Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Response the President Monson’s Announcement Growing

President Monson’s October 2012 announcement that the Church was changing the age requirements for missionary service has been met with enthusiasm and faith.  Many 18 year-old men and 19 to 20 year-old women who are now eligible to serve and have submitted missionary applications.  Excitement and enthusiasm invite inquiry.  Will sisters comprise a larger percentage of missionaries?  Will the surge in missionary numbers be temporary or will they produce an absolute increase in the percentage of youth serving missions?  There are more technical questions such as where will the church place so many missionaries and will the time between receiving a call and beginning service lengthen due to the outpouring of applications?  In this post, I will use updated data from YouTube that includes February to attempt to answer these questions.

Many families post YouTube videos of their missionary opening their missionary calling.  If the same percentage of families post their callings after the announcement as prior to it, the videos are a good sample of the actual response to the announcement by youth who speak English and with sufficient technological means to record and post videos to YouTube.  With those cautions in mind, I will present my findings. 

YouTube Callings February


Monday, March 11, 2013

A Gift of Cognitive Ability?

Devin Pope wrote a nifty paper (“Benefits of bilingualism: Evidence from Mormon missionaries,” Economics of Education Review, September 29, 2006) that explored the theory that learning a second language increases cognitive ability.  He summarizes the paper in the abstract

Several studies have argued that learning a foreign language has the potential to increase the general cognitive ability and test scores of students. In this analysis, the Mormon missionary program is used to test whether or not students who were assigned to learn a foreign language performed better in college. The results indicate that the increase in GPA due to serving a Mormon mission is the same for students that were assigned to a foreign-speaking mission relative to students that were assigned to an English-speaking mission. These results are robust to controlling for factors such as choice of major and class load.

Pope’s findings are at variance with accepted theory and this adds to the importance of his findings but I found the experimental design the most interesting aspect of the paper.  Missionaries are assigned a location and language. They start and end at the same institution, BYU.  It is difficult to imagine a better natural experiment and this adds credence to his statistical results.  Learning a second language did increase academic performance but no more than serving a mission in a missionary’s native language.  My non-scientific conclusion is that God loves all his servants and blesses them. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Household Stability and Cohabitation

22 … and he (the devil) leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever.

The household is the most basic institution of modern society and while many types make valuable contributions to society, only one that based on the physical union of woman and man propels society through generations. The intertemporal nature of this physical union may create a societal interest if some types of households produce better results, a more stable environment for raising children, and that stability results in children more able to contribute positively to society as they mature.

Cohabitation, living together in a long-term relationship as if a married couple, is one type of household.  While some couples that enter this living arrangement may not view it as a step towards marriage, many do.  If a relationship seems promising, why not take an important step toward marriage by living together for a while as a test run?  Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist at the University of Virginia and author of “The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter — and How to Make the Most of Them Now,” explains that cohabitation has become a more common type of household (“The Downside of Cohabiting Before Marriage”).

Cohabitation in the United States has increased by more than 1,500 percent in the past half century. In 1960, about 450,000 unmarried couples lived together. Now the number is more than 7.5 million. The majority of young adults in their 20s will live with a romantic partner at least once, and more than half of all marriages will be preceded by cohabitation. This shift has been attributed to the sexual revolution and the availability of birth control, and in our current economy, sharing the bills makes cohabiting appealing.