Archives for gender relations



Women and Philosophy

In our podcast “Women Are Not Men,” we explored why Wikipedia has such a low percentage of female editors. John Riedl, the researcher who studied the Wikipedia gender gap (and who passed away this summer), had this to say:

RIEDL: We know from a bunch of psychology studies that women tend to be made more uncomfortable by conflict than men are made uncomfortable by conflict. And so one of the ideas is maybe in Wikipedia where the fundamental nature of the site is that if you want to correct what someone else has done, the way you do that is you delete it and write them a really mean message. Well, maybe that’s creating a culture of conflict that is driving women away. They just don’t find it a place they enjoy being, and so they go places where they’re happier.

An op-ed by Linda Martín Alcoff in The New York Times reports a similar discussion in the field of philosophy, where only 16.6 percent of professors are women, and none are women of color. Read More »



Women as “Vessels of Reproduction”

These aren’t my words. Listen to John R. Beard, who runs the Department of Ageing and Life Course for the World Health Organization:

“To some extent, we treat women as vessels of reproduction, and once they’ve done that we don’t pay much attention to them.”

That’s from Don McNeil‘s Times article about women’s life expectancy:

Life expectancy for women who live to age 50 is going up around the world, but poor and middle-income countries could easily make greater gains, according to a new World Health Organization report.

Heart disease, stroke and cancer kill most women over 50, said Dr. John R. Beard, director of the W.H.O.’s department of aging, so countries should focus on lowering blood pressure with inexpensive drugs and screening for cervical and breast cancer. Those diseases can be prevented or treated, said Dr. Beard, who was also an author of the study, which was published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization.

Related (if barely): Ronald Coase has died at age 102.



Do Baby Girls Cause Divorce? A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast is called “Do Baby Girls Cause Divorce?” (You can subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript below; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)  

This episode was inspired by a question from a reader named John Dolan-Heitlinger, who wrote the following: 

My wife has observed that in marriages where there is a son there is less chance of the husband leaving the marriage.  

I wonder if that is true.  

Thanks for your consideration. 

Read More »



Another Explanation for Sex Selection in China?

In a podcast called “Misadventures in Baby-Making,” we explored China’s one-child policy as a cause of sex-selective abortion and, therefore, skewed male-female sex rations. A new working paper (abstract; PDF) by Douglas Almond, Hongbin Li, and Shuang Zhang points to another possible culprit: China’s economic liberalization. From the abstract:

Following the death of Mao in 1976, abandonment of collective farming lifted millions from poverty and heralded sweeping pro-market policies. How did China’s excess in male births respond to rural land reform? In newly-available data from over 1,000 counties, a second child following a daughter was 5.5 percent more likely to be a boy after land reform, doubling the prevailing rate of sex selection. Mothers with higher levels of education were substantially more likely to select sons than were less educated mothers. The One Child Policy was implemented over the same time period and is frequently blamed for increased sex ratios during the early 1980s. Our results point to China’s watershed economic liberalization as a more likely culprit.



When a Wife Earns More

A new working paper (abstract; PDF) by Marianne Bertrand, Jessica Pan, and Emir Kamenica looks at gender identity and its affect on household income. Their findings will depress anyone concerned with gender equality. Here’s the abstract:

We examine causes and consequences of relative income within households. We establish that gender identity – in particular, an aversion to the wife earning more than the husband – impacts marriage formation, the wife’s labor force participation, the wife’s income conditional on working, marriage satisfaction, likelihood of divorce, and the division of home production. The distribution of the share of household income earned by the wife exhibits a sharp cliff at 0.5, which suggests that a couple is less willing to match if her income exceeds his. Within marriage markets, when a randomly chosen woman becomes more likely to earn more than a randomly chosen man, marriage rates decline. Within couples, if the wife’s potential income (based on her demographics) is likely to exceed the husband’s, the wife is less likely to be in the labor force and earns less than her potential if she does work. Couples where the wife earns more than the husband are less satisfied with their marriage and are more likely to divorce. Finally, based on time use surveys, the gender gap in non-market work is larger if the wife earns more than the husband.



Parents and Their Preschoolers

A working paper (abstract; PDF) from economists Michael Baker and Kevin Milligan advances another possible explanation for the lagging academic performance of boys — preschool boys, at least.  Here’s the abstract:

We study differences in the time parents spend with boys and girls at preschool ages in Canada, the UK and the US. We refine previous evidence that fathers commit more time to boys, showing this greater commitment emerges with age and is not present for very young children. We next examine differences in specific parental teaching activities such as reading and the use of number and letters. We find the parents commit more of this time to girls, starting at ages as young as 9 months. We explore possible explanations of this greater commitment to girls including explicit parental preference and boy-girl differences in costs of these time inputs. Finally, we offer evidence that these differences in time inputs are important: in each country the boy-girl difference in inputs can account for a non-trivial proportion of the boy-girl difference in preschool reading and math scores.

The authors’ results also indicate that the time differences are not due to parents’ gender preferences, but may be related to the opportunity cost of the mother’s time.  “Given that time spent reading with children (primarily boys) increases after the introduction of a new child care subsidy, the parental time inputs we study may not be easily substituted by non-parental care,” they write. “Instead, this finding is consistent with a story in which boys are less rewarding to teach, and parents are more willing to persevere with boys once they are not responsible for their care throughout the day.”



“Women Are Not Men,” Continued

An interesting followup to our recent “Women Are Not Men” podcast, from a listener named Misty Touchette. This incident might more appropriately be called “Men Are Not Men”:

I have two female friends that are about 30 and 55 years old.  They don’t know each other and have very different backgrounds.  A few weeks ago, both gleefully told me about their new Facebook accounts.  They’d made them under the guise of men.  Both chose a similar figure head: a photo of a white, attractive man. The reason? They were tired of being unfriended by issues/cause/political groups when engaging in … civic discourse.  When presenting themselves as women, their comments, even simple statements of alternate opinions on a topic, were flamed, trolled or deleted and then, of course, they were booted from some pages.  

I realize that women penning under a man’s pen name is nothing new.  As others have before them I’m sure, my friends have reported that the new manly persona are yielding an increase in support, silence/tolerance replacing backlash or a return in civil discourse.  After listening to “Women Are Not Men” and considering my friends, I couldn’t help but wonder, hey, how many Wikipedians labeled as men are actually women?



When Women Don’t Negotiate

The unwillingness of women to negotiate their salaries is often blamed for the persistent male-female wage gap.  A new paper (abstractpdf) from Freakonomics favorite John List (and coauthor Andreas Leibbrandt) uses a  field experiment to explore the issue:

By using a natural field experiment that randomizes nearly 2,500 job-seekers into jobs that vary important details of the labor contract, we are able to observe both the nature of sorting and the extent of salary negotiations. We observe interesting data patterns. For example, we find that when there is no explicit statement that wages are negotiable, men are more likely to negotiate than women. However, when we explicitly mention the possibility that wages are negotiable, this difference disappears, and even tends to reverse. In terms of sorting, we find that men in contrast to women prefer job environments where the “rules of wage determination” are ambiguous. This leads to the gender gap being much more pronounced in jobs that leave negotiation of wage ambiguous.

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