Thursday, September 01, 2016

Trying To Crack The Old Puzzle: Do Women "Choose" Low-Paid Jobs Or Do Jobs Become Low-Paid Because Women "Choose" Them? A Re-Posting.

Originally from here.

New York Times article looks at the  findings of several recent studies on this puzzle:

A new study from researchers at Cornell University found that the difference between the occupations and industries in which men and women work has recently become the single largest cause of the gender pay gap, accounting for more than half of it. In fact, another study shows, when women enter fields in greater numbers, pay declines — for the very same jobs that more men were doing before.
Consider the discrepancies in jobs requiring similar education and responsibility, or similar skills, but divided by gender. The median earnings of information technology managers (mostly men) are 27 percent higher than human resources managers (mostly women), according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. At the other end of the wage spectrum, janitors (usually men) earn 22 percent more than maids and housecleaners (usually women).

Bolds are mine.
Occupational segregation (1) by sex has long been known to be one important reason why women, on average, earn less than men, on average:  Because many more women than men work in low-pay industries and occupations.  Almost all predominantly female industries and occupations pay less than almost all predominantly male industries, and job titles traditionally associated with women's jobs (say, secretary) pay less than job titles traditionally associated with men's jobs (say, administrative vice president for office work) (2).

Now tease apart that giant knot!  How much of this is because of direct sex discrimination?  How much because of indirect sex discrimination:  The steering of girls into certain fields, the pressures put on boys and girls to have jobs compatible with traditional gender roles at home?  So that boys expect to have to earn more than half of the family's income one day, while girls expect to have to do the bulk of child-care one day?

Or, as the gender essentialists argue, do men just happen to like and thrive in jobs which pay well, whereas women just happen to like and thrive in jobs which do not?   Are men better at asking raises and competing?  Would the same strategies even work for women?

Individuals might steer themselves, too, while not even thinking about it that much.  Young heterosexual men with traditional values or expectations might expect to have to earn enough to provide the bulk of income support for a family one day, with some "junior partner" type financial support from the wife who will do the bulk of childcare and cleaning etc.   Young heterosexual women with traditional values or expectations might expect to need extra flexibility one day, to do the hands-on caring for those future children, and that could lead them into picking flexible careers, even if they are not that well paid (3).

I can make dozens of those kinds of mini-theories, in various directions, but they are not statistical evidence.

One promising way to start teasing the knot apart is by asking what happens when an occupation turns from predominantly male to predominantly female or vice versa.

Why?  Consider this:  Say that an occupation is currently predominantly male and pays pretty well.  Then lots of women enter it.  They can't have entered it because it's one of those flexible-but-low-pay jobs which fit well with parenting:  It isn't one at that point.

But it can become one, at least a less well-paid one, and it looks like the cause is the influx of more female workers (4).  The New York Times article quotes the authors of one study on what happens when women start entering an occupation in larger numbers:

A striking example is to be found in the field of recreation — working in parks or leading camps — which went from predominantly male to female from 1950 to 2000. Median hourly wages in this field declined 57 percentage points, accounting for the change in the value of the dollar, according to Professor Levanon. The job of ticket agent also went from mainly male to female during this period, and wages dropped 43 percentage points.
The same thing happened when women in large numbers became designers (wages fell 34 percentage points), housekeepers (wages fell 21 percentage points) and biologists (wages fell 18 percentage points). The reverse was true when a job attracted more men. Computer programming, for instance, used to be a relatively menial role done by women. But when male programmers began to outnumber female ones, the job began paying more and gained prestige.
It would be fascinating if someone created a very detailed study of the changes in just one occupation over time.  Maybe such a study exists, but I haven't come across one.  I'd like to know the exact point in the tipping process at which average earnings start to drop, I'd like to know the exact point when men start avoiding the field that is turning female-dominated, I'd like to know everything about technological change  in the field during the process.

I'd also love to understand why some occupations  don't seem to result in sex segregation, and how those differ from the ones that are prone to tipping (moving from male-dominated to female-dominated or vice versa).

I hope this isn't quite the mess it looks to me.  To return to the title of the post: It was a sneaky one, because I forced you into accepting a false either-or set of choices.  Both could of course be true at the same time.  But if the New York Times summary of the studies is correct, we should seriously address why jobs become lower-paid when more women enter them (5).


(1)  Occupational segregation by sex refers to the simple fact that some industries or occupations have mainly male workers, some industries or occupations have mainly female workers.  It says nothing about the reasons why the industries got that way, it says nothing about how voluntary or involuntary those gendered choices are and it says nothing about the reasons why female-dominated jobs pay less.  All that is a separate question.

(2)  I made up that second job title, but you get the point.  Which is that it's possible to pay someone less by just changing labels. 

(3)  The less-well-paid female dominated jobs are not necessarily more flexible or more compatible with major responsibilities for child-care; an important point which is often ignored by those who argue that women "choose" lower paying occupations for their greater flexibility.  Hospital nursing is not very flexible and neither are female dominated factory or sales jobs.  Teaching is the one exception to that rule.  It's also worth noting that studies suggest men are paid more, on average, even in female-dominated fields and women paid less, on average, even in male-dominated fields.

(4)  Or reverse the same example for an occupation that rapidly goes from at least mixed if not predominantly female to male.  The initial reason for the larger numbers of men entering the field cannot be higher earnings in that occupation in general, if the underlying theory is to hold.

(5)   The quotes around the verb to choose are explained in this post.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Normal Breast Gallery, Again.

I came across this link in my archives.  The site is well worth visiting, for a reality correction.  Our views of what female breasts are supposed to look like are probably even more affected by pron and television and movies than are our views of what women are supposed to look like, in general.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

For Your Toolkit 4: How To Evaluate Research Findings

That title is much more ambitious than what this post can offer, which is a minimal introduction to  certain pitfalls in interpreting popularized research findings, especially if they are good click-bait.  More on the topic of iffy political use of research can be found here.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Wounded Young Hero of Literature, Arts, Politics And Especially Journalism . A Re-Posting.

Originally from here.


This post has no mothers, but it has multiple fathers, the wounded young men of arts and literature who rebelled against the society from their garrets, hungry and full of erotic lust and rage, the wounded young actors who portrayed "rebels without a cause,"  the wounded young political writers who were allowed to rage and rant against unfairness and inequality, but who were also allowed to wear proudly those mystical scars which womanhood had cut into their hearts and brains, thus turning them into misogynists.

I call these men wounded young heroes, though they were not always young when they gained the label or wounded in the way most of us would define the term.  Being "wounded," being "imperfect," is what makes them into truth-speaking heroes.

Philip Roth proffered us his misogyny like an orchid reeking of dying flesh and he was applauded for it.  Picasso painted women as the deepest nightmares of his soul and he was applauded for it.   Norman Mailer, John Updike, Milan Kundera, and many other famous mainstream male writers celebrate their fear, loathing and just plain misunderstanding of women in their literary works, and though they have been criticized for it, they still wear the laurel leaf wreaths of public approval and fame.

Now flip that over.  Assume that it is the hatred or fear of men or the analysis of those feelings which largely fuel the art or writing of some talented woman.  What will her reputation be?  Into what box will history place her art?

Women cannot be mainstream artists or writers if they knit their hatred of men into their art or writing.  But it takes much, much more for a man's work to be discounted in history than just loathing towards half the humanity.  He can still be mainstream, he can still be adulated, his work can still be widely taught.

He can Break The Rules.  He can be a rebel while supporting an ancient and traditional part of human history with his misogyny.  He can rebel against the capitalists and oppressors and be a protector of the weak, except when he rails at women, the weakest in many societies.

He can show us the scar some woman has inflicted on him (or so he believes), praise that scar, generalize that scar to all womanhood, use that scar to sell sexual humiliation of women as the rightful outcome in a rebel's world (Henry Miller), and we, the audience, take him seriously, accept his young-hero status, his truth-speaking status.  We, the audience,  honor the great Tolstoy's writings*, even though he assigned women to only their biological roles and frequently employed the Madonna/Whore dichotomy.  We, the audience, don't slam the door in his face. 

And we shouldn't slam that door.  But that door would be slammed against any woman who did the reversal.  Even the term "wounded young heroine" elicits utterly different images in our minds, and women cannot be wounded young heroes.  Not really.

This is the hi-falutin prologue to a post  which is about more mundane writing and about more mundane concerns.  Still, my central concern is to ask if we switched the gender of the main protagonist in these stories, would the stories still read the same, would the consequences of the stories be the same, would we even have reversal stories of this type published anywhere.

I have selected examples which are not all so clear-cut as those I mention above, but they flow from that same archetype:  The truth-telling young rebel whose misogyny scar doesn't invalidate the hero's ascent but validates it.