or Lebanon. Furthermore, Muslims were significantly less accepted than Christians or non-religious immigrants.

Did you know that the increase in divorce rates in Germany cannot be explained by a change in the role of women?

June, 2016

In Germany, divorce rates have continued to rise over the past 100 years. Only recently, this trend might have stagnated. A prominent thesis in family sociology suggests that the increase in divorce rates could be explained by a change of the role of women. This change includes increases in women’s labour market participation and improvements of their educational opportunities. The question is whether this rise in female employment and educational attainment explains the increase in divorce rates. Employment raises the earning ability of women. Therefore, employed women are more financially independent from a spouse and less bound to a malfunctioning marriage. Moreover, the negative financial impact of a divorce is less severe for employed women. Finally, it can be expected that a gainful employment of both partners leads to a more balanced division of domestic work. This might reduce the gains a male partner would get from a gendered division of domestic work and in fact destabilize the marriage.

In empirical studies, Michael Wagner, Lisa Schmid (ISS) und Bernd Weiß (University Duisburg-Essen) analyse data from the German Life History Study (GLHS).  The GLHS contains observations of marriages formed between 1936 and 2005 and distinguishes six marriage cohorts (1936-1945, 1946-1955, 1956-1965, 1966-1975, 1976-1985, 1986-2005). The study is confined to West Germany since divorce rates developed differently in eastern and western Germany. The empirical analysis shows that divorce rates are higher in younger marriage cohorts. This finding is consistent with the corresponding numbers in official statistics. The educational attainment of women as well as the proportion of married women in the labour force increases from the earliest to the most recent marriage cohort observed. However, these trends cannot explain sufficiently the continuous rise in divorce rates. Neither does the increasing proportion of well-educated or employed women explain the rise of the divorce rates over the years, nor has the effect of educational attainment or labour market participation on the risk of divorce substantially changed in the observed time range. In our article (Wagner et al. 2015), we discuss alternative explanations for the historical development of the divorce rates. It seems likely that normative barriers constraining the possibilities of a divorce have become weaker in more recent marriage cohorts. Furthermore, partners in more recent cohorts may have higher demands (to express themselves) on their spouses, which may not be met in an increasing number of marriages. In conclusion, it may be the case that a cultural instead of a sociostructural change accounts for the increase in divorce rates.

Wussten Sie schon, dass die Genossenschaft eine attraktive Rechtsform für gemeinsames Wirtschaften darstellt?

Mai, 2016

Eine erhöhte Neugründungsaktivität insbesondere im Bereich erneuerbarer Energien hat die Rechtsform der Genossenschaft im Allgemeinen und ihre Eignung für Bürgerinitiativen im Besonderen wieder ins Bewusstsein von Öffentlichkeit und Politik gerückt. Dies findet Ausdruck im Koalitionsvertrag der 18. Legislaturperiode, in welchem die Förderung der Genossenschaft an mehreren Stellen genannt wird. Vor diesem Hintergrund haben Johannes Blome-Drees, Philipp Degens und Clemens Schimmele vom Seminar für Genossenschaftswesen gemeinsam mit der Kienbaum Management Consultants GmbH im Auftrag des Bundesministeriums für Wirtschaft und Energie eine Studie zum Thema „Potenziale und Hemmnisse von unternehmerischen Aktivitäten in der Rechtsform der Genossenschaft“ erstellt.

Die Studie identifiziert genossenschaftliche Gründungspotenziale, indem sie aufzeigt, für welche Problemlagen die Rechtsform der eingetragenen Genossenschaft (eG) Lösungspotenziale bietet und weshalb sie gegebenenfalls bislang nicht verwirklicht wurden. Um die enorme Heterogenität genossenschaftlichen Wirtschaftens begrifflich zu ordnen, werden fünf Kernbereiche identifiziert: Regionalentwicklung und lokale Daseinsvorsorge, Wohnen, Energie, Gesundheit und Soziales sowie mittelständische Kooperationen, Handwerk und Unternehmensnachfolgen. Berücksichtigt werden in besonderem Maße die Auswirkungen der Novelle des Genossenschaftsgesetzes von 2006. Zudem wird untersucht, wie die Attraktivität der eG in Zukunft weiter erhöht werden kann, ob die Gründung von Genossenschaften erleichtert bzw. vereinfacht und ob etwaige Benachteiligungen der eG gegenüber anderen Rechtsformen beseitigt werden können.

Im Ergebnis liefert die Studie wichtige empirische Ergebnisse zu verschiedenen Diskussionen, die unter den beteiligten Akteuren bereits seit Jahren zum Teil kontrovers geführt werden. Während sich alle Beteiligten darin einig sind, dass Genossenschaften großes Lösungspotenzial für aktuelle und zukünftige wirtschaftliche und gesellschaftliche Problemstellungen bieten, wird es vom politischen Willen abhängen, welche der skizzierten Maßnahmen ergriffen werden, um bestehende Hemmnisse abzubauen, sodass genossenschaftliche Potenziale noch stärker ausgeschöpft werden können.

Wussten Sie schon, dass Geringqualifizierte mit Migrationshintergrund im Schnitt besser verdienen als solche ohne Migrationshintergrund?

April, 2016

Zwar werden sie oft als Integrationsversager und gesellschaftliche Verlierer dargestellt, aber Migranten mit geringer beruflicher Qualifikation haben oft ein höheres Einkommen als gleich-qualifizierte Arbeitnehmer ohne Migrationshintergrund. Dies gilt insbesondere für Gruppen mit typischerweise bildungsfernen Herkunftsfamilien. So verdienen in Deutschland geborene Schulabbrecher mit türkischem Hintergrund ungefähr 2,20 Euro mehr pro Stunde als Einheimische ohne Schulabschluss. Sie verdienen mehr, weil sie Tätigkeiten ausüben, die eigentlich ein höheres Bildungsniveau verlangen, etwa als Maschinenführer, Anlagenbediener oder Baugeräteführer. Für Menschen mit italienischem und griechischem Hintergrund fallen die Ergebnisse ähnlich aus. Im Gegensatz dazu schaffen Geringqualifizierte ohne Migrationshintergrund den Schritt in anspruchsvollere Beschäftigungen nur selten.

Gemeinsam mit Jutta Höhne (WSI – Hans Böckler Stiftung) und Céline Teney (Universität Bremen) verglich ISS-Forscher Merlin Schaeffer in einer Studie anhand der Daten des Mikrozensus 2005-2011 die Einkommen von Einheimischen mit denen von Migranten, die in Deutschland die Schule besucht haben. Damit die Ergebnisse wirklich vergleichbar sind, untersuchten sie nur jenen Teil des Einkommens, der statistisch weder auf individuelle Eigenschaften wie etwa Alter, Geschlecht und Familienstand, noch auf das regionale Lohnniveau und eine Reihe weiterer arbeitsmarktrelevanter Bedingungen zurückgeführt werden kann.

Die Befunde der drei Soziologen erklären sich vor dem Hintergrund der Forschung zu Bildungserfolgen von Kindern mit Migrationshintergrund: Die Kinder von Einwanderern setzen sich trotz ihrer weniger guten schulischen Leistungen hohe Bildungsziele und sind ausgesprochen motiviert, ihren sozialen Status zu verbessern. Denn wer die Auswanderung in ein anderes Land auf sich nimmt, tut dies meist mit dem festen Vorsatz, sich ein besseres Leben aufzubauen. Die Ambitionen der eingewanderten Eltern spiegeln sich in den hochgesteckten Zielen ihrer Kinder wider. Zugleich können Einwanderer ihren Kindern jedoch häufig nicht genügend bei den Hausaufgaben und bei der Entscheidung über die Schullaufbahn zur Seite stehen, weil es ihnen selbst an Sprachkenntnissen, Bildung und materiellen Ressourcen fehlt und ihnen das deutsche Schulsystem nicht vertraut ist. Aufgrund dieser Benachteiligung können die Kinder von Einwanderern oft nicht die Bildungszertifikate erwerben, die ihren hohen Ambitionen, ihrem Fleiß und ihrem Durchhaltevermögen entsprechen würden.

Die formalen Zeugnisse von geringqualifizierten Migranten sind also weniger als bei Geringqualifizierten ohne Migrationshintergrund ein Ausdruck geringer Leistungsbereitschaft oder Zuverlässigkeit.

Wussten Sie schon, dass 10 % der Erwerbstätigen Pillen zur Leistungssteigerung schlucken würden?

März, 2016

Wären Sie bereit ein verschreibungspflichtiges Medikament einzunehmen, um sich besser konzentrieren, mehr merken und länger wach bleiben zu können – obwohl Sie gesund sind? Immerhin 10 % von etwa 6.000 befragten Erwerbstätigen sind grundsätzlich bereit Pillen zu schlucken, die eigentlich für die Behandlung von Krankheitssymptomen wie Vergesslichkeit, Hyperaktivität oder Schlaf-Wach-Störungen bestimmt sind. Dies ergab eine kürzlich veröffentlichte Studie von ISS-Forscher Sebastian Sattler und seinem Bielefelder Kollegen Reinhard Schunck. Etwa drei von 100 Befragten gaben an, solche Medikamente für sogenanntes Cognitive Enhancement bereits eingenommen zu haben.

Die Studie ergab außerdem, dass Befragte, die sich als besonders gewissenhaft beschreiben, in geringerem Maße als andere bereit sind, Cognitive Enhancer einzunehmen. Gewissenhafte Menschen würden aufgrund ihrer besseren Fähigkeit, ihre Arbeit zu planen und zu organisieren, weniger Bedarf verspüren, ihre Leistungsfähigkeit mit solchen Mitteln zu verbessern. Zudem halten sich gewissenhafte Menschen auch eher an soziale Normen und Regeln. Da die Zweckentfremdung von Medikamenten mehrheitlich als unfair angesehen wird und die Beschaffung mit Gesetzesübertretungen verbunden sein kann, könnten gewissenhafte Menschen auch aus diesem Grund eher vom Gebrauch von Cognitive Enhancern absehen.

Frauen sind laut der Studie häufiger geneigt, Cognitive Enhancer einzunehmen. Der Wunsch durch Medikamenten leistungsfähiger zu sein, könnte darin begründet sein, dass Frauen durch eine strukturelle Diskriminierung härter arbeiten müssen, um beruflich erfolgreich zu sein, aber auch mehr Anforderungen durch Beruf, Familie und Haushalt ausgesetzt sind.

Cognitive Enhancer sind auch an Universitäten ein Thema, wie Sebastian Sattler und Kollegen in zwei weiteren Studien zeigen konnten: etwa 10 % der Lehrenden an deutschen Universitäten sind bereit, solche leistungssteigernden Mittel einzunehmen. Der Anteil derjenigen, der dies tatsächlich tut, ist mit weniger als 1 % % jedoch deutlich geringer als unter Studierenden, wo der entsprechende Wert bei knapp 5 % liegt. Insbesondere Leistungs- und Prüfungsangst führe zu deren Einnahme, wohingegen die Furcht vor Nebenwirkungen davon abschrecke.

Did you know that cynicism grabs into your wallet?

February, 2016

People usually hold quite specific views of human nature, assessing others in general as either good, honest, and trustworthy or egoistic, deceitful, and evil. But which effects do these very different views of human nature have on the lives of cynical or idealistic individuals?
While previous studies have proved that, compared to idealists, cynical individuals show a lower sense of subjective well-being, poorer physical and mental health, higher mortality, and poorer social relationships, a recently published study by Olga Stavrova and Daniel Ehlebracht deals with the question of how cynicism affects a person’s economic success. First, one might assume that persons with cynical beliefs are better protected against deception and fraud and should therefore be better off than trustful and idealistic persons. The authors argue, however, that cynics often considerably overrate the danger of becoming a victim of deceit. Consequently, they shy away from valuable opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation and miss out on achieving their goals with combined strength.
Longitudinal analyses of representative samples from the US and Germany confirm this hypothesis and show that cynical beliefs about human nature negatively affect individuals’ income and lead to flatter income development trajectories than idealistic beliefs. Apparently, for cynical individuals the costs of missing out on cooperation opportunities exceed the potential benefits of protection against presumed exploitation. Apart from that, a final cross-cultural comparison using representative survey data from 41 countries shows that the financial losses resulting from cynical beliefs are greater the more positive the social climate in a country is. In a country with a cooperative climate and low crime rates, financial losses are substantial. In countries with low helping and high crime rates, however, there is often no negative correlation to be found between cynicism and income. 
The results of the analyses imply that cynical persons generally cultivate unrealistically negative beliefs about human nature, which causes them to distrust people unnecessarily and to avoid cooperation. Because of missed opportunities for mutual help, in most socio-cultural contexts cynics have to sustain financial losses compared to idealistic persons. Following the authors, it therefore may often be financially worthwhile to abandon cynical beliefs and rather regard other people in a more favorable way.