Tag Archives: gender inequality

Let’s raise the legal age of marriage in Maryland

Today I sent the following letter to the Maryland House Judiciary Committee, which is scheduled to hold a hearing on these bills tomorrow. Under current law in Maryland, marriage is permitted as young as age 15 with parental consent and evidence of pregnancy or childbirth, and age 16-17 with one or the other, and these exceptions are granted by county clerks rather than judges. By my calculations, from 2008 to 2017, based on the American Community Survey, the annual marriage rate for girls ages 15-16 was 5 per 1000 in Maryland, behind only Hawaii, Nevada, and West Virginia. HB 855 would raise the age at marriage to 18, while HB 1147 would establish an emancipated minor status, requiring review by a judge, under which 17-year-olds could marry. For more on the effort to end child marriage in the U.S., visit the Tahirih Justice Center site.


March 6, 2019

To the House Judiciary Committee:

I write in support of Maryland House Bill 855, concerning age requirements for marriage; and House Bill 1147, concerning the emancipation of minors.

My relevant background

  • I am a Professor of Sociology, and family demographer, at the University of Maryland, College Park, where I have been on the faculty since 2012. I also earned my PhD at the University of Maryland, College Park, in 1999, and I live in Silver Spring.
  • I have written two books and many peer-reviewed articles on family sociology, including on topics related to marriage and divorce, family structure, gender inequality, health and disability, infant mortality, adoption, race and ethnicity, and the division of labor.
  • I have served as a consultant to the U.S. Census Bureau on the measurement of family structure, and testified before Congress on gender discrimination.

My support of the bills

In general, the rise of the age at marriage and childbearing in U.S. have been positive developments for women and children, allowing mothers to devote more years of early adulthood to education and career development, which is beneficial to both adults and their children.

Very early marriage in particular is detrimental to women’s opportunity to finish high school. More urgently, research and service work shows that very early marriage is usually unwanted, coerced, or forced. Very young women should not be expected to protect themselves legally or socially from such impositions, which are usually from older men and dominant family members. Very early marriage often follows statutory rape or other sexual assault, compounding rather than mitigating the harms of these crimes against children. Rather than protect a young woman, very early marriage instead provides protection from scrutiny for her abuser(s), and makes state intervention on her behalf all the more difficult to accomplish in the following years. The privacy and discretion we bestow upon families has benefits, of course, but it also makes the family a dangerous place for the victims of abuse.

Research, including my own, unequivocally shows that very early marriage leads to the highest rates of divorce. I have written several papers on divorce rates in the United States (see references). For illustration, here I used the same method of analysis, and present only the relationship between age at marriage and incidence of divorce. As you can see from the figure, divorce rates are highest by far – estimated at 2.5% per year – for women who married before age 18. This is about twice as high as divorce rates for those who marry in their 30s, for example. (These estimates hold constant other factors; data and code are available here.) The evidence is very strong.

predicted odds of divorce by aam

I only reluctantly support increasing state restrictions on women’s freedom with regard to family choices, but in the case of marriage before adulthood I see the restriction as a protection from the exploitative behavior of others, rather than an imposition on young women’s rights.

At present in Maryland, exceptions allowing marriage before age 18 – based on pregnancy and/or parental consent – are granted without adequate legal review. Together, HB 855 and HB 1147 would set the minimum age at marriage in Maryland to 18, with an exception only for court emancipated minors of age 17. This would improve the state’s protection of young women from unwanted, coerced, forced, or ill-advised marriages without unduly restricting the freedom to marry for younger women (age 17), who may be emancipated by a court after a direct application and careful review of circumstances.

I urge your support for these bills. I would be happy to provide further information or testimony at your request.

Sincerely,

Philip N. Cohen

References

Cohen, Philip N. 2015. “Recession and Divorce in the United States, 2008-2011. Population Research and Policy Review 33(5):615-628.

Cohen, Philip N. 2018. “The Coming Divorce Decline.” SocArXiv. November 14. https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/h2sk6. To be presented at the Population Association of America meetings, 2019.

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Wives’ share of couple income update

This is an update of previous reports with some new analysis at the end.

In my book Enduring Bonds I showed the distribution of income within different-sex married couples from 1970 to 2014. Here is the updated trend to 2017:

dimc1

The change from 2014 is a modest continuation. Here’s the detail from 2017, with the couples reporting exactly-even incomes broken out in the middle:

dimc2

In 2017, for different-sex couples with wife age 18-64:

  • 26% of wives earn more than their husbands (up from 15% in 1990 and 7% in 1970).
  • The average wife-who-earns-more takes home 69% of the couple’s earnings. The average for higher-earning husbands is 79%.
  • It is 8.3-times more common for a husband to earn all the money than a wife (18.7% versus 2.3%).

In the book I offer the following summary:

Actually, this triplet pattern fits a lot of trends regarding gender inequality: yes, lots of change, but most of it decades ago, and not quite as fundamental as it looks.

New breakdown

At the request of Stephanie Coontz, I ran the 2017 numbers by income bracket (and including all ages).  I broke the couples into the bottom 10% (under $27,000), the 10-25th percentile (to $47,000), the 25th-5th (to $80,000), the 50th-75th (to $130,000), the 75th-90th (to $202,000), and the top 10% ($202,000+). Here is the income distribution within couples for each income bracket, with a few points labeled for clarity:

dimc3

A key point here is that although wives rarely earn the dominant share of income, most couples rely on the wife’s income to maintain their standard of living. For example, a couple at the median, $80,000, would have to drastically alter their lifestyle without the 40-49% share contributed by the wife’s income. Breadwinning in its 1950s connotation is is distracting from this contemporary reality, and we should probably drop the term.

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A miracle of wrong: Hanna Rosin error reborn in Mark Regnerus book

I’ve been working on my review of Mark Regnerus’s new book, Cheap Sex, in 10-minute power bursts. Here’s one funny thing I noticed: Hanna Rosin’s most prominent error from The End of Men apparently repeated telephone-style by Regnerus.*

In the Atlantic article, which led to her TED Talk and then book (full review), The End of Men, Hanna Rosin’s editor chose two dramatic statements that were wrong to lead with:

rosin-wrong

That year, 2010, women were not the majority of the workforce, and most managers were not women. And they still aren’t. What was true was that for 10 months women outnumbered men in what the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports as the “nonfarm payroll,” from June 2009 to March 2010. In every month before and since, men have been the majority. Here’s that trend, by month:

nonfarmpayroll

The nonfarm payroll number is:

a measure of the number of U.S. workers in the economy that excludes proprietors, private household employees, unpaid volunteers, farm employees, and the unincorporated self-employed. This measure accounts for approximately 80 percent of the workers who contribute to Gross Domestic Product.

It’s not “the workforce,” but it is a good indicator of shocks to the economy — private companies may lay people off immediately, while self-employed people still consider themselves employed even if they’re suddenly losing money.  Anyway, in the BLS’s household survey that asks people if they are working, the Current Population Survey, there were about 10 million more people counted as employed, and men’s majority have never been threatened. This is a reasonably called “the workforce.” Note the time trend here is longer, and it’s annual:

cpsemp

The source of the wrong statement about managers is just Rosin combining managerial and professional specialty jobs into “managers,” which she also did in the TED Talk, which is just wrong. Professionals include a lot of women, like nurses and teachers. The managerial occupations have never been majority-female either. Both are important, but only one fit her narrative.

Anyway, the point of this is that Mark Regnerus picked up this meme — which Rosin popularized but lots of other media repeated — and stated it as current fact in his 2017 book. So powerful (among those not powerfully applying themselves) is the idea of automatic gender progress in one direction, that this is not the kind of thing they think they will ever have to check again. Once women pass a milestone, it’s passed, period. (That’s why Rosin’s full sentence was this: “Earlier this year, for the first time in American history, the balance of the workforce tipped toward women, who now hold a majority of the nation’s jobs.” She was misapplying the clickbait concept of “tipping point” to imply that the change will now continue and accelerate in the same direction.)

This is why Regnerus apparently felt no need to recheck his facts when he wrote, “there are now more women than men in the paid labor force.” He didn’t cite Rosin (or anyone) for this fact, but it appears during a passage sandwiched between parts that cite her book, so I assume that’s what he was borrowing from, and maybe just changed “workforce” to “paid labor force” to sound different or sophisticated.

Anyway, Rosin doesn’t feature prominently in the Regnerus review (you’re welcome), but this was an interesting nugget, because for all their differences, there are some similarities between Regnerus’s fanatical religious anti-feminism and Rosin’s sophisticated postfeminist antifeminism. Both think feminism has gone too far, and both see the rise of women as resulting from a technological change — Rosin from deindustrialization and Regnerus from the Pill. Also, they both use facts not to learn from but to demonstrate things they think they already know.


* To read the whole Regnerus story, follow his tag on the blog, or check out the whole story told in one chapter of my new book, Enduring Bonds: Inequality, Marriage, Parenting, and Everything Else That Makes Families Great and Terrible.

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The amazing lack of gender progress in Hollywood, Weinstein and not

With gender and Hollywood in the news because of the Harvey Weinstein revelations, I haven’t seen anyone count up the women who produced his movies. I counted off every tenth movie from his 300 or so producer credits on IMDB, and eyeballed their names (or images) for gender. The result: 23% of 373 producers were women.* (Some have a lot of producers, but if you use movies as the unit of analysis the average is also 23%.)

Here is the breakdown of these 30 movies, by decade:

harveydecades

Weinstein seems to be right in line with the industry on this. (With a range of 5 to 70 producers listed, none had more than 50% female producer teams.) Producer jobs are the most gender integrated of the major behind-the-scenes leadership positions in Hollywood movies, as reported by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film. And, like the other major positions, in his movies and in general, there is zero movement toward gender integration in the last two decades.

womenintvfilm

In turn, Hollywood looks a lot like the economy in general, which also shows basically no progress on integrating women into leadership positions over the last two decades. Here is percent female among those employed in managerial occupations (using the IPUMS occ1990 coding scheme for consistency):

wommgrocc

Putting women in top leadership positions is not a panacea for gender inequality. But for the sexual harassment situation I am quite sure it would help a lot. Harvey Weinstein’s sex crimes may or may not have been an open secret in Hollywood, but the lack of women in positions across the industry, and the economy, is plain for all to see — and to act on, if they choose.

For other posts on movies, mostly having to do with gender, follow the movie tag.


* If someone wants to code all of his movies I’ll happily update this. Here’s the list I generated:

Year Men Women Percent Female
The Burning 1981 5 0 0.00
The Pope Must Diet 1991 7 1 0.13
Pulp Fiction 1994 6 1 0.14
Jane Eyre 1996 6 2 0.25
I’m Crazy About Iris Blond 1996 4 1 0.20
Cop Land 1997 8 2 0.20
Wide Awake 1998 6 2 0.25
Talk of Angels 1998 3 3 0.50
In Too Deep 1999 6 1 0.14
About Adam 2000 4 4 0.50
Backstage 2000 7 3 0.30
Mimic 2 2001 5 1 0.17
Heaven 2002 10 5 0.33
Chicago 2002 8 3 0.27
Bad Santa 2003 7 1 0.13
Finding Neverland 2004 6 3 0.33
The Brothers Grimm 2005 11 0 0.00
Scary Movie 4 2006 5 2 0.29
Death Proof 2007 6 4 0.40
The Great Debaters 2007 6 4 0.40
The Meerkats 2008 7 1 0.13
Halloween II 2009 10 1 0.09
The King’s Speech 2010 14 1 0.07
I Don’t Know How She Does It 2011 5 4 0.44
Escape from Planet Earth 2013 13 3 0.19
Lee Daniels’ The Butler 2013 31 10 0.24
Suite Francais 2014 8 4 0.33
Regression 2015 13 2 0.13
Wild Oats 2016 54 16 0.23
The Upside 2017 7 0 0.00
Total 288 85 0.23

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Women’s Equality Day earnings data stuff and suffrage note

Tomorrow is Women’s Equality Day, which commemorates the day, in 1920, when U.S. women were granted the right to vote. (Asterisk: White women.)

One historical story

Congress finally passed a Constitutional amendment for women’s suffrage in 1918, after decades of activism. The suffrage movement in the end successfully made a few convincing arguments – and one clarification. The most important may have been that White women had proved their patriotism during the war, and so they finally deserved the vote. I wrote in 1996:

“No one thing connected with the war is of more importance at this time than meeting the reasonable demand of millions of patriotic and Christian women of the Nation that the amendment for woman suffrage be submitted to the states,” declared Representative James Cantrill. And, he added, “Right, justice, liberty and democracy have always been, and will always be, safe in the tender care of American womanhood.”

And you know what he meant by “American womanhood” (an image the mainstream suffrage movement encouraged to various degrees over the years):

American_progress

American Progress, by John Gast (1872)

The important clarification was that women’s suffrage would absolutely not hurt White supremacy in the South. You know how it is when you just need that Southern vote. I went on:

If reluctant congressmen would only believe in the contribution of white women that was waiting to be made, suffrage advocates explained, the political math was irresistible. “There are more white women of voting age in the South to-day than there are negro men and women together,” [Congress’s only woman, Jeannette] Rankin said. Representative Scott Ferris assured them that poll taxes and literacy tests would remain untouched, so that “for every negro woman so enfranchised there will be hundreds and thousands of intelligent white women enfranchised” (Congressional Record 1918, 779). And Representative Thomas Blanton proclaimed, “So far as State rights are concerned, if this amendment sought to take away from any State the right of fixing the qualifications of its voters, I would be against it first, last, and all the time, but such it does not.” Although states should be allowed to set qualifications for voting, he believed, they could not do so at the expense of undermining true republicanism, and, “if you deny the 14,000,000 white women of this country the right to vote, you are interfering with a republican form of government [Applause]” (786). That day, the House passed the amendment with the required two-thirds vote.

Anyway, rights are rights, America is America, history is history (ha ha).

Some pay gap numbers

Back to nowadays. Today’s numbers come from some analysis of the gender earnings gap I did to support the Council on Contemporary Families brief for Women’s Equality Day. One big story is women’s rising education levels, especially BA completion.

In the active labor force as often described (age 25-54, working at least 20 hours per week and 26 weeks in the previous year), women surpassed men in BA completion in 2002:

wed1

That’s very good for women with regard to the earnings gap, because at every level of education men earn more than women. Women’s full-time full-year earnings are between 70% and 80% of men’s at all education levels except the highest, where they diverge: men who are doctors and lawyers earn much more than women, while women PhDs are doing relatively well. Here’s the 2015 breakdown by education:

wed2

With the education trend and differentials in mind, consider these multivariate model results. Going back to the sample of 25-54-year-old people working at least half-time and half the year, here are two results. The first line, in blue, shows the gender earnings ratio when only age is controlled. It shows women gaining on men from 2000 to 2016, from 77% to 83%. This is not much progress for 25 years, but it’s the slow pace we’ve come to expect during that time. The other line shows result from a more complete model, which adds controls for education, race/ethnicity, marital status, and presence of children; it shows even less progress.

wed3

In the full model (orange line) the relative gains for women are not as great. (Note I don’t include occupation in the “full” model although that’s very important; it’s just also an outcome of gender so I let it be in the gender variable for descriptive purposes.)

In the old days, when women had less education than men, controlling for education shrank the gap; now it appears the opposite is true. I haven’t done the whole decomposition to confirm this, but here’s another way to look at it. The next figure shows the same models, but in two separate samples, with and without BA degrees (and no control for education). The figure shows little progress within education groups. This implies it’s the increase in education for women that is driving the progress seen in the previous figure.

wed4

In conclusion: there is a substantial gender earnings gap at every level of education. The limited progress toward equality we’ve seen in the past 25 years may be driven by increases in women’s education.

There is a lot of other research on this — especially about segregation, which I didn’t include here — and a lot more to be done.


This is a little analysis, but if you’d like to do more, or see how I did what I’ve shown here, I posted the Stata code, data from IPUMS.org, codebook, and spreadsheet file on the Open Science Framework site here. You can use any of it for whatever you like, with a citation that looks like this one the OSF generates:

Cohen, P. N. (2017, August 25). Gender wage gap analysis, 1992-2016. Retrieved from osf.io/mhp3z

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Sex segregation propositions in 140 characters

In response to an annoying conversation on Twitter about this short paper, which felt very familiar, here is an argument about the sex segregation of work, in the form of unsourced propositions of 140 characters or less. You can find most of these in longer form in various posts under the segregation tag. It’s tweetstorm, in one post!


Many studies show men and women have mean differences in personality and preferences, although there is overlap in the distributions; but

Every respondent in any such study was born and raised in a male-dominated society, because all societies are male dominated.

Most people in the debates I see, being elites, act like everyone is a college graduate who chose their job, or “field” of work; but

We know lots of people are in jobs they didn’t freely choose or didn’t get promoted out of, for reasons related to gender (like pregnancy).

No one knows how much segregation results from differences in choices of workers vs. parent/employer/educator pressure or constraints; and

The level of sex segregation varies across social contexts (across space and time), which means it is not all caused by biology; and

Because segregation causes inequality and constrains human freedom, and we have the means to reduce it, the biology theory is harmful; so

Go ahead and study the biology of sex differences, because society is interesting, but don’t use that as an excuse for inequality.

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