Tag Archives: gender

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, 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:


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:


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.


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.


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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‘Start a family’ started to mean ‘have children’ more recently than you think

Or more recently than I thought, anyway.

It looks like the phrase “start a family” started to mean “have children” (after marriage) sometime in the 1930s, and didn’t catch on till the 1940s or 1950s, which happens to be the most pro-natal period in U.S. history. Here’s the Google ngrams trend for the phrase as percentage of all three-word phrases in American English:


Searching the New York Times, I found the earliest uses applied to fish (1931) and plants (1936).

Twitter reader Daniel Parmer relayed a use from the Boston Globe on 8/9/1937, in which actress Merle Oberon said, “I hope to be married within the next two years and start a family. If not, I shall adopt a baby.”

Next appearance in the NYT was 11/22/1942, in a book review in which a man marries a woman and “brings her home to start a family.” After that it was 1948, in this 5/6/1948 description of those who would become baby boom families, describing a speech by Ewan Clague, the Commissioner of Labor Statistics, who is remembered for introducing statistics on women and families into Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. From NYT:


That NYT reference is interesting because it came shortly after the first use of “start a family” in the JSTOR database that unambiguously refers to having children, in a report published by Clague’s BLS:

Trends of Employment and Labor Turn-Over: Monthly Labor Review, Vol. 63, No. 2 (AUGUST 1946): …Of the 584,000 decline in the number of full-time Federal employees between June 1, 1945 and June 1, 1946, almost 75 percent has been in the women’s group. On June 1, 1946, there were only 60 percent as many women employed full time as on June 1, 1945. Men now constitute 70 percent of the total number of full-time workers, as compared with 61 percent a year previously. Although voluntary quits among women for personal reasons, such as to join a veteran husband or to start a family, have been numerous, information on the relative importance of these reasons as compared with involuntary lay-offs is not available…

It’s interesting that, although this appears to be a pro-natal shift, insisting on children before the definition of family is met, it also may have had a work-and-family implication of leaving the labor force. Maybe it reinforced the naturalness of women dropping out of paid work when they had children, something that was soon to emerge as a key battle ground in the gender revolution.

Note: Rose Malinowski Weingartner, a student in my graduate seminar last year, wrote a paper about this concept, which helped me think about this.

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Prince Charles and Princess Diana height situation explained

(With media updates)

They were the same height. More or less.

The most incredibly popular tweet of my life was this:

Many people, assuming I was making some kind of argument about sexism, complained that the tweet was a mountain towering over a molehill, that rules of photographic composition, philatelia, ergonomics, or royal succession somehow required the stamp to be composed this way. In response, I composed the new most incredibly popular tweet of my life:

By then it hit the international press, which apparently has had the same decimation of the reportorial workforce that we’ve had here, so they write articles about tweets where the only background information provided is from other tweets in the thread. So we got:

The last one had this awesome graphic:


The Italian service of Huffington Post even produced the definitive video record of the tweet. Anyways.

Actual facts

The actual facts are that we don’t know exactly how tall they were. Like with popular athletes, the biometric data we have about royalty should be considered suspiciously. At the time of their wedding, in July 1981, everyone saw that they were of similar height, and saw the stamp depicting his head above hers. In response, Buckingham Palace put out a statement announcing that he was an inch taller than her. It was reported in the Stamps column of the New York Times on July 26 like this:


To me that seems like a Trumpian lie. “You say I was caught lying, but because of this other untruth my original lie is in essence true.” Making a taller person look even taller seems less egregious than reversing the height advantage. But I don’t know for sure.

The funny thing about resurrecting a 36-year-old scandal is it seems that, among those interested, half nod knowingly and say, “That always annoyed me!” and the other half say, “mind blown.” It’s not just memories, of course the milieu has changed; anger at “masculinity so fragile” that it requires trick photographs has replaced the routine acceptance of trick photography in the service of propriety. And of course the legacy of Diana as unhappy wife to unfaithful creep — and virtual saint — has changed the tone.

Anyway, I’m in the category of people who’ve been talking about this for years:

  • I first raised it in 2010, using the picture of the stamp and others as an example of the taller-man norm: “But the rigid adherence to this norm results in a daily, intimate interaction among almost all couples that reinforces the bigger-stronger/smaller-weaker gender dichotomy.”
  • In 2011, on Sociological Images, Lisa Wade said of the photos: “This effort to make Charles appear taller is a social commitment to the idea that men are taller and women shorter. When our own bodies, and our chosen mates, don’t follow this rule, sometimes we’ll go to great lengths to preserve the illusion.”
  • In 2013 I returned to the issue, this time with data showing that U.S. men and women sort themselves into couples that exacerbate the existing difference in average height between them.


Finally, I included the stamp picture and the data analysis in my textbook, The Family, writing:

The taller husband conjures up images of the protective, dominant man (“Let me reach that for you”) with a nurturing, supportive wife (“Can I fix you a sandwich?”). To choose a high-profile example, such an image was apparent in many official photos of Britain’s Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Although Charles was actually 1 inch taller than Diana, he often looked shorter than her in candid pictures. But when they posed for portraits, he usually stood on a box or step, as in the picture for the stamp commemorating their royal wedding (Currie 1981). The idea of women as the weaker sex corresponds to the pattern of male domination in modern society, as symbolized by the muscular male athlete and the taller husband.

The reference there is to a news article that uncritically accepted the official heights reported by the authorities. People like to use Google and Wikipedia to find and debate the “official” heights, and to find photos that show them side by side. There may be no true answer.

This who line of criticism eventually led me to the issue of actual fantasy, in the form of sexual dimorphism in animation. That’s a whole nother tag.


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Is there sex selection among Asian immigrants in the US?

There is a 2008 paper reported in the New York Times in 2009, which found skewed sex ratios among children of immigrants from China, Korea, and India, if their older siblings were girls, using the 2000 Census. The implication was that some parents were using IVF or abortion to select boy children if their first two were girls — as is the case in their home countries. There has been some other research on this from the early 2000s, but I haven’t seen it updated since then.

I took a quick stab at it, but don’t have time right now to pursue it more thoroughly. So here’s the quick answer I got, and I shared my data, code, and results in an Open Science Framework project, here. I hope someone will be interested and pursue it further (using my approach or not). The files there include all different ethnic/racial groups.

This is preliminary.

Using the American Community Survey data from 2010-2015, from IPUMS.org, I took U.S.-born children ages 0-5, whose parents were both born in China, Korea, or India and both were present in the household. I counted the sex of any present siblings under age 15 (excluding step- and adopted children). Then I restricted the data to those with 2 older siblings, and compared the sex ratios among those who had 0 or 1 older sister to those who had 2 older sisters. I did this in a logistic regression controlling for individual years of age, and using ACS person weights. There are judgment calls to make about age, siblings, data and other issues. The older you get the more likely you are to have kids moving out in a way that is not sex-neutral (for example, if parents with girls are more or less likely to divorce), and so on. Should parents be matched on immigration status, siblings born abroad included, why the years 2010-2015, and so on. This is what I mean by preliminary. But these results are interesting enough to prompt me to post them and encourage discussion and more analysis.

Here’s what I got:

sex selection.xlsx

The sex differences between those with 0/1 older sister and 2 older sisters are not statistically significant at p.<.05 in each of the three groups, but they are for the combined set (.046). These comparison involve a few hundred cases. Here are the unweighted, unadjusted results:


As you can see, just a few families intervening to choose boys — or some other force rearranging the living arrangements, or survival, of children and families, and the difference would not hold. Still, I think it’s worth pursuing. Maybe someone already has. If you decide to get into it, feel free to use this stuff, and let me know what you come up with!


Filed under Me @ work

My, what dimorphic parents you have!

Quick note to add the new Disney princess movie Moana to the animated gender series.

As in the case of Hercules, Disney can claim that the giant male Maui is a demigod so it’s normal that he’s many times larger than the princess, Moana. (There are a lot of large-bodied people in some Polynesian societies, but I don’t think this is a sex-specific pattern.) So instead look at Moana’s parents.


His big toe has the same diameter as her wrist. His unflexed bicep is wider than her waist. (Sources say the voice actor for Maui has 20-inch biceps, while a real life-sized Barbie doll would have an 18-inch waist, compared with 31 inches for a typical 19-year-old woman.) Anyway, it’s ridiculous.

But this is not unusual for animated kids-movie parents. Here are the parents from Brave and How to Train Your Dragon:



So, extreme dimorphism among parents is common in this genre. Why? I can’t say for sure, but here’s a clue — the parents from Frozen:


My, how similar their bodies are! Sure, her eyes are bigger than his mouth, and his hand is a little engorged, but that’s because there’s a baby in the scene. In the scale of things, they’re practically twins.

If the difference is in racial or ethnic context for the families, then maybe extreme dimorphism among parents helps signify the exoticism of the culture depicted. Of course Black men are often stereotyped as having superhuman bodies, but super petite women don’t usually go along with that particular trope, so I’m not sure how to interpret this. Ideas welcome.


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Gender on the Diane Rehm show in September

The last Media Matters report on the Sunday TV talk shows reported that 73% of guests were men in 2015, a little less than the 75% recorded for the previous two years. (That includes journalists as well as politicos.) I expect my local NPR station, with its liberal audience, to have a better showing for women, and it does. The Diane Rehm Show, which is produced at WAMU but distributed nationally as well as podcasted, had 129 guests in September, and 80 of them (62%) were men, by my manual count. (I’m not counting the hosts, who changed over the month.)

But what has been striking me lately, and the reason I did the count, was how rarely it seems that women are in the majority among the guests, and especially how often there is one woman and more than one man. Without a whole conversation analysis, you can imagine the kind of dynamic that made me think, “sure is a high male/female word-count ratio in this discussion.”

The count confirms this. The show averaged 2.8 guests per episode. So how are the men and women distributed? Of the 46 shows aired in September, 12 featured just one guest, 8 of whom were male. Male guests outnumbered female guests overall in 29 episodes, or 63% of the shows. Female guests outnumbered men in only 8 shows (17%), with the remaining 9 (20%) being gender balanced. What accounts for my annoyance, maybe, was that in those male-dominated shows, more than half (16 of 29) featured just one woman and more than one man. The reverse – one man and more than one woman – happened just three times. Details in the figure.


The most common configuration is one woman and two men. 

My point is just that a 62% / 38% gender split leads to a lot of small-group discussions where men outnumber women, and especially solo-women versus multiple men, which is its own kind of gender situation. I imagine you get this pretty often in cases – say, at an academic conference – where there is some effort to reach gender balance on most panels, but women are less than half altogether. (You can see they were paying attention because there were no all-male panels of four or five.)

I’ll leave it to Media Matters to do their annual report again next year, but I did take a quick look at some of the Sunday shows for September. On Meet the Press I found 62% men, and 75% of the shows were male-dominated. On Fox News Sunday 71% of guests were male, and every show was male-dominated. Face the Nation had 72% male guests but also every one male-dominated. (Incidentally, Face the Nation has a convenient list of every guest so far for the year, so I was able quickly tally the gender of their 348 guests, 73% of whom were men, counting multiple appearances. That’s a tiny bit better than their 2015 total of 76%.)

Related on gender composition:

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