Saturday, March 13, 2010

Pro-Marriage Rap Song

I did a Google search for "pro-marriage rap song."

The outcome? "No results found." In the whole internet.

Friday, March 12, 2010

"Black Women Save Only $5" is Very Misleading

Single white women in their prime working years have a median net worth of $42,600.

Single black women in their prime working years have a median net worth of $5.

That makes for a pretty shocking headline. However, the story leaves out the most elementary controls that would allow an apples-to-apples comparison.

An obvious one is whether they are, in fact, working. A second is how much education they have. I think it likely that a greater proportion of the black women in the large 18-to-64 age group are younger than white women in that age group.

The biggest factor we need to control for, though, is whether these single women are mothers or not. Most white single women do not have children. Most black single women, as best I can figure, do have children. Single women with children are not likely to accumulate any net worth.

White and black women with similar education are likely to start at nearly identical salaries, on average. I don't have comparative wealth figures with the appropriate controls, but it stands to reason that single white and black women with similar education and no kids are likely to accumulate similar net wealth.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Gendercide Much Worse for Third Children

The Economist has a cover story on "gendercide," the massive rate of abortion of girls in Asia.

At birth in natural populations there are about 103 boys for every 100 girls.

In many Asian countries, especially China and India, aborting girls has become so common that that ratio has become 120 to 100. Some provinces of China - the richer ones, where the one-child policy is better enforced and raising children costs more - the ratio is above 130 to 100.

Something I had not appreciated before is that the ratio goes up dramatically for each later birth. In India, which does not have an official limit on the number of children, there are more girls among first-borns than in China. For the second child, though, many Indian parents who already have a girl are more likely to keep aborting a second girl until they get a boy. For a third child, the ratio of boys to girls is 200 to 100 in some regions.

This rate of killing girls is horrible in itself. It also so short-sighted and dangerous. Those unmatched boys will grow into tens of millions of unattached men. Then we will all reap the whirlwind.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Do Men Delay College Graduation in Order to Grow Up?

There are 133 women in college to every 100 men. By age 25 there are 141 female college graduates for every 100 male graduates. The headline news has been that at age 22, the traditional age for college graduation, the ratio of female to male college graduates is 185/100.

Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, whose work I often cite in these pages, have opened the question of why men take longer to graduate from college.

It is well known that all through adolescence girls, as a group, are more mature than boys. I think that is one of the main reasons that girls are more likely to stay in school and go straight through to college commencement in the first place. The senior women at Centre often lament that their male counterparts aren't as mature as they are in thinking about marriage and children. I think this is one of the reasons that, on average, women pick husbands who are a couple of years older than they are - to try to equalize their maturity levels.

So here is my gruntled, hopeful, silver-lining-seeking hypothesis: men are taking longer to graduate than women because they are trying to catch up to the women in maturity.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Anonymous Sperm Donation is Harder Than it Looks

Sperm donation is easy, um, mechanically. As the donors say, they get paid to do something they do for free anyway. And the sperm donor business is so successful that there are for-profit companies, as well as many labs and non-profits. The technological and economic aspects get better and easier every day.

What is getting harder is to stay anonymous. The Donor Sibling Registry brings together children of the same father to compare characteristics. The biographical facts that donors give about themselves are becoming easier to search and cross list. And if the donor is ever in a DNA registry, each of his children is full of enough comparable genetic information to establish a match. Sperm banks are starting to back off of their claim of permanent anonymity. They promise that the bank will not release the donor's identity, but admit that technological advances may make them findable anyway.

I think the other part of anonymous sperm donation that is getting harder is the belief that children made from your sperm are not, in a deep way, related to you. Of course donors know that they are the fathers of the children made with their sperm. I think they have underestimated how strong a tie that actually makes, even if they never meet their children. For several generations social science has convinced the educated public that nurture trumps nature. As a card-carrying sociologist I was trained in this view. I have changed my mind over years of study and parenthood. I am holding the line at 50/50 in the nature/nurture debate.

I think there are so many points of biological similarity between fathers and their children that it would be an unusual man, and a very unusual child, who would not be moved by the similarity. Moved to try to make a personal connection. Which would make anonymously donating sperm and walking away forever harder to do.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Zen and the Art ... Reconsidered

One of the books that had the greatest impact on me in high school was Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. He argued that Quality is what we like; Quality is the interaction of subject and object that produces them both; Quality is the undefinable root something from which all else that we know comes. This idea stuck with me more than I knew.

A few months ago I read Atlas Shrugged. While I appreciate some of its sense that quality work is worth celebrating, I thought its view of human life was way too simplistic. And the story was very silly. However, a few people told me that it was a very important book to them in high school. It made them feel vindicated as smart kids, and gave them a larger vision of the world and the ideas behind it.

This got me thinking that it would be fruitful to re-read the books that most influenced me in high school. I got talking to a study group friend, and we agreed to re-read one another's influential books together. Zen and the Art is my nominee.

I am pleased to say that the book holds up well. It is mostly a "Chautauqua" about metaphysics, framed by a father-son road trip story. The pursuit of metaphysics made the father insane. He is now trying to reconstruct the argument, without the insanity, in the form of both talks to the reader and conversations with his son. Both parts of the story are based on Robert Pirsig's real experiences, including the insanity.

I see now that my later interest in Alasdair McIntyre's argument about the incoherence of ethical philosophy, and his further discussions of the good of practices, grows right out of appreciating Pirsig. I see, too, an affinity in my sociology, which does start with "what we like" as an important bit of evidence of what is good and true, with Pirsig's approach to Quality.

On the other hand, I am now more puzzled than I was in high school at why Pirsig does not think God is even worth talking about in his consideration of what Quality is and where it comes from. That is the question I want to pursue with the study group, and beyond.