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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Right Effect, Wrong Cause

Yesterday the NYT proffered its latest The Great Divide column. Before I go any further, in the NYT's own words:

The Great Divide is a series on inequality — the haves, the have-nots and everyone in between — in the United States and around the world, and its implications for economics, politics, society and culture. The series moderator is Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, a Columbia professor and a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and chief economist for the World Bank.*

This latest instructional column from the enlightened to the rest of us, How Can We Jump-Start the Struggle for Gender Equality? purports to demonstrate that something went wrong during the Vanguard's Righteous March to Parity Between the Sexes. Besides, that is, all those fussy dimorphic details which, since they are unimportant to the Vanguard are unimportant in fact.

[Starting in the 1960s, the] traditional division of labor by gender was challenged from all sides. Women’s share of the labor force, husbands’ share of housework, the integration of occupations once categorized by gender and women’s share of management jobs all rocketed upward from the 1970s till sometime in the 1990s. Women went from earning fewer than 10 percent of law and medicine degrees in 1970 to earning almost half of them by the early 2000s.

I don't think it is possible to cogently argue that, circa 1968, women were not subject to all manner of legal handicaps due to their choosing poorly as to which team they were to be conceived into. Similarly, I think that no matter how hard you might look, or no matter how many rocks you might wish to overturn, you would be hard pressed to find anyone wishing to reimpose all those petty, demeaning, senseless shackles.

Wonderful, even more indefensible nonsense for history's ash heap. Game over. Post over, sans point.

Not so fast, wonder wings. After making occupational advances across the board for two decades …

… the movement toward equality stopped. The labor force hit 46 percent female in 1994, and it hasn’t changed much since. Women’s full-time annual earnings were 76 percent of men’s in 2001, and 77 percent in 2011. Although women do earn a majority of academic degrees, their specialties pay less, so that earnings even for women with doctorate degrees working full time are 77 percent of men’s. Attitudinal changes also stalled. In two decades there has been little change in the level of agreement with the statement, “It is much better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of the home and family.

There are a couple things worth remembering here. Just as Jim Crow laws were a grotesque imposition on blacks because of their race, women were also subject to nearly endless impositions because of their gender. In the early 1960s, it was difficult for women to own property, obtain credit, and were barred from many jobs. And we must give credit where it is due. Progressives were the ones taking on Jim Crow, and tearing down the equally pervasive, demeaning, and unjustified subjugation of women.

And then they succumbed to Progressivism's twin diseases: submerging individuals within the group, and rampaging hubris. Both are on prominent display in the quoted para above, and throughout the article. It doesn't matter what individual women, or men, want; only that groups adhere to Progressives' insistence upon the only equality that matters — outcome. Attitudinal changes have "stalled", because they fail to adhere to the Progressive notion of what constitutes the correct attitude.

Progressives fancy themselves as being reality based and, ipso facto, correct in their every thought and deed. Whether Creationist or Dawkinsian, there is precious little disagreement to be found that women and men have always faced very different life challenges. Yet it is the Dawkinsian Progressive who falls, and falls hard, for the belief, as religious as anything you might find in revealed texts, that evolution stops at the neck line.

According to Dr. Cohen, sociology professor and author of a coming-real-soon-now book "The Family: Diversity, Inequality and Social Change", the blame lies with men and society. Men haven't moved into traditionally female occupations, and our society has failed to implement work-family policies oriented towards promoting gender equality.

Unfortunately for Dr. Cohen's Progressive vision, reality bites.

Here is a list of “non-traditional” (i.e., less than 25% female) occupations.

As it turns out, there are quite a lot of them, with an average female participation rate of roughly 10%. Taking a for instance, it is hard to imagine how work-family policies, no matter what they might be, differentially impact nursing and being a mechanic. Yet nursing remains overwhelmingly female, and any occupation with the word “mechanic” attached is at least 96% male. (My occupation, pilot, is 98.7% male, despite a cornucopia of job offers for any qualified female.) It appears that the other foot can be shod with the same shoe: women don't appear the least inclined to move into traditionally male occupations.

Maybe something more than stalled attitudes is involved. Maybe a great many women are concluding that, given a choice, they would far rather be nurses than mechanics. And just as many men are wondering why they would want to be primary school teachers when they could be working on cars.

If that is so, and the list of still “traditional” occupations suggests it is, then perhaps evolution didn’t stop at the neck line, and, consequently, equality of opportunity should not be expected to yield anything remotely resembling equality of outcome. Maybe, just maybe, unfair evolutionary discrimination has tilted the playing field in many more directions than just plumbing and upper body strength. Mechanical aptitude is unfairly — by Progressive standards — distributed. So why should we attribute to "stalled attitudes", or defective work-family policies, that which is far better explained by nature itself?

Which points at a fundamental objection to Dr. Cohen's urging us to imitate Iceland's family policies, and chiding "frightened traditionalists" in the US who are, poor benighted dears, averse to state-run child care.

There's even a term for it: Parity Error. So long as women are not eager to become mechanics, pilots, carpenters, masons, welders, ad nauseum, then men must do those things.

According to Dr. Cohen, If you want a society in which men are welcome and willing to be day care workers, you may need a workplace culture that accepts — or encourages — fathers’ spending more time at home with their children. To unblock the path toward gender equality, these policies may be the best ideas we have.

Until he concocts policies that encourage women to do things they resolutely refuse to do, then the best ideas Progressives have are no better than bolting a kick-stand on a tricycle.


* The reality deficits in this piece are so glaring and central that whatever Dr. Stiglitz' brilliance in economics, he is utterly devoid of skeptical moderation.

18 comments:

Clovis e Adri said...

H. Skipper,

It is good to take some holidays of disagreeing with you :-)

The other day a colleague was complaining that those modern trends are killing families: he already lost one wife, and then afterwards one serious girlfriend, to incompatibility of careers.

He got in those situations where one person would need to give up the job to follow the other. Neither he nor the women gave up their jobs, so they gave up the relationship.

I personally do not think a man giving up a job for the woman's job sake is wrong in any objective way. But the fact remains that many men can not take that step without some bad taste in their mouth.

For all the liberal point that such feeling is "cultural", and should be sacrificed for sake of Equality, I think it is easier said than done. Who decides how far biology can or not influence culture?

In the meantime, that collegue of mine swears he will never, ever date any woman with career aspirations.

Howard said...

Hey Skipper,

When supposedly bright educated people express surprise over a study which shows that there might be real differences in preferences, brains or behaviours between most men and women it is so entertaining. Nice post!

erp said...

A very early Doonesbury cartoon showed kids playing at nursery school. The boys were playing with blocks and trucks and the girls were playing with dolls. The teacher insisted the girls play with the traditional boys' toys and they finally got exasperated with the interruptions, took the blocks, built an elaborate city with overpasses, bridges, traffic, etc. and then went back to their dolls. Meanwhile the boys just continued smashing their trucks into each other.

Just because we can do the same things you guys like to do, doesn't mean we want to spend our lives doing it.

Hey Skipper said...

[Clovis:] I personally do not think a man giving up a job for the woman's job sake is wrong in any objective way. But the fact remains that many men can not take that step without some bad taste in their mouth.

Just as no woman has ever said, nor will ever say, to her woman friends "Gee, I wish my [husband | significant other | boyfriend | self-propelled sperm donor] was less handy around the house", no woman wishes for a man less successful than she.

There is a term for this: hypergamy. (Caution: this wikipedia cite is almost hilariously awful.)

For all the liberal point that such feeling is "cultural", and should be sacrificed for sake of Equality, I think it is easier said than done. Who decides how far biology can or not influence culture?

When a behavior is common-mode across all known cultures, then culture (or family leave policies) probably should not be the go-to explanation.

Hey Skipper said...

[Howard:] When supposedly bright educated people express surprise over a study which shows that there might be real differences in preferences, brains or behaviours between most men and women it is so entertaining.

Denial is more than a river in Egypt.

IMHO, the source of Denial is the Progressive conceit that humans are blank slates eagerly awaiting the merciful (unless some eggs need breaking) ministrations of the self-anointed Vanguard.

Because if humans aren't, then it doesn't much matter how absolutely super and w├╝nberbar Progressive ideas are: mules are stubborn by nature, not by lack of training.

[erp:] Just because we can do the same things you guys like to do, doesn't mean we want to spend our lives doing it.

Ummm, no, you can't. IMHO, evolution has produced women that are relatively specialized, and men that are generalists.

I know that within seconds of hitting"Publish Your Comment" the NOW Emergency Re-Education Team will be at my front door with their pastel truncheons, but I am going to publish this nonetheless: there are precisely two things women can do that men can't, and men have made one of them irrelevant.

In contrast, there is a whole slew of things (per the non-traditional occupation list) that women -- speaking statistically -- simply cannot do.

Now that isn't to say that (straight) men will be able to do many things in a way that anyone would prefer them to be done -- interior decorating comes to mind -- but they would at least get done. Kind of. Regrettably, probably.

But done nonetheless.

Peter said...

Wow, Skipper, you do like to live dangerously, you old oppressive patriarch. :-)

One thing that intrigues me about this whole issue is how the sorority and their bien pensants fellow-travellers will proclaim an unquestionning fealty to Darwinism on so many matters and then shift to Marxism on this one. Hardly a week goes by that we aren't treated to some researcher claiming to prove that just about everything in modern life---fashion, religion, art, diet, social relations, yada, yada, can be traced back to evolutionary survival advantages that "hardwired" us when we were all hunters and gatherers and having a lot more fun. It's become so predicable we just nod our heads rotely and move on to the sports pages. But on this one, pre-historic life was a kind of Acradian paradise of gender equality until the patriarchs pulled a coup and made up all kinds of tall tales about what is natural to cement their socio-economic and sexual domination.

Much of this issue is tied up with children and childcare, which is why the arguments take on very different flavours depending on whether one talks about "women" or "mothers". We may all like to think we're beyond those oppressive and dated stereotypes, but anyone with experience in family court will know that successful career or professional woman tend to go ballistic and feel utterly humiliated if they have to pay alimony to the modern feminist progressive husband who agreed to stay home and take care of the kids so she could pursue her career. Men don't like it either, but most of them can eventually come to accept the inevitable. With women faced with such a claim, it's contrary to the laws of the universe. Pay alimony? Ditto with young children living in the care of their fathers. You might as well ask them to install new brakes on the car.

erp said...

Skipper, I've been around the block on this one at lot longer than you. I was one of the women whose salary didn't count when applying for a mortgage in 1955, so my father-in-law who made barely as much as I did, had to co-sign the loan.

There is, at least for now, precisely one thing each sex can do that the other can't, 1. Produce sperm and 2. Deliver the product. That said, almost anybody can do anything they put their minds* to and if you think men can't do decorating, etc., you obviously haven't watched "Project Runway" or "Design Star."

IMO as a general rule women got the brains and men got the brawn. It's a perfect partnership.

*It's far easier for a physically weak woman to devise a tool or use leverage to do piece work or move or lift heavy objects than it is for a mentally weak man to figure out which way is up. :-)

Hey Skipper said...

[Peter:] Much of this issue is tied up with children and childcare, which is why the arguments take on very different flavours depending on whether one talks about "women" or "mothers".

The moment anything touches upon women or mothers, it outside the world of equality.

There is a baseline of human existence, those things that are at least to some degree accessible, and therefore comprehensible, to both genders.

But the whole realm contained within women/mothers is completely beyond male comprehension, as it stands outside that baseline.

Yet this seemingly obvious fact is invisible to both Progressive sociologists (did I just repeat myself?) and women paying alimony.

It is easy to understand equality of opportunity -- although perhaps less easy to accept when one is subjected to it.

But the kind of equality Dr. Cohen that so exercises Dr. Cohen is a conclusion without an argument.

[erp:]There is, at least for now, precisely one thing each sex can do that the other can't, 1. Produce sperm and 2. Deliver the product. That said, almost anybody can do anything they put their minds* to and if you think men can't do decorating, etc., you obviously haven't watched "Project Runway" or "Design Star."

You are right, I have watched neither. However, I bet they both make my point for me, in that all, or nearly all, the men on those shows are gay.

Women do not have the same brains as men -- that is a brute physiological fact. And it is nearly as certain that gay men do not have the same brains as their straight counterparts; otherwise, trying to explain the prevalence of gay men in the fashion industry is practically impossible.

When I say that there are many things women can't do, I am speaking statistically. There is no wishing away the fact that, in general, women have much less mechanical aptitude then men.

Therefore, as the enduring failure of women to enter many of the occupations in that list shows, women's relative incapacity, both physically and mentally, means certain occupations will forever be effectively off limits to them.

It is conceivable that nurses or primary school teachers or interior decorators could become 50% male. Those jobs will still get done; not well, or pleasingly, but at least they will get done.

Conversely, it isn't conceivable that mechanics of any stripe, or practically any occupation in the lower half of that list, will get anywhere near 50% female, if for no other reason than that wholly ignored dimorphism bugbear.

Saying almost anybody can do anything they put their minds to is comforting, but wrong. No amount of mind putting will make me an artist or musician, no matter how low you wish to put the bar for either.

Similarly, no amount of mind putting will provide me the empathy or aesthetic sensibility that nearly all women routinely display.

It is the insistence upon the notion that women can do everything as well as men, except for the areas where they are obviously superior, that leads to a great deal of nonsense. Title IX, anyone?

Why yes, indeed. Progressives want to use Title IX as a lever to force greater female participation in STEM fields.

Blank slate thinking at its finest.

erp said...

Ah, Skipper, It's a pleasure to meet an unabashed chauvinist again. I thought you guys had all gone into the closet.

Let's leave art out of it since it, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Can all men do what every other man can do? Obviously not, nor can women.

Did you forget about Rosie, the Riveter? Those women, few of whom had ever worked outside the house, took on "male" jobs, did them very well and then when their men came home, demurely went back into their kitchens -- no greater love hath she who allows her man to shine.

As for myself, having always been superior, could never understand the feminists call for equality, except, of course, under the law.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone!

Bret said...

Hey Skipper wrote: "...women have much less mechanical aptitude then men..."

Ummm, maybe, possibly, on average. But that's irrelevant in my opinion. What women do seem to have in my observation is far less desire to engage in activities requiring mechanical aptitude.

I'll believe in gender equality the next time my wife or daughters grab the drain snake and snake out the sewers the next time their hair clogs it up getting tangled in the roots. :-) I'm sure they could do it, the just refuse to.

Peter said...

I'm going with erp here. (See erp, we can agree). We owe Rosie the Riveter a lot more than we acknowledge. There is a difference between interest and aptitude and where they come from. Too much Darwinian determinism, Skipper.

As to innate superiorities, apart from things requiring upper body strength, possibly respiratory (but certainly not pain or muscular)endurance, and childcare responsibilities for pre-teens (I simply can't get comfortable with male daycare workers), I'm backing the sisterhood. Too many ambiguities and exceptions on all the cognitive stuff. I actually used to think women were innately superior at high-speed multi-tasking, but I've met enough women who can't seem to handle low-speed uni-tasking to cure me of my prejudices.

Happy Thanksgiving, neighbours. We had our about six weeks ago. Every year I'm in awe that you go through so much travel, turkey, shopping, football and feasting, only to do it all again less than a month later.

erp said...

Peter, thanks for your endorsement and we probably agree on 99.9% of the issues, but to continue your train of thought, I've met enough men, even straight ones, who don't know a wrench from a hammer to know mechanical ability is not innate, in fact, I've been married to one for 57 years.

True story. My roomie and his friend decided any idiot could replace a kitchen sink faucet, so they proceeded to do so. Unfortunately, after their efforts, there was only cold water available.

The plumber arrived shortly afterwards and laughed so hard he didn't charge for the visit. The faucet was not only put on backwards, but upside down. He marveled at how two suits could jerry-rig it to work at all.

What's that story about the shoemaker and his last?

erp said...

Bret, you're right and why should they when they have a big strong guy like you available for the task.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Well, I'll side with Skipper a bit because in many technical fields interest is every bit as important as aptitude. You will never be good at such a skill (e.g., programming) if you don't also have a deep and abiding interest in it. If women (in general) aren't very interested in such things, the skilled practioners in those fields will be overwhelmingly men.

Hey Skipper said...

[erp:] Did you forget about Rosie, the Riveter?

In fact, I had. Excellent point, which rather tilts towards "won't" vs. "can't".

But that still leaves a problem: Why won't? If won't is a consequence of inborn preferences for certain activities then the outcome, in anything resembling a free society and absent the exigencies of a world war, will be the same as can't.

Of course, won't could be the consequence of cultural conditioning, in which case the answer to "jump starting equality" is to re-educate girls and women so they will do what they won't do. And, of course, to do the same to men.

Unless you buy the second option, then you are left with a statistical inability to do certain things; whether on account of won't or can't is immaterial.

[Bret: ] Hey Skipper wrote: "....."

Ummm, maybe [maybe women have much less mechanical aptitude then men] on average. But that's irrelevant in my opinion.


But perhaps not irrelevant in fact.

According to the table (scroll down one page), the difference is substantial, and gets greater with age. Also, the difference has been getting smaller over time, but at a decreasing rate.

Taken over time, the average d is 1.15. Roughly speaking, for a d of 1, if the cutoff for aptitude is at the male mean, then roughly 75% of females will be below the male mean.

Which, so far as the op ed goes, is very relevant. If men who end up in mechanic-type occupations are one standard deviation to the right in terms of aptitude, then virtually all women will be less adept then the men in those occupations.

Perhaps, then, the massive gender imbalance in mechanical occupations is a consequence of motivation correlating with and even amplifying differences in aptitude. Which makes it very relevant, because if so "jump starting equality" is foolish.

[Peter:] Too much Darwinian determinism, Skipper.

Perhaps. Pilots are over 98% male. Success in pilot training is highly correlated with mechanical aptitude and spatial reasoning. Consequently, the military has minimum scores in each area in order to get into pilot training. As it happens, those minimums exclude the vast majority of women.

Of course, aptitude might be culturally mediated. But maybe not personality.

I don't know how much stock you put in the Meyers - Briggs personality types, but essentially all pilots are INTPs. And essentially all INTPs are men. Presuming there is some validity to be had, and personality is largely heritable, then there is some fair amount of determinism going on.

Bluntly, that means the presumption equality is a balanced scale rather than a blind filter is wrong, and the reason it is wrong is because women are relatively (and in some cases absolutely) incapable of certain tasks. Also, it should come as no surprise that men are relatively incapable of other tasks, although, with one exception, never absolutely.

Harry Eagar said...

'Similarly, I think that no matter how hard you might look, or no matter how many rocks you might wish to overturn, you would be hard pressed to find anyone wishing to reimpose all those petty, demeaning, senseless shackles.'

I can find them in quantity anytime you care to ask. In the American Family Association, for example. In just about all the megachurches. In the Assembly of God.

Hey Skipper said...

[Harry:] I can find them in quantity anytime you care to ask. In the American Family Association, for example. In just about all the megachurches. In the Assembly of God.

OK, I'm asking. Please provide in quantity.

erp said...

Hmmmmmmm?

Not wanting to be mechanics goes back to my assertion that women got the brains. Elbow deep in grease and sludge?? Thanks, but no. Just keep my car running and the gas tank full. I don't like the smell of gasoline either.

Skipper, it's interesting about the lack of female pilots. Although I love to drive and actually raced my father's Pontiac with the boys at Rockaway beach in NYC, I never had the slightest desire to be a pilot.

I'll have to think about that one.