Adventures in Gender #2

Many of this series of posts, like the first post in the series, will likely be addressing explanations of the Wage Gap, as this difference between the genders has received the most attention in the news.  Most recently on this front, Quartz’s Oliver Staley reports:

Why male Uber drivers earn more than women

The study showed that women learn at the same rate as men, but because men are less likely to have childrearing responsibilities, they’re more likely to have the time to accumulate the experience required to earn more. There are far more men with two years of Uber experience than there are women.

That experience also means men tend to drive in a better locations. Looking specifically at data from two months in Chicago, women drove slightly longer distances (0.5 miles, vs. 0.49 miles for men) between accepting a fare and picking up passengers—time which they’re not paid for—and had shorter trips with passengers (4.88 miles, vs. 5.04 miles for men), time for which they are paid. Men also see more benefit from driving during surges, and earned $10.14 per trip, compared to $9.84 for women.

So here we have a clear difference in life choices affecting income levels, which is often dismissed out of hand by those touting practically useless numbers like “average earnings”. However, one might respond that these life choices are due to systemic inequities, and this is a much more nuanced argument that requires much more space than a blog post and in some respects gets out of the realm of data. However, all of that aside, these several differences did not account for the greatest amount of the variance in pay:

But the biggest contributor to the Uber gender gap, accounting for almost half the difference, is the higher average speed for male drivers. Uber’s formula for paying drivers rewards fast driving, up to a point (accidents and speeding tickets weight against driving too fast). Men in Chicago, the study found, drove 19.5 mph, compared to 18.8 mph for women.

As the authors understand it, men aren’t driving faster to be more productive Uber drivers, but because men are less risk averse when driving; their preference for going fast happens to pay off when they drive for Uber. As they gain experience, both men and women actually slow down, probably because they learn to frequent busier, and more congested, parts of the city to get fares.

The same reason men are supposedly less safe drivers than women also explains increased pay as on-demand drivers, after accounting for the potential unsafe performance and increases in experience. Is this too due to systemic inequity? I’m sure someone, somewhere, would argue yes, and the buggy whip makers would agree with them.

Adventures in Gender #1

Like the centuries-old arguments over nature vs. nurture, arguments about the differences between the sexes have waxed and waned, with sides and arguments formed more by wishful ideals than anything approaching science. The state of available methodology to investigate this issue is not used to find the truth, but to buttress old claims, and the insidious influence of “gender studies” only exasperates this problem.

As a separate issue, journalists often place ironic counterpoints to main theses within articles, with apparent ignorance of how to factually and logically support the point they inevitably fail to make.

From the NYT: Why Women’s Voices Are Scarce in Economics:

Perhaps most telling was the question on pay: Only 14 percent of female economists said the gender wage gap is largely explained by differences in education and voluntary occupational choices while 54 percent of male economists agreed with that notion.

But one paragraph later:

Women economists tend to focus on different topics than men. While men dominate macroeconomics, women are more visible among those studying labor markets, health and education. The only majority-female economics conference I’ve ever attended was on the economics of children, a field focused on schooling, family structure and child well-being. If there were more female economists, more attention would surely be paid to these issues.

So women tend to focus on different topics than men within economics, but couldn’t possibly tend to focus on different topics (jobs, degrees) outside of economics, with subsequent resulting differences in pay. The author of the piece is obviously sympathetic to purported plight of female economists, yet winds up providing evidence against her position – presented as evidence for. Of course, the author is a woman. Maybe she should have been an economist.