The Consequences of Athletes in Bikinis

What do girls think when they see their favorite soccer start posing in Sports Illustrated in a bikini instead of a soccer jersey?  A new study, summarized by the BPS Research Digest, surveyed girls after they viewed five images of either "female athletes in a sporting context in their full sporting attire," "female athletes in a sexualized context," or "bikini-clad magazine models given random names." Here's the BPS Digest:

The key finding is that the girls and undergrads who viewed the sexualized athlete images tended to say they admired or were jealous of the athletes' bodies, they commented on the athletes' sexiness, and they evaluated their own bodies negatively. Some also said they found the images inappropriate. The participants who viewed the bikini-clad glamour models responded similarly, except they rarely commented on the inappropriateness of the images, as if they'd come to accept the portrayal of women in that way...

Contraception and the Gender Wage Gap

The male-female wage gap narrowed considerably during the 1980s and 1990s, thanks to increased educational attainment among women and an influx of women into high-earning fields.  Factors such as the Women's Movement and the 1964 Civil Rights Act are often cited as the drivers of this shift, but economists are also narrowing in on another influence: the Pill. Economists have linked the Pill to "delays in marriage (among college goers) and motherhood, changes in selection into motherhood, increased educational attainment, labor-force participation, and occupational upgrading among college graduates."  Now, a new working paper (ungated version) by Martha J. BaileyBrad Hershbein, and Amalia R. Miller examines the effect of the Pill on the male-female wage gap.

Women, Thinking About Relocating?

In honor of International Women’s Day, Foreign Policy has a roundup of five surprisingly good places to be a woman.  The Philippines, Spain, South Africa/Lesotho, Latvia, and Cuba all make their list.   While it may be hard to believe that women fare well in the very same country that hosted a “Blonde Weekend” back […]

Can Single-Sex Education Make Women Less Risk-Averse?

Research indicates that women are generally more risk-averse than men, and this risk-aversion is often cited as a partial explanation for the shortage of women in high-level corporate positions. A new essay by Alison Booth, Lina Cardona Sosa, and Patrick Nolen suggests that single-sex education may change women's risk preferences.  In a recent paper, the researchers conducted a controlled experiment:

[W]e designed a controlled experiment using all incoming first year economics and business students at a British university. The subjects were asked to make choices over real-stakes lotteries at two distinct dates – the first week of term and the eighth week of term...

Prior to the start of the academic year, students were randomly assigned to classes. Our ‘nurturing’ environment is the experimental peer-group or class to which students were randomly assigned by the timetabling office. The class groups were of three different types – all female, all male, or mixed gender.

Is Male Kindness Actually a "Peacock Tail?"

A new paper from psychology researchers Mark Van Vugt and Wendy Iredale finds that acts of male kindness may not always be quite what they seem. From Science Daily:

Two experiments were undertaken. For the first, 65 men and 65 women, all of an average age of 21, anonymously played a cooperation game where they could donate money via a computer program to a group fund. Donations were selfless acts, as all other players would benefit from the fund, whilst the donor wouldn't necessarily receive anything in return.

Players did not know who they were playing with. They were observed by either someone of the same sex or opposite sex -- two physically attractive volunteers, one man and one woman. Men were found to do significantly more good deeds when observed by the opposite sex. Whilst the number of good deeds made by women didn't change, regardless of who observed.

For the second experiment, groups of males were formed. Males were asked to make a number of public donations. These increased when observed by an attractive female, where they were found to actively compete with one another. When observed by another male, however, donations didn't increase.

SAT Strategy by Gender: Men Guess, Women Leave it Blank

To guess or not to guess? Most students wrestle with this question at least once during their multiple choice test-taking years. A new paper by Harvard economics grad student Katherine Baldiga examines whether men and women approach the issue differently. From the abstract:

In this paper, we present the results of an experiment that explores whether women skip more questions than men. The experimental test consists of practice questions from the World History and U.S. History SAT II subject tests; we vary the size of the penalty imposed for a wrong answer and the salience of the evaluative nature of the task. We find that when no penalty is assessed for a wrong answer, all test-takers answer every question. But, when there is a small penalty for wrong answers and the task is explicitly framed as an SAT, women answer significantly fewer questions than men.

Mara Hvistendahl Answers Your Questions

Last week, we solicited your questions for Mara Hvistendahl, recent podcast contributor and the author of Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls and the Consequences of a World Full of Men. Below, Mara responds to some of your questions, addressing everything from dowries to polyandry. Thanks to everyone who participated.

 

Q While there certainly are downsides, with unattached men getting into trouble and being rowdy, won’t a shortage of females help increase the value and position of women in cultures that have been historically resistant to providing them an equal place in society? In theory, they should be able to demand higher standards during courtship and, once married, the threat of divorce would ensure better behavior on the part of men. Of course, a shortage of workers is one of the economic prerequisites to slavery so I guess it can go both ways. -Mike B

How Many Baby Boys Did the Clean Air Act Save?

Our latest Freakonomics podcast, "Misadventures in Baby-Making," includes a discussion of how sex-selective abortion has led to 160 million missing females in Asia. Closer to home, however, researchers Nicholas J. Sanders and Charles F. Stoecker are focusing on a different problem: missing baby boys. In an effort to evaluate the effects of environmental policy on fetal health outcomes, the authors examine the "gender ratio of live births."

Bring Your Questions for Mara Hvistendahl, Author of Unnatural Selection

Mara Hvistendahl's research features prominently in our latest podcast, "Misadventures in Baby-Making." Her book, Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, looks at how advancements in prenatal technology have led to extreme cases of gender selection across much of Asia.

As economic development spurs people in developing countries to have fewer children and gives them access to technologies such as ultrasound, parents are making sure that at least one of their children is a boy. As a result, sex-selective abortion has left more than 160 million females "missing" from Asia's population. It's estimated that by 2020, 15 percent of men in China and northwest India will have no female counterpart. The consequences of that imbalance are far-reaching and include rises in sex-trafficking, bride-buying and a spike in crime as well.

Mara is currently a Beijing-based correspondent for Science. She has kindly agreed to answer your questions on her book and research. So, as always, fire away in the comments section, and we will post her replies in due course. In the meantime, here is the table of contents of Unnatural Selection.

A Study in Child Cooperation: Sweden vs. Colombia

The behavior of children continues to be of interest for both economists and Freakonomics. Back in May, we looked at research by the German economist Martin Kocher showing that young children are generally less risk-averse than adults.

Now, a working paper by Juan-Camilo Cardenas, Anna Dreber, Emma von Essen and Eva Ranehill at the Stockholm School of Economics compares the cooperative behavior of Swedish children and Colombian children using the Prisoner's Dilemma game, which explores how two parties cooperate in the absence of communication.