Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics: Women Do All the Work, But Men Keep All the Money

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Next in Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics Series: Part 9: The BMI
Previous in Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics Series: Part 7: Roger Maris’ Asterisk
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Barber Conable Jr made the following statement sometime ago that may be the most absolutely ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard:

Women do two thirds of the world’s work. Yet they earn only one tenth of the world’s income and own less than one percent of the world’s property.

It has, unfortunately, been oft-repeated as if the very fact it was once said lends it credibility. Singer Annie Lennox regurgitated it, as well as some other fallacious statistics best saved for another time, and concluded:

It shocks, disappoints and angers me that in a world where man has traveled to the moon and where we can connect to people anywhere on earth instantly online, men and women are still not equal.

Ahh, the old “if we can put a man on the moon” line. And hey, why haven’t we put a woman on the moon? Neil Armstrong = misogynist. Gee, we men sure are evil.

Back in reality, the only thing interesting about this statistic is how embarrassingly false it is.

Let’s start with wealth. OK, according to the Wall Street Journal there is a total of $140 trillion dollars of wealth in the world. This number is surely a bit speculative, but it should be close enough to work off of. Now the United States has $47.6 trillion of that, or 33.4%.

Now let’s look at how that wealth is distributed only in the United States (the United States is all I need to refute this nonsense). This data from the St. Louis Fed is a bit old and yes, you’re not supposed to compare different statistics across time. Still, the data comes from about the time this assertion was made and the ratios haven’t changed considerably, so it will illustrate the point:

As one can see, the vast majority of wealth is owned by married couples. Women without children even have more than men without children (primarily because men die younger (do you have anything to say about this Annie?) and women thereby take over the family’s financial assets). The large majority of the wealth owned by single men and women is that owned by the elderly who have been widowed, not the young who are just entering the workforce. And since single men and women with children have such paltry sums, it makes almost no difference. Even though marriage is on the decline, 49.7% of people over the age of 18 are married as of 2005 (in 1992, 54.8% were married).

Do women who are married have no wealth? If so, someone certainly forgot to tell the divorce courts. Legally speaking, in the United States, married couples co-own their assets. Thereby, women own at least half the wealth of married couples, and own slightly more than half of the wealth of singles (especially given the fact that women make up 51% of the population). Well, if women own or co-own half of the wealth of the United States, which owns 33.4% of the world’s wealth, then women own at least 16.7% of the world’s wealth, even if only women in the United States owned anything. But hey, it’s all relative; some people may consider it “close enough” being off by only 1670% after discussing one of the world’s 190 some countries.

Hell, even if you boiled it down to just single women, who, according to the St. Louis Fed in 1992, made up 29.1% of the American population (7.4% with children and 21.7% without) they would still have, according to my calculations, 14.1% of the wealth. 14.1% of 33.4% is 4.7%. So if we only counted single women in the United States, women would still own 4.7%, not 1%, of the world’s wealth.

And if we add the Euro Zone ($26.6 trillion), the U.K. ($6.7 trillion), the rest of Western Europe ($3.6 trillion) and New Zealand, Canada and Australia ($5.0 trillion), the total comes to $89.3 trillion. Since marriage is considered effectively the same in all those countries (both parties co-owning the assets), women own probably slightly more than half of that as well, or at least $44.65 trillion or 31.9%. Add in Japan ($17.3 trillion), which has alimony and child support by the way, and you’re over 40%.

Laws may not be fair to women in Middle Eastern and African countries, or perhaps even China, other Asian countries and Latin American countries. But if you consider that wealth co-owned, women probably own about half and possibly slightly over half of the world’s wealth. But how do you count it? I would say a woman living under the shackles of Sharia Law should not be “counted as having wealth in marriage.” But a woman in China who’s married, yeah I would probably count that. And the Middle East is so poor it hardly makes a dent in the statistics.

So where did they get this ridiculous statistic from? Well, nowhere it appears. According to the Wikipedia entry on the subject “…although oft-cited and used as a slogan this statement seems not to be supported by any data.” No kidding.

This is nothing new for the more vulgar feminists among us. At least the wage gap is simply being interpreted incorrectly. I can’t say that about the one under discussion here or other such femstats. In 1993, the media “watchdog/make-stuff-up” group FAIR decided by fiat that domestic violence rates rose astronomically on the day of the Super Bowl. No evidence was necessary (because none existed). A big scare began that 150,000 women die each year from anorexia. The actual number, maybe 100, at the most (Who Stole Feminism?, Pg. 11-12). Tragic still, but only about 1/1000th to 1/3000thas tragic. Lenore Weitzman claimed in her extremely influential book The Divorce Revolution that after divorce women saw their standard of living go down 73% while men’s went up 42%. But as John Stossel noted:

…Arizona State University psychologist Sanford Braver set out initially to examine the reasons for the shocking data… [but instead] was surprised to discover that the Weitzman figures were wrong, the result of a mathematical error. Weitzman later admitted she was wrong… [in fact] men and women come out almost exactly equally. (Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity)

Then there’s Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore. When they aren’t making bad movies or pledging to serve their president, they are on a crusade because, as Kutcher says,  ”there are between 100,000 and 300,000 child sex slaves in the United States today.”  That sounds horrible. But the study they (and many others) cite actually concluded 100,000 to 300,000 kids were “at risk” of being forced into prostitution. The study included all runaways as being at risk, even though almost 80% return home in less than a week.

Of course their critics aren’t perfect. I’ve mentioned the college gap nonsense and the old cliche of women being bad drivers isn’t exactly born out by the fact that men get into more accidents. I think we’re just more reckless, though (not that that makes it any better).

Anyways, back to the matter at hand, the other two parts are little better. With income we go from an outright falsehood to a partially outright falsehood and partially spurious conclusion. Women in the United States now make up about half the labor force. As stated in my article on the wage gap, women earn about 77% of what men do.  U.S. GDP is $14.2 trillion and the world’s is $58.3 trillion. Let’s use that as a rough estimate for wages (again, imperfect I know). If women make up 50% of the labor force and earn 77% of what men do, they earn 43.5% of American income. U.S. GDP is 24.3% of the world’s and the overall income is roughly equivalent in ratio. That would mean women in the United States earn 10.6% of the world’s income by themselves. Include the rest of the Western and Asian countries and you come up with something that’s certainly above 30% and probably pretty close to 40%.

Furthermore, what does income even mean? Feminists like to say that housewives do “unpaid labor.” But how so? Do housewives starve? Or do their husbands actually pay them just without direct compensation (again, the courts recognize them as co-owning the families assets). After all, women make some 80% of a family’s financial decisions. So how exactly is she unpaid? Since some families still go by traditional or semi-traditional roles—and many countries do to a much greater extent—even if the statistic were true, which it isn’t, it would still be spurious.

Finally, we have the work difference. My guess is this is based off something like The Second Shift by Arlie Hochschild. In her book, she claimed that working women still have to do all of the chores associated with being a housewife and men weren’t helping anymore than in the past. Of course this assumes working men and working women work the same amount outside the home. They don’t. Men work more away from home and women work more in home. Even so, Hochschild neglected to include all sorts of things in her “calculations” that men typically do, from barbecuing to financial management. Oops.

Recent studies have shown repeatedly that men and women work about the same amount when you include everything. Both Time Magazine and The New York Times have come out and said so. And when we go outside the United States, a major study concluded the same thing. Joel Walfgagel summarized the methodology and findings as follows:

Three economists, Michael Burda of Humboldt University in Berlin, Daniel Hamermesh of the University of Texas, and Philippe Weil of the Free University of Brussels have analyzed data from surveys in 25 countries that ask people how they spend their time. Some of the countries are rich, like the United States and Germany, some are poor, like Benin and Madagascar, and some are in the middle, like Hungary, Mexico, and Slovenia. The people surveyed were asked to fill in diaries indicating how they spend each segment of their day.

…Throughout the world, men spend more time on market work, while women spend more time on homework. In the United States and other rich countries, men average 5.2 hours of market work a day and 2.7 hours of homework each day, while women average 3.4 hours of market work and 4.5 hours of homework per day. Adding these up, men work an average of 7.9 hours per day, while women work an average of—drum roll, please—7.9 hours per day. This is the first major finding of the new study. Whatever you may have heard on The View, when these economists accounted for market work and homework, men and women spent about the same amount of time each day working. The averages sound low because they include weekends and are based on a sample of adults that included stay-at-home parents as well as working ones, and other adults.

Equality. Yay!

Photo Credit: Direct Radio Sation Blog and St. Louis Federal Reserve

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Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics Series

Part 1: A Primer
Part 2: Income Stagnaton
Part 3: All Fiat Currencies Fail
Part 4: Iraq War Casualties
Part 5: Female-Male College Gap
Part 6: Male-Female Wage Gap
Part 7: Roger Maris’ Asterisk
Part 8: Women Do All the Work but Men Keep All the Money
Part 9: The BMI
Part 10: A College Degree is Worth One Million Dollars

14 Comments

  • JEHR


    Sir, you could have saved yourself a lot of trouble by using any African country for your example. There, the women do indeed do most of the labour, crop planting and harvesting, and raising children and cooking and keeping the house. You cannot use the US as your example alone. There is a whole world out there where women do not receive remuneration for their work. I think that it is that kind of work that is not paid that makes the statement true. Even in the US, women are not paid for housecleaning, cooking, raising children, etc. They are paid when they work outside the home. Women are grossly underpaid in either case.

  • Andrew


    JEHR, read the article again. I mention that at least in Middle Eastern countries, women aren’t treated fairly and I wouldn’t count them as owning assets in marriage. I would include many African countries too. But those countries are so poor that even the men’s wealth doesn’t do a dent to the world’s wealth. By using only the United States (and then use that as a proxy for western Europe) it proves definitively that women own vastly more than 1% of the world’s wealth. Furthermore, the diary study I reference looked at 25 countries, many of which were poor, and just like virtually every other study on the subject, it showed that men and women work about the same. And housewives do receive indirect remuneration from their husbands even if they don’t get direct wages. This “statement” is not only false, it is wildly false.

  • Nicole


    Why do you feel the need to underplay serious issues? For example:

    ‘[..]Kutcher says, ”there are between 100,000 and 300,000 child sex slaves in the United States today.” That sounds horrible. But the study they (and many others) cite actually concluded 100,000 to 300,000 kids were “at risk” of being forced into prostitution. The study included all runaways as being at risk, even though almost 80% return home in less than a week.’

    Any section of children being at risk of prostituion is a serious problem. So, some idiot celebrity got his facts wrong? At least he’s trying to help people, rather than trying to prove that we’re all making a fuss about nothing.

    Feminism is important. Saving children from risk of prostituion is important. You’d do better writing about something positive rather than attacking people doing humanitarian work. This makes me quite angry, as you seem keen to analyse data and read up on issues. So help, don’t hinder! We need all the intelligent people we can ONSIDE.

  • Nicole


    I really think it’s beside the point to try and disprove one set of statistics, when the real aim is challenge the very real issues behind the statistics.

    If the plight of women really isn’t so bad, then are these statistics enough for you?

    http://www.womankind.org.uk/about/why-women/statistics/

  • Andrew


    Nicole, I’m not saying these aren’t important issues (in fact I say they are). But this series is not about them, it’s about the use and misuse of statistics. In the first article of the series I mention that these are good causes, which makes pointing out the statistical fallacies seem cold. But truth is a value in and of itself and that section was just a quick rundown of a series of many feminist statistical errors (of which the link you shared probably just adds many more such fallacies).

    Indeed, like with all things, there are trade offs. If child trafficking was really that bad (and many more than Kutcher and Moore have made the same fallacious assertions), then the proper response would probably be something close to a police state. The cure is worse than the disease sometimes. Take the bogus divorce statistics that Lenore Weitzman pushed; any honest look at our family courts now would conclude that this “problem” was solved simply by making the courts, well, draconian.

  • Julia


    I’d just like to point out that in the NBER study you reference, claiming it proves that men & women work equally all across the world, the authors specifically state the following:

    Page 7:
    “We do not claim that this remarkable gender equality in total work holds at all times and in all economies […] Our results also show that it does not hold in middle or lower income countries […] The evidence here makes it clear, however, that iso-work describes household behaviour & labour markets in rich northern countries.”

    Page 6:
    “In the three Mediterranean and in four of the five middle-income samples, however, the regression shows that women work significantly more in total than men.”

  • Andrew


    And I don’t claim that either Julia, the aggregate equality doesn’t hold true across each sample

  • Julia


    So if in most rich countries men & women work the same amount of hours, but in poor and middle income countries women work “significantly more” than men, how can the aggregate position across the world possibly be equal working hours?

  • Andrew


    Dammit, you’re right. It’s been nine months since I wrote this and needed another look over that study. Women do more in poor countries (although the 2/3 line I was refuting is obviously just made up). I should note however there are a few studies that say men do a bit more in the United States, this essay references two: http://www.universityessays.com/example-essays/geography/the-state-of-male-privilege-in-contemporary.php. Regardless in rich countries, it’s about the same, in poor countries women do a bit more but overall it’s not twice as much (or two thirds) as the saying goes.

  • Optimist


    What nonsense this article is!

    In one of your other articles you do mention that Hillary Clinton got it all wrong because she took the average and not the median, now in this article you take “the total wealth of women” and then satisfy yourself that women have plenty of wealth. If the average single woman with no child has more wealth than the average single man with no child, that doesn’t mean the median wealth of single women with no child is also higher than the median wealth of men with no child.

    Here is a comprehensive survey of median incomes of people across the US, 171 majors, by race / ethnicity, by gender.
    http://www9.georgetown.edu/grad/gppi/hpi/cew/pdfs/whatsitworth-complete.pdf

    The fact is that in most fields a woman with the exact same qualification, education and work experience as a man would earn x percent less than that man, in one field she might get 90% of what a man would, in another field she might get 80% of what a man would get.

    Note the trend with race as well, whites earns the most, then Asians, then Hispanics or Blacks (the last one varies, depending on the major.

    You can find the specific numbers (by gender, by race etc) for each group of majors at the starting page of the group.

  • Andrew


    You do realize this is only criticizing the 2/3, 1/10 and 1/100th statistic. I’m not even talking about medians, I’m just saying that statistic and that statistic is talking about averages. Try reading the article next time.

  • Pingback: Thomas Sowell on the Male/Female Wage Gap | Swift Economics

  • hello


    That is an argument I would never have gotten myself into. I’ve travelled in quite a few third-world countries, which by the way account for way more than a third of the world, and have seen enough to convince me of this:

    The world would be much better off, if desicion making power was transfered to women and the majority of men just stayed at home and musterbated the rest of their lifes away.

    Personally, I’m making a serious effort in changing my attitudes so I do not have to class myself in that majority as well.

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