This year's award for Best Rhyming Title of a Scholarly Paper goes to Jan C. van Ours of Tilburg University in the Netherlands for his study: "A Pint a Day Raises a Man's Pay; but Smoking Blows that Gain Away."
What's more, the findings of the study are as eye-catching as its name. Van Ours, a professor of labor economics, found that men who tipple in relative moderation earn significantly more than teetotalers or heavy drinkers while smokers earn less, after controlling for other factors that influence wages.
Moreover, van Ours found that the drinking gains are canceled out by the smoking losses: "Alcohol use generates a wage premium for males of about 10 percent while smoking reduces wages by about 10 percent." (Curiously, he also found that drinking and smoking didn't have any impact on women's pay, a finding he acknowledges he cannot explain, at least with available data.)
But why does any sort of drinking lift wages while smoking reduces them? That's easy, van Ours says. Economists have known for years that healthier people earn more than sickly individuals, largely because they work harder or are absent from work less often.
Many well-publicized studies have documented that moderate drinkers suffer from less stress-related illnesses than other people, while smokers are less healthy than non-smokers.
"The positive wage effects of drinking are explained through the relationship between drinking and health," he says. "Moderate drinkers have a smaller probability to be confronted with coronary heart disease than abstainers or heavy drinkers have."
But guys, before you belly up to the bar for too long, read this: It's not true that the more you drink, the more you earn. The salubrious effects of alcohol on pay were barely detectable among those employed men who drank one glass of liquor per day or less. It peaked at about 21/2 drinks a day -- these guys earned, on average, a whopping 27 percent more than non-drinkers. Then it steadily declined as consumption increased, vanishing entirely among those who guzzled more than four glasses of booze a day, he reported in his paper published by the Centre for Economic Policy Research in London.
Van Ours based his study on a survey conducted last year of 1,830 randomly selected Dutch adults. Researchers asked how many glasses of liquor a respondent drank in a month and how many cigarettes they smoked in a day. (Researchers did not define what a "glass" of liquor was.) He found that men reported that they drank, on average, about 11/2 glasses of alcohol a day while women reported drinking an average of slightly less than one glass. About 7 percent of the men in the sample and 16 percent of the women didn't drink. They also found that about six in 10 reported smoking cigarettes, with the average smoker puffing away on about a dozen cigarettes a day.
And no, it's not just a Dutch phenomenon, he says. "Similar results as in my study for the Netherlands are found for the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia," he wrote in an e-mail.
I am Curious (and in Love)
Are you curious why people fall in love and stay in love?
Well, turns out that curiosity may be part of the answer. Or at least that's the implication of a study by a research team at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Psychology doctoral students Todd Kashdan and Paul Rose, under the direction of professor Frank Fincham, found that people who are naturally curious are more likely to form closer relationships than people who lack an inquiring mind.
They measured levels of curiosity in 45 men and 45 women by asking them a series of questions developed by the research team to measure what psychologists call "trait" and "state" curiosity. Then they paired them up and randomly assigned them to one of two groups. In one group, the pairs spent 45 minutes answering a series of questions designed to encourage personal closeness and intimacy. (Sample question: "If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.") The second group spent 45 minutes answering less intimacy-provoking queries such as, "What was your high school like?" Then both groups were questioned to determine how close they felt to their research colleague at the end of the experiment.
These researchers found that more curious individuals were significantly more likely to have formed a warmer and closer relationship with their partner, even after just a 45-minute conversation.
That suggests curiosity is key to forming and refreshing all kinds of personal relationships and possibly that curiosity itself may be an appealing trait. "I suspect curiosity will be a variable in understanding how people form and maintain passion in long-term romantic relationships and sustain intimacy in long-term friendships," Kashdan says.
After the experiment ended, did any of the research pairs become something more than good research buddies?
"I wish I could answer that question," Kashdan laughs. "Unfortunately, I didn't follow up."
Sort of Loving New York
A modest majority of New York City residents -- 56 percent -- -say they still "love" their city while 28 percent say they "like" it, according to a recent survey by Quinnipiac University survey of 1,322 randomly selected Big Apple residents.
Richard Morin is director of polling for The Washington Post.