Good Lord!

Polly\’s got it!

It\’s a motherhood gap, not a gender pay gap!

The Office for National Statistics reported yesterday that women in their 40s earn 20% less per hour than their male counterparts. This is the motherhood penalty – and the more children a woman has, the wider the gap. Young women start out earning almost the same, deluded by beating boys at exams. Motherhood knocks most out of the running.

Hurrah! Facts and logic come into play!

Only 24% of parliamentary seats are occupied by women, 20% in the UK (but celebrate Spain\’s new 50% female cabinet); 90% of top EU company boards are men. Women dominate primary school teaching, men run universities.

Mmmhm, hmm. The motherhood gap will explain much of that: taking a few years out of the workforce does make it more difficult to reach the top of the greasy pole, this is true.

The UK has the largest pay gap – no surprise – both cause and effect of Britain\’s shameful status as the EU\’s most unequal country.

Not sure that this is true. Of course, it depends upon how you actually measure it (some places use monthly pay, some hourly etc) but according to this report it isn\’t in fact true.

Womens\’ wages as a percentage of mens\’ is, on average, 78.6% across the EU economies (old EU that is). The UK is at 82%, exactly the same as Sweden, and thus above average. Germany, Portugal and Austria are the laggards.

For as long as the minimum wage stays below a living wage, woman and children will stay poor.

Raise the minimum wage and women will be unemployed, not just poor.

Where does it all begin? The motherhood penalty starts in pregnancy, when 30,000 women lose their jobs, never mind what the law says.

No, it doesn\’t. It starts before they become pregnant: it starts because they might become pregnant. Pregnancy and the associated maternity leave imposes costs upon employers. They are being entirely rational (and yes, we do need to note that not all individually rational behaviour creates in sum the outcome we would prefer) in offering those who might become pregnant either lower wages or not offering them a job at all. Summed up that means that the motherhood gap starts before pregnancy. It\’s worth noting that those considered unlikely to have children (lesbians in one study) don\’t suffer the pay gap, nor do women who have passed their fertile years without having any (single, never married childless women do not have a pay gap, in fact, they earn fractionally more than their male peers).

The heavy penalty for motherhood in loss of earnings and good jobs keeps women in their place.

In one way Polly\’s right (leave her maunderings about pink and Barbie aside). Yes, the motherhood pay gap is indeed a result of the way in which society is structured. But no, it\’s not to keep women down, nor to oppress or support the patriarchy. It is simply that those who take one, two or three several year breaks from the workforce will be disadvantaged, by their own choice, against those who do not. Further, that possibility of those breaks will mean less investment by employers in training and the development of human capital.

And the expense to employers of those breaks will mean that those who migh take such breaks suffer a certain portion of that disadvantage.

As above, this is all entirely rational and understandable. the incentives are structured this way. To change the behaviour you have to change the incentives.

Like, for example, reduce statutory maternity leave to three months: if you don\’t come back at that point your job is gone. Don\’t like that? OK, put up with the motherhood gap in pay then.

Well, at least we\’ve one cause for celebration. Polly\’s now recognised that it\’s motherhood, not gender discrimination.

Update: Polly writes back! After telling me to get a life (ahem) she points me here. Indeed, the EU stats do show a 30% pay gap for the UK.

However, they seem to be including all private sector employees (actualy, also excluding small companies). So we\’ve got both the gender (or motherhood) pay gap plus the well known one that part timers make less than full timers per hour (of either or any sex). When you\’ve got, as we do in the UK, many more women part timers in the labour force than other countries then this is going to skew results.

So, her figure is correct, but doesn\’t mean all that much.

Why Men Make More Money

It\’s not actually as if this is a surprise, of course:

Money doesn\’t make the world go round: it\’s testosterone. The more that traders have, the richer they\’ll become – up to a point.

John Coates, who used to manage a trading floor at Deutsche Bank on Wall Street but is now at the Judge Business School at Cambridge University, and Professor Joe Herbert, a neuroscientist, set out to study the brains of City traders to discover what makes them tick.

They measured levels of testosterone and cortisol (a stress hormone) in 17 traders at a City of London bank for eight consecutive business days. They found that those traders with higher testosterone levels in the morning were most likely to make money on the day\’s trading. One trader hit a six-day "winning streak" during which he made more than double his daily profit. During that time his testosterone levels went up 74%.

This free market/capitalism thing, it does indeed reward judicious risk taking. And yes indeed, testosterone is what makes men more likely to take risks (judicious or not). Thus we have an economic system which rewards part of the male set up.

It is also, of course, possible to create an economic system which does not reward such risk taking, and thus does not privilege males simply for their hormonal make up. But is the absence of advance (which is the corollary of the absence of risk taking) worth the greater gender equality?


Polling News

There\’s an argument used here in the UK, that not enough people vote. That something should be done to raise the turnout.

"The country has strongly emphasised its belief in democracy and its institutions. More than 80 per cent of citizens voted."

That result would of course please those who worry about such things.

  • Projections showed that Mr Berlusconi\’s coalition won 163 seats in the Senate, compared to 141 seats for Mr Veltroni.
  • In Italy\’s lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, the count was 332 seats to 215.
  • The perma-tanned billionaire said he was "deeply satisfied" with the result.

Great, so all we need now is for Rupert Murdoch to take out citizenship and run. That\’ll get the voting numbers up then!

Symptoms of the Sub Prime

Top search on Google trends (ie, not the top search on Google, rather, the one which has shown the largest uptick in activity over the past hours or so): 

sell mortgage note

And, umm 100% of those searches were coming from Las Vegas. A place, as we know, which had one of the biggest bubbles and is now having the biggest deflation (or nhearly the biggest, at least).

Neil Harding….Yes Laddie

There has never been a better time to pour investment into housing and rescue the construction workers that are being laid off as private sector housebuilding is reduced. Only government can kick start this sector and save us all from a recession and housing problem.

So as house prices fall Neil\’s solution is to build more of them, increasing supply and thus driving prices lower again.

Well done lad, well thought out.


while hedgehogs are into girl-on-girl cunnulingulus.

Wow! Umm, and just what is the cunnulingulus of which the Good Professor speaks? A google search provides four entries, two the rather strange online handle of a game player, this article itself (and this blog post will presumably follow at some point) and the Great Peter Briffa commenting upon the same piece.

Dogs do it,
Frogs do it,
Even horny hedgehogs do it,


Methane Hydrates

This is all really rather amusing.

Japan is celebrating a groundbreaking science experiment in the Arctic permafrost that may eventually reshape the country\’s fragile economy and Tokyo\’s relationships with the outside world.

For an unprecedented six straight days, a state-backed drilling company has managed to extract industrial quantities of natural gas from underground sources of methane hydrate – a form of gas-rich ice once thought to exist only on the moons of Saturn.

In fact, the seabeds around the Japanese coast turn out to conceal massive deposits of the elusive sorbet-like compound in their depths, and a country that has long assumed it had virtually no fossil fuels could now be sitting on energy reserves containing 100 years\’ fuel. Critically for Japan, which imports 99.7 per cent of the oil, gas and coal needed to run its vast economy, the lumps of energy-filled ice offer the tantalising promise of a little energy independence.

Environmentalists, though, are horrified by the idea of releasing huge quantities of methane from under the seabeds. Although methane is a cleaner-burning fossil fuel than coal or oil, the as yet untapped methane hydrates represent “captured” greenhouse gasses that some believe should remain locked under the sea. The mining of methane ice could also wreak havoc on marine ecosystems.

First, we\’ve got the obvious economic point which so many try to ignore. High prices for the current fossil fuels will lead to people developing substitutes. As, indeed, they are.

The second is this idea that these methane hydrates should not be used: they are carbon locked away and we should keep it that way. The only problem we have here is that in some of the wilder feedback scenarios about climate change posit that warming happens to such an extent that the methane is released naturally.

So, really rather better that we dig it up and convert it to CO2 (one 23rd of a warming gas than methane) before that happens, don\’t you think?

Gary Younge

Mmmm, yes.

That does not make such a conversation about class any less vital.

Just what America needs, a discussion of class along Marxist lines.

This also looks a little odd:

One in 10 of those with mortgages is in negative equity; one in 16 is behind on their payments.

Anyone know if those figures are true? Sounds like remarkably high figures to me. I might believe it of certain bubble States (Florida, California), but of the country as a whole?

T. Boone Pickens\’ Wind Farm

This sounds very expensive.

Over the next four years he intends to erect 2,700 turbines across 200,000 acres of the Texan panhandle. The scheme is five times bigger than the world\’s current record-holding wind farm and when finished will supply 4,000 megawatts of electricity – enough to power about one million homes.

It\’s not just the breathtaking scale of the scheme that is striking, though at a total cost of $10bn it impresses even Pickens himself

$10 billion to power a million homes? Wouldn\’t nuclear be vastly cheaper?

Slightly Odd

The member of the Royal Family at the centre of an alleged £50,000 blackmail plot will not have to enter the witness box.

If he entered the witness box, he feared that he would be exposed in the same way that Prince Harry\’s secret Army mission to Afghanistan was reported in Britain after it was disclosed on the web.

Anyone who wants to know the identity can find it easily enough: probably already has done so.

This coyness thus seems a little odd. Unless there\’s some wory about what other questions might get asked while in the witness box?


Some mentally challenged keyboard warrior on the BNP forum has decided that UKIP are in fact controlled by MI5 and that leader Nigel Farage is too busy making \’a fortune\’ in Brussels and not doing any work.