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A Crack in the Broken-Windows Theory

The latest Washington Post-ABC News telephone survey, conducted earlier this month, asked 1,007 randomly selected adults what they thought was the world's No. 1 environmental problem. Nearly one in five respondents cited air pollution as their top concern, while nearly as many said climate change. Seven percent named dirty water. Thoughtful answers, all. Then there were some that were, uh, unique.

One respondent said the "United Nations." Someone else fretted most over "warts." Another said cryptically that "thought processes" were the biggest environmental problem. A GOP respondent listed "The Democrats" while a Democrat named "The Bush Family."

_____Unconventional Wisdom_____
When Mother Nature Attacks (The Washington Post, Jan 16, 2005)
The Salmon Effect (The Washington Post, Dec 19, 2004)
Stay in School (And Out of the Maternity Ward) (The Washington Post, Dec 5, 2004)
Previous Columns
E-mail Rich Morin at morinr@washpost.com.

But my favorite was the one who worried most about the environmental threat posed by "Mount Saint Everest." When that baby blows, watch out!


Scandinavians are the most trusting people in the world while WOMPS -- short for white, older, male, Protestants -- are among the least trusting, according to Harvard University economist Iris Bohnet.

Bohnet has spent four years studying personal trust in countries around the world and in the United States. She offered a quick overview of her findings as well as other research into interpersonal trust during an interview with Update, published by Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

"Scandinavians are most likely to trust," Bohnet said. "People in developing countries typically are least likely to trust. Americans are in-between."

Demography is destiny, at least as far as trust is concerned, she found. WOMPS "behave significantly differently than their counterparts," she said. "WOMPS traditionally are associated with having higher status in the United States" and thus have more to lose if someone betrays their trust, so they instinctively are more suspicious about the altruism of others. "They really hate being betrayed," she said.

"This pattern applies," according to Bohnet, "even when we control for income."


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