Whither the Republican women legislators?

I was talking with my Politics of Parenthood partner in crime, Laurel Elder, the other day about her other research on women in state legislatures.  I think this chart that sums up the issue is pretty amazing.


As for Laurel’s explanation, here’s from her abstract:

 From 1981 to 2014, the percent of Republican women legislators increased by only 3 percentage points nationally and actually went down in one fifth of states. Moreover, the gains of Republican women have come disproportionately in liberal states that are trending Democratic, while they have faced their biggest obstacles in conservative states dominated by Republicans. In contrast, women’s presence in the workforce appears to facilitate a steady increase in the representation of Democratic women. Democratic women have made impressive gains in all regions of the country, including the South, and in both conservative and liberal states.

The conversation was occasioned by my coming across some similar research on the issue by Danielle Thompson at the conference last week.  Her take:

To explain this divergence, I develop a theory of Party Fit. The central claim is that ideological conformity with the party shapes the decision to run for office. I find that, regardless of gender, moderate state legislators are less likely to be attracted to a congressional career and less likely to run for Congress than those at the ideological extremes. The findings have gendered implications because, first, Republican women in the pipeline have historically been to the left of their male counterparts, and second, there is a dearth of conservative women in the pipeline.

Does not look like we’ll see much change in this gap anytime soon.  From a political optics perspective, this probably benefits Democrat’s claims of the “Republican war on women.”  Also, I think it is a good thing to have more women in legislatures period (plenty of good PS on this).  And the fact that there’s this stagnation among Republican women is a significant impediment to actually getting more women in legislatures.

Quick hits

1) I loved seeing “Sue” the T. Rex in Chicago a few years ago.  Here’s the story of how Smithsonian was blindsided on how expensive she would be and was massively outbid.

2) Here’s a school system that thinks making a fellow student “uncomfortable” (in this case by twirling a pencil) should lead to a suspension and psychiatric evaluation.

3) I was prepared to think Jezebel was over-reacting, but these ads are truly horrible.

4) The reason that acceptance rates at top colleges are down is because too many kids are applying to way too many schools.  And you get this:

Bruce Poch, a former admissions dean at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., said he saw “the opposite of a virtuous cycle at work” in admissions. “Kids see that the admit rates are brutal and dropping, and it looks more like a crapshoot,” he said. “So they send more apps, which forces the colleges to lower their admit rates, which spurs the kids next year to send even more apps.”

5) The marijuana legalization opponents predicted a major crime way if marijuana became legal.  Not at all surprisingly, they are wrong.

6) Not just unemployment, but labor force participation rate is a real problem these days.

7) All those constant Lumosity pitches are not based on a lot of actual science, but here’s some evidence that brain-training really works.  Time to start playing the N-back game?  (I’ve actually been thinking this might really benefit my son with ADHD).

8) The best evidence Obamacare is working.  Drum on how you’ll never actually hear even a modest admission of that from conservative sources.

9) I love looking at American health care in a comparative perspective.  A really good article on how the German system works and what we can learn from them.

10) Tell white people they will be a minority and they become more conservative.  Yikes.  Jamelle Bouie on how this means the whole country could end up like Mississippi (double-yikes!)

11) American’s are hopelessly resigned to the fact that we can’t make meaningful changes in campaign finance.  And I’m one of them.  Larry Lessig says we need to get past this.  He’s right, of course.  But I’m just too skeptical of real change.

12) Vox explains the oil curse.  Simple but compelling.

13) I started reading this column about the recent Ebola outbreak and thinking about the book I read last summer by David Quammen about zoonotic diseases.  Then I noticed the column was by Quammen.

14) Listened to a fascinating Fresh Air interview about a new book detailing how Michael Rockefeller (of those Rockefellers) was likely killed and eaten by cannibals.  And here’s a Slate piece on the book.  Pretty amazing and compelling stuff.

15) Been reading for a while about how caffeine can improve your athletic performance.  Here’s a nice how-to guide from Vox.  (Before our 5-mile doughnut run, I actually gave my 14-year old son some caffeine– something he otherwise never has).

16) Totally deserves it’s own post, but since I haven’t gotten around to it yet… Here’s how a recent study find tens of thousands “suspicious votes” in NC.  But history very strongly suggests that when they are examined more closely, only a very small handful will be the result of malfeasance.  Not surprisingly, Republicans are simply pretending otherwise.

17) I’ve long known Jim Demint is a moron.  He argued this week that “big government” had nothing to do with ending slavery.  Jamelle Bouie’s takedown.  Adam Gopnik’s is even better:

This is, in plain English, so ignorant that, as I say, there has been no shortage of corrections. A debate about whether big government freed the slaves is pretty much the only debate that a liberal is guaranteed to win. The Civil War was the original big-government overreach: it came from Washington, D.C.; it involved raising new taxes (in fact, it is the origin of a number of taxes); it confiscated rifles from rebels; it did special favors for minorities (in this case, the special favor of recognizing them as human beings and setting them free from lifelong bondage); and, in the end, it imposed a bureaucracy on an unwilling population (that is, it imposed the Union Army on the South). Many things can be said about the Civil War, but not that it was done with the benign neglect of the federales. The moral point was argued for decades, as it is with most issues in a democracy. But that big government freed the slaves is as sure a fact as any in history.


Women are busy!

NPR ran a story earlier this week looking at how Republican women in Texas were trying to fend off Democratic attacks.  One of the leaders is queried on the equal pay issue and her response is just awesome(ly bad):

Here’s Christman being interviewed on the ABC affiliate in Dallas.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: What’s the solution then, do you think, for equal pay then, Cari?

CHRISTMAN: Well, if you look at it, women are extremely busy. We lead busy lives, whether working professionally, whether we’re working from home and times are extremely busy. It’s just that it’s a busy cycle for women and we’ve got a lot to juggle and so… [emphasis mine]

Women are too busy to care about equal pay?  What?!  This Palin-esque incoherence says it all.

Republicans play into Democratic hands

I’m not the biggest fan of the whole “war on women” narrative that the Democrats are using, but if the Republicans are so foolishly going to play into it, more power to them.  I’m all in favor of wage transparency as it clearly plays a role in preventing gender-based wage discrimination.  As I said yesterday, I suspect it plays a very small role, but I think there’s nonetheless a strong argument to be made for it.  So, the Democrats have tried to pass a bill in the Senate that broadens what Obama has just done with his executive order.  Ultimately, pretty small potatoes on changing the wage gap– but again, a step that I clearly think should be taken.  And yet, the Republicans are so in thrall to the Chamber of Commerce– “we’ll pay our employees what we damn well want and keep it a secret, damnit!!” that they’ve successfully filibustered the attempt:

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked legislation meant to close the pay gap between men and women, framing an election-year fight between the parties over whose policies are friendlier to women.

The bill was an attempt by Democrats to press what they see as their electoral advantage among women in the coming midterm elections, but they fell short of the 60 votes they needed to prevent a filibuster and advance the legislation.

“For reasons known only to them, Senate Republicans don’t seem to be interested in closing wage gaps for working women,” Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, said in a floor speech.

Republican lawmakers have said that given existing anti-discrimination laws, the legislation is redundant and is a transparent attempt by Democrats to distract from President Obama’s much-criticized health care law.

Supporters of the bill, called the Paycheck Fairness Act, say it would bring transparency to worker pay by making it illegal for employers to penalize employees who discuss their salaries and by requiring the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to collect pay information from employers.

Mr. Obama signed executive measures on Tuesday that imposed similar requirements on government contractors.

Republican leaders assailed Democrats’ attempt to paint them as unsympathetic to women in the work force. The Senate Republican Conference on Wednesday called the pay equity legislation “the latest ploy in the Democrats’ election-year playbook.”

It may be a “ploy” but why are the Republicans playing right into the Democrats’ hand on this?  Perhaps the Republicans are being painted as “unsympathetic to women in the workforce” because they are, you know, unsympathetic to women in the work force.  It’s not at all clear, either, how this legislation is redundant.  Furthermore, the whole distraction from Obamacare argument is so stupid.  Are Republicans going to say that about every single Democratic initiative?  (Survey says… yes!)

This isn’t exactly a “war on women” but you’ve clearly got one side interested in creating more workplace fairness and the other side, not so much.  As long as Republicans continue to play along, the Democrats are politically wise to push the agenda to motivate women voters for the Fall.  Of course, the Republicans could make this all moot by actually supporting legislation that helps fairness in the workplace.  I’m not holding my breath.

Obama and the gender wage gap

Enough with the $.77 on the dollar already!  This has got to me the most misleading/most over-used statistic in politics.  So frustrating to hear Obama– who surely understands the issue on a far more sophisticated level– to go on and on about this.  Sure, we should do what we can to shrink the gender pay disparity, but I would argue that most of the disparity is not actually about public policy.

So, so far I pretty much love Ezra Klein’s new Vox site.  Here’s a nice article on what exactly Obama is trying to accomplish on the pay gap via executive order.  Basically, it focuses on requiring transparency so that women can see when they are getting screwed and do something about it (or prevent employers from screwing female employees because the information will be transparent).  Okay, all well and good, but I’m going to guess that of the supposed 23 cent gap, the lack of transparency counts for a couple cents at most.

Anyway, what I really loved at Vox– here’s your value-added– was a great set of “cards” that really explain the gender wage gap and the research behind it.  A far better summary of the key issues involved I’ve seen most anywhere (than perhaps my lecture on the topic :-) in Public Policy).  To wit, this key bit:

Researchers argue endlessly over this question. Figures that only take annual, weekly, or hourly wages into account, for example, ignore the fact that men and women have differing levels of educational attainment and also tend to work in different fields.

Some studies have attempted to adjust for or measure these effects. A 2012 study from the American Association of University Women, for example, found a wage gap of 18 percent among recent college graduates. However, after adjusting for factors like occupation and college major, the study found a gap of 6.6 percent remaining.

$.07 on the dollar of real discrimination is still $.07 too much.  But that strikes me as a far more manageable problem than the idea that women barely make 3/4 of what men do in the same job– a very erroneous and very widely held misbelief.  And there’s also this very true statement:

These studies can be illuminating, in the sense that they show that both measurable and immeasurable factors contribute to wage inequities in the US. However, simply adjusting for factors like college major and occupational choice can obscure deeper forces in the economy that push women into lower-paid occupations or to spend more time raising children.

Yes, indeed.  It’s a super-complicated set of interactions between cultural beliefs about women’s role and women’s and men’s own choices in the workplace.  I hate to see it so simplistically boiled down.  In fact, men typically work more when they have children– putting the emphasis on parenting via supplying resources rather than actually taking direct care of the children.  We know that women work less and and take more part time jobs and more time off from work because they do more actual parenting.  Sure, in some cases society is not-so-subtly steering them in that direction, but is it necessarily women who are making the “lesser” choice here?  Perhaps the problem is men’s choices to work more and not be as involved in their kid’s lives.  I guarantee you I could find a job where I make more money than I do know.  I also guarantee you that with that job I would see less of my kids.

Anyway, we should address real problems through policy where we can– I think major investment in quality childcare would be the best start policy-wise– but we need to recognize that this gap exists in a complicated space where truly eliminating the gap means major changes in society that have no easy policy fixes.

Quick hits (part 2)

1) I didn’t realize quite what a success story Poland is.  A model for Ukraine to emulate?

2) The art of the TV series finale.

3) Does Barbie affect girls career ambitions?  Yes, says one interesting experiment.

4) A medical case for Dr. House.  Particularly interesting when the mother is a physician.  She had to pretend she’s just another doctor and not a concerned mom to get taken seriously.

5) Dune is one of my favorite books ever.  The movie is kind of crazy, but I’ve always liked it (especially the Toto soundtrack.  seriously).  Here’s a nice essay on it.

6) Connor Friedersdorf says we don’t have a drug problem, but a black market problem.

7) Really enjoyed this Douthat column on individualism.

8) Nice Economist story that summarizes Radley Balko’s work on the over-militarization of our police forces.

9) J Lo subverts music video stereotypes.  This Atlantic piece unpacks it.

10) Water bears are the craziest form of life.  No, seriously.

 Also known as the water bear (because it looks like an adorable little many-legged bear), this exceedingly tiny critter has an incredible resistance to just about everything. Go ahead and boil it, freeze it, irradiate it, and toss it into the vacuum of space — it won’t die. If it were big enough to eat a glass sandwich, it probably could survive that too.

The water bear’s trick is something called cryptobiosis, in which it brings its metabolic processes nearly to a halt.

11) I never knew anything about My Little Pony till I had a daughter.  She loves them.  We certainly shouldn’t be bullying boys for liking them:

Do you know about My Little Pony? It’s great. The show has its own mythology and the central tenet is the six Elements of Harmony. These are six characteristics that, when combined, can change the world for the better. Kindness, generosity, honesty, laughter, loyalty, and magic—these are the tools that the heroines of My Little Pony use to get out of every mess.

We can all agree on that list, right? It’s a good one. What you don’t find is ambition, or aggression, or force of will.

12) I’m a sucker for dystopias so I’ve read more than my fair share of YA dystopias (most are not actually that good).  Nice review of the Divergent movie explains their appeal:

The word dystopia comes from a Greek root that roughly translates as “bad place,” and what place could be worse than high school? Adolescence is not for the faint of heart. The to-do list for the decade between ages 10 and 20 includes separating from your parents, finding your place among your peers at school, beginning to make decisions about your own future, and—oh yes—figuring out how to relate to the world, and yourself, as a suddenly and mystifyingly sexual being.




Quick hits (part 1)

Never posted a quick hits last week.  Friday night (when I usually work on them) at the ACC Tournament and busy weekend of soccer, etc., plus a busy week.  Anyway, I’ve got two weeks worth of hits now.  My goal is part 1 for Saturday morning with part 2 to follow on Sunday.  Enjoy.

1) Totally intrigued by this speed reading app.  It really does work.  Though, I have a hard time imaging myself using this for more than a few minutes at a time.  The Atlantic throws some cold water on things.

2) Really enjoyed this story about the SAT overhaul.  Seems like this will generally be a more meaningful test.  Glad this will take effect in time for my oldest son in a few years.

3) The physics of the new World Cup soccer ball.  Probably better than the last ball.

4) There really is just too much good television these days.  David Carr.

5) Federal judge rules that college faculty don’t have the right to proselytize while teaching.  Damn, there goes next week’s lecture on lobbying.

6) Really amazing first-person account from one of the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre (shared on FB by a VT professor friend who had some friends/colleagues among the victims).

7) Maybe buy local isn’t so great when it comes to meat.

8) It ain’t easy going from being a political reporter to working as a wage slave in a Sporting Goods store.  Nice essay.

9) If the moon were only 1 pixel.

10) Can a rubber hand make you less racist?  Yes.

11) I didn’t actually know about the “thigh gap” till I read this.  Interesting.  And awesome in the “photoshop fail” sense.

12) Robert Reich on America’s “great U turn.”  Good stuff.

13) More evidence that we are just stupid to expect our teenagers to start high school so early in the day.

14) Love this gallery of awkward photos of cats and dogs with furniture.


Photo of the day

Fascinating series of Korean women recovering from plastic surgery (apparently all the rage in South Korea these days).  This one is plenty disturbing:


Quick hits

1) Enjoyed this book review about The Meat Racket– a harsh critique  of our modern approach to meat production

2) College– perhaps not the great leveler after all.

3) It’s our imagination that truly separates us from other animals.

In all six domains I’ve repeatedly found two major features that set us apart: our open-ended ability to imagine and reflect on different situations, and our deep-seated drive to link our scenario-building minds together. It seems to be primarily these two attributes that carried our ancestors across the gap, turning animal communication into open-ended human language, memory into mental time travel, social cognition into theory of mind, problem solving into abstract reasoning, social traditions into cumulative culture, and empathy into morality.

4) Really enjoyed this teacher’s defense of the Common Core.  It may not be perfect, but so preferable to the status quo.

5) The Supreme Court just heard a really big death penalty case, but nobody is paying attention.

6) Animated gifs (that’s a soft “g” by the way, damnit) showing cities moving from day to night.

7) What happens when a Colorado family tries to opt their kids out of standardized testing.  Damn to the school administrators freak out.

8) Unfortunately, it seems that among corporate executives only women actually care about work-life balance.

Another says:

“The 10 minutes I give my kids at night is one million times greater than spending that 10 minutes at work.”

As the authors point out, most women would not brag about only spending 10 minutes a day with their children.

Personally, I find that shameful.

9) Chait on the GOP’s phony support/ actual opposition to the Earned Income Tax Credit

10) Never did get around to giving this it’s own post.  Nice job putting the current NC Democratic party troubles into the larger historical context of political party organizational power.

11) Pope Francis has changed some attitudes of American Catholics, but not their behavior.

12) Greg Sargent nicely deconstructs Paul Ryan’s intellectual incoherence about the safety net being a “hammock” for the poor.  Another nice take on Ryan and poverty from Yglesias’ Slate replacement (very excited about this) Jordan Weissman (who had been doing great work at the Atlantic).

13) And because I know DJC is reading this, Daylight Savings Time saves lives and prevents crime

How to end the gender pay gap

Really nice Atlantic article about the gender pay gap and some new research that argues the key to shrinking it is for companies to allow for far more flexibility among their employees (i.e., allow moms to be moms).

First, some important basics:

When it comes the gender pay gap there is (a) one famous statistic that everybody knows; (b) a couple famous rebuttals to that statistic; and (c) one big unanswered question about equal pay for men and women.

The statistic is that a woman earns $0.77 for every $1 earned by a man. The 77-cent talking point is everywhere, and too often the conversation ends with the double-sevens.

The rebuttals matter. The 77-cent stat doesn’t account for the fact that women choose different jobs than men (often in lower-paid occupations and industries). It doesn’t account for the fact that many women choose to work part-time, or choose to leave the workforce for extended periods of time, which means they have less work experience by the time they turn 40 or 50.

But even when you equalize for all these variables, a pay gap of about 9 percent persists between men and women, and it’s particularly cavernous at the top end of the income scale. Why? …

It’s About Time

The gender pay gap sounds simple when you reduce it to a 77-cent (or 91-cent) soundbite. The reality is more dynamic. In many industries, men and womenenter the workforce earning equal wages. But as they enter their 30s and 40s, men open up a big lead…

What does this graph tell us? It tells us the gender gap isn’t just about gender. It’s also about time—time since entering the workforce and time spent working.

In winner-take-all jobs (e.g.: a CEO, law partner, or a tenured professor), contenders are rewarded for working longer hours, Goldin writes. It’s as if, for the most coveted and high-paying jobs, hours in the office acts as a kind of tie-breaker between similarly talented and deserving candidates for top spots. And it’s a tie-breaker that often goes to the guys because many women take time off to be moms.

Among female Harvard students graduating around 1990, taking off 18-months in their first 15 years was associated a penalty of 41% of earnings for eventual MBAs, 29% for lawyers, and 15% for doctors. In other words, corporations and law firms punish women who take time off much more than the health industry.

The penalty is steepest in corporate America. The gender pay gap for MBAs graduating from the University of Chicago Booth School between 1990 an 2006 starts off around zero. But after 16 years women earn just 55 percent what men do. As Goldin writes, this penalty is basically all about children [emphasis mine], and wives of high-earning husbands are particularly willing to cut back their hours for just that reason.

And how to shrink the gap:

Goldin’s solution is for companies to give workers more autonomy, to encourage more flexibility in work schedules, to find ways to substitute for workers on irregular schedules, and to adopt a policy of pay-per-hour worked, no matter of when it is worked, since these sort of companies tend to have the smallest gender gaps (and also, theoretically, keep the most talented women). Work flexibility is a tremendous idea. It could only close the pay gap at some companies that put too much stock in 9-to-5 face-time but also allow for more telecommuting, which would help the environment and make entire regions more productive by reducing traffic times.

Sounds good to me.   But its not entirely clear to me how you get companies to start thinking this way and compensating their employees accordingly.  It would be great, though.  Allowing more autonomy and flexibility is a win for all employees– male or female, parent or not.

Is breast best?

Yes, it is.  Breast milk is perfectly evolved to provide the nutrition that human babies need.  Modern science just can’t quite match that– at least not yet.  But the benefits of breast milk have surely been oversold based on studies where middle/upper-middle class women have been much more likely to breast feed than lower SES women.  I was very intrigued by the latest study that controls for this, reported in Slate:

A new study confirms what people like our own Hanna Rosin and Texas A&Mprofessor Joan B. Wolf have been saying for years now: The benefits of breast-feeding have been overstated. The study, published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, is unique in the literature about breast-feeding because it looks at siblings who were fed differently during infancy. That means the study controls for a lot of things that have marred previous breast-feeding studies. As the study’s lead author, Ohio State University assistant professor Cynthia Colen, said in a press release, “Many previous studies suffer from selection bias. They either do not or cannot statistically control for factors such as race, age, family income, mother’s employment—things we know that can affect both breast-feeding and health outcomes.”

First of all, I understand “do not” statistically control for factors such as race, age, income, etc., but what’s with “cannot statistically control.”  It’s called a regression model.  What am I missing here.  And as for “do not” control.  Why we somebody even publish such a profoundly flawed study.

Anyway, on to the cool new methodology:

Colen’s study is also unique because she looked at children ages 4-14. Often breast-feeding studies only look at the effects on children in their first years of life. She looked at more than 8,000 children total, about 25 percent of whom were in “discordant sibling pairs,” which means one was bottle-fed and the other was breast-fed. The study then measured those siblings for 11 outcomes, including BMI, obesity, asthma, different measures of intelligence, hyperactivity, and parental attachment…

When children fed differently within the same family were compared—those discordant sibling pairs—there was no statistically significant difference in any of the measures, except for asthma. Children who were breast-fed were at a higher risk for asthma than children who drank formula.

Why am I so intrigued by this study?  This is our family.  Our first two, David and Alex, each received less than 2 months of breast feeding (severe allergies to some undetermined factor in Kim’s diet that was resolved when on super-pricey hypoallergenic formula) whereas Evan and Sarah both had at least a year.  Now, Alex has a rare disease, so it’s not a fair comparison in his case, but it is quite clear that by the age of three both Evan and Sarah have well out-performed their older siblings on some of these measures.  Our family is ultimately an N of 1 and I think that 95%+ of the difference is just the genetic lottery, but it has always been interesting to me.

Here’s the article’s conclusion:

As more and more research comes out showing that the benefits of breast-feedingare modestat best, I’m starting to come around to the French feminist theorist Elisabeth Badinter’s views, which I once thought were overly radical and sort of bananas. I’m all for women breast-feeding if that is what is right for their families, but as Badinter does, I am finding the cultural push for all women to breast-feed, no matter how difficult it is, to be more and more oppressive. Hopefully this study will give women who can’t or don’t want to breast-feed for whatever reason more ammunition to tell the breast-is-best purists to piss off.

Now, I don’t know about “for whatever reason.”  I think most of us parents have come across the way-overagressive breast-feeding pushers who clearly go to far, but even if the benefits are only modest, I still think there’s nothing wrong with seeing breast feeding as an ideal.  I would suggest we should just be far more understanding of people who don’t meet that ideal.  I guess the problem is that it is all too often damn hard to get people to be understanding.

There has to be a downside to a woman president

This Bill O’Reilly clip just speaks for itself:


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