We assess and compare computer science skills among final-year computer science undergraduates (seniors) in four major economic and political powers that produce approximately half of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics graduates in the world. We find that seniors in the United States substantially outperform seniors in China, India, and Russia by 0.76–0.88 SDs and score comparably with seniors in elite institutions in these countries. Seniors in elite institutions in the United States further outperform seniors in elite institutions in China, India, and Russia by ∼0.85 SDs. The skills advantage of the United States is not because it has a large proportion of high-scoring international students. Finally, males score consistently but only moderately higher (0.16–0.41 SDs) than females within all four countries.
Electoral fraud is a widespread phenomenon, especially outside the developed world. Despite abundant qualitative and anecdotal evidence on its existence from around the world, there is very limited quantitative evidence on the extent of electoral fraud. We exploit random assignment of independent observers to 156 of 3,164 polling stations in the city of Moscow to estimate the effect of electoral fraud on the outcome of the Russian parliamentary elections held on December 4, 2011. We estimate the actual share of votes for the incumbent United Russia party to be at least 11 percentage points lower than the official count (36% instead of 47%). Our results suggest that the extent of the fraud was sufficient to have had a substantial impact on the outcome of the elections; they also confirm that the presence of observers is an important factor in ensuring the integrity of the procedure.
Almost all democratic societies evolved socially and politically out of authoritarian and nondemocratic regimes. These changes not only altered the allocation of economic resources in society but also the structure of political power. In this paper, we develop a framework for studying the dynamics of political and social change. The society consists of agents that care about current and future social arrangements and economic allocations; allocation of political power determines who has the capacity to implement changes in economic allocations and future allocations of power. The set of available social rules and allocations at any point in time is stochastic. We show that political and social change may happen without any stochastic shocks or as a result of a shock destabilizing an otherwise stable social arrangement. Crucially, the process of social change is contingent (and history-dependent): the timing and sequence of stochastic events determine the long-run equilibrium social arrangements. For example, the extent of democratization may depend on how early uncertainty about the set of feasible reforms in the future is resolved.
Sterile (noninfected) inflammation underlies the pathogenesis of many widespread diseases, such as allergies and autoimmune diseases. The evolutionarily conserved innate immune system is considered to play a key role in tissue injury recognition and the subsequent development of sterile inflammation; however, the underlying molecular mechanisms are not yet completely understood. Here, we show that cholesterol sulfate, a molecule present in relatively high concentrations in the epithelial layer of barrier tissues, is selectively recognized by Mincle (Clec4e), a C-type lectin receptor of the innate immune system that is strongly up-regulated in response to skin damage. Mincle activation by cholesterol sulfate causes the secretion of a range of proinflammatory mediators, and s.c. injection of cholesterol sulfate results in a Mincle-mediated induction of a severe local inflammatory response. In addition, our study reveals a role of Mincle as a driving component in the pathogenesis of allergic skin inflammation. In a well-established model of allergic contact dermatitis, the absence of Mincle leads to a significant suppression of the magnitude of the skin inflammatory response as assessed by changes in ear thickness, myeloid cell infiltration, and cytokine and chemokine secretion. Taken together, our results provide a deeper understanding of the fundamental mechanisms underlying sterile inflammation.