Friday, September 14, 2012
You may have already heard about how Mitt Romney responded to George Stephanopoulos' question about what a middle income might be:
MITT ROMNEY: Well, I said that there are five different studies that point out that we can get to a balanced budget without raising taxes on middle income people. Let me tell you, George, the fundamentals of my tax policy are these. Number one, reduce tax burdens on middle-income people. So no one can say my plan is going to raise taxes on middle-income people, because principle number one is keep the burden down on middle-income taxpayers.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Is $100,000 middle income?
MITT ROMNEY: No, middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less. So number one, don’t reduce– or excuse me, don’t raise taxes on middle-income people, lower them. Number two, don’t reduce the share of taxes paid by the wealthiest. The top 5% will still pay the same share of taxes they pay today. That’s principle one, principle two. Principle three is create incentives for growth, make it easier for businesses to start and to add jobs. And finally, simplify the code, make it easier for people to pay their taxes than the way they have to now.
That's a pretty loose definition of "middle income," especially as it has no lower bound at all, so even the poorest households might be covered by that definition.
For more meaningful definitions, have a look at this piece by Alicia Munnell. For instance, in 2010, an annual household income of $180,810 would have put a household at the 95th percentile of the income distribution. What does that mean?
That only approximately five percent of American households earned more than that figure. It could be that the figures Romney cites define the 95th percentile today? But in any case "middle income" cannot be more than or equal to what 95% of American households earn. It cannot even be the upper bound of such a class.
One might bicker over whether something like "middle income" can even be defined. Is it the amount which allows a family to live "a middle class lifestyle?" That amount obviously varies between geographic areas, but it also will vary depending on how we define such a lifestyle.
It's better to stay within statistical definitions. If we stick to those, in 2010 the median (the middle income in the sense that roughly half of all incomes were less than that particular income and roughly half were more) household income in the United States was $49,445.
This has been a post in the series of excruciatingly boring economic posts by yours truly.
For those of you who are interested in research ethics and similar questions, this Guardian article is worth a read. I also recommend the 2010 piece on the Decline Effect. My intention is not to cast a negative light on researchers, most of whom are honest in their work.
But it's important to reduce the publish-or-perish imperative, especially in the form of (only) positive findings, and it's important for the professions to police themselves more carefully. Because the reputation effect of bad research, when it is widely believed in and discussed, will taint all research.
Laypeople often cannot tell the difference between good and bad research (and neither seem most popularizers). It's a bit like the effect tainted medications have on the markets for all pharmaceuticals. Your firm may not produce tainted medications but the consumers cannot tell that this is so. The only solution is to regulate the whole market, to ensure high quality.
In the context of research this means publishing the data the results are based on and also placing more emphasis on publishing no-difference or negative findings. The idea that only results which comply with one's own theory are worth publishing is dangerous. It's obviously so in the field of medicine where the finding that a new drug does not work is of great value, for instance.
But it's also important in other fields, as I have written before. My pet example has to do with the science of gender differences. To have a field focused on finding differences means that not finding them will make a study less publishable. Thus, we get more popularizations on how men and women might differ than on how they do not differ. The overall impression this will leave is of large gender differences, like gulfs which cannot be bridged. Yet measures of gender differences in various cognitive fields are usually much smaller than similar measures of gender differences in adult heights or shoe sizes.
Thursday, September 13, 2012
Katha Pollitt has reviewed Naomi Wolf's new book, about the vagina. Or Wolf's vagina, it seems.
I have not read the book yet, only Katha's deliciously biting review of the same. But if the review is correct, Wolf has skipped happily down a very odd essentialist path into romantic woods where candles are lighted and the lingam waved. In honor of the yoni.
I do want to read the book (or at least put it in the long list of books to be read) because there's one sense in which Wolf is probably correct: Our view about sex have changed in the last two decades and that mostly due to Internet pron. The intended clientele of pron is predominantly heterosexually male and the dream stories told are therefore not going to be about what turns women on. Or at least mostly not about that.
As I've written before, I worry about any young people whose first contacts with sex come through those images. Pron is not real-world sex, but can young people distinguish between the two? And to what extent are our current sexual expectations (what he will do, what she will do) based on those unrealistic scenarios?
So yes, it seems to me that the time is pretty ripe for some kind of a correction. For instance, blow jobs are extensively discussed all over the net. Cunnilingus? Hardly ever. And that concerns me.
Here's the problem about writing on the topic of pron and feminism: We get into a vigorous debate about other questions, including the advisability of having pron at all and the prudishness of one Echidne-of-the-snakes.
But the question I really want to have answered is whether our sexual norms have changed in a way which might not be that good for women, in general, or not even for men, ultimately, remains unanswered. I think silicone breasts and shaving the pubic hair are both caused by what pron actresses look like. If that's the case, what other aspects of our sexual mores are similarly affected?
All these are musings based on the general topic and in no way do I imply that Wolf's book is the response I'm seeking for. Or that it is not, either. But, yes, we should have many books out on this topic, preferably with a basis in proper research about what it is, exactly, that causes the changes we can all observe and what their consequences are.
This is a difficult topic. After I've read through the available material I'm filled with a dry despair, like sandpaper on very tired eyes.
That despair has to do with the impossibility of communicating across the immense cultural chasms and with the ability of some people to take advantage of this. The latter might include Al Qaeda in the sense of being the killers in Tripoli and, in a much smaller but self-centered way, Willard Romney in the United States, who decided to play president before he is one (goddess forbid), giving a cheerful press conference on this very topic, putting his silver-shod hoof straight into that cultural chasm, too.
What's behind all this? A film made by some obscure group in the United States:
New information is emerging over the origins of an anti-Islamic video which is at the centre of violent anti-American protests in Egypt and Libya.
A film was shot in the US, and was shown at a small cinema in Hollywood at the end of June. But it is the clips posted to YouTube, translated into Arabic, which appear to have sparked these protests.
The video first appeared online on 1 July, posted in English by someone using the pseudonym "sambacile."
It was very badly made and cheaply produced, with poor acting and little in the way of storyline.
The most offensive comments about Islam and the Prophet Muhammad had been quite obviously dubbed onto the soundtrack afterwards and not spoken by the actors.
One actress featured in the film said she had no idea it would be used for anti-Islamic propaganda and condemned it.
Cindy Lee Garcia, from Bakersfield in California, was quoted by the website Gawker saying she had a small role in the film which she was told would be called Desert Warriors, about life in Egypt 2,000 years ago.
She threatened to sue the director for the way the actors were represented.
In fact a film called The Innocence of Bin Laden was shown at a small independent cinema on Hollywood Boulevard called the Vine Theatre on 30 June this year.
Someone present, who asked not to be identified, said it lasted about an hour, had very poor production values and attracted just a handful of viewers in the two showings that evening.
Get it? A poorly made video shown only to a small number of viewers. Then clips of it are put on YouTube, translated into Arabic and possibly enhanced with more offensive comments.
It's hard not to put on a tinfoil helmet and wonder who did that and to what purpose. But I won't go there.
The consequences? Protests and demonstrations. And more are expected:
In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood called for a million-man march on Sept. 14 to protest the video. Under Islam, any depiction or representation of the prophet is deemed blasphemous and ridiculing him is even more serious.
The protests cast a new spotlight on Muslim-Christian relations in Egypt after the election of President Mohamed Mursi, who came from the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood. After clashes between Muslims and Christians in the months following the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak last year, Mursi’s government has repeatedly said it will represent all Egyptians.
The U.S. must take a “firm stand” against the producers of the film and act in line with international accords that “criminalize actions that create sectarian strife” on the basis of race, color or religion, Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil told reporters yesterday, reading from a government statement.
Whether any of this was behind the murder of four people at the American Embassy in Tripoli is unclear. It's looking more likely that Al Qaeda at least exploited the opportunity to run an assassination under the cover of the video protests. On 9/11.
Then about the minor problem of one Mitt Romney. His speedy press conference didn't go down well. That's the general judgement, from both sides of the political aisle. Besides, one is not supposed to gloat during national emergencies. Or, I might add, to show utter ignorance about that cultural chasm I referred to.
After glancing through this post I almost erased those references to how I feel. They are self-centered and stupid and I'm not important. But I left them in because I think so many others feel the same way: Exhausted from trying to make some sort of a difference and disappointed when seeing how easy those tinder boxes are to light.
Others decide when there will be wars and violence, others decide the arenas in which we might die, others (on both sides) play with us as if we were pawns in some important chess game. Right now my pawn has been left in the box but that may change whenever the players so decide.
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Some days ago I got an e-mail from Hanna Rosin's agents asking me if I wanted her book The End Of Men to review. The same night I got a gastritis attack.
Such are the rewards of writing in this field. What is it that made me ill, you ask (other than countless cups of coffee, caused by anger)?
The title of the book, for one thing. It's an obscenity in this world where women in many countries have fewer rights than dogs or bicycles. It's an outrage even more generally, because it has made a bet on flaming the gender wars and as we all know such wars are great fun and lucrative for the instigators. Likewise, these topics don't get any attention whatsoever when they are flamed from the other side. I don't think a book called The End Of Women would get the same attention, even though women are somewhat ending in China and India. Men, on the other hand, are not ending.
Had the book been called The End Of Male Dominance? (which appears to be its actual topic), the potential numbers of readers would have quickly shrunk to a few beady-eyed feminists such as yours truly. As things are, I will find reading it tough going because I know it's supposed to press all sorts of unseemly buttons about feminism having gone too far and so on. Yet I hear that it's kinda disappointing in that it doesn't tell us how all those men are ending. Indeed, it might even suggest that rigid definitions of masculinity are at fault here.
So thinks our David Brooks who has written a meditative piece on the book. I started reading it because I already have too much stomach acid. But he isn't truly horrible in that piece, which disappointed me. Still, it's always worthwhile to do research on our David's assertions:
Thanks to their lower skills, men are dropping out of the labor force. In 1954, 96 percent of the American men between the ages of 25 and 54 worked. Today, that number is down to 80 percent. In Friday’s jobs report, male labor force participation reached an all-time low.Derek Rose responds to those arguments:
Millions of men are collecting disability. Even many of those who do have a job are doing poorly. According to Michael Greenstone of the Hamilton Project, annual earnings for median prime-age males have dropped by 28 percent over the past 40 years.
Men still dominate the tippy-top of the corporate ladder because many women take time off to raise children, but women lead or are gaining nearly everywhere else. Women in their 20s outearn men in their 20s. Twelve out of the 15 fastest-growing professions are dominated by women.
Actually in 1954, the 92.8 percent — not 96 percent — of men aged 25 to 54 had a job, according to BLS statistics. In August that percentage was at 82.2 percent. A lot of that has to do with, y’know, the recession. As recently as 2007, 87.5 percent of men had jobs. Others were in school, being a housedad or, yes, collecting disability. More on that in a sec.
Meanwhile, the percentage of women aged 25-54 working (outside the home) has also been dropping — from a high of 74.9 percent in fourth quarter 1999, to 69.1 percent in the first half of this year.
In Friday’s jobs report, male labor force participation reached an all-time low. True, but as the Atlantic explained, this has more to do with an aging population than anything else.
Millions of men are collecting disability.
True, but so are millions of women — about 300,000 more women than men, in fact. According to the Social Security Administration, 3.28 million males and 3.58 million females were receiving SSI disability payments in December 2011. (pdf, page 22).
What about the annual earnings of men dropping? Derek Rose again;
Brooks misrepresents Greenstone’s work here. Greenstone does indeed conclude that when you adjust for inflation, average earnings for median prime-age [25-64] males did drop 28 percent from 1969 to 2009 — but that’s because fewer men are working, and so aren’t earning any wage. When you look at men working full-time, the mean earnings of men aged 25-64 has risen 13 percent (but the median has dropped 1 percent, a sign of growing inequality. (pdf, page 13).
Here's recent data on the male-female earnings difference from the second quarter of 2012:
It doesn't look to me as if men are ending. Or as if women are completely taking over, either, though with that paltry exception Brooks allows, the top of the societal ladders:
Men still dominate the tippy-top of the corporate ladder because many women take time off to raise children, but women lead or are gaining nearly everywhere else. Women in their 20s outearn men in their 20s. Twelve out of the 15 fastest-growing professions are dominated by women.
Child-related absence from the labor force only affects the high-flyers????? How very odd that view is.
So what have we learned so far? Both men and women have lower labor market participation rates because of the recession. More women than men collect disability. Men's real earnings may have fallen or not risen much, over time, but men are still earning more than women.
What about women in their 20s out-earning men in their 20s? That, too, is rubbish. You can see it from the above graph, of course. You don't have to use a study which singled out large metropolitan areas, removed all married individuals from the study and then didn't compare like-with-like by not controlling for education. Young unmarried women in those areas have, on average, higher educational qualifications than young, unmarried men, and it's the education difference, rather than gender, that matters in those findings.
I've written about that particular study so many times before but it simply refuses to die because it's such a fun study to believe in. And fits the framework of the coming monstrous petticoat regime!
Finally, let's have a look at those 15 fastest growing professions which are dominated by women. It's not clear which list Rosin's book used as there are several ways of defining "fastest growing" (percentage increases or absolute numbers etc). The one Rosin probably used is Table 2 in this article (scroll down), although it lists twenty occupations, not fifteen.
It's worth noting the text under that table:
The education categories and wages of the occupations with the largest numbers of new jobs are considerably different than those of the fastest growing occupations. Only three of these occupations are in the associate’s degree or higher category. Fourteen of the 20 occupations with the largest numbers of new jobs paid less than the national median wage of $33,840 in May 2010.
Out of the top five listed (all female dominated, by the way), only the first occupation mentioned, registered nurses, has a highish median annual salary: 64, 690 dollars. The next four: retail salespersons, home health aides, personal care aides and office clerks, general, have median annual salaries of $20,670, $20,560, $19,640 and $26,610, respectively. In other words, dominating twelve out of the top fifteen categories doesn't actually make women the winners in some giant employment race.
That's enough on our David today. I might read Rosin's book one day and then I will do more ranting here.
Two post-scripts: The first: I spent time at the Bureau of Labor Statistics site trying to find labor market participation rates. The ones I found for men and women aged 25-54 for 2010 don't exactly match the information Derek Rose provides but it is close. All the labor market participation rates I could find (the most current ones were for men and women over the age twenty) demonstrate the same pattern: Women have a lower labor market participation rate than men do.
The second, and more substantial: This post is not meant to belittle the troubles of men who are losing blue-collar jobs in this country, and there may well be something to the idea of rigid definitions of masculinity keeping some back. At the same time, "flexibility" seems to mean accepting a very low-paid service job instead, and the losses in salary are real. Women have had fewer opportunities for the better-paying jobs in the past and hence may be more accepting of low earnings opportunities than men. Still, before we can discuss any of this properly we should drop the gender wars framework and at least get the basic data correct.
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Is in this Twitter picture:
The small print says "Made in China."
Most likely Obama's campaign giveaways (if any) are also made in China.
The deep thought this picture obviously elicits has to do with reality smashing straight against that "rah-rah-we're-number-one" type of patriotism. The latter can be all rainbows and butterflies and pretense and it still seems to work. Reality is a bit different, given that most everything I see in the stores (even in food stores) comes from China, these days.
I came across these headlines yesterday:
Mom’s Depression May Lead to Shorter Kids
Depressed moms might have shorter kids, new study suggests
Postpartum Depression May Lead to Shorter Kids: Study
Mother's Depression Linked to Child's Shorter Height
Only that last headline is correct, in the sense that the study all these cover cannot prove causality of any kind.
I read through all those popularizations and then got hold of the article itself (thanks to the funding of you, my sweet readers!). The study is not bad, as such studies go, but the way it is popularized and discussed is such a beautiful example of how and why certain studies are picked for wider dissemination and others are not. It is also a beautiful example of the kinds of conclusions that we are offered, together with the gist of the study.
On those conclusions:
"The hopelessness of depression often leads people not to seek the care that they need," said Robbins. "If [mothers] can make the connection that this is not just affecting them but also affecting their family, it may become motivation to get the proper treatment."
The person quoted there is a psychiatrist and not involved with this study. I would have thought a psychiatrist would realize that the last thing a severely depressed woman will be motivated (to seek care, not suicide) by is dumping more guilt feelings on her. After all, here are some of the symptoms of post-natal depression:
According to the CDC, postpartum depression among women is characterized by the following:
• Trouble sleeping when your baby sleeps (more than the lack of sleep typical among new moms)
• Feeling numb or disconnected from your baby
• Having scary or negative thoughts about the baby; for example, thinking someone will take your baby away or hurt your baby
• Worrying that you will hurt the baby
• Feeling guilty about not being a good mom, or ashamed that you cannot care for your baby
Now add to those guilt feelings the idea that your child will be stunted because of you. One has to tread very lightly indeed, to get the message home in a loving and non-blaming way, and I don't sense that from the various conclusions I've read, such as this:
The new research doesn’t explain how kids with depressed moms end up shorter. That’s something the researchers are looking into right now, said the study’s lead author Pamela J. Surkan, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.It sounds very authoritative. Until you learn (as I did) that this particular study has NO DATA on nurturing practices. The conclusion about child-rearing practices is based on earlier studies, it seems. Still, this is the first paragraph in one popularization of THIS study, after the headline
Surkan suspects, however, that depression might get in the way of nurturing.
“We think that mothers who are depressed or blue might have a hard time following through with caregiving tasks,” Surkan said.
“We know that children of depressed mothers often suffer from poor attachment and the depression seems to have effects on other developmental outcomes. It makes sense that mothers who have depressive symptoms might have reduced ability to take care of infants, that they might not always pick up cues from their kids.”
"Postpartum Depression May Lead to Shorter Kids: Study":
It's not certain why, but feeding practices might play a part, expert says
Rewind back to that symptom of post-natal depression: Feeling guilty about not being a good mom, or ashamed that you cannot care for your baby. I get that this topic is an important one. But to put something which isn't even based on the study at the beginning of the popularization is kinda bad. On the other hand, these ruminations ARE based on the comments of one of the researchers....
What about the study itself? As I mentioned above, it's not a bad study as such. BUT it has no data on the heights of the child's parents, none at all. This means that the results do not take into account the genetic component in children's heights.
And while the study stresses that it has not proved causality from the mother's depression to the child's lower stature it proceeds as if that has been done, by proposing various theories about how the former might cause the latter. Yet the study also mentions past research into this topic:
Results from other developed countries on the association between maternal depressive symptoms and child growth have been mixed.27–32 Two studies from the United Kingdom examined failure-to- thrive in children age #1; one found no association,30 and the other reported an association only at 4 months that disappeared by 1 year of age.29
In studies including children followed only until age 2, pooled data from 5 countries showed no differences by depressive symptoms for child weight, length, weight for length, or body mass index.32 However, a case-control study reported that children #2 years old with growth faltering were more likely to have depressed mothers.31
The only US study with follow-up until at least age 3 was from an affluent mostly white sample.27 Unlike other studies, Ertel et al found maternal depressive symptoms at 6 months postpartum associated with increased child height- for-age z scores at age 3.27 Using longitudinal growth models from birth to age 3 to examine weight-for-height z scores over time, they reported no difference between children with and without depressed mothers.28
Only one of the popularizations I've read mentions that other studies have had different findings.
The study controls for various socio-economic variables. But as mentioned, it has no data on the parents' heights or on the parent's nurturing practices. Neither has it any data on the father's mental or emotional state. As is common in these studies, fathers and their behavior is not generally studied (in this study they are present only in the sense of the variable reflecting single-parenthood of the mother or not).
That is because the job of nurturing is assigned to the mother. But that omission may prove harmful if family dynamics are affecting the mother's depression. For instance.
I write about this study not because of the study itself but because of the extent and type of popularization it acquired. Those earlier studies with all sorts of findings about the relationship between maternal depression and child height did not get this kind of exposure. Certain studies are pulled out of the file cabinets and highlighted, and those studies usually are interpreted as the whole knowledge of a particular field. That the overall findings are much fuzzier is ignored.
I also write about this study because of the practical advice the popularizations include. Those amount to the exhortation that severely depressed women should seek care because they might be hurting their children. When one important symptom of post-natal depression consists of giant feelings of maternal guilt, this advice seems ignorant at best.
What is the take-home message from all this? That post-natal depression can be a severe medical condition? Didn't we know that already? That it should be treated as a severe medical condition because it might affect the children and not just the mother?
Or what I have come across today while surfing for stories.
First, Chris Brown appears to have a tattoo of a battered woman's face on his neck, at a visible point. Is this to serve as a warning signal in cultural exchanges or what? Is it a sign of remorse? Or an angry challenge? Or what?
And do we care?
Second, here's a lovely body decoration demonstrated by a male spider in Australia while he woos his sweetheart. The decoration clearly has a social role in that case.
I put these two topics together for no other reason than happenstance. I went from one story to the other and noticed the odd commonality. Make of that what you wish.
Monday, September 10, 2012
This is a fun glimpse into an important Republican program about taxes: The idea that we can lower taxes for everyone, close all the nasty tax loopholes, and then have government tax revenue either rise or stay constant.
That policy aspect requires two important questions: First, is it really the case that the loopholes could be removed without increasing taxes for the middle classes? After all, the mortgage deduction is pretty important for that class of taxpayers.
Second, would the Republicans actually pursue a policy of filling the loopholes? My impression is that all details about that are left murky and hidden, and Paul Ryan in that interview follows the same pattern:
Now the question is, not necessarily what loopholes go, but who gets them. High-income earners use most of the loopholes. That means they can shelter their income from taxation. But if you take those loopholes, those tax shelters away from high-income earners, more of their income is subject to taxation. And that allows us to lower tax rates on everybody — small businesses, families, economic growth.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, Congressman, as you know –
RYAN: When Reagan did this, it worked –
STEPHANOPOULOS: — many say it’s difficult –
RYAN: Go ahead, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: — to accept your word if you’re not going to specify which tax loopholes you’re willing to close. Don’t voters have a right to know which loopholes you’re going to go after?
RYAN: So Mitt Romney and I, based on our experience, think the best way to do this is to show the framework, show the outlines of these plans, and then to work with Congress to do this. That’s how you get things done. The other thing, George, is–
STEPHANOPOULOS: Isn’t that a secret plan?
RYAN: — we don’t want to — no, no. No, no. What we don’t want is a secret plan. What we don’t want to do is cut some backroom deal like ObamaCare, and then hatch (ph) it (ph) to the country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But why not specify the –
RYAN: We want to do this –
STEPHANOPOULOS: — loopholes now?
RYAN: — out in the open –
STEPHANOPOULOS: Why not say right now –
RYAN: — because we want to do this –
RYAN: — we want to have this — George, because we want to have this debate in the public. We want to have this debate with Congress. And we want to do this with the consent of the elected representatives of the people, and figure out what loopholes should stay or go and who should or should not get them.
And our priorities are high-income earners should not get these kinds of loopholes. And we should have broad-based policies that go to middle-class taxpayers, to make sure we can advance things that we care about, like charities. But that is a debate we shouldn’t cut in a back room, shouldn’t hatch a secret plan like ObamaCare. We should do it out in the public view where the public can participate.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s exactly what I’m suggesting, having it in public before the election so voters can have that information before they make up their minds.
I'm skeptical about the Republicans actually following suit on this part of their proposals, both because for it to work it the total taxes higher-income individuals pay (and those are the real base of the party) would have to rise and also because corporations would fight like mad to keep their loopholes: All those corporate deductions which allow some large firms to pay essentially no taxes on their profits.
It comes from researchers at York University, England. They decided to have a look at the old evo-psycho saw about men seeking beauty and women being gold-diggers, when it comes to mating. The popularizing writeup of that research prepares us with a few paragraphs of the usual pseudo-science:
Men seek youth and beauty, while women focus on wealth and status — evolutionary psychologists have long claimed that these general preferences in human mating are universal and based on biology. But new research suggests that they may in fact be malleable: as men and women achieve financial equality, in terms of earning power and economic freedom, these mate-seeking preferences by gender tend to wane.Once again, I must remind you, my sweet readers (was going to type "sweet dreamers") that what meant "wealth" in the imagined nomadic African tribe or family group many thousands of years ago is most likely the same thing as youth and health in a man, just as "beauty" in a woman is youth and health. Because groups on the go in that world could not amass wealth as such.
Or put in other terms, to argue that something is based in biology without any actual genetic evidence or the ability to time-travel to whatever the Era and Area of Evolutionary Adaptations might have been is simply speculation, especially if the actual differences in women's and men's ability to acquire wealth in general are not taken into account.
Never mind. What this new research appears to have found suggests the importance of culture in these mating customs:
In a study published in Psychological Science, researchers looked at two large samples of people who were surveyed about the qualities they most wanted in a mate: one survey was conducted in the late 1980s and included 8,953 people from 37 different cultures; the second survey was more current, administered to 3,177 people from 10 nations via the Internet.
Noting prior research finding that women who expect to be employed full-time on their own put less emphasis on a man’s “provider” qualities, the authors write: “As the positioning of men and women in societal roles changes, gender differences in mate choice criteria should change because people look for mates who fit into their anticipated future lives under prevalent societal circumstances.”
To figure out if that’s true, the researchers ranked nations according to a new measure of gender equity introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006. Within various societies, they looked for relationships between the gender gap and how much of a difference there was between male and female mate preferences. And indeed, the researchers found, the greater the equality of power between the genders, the more similar were the traits that both men and women sought in potential mates. In Finland, the country with the greatest gender parity among the 10 countries included in the more current of the two surveys, there was a far smaller difference between male and female preferences than in Turkey, which had the biggest gender gap.
That means, basically, that the more equal men and women became, the less emphasis men placed on youth and beauty, and the less emphasis women put on wealth and power. These findings were borne out by the 37-culture survey as well; although it showed a definite gender difference in mate-seeking preferences, it also showed that these gender-based differences narrowed in countries with more equality. Further, it found that the top few most desired traits were shared by both men and women: most people first look for intelligence, kindness and sense of humor, even before men mention beauty or women mention wealth and status.
So. It's possible that the ten-nation survey, at least, may have suffered from a self-selection bias if the respondents selected themselves into the study on the net. But I find it difficult to see in what direction that bias might go. People who like to respond to studies of that kind tend to hold stronger views on the questions. Whether those views are of the EP type or not is unclear to me.
I'd like to draw your attention to the part in the above quote I have bolded. In fact, the early evo-psycho studies arguing for innately different mating preferences by gender also found that other aspects of the potential partner mattered more than beauty or money. Which is nice, given the cartoonish nature of so much being published under that label.