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  • "The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they know about what they imagine they can design."

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The Economics of the "Gender Gap"

Posted by The_Chef On 10:02 AM 0 comments

There has been a lot of hubub over the so-called "Gender Gap" between the payscales of women and men in the workplace in both the US and in some countries in Western Europe. In a culture where it is anything but PC to assume that there are differences between the sexes, there are some interesting notations to be made. Ironically one of which is a rather insightful comment from someone that I completely disagree with on many issues: Peter Singer. Yeah, the guy that basically jump-started the animal liberation movement. But in writing about the differences in pay scale between men and women. He makes a very interesting observation:

While Darwinian thought has no impact on the priority we give to equality as a moral or political ideal, it gives us grounds for believing that since men and women play different roles in reproduction, they may also differ in their inclinations or temperaments, in ways that best promote the reproductive prospects of each sex. Since women are limited in the number of children they can have, they are likely to be selective in their choice of mate. Men, on the other hand, are limited in the number of children they can have only by the number of women they can have sex with. If achieving high status increases access to women, then we can expect men to have a stronger drive for status than women. This means that we cannot use the fact that there is a disproportionately large number of men in high status positions in business and politics as a reason for concluding that there has been discrimination against women. For example, the fact that there are fewer women chief executives of major corporations than men may be due to men being more willing to subordinate their personal lives and other interests to their career goals, and biological differences between men and women may be a factor in that greater readiness to sacrifice everything for the sake of getting to the top.1
It would seem that Singer makes an interesting evolutionary argument for the difference between men and women. I'm not saying here's right, but it did get the wheels turning a bit. I do respect him for not falling into the typical feminist argument of "THERE ARE NO DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE SEXES!" line that I have heard from people and has actually been espoused by feminist philosophers. To throw a bit of libertarian economics into Singer's argument (which I'm sure would give him a stroke as the guy is a raging socialist and "social justice" advocate): It would seem that, if we accept Singer's argument that males face an evolutionary incentive given our background and genetic programming, we should expect them to have a higher drive to succeed as it increases their potential mate pool. And this isn't that far-fetched given that we know that women in general highly value the stability and ability to provide in a mate.

There is also another reason that I've seen advanced by several Economists with some interesting data to back up their statement that: Women make less during their child-bearing years because companies are discounting the value of their labor inputs because the chances are very good that these women are going to want to have children. As a result they are basically lost to the company for at least 12 months. There's not exactly a temp service for a VP of Plant Operations. I can't seem to find the study right off the top of the net, so if someone has a link to the actual paper I'd appreciate you sharing it. What they noted was that this so-called "gender gap" seems to disappear in post-menopausal women ... I found that, extremely interesting. Yes yes, Correlation is not Causation. That doesn't mean it doens't bear more investigation.

1 Peter Singer, A Darwinian Left: Politics, Evolution, and Cooperation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), pp. 17-18.

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