Policy diffusion and survey experiments

When studying policy diffusion, establishing causality is even trickier than usual because interdependence violates an important assumption of the Rubin causal model, namely the so-called “stable unit treatment value assumption” (SUTVA), which requires that the outcomes in one unit do not depend on the treatment status of other units.

With observational data, going around this problem is very hard. In an forthcoming article just published in the American Journal of Political Science, Katerina Linos uses a survey experiment to address this issue. Survey experiments have become increasingly popular in political science but, as far as I am aware, Linos is the first to apply this method to policy diffusion.

The study asked respondents (a representative sample of Americans) whether they agreed or disagreed that “the United States should increase taxes in order to provide mothers of newborn children with paid leave from work.” Respondents were assigned randomly to either this baseline question or to one of four treatments, which consisted of statements that (1) “Canada” or (2) “most Western countries” already have similar policies, or that the policy is recommended by (3) the United Nations or (4) American family policy experts. The main results are shown in this graph (own elaboration of Table 1 in the article):

The effect of all four treatments is large and also remarkably similar. In additional analyses, Linos shows that these effects decrease with the level of information of respondents, which suggests that the experience of other countries and the advice of authoritative people or organizations influence opinions by supplying new information and not, for instance, by setting certain normative standards to which it feels appropriate to conform.

Interesting work, which should encourage other diffusion scholars to use these tools both to replicate these findings and to explore other questions.

Gender equality and the politics of sumo

After ski jumping, sumo:

For years, promoters of sumo have been pushing for the sport’s inclusion in the Olympic Games. To get there, the International Sumo Federation has thrown its weight behind a form of the game that would offend purists and surprise most everyone else: women’s sumo.

Sumo officials have long tried to get their sport, for years identified with giant men with topknots shoving each other in a ring, into the Summer Games. But when the International Olympic Committee declared in 1994 that single-sex sports could no longer qualify as candidates for the Games, that was enough to turn tradition on its head. Since then, sumo has been coming into its own internationally as an equal opportunity sport.

But the best bit is here:

[The] biggest hurdle [for Japanese women] came from a stigma that can be traced back to the 18th century, when, as entertainment for men, topless women sumo-wrestled blind men. Though this lewd variety eventually faded away in the mid-20th century after being banned repeatedly, a ceremonial form has continued in regional festivals so far out on the fringe of society that it remains virtually unknown.

Is that on YouTube?