intersectionality: gender x age

Flashback Friday.

The number crunchers at OK Cupid recently looked at how age preferences disadvantage older women on the site.  First, the post’s author, Christian Rudder, points out, the distribution of singles is pretty matched by sex at most ages:

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that women and men of the same age are reaching out to one another.

Women at most ages state a preference to date men who are up to eight years older or eight years younger:

But men show a decided preference for younger women, especially as the men get older:And, Rudder notes, men target their messages to women even younger than their stated preference.  In this figure, the greenest areas represent where men are sending more messages and the red areas are where they are sending less:

So, even though men and women are more-or-less proportionately represented on the site, men’s decided preference for younger women makes for many fewer potential dates for older women.

Here’s what the dating pool looks like for 21-year-olds (the blue = men seeking women who are 21; the pink = women seeking men who are 21):

For 25 year olds:

For 30 year olds:

Rudder offers this summary measuring how a person’s desirability changes over time:

He writes:

…we can see that women have more pursuers than men until age 26, but thereafter a man can expect many more potential dates than a woman of the same age. At the graph’s outer edge, at age 48, men are nearly twice as sought-after as women.

Thus opportunities for dating are shaped by the intersection of gender and age to the detriment of women over 26 and men under 26.

Originally posted in 2010.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

A new study on the differential earning power of male and female movie stars beings with a quote from Jennifer Jason Leigh:

It’s the nature of the business. People equate success with youth (source).

She’s half right.   Irene Pater and her co-authors looked at the pay of 265 actors and actresses who appeared in Hollywood films from 1968 to 2008.  They found that the average earnings of actors rises until the age of 51 and remains stable after that.  The average earnings of actresses, in contrast, peaks at 34 and decreases “rapidly thereafter.”

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Source: USA Today

Sarah Jessica Parker, then, was more on the mark:

There is still a discrepancy in earning power between men and women in Hollywood. And it becomes doubly unfair when you think of our earning potential in terms of years.  Actresses are like football players. They have a small window of prime earning ability (source).

So, is this sexism or just “market forces”?  That is, is female acting work devalued compared to men’s because people in positions of power don’t value women?  Or is it because casting women over 34 decreases box office returns, whereas casting older men does not?  Pater and her colleagues suggest that it’s sexism.  One study, they explain,

…actually examined the combined effect of gender and age on box office performance [and] revealed that casting a female lead older than 32 years of age does not influence a movie’s box office performance, whereas casting a male lead older than 42 decreases box office revenues by almost 17% (source).

So the presence of male actors in their forties and over decreases box office revenue, but they still get paid more than women of the same age.  In contrast, casting women in their mid-thirties and over doesn’t bring down profits, but she’s still less valuable in the eyes of producers.  Sexism sounds like a plausible explanation to me.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Robb S. sent along a great set of images from Vulture.  Using case studies of individual leading men in Hollywood, they show that the love interests cast in their films don’t age alongside them over the course of their careers.  Not convinced?  Here’s nine examples and one exception.  For fun, try to guess which leading man bucks the trend?  I’ll embed it last.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
And the exception is!
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Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

This post originally appeared on Sociological Images in 2009.

Emily D. sent us a link to a post by Flowing Data linking to multiple efforts to visualize crime data. One of them featured an illustration (I split it into four parts for easy viewing).  I’m sure the graphic elides details in the data, but I still think it’s interesting.  I challenged some of my preconceived notions about who dies by gun, and you may find it surprising too.

The data is from 2004.  That year, an average of 81 people died from a gunshot wound each day.  In the figures below, each bullet represents 81 deaths; grey bullets are homicides, pink suicides, and yellow accidents or being killed by a police officer.

(Methodological note: Differences in gun deaths by age group could be a matter of lifecycle or it could be a cohort effect.  Since this data is a snapshot and not longitudinal, it’s hard to tell.  Also, when you’re comparing age groups, it’s important to remember that people in these four age groups are not evenly distributed across the population.)

17

Five percent of the people who died due to guns was age 17 or younger (I say “only” advisedly).  People under 18 make up about 24% of the population.  Black men and white men are murdered at about the same rate (one a day, or one every 30 hours, respectively) which means that blacks are disproportionately victims of murder because they make up 12-13 percent of the population as opposed to the 80 percent of the population that is white.  Men are four times as likely as women to be killed. There were about half as many suicides as there were murders, and half as many accidents/police killings as well.

18-25

About 21 percent of all gun deaths were among people ages 18 to 25.  About 90 percent of all murder victims are men, and about half of those are black men.  Accidents/police action are occurring at about the same rate, but suicides have skyrocketed.  There are five times more suicides among people 18 to 25 than there were among those 17 and under.  Four-fifths of the people who choose to take their own life are white men (who make up less than 40% of the population).

26-391

People 26 to 39 years old accounted for 26 percent of gun deaths.  The murder rate has a similar racial distribution.  Like before, the rate of accidents/police killings have stayed the same.  But suicide rates have continued to climb.  There are nearly twice as many suicides among this age group as there were in the previous one.  The majority of these are white men.  One in nine was a woman.

40

Among those 40 and over (48 percent of all gun deaths occur to someone over 40), there is a stark increase in the number of suicides.  There were 2,430 suicides, compared to 1,215 suicides among all other age groups combined.   Eighty-three percent of these suicides are committed by white men.  Murder has finally decreased and the racial and gender distribution is less uneven than before.  There are twice as many accidents/police killings among this cohort.

Media portrayals of gun violence tends to highlight women who are murdered (especially if you watch crime and law TV shows), black on white violent crime (if you watch the news), youth violence (take your pick), and murder over suicide.   This graphic challenges all of those notions.

This site lets you parse out data for homicides in Philadelphia by gender, age, time of day, and weapon, and this site lets you parse out similar data for homicide in Los Angeles county.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

James Mollison, the photographer who brought us Where Children Sleep, has a fantastic series called The Disciples in which he captures die-hard music fans (he calls them “tribes”).  The results are a great example of the power of sub-culture.

 

Mollison photographed fans of Madonna, Iron Maiden, Kiss, Dolly Parton, 50 Cent, The Casualties, and many more. You should go check out them all..

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Philip Cohen posted some interesting data at his blog, Family Inequality, that I think will look at first blush, counterintuitive to many.  The figure below shows the percent of men’s income that women bring home, organized by age bracket and level of education.  The top bar, for example, tell us that, among 45-50 year olds with advanced degrees, women make 68% of what men do.

Two observations:

First, notice that women with more education (the lighter bars in each age bracket) do worse compared to men than women with less education.  That is, the gender inequity is worse in the upper classes than it is in the lower classes.   Why?  Well, people tend to marry other with similar class and education backgrounds.  Accordingly, women with more education may be married to men with higher earning potential than women with less education. Those women are more able to make work-related choices that don’t foreground economics, since their income is less central to the financial health of the couple.  They are also more likely to take substantial amounts of time out of the workforce when they have kids (working class women can’t afford to do so as easily), and we know that doing so makes a real dent in career advancement.  So, perhaps ironically, women who are “richer” educationally may marry economically richer men who then allow them to deprioritize their careers.

Second, notice that the most equal incomes (where women make 85% of men’s salaries) occurs among the youngest and least educated group: 25-34 year old high school drop outs.  Why would younger women do better relative to men than older women?  Some of this may be due to a decrease in gender-based discrimination.  But it also likely has something to do with the devaluation and disappearance of traditionally working-class men’s work.  Most of the narrowing of the gender wage gap, in fact, has to do with the lowering of men’s earning power to meet women’s, not vice versa.  As the industrial base in the U.S. has been collapsing, the number of historically-male blue collar jobs have been shrinking.  Meanwhile, our industrial economy has been replaced by one split between (well compensated) information/technology and (poorly compensated) service jobs.  Those service jobs are going disproportionately to women.  So, while men still dominate (especially the most well-regarded and well-compensated) upper class professions, their dominance in the lower rungs of the economic ladder is waning.

Thanks again to Philip Cohen for the data!

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Cross-posted at Ms. and Family Inequality.

In the early 1990s, Arline Geronimus proposed a simple yet profound explanation for why Black women on average were having children at younger ages than White women, which she called the “weathering hypothesis.”

It goes like this: Racial inequality takes a cumulative toll on Black women, increasing the chance they will have health problems at younger ages. So, early childbearing might pose health risks for White women, but for Black women it makes more sense to start earlier — before their health declines. Although it’s hard to measure the motivations of people having children, her suggestion was that early childbearing reflected a combination of cumulative cultural wisdom and individual adaptation (for example, reacting to the health problems experienced by their 40-something mothers).

She showed the pattern nicely with data from Michigan in 1989, in which the percentage of first births that were “very low birthweight,” increased with the age of Black women, but decreased for White women, through their twenties:

Source: My graph from Geronimus (1996).

If the hypothesis is correct, she reasoned, the pattern would be stronger among poor women, who experience more health problems, which is also what she found.

The most recent national data, for 2007, continue to show Black women have their first children, on average, younger than White women: age 22.7 versus 26.0. And the infant mortality rates, by mothers’ age, also show the lowest risk for White women at older ages than for Black women:

Source: My graph from CDC data.

Note that, for White women, mothers have children in the early thirties face less than half the infant-mortality risk of those having children as teenagers. For Black women, waiting till their lowest-risk age — the late 20s — yields only a 14% reduction in infant mortality risk. So it looks like waiting is much more important for White women, at least as far as health conditions are concerned.

The implications are profound. If you base your perceptions on the White pattern, it makes sense to discourage early childbearing for health reasons. But if you look at the Black pattern, it becomes more important to try to improve health problems at early ages — and all the things that contribute to them — rather than (or in addition to) trying to delay first births.

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Cohen’s previous posts featured on SocImages include ones on the recession and divorce datathe relationship between cell phone use and driving deathsmeasuring the number of welfare recipients, delusions of gender dimorphism, and the gender binary in children’s books.


Delia B. sent along this 80s-riffic, apocalyptic music video featuring Gossip Girl’s Taylor Momsen singing Make Me Wanna Die. Momsen is a 17-year-old teen idol who strips naked over the course of the video. Her naked body is eventually obscured, but not before we get a good look at her in her bra and underwear.

On the one hand, because Momsen is 17, one could argue that this video is encouraging the sexualization of underage girls and child pornography (which involves, by definition, children under age 18).

On the other hand, this video is, relatively speaking, pretty sexually tame.  I imagine that most Americans would not think that this would incite pedophiles and that many would argue that she’s perfectly old enough, given that she’s an actress/rock star, to be stripping down to her undies. Not to mention the fact that the average age of virginity loss in the U.S. is about 16.

The video is a great opportunity, then, to have a discussion about the social construction of age.  To start: What age is “too young” and what age “old enough”?  What’s the difference between 17 and 18?  Is the difference equally meaningful for everyone?  Should we codify such meanings into law?  And do today’s laws reflect our contemporary culture mores?  According to who?

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.