Is there gender inequality in education (or anywhere else)?

I stumbled across this on the web today, courtesy of Mark Perry / Carpe Diem, and had to share it, because it does a good job of illustrating the perceived gender inequality in education.

57% of students in postsecondary education are men.

52% of students in gifted and talented education programs in 2009 were boys.

In 2009-10, men received 62% of all associate’s degrees, 57% of of all bachelor’s degrees, 62% of all master’s degrees, and 53% of all doctorate degrees.

One would read that and likely say it is conclusive evidence that women are under-represented in education, and there is gender inequality against them.

However, that would be a lie. In copying the above from the source, I changed all references from women to men. The actual facts should read as follows:

57% of students in postsecondary education are women.

52% of students in gifted and talented education programs in 2009 were girls.

In 2009-10, women received 62% of all associate’s degrees, 57% of of all bachelor’s degrees, 62% of all master’s degrees, and 53% of all doctorate degrees.

To show the same in a table:

  # of Men # of Women
Postsecondary Education 10 13
Gifted and Talented Education Programs 10 11
Associate’s Degrees 10 16
Bachelor’s Degrees 10 13
Master’s Degrees 10 16
Doctorate Degrees 10 11

Obviously, there are many reasons for this, some of which are:

What does this mean? To me, it means this: men and women are interested in different things, have different goals, and make different choices in life. Men make choices such as military service (or crime) more than women; they choose to be firefighters (98% male) and engineers (89% male), whereas women choose to be teachers (about 85% female), social workers (81% female), and registered nurses (94% female).

So is there a “gender gap”? No more than there is a “pet acceptance gap.” Consider the differences in dog and cat acceptance in U.S. households, where there are 10% more cats than dogs in U.S. households. Why? Because cats and dogs are different, so people accept them differently, and in different numbers.

The bottom line: There are gender differences; the gaps are created by those differences.

Disclaimer: Obviously, there are specific instances where men and/or women are unfairly treated in education, or in certain professions, or in certain social circles. This commentary is not to focus on the individual experience, but on the experience as a whole. Though there may be injustice in life at times, it does not mean that all of life is unjust. And, of course, correlation does not imply causality.

Comparing the cost of signing and implementing legislation

Legislator 1: “Let’s create a new law that creates an emergency phone number for health care emergencies, just like 911!”
Legislator 2: “Awesome, I’ve just drafted it, let’s use ‘011’!”
Legislator 3: “OK, it’s passed!”

Cost for legislators to sign their name to the bill: trivial.
Cost for compliance and implementation: priceless.

Beer and Taxes

The following has been circulated around for a long time. It just resurfaced to me, and I wanted to share it! I wish I knew who to credit it to. :(

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100.
If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this…

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing
The fifth would pay $1
The sixth would pay $3
The seventh would pay $7
The eighth would pay $12
The ninth would pay $18
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59

So, that’s what they decided to do.

The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve ball. “Since you are all such good customers,” he said, “I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20″. Drinks for the ten men would now cost just $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men ? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his fair share?

They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer.

So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by a higher percentage the poorer he was, to follow the principle of the tax system they had been using, and he proceeded to work out the amounts he suggested that each should now pay.

And so the fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% saving).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% saving).
The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28% saving).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% saving).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% saving).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% saving).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But, once outside the bar, the men began to compare their savings.

“I only got a dollar out of the $20 saving,” declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man,”but he got $10!”

“Yeah, that’s right,” exclaimed the fifth man. “I only saved a dollar too. It’s unfair that he got ten times more benefit than me!”

“That’s true!” shouted the seventh man. “Why should he get $10 back, when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks!”

“Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in unison, “we didn’t get anything at all. This new tax system exploits the poor!”

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night the tenth man didn’t show up for drinks so the nine sat down and had their beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn’t have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

On Snow Removal and Garbage Collection

(Cross-posted on the Staten Island Libertarian Party web site.)

Like most people, I struggled to get around after the snow storm hit. On Monday Dec 27, I checked the MTA web site, which said “Good Service” for all express bus routes. Walking to the bus stop (Arden Ave & Drumgoole Rd), I saw one bus, stuck at the intersection, unable to get up the hill at Arden Ave. I then walked to the train station. The platform was nicely shoveled, and the waiting area was open, and there were signs that a train came by at some point (the rails themselves had little snow on them). No sign was posted about services (or lack thereof). After about an hour, myself and other people waiting started to give up. One person, after repeated attempts, got through to someone at the MTA, who said service wasn’t running at all, and they have no idea when it will be running. I stopped at a local deli (which of course was open), bought a coffee and egg sandwich, and walked back home.


The amount of work to deal with a significant snowfall is tremendous. Staten Island was reported to get between 18 and 29 inches (varying reports I’ve gotten from different news sources). A news report stated that “every inch of snow costs $1 million to remove”. Keeping trains and buses moving, and streets clear, is a lot of work for a lot of people.

It took two to three days, but things started to return to normal, thanks in part to hard-working public sector workers and hard-working residents (like me, who dug a trench through the hard-packed snow at the end of my block so the snow melt can work its way towards a sewer and not create street and sidewalk flooding). At least, MOST things returned to normal.

Garbage pickup has been suspended since December 25 (the Christmas holiday), and has not resumed until January 3 — a span of NINE days, including two major holidays. I can understand the difficulty in cleaning up snow AND picking up garbage, especially when the same group of people do both. Recycling, however, is not resuming today. The Dept. of Sanitation can not give an estimate as to when recycling pickup will resume.

My garbage pickup days are Wednesday and Saturday, with Saturday being the recycle day. So, assuming my garbage pickup resumes on Wednesday of this week, I will have gone 14 days without garbage pickup. Assuming my recycling will not be picked up this Saturday (since recycling pickup is suspended until further notice), I will have gone 21 days without recycling pickup.

I called 311 last night to find out what I’m supposed to do with my recycling. A summary of the dialog follows:

Me: “Do I put out the recycling with my normal garbage?” ”
311: “No, you still have to recycle.”
Me: “But no one is coming to pick up the recycling.”
311: “Correct, you can’t put it out with the regular garbage. You still have to recycle.”
Me: “So where am I supposed to put three weeks worth of recycling?”

311: “I don’t know.”

In the week since the snowstorm hit, I have seen plenty of private garbage companies and carting companies hauling commercial trash. They do this because (1) they get paid to do it, and (2) people who hire them get fined if they don’t do it. There’s an incentive to pick up the trash — as there should be; keeping trash off the streets is important.

Also in the past week, I have seen garbage trucks driving up and down streets of Staten Island — with a plow affixed to the front. Is there any reason why these trucks can’t also pick up garbage? They’re already going down the street, aren’t they? Even more perplexing was the garbage truck (with plow) driving in my neighborhood, with a salt truck (with plow) directly behind it. Why do you need to send a garbage truck with a plow to escort a salt truck with a plow? Can’t the garbage truck go to another block that needs plowing — or, better yet, pick up garbage?

The reason why private carting can do its job where others can’t is that there is no incentive for the Department of Sanitation to pick up trash. They don’t get fined if they don’t do it; in fact, if you put your garbage out and they don’t pick it up, and you leave it at the curb, they’ll fine YOU for leaving garbage out. They can get around to it when they get around to it, because they know the residents can’t fire them for a job poorly done.

Which is why I want out. I no longer need the services of the Department of Sanitation. I will take care of my own garbage. I’ll find a company to take it. Maybe I’ll have to transport it to them, or maybe they’ll transport it to me. In fact, one of my neighbors expressed interest in the same. So we’ll hire a company to pick up the trash on our block. I’ll take the money spent off my NYC tax bill, since I no longer use those city services. The Dept of Sanitation can now focus on keeping the city street clean (the street I pay taxes to maintain), but they don’t have to stop at my house any more — or perhaps, on my block. Maybe I’ll get two blocks, or heck, maybe my entire neighborhood to join me. I’m sure some private companies would love the opportunity to take residential garbage for a fee, and the competition would be welcome.

Does this sound crazy? It shouldn’t. Earlier in 2010, Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith said he wouldn’t rule out fees for residential garbage pickup. Prior to 1957, the city picked up commercial garbage; things changed in 1957 when the city opted out of that business (much to the happiness of organized crime). Crafty ways to handle residential garbage is already happening in other places (Toronto, New Jersey).

It should happen here, too.

The cost of mandating rear-view cameras on cars

(Cross-posted on the Staten Island Libertarian Party web site.)

This morning, I read a news headline from the LA Times which read, “Rear-view cameras on cars could become mandatory.” An excerpt follows.

The federal government wants automakers to install back-up cameras in all new vehicles starting in late 2014.

Rear-view camera on a car, courtesy of Motor Trend

The plan, announced Friday, received a strong endorsement from insurance industry and other analysts and is likely to get some level of support from car manufacturers.

Of course car manufacturers will support it; it brings in significant revenue. The same article states, “The rear-view camera system adds about $400 to the price of a Ford.”

As per the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, new car sales have averaged around 7.5 million per year for the past ten years. 7.5 million cars at $400 a pop is an additional $3 billion a year. Granted, technology will reduce the cost of implementation, but we’re still looking at lots of money here.

And what do we get for our money? The LA Times article also states, “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that, on average, 292 fatalities and 18,000 injuries occur each year as a result of back-over crashes.” That’s $164,000 per fatality or injury (assuming the $3 billion cost.) Or, $3 million per fatality and $118,000 per injury. Seems expensive to me. Couldn’t we install a device on cars which create an audible beeping sound when the car is in reverse? After all, it’s on most large trucks, specifically to mitigate the same problem (look out, a big vehicle is backing up). I’d imagine such a device would be much cheaper than $400 per car, and would likely have a similar effect on reducing injuries and accidents while moving in reverse.

Want a more effective solution? Tell your lawmakers to legalize a driver’s side mirror which eliminates blind spots (source: Scientific American). Yes, such a device has been patented since 1994, which, according to the patent, would help eliminate up to “4 percent of vehicular accidents in 1994″ caused by merges and lane changes. It’s illegal because “current federal safety standards for motor vehicles require driver’s side mirrors to be of ‘unit magnification’” — in other words, flat. Sure, it won’t solve the rear-view problem, but maybe it would solve a bigger problem — at a lower cost.

More government-inspired inefficiency. Let’s hope this one dies before it becomes law.