A few good men

Never shy to discuss social problems I will dedicate this post to the gender issues. In the West it is tempting to assume that all citizens are treated the same and biases of any kind have been eliminated from the public life. However, as da-boss will attempt to demonstrate, this is not necessarily true and the fight for full equality is actually far from over. A few pieces of research I have come across recently have alerted me to a disturbing reality of one particular gender lagging in a number of critical statistics. Yes – I am talking about men.

As we know achievements in life are closely linked to the professional qualifications one has managed to acquire and these in turn depend on the academic record at school. It is in this crucial area that the boys are struggling. As reported in the following research paper:

http://popcenter.uchicago.edu/archived/FortinOreopoulosPhipps_081412.pdf

Women now far outnumber men among recent college graduates in most industrialized countries (OECD, 2008).

and

Girls have long obtained better grades, on average, in high school than boys.

But, rather than simply reporting the sad reality of boys’ academic underachievement, the above paper attempts to identify the reasons for it. Here is what the researchers have to say in the Conclusions section:

Our findings show that the predominance of girls at the top of the GPA distribution is rooted in their higher educational expectations, themselves linked to career plans that include a graduate degree (such a law or medical degree).

(…)

By comparison with girls, more boys think that they are likely to enter military service or to attend a vocational school. Because the career plans of boys include more predominantly male occupations (craftsmen, protective service and military service occupations, engineers and architects) that do not require advanced degrees, their lower share of high grades is consistent with the “threshold” model that we propose.

So there we have it – the boys’ problems stem from their habitual identification with traditional male roles which are not highly valued by the society. This stereotypical and limiting view of men as craftsmen or soldiers harms their prospects for having a satisfying life. To those following the gender debate in the last 30 or so years the above argument should sound surprisingly familiar.

So the boys these days enter adult life with professional qualifications inferior to those of the girl, which is not a good start. But what about the other constituent component of a fulfilling life – the family? What happens if a partnership (or, dare I say: marriage) breaks up and a question of custody of the children comes up? Sadly, the statistical look at the rulings of the Family Courts indicates a strong gender bias here:

custody_breakdown_sex1

Based on the data collected during the 2007 US census in up to 85% of the cases the child custody was awarded to women. In other word, women were up to six times more likely to get the custody ruling going their way. Consequently, up to 93% of all child support was paid by men:

perc_child_support_dollars_by_sex

The reality behind these cold numbers is thousands of fathers who financially support their biological children and, in many cases, have very limited access to them. One would presume that this frustrating situation might have a detrimental effect on their well-being. And one would be right – the rate of suicide among men in the Western World is over three times higher than among women:

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/feb/18/male-suicides-three-times-women-samaritans-bristol

Men also suffer from health issues like prostate cancer whose incidence is higher than breast cancer in women but which receive much less medical funding:

http://prostate.org.nz/2014/01/men-die-earlier-womens-health-gets-four-times-funding/

As a result, men in the Western countries tend to live around 5 years shorter than women:

398px-Comparison_gender_life_expectancy_CIA_factbook_svg

So, to sum it all up, we have men who leave schools with lower academic qualifications than women, get a rough deal with the child custody rulings, pay more in child support, are poorly treated by the public health service and have a much lower life expectancy than women. Is it not time we did something about it? In particular, this situation should be unacceptable to the seasoned campaigners for gender equality who used to champion the rights of women. Or were they only fighting for the privileges of one particular sex?

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