Read a book

Pew on the book-reading habits of Americans.  I’m not sure if I should be encouraged or discouraged that roughly 3/4 of Americans read a book in the past year:

Also, a great example of skewed data and the very different results from using mean or median:

Overall, Americans read an average (mean) of 12 books per year, while the typical (median) American has read four books in the past 12 months. Each of these figures is largely unchanged since 2011, when the Center first began conducting the surveys of Americans’ book reading habits.

As for me, looks like I’ve completed about 14 books in the past year (fortunately, I could check my Amazon history and confirm that I ordered Sapiens exactly a year ago) and started another 4-5 that weren’t worth continuing.

One of these days, I’m going to get my hopelessly outdated reading list up to date again.  I’m still keeping pretty good track of what I’ve read, just not getting it into the webpage.

Also, for what it’s worth, I’m currently reading my first ever e-book, Children of Time.  It’s fine, still prefer a “real” book, but it was only $.99 for the e-book and much to my dismay, the local library system does not carry it.  Oh, and it’s a terrific science fiction book.

Photo of the day

From a gallery of frozen Europe:

And, in honor of my favorite Finn (who has surely already seen this):

Gender wage gap redux

There was recently a really big and fascinating about the gender pay gap using Uber drivers.  Since you have no idea of the gender of your driver when you request a ride, this presents a really interesting area to look at gender differences.  Freakonomics did a terrific podcast on the topic, which is well worth your time if you are interested in the issue.

And here’s Drum’s summary and take on the findings:

A new paper with access to Uber’s massive database of driver records concludes that female drivers earn 7 percent less than male drivers. Why? Mostly because women drive more slowly than men.

There are a couple of other factors as well that are tied to experience, and that’s interesting enough by itself. But the authors call their result “surprising,” and I think that’s the wrong conclusion. The proper conclusion is that in a job that pays via algorithm and has no special rewards for working long hours, the gender gap is only 7 percent. That’s what you get when there’s no opportunity for discrimination.

In the rest of the world, of course, the gender pay gap is about 19 percent. The usual estimate is that less than a third of this is due to outright discrimination, but the Uber data suggests that it might be more than we think. Perhaps it’s more like 12 percentage points from discrimination and, like Uber, about 7 percentage points from other causes. Food for thought.

In the Uber case, it does not seem to be 7% actual discrimination, though.  Basically, women drive slower and drive less for Uber and more experienced Uber drivers earn more by figuring out how to better work the system.  Anyway, an interesting case of technology dramatically shrinking, but not eliminating the gender pay gap.

And while we’re at it, Sarah Kliff with the results of a Denmark study that re-emphasize that this is so much aboutt a childcare (i.e. motherhood) penalty.

An important new study makes a compelling case for another explanation: The gender wage gap is mostly a penalty for bearing children.

The research comes from Henrik Kleven, an economist at Princeton University. He uses data from a country with one of the world’s most robust social safety nets: Denmark. This is a country that offers new parents an entire year of paid leave after the birth of a child. The government offers public nursery care for children under 3 at the equivalent of $737 a month — a fraction of typical costs in the United States.

Yet Denmark has a gender wage gap nearly the same size as that of the United States, a country where women are not guaranteed paid maternity leave and child care increasingly costs more than rent. How does that happen?

Kleven finds a sharp decline in women’s earnings after the birth of their first child — with no comparable salary drop for men. The cumulative effect is huge: Women end up earning 20 percent less than their male counterparts over the course of their career.

His study is among a growing body of research that suggests what we often think of as a gender pay gap is more accurately discussed as a childbearing pay gap or motherhood penalty. [emphasis mine]

And, because I’m sexist, I’m going to switch to Drum.  Okay, actually, Drum combined separate charts to make one chart to rule them all and it’s really telling:


And this, too:

And a nice summary:

After childbirth, fewer women work; they work fewer hours; and they get lower wages. And this is unrelated to education level: college graduates bear childbirth penalties that are about the same as high school grads. In fact, nearly all gender inequality has been wiped out in Denmark except for the gender gap due to childbirth…

However, this still doesn’t answer the question of why. Do women with children work less out of preference, or because firms treat them badly and eventually some of them give up? There’s a limit to what administrative data can tell us, but by expanding their dataset the authors are able to conclude that some of it is due to family influence:

Women incur smaller earnings penalties due to children if they themselves grew up in a family where the mother worked more relative to the father….The size of this effect is roughly unaffected by including the detailed non-parametric controls for education and wealth….[This] suggests that female child penalties are driven partly by female preferences formed during her childhood, rather than by male preferences formed during his childhood.

Women from more traditional families form an early preference for working less when they have young children to take care of. Women from more liberal families don’t. In other words, it’s women from traditional families who account for the biggest share of the childbearing penalty. However, the size of the difference between traditional and liberal families isn’t large, so there’s clearly a lot more going on than just that.

So, in the end, to a considerable degree it is shaped by broad cultural and personal ideas about gender and child-rearing.  You want to really change the gender wage gap then that’s what we’re talking about.

Not easy, but Anne-Marie Slaughter’s got some good ideas on the matter.


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