Saturday, January 18, 2014

On Studies: On Black Fathers Doing Well And On The Importance Of Women Keeping Their Names When Marrying

 On Fathering By Race And Ethnicity

This study (pdf) based on interviews about parenting is a much-needed corrective to those ideas that the black families are in crisis because of the absent fathers.  Though it is true that a larger percentage of black fathers do not live in the same household with their children, this does not mean that black fathers within the groups "lives with their children" or "does not live with their children" do worse than white fathers or Latino fathers etc.  Indeed, they do  better or equally well*, as the table below describes**:

 The statistically significant differences in the overall study, when it comes to gender and ethnicity, are not between black fathers and fathers of other racial or ethnic groups, but most likely to be found between Latino fathers and fathers of other ethnic groups.  I think this suggests that cultural differences about gender roles matter when it comes to how parenting chores are shared, which is great news because we can affect cultural ideas and they are moving towards shared parenting by mothers and fathers.

As an aside, the questions in this study also remind us how parenting is defined differently for fathers and mothers.  I doubt any study about  mothers would assume that eating meals with their children is a measure of parenting or involvement with their children.  It sounds like a fairly minimal measure of being present.  Having the responses to all the same questions by mothers (and by the rage, ethnicity, age and education etc. of them) would have been useful, too.

On The Meaning Of Women Keeping Their Name When Marrying

ADDED 1/19/2014:  See the correction at the top of Amanda's post.  The Dutch study she writes about has been retracted as fraudulent.  Note that this does NOT tell us anything about possible results from other such studies.  It just means that the particular study was retracted.  What I say about things such studies should take into account below still applies, however. 

Amanda writes about studies which find that women who keep their birth names when marrying are viewed differently than those who take their husband's last name.  A Dutch study found:

A woman who took her partner’s name … was judged as more caring, more dependent, less intelligent, more emotional, less competent, and less ambitious in comparison with a woman who kept her own name. A woman with her own name, on the other hand, was judged as less caring, more independent, more ambitious, more intelligent, and more competent. 
I haven't gone backwards in the link chain to the original studies, sorry.  Too much work, too little goddess energy, so I can't say much about the differences between countries in the percentage of women who keep their names.  That percentage matters greatly, because if few women keep their birth names at marriage, then the signal "I keep my name" tends to be mostly about the stereotypes of what it means when a women doesn't do the usual and traditional thing of taking her husband's name.  If more women choose the option of keeping the birth name, the stereotype gets misty or evaporates.  I mention all this because it matters when we apply, say, Dutch data, to the US setting or the setting in some country where keeping birth names is very common.

This links to the possibility that women who keep their birth names indeed might be more ambitious and independent etc. than those who do not, and that this is what drives the difference in perceptions, at least in countries where keeping one's birth name is rare.

Amanda on that possibility:

The difference in perception matters on an individual level, as the Dutch researchers found that name-keepers are more likely to be hired for jobs and are hired at higher salaries. Much higher salaries, in fact, making nearly $500 a month more.

The snag, when it comes to the idea that keeping one's birth name could therefore result in higher earnings, is that this might not be the case if the initial group of women who keep their birth names indeed are more ambitious and more focused on getting promoted or hired.  In other words, the causality might not run from "keeping one's name" to "higher earnings" but  from "being career focused" to both "keeping one's name" and "higher earnings."

*Not all the differences between the numbers given for black, white and Latino fathers are statistically significant, so not all the differences can be ranked.
**I didn't find this table in the pdf for the study summary.  It may have been created by someone else from the study data or it may be available in some more detailed manuscript of the study.  But as far as I can tell the numbers do come from the study, only they ignore the data on fathers who did these things less often than daily.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Friday Blogging Thoughts

1.  I have a new ergonomic mouse!  That, my friends, means a little less pain and suffering in this highly paid avocation.

2.  I didn't write the posts today my muse was telling me to write (he really knows best).  Now I feel disgruntled.  Disgruntled is a scrumptious term for the way I often feel while wading through the primeval muck parts of the cyberspace.  Try it in your mouth (not the muck, the word) and see if you agree. 

Exigent is a brand new member of my adopted language family, as in "the exigent demands of my muse went unheeded."  This turned them into  nagging, as in a common interpretation of why someone nags.  It's often just not being listened to.  Sorry, muse.  But the topics will keep.

3.  This is a wonderful accompaniment to almost anything:  Why Don't You Do Right, sung by Lil Green in 1941, the original version of the song:

More about the singer, Lil Green here.  She died far too young.

Short Posts, 1/17/2014: Plastic Surgery Apps For Children, Whooping Cough And What Some Texas Charter Schools Teach.

1.  What's the app that nine-year-old children (girls?) really, really might need?  The wizards at Apple and Google thought that it might be an app where the child can play being a plastic surgeon.  The patient, to be operated on, is either Barbie or Barbara, depending on the app, and the surgery is to make the patient thinner or cuter!

Both the apps have already been withdrawn due to protests.  But as this article points out, that they were ever created tells us something unsavory about the world we live in:  You are never too young to start learning about the importance of being thin and cute.  For people named Barbie or Barbara.

2. Whooping cough is back.  In some parts of the US, adults likely to be in contact with infants (who are too young to get the vaccination themselves) are told to get booster shots against whooping cough (pertussis).

This was not the case in the fairly recent past, because childhood vaccinations against this infectious disease  were almost universal.  When most children are vaccinated, the few who cannot get vaccinated for health reasons or whose parents are opposed to the idea of vaccinations can avoid the disease through herd immunity:

Herd immunity (or community immunity) describes a form of immunity that occurs when the vaccination of a significant portion of a population (or herd) provides a measure of protection for individuals who have not developed immunity.[1] Herd immunity theory proposes that, in contagious diseases that are transmitted from individual to individual, chains of infection are likely to be disrupted when large numbers of a population are immune or less susceptible to the disease. The greater the proportion of individuals who are resistant, the smaller the probability that a susceptible individual will come into contact with an infectious individual.

Herd immunity stops working when those who don't get vaccinated become too large a proportion of the total population.  This is what seems to be happening in the US:  Whooping cough is back.  This is not good:

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious bacterial disease that attacks the respiratory system. Last year, the United States had the highest number of whooping cough cases since 1955, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During 2012, the CDC received reports of 48,000 cases and 18 deaths, with most of the deaths occurring in infants.
Note that a (private) decision not to have a child vaccinated has different consequences depending on how many others nearby make the same private decision.  If those others are few, the odds are that the children who didn't get the shots will do just fine.  If, however, those others are many, the disease will be back and some non-vaccinated individuals will die of it. Including, in this case, infants too young to get the shots.

Put into economic terms, some of the benefits from getting vaccinated or from having one's child vaccinated fall on the wider community as an increase in herd immunity, but these benefits do not usually enter the private calculations individuals and parents make.  Because those external benefits are ignored, the number of children vaccinated against whooping cough, say, is too low from the overall social point of view. 

Was that boring enough for you?  The deeper economic point is that vaccination is an example of an act where the costs fall on the individual or family getting vaccinated, including any negative-side-effects the vaccination causes or is believed to cause, whereas some of the benefits fall outside that private sphere.  This means that the negative aspects of vaccination get more weight in the decision-making than the positive aspects.

3.  Some charter school programs in Texas, funded from public sources, seem to teach the students interesting versions of biology and history For example:

On the feminist movement, Founders Classical Academy students are taught that feminism “created an entirely new class of females who lacked male financial support and who had to turn to the state as a surrogate husband.”

You can add that to the list of all the evil deeds attributable to feminism (a very long list which includes the total destruction of Western civilization).  Isn't it interesting, by the way, how the use of the terms "females" and "males" often signals a manosphere approach to a gender topic.  What's wrong with using "women" and "men?"

More seriously, feminism has not been powerful enough to be the culprit in so much evil, and that above quote makes no sense if we take it as written.  The author probably means financial support for children.  Women, on their own, and without any children, very rarely qualify as surrogate wives of the state.  That's as often as men in the same situation would qualify as surrogate husbands of the state. 

The distinction may sound trivial but it's one that is often ignored in certain types of writing about gender, where the assumption seems to be that children are created through parthenogenesis and that child maintenance payments or welfare payments for children are to be counted as money women get.  Because of that parthenogenesis thingy and because custodial parents are more often mothers than fathers.



Thursday, January 16, 2014

What The Twitter Talks About Today: The Foot And Leg Of A Giant Hillary Clinton on the Cover of Time Magazine.

The use of Twitter comments as a basis for a column or a post is new.  I am not a fan of it, because writing about people's opinions on something on Twitter is a) writing about those opinions as news, not writing about whatever the opinions are attached to, and b) there is often no way to judge whether the opinions picked for closer analysis are in some ways representative, the oddest, the most common on Twitter and so on.  -- Note that "representative" and "most common on Twitter" are not the same thing if by "representative" we mean what most people within some group in the real world think about some topic.  That's because the data on who is on Twitter, who is noticed on Twitter, who speaks for what group on Twitter, all of those are undefined, and also because what is noticed depends on whom the writers are following in the first place.

After that stern paragraph, what my Twitter feed  today talks about is the new Time magazine cover of Hillary Clinton, this one:

We know that the pant-covered leg and the foot in a heeled pump is supposed to represent Hillary Clinton, because of the attached text.  The woman in the picture is a giant, walking out of the picture, while a tiny man clad in a suit is clinging on to her heel, clearly distressed and uncomfortable.

It's a fascinating picture, telling us lots and lots and lots about the American political culture: 

Here's a country which has never had a woman president.  Here's a country which, right now, has one credible candidate for that path-breaking role.  She has lots of baggage, she is vastly hated and vastly admired, she is regarded as both an exception from all the rules and a general code for "uppity women" or "women oppressed in politics" or "white upper class women ruling this world" or "the power of nepotism".  She is both nothing (clawed her way to power on the pant leg of her husband) and everything (the one realistic chance to get a female president, the first blast of the trumpet for (not against, but provoking that "against") the monstrous regimen of women).

Clever, indeed, that picture!  Because what it describes is both correct and outrageously incorrect:  Hillary Clinton is a powerful candidate, yes, and especially powerful in the imagination of American conservatives.  But that's not really the whole (or even the main) message of the cover.  For that a photo of Clinton herself would have sufficed.

No.  That's a general picture of uppity women shod in stiletto shoes (the sexual feminine power) while also appropriating the power suit of men (the traditional male dominance), grown larger than life while the poor tiny guy tries to hold on.  It's a picture about the misogynists' world, the world where people of Hillary Clinton's gender are the ones in power, the world where giant women rule everything, where men are reduced to miniatures desperately hanging on.

All this is quite wonderful.  The picture tells us so much about how gender stereotypes are created, groomed and disseminated.  Why that works is because of the tendency to view women in politics as general representatives of some group, not as individuals.  That, in turn, depends on the relative rarity of powerful women. 

Doesn't that make your head hurt?


As an aside, click-bait covers of this type about women are not at all uncommon among the US magazines.  Here are a few earlier examples:

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

What's Happening In US Unemployment? Or Waiting in Line For The Thanksgiving Sales.

Here's the child's way to figure out the problems we have when measuring unemployment rates in the US right now:

A Parable

Imagine that there's a fantastic event of some kind happening.  A great concert or the sale of the century where you can buy a new car for ten dollars.  This event is advertised everywhere and eager people start arriving at the location for it the previous day.  They line up hours before, with packed lunches and blankets and even tents.  Because the event is very popular, the line becomes immensely long.

Then the doors open and the first people are let in.  Now think of this event as getting hired for a job.  When the labor markets are bad the line is very long, very few people are allowed through the door at any one point in time, and more people arrive in the line than are let in during any particular length of time.

The people in the line are job-seekers, getting through the door is getting a job.  Our most common measure of unemployment tries to capture the number of people in the line who are not getting in:  add up the numbers of those already in and the people still in the line, then divide the number of people in the line by that sum and express the result as a percentage.  That's how we get the usual measure of unemployment.  Here's the summary information for some groups as it applies to December of 2013:*

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (6.3
percent) and whites (5.9 percent) declined in December. The rates for adult
women (6.0 percent), teenagers (20.2 percent), blacks (11.9 percent), and
Hispanics (8.3 percent) showed little change. The jobless rate for Asians
was 4.1 percent (not seasonally adjusted), down by 2.5 percentage points
over the year. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.

A shorter line looks better. 

But when the job situation is very bad, there are other ways the line can shrink than getting through the door into the event (getting a job offer).  People can get discouraged and leave.  Some people might leave, whatever the job situation is, because they are not that keen on getting a job.  But when few jobs are on offer, many more people get discouraged and end up leaving.  The wait is too long, it is too cold, the door only opens once a day if that and only a few people get in.  Some people stay in the line until they are moved by some external force.  In the unemployment example these would be the long-term unemployed.

Others go and join a line for some other event, such as deciding to go back to school, getting into the military, trying to figure out if they could be in line for disability pension etc.  Some try to make a living selling things on eBay.  The long-term unemployed are the ones who hang on, staying in the line but not being admitted, for days, months and years.

In the past recessions the idea of measuring unemployment by looking at the number of people in the line divided by the total number inside the place of the event plus those in the line worked fairly well.  That's because the rate at which people left the line didn't seem to be vastly influenced by the rate at which the doors opened for the event but by more longer-term events than temporary recessions. 

That tendency to leave can be captured by the labor market participation rate (LMPR)**: the percentage of working-age population which is in the labor force (either looking for work or working).  That percentage is slipping:

The unemployment rate in December fell to 6.7 percent, the lowest since October 2008, as more people dropped out of the labor force. Economists were looking for the jobless rate to hold steady at 7 percent.
The labor force participation rate, which gauges the proportion of the working-age population in the labor force, slipped to 62.8 percent, down 0.8 percent from a year ago, and the lowest since February 1978.

It's important to try to figure out who it is, exactly, that is leaving.  If the people leaving are young people who decide to get more education instead of an immediate job (which might not be available), the consequences are different than if the people who leave are seeking early retirement.  The consequences are probably the worst if the people who leave are most likely to be in the middle of their working lives (say, between 25 and 54 years of age).  That's because rejoining the labor market is much harder to do than many think and thus those individuals could be permanently out of the marketplace.  The obvious question then is how they will survive.

I haven't found clear expert agreement on which groups are the largest among the labor market dropouts.  This agreement may exist, but so far I've been unable to get a good reference for it.  Some economists argue that the problem seems to be changing as we watch:  A few years ago individual workers near retirement chose early retirement if they could, but now it looks like people in that position hold on to their jobs for dear life.

What does all this mean and why should we, the readers, wade through a boring post like this one?

Not sure.  Perhaps you are a bit masochistic?  Or perhaps this matters a lot, because if the commonly used measurement of unemployment underestimates the actual level of joblessness, then it also underestimates the suffering and by using it we think we are doing much better than we actually are.

There's also the possibility that something rather foundational may have changed in the last recession, that the recovery hasn't really been a recovery for workers but mostly for those who invest in the stock market or own firms.  Profits have recovered rather beautifully but wages are essentially not budging and  too many people are giving up on that place in the line.  We need to know where they are going and we desperately need to know how to create more events (more jobs which can actually support a person) so that the recovery is real for all people.

Gender, Racial And Ethnic Differences

Here the individual Bureau of Labor Statistics tables can be useful.  For instance, this table shows us the unemployment rates and the LMPRs  for adult (over 20) white women (5.3% in December 2013) and men (5.6% in December 2013) and black women (10.4% in December 2013) and men (11.5% in December of 2013) of various age groups and also for  Asian-Americans (4.1% unadjusted in December 2013).  That last data is not yet available separately for men and women or for the group of adult workers (over 20) and not yet available in the adjusted form.  The actual unemployment rates for Asian-American men and women over 20 are likely to be lower than that 4.1% figure, because the overall figure includes the usually much higher unemployment of the workers between sixteen and twenty years of age.

The LMPR has dropped in all the groups of adult workers the table shows, on average about one percent.  But the drop for black adult men is roughly two percent, leading to the lowest LMPR for this groups in several decades.  Keeping those drops in mind affects how we view the clear drops in unemployment rates over 2013.  For example, the rate of unemployment for black adult men was 13.9% in December 2012, dropping more than two percent over 2013.  But the LMPR for that group also dropped about two percent.

The data on the Hispanic population can be found in this table.  It's not yet available in adjusted form.  Note that Hispanics (or Latinos) can here be of any race. The unadjusted unemployment rate  for adult women in this group was 8.1% in December 2013 and the same rate for adult men was 7.5%.  The LMPR dropped for women over 2013 (by approximately one percent) but did not drop for men.

What's the point of looking at those detailed statistics? 

First, there are clear ethnic and racial differences between groups of workers, and most of those differences are of longer standing than just the aftermath of the most recent recession.  The reasons for them probably include both non-discriminatory and discriminatory factors (I haven't been able to find a good recent aggregate-level (not just one industry or job) study which would look at both of these at the same time). 

Among the latter are geographic factors and average educational differences*** (in December 2013 the unemployment rate for people without high school diplomas was 9.8% whereas the unemployment rate for people with at least a Bachelor's degree was 3.3%; the LMPR for people without high school diplomas was 43.7 (!) whereas it was 75.3% for those who had at least a Bachelor's degree.).  

But the main reason for the low unemployment rates of Asian-Americans is, I believe,  the higher average education level of that group.

Second, note that the comparison of male and female rates of unemployment and the LMPRs shows that not all ethnic and racial groups follow exactly the same pattern.  For example, the female rates of unemployment in December 2013 were usually lower than the male rates (though approaching each other, as is the case at the end of recessions), but this is not the case for Hispanics, where the female rate is higher than the male rate of unemployment. 

Sometimes disaggregated data is more useful than aggregate data, to understand what it is that creates this difference among the Hispanics.  My guess is that it might be a consequence of the lower levels of education among adult Latinas, which would reduce the range of jobs they can apply for.  Those lower levels of education, in turn, could be based on traditional ideas of the past about the proper roles of men and women and what those require.

Third, it's useful to keep in mind that the unemployment rates of men and women, overall, tend to be roughly the same over longer time periods.  They diverge in recessions, because men are more likely to work in the bellwether industries (construction, manufacturing, shipping), and those industries are the first to lose jobs when a recession begins (though also the first to regain them when the recession is over).  The traditionally female industries are less sensitive to recessions, which is why we get the greater male unemployment rates when economic times are bad.  This, too, may be changing in the latest recession,  partly because of the conservative "belt-tightening" in the public sector jobs, given that jobs such as teaching have a lot of women.  But overall the male and female rates appear to be converging.

This is it for my unemployment post.  I have left so much uncovered, such as the question whether the new jobs now created are as good as the old jobs that were lost, the question of what is happening to earnings for all the different groups mentioned here, and also some deeper analysis for the reasons of the gender, ethnic and racial differences I rapidly summarized as well as some I did not (median earnings, say).   

*More about those percentages below.

**The LMPR does change and has changed in the past, but the reasons have mostly been unrelated to recessions.  For example, the rate of women's labor market participation rose rapidly in the 1970s and continued to rise until 1990s when it stabilized.  This reflected a larger social change from the few preceding decades.  Men's rate of labor market participation has declined slightly over roughly the same time period, having to do with the tendency towards earlier retirement and more time spent in education.

***Location matters, because some US states have been hit more by the effects of the recession than others, and some of those states have a high percentage of blacks or Hispanics.  Note, also, that educational differences could also be discriminatory if the reason for having less education is in past discrimination in the education system.  The case of the Hispanic workers is complicated by the larger number of first generation immigrants.  Because they may have been obtained their education before they immigrated, the skills that provided might not be as good a match for the US labor market as educational skills obtained here.  Because each country teaches its children for the kinds of jobs it has.

Globalization and outsourcing are factors which also may affect certain ethnic and racial and educational groups more.  Good blue-collar (and traditionally male) jobs have packed their bags and moved elsewhere.  This is not yet quite the case with the jobs which require more education.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Speed Posting, 1/14/14. On Male and Female Virtue, Afghan Women And the US Unemployment Rate

1.  Here's advice about how to make a marriage work:  Wifely obedience:
A former star of the US family sitcom Full House who has been married for 17 years thinks she has the answer to marital happiness: be a submissive wife.

 Candace Cameron Bure has shared her controversial advice for other married women in her new book, ‘Balancing It all’.
“I am not a passive person but I chose to fall into a more submissive role in our relationship because I wanted to do everything in my power to make my marriage and family work,” said Bure, who is married to hockey player Val Bure and has three children.
When challenged about her use of the word submissive in an interview with the Huffington Post, Bure said she was using it in the Biblical sense.
"The definition that I'm using with submissive is the biblical definition. It's meekness. It is not weakness. It's strength under control. It's bridled strength," she said.
So religion rears its head here, again, by suggesting that meekness is an important womanly virtue.  Whether practicing such a virtue makes the woman happy in her marriage is up to her, I guess.  Always submitting might not work for the average woman or man, in terms of happiness.  It might not even make the marriage a particularly successful one.

2.  If meekness is a female virtue, then Paul S. Kemp tells us what masculine virtues are (via Lawyers, Guns & Money:

So, I write masculine stories. And what I mean by that is that they feature characters whose behaviors and characteristics are what I consider traditionally masculine. They’re almost hyper-masculine, really.  Further, those masculine behaviors and characteristics are shown (implicitly or explicitly) as virtuous.  Essentially what I’m often trying to show are characters who embody the Roman concept of virtus.
Now, that’s not true of all my characters, of course, but it’s true of many of them.  As a rule they’re men. They drink a lot. They sometimes womanize. They answer violence with violence.  They’re courageous in the face of danger. They’re stoic in the face of challenges/pain.  They have their emotions mostly in check. And they act in accordance with a code of honor of some kind.  Thematic elements in a lot of my work that square with this involve the obligations of fatherhood, the depths of friendship between men who’ve faced death together, the bonds of brotherhood (figuratively).  Hell, there are even damsels in distress sometimes (though I like to play with that notion and things aren’t always what they seem; see, e.g., The Hammer and the Blade).  The price of faith and the difficulties of redemption appear in a lot of my work, too, but that’s neither here nor there for purposes of this blog post.
Now, why do I write stories that focus on those elements and not others?  Is it because I’m a throwback Neanderthal pig?  It is not!  ;-)
The answer is pretty basic.  Like many of you, when I was young I read a lot.  Often what I read featured the kind of characters and storytelling I describe above — masculine stories, stories with characters who demonstrate virtus (I’m looking at you Le Morte d’Arthur, and you, Conan).  And what I read shaped how I viewed myself, how I viewed the world and my place in it, and indirectly (and along with a lot of other obvious things) helped shape and refine my moral code — Honor, courtesy, respect for self and others, even (a kind of modified) chivalry.  It’s served me well in life.  So I try in my own small way to carry that torch forward and provide the kind of exemplars of virtus that I found and find so compelling.  I don’t think there can ever be too many.  And that’s it.  Well, that’s almost it.
Reading those two links close in time made me think about how those concepts of  gender-linked virtues are very much dependent on the other gender acting a certain way.   Men cannot be chivalrous if women aren't a bit helpless and in need of that.  Women cannot be meek if men aren't prepared to make all decisions within families, and women cannot be caring (a common virtue assigned to women) if other people won't let them take that role.

Likewise, those types of virtues can easily flip into the negative sphere.  An overly passive and meek person is like a wet sponge, ultimately requiring others to take care of her or him, and an overly chivalrous or caring person can easily become a butt-in-sky, dominating over everything.

And if, say,  honor is a masculine virtue, what are women, then?  Dishonorable by our very natures?

3.  The news about Afghan women's struggles are not good.  The parliament has lowered the provincial council seats set aside for women from 25% to 20%,  and much of the progress in women's legal rights seems to be unraveling.

On the other hand, gender equality is not a topic of utmost importance for the majority of people in Afghanistan.

For example, a 2012 article suggests that most women in Afghanistan accept the right of husbands to beat their wives for various reasons:

Overall, 92 percent of women in Afghanistan feel that a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife for at least one of these reasons: going out without telling the husband, neglecting the children, arguing with the husband, refusing sex, and burning the food. Seventy-eight percent of women believe that going out without telling the husband is justification for beating, while 31 percent think the same about burning the food.
So my writing about any of this brings up questions about the meaning of something like "gender justice."  Is it a value to be defined separately by each culture, a universal human rights value or something in-between these two extremes?  And what is the proper role of us outside observers?

I struggle with these questions.  But I still think that universal human rights should include equal rights for men and women irrespective of religious and cultural differences, though the road to equal rights probably does depend on local knowledge and activism.  And I wish to support those who are fighting for more gender equality within Afghanistan or within any country or culture.

4.  Finally, this is a good (though long) article on the current macroeconomic aspects of US unemployment.  It explains why the commonly used unemployment rate is not as good a measure of unemployment as it may have been in the past.  I'm planning to write more on unemployment later and this article is a good basic source for it.  There will, however, be no test.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Masculine and Muscular. And Other thoughts On Gender Roles From Conservative American Pundits.

1.  Brit Hume at Fox News has decided to turn the Governor Christie conversation into something that is the fault of women:

HOST HOWARD KURTZ : So what about this bully narrative [surrounding Chris Christie]?
FOX SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST BRIT HUME: Well, I would have to say that in this sort of feminized atmosphere in which we exist today, guys who are masculine and muscular like that in their private conduct, kind of old fashion tough guys, run some risk.
KURTZ: Feminized.
HUME: Atmosphere.
KURTZ: By which you mean?
HUME: By which I mean that men today have learned the lesson the hard way that if you act like a kind of an old fashioned guy's guy, you're in constant danger of slipping out and saying something that's going to get you in trouble and make you look like a sexist or make you look like you seem thuggish or whatever. That's the atmosphere in which he operates. This guy is very much an old fashioned masculine, muscular guy, and there are political risks associated with that. Maybe it shouldn't be, but that's how it is.

Hume is trying to tell us why the conservative war against women is actually a defensive move:  Fight those rooms with feminized atmosphere (sprayed full of Chanel 5), fight those rules that men must wear eyeshadow and hobble about in high-heeled shoes, fight the vast numbers of women in the US Congress determining everything while holding hands and comparing handbags!

He is hilarious, is our Brit.  The idea that "masculine and muscular" is the same as being a bully is sweet, and that the "old-fashioned guy's guy" is somehow a neutral concept is wonderful.

Too bad that women and girls can also be bullies, and too bad that the Christie debacle has nothing to do with women as a class.  Hume insists on dragging the gender wars into all this.  That he does so is the informative part here:  It tells us that the Fox people judge the war against women pays for them.

2.  James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal is a conservative pundit well-known for his negative views on women as a class.   Knowing that will help you make sense out of one recent debate* he had with another anti-feminist, Kay Hymowitz.  The debate is about how horrible single mothers are as parents, especially to boys.  In this quote Taranto gives us his theory about what makes men and women tick when it comes to family formation:

It may be true that fatherlessness begets fatherlessness, but widespread illegitimacy is a recent phenomenon whose ultimate causes demand inquiry. In his landmark 1965 report, "The Negro Family: A Case for National Action," Daniel Patrick Moynihan observed that "both white and Negro illegitimacy rates have been increasing, although from dramatically different bases. The white rate was 2 percent in 1940; it was 3.07 percent in 1963. In that period, the Negro rate went from 16.8 percent to 23.6 percent."
The 2011 figures (which exclude Hispanics) were 29.1% for whites and 72.3% for blacks--a more than eightfold increase for whites and more than threefold for blacks. A cycle of fatherlessness operating over two to three generations cannot be sufficient to explain such an enormous rise.
So what does? In our view, a dramatic change in incentives owing to two major social changes that were just getting under way when Moynihan wrote. 
The first is the rise of female careerism--the expectation that most women will spend most of their adult lives (rather than just the period when they are single) in the workforce. Women have less incentive to wed, since marriage no longer means trading in a job for a provider husband. Female careerism got a big boost with the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination in the workplace. 
The second is the introduction of the pill, which the Food and Drug Administration approved for contraceptive use in 1960. It made nonmarital sex far more easily available, reducing the incentive for men to marry. As George Akerlof and Janet Yellen argued in a 1996 paper (yes, that Janet Yellen, and Akerlof is her husband), the pill very quickly broke down the old institution of the shotgun wedding. With reproduction under female control, it became a female responsibility. Men no longer felt obligated to marry women by whom they fathered children. The paradoxical-seeming result is that a technology to reduce "unwanted pregnancy" massively increased out-of-wedlock births.

You have to screw your eyes and wrinkle your forehead really really hard to understand the framework Taranto uses when he analyzes marriage.  It helps if you know that he is an evolutionary psychology fan and that he seems to think that men don't want children or marriage but just a lot of sex, and that therefore marriage, as an institution, fails if women don't insist on marriage as the payment for sex.  That's why he a little later writes that

That brings us back to the moralistic fallacy for which we faulted Hymowitz in our column last month. Completely absent from her analysis of why boys fail to grow up into "reliable husbands and fathers" is the crucial factor of female choice. If young women are less apt to marry because they are focused on education and career, and more willing to engage in sexual relationships unaccompanied by marriage or the expectation thereof, the incentives for young men are dramatically different.
Female choice is paramount in the reproductive area as a result of three landmark Supreme Court decisions: Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972), which held that unmarried women have a constitutional right to obtain contraceptives; Roe v. Wade (1973), which created a right to abortion; and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), which reaffirmed the abortion right and expanded it by decreeing that even a married man has no legal say in his wife's decision whether to abort.

But the evolutionary psychology angle to men as only interested in as much sex as possible is insufficient to understand what goes on inside Taranto's head.  We need to add that women's "careerism" argument, too!  Take note that Taranto uses a term here which should not be used, because it is not the careerist women (uppity women going to university and becoming CEOs) who mostly end up as single parents.  It's the non-careerist women who just try to support themselves and their families.

The vast majority of married women have always done work which today would be regarded as contributing to the family's financial income: working on the family farm, working in the family shop, selling cloth, beer, eggs, milk.

Taranto believes that this was not the case, that the 1950s American white middle-class norms are a general historical norm, and that this is what has changed in the recent decades.  He also believes that if only women couldn't survive without a husband to provide for them, we'd get  a world with high rates of long-term marriage!

He might well be correct in that, but I doubt many people would view such a world with great delight, given that forcing aspect (lots of laws would be needed to, once again, exclude women from higher education and most professions) and the who-cares aspect about human rights and equality and the complete absence of love and caring in that way of looking at marriage.

Taranto's analysis of the increase in single-parent families fails in a more immediate sense as well, because the rates of single parent families are not the highest among the groups with the highest use of the contraceptive pill or the highest recent changes in women's "careerism" (women having paid jobs), but rather the exact reverse of that.

The focus on female choice in Taranto's argument isn't completely invalid because of course even poor women have some agency.   But note that family formation isn't based on the say-so of just one partner.  It matters what the men do, too, and it matters whether child maintenance is paid by the absent parent, and poverty matters greatly in the rational assessment of whether marriage is a good idea or not.

The renewed focus of marriage as the solution to all problems of income inequality and poverty in this country must have come down the wires to all conservative pundits, I suspect, because it's back in the popular media.

3.  Finally, a concept I have recently learned:  Sexualityism!  It's something the more religious right-wingers use to explain what is wrong with the current horrible American culture.  From a 2012 piece by Helen Alvaré:

Against what social science tells us about human happiness, the government is promoting sexualityism–a commitment to uncommitted, unencumbered, inconsequential sex–as the answer.
Professor Gerry Bradley made a spot-on observation here at Public Discoursethat one of the underlying forces driving the HHS abortion, contraception, and sterilization mandate is the current federal ideology of “equal sexual liberty,” embracing the notion that “women will and should have lots more sexual intercourse than they have interest in conceiving children. … [that] sexual license should never impede a woman’s lifestyle, at least no more than it does a man’s.” Elsewhere, I have identified such a position as “sexual expressionism” or “sexualityism” and have defined it to include also the suggestion that sex should not only be free of the slightest reflection on its link with procreation, but also free of commitment, or even the real possibility of a relationship between the man and the woman involved.

Bolds are mine.  The quote is interesting because it begins with an argument that social science tells us something about human happiness, but then slides neatly into talking about why "sexualityism" wouldn't make women happy.   Implicit in all that is the suspicion they seem to have that it might make men happy, but because society needs well-behaved families it is (heterosexual) women who must be the gatekeepers in the sexual market places.  

I believe that this is what many "social conservatives" believe, whether they are of the evo-psycho type or of the religious type, and that's why they are always preaching about women as potential sluts.  Yet men, too, want meaningful long-term relationships, friendship, love, families and so on, and it's not impossible that women might want not only long-term commitment and children but also short-term relationships and recreational sex.  At least some women and at some times in their lives.

I'm probably taking these arguments too seriously, sigh.  Had Hitler's mother not been a married housewife who devoted her life to her children (according to Hitler in Mein Kampf), the conservative pundits would interpret the second world war and the holocaust as the fault of working mothers or single mothers or slutty women.  That's how they roll.

*You can follow their debate by reading first this Hymowitz piece, then Taranto's response to it, then Hymowitz' response to that response, then the piece I quote in the post.  I don't have the expertise or the time to acquire that expertise which is needed to judge what Hymowitz says about the research into the effects of single-parent families on boys and girls growing up in them, though clearly it is crucial that such studies take poverty into account, both in terms of the family itself and in terms of the area the family lives in.

But I can say something about Hymowitz' main thesis about the school trouble with boys being mainly the fault of single mothers:  International data does not support this argument, because countries like Iran have similar differences between men and women going to college as the US.  Or had them until the Iranian government put maximum quotas on the number of women in college.  So whatever the problem is caused by it cannot be explained by something distinctly American or even distinctly Western, given that it's pretty much the case in all countries which allow girls and women to acquire education.