Women Are Not Men (Ep. 116 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?


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.