Census income figures misreported based on gender norms

The Census measures numerous important features of American life. Yet, accurate measurement is difficult. A new report suggests reported income can not be the most truthful when women make more money than their husbands:

Researchers found that when wives are the bigger breadwinners, husbands report making an average of 2.9 percent more than what’s in their tax filings. Meanwhile, women who make more than their husbands report earning 1.5 percent less than their actual income…

So why does this phenomenon happen? Researchers say they suspect societal expectations about the roles each person plays in a marriage could be a main factor.

“When married couples . . . violate the norm that husbands outearn their wives, the survey respondents reporting the couples’ earnings appear to minimize the violation by inflating the earnings of the lower-earning husbands and deflating the earnings of the higher-earning wives,” researchers wrote in their findings.

If the misreporting is due to gender norms, might we expect this to go away as more women earn more money? Already, “In about one out of four couples surveyed, wives made more money than their husbands.” Give this a few decades and this misreporting might disappear.

On the other hand, social norms can be last a long time even after society has changed quite a bit from when the social norm arose. If the misreporting continues or even increases, it would be interesting to see how the Census and other surveyors adjust their figures.

Survey suggests women prefer suburbs more than men

A 2016 survey from mortgage company Lendinghome shows gender differences in which kind of places men and women would like to live:

According to Lendinghome, 54 percent of women want to live in the suburbs, while only 42 percent of men share that goal. Among women, 46 percent prefer established neighborhoods, while only 21 percent want an urban-like environment; for men those two options are nearly equally favored: 40 percent want an urban-like environment and 39 percent want an established neighborhood. One good thing about living in Chicago is that you can find neighborhoods that fit both criteria, said Julie Kim, realty agent with Century 21 in Lincolnwood. “One neighborhood I love showing to couples with this dilemma is Sauganash, which is still part of Chicago but gives that nice suburban pleasantville type of feel,” she said.

Lendinghome summarized the findings this way in May 2017:

Some couples may also struggle with different housing preferences based on gender and location. The data shows that women prefer traditional, cozy homes (48 percent) in the suburbs (54 percent), while men are more open to modern homes (48 percent) in urban-like settings (40 percent). Additionally, survey respondents from the West opted for city living (31 percent) more than those from the Midwest (8 percent).

Here is some speculation on why these differences might exist. The suburbs are often touted as the place that is better for kids because there is more space, the schools are better, and neighborhoods are safer. Since women are still often more responsible for the care of children, perhaps they prefer the suburbs because of their children. Additionally, many Americans see cities as less safe and women may feel this even more as they do not desire having to look out for their safety on a daily basis in the city.

In contrast, men have less responsibility for childcare or don’t think about this as much as being in their future and cities then offer more excitement. If they do think of the suburban life, some may see it as a trap: going to work for long periods bookended by significant commutes, having to keep up a yard, a lack of neighborhood activity, and a life revolving around the nuclear family with little chance for getting away.

I would guess that the preference for a suburban life goes up for both men and women with children but is lower both before couples have children and after those kids leave the house or become adults.

 

New data on (a lack of) diversity in Hollywood and on TV

A new report on diversity in Hollywood and television was released yesterday:

The study, titled the Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity, examined the 109 films released by major studios (including art-house divisions) in 2014 and 305 scripted, first-run TV and digital series across 31 networks and streaming services that aired from September 2014 to August 2015. More than 11,000 speaking characters were analyzed for gender, racial and ethnic representation and LGBT status. Some 10,000 directors, writers and show creators were examined, as was the gender of more than 1,500 executives.

The portrait is one of pervasive underrepresentation, no matter the media platform, from CEOs to minor characters. “Overall, the landscape of media content is still largely whitewashed,” the study concludes.

In the 414 studied films and series, only a third of speaking characters were female, and only 28.3 percent were from minority groups — about 10 percent less than the makeup of the U.S. population. Characters 40 years or older skew heavily male across film and TV: 74.3 percent male to 25.7 percent female.

Just 2 percent of speaking characters were LGBT-identified. Among the 11,306 speaking characters studied, only seven were transgendered (and four were from the same series).

These appear to be pretty consistent patterns. Given the racialized and gendered history of the United States, is it more surprising that white men still dominate in certain categories or that little has changed even with the discussions of recent decades?

One other thought: in No Logo, activist Naomi Klein recounts her own efforts to push for more diversity in advertisements. In a chapter titled “Patriarchy Gets Funky,” Klein says:

We thought we would find salvation in the reformation of MTV, CNN, and Calvin Klein. And why not? Since media seemed to be the source of so many of our problems, surely if we could only “subvert” them to better represent us, they could save us instead. With better collective mirrors, self-esteem would rise and prejudices would magically fall away, as society became suddenly inspired to live up to the beautiful and worthy reflection we had retouched in its image. (p.108-109)

And corporations bought into it:

That’s when we found out that our sworn enemies in the “mainstream” – to us a giant monolithic blob outside of our known university-affiliated enclaves – didn’t fear and loathe us but actually thought we were sort of interesting. Once we’d embarked on a search for new wells of cutting-edge imagery, our insistence on extreme sexual and racial identities made for great brand-content and niche-marketing strategies. If diversity is what we wanted, the brands seemed to be saying, then diversity was exactly what we would get. And with that, the marketers and media makers swooped down, airbrushes in hand, to touch up the colors and images in our culture. (p.111)

The real issue lay elsewhere:

But our criticism was focused on the representation of women and minorities within the structures of power, not on the economics behind those power structures…

The prospect of having to change a few pronouns and getting a handful of women and minorities on the board and on television posed no real threat to the guiding profit-making principles of Wall Street.

Maybe the issue is less one of representation on the screen and more about who controls the industry and resources.

Why men are featured more than women in media coverage

Five sociologists argue the higher number of media mentions of men is tied to how leaders are covered and who gets to be a leader:

A related test of this could then look at social sectors where women are in more positions of leadership and see whether men and women have more parity in media mentions.

There are also issues here with causation going both ways. Leaders are at the top of social hierarchies partly because the media pays them so much attention. People could be in particular important positions – like leading companies or in top posts of governments – but not all of these positions get equal time. In other words, the media plays in important role in influencing who is viewed as an important leader in the first place.

Call for changing sex and gender questions on major surveys

Two sociologists argue that survey questions about sex and gender don’t actually tell us much:

Traditional understandings of sex and gender found in social surveys – such as only allowing people to check one box when asked “male” or “female” – reflect neither academic theories about the difference between sex and gender nor how a growing number of people prefer to identify, Saperstein argues in a study she coauthored with Grand Valley State University sociology professor Laurel Westbrook.

In their analysis of four of the largest and longest-running social surveys in the United States, the sociologists found that the surveys not only used answer options that were binary and static, but also conflated sex and gender. These practices changed very little over the 60 years of surveys they examined.

“Beliefs about the world shape how surveys are designed and data are collected,” they wrote. “Survey research findings, in turn, shape beliefs about the world, and the cycle repeats.”…

“Characteristics from race to political affiliation are no longer counted as binary distinctions, and possible responses often include the category ‘other’ to acknowledge the difficulty of creating a preset list of survey responses,” they wrote…The researchers suggest the following changes to social surveys:

  • Surveys must consistently distinguish between sex and gender.
  • Surveys should rethink binary categories.
  • Surveys need to incorporate self-identified gender and acknowledge it can change over time.

Surveys have to change as social understandings change. Measurement of race and ethnicity has changed quite a bit in recent decades with the Census considering changes for 2020.

It sounds like the next step would be to do a pilot study of alternatives – have a major survey include standard questions as well as new options – and then (1) compare results and (2) see how the new information is related to other information collected by the survey.

British soccer team not happy at serving as the site for college field trip on gender

One British sociology class plans to visit Millwall FC to examine how gender is performed. The club is not happy:

Varndean College in Brighton is offering AS-level sociology students the chance to watch Brighton and Hove Albion take on the “notorious” Millwall Football Club at their home team’s American Express Community Stadium…

There will also be a chance to observe “issues around sexuality, race and ethnicity,” “women challenging gender norms” and to “even talk to football fans,” it promises.

A schedule of planned trips on the college’s website says the football excursion would help teach students about class, leisure and masculinity, and possible racism and homophobia as well.

But Millwall FC appeared less than happy with the idea of being studied as a sociological phenomenon.

“It does make me wonder why they chose Millwall for that,” a source at the club said.

One Varndean sociology student and Millwall fan said describing the club as notorious was “a bit outdated as we’re no longer in the 1980s.”

Sounds like an interesting exercise in seeing gender in action. I understand that few teams would want to explicitly be charged with racism or homophobia but such attitudes are certainly expressed at sporting events. Soccer has a particular history with racism (see a brief overview here) and even with explicit efforts and sanctions from professional associations, racist actions still occur. And professional sports tend to invoke commentary from some fans about masculinity, which in soccer can be associated with toughness, body times, and typical actions off the pitch (such as using their status to pursue women, drink, etc.).

I wonder if any teams would be willing to take part in such field trips because they had such confidence that students and observers wouldn’t see racism or homophobia. Imagine Millwall said, “Sure. Come observe and you won’t see anything like that” and then the observations backed that up. But, even inviting this sort of opportunity would probably be too risky in the eyes of most teams.

Low-income women evicted more often than men partly because of gender dynamics with landlords

A recent analysis of evictions in Milwaukee shows the gender of a landlord and a tenant influences who is more likely to be evicted:

It’s an all-too-common story. Low-income women are evicted at much higher rates than men. The reasons are varied, including lower wages and children, but one rarely discussed reason is the gender dynamics between largely male landlords and female tenants…

But the interactions between predominantly male landlords and female tenants is also a culprit, and it often turns on gender dynamics. Men who fall behind on rent, for example, often went directly to the landlord. When Jerry was served an eviction notice, he promptly balled up and threw it in the face of his landlord. The two commenced yelling at each other until Jerry stomped back to his trailer.

Meanwhile, Larraine, who had also been served notice, recoiled from conflict. “I couldn’t deal with it. I was terrified by it, just terrified,” she told the researcher. After Jerry calmed down, he returned and offered to work off his rent by cleaning up the trailer park and doing some maintenance work, something men often offer to do, I found. The landlord accepted his offer. The outcome for Larraine was different. After avoiding her landlord, she would eventually come up with the rent, borrowing from her brother. But by that time, her landlord had had enough. He felt that Lorraine had taken advantage of him. In keeping with women’s generally non-confrontational approach, Larraine, like many other women renters facing eviction, engaged in “ducking and dodging” landlords often put it.

This dynamic has long-term implications. An eviction record can make it extremely difficult for them to find housing again. Evictions can ban a person from affordable housing programs. And many landlords will not rent to someone who’s been evicted. As they like to say, “I’ll rent to you as long as you don’t have an eviction or a conviction.” These twinned processes—eviction and conviction—work together to propagate economic disadvantage in the inner city.

This sounds like a confluence of race, class, gender. Being non-white and having a lower income leads to fewer housing opportunities and then gender compounds the particulars of interacting with male landlords. The difficulty in finding decent affordable housing then affects what neighborhoods people can live in, influencing social networks, collective efficacy, exposure to violence and crime, differences in educational systems, and access to economic opportunities.

Desmond’s brief report suggests the best solution is to help avoid evictions:

The most important policy solution, however, would be to ensure that low-income families do not end up in eviction court in the first place. Stopgap measures that provide emergency funds for families in a jam – those who have lost a job, experienced a family death, or suffered a medical emergency – could help thousands stay in their homes…

More fundamentally, making housing more affordable could prevent many evictions.

A tough issue to address in a country that tends to accept residential segregation as well as the prevalence of market forces in the housing industry.