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The speculation is

Oh goody, more “women are giving” and “men are stalwart” blather in the New York Times. I wish the mainstream media would stop pushing this bullshit.

The mere presence of female family members — even infants — can be enough to nudge men in the generous direction.

In a provocative new study, the researchers Michael Dahl, Cristian Dezso and David Gaddis Ross examined generosity and what inspires it in wealthy men. Rather than looking at large-scale charitable giving, they looked at why some male chief executives paid their employees more generously than others. The researchers tracked the wages that male chief executives at more than 10,000 Danish companies paid their employees over the course of a decade.

Interestingly, the chief executives paid their employees less after becoming fathers. On average, after chief executives had a child, they paid about $100 less in annual compensation per employee. To be a good provider, the researchers write, it’s all too common for a male chief executive to claim “his firm’s resources for himself and his growing family, at the expense of his employees.”

But there was a twist. When Professor Dahl’s team examined the data more closely, the changes in pay depended on the gender of the child that the chief executives fathered. They reduced wages after having a son, but not after having a daughter.

Daughters apparently soften fathers and evoke more caretaking tendencies. The speculation is that as we brush our daughters’ hair and take them to dance classes, we become gentler, more empathetic and more other-oriented.

Really? That’s the speculation? That’s not the first speculation that occurs to me when reading that passage. You know what is? That daughters are cheaper. That fathers of daughters think they don’t need to spend quite as much on their daughters’ education and equipment, because daughters are just daughters while sons are sons.

Social scientists believe that the empathetic, nurturing behaviors of sisters rub off on their brothers. For example, studies led by the psychologist Alice Eagly at Northwestern University demonstrate that women tend to do more giving and helping in close relationships than men. It might also be that boys feel the impulse — by nature and nurture — to protect their sisters. Indeed, Professor Eagly finds that men are significantly more likely to help women than to help men.

Blah blah blah, as we wander through various studies looking for items that can be made to fit the same old shit.

Some of the world’s most charitable men acknowledge the inspiration provided by the women in their lives. Twenty years ago, when Bill Gates was on his way to becoming the world’s richest man, he rejected advice to set up a charitable foundation. He planned to wait a quarter-century before he started giving his money away, but changed his mind the following year. Just three years later, Mr. Gates ranked third on Fortune’s list of the most generous philanthropists in America. In between, he welcomed his first child: a daughter.

Case closed! That’s science!

And this kind of tripe is why so many people are so very comfortable cranking out “women nurture/men compete” bromides, with the result that so many people are totally comfortable saying things like “It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it, you know, it’s more of a guy thing” when they would never say “It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it, you know, it’s more of a white thing.”

We hear the stereotype repeated nineteen times a day, and it becomes normal, and kind of amusing, and a staple of sitcoms, and we can’t even see how sexist it is and what an obstacle it is.

Comments

  1. says

    examined generosity and what inspires it in wealthy men.

    …. because looking at 1% of the population is a great way to remove sample bias.

    Social “science” – what an embarrassment.

  2. A. Noyd says

    What of fathers and brothers who murder their young female relatives for the sake of honor? How gentle and generous does being in the proximity of a sister or daughter make them, then?

  3. says

    What of fathers and brothers who murder their young female relatives for the sake of honor?

    I’d bet a dollar to a donut that it breaks along class lines. Wanna bet?

  4. aziraphale says

    “What of fathers and brothers who murder their young female relatives for the sake of honor?”

    In those cultures I don’t suppose fathers brush their daughters’ hair or take them to dance classes. In fact I don’t suppose there are any dance classes.

  5. thephilosophicalprimate says

    Marcus: I suspect that you might be surprised which way it breaks along class lines. (Or maybe you wouldn’t. You didn’t say *how* you thought it would break. But I bet a lot of people would read what you said and have the wrong expectation.) I don’t have any data on modern-day honor killings, and I don’t know if anyone’s done the research. But in the history of patriarchy, it’s generally been among the upper classes that rigid gender roles have been most strictly policed and enforced by even heinously violent means, because that’s where the power is: It wasn’t Chinese peasant girls who had their feet bound. In the tradition of suttee (or sati), it was primarily Brahmin widows who were expected to hurl themselves on their husband’s funeral pyre, not widows of the lower castes. Et cetera.

  6. aziraphale says

    I don’t think it at all unlikely that, in a culture which stereotypes females as empathetic and other-oriented, having a daughter might lead a man to get in touch with those aspects of himself. If the culture as a whole allowed it, of course.

  7. says

    But in the history of patriarchy, it’s generally been among the upper classes that rigid gender roles have been most strictly policed and enforced by even heinously violent means

    Yeah, that’s what I meant. Though I was thinking of all the misbehaving medieval daughters who wound up in nunneries because I suppose the alternative was dead.

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    In the low-er/est classes, the best a son can hope for is to inherit his father’s position – but a daughter might possibly marry a step or two upward.

    As for the US, I have more confidence in those studies showing that a male member of Congress who has one or more daughters becomes more likely to vote pro-choice.

  9. Scr... Archivist says

    That’s not the first speculation that occurs to me when reading that passage. You know what is? That daughters are cheaper.

    A different first speculation occurred to me. Maybe the boss becomes stingier when he gets a male heir. He might be thinking it prudent to keep more resources for the man who will inherit the family fortune someday. Daughters marry out in Denmark, don’t they?

    But the bigger question I had was where the control group was. Did the researchers look at employee pay data from Danish companies run by women from 1996 to 2006? If not, why not?

  10. Claire Ramsey says

    Denmark? They generalized from a study in Denmark? Sorry. It doesn’t fly.

    And I just saw an image of Mary in my lefse.

    Ridiculous.

  11. Myoo says

    That’s not being generous, being generous would mean increasing wages, not simply not reducing them. It they’re going to jump to bullshit conclusions here then a better one would be that having a son makes you an asshole.

  12. DeepThought says

    Just wow. And you wonder why we sometimes look askance at social science. The authors appear to have properly used statistics, including cluster robust standard errors, etc. But…

    We excluded firms in industries with a high degree of public-sector involvement (e.g., schools, energy, renovation, etc.) and heavily regulated primary-sector activities (e.g., farming, mining, fisheries, etc.) because the wage dynamics are quite different in such firms. We excluded firms that had less than 10 employees in any year in the study period because data on occupational rank are missing for a large share of these smaller firms.

    What possible justification is there for these exclusion criteria, except for the missing data on occupational rank? Likely the authors initially ran the analysis with all the data, didn’t get the result they were looking for, and therefore cherry-picked. And just how are the “wage dynamics” different?

    The authors also seem to assume a causal relation between the CEO having a child and employee wages, even though in larger companies CEOs really don’t directly set employee wages, and the authors admit that having a child is “endogenous” (i.e. not random, although the sex of the child is).

    But the most ridiculous thing is that the sample size is > 10,000, so therefore even the most impressive result (a 1.1% increase in wages for female employees after the birth of a first-born daughter, with standard error of 0.2%) means that the standard deviation across firms is around 20%, and yet the authors make sweeping generalizations about men and male attitudes.

    Also, why on earth wasn’t a separate analysis run for companies with female CEOs, if the claim is made that it is specifically male attitudes which change?

    For the OP, the misandry in the NYT article is the type of thing that really gets MRAs fired up. Maybe it’s time to knock it off. No, men do not NEED women in order to be empathetic, generous, or anything else.

  13. chrislawson says

    The paper is terrible. They excluded a lot of data spuriously (no public sector-related businesses, no mining, farming, etc. “because the wage dynamics are quite different in such firms”), they decided that the CEO of the company was not necessarily the CEO but the highest paid manager (even though non-executive managers may not have a role in negotiating wages), they analysed so many associations that several were bound to be statistically significant just by chance, the purported effect is tiny, and they contradict themselves in their own interpretations, e.g.:

    “Moreover, the birth of a daughter to the CEO is associated with a negative 0.1 percent (albeit insignificant) effect on the real wages of male employees and a positive 0.1 percent (albeit insignificant) effect on the real wages of female employees. These results are fully consistent with the threefold proposition that, unconditional on gender, employees experience an adverse effect on wages if their male CEO has a child, but that this adverse effect is lower if the employee is female, lower if the child is female, and even positive if both the employee and child are female.”

    IOW, data is “fully consistent” with the hypothesis even when that data does not support the hypothesis.

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