Wednesday, April 20, 2016

News about Women, April 20, 2016: Harriet Tubman, Indian Housewives, Pulitzer Prizes and Female Refugees in Europe

1. Harriet Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on the twenty-dollar bill.  As some on the wide and varied Internets have said about Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy, this, too,  is only symbolic. But more representative symbols looks like a fantastic idea to me!

2.  A BBC story  about the suicides of housewives in India makes a  point about the invisibility of some issues:

More than 20,000 housewives took their lives in India in 2014.
This was the year when 5,650 farmers killed themselves in the country.
So the number of suicides by housewives was about four times those by farmers. They also comprised 47% of the total female victims.
Yet the high number of homemakers killing themselves doesn't make front page news in the way farmer suicides do, year after year.
In fact, more than 20,000 housewives have been killing themselves in India every year since 1997, the earliest year for which we have information compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau based on occupation of the victim. In 2009, the grim statistic peaked at 25,092 deaths.
That quote has a statistical problem, by the way, because it does not relate the suicide numbers of farmers and housewives to their population bases, i.e., the total numbers of farmers and of housewives in India.  It's theoretically possible that 5650 farmer suicides is a higher percentage of all Indian farmers than 20,000 suicides is of all Indian housewives, though I doubt it.

The point of that article still stands:  Certain social problems are more visible than others.  New problems get more attention than old but continuing problems, problems affecting women tend to be slotted into the sub-group of "women's issues" and thereby become less visible as general problems, and such problems are less often named.  Naming is a type of power, because we cannot attend to a problem we cannot identify.

3. Women did well in this year's Pulitzer Prizes.  Another interesting aspect of the 2016 prizes is the slight relaxing of the idea that certain topics belong to male journalists to cover and other topics to female journalists:

4.  A new study of the labor market integration of refugees in Europe makes for fairly dismal reading, with a few points of light.

The study also notes that from January to September 2015 young men dominated the group of asylum seekers.  Seventy-four percent of them were male and 82% below the age of 35:


Women and older people are vastly under-represented in the group which manages to reach Europe.  That's one problem with the current European refugee problem:  it tends to reward the young and the male and those who have money to pay the people smugglers.  It leaves behind the women, the sick, the elderly and the truly poor, though obviously many of the men who arrived in 2015 plan to bring their families in later.

The study has a short section about the labor market integration of female refugees.  It notes that women integrate less well than men:

Female refugees have significantly worse labour market outcomes, especially in the short to medium run. This might be partly due to cultural patterns as participation rates of women in their home countries are usually lower. Survey results in main source countries (e.g. Syria) suggest that participation rates of refugee women remain also low in host countries, at least in the short to medium term.
Thus, cultural patterns may hinder female refugees' labor market participation rates in Europe.  That is a posh way of saying that the norm is for women to stay at home, and such norms have staying power*.  One of the consequences of that is likely to be higher poverty rates among the refugees, because single-earner families in general tend to have higher poverty rates.

All is not gloom and doom in that respect.  An earlier Swedish study found that refugee women's labor market participation rates do rise with time, as this table shows:

5.  Finally, a question:  Are you interested in these kinds of complications?  One reason I write them is simply because I don't see many others doing it, but there are days when I wonder if it matters at all.


*  Francine Blau has studied the effect of social norms and culture of source countries in this context using data from immigration to the United States:

Abstract: This paper examines evidence on the role of assimilation versus source country culture in influencing immigrant women’s behavior in the United States—looking both over time with immigrants’ residence in the United States and across immigrant generations. It focuses particularly on labor supply but, for the second generation, also examines fertility and education. We find considerable evidence that immigrant source country gender roles influence immigrant and second generation women’s behavior in the United States. This conclusion is robust to various efforts to rule out the effect of other unobservables and to distinguish the effect of culture from that of social capital. These results support a growing literature that suggests that culture matters for economic behavior. At the same time, the results suggest considerable evidence of assimilation of immigrants. Immigrant women narrow the labor supply gap with native-born women with time in the United States, and, while our results suggest an important role for intergenerational transmission, they also indicate considerable convergence of immigrants to native levels of schooling, fertility, and labor supply across generations.
These results probably mean that when refugee source countries (say, Afghanistan, the source country for 10% of the asylum applicants in Europe in 2015) have considerably more patriarchal beliefs than the average beliefs in the new host countries in Europe those stronger patriarchal beliefs will take a long time to change.