Friday, October 15, 2010

Brawn, gender and human capital investment

Females are now more numerous than males in most levels of education, and they perform better in school. Why is that? One hypothesis is that there are biological differences that make that men are better at tasks that require force, while women are better when reasoning is asked for. This is the brawn versus brain hypothesis, and as todays economies indeed ask for more intelligence than brute force from their workers, women find more opportunities and better pay.

Mark Pitt, Mark Rosenzweig and Nazmul Hassan build a model of investment in human capital that differentiates genders. Better nutrition improves strength and education improves skills. Individuals make these choices, as well as in which activities to work. Using panel data from rural Bangladesh, they find that model is a reasonable description of reality. That is particularly interesting, because rural Bangladesh does not strike me as an economy where brain would dominate brawn. Also of interest is that improvements in health do not increase education for men, it may even reduce it, while women education clearly benefits from them. Thus policies that focus on health improvements are likely to improve women's schooling more than men's, lead to more occupational differentiation across genders, and a larger gender wag gap.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Women are much more docile, and amendable to hierarchical systems. Thus school comports with them more than men.

Kaushik Choudhury said...

Are women performing better on professional front although better in reasoning ? Well,I don't think so ... How many women are CEO, CFO or CTO of fortune 500 companies compare to men ?

Kansan said...

KC, that is more a distribution of skills thing: the variance is larger for men than women, thus the top has more men.

Kaushik Choudhury said...

@Kansan: doesn't better distribution increases the probability of success. Moreover men are equally over represented than women in lower positions in professional world.

Kansan said...

Machin and Pekkarinen, (Science, 2008) show that males have higher variance: they are more represented in both top and bottom tails of the IQ distribution. link (unfortunately gated)

In other words: there are more incredibly bright men than women, but there are also more incredibly stupid men than women.

Pooja Varma said...

I think these are just rumors that ladies can perform better those task which are based on decision making or reasoning better then men, as we all knows that ladies are not much emotional stable. This is just due to increasing the number of females in the world.

Anonymous said...

Pooja, I think you are spreading rumors. Kansan and EL present concrete studies.