Bryan Caplan  

Understanding Gender

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If you read nothing else about gender this year, read "Is There Anything Good About Men?" by Roy Baumeister. It's wonderful from beginning to end. Highlights:

When I say I am researching how culture exploits men, the first reaction is usually "How can you say culture exploits men, when men are in charge of everything?" This is a fair objection and needs to be taken seriously. It invokes the feminist critique of society. This critique started when some women systematically looked up at the top of society and saw men everywhere: most world rulers, presidents, prime ministers, most members of Congress and parliaments, most CEOs of major corporations, and so forth -- these are mostly men.

Seeing all this, the feminists thought, wow, men dominate everything, so society is set up to favor men. It must be great to be a man.

The mistake in that way of thinking is to look only at the top. If one were to look downward to the bottom of society instead, one finds mostly men there too. Who's in prison, all over the world, as criminals or political prisoners? The population on Death Row has never approached 51% female. Who's homeless? Again, mostly men. Whom does society use for bad or dangerous jobs? US Department of Labor statistics report that 93% of the people killed on the job are men...

The piece just gets better:
Before we go too far down that path, though, let me raise another radical idea. Maybe the differences between the genders are more about motivation than ability. This is the difference between can't and won't.


Several recent works have questioned the whole idea of gender differences in abilities: Even when average differences are found, they tend to be extremely small. In contrast, when you look at what men and women want, what they like, there are genuine differences. Look at research on the sex drive: Men and women may have about equal "ability" in sex, whatever that means, but there are big differences as to motivation: which gender thinks about sex all the time, wants it more often, wants more different partners, risks more for sex, masturbates more, leaps at every opportunity, and so on. Our survey of published research found that pretty much every measure and every study showed higher sex drive in men. It's official: men are hornier than women. This is a difference in motivation.

Likewise, I mentioned the salary difference, but it may have less to do with ability than motivation. High salaries come from working super-long hours. Workaholics are mostly men. (There are some women, just not as many as men.) One study counted that over 80% of the people who work 50-hour weeks are men.

That means that if we want to achieve our ideal of equal salaries for men and women, we may need to legislate the principle of equal pay for less work. Personally, I support that principle. But I recognize it's a hard sell.

I'm not sure if the second-to-last sentence is a joke. But if it's not, it's the only flaw in the entire piece.

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The author at Maggie's Farm in a related article titled Weds. Morning Links writes:
    Is America losing its work ethic? Am ThinkerWhy I quit teaching. PajamasSurrender. How societies commit suicide. Dalrymple in City Journal. I missed that one.Stuff like this keeps happening.One nation, under therapy. SC&A on ambulance-chasing trauma c [Tracked on September 5, 2007 5:39 AM]
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Kimmitt writes:

So there are no societal structures which make it easier for men to work 50 hour weeks than women?

Chris writes:

I'm reasonably confident that the second-to-last sentence was a joke--probably suggesting that he, as a professor, was being paid more than others for less tangible work. Or perhaps more importantly, that he should be.

Troy Camplin writes:

I see the next to last line as ironic. I mean, I, _personally_, would love to get paid more for less work -- but that's a hard sell. And of course it's a hard sell too because it's not even logical. Thus, the irony.

El Presidente writes:

I love it. I've also seen some good work by Warren Farrell in a text called Why Men Earn More. I think both genders have a lot of work to do in order to really undersand each other.

Leigh writes:

I personally enjoyed this article because some people do need to realize that the males in society are all living better than the women. I do not really agree about the part where he says that men are put in more dangerous occupations and risk their lives more. My close Female friend works for ATF and puts her life on the line everyday. But besides that this article made a good point that i will be sure to pass on!

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