Archives for Gender



Print, Persuade and Post

My coauthor (and 16-year-old daughter) Antonia Ayres-Brown just published a piece in Slate about a project that started 5 years ago when we bleg’d Freakonomics readers to tell us about how McDonald’s refers to Happy Meal toys. Antonia was disturbed by the kinds of questions we encountered when we ordered Happy Meals at the drive-thru. We’d be asked things like “Is it for a boy or girl?” or “Do you want a girl’s toy or a boy’s toy?”

asked readers whether they encountered similar questions.  According to seventy nine reader responses, approximately one-fifth of the time McDonald’s employees did not ask a toy-related question.  But when employees did ask a toy-related question:

47.7%                    Asked “Is It for a Boy or Girl?”

31.8%                    Asked “Do You Want A Boy’s Toy or a Girl’s Toy?”

15.9%                    Described the toys in non-gender terms.

I’ve waited this long to report the results because Antonia have I have been engaged in a long-term project to encourage McDonald’s to describe the toys without reference to children’s gender. Read More »



A Good Instrument Is Hard to Find

Phoebe Clarke recently posted a Deadspin article about an article that we just published in The Journal of Socio-Economics. The article, “The Chastain Effect: Using Title IX to Measure the Causal Effect of Participating in High School Sports on Adult Women’s Social Lives,” adopts an ingenious methodology pioneered by Betsey Stevenson (whose research is frequently featured here) in her 2010 study “Beyond the Classroom: Using Title IX to Measure the Return to High School Sports.” Stevenson estimates the effects of participating in high school sports on women’s economic lives, and finds that sports participation leads women to attain higher levels of education and earn more. I apply the same methodology to social outcomes, and find that sports participation causes women to be less religious, more likely to have children, and, if they do have children, more likely to be single mothers. 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.



What’s the Best Way to “Sponsor” Baby Girls?

A reader named Gunjan Aggarwal writes:

I came to the U.S. 7 years ago, worked in U.K./Switzerland/Netherlands/India prior to that. I work in human resources and have been fortunate to have been successful thus far in my career. We are moving on to a new location and a new job this year but this year will also perhaps give me an opportunity to invest some time/leadership on a cause that I have been very keen to “do something about”: contribute towards improving the lot of the girl child in India.
 
I have always thought of crowd-sourcing an incentive scheme by which we will “adopt” a few girls in their womb and give the parents a small amount every month, $50, to give birth to their girl child, to educate her till the age of 21. I was even more determined to do this in the wake of all the news about crimes against women in India — but then I heard your podcast on the “Cobra Effect.”

I would love to connect and get your thoughts on “scheming” this incentive forward!

Read More »



Macho, Macho Men

New research (summarized in the BPS Research Digest) from psychologists Jonathan Weaver, Joseph Vandello, and Jennifer Bosson indicates that men whose masculinity is threatened become “myopic and more prone to take risks.” Here’s the abstract:

Among the conjectured causes of the recent U.S. financial crisis is the hyper-masculine culture of Wall Street that promotes extreme risk-taking. In two experiments, we found that threats to their manhood motivated men to take greater financial risks and favor immediate (vs. delayed) fiscal rewards. In Experiment 1, men placed larger bets during a gambling game after a gender threat as compared to men in an affirmation condition. In Experiment 2, after a gender threat, men pursued an immediate financial payoff rather than waiting for interest to accrue, but only if they believed their decision was public. When the decision was private, gender-threatened men did not show the same desire for immediate reward. These results suggest that gender threats may shift men’s financial decisions toward more risky and short-sighted public choices.

Read More »



College Football Victories = Worse Grades?

Yes, at least for guys. That’s according to a new study (abstract; PDF) by University of Oregon economists Jason M. Lindo, Isaac D. Swensen, and Glen R. Waddell. Drawing on 8 years of data from nearly 30,000 Oregon students, they found that three fewer Ducks’ wins per season would increase male students’ GPA scores by roughly .02 — a relatively minor effect, truth be told, considering that three extra wins in college football is the difference between a good team and a bad one.

The authors attribute the grade drop to an increase in partying and alcohol consumption when the team wins, paired with a decrease in studying. Women also tend to drink and party more when the Ducks win, but the GPA effect wasn’t nearly as strong. So if you’re the parent of an Oregon student, you might be rooting for the Ducks to lose a little more often than they do.



Nice Guys Never Win (Neither Do Mean Girls)

For years, we’ve been hearing from fictional alpha males like Ari Gold and Gordon Gekko that nice guys finish last. Now, according to a collection of studies soon to be released in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, there appears to be some truth to the axiom. While nice guys don’t necessarily finish last, they rarely finish first. Researchers Beth A. Livingston of Cornell, Timothy A. Judge of Notre Dame, and Charlice Hurst of the University of Western Ontario, show how “agreeableness” negatively affects monetary earnings. Moreover, their research shows that this “agreeable gap” is more pronounced in men than women, who still trail their male counterparts. Here’s a full version of the study. And here’s the abstract: Read More »



The Neuroscience Behind Sexual Desire: Bring Your Questions for Authors of A Billion Wicked Thoughts

The first researcher to systematically investigate human sexual desire was the Indiana University sociologist Alfred Kinsey, more than 60 years ago. Kinsey spent years surveying people’s sexual habits, interviewing thousands of middle-class Americans in the 1940s and ’50s. But what if all that information had been publicly available? What if you could access the secret sexual behaviors of more than 100 million men and women from around the world?

Today, thanks to the internet, you can.

In what is claimed to be the largest experiment ever, two neuroscience PhDs from Boston University, Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam, analyzed a billion web searches, a million web sites, a million erotic videos, millions of personal ads, thousands of digital romance novels, and combined it all with cutting-edge neuroscience. Read More »