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John Smith

Prof. Becker:

Your explanation is basically: women don't have enough time to do as well. But that relies on counterfactual unknowns. Maybe if women did have enough time, they'd still make different choices, or still get the same outomes. We don't know; there's no necessary reason that your explanation is correct. Though it's a very polite and courteous explanation.


Women have exactly the same amount of time men have (24 hours/day), the point is that they choose to spend more time in the home and less time in the labour market.

To say that we don't know what would happen if women worked more is kind of strange, clearly the rate of success goes up when you work more, for men and women alike. According to one study 49% of high-performing women i the US are childless, compared to 19% of the men (Hewlett, 2002). I doubt that is a mere coincidence.

What we don't know is if women would achieve *exactly* the same rate of success in the sciences if they made the same choises as men.
This seems unlikely to me, given the huge differences in tests scores.. However the fields where for example spatial ability matters are only a fraction of the scientific world, and there are plenty of fields where women probably could do as well or better than men.

Becker is however probably wrong when he writes that women work "as high or even higher" than men. If we believe the American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labour Statistics men work some 4% more than women do, even if we include work in the household and "caring for and helping household and non-household members" (maybe Becker uses other data).
Numbers are 6.5 hours/day vs. 6.23 hours for women.

Even if shopping is included completely as work men work slightly more than women. Women do spend more time in education, but the difference is clearly consumption as they use the education less in the labout market (I doubt it has much use in the household sector).


Beckers explanation is more helpful in some sense than Summers, if we belive that perception matters and that women need to be encouraged. Also I would guess women would be more receptive if you tell them they have different preferences than men compared to saying they have a biologically different distribution of IQ...

The feminists will hate both theories alike, one depends on biologi and the other on choice, two evil concepts in their world.

The unintellectual which hunt against Summers is completely disgraceful. It is sickening that he has to appolagise when he is completely right and the opponents are irrational fools, blinded by their flawed ideology. The NY-times was as objective as usual with their hit-peace on him last week. But on some level this is the price Suumers pays by hitching his wagon to the liberal left. What the heck did he expect?

james f. guyot

I agree that choice plays a large role in reducing the proportion who are female at the higher levels of science, but I believe there is a lot more explanatory power in the biologically based male variability of talent, or perhaps temperament, than you suggest by citing the growth of female representation in law, medicine. busness, and engineering. Consider law, where participation has surged but performance has not kept pace. In the days when women were less than ten percent of law students, they were an exceptionally selected set and their performance surpassed that of their male classmates in both LSAT scores at entry and grades at graduation.
Once women approached a more representative balance, in the 1980s, their exceptionalism evaporated and their relative performance as measured by proportions scoring in the top fifth or top tenth of the LSAT and proportions graduating in the top tenth of their class at ten top law schools such as Chicago sank below the male level. This is what one would expect where the male proportion increases in the top tail of the distribution of relevant talents.
I published this as an essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education in 1999 and updated it a bit at http://darwin.baruch.cuny.edu/faculty/guyot. Since then I've been engrossed in a program of preparing impoverished Myanmar young people to win scholarships to foreign colleges, but partial soundings taken from out here confirm the persistence of female underperformance in the new millenium at Harvard, Chicago, Duke, and other schools.


Prof. Becker,
just a brief question: is it possible that the more time women devote to child rearing and household production is because of a comparative advantage they have in such activities? So that biological differences arises at the moment of choosing the activity where an individual is more productive?


I was under the impression that Tom Sowell sorted all these questions out years ago.


The law is an extremely demanding profession, and requires long hours and a lot of intellectual and physical stamina, and often times, fierce competition.
In mate selection, it is advantegeous for the male to pursue hierarchical dominance often times regardless of thought outside the aims of that hierarchy; and often with the intention of being an attractive mate.
If you will allow me to point out the often times spontaneously erupting potential of male behavior, typically exclusive, of boys-only clubs, fraternities, gangs, hunting-parties and militias and that this was and is a claim made of law practice,
then it may be worth thinking that many women do not find this appealing for various reasons; despite intelligence and ability.
Of course, we cannot know how many given the constraints previously barring women from practicing law,but to operate law schools without handling that potential, we may invite other social difficulties, to which the law must then adapt as well.


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