Does Comparative Advantage Explain Sexism and Other “Isms”?

 

The principle of comparative advantage is extremely important to our lives, even if we cannot always explain it. Take, for example, children doing housework. Parents can do housework better and faster than their kids. But parents have a comparative advantage when it comes to making a living, and so functional families have parents focusing on earnings, and kids help out with housework.

The same principle has been used to explain why the US, despite having many advantages over other countries, leaves the lower-value work to foreign nations. It is sensible to focus on the areas in which we as a nation (and each region/state/family/individual) have a comparative advantage that lead to the greatest return. Yes, we manufacture higher quality goods than does China. But that does not mean we should manufacture all goods, and China none. Instead, we focus on making things for which we have a comparative advantage over China (like aerospace parts).

I think this applies to girls and boys in the sciences as well. In an Atlantic article from 2018:

In looking at test scores across 67 countries and regions, Stoet and Geary found that girls performed about as well or better than boys did on science in most countries, and in almost all countries, girls would have been capable of college-level science and math classes if they had enrolled in them.

    But when it comes to their relative strengths, in almost all the countries—all except Romania and Lebanon—boys’ best subject was science, and girls’ was reading. (That is, even if an average girl was as good as an average boy at science, she was still likely to be even better at reading.)

Which means that the difference in outcome is not due necessarily to sexism or racism (or other “ism”). It can be due to nothing more than rational application of comparative advantage by the individual making the choice. A girl who is equally good at nursing or coding may well choose nursing not because she cannot do coding, but because she thinks she has more to contribute if she becomes a nurse.

Of course, there is a preference element to this as well. Jordan Peterson summarizes that women tend to be interested in people and men tend to be more interested in things – and their career choices reflect that.  But it seems to me that Comparative Advantage is another way of explaining the same phenomena of having similar inputs that result in radically different outcomes.

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  1. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Heresy!

    • #1
  2. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I think we should ask Larry Summers. :) 

    • #2
  3. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    What, are you suggesting we should focus on results instead of meaningless parity?  What a concept!

    • #3
  4. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Clavius (View Comment):

    What, are you suggesting we should focus on results instead of meaningless parity? What a concept!

    The choice pathway should be available to all with performance deciding success.

    • #4
  5. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    To go back to the question posed in your title, the approaches or systems in place to foster or facilitate the placement of individuals in roles can have biases that are not relevant to the selection so those need to be detected and taken into account. But there are differences in the two biological sexes and there may be genetic difference in groups of people since there are actual observable differences in physical features and performance. 

    • #5
  6. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    This is why parental choice for children’s education is so important. I think affirmative action was an attempt in the mid-20th century to account for major disadvantages suffered by minorities in segregated public schools that proved to be very unequal in the public education product being delivered within a mandated education system.

    As this issue was dealt with at that time, affirmative action maybe helped. But then everything related to providing equal opportunity for all was co-opted by politics, I mean in the sense of political movements, and the outcome has been negative in almost all respects since. New approaches are needed to get the correct process in place that will lead to a better outcome all around.

    Arizona was doing well until they got this hack governor.

    • #6
  7. Red Herring Coolidge
    Red Herring
    @EHerring

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    This is why parental choice for children’s education is so important. I think affirmative action was an attempt in the mid-20th century to account for major disadvantages suffered by minorities in segregated public schools that proved to be very unequal in the public education product being delivered within a mandated education system.

    As this issue was dealt with at that time, affirmative action maybe helped. But then everything related to providing equal opportunity for all was co-opted by politics, I mean in the sense of political movements, and the outcome has been negative in almost all respects since. New approaches are needed to get the correct process in place that will lead to a better outcome all around.

    Arizona was doing well until they got this hack governor.

    One problem is that private schools get their teachers from the same teacher mills that produce government school teachers. 

    • #7
  8. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Red Herring (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    This is why parental choice for children’s education is so important. I think affirmative action was an attempt in the mid-20th century to account for major disadvantages suffered by minorities in segregated public schools that proved to be very unequal in the public education product being delivered within a mandated education system.

    As this issue was dealt with at that time, affirmative action maybe helped. But then everything related to providing equal opportunity for all was co-opted by politics, I mean in the sense of political movements, and the outcome has been negative in almost all respects since. New approaches are needed to get the correct process in place that will lead to a better outcome all around.

    Arizona was doing well until they got this hack governor.

    One problem is that private schools get their teachers from the same teacher mills that produce government school teachers.

    Yeah, that must change as well. That can be done. Accreditation processes probably, too.

    • #8
  9. Red Herring Coolidge
    Red Herring
    @EHerring

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Red Herring (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    This is why parental choice for children’s education is so important. I think affirmative action was an attempt in the mid-20th century to account for major disadvantages suffered by minorities in segregated public schools that proved to be very unequal in the public education product being delivered within a mandated education system.

    As this issue was dealt with at that time, affirmative action maybe helped. But then everything related to providing equal opportunity for all was co-opted by politics, I mean in the sense of political movements, and the outcome has been negative in almost all respects since. New approaches are needed to get the correct process in place that will lead to a better outcome all around.

    Arizona was doing well until they got this hack governor.

    One problem is that private schools get their teachers from the same teacher mills that produce government school teachers.

    Yeah, that must change as well. That can be done. Accreditation processes probably, too.

    Easier to move a mountain 

    • #9
  10. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    Yes, the concept of comparative advantage is relevant to career choice, and it’s surprising more hasn’t been written on this theme.

    As an example:  If a person has the ability to be a successful programmer or engineer at the 70% level (compared with other people in that field) but also has the ability to become a business-to-business sales rep at the 90% level, then he(she) will likely do better economically as a sales rep.  (Market conditions also matter, of course, as do personal preference)

    I know two women, one of whom started as a programmer and the other as a mathematician; they became salesmen and sales managers.  

     

     

     

     

    • #10
  11. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    David Foster (View Comment):

    Yes, the concept of comparative advantage is relevant to career choice, and it’s surprising more hasn’t been written on this theme.

    As an example: If a person has the ability to be a successful programmer or engineer at the 70% level (compared with other people in that field) but also has the ability to become a business-to-business sales rep at the 90% level, then he(she) will likely do better economically as a sales rep. (Market conditions also matter, of course, as do personal preference)

    I know two women, one of whom started as a programmer and the other as a mathematician; they became salesmen and sales managers.

    Well, that makes sense.  Women are better talkers and more socially oriented (so I hear).

    • #11
  12. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    David Foster (View Comment):

    Yes, the concept of comparative advantage is relevant to career choice, and it’s surprising more hasn’t been written on this theme.

    As an example: If a person has the ability to be a successful programmer or engineer at the 70% level (compared with other people in that field) but also has the ability to become a business-to-business sales rep at the 90% level, then he(she) will likely do better economically as a sales rep. (Market conditions also matter, of course, as do personal preference)

    I know two women, one of whom started as a programmer and the other as a mathematician; they became salesmen and sales managers.

    Using “salesmen” shows that you are a man of rare courage.  

    • #12
  13. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    iWe: Parents can do housework better and faster than their kids. But parents have a comparative advantage when it comes to making a living, and so functional families have parents focusing on earnings, and kids help out with housework.

    I’m convinced that the primary reason my parents had children was in order to do the housework. 

    • #13
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