Tag Archives: nation: Germany

Global Attitudes toward Homosexuality

The Pew Research Global Attitudes Project recently released data on attitudes about homosexuality in 39 countries. Generally, those living in the Middle East and Africa were the least accepting, while those in the Americas, Europe, and parts of Asia (the Philippines, Australia, and to a lesser extent Japan) were most accepting:

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Generally, the more religious a country, the less accepting its citizens are of homosexuality:

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The proportion of people who support social acceptance of gays and lesbians ranged from a high of 88% in Spain to a low of 1% in Nigeria:

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Attitudes about homosexuality vary widely by age. There is a pretty consistent global pattern of more positive attitudes among younger people, with a few exceptions:

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Thus far, legalization of same-sex marriage has been largely confined to the Americas and Europe; New Zealand and South Africa are the two outliers:

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The Pew Center points out that of the 15 nations that have fully extended marriage rights to same-sex couples, 8 have done so just since 2010. In the U.S., we’re currently awaiting a Supreme Court’s decision, which should arrive shortly, to know if we’ll be joining the list sooner rather than later.

Thanks to Peter Nardi at Pitzer College for the link!

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

Money Doesn’t Bring Happiness? A Reconsideration with New Data

Cross-posted at Montclair SocioBlog.

Forty years ago Richard Easterlin proposed the paradox that people in wealthier countries were no happier than those in less wealthy countries.  Subsequent research on money and happiness brought modifications and variations, notably that within a single country, while for the poor, more money meant fewer problems, for the wealthier people — those with enough or a bit more — enough is enough.  Increasing your income from $100,000 to $200,000 isn’t going to make you happier.

It was nice to hear researchers singing the same lyrics we’ll soon be hearing in commencement speeches and that you hear in Sunday sermons and pop songs (“the best things in life are free”; “mo’ money mo’ problems”).  But this moral has a sour-grapes taste; it’s a comforting fable we non-wealthy tell ourselves all the while suspecting that it probably isn’t true.

A recent Brookings paper by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers adds to that suspicion.  Looking at comparisons among countries and within countries, they find that when it comes to happiness, you can never be too rich.

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Stevenson and Wolfers also find no “satiation point,” some amount where happiness levels off despite increases in income.  They provide US data from a 2007 Gallup survey:

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The data are pretty convincing.  Even as you go from rich to very rich, the proportion of “very satisfied” keeps increasing.  (Sample size in the stratosphere might be a problem: only 8 individuals reported annual incomes over $500,000;100% of them, though, were “very happy.”)

Did Biggie and Alexis get it wrong?

Around the time that the Stevenson-Wolfers study was getting attention in the world beyond Brookings, I was having lunch with a friend who sometimes chats with higher ups at places like hedge funds and Goldman Sachs.  He hears wheeler dealers complaining about their bonuses. “I only got ten bucks.”  Stevenson and Wolfers would predict that this guy’s happiness would be off the charts given the extra $10 million.  But he does not sound like a happy master of the universe.

I think that the difference is more than just the clash of anecdotal and systematic evidence.  It’s about defining and measuring happiness.  The Stevenson-Wolfers paper uses measures of “life satisfaction.”  Some surveys ask people to place themselves on a ladder according to “how you feel about your life.”  Others ask

All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole these days?

The GSS uses happy instead of satisfied, but the effect is the same:

Taken all together, how would you say things are these days – would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?

When people hear these questions, they may think about their lives in a broader context and compare themselves to a wider segment of humanity.  I imagine that Goldman trader griping about his “ten bucks” was probably thinking of the guy down the hall who got twelve.  But when the survey researcher asks him where he is on that ladder, he may take a more global view and recognize that he has little cause for complaint.  Yet moment to moment during the day, he may look anything but happy.  There’s a difference between “affect” (the preponderance of momentary emotions) and overall life satisfaction.

Measuring affect is much more difficult — one method requires that people log in several times a day to report how they’re feeling at that moment — but the correlation with income is weaker.

In any case, it’s nice to know that the rich are benefitting from getting richer.  We can stop worrying about their being sad even in their wealthy pleasure and turn our attention elsewhere.  We got 99 problems, but the rich ain’t one.

Jay Livingston is the chair of the Sociology Department at Montclair State University. You can follow him at Montclair SocioBlog or on Twitter.

Health Care Costs, Greed, and “Socialism”

Cross-posted at Montclair SocioBlog.

The Washington Post has provided some data on medical costs across a selection of countries (Argentina, Canada, Chile, and India in grey; France, Germany, Switzerland, and Spain in blue; and the U.S. in red). The data reveal that American health care is very expensive compared to other countries.

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No wonder the US spends twice as much as France on health care.  In 2009, the U.S. average was $8000 per person; in France, $4000.  (Canada came in at $4800).  Why do we spend so much?  Ezra Klein quotes the title of a 2003 paper by four health-care economists:  “it’s the prices, stupid.”

And why are US prices higher?  Prices in the other OECD countries are lower partly because of what U.S. conservatives would call socialism – the active participation of the government.  In the U.K. and Canada, the government sets prices.  In other countries, the government uses its Wal-Mart-like power as a huge buyer to negotiate lower prices from providers.  (If it’s a good thing for Wal-Mart to bring lower prices for people who need to buy clothes, why is it a bad thing for the government to bring lower prices to people who need to buy, say, an appendectomy? I could never figure that out.)

There may also be cultural differences between the U.S. and other wealthy countries, differences about whether greed, for lack of a better word, is good.  How much greed is good, and in what realms is it good?  Klein quotes a man who served in the Thatcher government:

Health is a business in the United States in quite a different way than it is elsewhere.  It’s very much something people make money out of. There isn’t too much embarrassment about that compared to Europe and elsewhere.

So we Americans roll along, paying several times what others pay for medical procedures, doctor visits, and drugs.

Jay Livingston is the chair of the Sociology Department at Montclair State University. You can follow him at Montclair SocioBlog or on Twitter.

International Data on Cosmetic Surgery

The  International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons has released new data on the incidence of invasive and non-invasive cosmetic procedures.  The U.S. leads in sheer numbers of procedures but, accounting for population, we fall into 4th place.  South Korea leads for the number of procedures per person, followed by Greece and Italy.

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By far the most common kinds of surgical cosmetic procedures are lipoplasty and breast augmentation.  Along with fat, breasts seem to be a particular concern: breast lifts and breast reductions for both men and women are also in the top ten.  Abdominoplasty, nose jobs, eyelid surgeries, and facelifts are as well.

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The incidence of these surgeries is strongly related to everything from the gender binary to global power dynamics.  In 2008 we reported that male breast reductions were the most common cosmetic surgery for 13-19 year olds (boys and girls combined). You would be shocked at what counts as excess breast tissue and how little the before and after photos look.  Boys and men getting breast reductions, alongside women getting augmentations, is obviously about our desire for men and women to be different, not naturally-occurring difference.  See The Story of My Man-Boobs for more.

Likewise, we’ve posted about surgeries that create an epithelial fold, a fold of skin in the eyelid more common in people with White than Asian ethnic backgrounds.  This surgery is a trend among Asians and Asian-Americans, as colonization has left us with an association between Whiteness, attractiveness, and power.

The Economist summarizes some other trends:

Breast augmentation, the second biggest surgical procedure, is most commonly performed in America and Brazil. Buttock implants are also a Brazilian specialty, as is vaginal rejuvenation. Asia is keen on nose jobs: China, Japan and South Korea are among the top five nations for rhinoplasty.

More on where and how many procedures are being performed, but nothing on why, at the ISAPS report.

Image at The Economist; via Global Sociology.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

“Bag Lady” Fashion in Vogue Germany

Today’s post marks the third time that we’ve highlighted a fashion-related appropriation of homelessness.  We saw it on America’s Next Top Model and in a catwalk show for a Vivienne Westwood collection.  This time it’s a fashion editorial in Vogue Germany in which a model poses as a “bag lady.”  Thanks to Ann Marie N. for sending it it.  I’ll put the comments after the images.

When homelessness is made into a fashion object, it trivializes the pain and suffering of the homeless, transporting the issue into “something hip adopted by the beautiful people.”   Dressing like a “bag lady” can only be understood as fashionable when it’s a purposeful choice.  As I wrote in a previous post about the topic, “actual homeless people are not and never will be ‘fashionable’ in this sense; they will always simply be homeless.”

Or, as Judith Williamson was quoted saying on Threadbared (a sociology and fashion blog):

It is currently “in” for the young and well-fed to go around in torn rags, but not for tramps to do so. In other words, the appropriation of other people’s dress is fashionable provided it is perfectly clear that you are, in fact, different from whoever would normally wear such clothes.

So, while the appropriation of homelessness in the fashion industry may look like an homage, really it’s just a way to further marginalize and “other” the actual homeless.  It’s a way for fashionable people to demonstrate difference from, not similarity to, actual homeless people.

For the same phenomenon with race and people from post-colonial countries, also see: whiteness in fashion, non-whites as fashion props, black bodies as propsexotification of people and places in fashion, Orthodox Jew-inspired fashion show, and exoticizing India in Vogue UK.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

The Price of Opportunity

Cross-posted at Montclair SocioBlog.

Back in June, Mitt Romney said:

I want to make sure that we keep America a place of opportunity, where everyone… get[s] as much education as they can afford

After all, Mitt got as much education as he (his parents, really) could afford, so he thought it best if everyone had that same opportunity.

Opportunity – How much is that in American money?

Yesterday, Planet Money  posted this graph showing the costs and benefits of a college education in several countries.

The title of the post summarizes the interpretation of the college-educated folks at Planet Money:

“College Costs More In America, But The Payoff Is Bigger”

But what if you look at the data from the other side?  Here’s the half-empty-glass title:

“College in the US Costs a Lot, and If You Can’t Afford It, You’re Really Screwed”

…or words to that effect.

What the chart seems to show is inequality — specifically, the inequality between the college educated and everyone else.  In advanced economies, like the those of the countries in the chart, education is important. But some of those countries, like the Scandinavian countries, have reduced the income sacrificed by non-college people relative to the college educated. Other countries favor a more unequal distribution of income.

To look a little closer, I looked at the relationship between the payoff of a BA degree for men and a country’s Gini coefficient, a measure of inequality.  I used the ten countries in the Planet Money chart and added another ten OECD countries.

The correlation is 0.44.  The US is the clear outlier.  In the land of opportunity, if you’re a male, either you pay the considerable price of going to college, or you pay the price for not going to college.

With this inequality come the kinds of social consequences that Charles Murray elaborates in his latest book about non-educated Whites — disability, divorce, demoralization, death.

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Jay Livingston is the chair of the Sociology Department at Montclair State University.  You can follow him at Montclair SocioBlog or on Twitter.

Boston.com Oktoberfest Slide Show Doesn’t Objectify Women

In 2010 we posted about a Boston.com slide show celebrating Oktoberfest.  We argued that, while many different types of men were included, the women pictured were overwhelmingly young and often had visible cleavage.  That is, the slideshow was an example of the sexual objectification of women.  In response, the slide show editor, Alan Taylor, sent us a note saying that, while he didn’t disagree and was sympathetic to our concern, he was limited by what photographs were available as well as their quality.

This year’s slide show, I noted pleasantly, had exactly zero gratuitous cleavage shots.  I thought I’d highlight it as an example of how not to sexually objectify women in an Oktoberfest slide show.

In other words, look! It’s possible to take pictures of young women in dirndls without showing tons of cleavage!
The only cleavage in the bunch:

MSNBC does a pretty good job too.  See also, Oktoberfest and Tradition.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Germany Attempts to Recruit Men into Child Care

Generally speaking, gender equality in the U.S. and other Western countries has involved women moving into men’s spheres.  We have not seen an equivalent migration of men into women’s spheres.  Accordingly, while women have integrated many male occupations (they are now, for example, 50% or more of law and medical students), many female-dominated ones remain heavily female.

This is perhaps nowhere more true than in early childhood education.  In a story about male childcare workers at Organizations, Occupations and Work, Lata Murti reports that only 5% of child care workers and 3% of pre-school teachers are male.  Numbers are also low in other Western countries.  In Germany, the average is 3.5% (and this includes all employees of child care centers, including custodians).

So, Spiegel Online reports, Germany has decided to try to do something about it.  Aiming to increase the percentage of men in child care to 20%, the government is spending 13 million Euros on a “More Men in Early Childhood Education and Care” program.

The state isn’t doing this, though, solely out of a passion for gender equality or a soft place in their heart for men holding babies.  They’re doing it because Germany has promised that there will be a spot in a day care center for all children when they turn one year old.  To fulfill this promise, they need more day care workers badly; recruiting men means that that other half of the population might fill out the profession.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.