Category Archives: Gender

Gender Tax

Last week I noted that, in an hour of searching, I couldn’t find any defenders of the economic-theory-supported tall tax, even among economists.  Today I report it was easy to find supporters (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8) of Alesina, Ichino, and Karabarbounis’s proposed man tax, also well supported by economic theory:

Gender Based Taxation … changes spouses’ implicit bargaining power and induces a more balanced allocation of house work and working opportunities between males and females. Because of decreasing returns to specialization in home and market work, social welfare improves by taxing conditional on gender. When income sharing within the family is substantial, both spouses may gain from [it].

So riddle me this: if careful economic analysis had instead favored taxing men less than women, how many supporters do you think that proposal would have found, even among economists?  And what does that say about how much economic theory influences economists’ policy conclusions?

P.S.  The best "man tax" is not a fixed tax amount for being a man, nor is the best "height" tax a fixed amount per inch of height.  Instead, each gender or height has a different income tax schedule.  So there is no special reason to fear some "couldn’t pay the tax."

Added 20Dec:  Here’s a paper on a more general tax on genetic features. 

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Leader Gender Bias

In an experiment on gender perceptions, psychologists Cameron Anderson and Francis Flynn gave one group of MBA students the original Heidi Roizen case for later in-class discussion, while the other half received a copy that was identical in every way, except that "Heidi" became "Howard."  In a study currently under review, Anderson and Flynn report that while both Howard and Heidi were rated as equally competent (they were the same person, after all), students described the female version of the character as overly aggressive, and were much less likely to want to work with or hire her.

That was from Slate.  Here is the New York Times:  

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How should unproven findings be publicized?

A year or so ago I heard about a couple of papers by Satoshi Kanazawa on "Engineers have more sons, nurses have more daughters" and "Beautiful parents have more daughters."  The titles surprised me, because in my acquaintance with such data, I’d seen very little evidence of sex ratios at birth varying much at all, certainly not by 26% as was claimed in one of these papers.  I looked into it and indeed it turned out that the findings could be explained as statistical artifacts–the key errors were, in one of the studies, controlling for intermediate outcomes and, in the other study, reporting only one of multiple potential hypothesis tests.  At the time, I felt that a key weakness of the research was that it did not include collaboration with statisticians, experimental psychologists, or others who are aware of these issues.

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Let’s Bet on Talk

Science reports that recordings of 400 university students found men and women both say about 16,000 words per day:

We have developed a method for recording natural language using the electronically activated recorder (EAR) … participants wear the EAR for several days during their waking hours. The device is programmed to record for 30 s every 12.5 min. All captured words spoken by the participant are transcribed. …  The data suggest that women spoke on average 16,215 (SD = 7301) words and men 15,669 (SD = 8633) words over an assumed period of, on average, 17 waking hours … the difference does not meet conventional thresholds for statistical significance.

See also the New York Times and Marginal Revolution.  The method was so easy and they are getting so much criticism for only looking at university students, surely someone will soon do a similar study on older adults.  This would be a perfect "idea futures" application – let’s bet on the fraction of words women are found to speak in that new study.

Added:  At my suggestion, InTrade is now offering this as a betting topic! 

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Cheating as Status Symbol

Two years ago I posted on "Tantrums as Status Symbols":

CEOs throw more tantrums than mailboys.  Similarly movie stars, sports stars, and politicians throw more tantrums than ordinary people  in those industries.  Also famous for their tantrums: spoiled young wives, bigshot patriarchs, elite travelers, and toddlers.   … Of course, like a swagger, the signal is not so much the tantum itself as the fact that someone can get away with it.

A related status indicator is acting like the usual rules don’t apply to you.  From the May 9 New Scientist:

John Trinkaus … One of his specialities is the study of minor acts of dishonesty and antisocial behaviour. In his 25 years of research, one demographical group has come to stand out above all others as being most likely to push boundaries and break rules. These are not disaffected teenagers nor Italian football hooligans. They are women van drivers.

Trinkaus’s important sociological finding is perhaps best illustrated by his extensive work covertly monitoring a supermarket’s "10 items or fewer" checkout over a span of nine years. As many of us may have seen for ourselves, Trinkaus found that some shoppers using this lane had more than 10 items. Some cunningly placed their items in groups of 10 and paid for each group separately. Trinkaus found that about 80 per cent of all the supermarket lane cheats were female van drivers.

This is by no means the only time that these women have been linked with small-scale social transgressions. Trinkaus has also shown that 96 per cent of women van drivers break the speed limit, compared with 86 per cent of male ones, and in one study, a staggering 99 per cent of female van drivers failed to come to a complete stop at a T-junction with a stop sign, compared with 94 per cent of the total.

Female van drivers feel like, and are, the highest status people in their social circle.  I’ll bet they throw a lot of tantrums.

Added:  One report says "Forty-three percent of cell phone users do not turn their phones off at the movies."  If rich men happened to be more guilty here, I doubt folks would be as eager to explain this away, e.g., maybe they are just extra busy.

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Social Norms Need Neutrality, Simplicity

On April 4, shock jock Don Imus called the Rutgers women’s basketball team "nappy-headed hos," and was soon fired.  Last week the Washington Post noted:

Two weeks past its news expiration date, the debate seems to be gathering renewed strength.  .. On Monday hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, who just two weeks ago was arguing for the rights of rappers to express themselves as artists, did a seeming about-face and called for the voluntary banning of "bitch," "ho" and the N-word from the lexicon as "extreme curse words." 

Monday we heard:

A panel discussion titled "Does Hip-Hop Hate Women?" drew more than 400 people indoors on a sunny day — a sign that the furor that erupted over Don Imus’ comments isn’t over yet.  As Imus struggled in vain to keep his job earlier this month, he claimed that rappers routinely "defame and demean black women" and call them "worse names than I ever did." Some speakers criticized music executives … Others … said hip-hop shouldn’t be made a scapegoat for what’s wrong in America.

James Poniewozik asked the key question on Time‘s April 12 cover: "Who Can Say What?"

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Romantic Predators

Last summer a New York Times article worried that having more women on college campuses gave men more bargaining power in dates:

"When there were fewer men, the environment was not as safe for women," said Joyce Bylander, associate provost. "When men were so highly prized that they could get away with things, some of them become sexual predators. It was an unhealthy atmosphere for women."

Relationships are about give and take, but the person in more demand can give less while taking more.  If men tend to more want sex, and women tend to more want romantic devotion, then when men are scarce men should tend to get more sex while giving less romantic devotion.   

But when women are scarce, women should tend to get more romantic devotion while giving less sex.   So why don’t we hear similar complaints about "an unhealthy atmosphere for men" due to "romantic predators"?   Just as we seem more worried about women and children being hurt in war than men, this seems another example where males complain less because they get less sympathy.

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Is Overcoming Bias Male?

We have few comments and no posts by women here.   A few women have mentioned to me privately that our whole project seems rather male.   Since they declined to give me quotes for us to ponder, I have turned to a review of feminist epistemology:

Feminist standpoint theory claims an epistemic privilege … on behalf of the standpoint of women.  … The masculine cognitive style is abstract, theoretical, disembodied, emotionally detached, analytical, deductive, quantitative, atomistic, and oriented toward values of control or domination. The feminine cognitive style is concrete, practical, embodied, emotionally engaged, synthetic, intuitive, qualitative, relational, and oriented toward values of care. …

Postmodernism … questions attempts to transcend our situatedness by appeal to such ideas as universality, necessity, objectivity, rationality, essence, unity, totality, foundations, and ultimate Truth and Reality. It stresses the locality, partiality, contingency, instability, uncertainty, ambiguity and essential contestability of any particular account of the world, the self, and the good. …

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Gender Profiling

After hearing a job talk yesterday by Paul Heaton on racial profiling in traffic stops, I wondered about gender profiling.  Everyone I’ve ever talked to has the impression that women, especially pretty young women, are more likely to be let off with a warning.  If racial bias gets people so upset, why is there little concern about this gender bias?

A quick google search finds that "gender profiling" returns 50 links, while "racial profiling" returns 4000 links.  A 2004 Massachusetts study looked for gender bias in addition to racial bias, for this reason:

Similar questions about gender disparities in traffic stops have recently been given new attention.  Following a number of highly publicized incidents of officers sexually abusing women following  routine traffic stops, some have begun to question whether certain officers use their traffic enforcement powers disproportionately against female drivers

You can hear the sigh of relief when they see their results:

Overall males were more likely to be cited than their representation in either the residential or the driving population estimate.  Males were uniformly more likely to be subject to a search and to be cited than women.  These findings were consistent across virtually all communities in Massachusetts.  This report finds no indication that female drivers, in the aggregate, are more likely to be stopped, cited or subject to a search than their male counterparts.  In fact, quite the opposite appears to be the case.

The only concerns expressed about this result was that they might have missed rare cases of harassed women.  Apparently gender biases that hurt men are not a concern; this seems another example of less sympathy to male complaints.

Added: "race profiling" gets 15,000 links while "sex profiling" gives 500. 

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