Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Do Sexists Earn More Money?

That's what a recent study purports to show, at least according to attention-grabbing headlines in the mainstream media.

Judge and UF colleague Beth Livingston analyzed information from interviews of nearly 8,000 individuals, ages 14 to 22, at the study's start in 1979. Interviews also took place in 1982, 1987 and 2004. The participants were part of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth carried out by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

To reveal their gender role views, participants indicated how strongly they agreed or disagreed with statements such as: a woman's place is in the home; employment of wives leads to more juvenile delinquency; a man should be the achiever outside the home; and women are much happier if they stay home and take care of children.

Results showed that men who reported having more traditional gender role attitudes made an average of about $8,500 more annually than those who had less traditional attitudes.

Women who held more traditional views about gender roles made an average of $1,500 less annually than the women with more egalitarian views.

So if a married couple holds traditional gender role attitudes, the husband's earning advantage is predicted to be eight times greater than a married couple where the husband and wife have more egalitarian attitudes, the researchers noted.

I'm not buying, at least not fully.

I do think that having traditional gender role attitudes (read: the man makes the money and the woman keeps the house and raises the kids) can help men earn more money. It's a lot easier to get ahead at work if you can work longer hours and never have to expend any of your executive function at home.

But I question the relevance of comparing men who were 14-22 in 1979 to men today. Back in 1979, only filthy hippies, pantywaists, and kept men held today's more enlightened views. Small wonder that such a motley crew would trail the mainstream in earnings.

Today, a belief in equality is mainstream, and the sexists are dinosaurs whose attitudes are likely to hold them back from advancement (though those that don't have any responsibilities at home will still have an advantage over those who do).

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