Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Feminist Economic Downturn

Whenever leftists start to look at average group differences, they immediately assume that "discrimination" or "patriarchal" or "racist" social structures are behind the fact that for example blacks and Hispanics earn less than whites (presumably the high earnings of Asians suggest that Asians are also involved in that racist conspiracy) or that men on average earn more than women.

When libertarian economics professor Walter Block after being asked about this suggested that these average differences might reflect average differences (or differences in variability) in abilities and other relevant factors, instead of discrimination, he was immediately denounced for that.

Keeping that in mind, it might be interesting to analyze how the slump has affected different groups. I have no data on average earnings for different groups, so I'll just settle for employment. For ethnic groups, the decline is pretty broad-based, everyone suffers, though Hispanics have suffered somewhat more than other due to their over-representation as construction workers.

But what is really striking is how different the crisis has affected male and female workers. Male unemployment (16 years and over) rose a full 2.9 percentage points in the latest year, from 5.0% to 7.9%. Female unemployment (16 years and over) rose a more moderate 1.6 percentage points, from 4.8% to 6.4%. The difference in trend is even more dramatic if you consider that the female participation rate actually rose slightly (from 59.4% to 59.5%) while the male participation rate fell (from 73% to 72.4%). As a result, the employment to population ratio fell far more dramatically for men (from 69.4% to 66.7%) than for women (from 56.5% to 55.7%). Relativeto population, male employment has dropped about 4% compared to just 1.4% for female employment.

I would naturally explain this by pointing to how sectors where men are over-represented, such as construction, have been hit disproportionately hard.

But if you accept the view that discriminatory social forces are the only possible explanation, doesn't this suggest that this crisis is the result of some feminist conspiracy designed to reduce differences in average outcome between groups. Yes, it would suggest that , but of course, it doesn't make any sense. But then again, neither did the original feminist theories.


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