Congressional Influence Hits Home

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By Richard Morin
Wednesday, February 8, 2006

A powerful and virtually unregulated special interest group is dramatically influencing the way men in Congress vote on women's issues. These power brokers regularly dine with their congressman, accompany him on vacations and shower him with gifts.

Many even demand that their representative tuck them in and kiss them goodnight.

These ultimate insiders are the daughters of lawmakers, says Ebonya Washington of Yale University. She found that members of the House who have a daughter voted more liberally on a range of women's issues, notably abortion, than those who did not.

Moreover, the more daughters a congressman had, the more likely he was to vote for reproductive rights. (There were not enough female lawmakers to allow Washington to draw firm conclusions about them.)

Washington analyzed the family composition of the 105th Congress (1997-98), as well as how the liberal National Organization for Women ranked each member based on their votes on 20 women's issues. The rating scale ranged from zero (consistently voted against the NOW position) to 100 (always voted in accord with NOW's position).

She found that legislators with all daughters have NOW scores that are 12 points higher than those with all sons. Among those with three children, "each daughter is associated with an increase of nearly 3 points," Washington said.

It didn't matter whether Daddy was a Republican or Democrat: Having a daughter seemed to transcend partisanship or ideology to promote liberal positions on these issues -- one more way children shape the decisions of their parents, she wrote in a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The High Cost of the Perfect Job

Picky people eventually reap a big payoff, but also pay a high emotional price when they look for work.

At least that's what Sheena S. Iyengar of Columbia University's School of Business and her research colleagues found when they tracked the job searches of 550 college graduates from 11 colleges and universities.

Post Poll: We're All Above Average
Iyengar first surveyed the students during their last year in school and asked them 11 questions to measure their "maximizing" tendencies -- the desire to seek the best and exhaustively search all possibilities. Then they followed them after graduation until they got their first job.

They found maximizers ended up with jobs that paid a whopping 20 percent more than those who were content to settle for something less than ideal -- a difference of more than $7,000 that was unrelated to college grades or other measures of job worthiness.

But that payoff came at a steep price: Maximizers "are less satisfied with the outcomes of their job search, and more pessimistic, stressed, tired, anxious, worried, overwhelmed and depressed throughout the process," Iyengar reports in the latest issue of Psychological Science.

Daddy's Still Missing

In 1992, psychologist Vicky Phares of the University of South Florida did an exhaustive review of child and family studies published in the late 1980s and found that just 1 percent focused on fathers exclusively, but 48 percent concentrated on mothers.

Phares and a team of researchers recently duplicated that study to see if anything has changed.

Yes -- sort of. Their examination of studies published in the past eight years in key child psychology journals found that 2 percent were devoted just to fathers, whereas the percentage devoted only to mothers dipped to 45 percent. The remainder looked at parents together or targeted both mothers and fathers, Phares reported in a recent issue of American Psychologist.

Who Would Have Thought?: Drunks, Tattoos and Parrotheads

* "Intelligence in Relation to Later Beverage Preference and Alcohol Intake," by Laust H. Mortensen et al . Addiction Vol. 100 Issue 10. Danish researchers found adults who preferred wine to beer were on average 30 IQ points smarter than those who loved suds but were no less likely to be heavy drinkers.

"Effect of Tattoos on Perceptions of Credibility and Attractiveness," by John S. Seiter and Sarah Hatch. Psychological Reports Vol. 96, No. 3. Two Utah State University scholars find that students don't find people with tattoos less attractive but do think they're more likely to lie.

* "Parrotheads in Margaritaville: Fan Practice, Oppositional Culture, and Embedded Cultural Resistance in Buffett Fandom," by John Mihelich and John Papineau. Journal of Popular Music Studies, Vol. 17, No. 2. Two University of Idaho sociologists study Jimmy Buffett fans and find they'd rather be wastin' away in Margaritaville than doing just about anything else, but some view "Corporitaville" -- the singer's ever-expanding business empire -- with contempt.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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