Saturday, August 22, 2015

Saturday Night Music: Gracias a La Vida

By Violeta Parra:

And by Mercedes Sosa:

It's fun to compare different artists' takes.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Monopoly. The Game. A Re-Posting

(From last March)

Yesterday (i.e. March 19th) was the eightieth anniversary of the game called Monopoly.  There's an interesting subtext to the history of the game.  Or a sub-game, if you wish:

Legend has it that Charles Darrow, an unemployed salesman, invented the game in his kitchen in 1930. But the roots of Monopoly actually date back a few more decades, to a game called the Landlord's Game created by Elizabeth Magie in 1903.
The Landlord's Game was meant to be educational, illustrating economist Henry George's belief -- inspired by the Gilded Age -- that property ownership by individuals is inherently unfair. Magie's game was an underground success, leading to a number of offshoots, including the one that Darrow tweaked. Parker Brothers bought her patent for $500 in 1935, closing the loop.

The New York Times recently published an article about Elizabeth Magie and her Landlord's Game as the possible basic source for Monopoly.  I recommend reading the whole piece, because it's a fairly representative case study of the "disappearing women"  phenomenon:

Magie’s game featured a path that allowed players to circle the board, in contrast to the linear-path design used by many games at the time. In one corner were the Poor House and the Public Park, and across the board was the Jail. Another corner contained an image of the globe and a homage to Henry George: “Labor Upon Mother Earth Produces Wages.” Also included on the board were three words that have endured for more than a century after Lizzie scrawled them there: “Go to Jail.”
It was a version of this game that Charles Darrow was taught by a friend, played and eventually sold to Parker Brothers. The version of that game had the core of Magie’s game, but also modifications added by the Quakers to make the game easier to play. In addition to properties named after Atlantic City streets, fixed prices were added to the board. In its efforts to seize total control of Monopoly and other related games, the company struck a deal with Magie to purchase her Landlord’s Game patent and two more of her game ideas not long after it made its deal with Darrow.
Magie never really benefited financially from her game, whereas Darrow became very rich indeed.  The reasons why history ended up that way can be many, but Magie's gender certainly would not have helped.

There's something about the way we (as humans) write history which downplays or erases the contributions of individuals which don't fit the subconscious patterns we have in our minds,* and women working in science or literature have frequently found their work  ignored or reinterpreted for that reason.  Sometimes the erasure is conscious, but often it is not.

What fascinates me is that often the unconscious or conscious rewriting seems to take place a short time after** the events, not immediately, as if it's the slightly more distant observers who have erased, say, any women from stories of inventions or scientific discoveries or assigned them to the more "natural" helper roles.   That could be because the effect of the unconscious patterns becomes more powerful when the actual individuals are no longer known.

*The case of Rosalind Franklin is a well-known example of this.

For an example outside gender, consider the case of Sir Edmond Hillary and Tenzing Norgay as an example.  The early recognition went mostly to Hillary, perhaps because Norgay was seen as someone just doing his job whereas Hillary was the white adventurer.

**Time is a relative concept here, and I refer to such things as the evaluation of literary merit of various writers a generation after their work, rather than hundred years later.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

From my Classics Archives: The Islamic State and Women.

(This mini-series of classics covers a few of my recent long posts, the ones that required a lot of hard work.  Each of them is of value about the individual phenomenon it covers, but I hope that each of them is also of value in a more general sense.

This series of posts (still missing the fourth post, sorry*) is about the views of ISIS/IS/Islamic State on women's proper position, about its views concerning sexual slavery as proper and legal and about the reasons why Western women have joined it.

The series is an example of how extreme subjugation of women might look like.  In that sense it's not easily generalizable to other movements wanting that extreme subjugation, mostly because they don't have the power.  But many of the principles of ISIS are basic social conservatism principles taken to the absurd end point (patriarchal marriage where the man is the leader, the control of women, the attribution of all sexual attraction or abuse to the sin of being female in the wrong place or at the wrong time or dressed wrong, the insistence of keeping women inside the house etc.)

The posts are here, in order:


The Rules for Sunni Women

Sexual Slavery of the Yazidi Girls And Women

Western Women Joining ISIS 

Note that people are fighting back, in general against the Islamic State and in particular for the enslaved Yazidis.  Here is a heart-warming story about the latter.
* I have no other excuse for that except I don't want yet another couple of weeks of nightmares right now. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Three Short And Scrumptious Economic Posts: On Income Inequality and Lack of Information. A Re-Posting.

 (Originally posted here.  Everything in it still applies, income inequality is still growing and so on, and it's still worth your while to read the post if you haven't.)

1.  This is a neat bar graph about how the big economic cake is sliced and divided between various groups in the American economy.  It shows what has happened to the extra cake (income increases) in various economic expansions.  The latest expansion is passing most of that extra cake to the top ten percent of earners:

That's about how income inequality grows, right?   But what do people believe about income inequality in this country?

2.  A recent survey asking questions about what people believe CEOs here earn tells us this:

...Americans told researchers they thought CEO pay at major corporations was approximately 30 times more than their own. Actually, CEO pay averages 354 times what a worker earns at the same company.
Americans also said they thought the pay gap between CEOs and workers should be approximately 7 to 1. To achieve that ratio, workers would have to make $1.8 million each year, a separate study concluded.

Boggles your mind, doesn't it?  These results support earlier ones which suggest that Americans think general income inequality is a lot less than it actually is and would prefer even lower levels of inequality.  The Scandinavian ones.

To return to those CEOs, in other countries the multipliers are smaller.  From 2013 but still much bigger than the idea that CEOs would earn roughly thirty times as much as the average worker in the same company:

The ratio of CEO pay to average worker pay in neighboring Canada is 204, in Germany it's 147, in the U.K. it's 84, and in Japan it's just 67.

The Huffington Post piece notes that perhaps income inequality doesn't energize US voters because of this lack of information about its true size.  That may well be the case.  But it's also true that many not-rich in this country see themselves as just temporarily hampered potential billionaires whose interests lie with the top one percent and that class-based segregation in most everything further helps to disguise the magnitude of the differences.

3.  Speaking of lack of information:  The practice of maintaining secrecy about earnings in general is one reason why it's difficult for someone who suspects they are being paid less for discriminatory reasons to verify or falsify that.  If you don't know what others doing the same job are earning, how do you know if your pay is fair?

To take an example from gender differences in earnings, a Washington Post primer notes this:
 The one employer with relatively fair pay between men and women, Maatz said, is the federal government. Why? Because salary scales are published and widely known — so women, who historically have not negotiated for higher salaries, or are punished when they do — have more information about where to start.
That kind of transparency, among other provisions, is exactly what the Paycheck Fairness Act calls for.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Motherhood Tuesday 3: How To Discuss Gender Roles in Survey Results

That clumsy headline is an attempt to describe what I went through while studying a Pew survey on changes in the numbers of stay-at-home mothers.

But it can also be taken as the basis for a wider meditation about the way our ideas about motherhood and apple pie tend to crowd out the analysis of actual data in studies and surveys about how it is that women do parenting, and how easy it is to forget that mothers, too, are full human beings, who might stay at home to care for young children but who might also stay at home because they cannot get a good job or who might have gone back to school or who might be too sick to look for work and so on.

Although these old posts of mine about another Pew survey (in 2005!) are not about parenting, they describe somewhat similar problems of focus and magnification in survey results.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Research Monday 3. On Women And Men in the Labor Markets

These two studies about men and women in the labor markets are worth reading, despite their focus on the upper classes.

For a fairly good door into the magical world of economic research into work and gender, check out this post with its references.

The material it covers is still very important, especially given the crude treatment of the pertinent research by many MRAs who argue that men earn more because they work more and because they work harder, and more dangerously*.

That the discrepancies exist after controlling for working hours etc, albeit  reduced, is important to notice.

And that new right-wing chestnut, about young women presumably now out-earning young men, doesn't hold water (if chestnuts can be said to hold water).  That's because the study found it only to be "true" for unmarried and childless young women and men and only in large urban centers. 

Men earned more than women in the married category.  Even the results for urban singles were most likely caused by the fact that young women in urban areas are, on average, more educated than young men in urban areas.  To look for gender differences in earnings we must compare otherwise as identical people as possible (only differing in perceived gender).  That means comparing equally educated men and women, not comparing people with different average education levels.

Limiting the comparisons to people at the very beginning of their careers (a common trick in conservative writing about gender and earnings)  is also problematic if we are to analyze overall gender differences in earnings.

That's because most earnings differences, whether discriminatory or not, take time to appear.  Firms must have time to promote or fire people at different rates, workers must have time to get children and then perhaps drop out of the labor market for some years and so on.  The only possible discriminatory earnings differences that could exist at the initial point of hiring are those caused by discriminatory hiring practices (e.g. picking men for the better-paid jobs), not usually by direct gender  discrimination for people in the same occupational category.
*See this post for an explanation of gross and net earnings differences between men and women.  The MRAs only talk about the gross differences.

The reference to dangerous jobs is something I have discussed earlier, but the gist of the counterargument is that the number of men in those dangerous jobs is too small and the jobs are not paid well enough to account for the overall average gender gap in earnings.  It's not the fishermen who make loads of money, it's the stock brokers.