Missing Half the Story

In this post I'm going to talk about areas where researchers only look at half the story. When I notice something like this; a big gaping mistake that all the smart people seem to ignore, I'm very open to the possibility that I'm the one who's missing something. But since I can't seem to figure out where I've gone awry, this is much a post about pointing out other's mistakes as asking to be shown my own.

The two topics where I see half the story notably absent from researcher's view are climate change and the gender wage gap. I will start with climate change.


Climate Change:

Climate change is a big global effect that will undoubtedly affect the lives of millions. To many, it will have incredible costs: some land will be uninhabitable due to rising sea levels, some farmland will become unusable, some diseases will become more prevalent, some natural disasters will become more common, some species of animals will go extinct, etc.

What I never hear about are the benefits. There's no reason to think the climate is perfect the way it is. I never hear about additional farmland being created, even though climate change will undoubtedly have such an effect. I never hear about the benefits of warmer winters and fewer winter-related mortalities. I never hear about the land that will become more habitable as a result of climate change. I never hear about animal populations that will become more viable in a different climate. I never hear about global greening.

The reason I never hear about these things isn't that there aren't large benefits to climate change, it's because a lot more brainpower is spent studying the costs of climate change rather than the effects of climate change. Climate change is understood as an enemy, and that might be accurate, but if one studies it as an enemy they miss the entire character of climate change.

Gender Wage Gap:

This one is harder to explain.

Social scientists have been pointing out the problem with the gender wage gap for a long time. Far from being a story solely about discrimination, there's a whole pipeline that leads to male/female differences that include biological and environmental differences. Social scientists (especially economists) have looked at many of these differences that confound the simple discrimination story and reduced the wage gap to little or none.

I notice that they look for differences that close the wage gap, but they don't look for additional differences that open it. One of the things I hear is that men are more disagreeable, disagreeable people earn more, and that's one of the contributing factors to the wage gap. I'm fine with mentally accounting for this difference and closing the wage gap such that there is less room for discrimination having an effect. But the list of skills and personality traits are large, and it seems like any contributing factors that would make women get paid more are ignored. There's some evidence that men are more susceptible to the flu (mostly because of testosterone), does this not affect their wages? Women are better at remembering words and faces, does this not matter? Women are less likely to die, dead people aren't good workers.

Similar to the previous example of climate change, I don't have as many examples as I'd like. But I think that's because one half of the story is diligently studied, while the other half is neglected. Hypothetically, there should be several factors that lead to higher pay for women. Maybe they don't completely outweigh the factors that make men get paid more, but acknowledging them should open the wage gap and leave more room for discrimination to play a part.

On that note, there is a such thing as men getting paid less because of their sex, which is yet another aspect of the story that doesn't get studied enough. And even if it doesn't happen to men as much as women, it's a factor that should help close the wage gap again.

There are 4 factors that should all add up to 0:

1) Some women get paid less than men because they're women (discrimination)
2) Some women get paid less than men because of contributing factors that go along with being a woman.
3) Some men get paid less than men because they're men (discrimination)
4) Some men get paid less than women because of contributing factors that go along with being a man

I notice only #1 and #2 compete with one another to get studied. I think that's because #1 is associated with feminism and #2 is associated with counter-feminism. But #3 and #4 seem completely neglected. Sure #1 and #2 have to add up to more than #3 and #4 because at the end of the day, women are paid less than men. But #3 and #4 still compete with #1 and #2 at telling the whole story of pay differentials.

We think of the question as, "why does the wage gap exist?" rather than the broader question, "what contributes to men and women getting paid differently?"

Reflections:

Again, I'm happy to be shown how these areas are objects of research. The thing is, I never see it and it never gets talked about. From what I can gather, huge quantities of very smart people are missing half the story.

I suspect what's really going on here is mainly tactical. Researchers pretend like they're objective, but in fact, they're like the rest of us. They participate in ideological warfare. To even mention benefits to climate change is a betrayal of the cause, just as it is to trivialize the threat of climate change.

Researchers are somewhat reluctant to criticize feminist ideas because feminists are usually ideological allies, but the truth is most people are not feminists. Most researchers have sympathy for feminism, but understand that modern feminism makes dubious claims and work to debunk them. Economists rightly point out that the gender wage gap is not all it's cracked up to be, but in their desire to fight the innumeracy of popular feminist ideas, they forget that there's an entire half of the story involving men getting discriminated against, and women having characteristics that on average earn them more pay.

Does this mean we should ignore researchers? Of course not! The amount of time, resources, and IQ points devoted to research is exactly what makes experts... experts.

Only a fool would ignore researchers, but a fool would also take their word as gospel. They're not enlightened non-ideological monks, they're people who have biases, tribes, and ideologies just like the rest of us. It's okay to disagree with the experts, but it's not okay to disagree with the experts and not even know what they're saying!

No comments:

Post a Comment