Gender-equal parents are happier

Regrettably, gender equality is often seen as a women’s issue. The dominant notion seems to be that we should embrace equality for the sake of women, and that gender equality is a zero-sum game where women gain at men’s expense. In economic terms this is of course bogus; the labor market, for instance, is not a zero-sum game, and just as immigrants can fare well on the labor market without hurting natives so can women without making men worse off. The notion does not hold up in non-economic terms either. The following graph is an evaluation of about 5,000 Swedish parents’ level of happiness from 1990 to 2000 based on how they chose to divide the paid parental leave days that every parent is entitled to.




What the inverted-U relationship in the chart shows is that parents who share paid parental leave days unequally (mothers take all the 480 paid parental leave days and fathers take 0 days, just to play by the stereotype), have on average lower levels of subjective well-being than parents who embrace gender equality. Gender equality is not only associated with higher wealth and economic growth (while controlling for other factors), but also with higher levels of happiness.

Simon Hedlin

Prostitution laws and sex trafficking in the European Union

The following graph shows the average number of identified and presumed sex trafficking victims per million people in the European Union’s (EU) 28 member states in 2008, 2009, and 2010, sorted by the type of prostitution laws each country had. The countries have been divided into four groups depending on whether their prostitution laws punish only those who sell sex, neither sellers nor buyers, both sellers and buyers, or only those who buy sex. Data on sex trafficking is from the EU’s own harmonized dataset on trafficking and data on prostitution laws is based on the US Department of State’s Human Rights Reports.

ImageAs can be seen in the chart, countries who only punish sex buyers had, on average, lower prevalence of sex trafficking than countries with any other type of prostitution laws. Those who punish only those who sell sexual services (which morally, of course, is wicked since one then risks ending up de facto prosecuting the trafficking victims for selling, but not their buyers for buying) have, on average, the highest trafficking prevalence.

The descriptive results in this chart are in line with the so-called “demand model” that draws on basic microeconomic lessons and predicts lower prevalence of sex trafficking when sex buyers are targeted because that approach supposedly pushes down demand for purchased sex and makes trafficking less profitable.

Simon Hedlin

Excerpt from “The Webern Variations”

What to make of a season’s end,
the drift of cold drawn down
the hallways of the night,
the wind pushing aside the leaves?


The vision of one’s passing passes,
days flow into other days,
the voice that sews and stitches
again picks up its work


And everything turns and turns
and the unknown turns into the song
that is the known, but what in turn
becomes of the song is not for us to say

- Mark Strand

Positiv särbehandling cementerar fördomar

The following op-ed was published today in the Swedish newspaper called Svenska Dagbladet:

”Stopp!” Jag vänder mig om. ”Du är kines, eller hur?” frågar tullvakten. Jag har precis anlänt till Frankfurts flygplats från Boston. ”Nej, jag är svensk”, svarar jag. ”Men du har rest hit från Kina, eller hur?” gissar han felaktigt medan han genomsöker mitt bagage. Jag ser hur alla andra asiatiska passagerare stoppas. Utfrågningen fortsätter. ”Vad är din bärbara dator värd? När köpte du den?” Vakterna är på jakt efter asiater som smugglar teknikprodukter.

Den tyska tullens fokus på etnicitet påminner om en pågående debatt i USA om ”stop-and-frisk”, vilket innebär att den amerikanska polisen stoppar människor på gatan och muddrar dem i syfte att förebygga brott. Miljoner har stoppats de senaste åren. De flesta tillhör etniska minoriteter och är oskyldiga. Skillnaden mellan de amerikanska poliserna och de tyska tullvakterna är att amerikanerna främst genomsöker afroamerikaner efter vapen i stället för asiater i jakt på teknikprodukter.

Stop-and-frisk har kritiserats för att negativt särbehandla minoriteter. Men är positiv särbehandling bättre? En annan aktuell fråga i USA är den om ”affirmative action” som leder till att personer från underrepresenterade etniska grupper blir antagna till universitetet trots lägre betyg och sämre testresultat än snittet. Många är för affirmative action, men emot stop-and-frisk. Men att muddra etniska minoriteter för att vi är överrepresenterade i brottsstatistiken är faktiskt -jämförbart med att låta oss gå före i kön till universitetet för att vi är underrepresenterade i utbildningsstatistiken. Båda behandlingarna kollektiviserar individer utifrån etnicitet.

Etniska minoriteter möter fördomar varje dag. Ett exempel ges av USA:s tidigare arbetsmarknadsminister Hilda Solis, vars föräldrar invandrade från Mexiko och Nicaragua. Solis berättar för mig att hennes studievägledare på gymnasiet ansåg att hon på grund av sin bakgrund inte var lämpad att läsa på universitetet. Affirmative action riskerar dessvärre att cementera fördomen om hispanics som okvalificerade för högre utbildning på samma sätt som stop-and-frisk befäster stereotypen av våldsamma afroamerikaner. Dessutom är positiv särbehandling något av en motsägelse eftersom att ge preferenser till en viss grupp automatiskt leder till att alla andra grupper särbehandlas negativt.

Frågan om positiv särbehandling dyker upp även i svensk debatt – nu senast om könskvotering till bolagsstyrelser. Har kvoteringsivrarna glömt hur mycket gemensamt den positiva särbehandlingen har med den negativa?

Simon Hedlin Larsson studerar public policy vid Harvard University och är adopterad från Taiwan.

Fractionalization and flawed data

Ethnic and cultural fractionalization have become popular concepts in the social sciences. Intuitively, one may hypothesize that more fractionalized countries are more prone to ethnic conflicts and civil war, which is why there has been a stream of papers published on this topic. However, one may question the data that such research uses.

The popular fractionalization dataset that Alesina et al. have developed was supposed to ameliorate many of the problems that previous data have suffered from. Nevertheless, this dataset also seems to have major drawbacks . First of all, like most fractionalization datasets, it lacks a time dimension. Estimating correlation at one fixed point in time naturally yields less powerful results than an analysis that estimates the relationship over time. The question “Does ethnic fractionalization increase the probability of civil war?” is likely best answered by instead directly approaching the question “Does increased ethnic fractionalization over time increase the probability of civil war?”

A second problem is that many countries in the dataset are coded in terms of “citizenship fractionalization” rather than ethnic fractionalization, and there is no consistency or rationale for this coding. For example, Finland – according to the data – is considered more fractionalized than Sweden because the 6 percent Swedes in Finland are counted as an ethnic minority, whereas all Western Europeans in Sweden are considered part of the ethnic majority. So Swedes in Finland increase the fractionalization in Finland, but Finns in Sweden decrease the fractionalization in Sweden. Or in other words, if a Danish family moves to Finland, it will increase Finland’s fractionalization, but if the same family moves to Sweden, it will decrease it.

Simon Hedlin

Ernest Hemingway on New York

New York looked very beautiful on the lower part around Broad and Wall streets where there is never any light gets down except streaks and the damnedest looking people. All the time I was there I never saw anybody even grin. There was a man drawing on the street in front of the stock exchange with yellow and red chalk and shouting ‘He sent his only begotten son to do this. He sent his only begotten son to die on the tree. He sent his only begotten son to hang there and die.’ A big crowd standing around listening. Business men you know. Clerks, messenger boys. ‘Pretty tough on de boy.’ Said a messenger boy absolutely seriously to another kid. Very fine. There are really some fine buildings. New ones. Not any with names that we’ve ever heard of. Funny shapes. Three hundred years from now people will come over from Europe and tour it in rubber neck wagons. Dead and deserted like Egypt. It’ll be Cooks most popular tour.

Wouldn’t live in it for anything.

Homogeneity, nationalism, and education

What can American educators learn from Finland, South Korea, and Poland? asks Amanda Ripley in her latest book. Ripley points out that good teachers lead to better schools that can be given more autonomy. This creates a virtuous cycle, where greater autonomy further improves the quality of the education that the schools provide. However, this is something we already know. There is also virtually a consensus regarding the proposition that focusing on underachieving students in general increase average educational outcomes.

But Finland, South Korea, and Poland have other important things in common that probably explain part of their culture with respect to education, which Ripley should spend more time investigating. These three countries are very homogenous, fairly small, and have in modern times been occupied, fighting wars on their own soil, and/or threatened by attacks from foreign powers.

Simon Hedlin