Equals http://blogs.reuters.com/equals Tue, 16 Sep 2014 17:46:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.5 Rape myths hide crimes. Just ask these children. http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2014/09/15/rape-myths-hide-crimes-just-ask-these-children/ http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2014/09/15/rape-myths-hide-crimes-just-ask-these-children/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 17:00:57 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/?p=34235 Children hold placards during a procession urging legislators to prioritize anti-child pornography bill passage in Quezon City

Some myths are so powerful that they change our perception of reality. Under their influence even the most obvious truths -- or crimes -- can be rendered invisible. Such as rape.

Hidden in Plain Sight is an aptly titled new study by the United Nations International Children’s Fund. It shows that one in 10 girls and young women interviewed reported being sexually abused before age 20. “These are uncomfortable facts,” one UNICEF official said of the report, the largest study on global child abuse to date. “No government or parent will want to see them.”

Even if we want to see these facts, however, the many myths about rape prevent us from doing so.

Rape remains one of the most misunderstood crimes. It is often portrayed as a violent attack perpetrated by strangers in dark alleys. This image is inaccurate and misleading.

Up to half of all abused girls in some countries, according to the UNICEF report, experienced sexual violence at someone’s home. One-third said that the incident took place in their own home; close to a quarter said it happened in the home of a friend, relative or neighbor. As for the perpetrators, they are usually known to victims.

The disconnect between myth and reality makes it hard to identify rape -- even for victims. Many children, according to UNICEF, said they did not report the crime because they “did not realize that what they experienced was a form of violence.”

Children display protest placards during a conference against child pornography held inside a college auditorium in Manila

Victims aren’t the only ones confused as to what constitutes rape. In the notorious 2012 Steubenville, Ohio,  incident, for example, an intoxicated high-school girl was raped by several local high-school football players during a party. The assault was photographed and widely shared on social media. Students who witnessed the rape and those who later linked to it on Twitter all seemed unaware that a serious crime had been committed.

One witness to the rape, when asked why he did not intervene, said: “It wasn’t violent.”

He defended himself, adding “I didn’t know what rape was. I pictured it as forcing yourself on someone.” The teenage girl who was assaulted had passed out after drinking at the party. So force was not needed.

Law enforcement agencies are also vulnerable to misconceptions.

In Rotherham, a depressed former coal-mining town in north England, at least 1,400 children are known to have been violated by gangs of predatory men who targeted vulnerable minors between 1997 and 2013. On Aug. 26, an independent inquiry into the scandal, commissioned by Rotherham Council, revealed the extent that myths about rape allowed the crimes to be hidden from view.

One girl, identified as Child A in the report, was 12 years old when she revealed that she was having sexual intercourse with five adults. Under the law, this should have immediately been identified as statutory rape. Yet even after two men confessed to this crime, the police let them go.

An officer in the criminal investigation department insisted there was no abuse.  “It was 100 percent consensual in every incident,” he said.

That’s just another way of saying: “She wanted it.”

People take part in a march against child abuse along the streets of Asuncion

Minors are considered incapable of consenting to sexual intercourse under most Western legal systems. By making sexual intercourse with minors a blanket crime, children are supposed to be spared from the burden of proving in court that they did not agree to sex.

Investigating officers in Rotherham, however, forgot this basic legal tenet. And just like that, consent was imagined where there was none.

Police know that myths about rape can affect investigations. In 2013, Britain’s then-director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, listed some of the most prevalent misconceptions that officers should be wary of when investigating child abuse, which applies to victims younger than 17.

These included that the victims “invited sex by the way they dressed or acted,” “used alcohol or drugs and was therefore sexually available” and that they were “in relationship with the alleged offender” and therefore “a willing partner.”

One would think that, when it comes to children, it wouldn’t be necessary to state any of the above because of increased awareness about consent. But Rotherham and the new UNICEF findings suggest otherwise.

One social worker, interviewed for the Rotherham investigation, said, “The reality wasn’t recognized. These young people weren’t seen as victims.” In fact, she says the girls were “seen as perpetrators themselves and treated as adult prostitutes.”

Indeed, officers called minors as young as 12 “tarts” who had made a “lifestyle choice.” By painting a portrait of the children as sexually precocious, they insisted that they must have consented to everything that happened to them.

With this prevailing attitude, is it any surprise that many children told UNICEF researchers that “fear of getting into trouble” was one major reason they didn’t report the crime?

Even minors, it seems, know that rape survivors cannot expect to be believed.

This makes sense. It is hard to believe two opposing things at once. We either believe myths or we believe victims. But we cannot do both at the same time.

That’s how we can be looking right at rape and not recognize it. Even when it is staring us right in the face.


PHOTO 1: Children hold placards during a procession urging legislators to prioritize anti-child pornography bill passage in Quezon City Metro Manila, May 27, 2009. REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo

PHOTO 2: Children display protest placards during a conference against child pornography held inside a college auditorium in Manila, September 7, 2007. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

PHOTO 3: Women and children take part in a march against child abuse along the streets of Asuncion, May 26, 2012. REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

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How letting women fail can help them succeed http://blogs.reuters.com/equals/2014/08/29/how-letting-women-fail-can-help-them-succeed/ http://blogs.reuters.com/equals/2014/08/29/how-letting-women-fail-can-help-them-succeed/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 15:15:07 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/equals/?p=178 In life, and especially at work, women often are afraid to break the rules. They are also afraid to fail in ways that can differ from men. Often, this holds them back in their careers. It isn’t an irrational position. Instead, it’s more likely a reaction to social pressures that tell them they will be more harshly judged than their male peers on their perceived missteps.

Over at the Harvard Business Review blog this week, Tara Sophia Mohr writes that she is skeptical of the “confidence gap” as a reason that women aren’t getting as far up on the career ladder as their male peers. She did a survey of professionals and asked them: if they looked at a job, but decided not to apply, why not? It usually wasn’t because they didn’t think they could do the job well, she says.

Instead, she found that most often, men and women don’t apply for jobs because they feel that they don’t meet all the requirements in the job description. In other words, “what held them back from applying was not a mistaken perception about themselves, but a mistaken perception about the hiring process.”

Here’s the full division of answers:

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 2.35.39 PM.png

It’s interesting how little variation between men and women there seems to be. Where there are differences, they are that 1) women are afraid to fail and 2) women believe they must follow the guidelines as written. These two issues seem to be rooted in traditional notions of femininity: women are expected to be gentle and deferential.

This is important because it’s not just about how women think of themselves, but about how people perceive those women. It isn’t an accident that women internalize these expectations. We expect women to act that way. Then, generally, reactions to women in the workplace fall in line with those expectations.

This is where personality comes in. In the same situation, a man may be considered confident, whereas a woman would be called abrasive. And that affects who gets the job or who gets promoted. In another informal study out this week, Kieran Snyder looked at the performance reviews of high-achieving men and women. She found that even in positive reviews, women are more likely to receive critical feedback.

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 3.54.25 PM.png

Snyder writes that, “negative personality criticism—watch your tone! step back! stop being so judgmental!—shows up twice in the 83 critical reviews received by men. It shows up in 71 of the 94 critical reviews received by women.” The two polls, taken together, paint a picture of women being more risk averse than men — for very practical reasons.

Mohr’s post points to the fact that women need to break the rules more often. But with Snyder, it’s unclear that women who break the rules are rewarded in the same way as their male counterparts, so that can’t be the only answer. We probably make small judgements daily that contribute to the continuation of this way of thinking. It can only stop if we make ourselves stop.

Women shouldn’t be afraid to fail. But we as a society (men and women), need to stop judging women so harshly for their flaws. For them to be equally good, it has to be okay that they are equally bad sometimes.

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The importance of men leaning out http://blogs.reuters.com/equals/2014/08/07/the-importance-of-men-leaning-out/ http://blogs.reuters.com/equals/2014/08/07/the-importance-of-men-leaning-out/#comments Thu, 07 Aug 2014 16:47:56 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/equals/?p=176 Earlier this week, Max Schireson, the CEO of New York-based tech company MongoDB, wrote a post about stepping down from the top position at the company. He’s quitting, he says, to spend more time with his family. “Friends and colleagues often ask my wife how she balances her job and motherhood. Somehow, the same people don’t ask me,” he writes.

In some ways, this move isn’t terribly novel: just one guy writing briefly about his decision to become a (not-quite-so) stay-at-home dad. And perhaps there’s a bigger backstory that no one is talking about. But in this case, that’s neither here nor there. Culturally, it’s an incredibly important step. Gender equality is a balance. Sure, there’s room for a small amount of economic growth, but broadly, leadership positions are nearly zero-sum. Sure, women can slave away, clawing their way to the top, but the gender imbalances aren’t going to change broadly unless men let them in. In some instances this means hiring and promoting women, but in others it means leaning out of their careers a bit.

Nor is this a perfect example — Schireson is staying on as vice chairman and handing his CEO position over to another man — but his post also goes into detail about the importance of his wife’s career as a doctor and professor at Stanford:

[I]n addition to her clinical duties, she runs their training program for high risk obstetricians and conducts research on on prematurity, surgical techniques, and other topics. She is a fantastic mom, brilliant, beautiful, and infinitely patient with me. I love her, I am forever in her debt for finding a way to keep the family working despite my crazy travel. I should not continue abusing that patience.

The recognition that families are hard to sustain when both parents have ambitious careers is nothing new. But having the man be the one to say, “hey, I’m going to take a step back,” definitely is. And it’s refreshing.

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The problem with being a female football fan http://blogs.reuters.com/equals/2014/07/25/dear-nfl-heres-where-you-can-stick-your-pink-jersey/ http://blogs.reuters.com/equals/2014/07/25/dear-nfl-heres-where-you-can-stick-your-pink-jersey/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 19:18:45 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/equals/?p=157 Baltimore Ravens Rice reacts after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter in their NFL football game in Denver

It’s a weird time to be an avid NFL fan – particularly when you’re also a woman.

Beginning in September, I treat each Sunday as a holy day of chicken wings, beer and screaming at TVs. I play on an intramural football team. I own three Patriots jerseys (two, regrettably, bearing the name of a certain blue-eyed wide receiver who shall remain unnamed). I own the Patriots beanie, Patriots vintage tee, Patriots Christmas ornament and two Patriots beer koozies. I have funneled hundreds of dollars into the National Football League’s coffers.

When my fiancé and I recently went apartment hunting, we assessed each unit with our priorities clear: Where can we put the TV? Is the building wired for Verizon FiOS (NFL RedZone) or DirecTV (NFL Sunday Ticket)? Are there enough sports bars nearby?

But while Augusts past have been a time of feverish Fantasy Football drafting and handwringing hope for my beloved Pats’ upcoming season, my enthusiasm now wavers.

I am torn.

It’s because the National Football League’s true attitude toward women has never been quite so apparent as it is now.

The latest news, of course, is the punishment that the NFL doled out to Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who was caught on camera, as the New York Times put it, driving “his hand into his then-fiancee’s head, knocking her cold” and then dragging her unconscious body from an elevator in an Atlantic City casino. He was charged with third-degree aggravated assault, pled not guilty, then participated in a pre-trial intervention program for first-time offenders in order to avoid going to jail.

The NFL yesterday announced that it would suspend Rice for two games.

Two games. That’s it.

To put this in perspective, players regularly face equal – if not longer – suspensions for offenses like pot possession. Bloomberg’s Kavitha A. Davidson spells it out:

In the NFL, the punishment rarely fits the crime. Leaving aside PED suspensions, the incongruity between a punishment of anywhere from four to 16 or more games for smoking pot and two games for physically assaulting someone is glaring. Marijuana is swiftly being decriminalized, if not legalized, while Rice was charged with third-degree assault.

And many have noted, this lopsided punishment is rampant. (CBS in particular has a great wrapup of abject outrage and Keith Olbermann handily outlined the league’s hypocrisy as well).

Particularly ironic (as one of those outraged Twitter-ers was quick to point out) is the case of Brandon Meriweather, who in 2013 was also suspended for two games for illegal hits… during a game. Against other players.

The message I take from this? In the NFL, “illegal hits” – be they bong or tackle – are as bad as domestic violence.

And the NFL’s problems go beyond domestic violence.

RTXTT4Y.jpgThe league has been dealing with tremendously bad press over its treatment of cheerleaders, with three separate squads suing the NFL over their compensation and treatment. (Anyone else remember the “jiggle test”?)

A frequently cited concession to the NFL’s female viewership is its annual nod to Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Throughout October players wear pink accessories (cleats, gloves and more) and the league trots out a collection of pink apparel that it sells, with proceeds going to support breast cancer charities. This is how the NFL shows it cares.

Too bad only a pittance goes to cancer research, according to an oft-cited figure from ESPN’s Darren Rovell.

But even if scientists got more of the money, it wouldn’t be enough to cancel out the clear message the NFL is sending with Rice’s paltry suspension.

With women making up roughly 44 percent of all football fans, you’d think the league would take issues like domestic violence more seriously – at least as seriously as getting a caught with a joint for a second time. But, apparently, that’s not the case.

TOP PHOTO: Baltimore Ravens Ray Rice reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Denver Broncos during the second quarter in their NFL football game in Denver, Colorado September 5, 2013. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

INSET PHOTO: Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders wearing pink in honor of breast cancer awareness month perform during a time out in the first half of their NFL football game between the Falcons and the Cincinnatti Bengals in Atlanta, Georgia October 24, 2010. REUTERS/Tami Chappell

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Woman can have it all — if families pitch in http://blogs.reuters.com/equals/2014/07/02/woman-can-have-it-all-if-families-pitch-in/ http://blogs.reuters.com/equals/2014/07/02/woman-can-have-it-all-if-families-pitch-in/#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2014 16:49:47 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/equals/?p=147 Indra Nooyi, chairman and chief executive of PepsiCo

In an interview at the Aspen Ideas Festival Monday, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi was asked about whether women can have it all (because what else would a CEO be asked to talk about other than her children?). She gave some very honest answers. While a lot of people latched on to the fact that she’s not sure her daughters will think she was a good mom, the much more important excerpt is the story she tells of the night she found out she was going to become the president of PepsiCo (emphasis mine):

Rather than stay and work until midnight which I normally would’ve done because I had so much work to do, I decided to go home and share the good news with my family. I got home about 10, got into the garage, and my mother was waiting at the top of the stairs. And I said, “Mom, I’ve got great news for you.” She said, “let the news wait. Can you go out and get some milk?” I looked in the garage and it looked like my husband was home. I said, “what time did he get home?” She said “8 o’clock.” I said, “Why didn’t you ask him to buy the milk?” “He’s tired.” Okay. We have a couple of help at home, “why didn’t you ask them to get the milk?” She said, “I forgot.” She said just get the milk. We need it for the morning. So like a dutiful daughter, I went out and got the milk and came back.

I banged it on the counter and I said, “I had great news for you. I’ve just been told that I’m going to be president on the Board of Directors. And all that you want me to do is go out and get the milk, what kind of a mom are you?” And she said to me, “let me explain something to you. You might be president of PepsiCo. You might be on the board of directors. But when you enter this house, you’re the wife, you’re the daughter, you’re the daughter-in-law, you’re the mother. You’re all of that. Nobody else can take that place. So leave that damned crown in the garage. And don’t bring it into the house. You know I’ve never seen that crown.”

If you want to know why there are not more female executives in the world, this is the story. I doubt that many women get this message so blatantly put out there for them by their families, but the duty to be the caregiver is implicit in our culture. That message is hammered home in every sitcom, every family movie, every advertisement.

I don’t know how Nooyi’s daughters feel about her. I do know that if anyone else in her house had gone to go get milk that night, she would have had an extra half hour to spend with them. Women can’t have it all if they are expected to do it all.

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A lament on the axing of Jill Abramson http://blogs.reuters.com/equals/2014/05/15/a-lament-on-the-axing-of-jill-abramson/ http://blogs.reuters.com/equals/2014/05/15/a-lament-on-the-axing-of-jill-abramson/#comments Thu, 15 May 2014 20:06:29 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/equals/?p=141 Jill Abramson

Yesterday, the three-year tenure of the New York Times’ first female executive editor, Jill Abramson, abruptly came to an end. No one is quite sure why it happened, but it seems pretty clear that being a woman had something to do with it.

It was either her pay (she found out it was less than her male predecessor, like most female editors, and asked for a raise), her management style (pushy, brusque, a lot of other words that only seem to be attributed to women in leadership roles), her (failed) attempt to appoint Janine Gibson as co-managing editor (which didn’t sit well with the now executive editor Dean Baquet), her proclivity toward giving interviews (as a young female journalist very interested in the Times’ first female editor, I’m offended), or some combination of the four.

What is clear is that the Times’ publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., didn’t just fire Abramson, he humiliated her (and not for the first time, Gabriel Sherman notes). This comes at a time when, whatever her faults navigating the paper’s internal politics, the paper is doing well. While at the helm, Abramson didn’t start any wars or harbor any plagiarists, Rolling Stone reporter Tim Dickinson points out. Yet she was kicked to the curb with less dignity than any of her predecessors, seemingly because of… her personality? Her personality! You’d think the top brass knew something about her personality before she was given the job. (There’s also the Times’ poor digital performance, though Sulzberger has not said the two were related.)

Being well-liked isn’t traditionally a necessary condition for being an effective manager. But for whatever reason, conflicts with female managers have a tendency to become personal in a way that conflicts with male managers do not. People are annoyed, even enraged, by the actions of men who make decisions they don’t like. But they take personal offense, even show visceral hatred toward, female managers they do not agree with.

It’s hard to see a way in which this wasn’t the case with Abramson, based on the less-than-convincing evidence given that she deserved to be unceremoniously shoved out the door. Her predecessor, Bill Keller, is still a columnist at the Times. Howell Raines, who was fired after Jayson Blair was caught fabricating stories, left “with an address to the staff; his wife was present”, notes Rebecca Traister.

The New York Times appears to have wanted a woman at the top, without actually letting her be in charge. The message here is that women — even the most powerful woman in media — are meant to fall in line. When they don’t, they are dumped. End of story. Please don’t ask questions. Let’s move on.

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Is there a gender gap in tech salaries? http://blogs.reuters.com/equals/2014/03/20/is-there-a-gender-gap-in-tech-salaries/ http://blogs.reuters.com/equals/2014/03/20/is-there-a-gender-gap-in-tech-salaries/#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 21:24:19 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/equals/?p=122 Recently, Cynthia Than wrote a piece for Quartz entitled “There is no gender gap in tech salaries,” which concluded just that. The truth, however, is quite a bit more complicated than that. What follows is the original text with my annotations; you can also read Than’s follow-up post here.

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More work and less play for women around the world http://blogs.reuters.com/equals/2014/03/12/more-work-and-less-play-for-women-around-the-world/ http://blogs.reuters.com/equals/2014/03/12/more-work-and-less-play-for-women-around-the-world/#comments Wed, 12 Mar 2014 13:14:04 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/equals/?p=115 The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development has a new report out for International Women’s Day showing how men and women in 26 different countries spend their time. It shows that women spent significantly more time during the day working without pay.

Here’s the percentage breakdown of unpaid work — childcare, household chores, etc. — for each country by gender, including the average (the bar on the far right):


Norway is the most egalitarian, with just 54% of unpaid work done by women. In Japan and Korea, it’s nearly 85%. Across 26 countries, women average more than an hour extra per day doing unpaid work. Interestingly, men and women spend about the same amount of time on eating, drinking, and personal care. However, men don’t use all of the extra time that women spend doing chores to do paid work: they also have more leisure time on average. Women also sleep slightly more.


To hammer the point home, check out this activity breakdown by country, with cute little gendered figures:


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Charts of the day, female risk-aversion edition http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2014/02/24/charts-of-the-day-female-risk-aversion-edition/ http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2014/02/24/charts-of-the-day-female-risk-aversion-edition/#comments Mon, 24 Feb 2014 22:47:19 +0000 https://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/?p=23167 Catha Mullen of Personal Capital, an online wealth-management company, has an intriguing post about what she calls “gender bias in investing”.

Catha Mullen of Personal Capital, an online wealth-management company, has an intriguing post about what she calls “gender bias in investing”. Looking at the Personal Capital user base, she found that “women are on average 7% more risk-averse than men”, and that “the effect of gender on risk tolerance is greater than that of any other variable” — bigger even than net worth.

Because Mullen’s multivariate analysis table is quite hard to read, I asked her to generate a couple of histograms for me. Here are the results:



In both cases, risk tolerance is based on Personal Capital’s five-point scale, which runs from 1 (“Market volatility makes me very uncomfortable. Safety is a much higher priority than growth for me, and I do not expect growth meaningfully above inflation”) to 5 (“I am willing to take a high degree of risk in pursuit of higher returns, and am very comfortable with the volatility of a 100% stock portfolio”). I’ve also stripped out the data for people with net worth over $5 million, since the dataset there seemed to comprise one man and zero women.

Overall, calculates Mullen, women will end up with roughly 10% less money at retirement, thanks to their higher risk aversion. Maybe that explains why Warren Buffett, in his will, isn’t giving his wife cash, but instead is setting up a trust for her which is 90% invested in stocks. But I don’t think that Mullen’s findings counteract the generally-accepted fact that women are better investors than men.

The biggest story in these charts can be found at the far left, among the young and the relatively impecunious. If you’re a woman between the ages of 18 and 30, or if you’re a woman with a net worth of less than $100,000, then you’re a lot more risk-averse than a man in the same position.

This risk-aversion could well be entirely sensible. If you’re just saving for retirement, then it makes sense for younger and poorer people to maximize their risk appetite: you have relatively little to lose, while a nice gain early on can give you an unbeatable headstart later in life. But the fact is that most of these people are probably not saving for retirement: they have more urgent expenses to deal with first, like the costs involved in buying a house or raising a young family. In that case, it makes sense to be relatively risk-averse.

It’s also interesting that the richer men get, the closer they get to how a similarly-situated woman would invest. You’d think that risk tolerance would rise with net worth, but in fact it doesn’t: once you have a decent nest egg, it turns out, you start concentrating more on how to keep it and less on how to grow it. That’s one reason why Suze Orman puts nearly all of her money into wrapped and triple-A rated zero-coupon municipal bonds. She can live extremely well on what she already has, so the most important thing is to retain that wealth, rather than bear any risk that it’s going to disappear. (Interestingly, Nassim Taleb has a very similar investment portfolio, although he takes a lot more risk with the 10% of his money which he puts at risk.)

In general, people filling out investment questionnaires tend to overestimate their own risk appetites — which implies that men are taking too much risk, and that they’d be better off behaving more like women. A good investment advisor knows to invest her clients’ money more cautiously than they say they want; the lesson of Mullen’s data is probably that she should bring the risk down more for men than she should for women.

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What we know about income inequality: Better marriages may mean more inequality http://blogs.reuters.com/equals/2014/02/07/what-we-know-about-income-inequality-better-marriages-may-mean-more-inequality/ http://blogs.reuters.com/equals/2014/02/07/what-we-know-about-income-inequality-better-marriages-may-mean-more-inequality/#comments Fri, 07 Feb 2014 21:51:51 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/equals/?p=110 There are a lot of things that “explain” inequality. Technology, finance, societal, and cultural changes have all played their part. In a new series, Counterparties takes a look at the various things that correlate with rising income inequality in order to ascertain how we got to this economy and where we might go from here. For story tips/comments/complaints email us at Counterparties.Reuters@gmail.com.

Matt O’Brien wrote a good post last week on how the classic 1989 romcom When Harry Met Sally explains inequality. I’ll let him explain:

Working men and working women of similar education and income levels bond and marry over similarities—movies, art, paprikash—rather than the differences that defined traditional marriage (he works/she cleans). This new arrangement promises a better world, but it has increased inequality.

O’Brien mostly references a new working paper on assortative mating written by Jeremy Greenwood, Nezih Guner, Georgi Kocharkov, and Cezar Santos for the National Bureau of Economic Research. It looks at marriages from 1960 through 2005, comparing the levels of education of each partner.

The researchers found an increase in college graduates marrying college graduates, and high school graduates marrying high school graduates. Fewer people are marrying across education levels. This corresponds with an increase in the Gini coefficient (a way to estimate inequality) to 0.43 in 2005, from 0.34 in 1960.

Put another way, this rise in income inequality among households in the US is explained by the end of “Cinderella marriages” — the ones where women (traditionally) “marry up” above their parents’ class, James Pethokoukis writes. “Doctors no longer marry nurses, they marry fellow doctors or others of comparable education level,” he says.

Peter Orszag says this is a good example of the complexities that make fighting inequality so hard. He writes, “If income inequality is being driven in part by changes in marriage patterns, what can anyone do about that?”

Further, do we want to do anything about it? The increase in assortative mating also correlates with the number of women going to college and graduate school, an option that really wasn’t available to to them in 1960. Marriages in the mid-twentieth century were about division of labor: the man worked outside the home, the women kept the house and took care of the children.

That’s changed. As O’Brien says, people now marry because they’ve found a compatible life partner, someone they enjoy sitting down and watching Netflix with after a long day at work (for both of them). The correlated inequality (causation is hard to prove here) doesn’t seem worth giving that up.

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