Women Are Not Men: A Freakonomics Radio Rebroadcast

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FRK-0192-13 Freakonomics Feb_Women Are 72

This week’s podcast is a rebroadcast of a show about all the ways that “Women Are Not Men.”  (You can subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.) We take a look at the ways in which the gender gap is closing, and the ways in which it’s not. You’ll hear about the gender gap among editors of the world’s biggest encyclopedia, and what a study conducted in Tanzania and India has to say about female-male differences in competition. You’ll also hear about the female happiness paradox and one of the biggest gender gaps out there: crime. Which begs the question: if you’re rooting for women and men to become completely equal, should you root for women to commit more crimes?

Cyril Morong

Do women blog less than men? It looks like all of the contributors to Freakonomics are male

Diane Merriam

I'd bet there's a lot more male economists than women. Obviously there's some, given Yellen's position at the Fed, but I don't think I've run across many other women personally that have any interest at all in economics. Note - I'm not an economist myself and haven't taken any formal classes in it in about 30 years (but lots of books), so it's just a guess based on my personal experience.

Freddie Freeloader

Personal experiences tend to lead to confirmation bias though.


I had a though re why women's happiness relative to men may be decreasing. Perhaps today's women are like the silver medal winners - instead of being happy that they are better off than the bronze winners (yesterday's women), they are eyeing that gold medal, i.e. today's men.

To put it in different terms, a woman who grew up before the women's liberation movement had certain expectations for their potential and where they could end up in life. These expectations were relatively small compared to today's options and so women were more likely to achieve some or all of them leading to greater satisfaction with life.

Women growing up during or after women's liberation have a much larger set of potentials and expectations for their lives and may have more difficulty achieving what they want. Plus many still carry the "baggage" of pre-liberation expectations of family obligations, etc. which men do not share.

(Not to be construed as an argument against women's liberation.)


Diane Merriam

First a disclaimer - I'm not a biologist or anthropologist or anything like that. My degrees are in engineering.

When you look at the necessities of survival in the ages we evolved in, of course men and women have different roles. When we're heavily pregnant or have a noisy baby to nurse, it's pretty hard to go hunting, especially with primitive weapons. We can gather though. But we HAVE to rely on others to do the hunting part or to take care of our children so we can get back to hunting during our fertile years.

Hunting requires patience, silence, and concentration. You'd better not let emotions get in the way. Depending on others for survival for any significant length of time requires emotional awareness and reciprocity. Different survival tactics for the different sexes working together as a species.

One's not better than the other, and these days most of those considerations don't come into play, but it's still the environment we evolved in, so those differences are still there. Nature and nurture are still half and half.



If men and women were alike, ONE of us would not be needed.


I needed a man twice--to father my children.

That is not to say I do not like them, I do. Then the man knows I am in the relationship by choice, not because I HAVE to be.

Li Zhi

There are so many problems with this show that there is no good place to start.
There are no matriarchical societies. There is no clear evidence there ever were any matriarchical societies. Speaking about crime, the assumption seems to have been made that enforcement as well as the statutes are gender neutral. There are a dozen other issues I have with the show. And this is supposedly one of the more popular episodes?? Wow. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for equal opportunity [as long as it doesn't require surgery (which is a whole other subject)]. I am curious about one thing, as it happens...there are a lot more female senior citizens than male...yet the show claims that men have more leisure time? Does that add up? Or do we have to be selective in who we count?


If women today are less happy it's because Feminism and the sexual revolution has totally screwed them over. Women used to give away sex only in exchange for marriage (lifelong support and protection, not to mention assistance raising the resultant babies) or, in the case of a small few, for money. Think of it as a cartel on access to the vagina, and it benefited women enormously.

Now, most women give sex away for free, and those who don't get skipped over easily. It's never been a better time to be a guy looking to get laid, but it's never been a worse time to be a woman facing the old ticking clock. Add to this the fact that many have gone into careers and been too busy to settle down throught their peak childbearing years.

Of course, most women will never realize that Feminism and the sexual revolution have any role in any of this. Men will be blamed instead. Men don't mind though, because they know the prescribed solution will be more casual sex and less traditional marriage.



last time I looked alpha males attracted the lion's share of attractive females - while low pay low education low skill low status males typically failed to attract any

conversely the fecund young low status female easily moves up the status chart - and can be jumped from slum poverty if attractive enough (Wendy Deng anyone ?), while high achiever females typically have trouble finding suitable males who are 'above' them on the status chart

so winners are hot males and females - while low achiever males and high achiever females tend to have trouble finding a suitable mate ...


I've said this before: the Evil Old Patriarchy primarily benefited women and beta men at the expense of alpha men. The New Feminist Utopia of Autonomy and Self-Determination primarily benefits alpha men at the expense of everyone else.


I think a better question may be, "should we root for men to commit LESS crimes?"


Men make up the bulk of the homeless population. Men are more likely to die from heart attacks and violence. Men rarely receive custody of their children in court disputes. Men make up the majority of the prison population. Men die disproportionately to women in war. Men work more hours over their lifetimes than women.

Society expects way too much from men. The chimera of equality would mean even more ugliness. But really the only equality women want is financial. If that comes to pass, which it won't, women would finally be satisfied and we'd have nirvana.

So, let's get to some honesty in this navel gazing and discuss what's really possible instead of the feminized complaint machine dictating the terms of conversation.

Women and men aren't going to ever be "equal" in any matter. Women should be told--just as men are told--to keep their noses to the grindstone and stop asking for stuff not afforded any other group (even though there are no groups as those are manufactured by the left and college prof's).

Finally, if women really seek equality, they'll push to repeal Affirmative Action. Without full exposure to competition in a capitalist and merit-based economy, women will remain suspect in the professional non-female dominated workplace, even if they can outsmart, outwork and outdo men on a level playing field.



I agree with the gist of this, but I have disagreements with a few specific points:

-Society doesn't expect too much of men; men should be expected to get honest jobs, get married, and support their wives and children. Currently this expectation is diminished, with disastrous consequences.

-Women (well, feminists anyway) have made it clear that they don't really know what kind of equality they want. Give them financial equality, and some other kind of equality is demanded. Grant that equality, and then it's another one, and so on. They will never "finally be satisfied". That's the whole point, I think.

-Women are indeed the main benefactors of Affirmative Action, and it's good that someone pointed this out. The problems with Affirmative Action are even broader than what you've described, though. For example, imagine how many women are quota-hires. That is therefore the number of men who have lost out on a job--men who then cannot provide for their own families, while many of the women who usurped them will work fewer hours, take months or even years off for maternity leave (while having their positions guaranteed to be waiting for them), and may eventually leave the workforce altogether, only to be replaced by other quota-hired women. (In other words, the women who DID get those jobs aren't commonly providing for their families either--many of them may in fact have husbands who do most of the providing!)

The basis of society is the nuclear family, but it can't work if we try to rewrite the gender roles according to what you correctly imply is a false doctrine of equality. Non-destructive exceptions to the rule should be tolerated, but in general, nuclear families function best when men earn money and act as the main authority while women keep house and tend to the kids.

It's a basic economic principle called comparative advantage, which many economists (and laypeople who claim to be interested in economics) seem to selectively forget.



"The basis of society is the nuclear family..."

Only if you're so ignorant that you really believe that all of history & culture was exactly like '50s America. In fact, outside of that highly artifical culture, the stereotypical "Father Knows Best" nuclear family was a rare thing, as it still is in many parts of the world. People lived in clans & extended families, with several generations living together.


I always find it interesting that when someone claims a behavior is more nurture than nature the intellectual curiosity stops right there. No one ever questions where nurture came from. Is it random? Is it a product of nature both in terms of our natural environment and genetics? Is it a product neither randomness nor nature, a something else we have yet to identify?

I mean coming upon a society of pigmy people with a cultural difference that was somehow related to their lack of size doesn't immediately tell me height was a product nurture. It is still nature driving nurture. In the same vein finding a matriarchal society (a rarity) where women behaved more like men doesn't tell me they do so because of some nebulous cultural influence. The more likely explanation is that the women of that society are simply and naturally more like men. Gender exists on a continuum and manifests probabilistically, you would expect cultural pockets where by mere happenstance the women there will all cluster around the male end of the continuum. The culture would then follow from that outlying nature.

But seriously though where is it that we believe nurture originates from that makes us so confidence to not even consider ever posing the question?



Well said. And to look at it the other way using a computing analogy, you can program whatever software you want, but it will always have hardware requirements.

John Ledbury

As Moir and Moir point out, just as there is no glass ceiling preventing women from joining the high achievers, there is no glass floor preventing them from joining the low achievers at the other tail of the bell curve. Most of society's failures, drop outs, prison inmates etc are male just as most over achievers are male. It's biology and trying to socially engineer it is a recipe for disaster.
btw there are always active campaigns for larger numbers of women on boards of directors etc, but why aren't there similar campaigns for equality working on the dust carts? Perhaps we need a list of the high status jobs where jobs for women are ring fenced?


I'd find this episode more exciting and progressive if you added to your mix of empirical stories contemporary science-based research. For example we can identify clear differences in behavior of infant females and males, caused by differences in our amygdala regions of the brain. A crazily interesting and growing body of hard data out there like this could provide answers to some of your observations, and form the basis for more robust, informed reporting.


But how can that be?? Isn't gender a social construct?

Steve in San Francisco

in my opinion the life expectancy gap between men and women is a good measure of the many intangibles all cumulatively rolled into one number. I think I read somewhere that the life expectancy gap between men and women decreased during the women's movement and as women entered the work force in mass. Men are conditioned not to show weakness or ask for help and that seems to result in a life expectancy cost for them that's gone down some thanks to equality of the sexes.


Once again, we are provided with an example of material improvement thanks to Feminism.

Men are living longer because their behavior has become less distinct from that of women (show weakness, ask for help, etc.). But longevity is material. No consideration is given to what those extra years consist of, or to the effect of this feminized behavior the quality of life or on long-term social changes.


This podcast ended in a high note for women; women commit less crime than men. But then I see this about women being arrested more for DUI here in California.



Why not discuss the gross distortion in the numbers of female garbage collectors or truck drivers? It seems that it is only becomes an issue if the job in question is a higher paying or executive job.

Rob Lewis

It seems to me that many of the "puzzling" differences between the sexes can be explained by the simple fact that women are more risk-averse than men. Obviously, the fact that they commit fewer crimes, and even the fact that they are more religious (see: Pascal's Wager).

In seeking to explain this difference in risk tolerance, we must first of all forget about the aberration that is modern society and devote our attention to the hunter-gatherer environment in which humans evolved their psychology.

That environment surely valued brave men who were successful hunters and warriors. And it surely favored more careful women who looked out for the young (by, for example, not feeding them unknown and potentially toxic plants or letting them wander off into danger).

And of course, "bravery" sits on a continuum where it is not far removed from "recklessness". Why do male guppies seek to "impress" potential mates by dashing dangerously close to predators? Because for a male, the failure to find a mate is literally a fate worse than death. If taking risks can, on average, increase a man's chances of passing on his genes—even if it also increases his chances of dying—then by the inexorable logic of evolution, the genes encouraging this behavior will come to dominate in the population.


Mina Wikant

I thought it was interesting that the society where women were in charge, people were so nice to each other. Maybe as we work our way towards a gender equal society we will see a decrease in crime as well?


Looking at the paper linked to, it seems that men's happiness has not increased from 1970 to now, but the show framed it as though men were getting happier while women were becoming less happy. It almost sounded like men were getting happier at women's expense. Instead, it seems like their happiness is becoming more similar to men, rather than a exchanging of positions, making the joke explanation -- that women are less happy because now they have to live as men do -- a not unreasonable hypothesis.


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