A FEW trends emerge from the list of The Economist's ten most-read articles of 2015. The theme of inequality remains top of mind for our readers; articles about Asian-Americans, working-class males and inherited privilege all found their way into the top four. Many articles in this list are amongst our longer offerings, suggesting that readers set aside time to read them rather than snacking on the go. And most of the pieces below are leaders, which tells us that our readers want to know not only what happened but what can be done about it. The top piece, however, is an exception to all these trends: a fascinating science report about a new breed of animal called the coywolf.
Over a century of interbreeding between America’s wild coyotes, wolves and dogs has created a new species: the coywolf. The genetic mix means the animal has the size and strength of a wolf and the social nature of a dog. The new breed is spreading across America at an astonishing pace—even into big cities.
Boys once spent longer and went further in school than girls, and were more likely to graduate from university. Now the balance has tilted the other way: one gender gap has closed, only for another to open up. Now it is not women who are suffering, but unskilled men.
Privilege in America is increasingly passed from parent to child. The clever and successful are marrying each other more than ever before, an “assortative mating” process thought to have increased inequality by 25%. The best solution is to help clever kids who failed to pick posh parents—and the moment to start is in early childhood.
Asian-Americans are under-represented in top jobs despite being better educated than white Americans. This “bamboo ceiling” applies in businesses as well as Congress, where just 2.4% of lawmakers are Asian-American. Widely held perceptions of unfair treatment are pushing many into politics, and the minority is becoming more politically assertive.
“Curvology”, a book by David Bainbridge released in February, discussed why men’s and women’s bodies differ more than is necessary simply to bear children. Mr Bainbridge says it makes evolutionary sense for women to plump up as they prepare to reproduce. It is this biology—not just brainwashing by the tabloid newspapers that splash images of curvy women—that shapes humanity’s appreciation of the undulations of the female form.
Pornography accounts for more than a tenth of all internet searches, and its availability has sparked a moral panic. Teenagers are seeing debauched acts at a younger age; porn has become their main source of sexual education. Parents and governments wish to stem the tide of smut with porn-blockers. A better approach would be to take a long, hard look at what is out there—and start to talk about it.
America’s largest single ethnic group, German-Americans, are barely visible in public life. Companies (Pfizer, Boeing) and politicians (John Boehner, Rand Paul) play down their German roots, while private citizens have have grown rich and assimilated without political help. German-Americans are so well integrated that they barely noticed when Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, visited in February.
In February, when eastern Ukraine was in flames, The Economist discussed how the West could best tackle Vladimir Putin’s incendiary foreign policy. Mr Putin had a grip on the Kremlin, a new toy in Crimea, a weakened neighbour in Ukraine and a divided opposition in Europe and America. The critical point was and remains Ukraine: it should be a lesson in the rewards of leaning West, not its perils.
Donald Trump rose to the top of the polls for the Republican nomination in the summer, despite saying things that would have torpedoed any normal campaign. His secret sauce has two spices: a genius for self-promotion and supporters who view his boorishness as a sign of authenticity. The Economist advised Republicans to listen carefully to Mr Trump, and vote for someone else.
In June, TheEconomist said that the fight against financial chaos and deflation was won. However, having moved on from one recession, the world is not ready for the next. Rarely have so many large economies been so ill-equipped to manage a slowdown. The best way for fragile economies to get back to normal is to allow the recovery to gather strength first.