Women like free trade less

by on August 10, 2015 at 2:12 pm in Data Source, Economics, Philosophy, Political Science | Permalink

Or so it seems.  Mansfield, Mutz, and Silver write:

In this paper, we provide one of the first systematic analyses of gender’s effect on trade attitudes. We draw on a unique representative national survey of American workers that allows us to evaluate a variety of potential explanations for gender differences in attitudes toward free trade and open markets more generally. We find that existing explanations for the gender gap, most notably differences between men and women in economic knowledge and differing material self-interests, do not explain the gap. Rather, the gender difference in trade preferences and attitudes about open markets is due to less favorable attitudes toward competition among women, less willingness to relocate for jobs among women, and more isolationist non-economic foreign policy attitudes among women.

The pointer is from Ben Southwood, I do not see an ungated copy.

1 Just Saying August 10, 2015 at 2:13 pm

I’m sure the regular commentators here will just chalk it up to the inevitable superiority of white men.

2 E. Harding August 10, 2015 at 3:09 pm

Rather, the gender difference in trade preferences and attitudes about open markets is due to less favorable attitudes toward competition among women, less willingness to relocate for jobs among women, and more isolationist non-economic foreign policy attitudes among women. – See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2015/08/women-like-free-trade-less.html#sthash.n8UUaluW.dpuf

-That’s sure what it sounds like.

3 Sam Haysom August 10, 2015 at 3:30 pm

I’m trying to figure out which of the bolded descriptions denotes superiority. Sounds more like exactly the kind of preferences that the sex that has babies would hold.

4 mulp August 10, 2015 at 4:02 pm

But it is totally irrational. Women can stay in plae while their man goes off and chases jobs and sends money back to support the wife and kids, returning once a year for sex and to see the kids to be sure their his, and then go back on the road chasing jobs and maintaining the nuclear family tradition.

On the other hand, trade means the wife can’t make money making clothes by hand because cloth woven in US highly automated mills is exported to low wage countries where computer generated cuts with automation produce the identical parts cheaply to be immediately sewn in assembly lines into a dozen sizes which are then shipped to the US for wearing only a few times before being discarded because they are too cheap to repair and being identical provide no individual style. Women must buy and discard far more clothes to be an individual than men who dress in uniform need to do. Trade is all cost with no skilled labor income.

5 Hazel Meade August 10, 2015 at 5:19 pm

Cannot tell if serious.

6 WC August 11, 2015 at 2:25 am

@ HM: seriously

7 AF August 11, 2015 at 10:20 am

@HM, WC: Thirded

8 Slocum August 10, 2015 at 4:07 pm

Only if they don’t realize how important market economies have been in generating the wealth needed to eliminate famine and disease — famine and disease that killed such a large fraction of babies and young children throughout human history.

9 Lord Action August 10, 2015 at 4:26 pm

Well, fair enough, but most people don’t know that. The message is hardly clear in popular media.

10 Hazel Meade August 10, 2015 at 5:17 pm

Those views also tend to come packaged with progressive/leftist/liberal beliefs, you know.
Except for maybe the relocation part, but I could imagine that if your general attitude is that competition is bad, you’re likely to also believe that you shouldn’t have to move to get a job.

11 Ricardo August 10, 2015 at 10:25 pm

If you have kids, moving to get a job implies a major loss of social capital (e.g. do the parents have friends or relatives in the new area who can help babysit?) and is very disruptive to the lives of the children. I would guess these negatives are more salient for women than for men.

12 Hazel Meade August 11, 2015 at 9:12 am

Yes, that would be a pretty valid explanation for that one, I just don’t know why it would correlate with anti-free-trade bias.

13 Ben August 11, 2015 at 12:47 am

I think it probably has more to do with hormones than anything

Yet to meet a bodybuilder who voted democrat – Arnold was a big supporter of Milton, as you’ll recall.

14 Doug August 10, 2015 at 5:34 pm

Men tend to be further along the autism spectrum, and hence are more likely to pick their beliefs based on abstract ideas rather than interpersonal ties. This tendency can be utilized in favor of either good of evil. It’s the attitude required to truly make the fair application of rule of law and market competition work. However it also drives the rationalization of mass atrocities justified by utopian ideologies. Men and women are biologically, including neurologically, different. Anyone who denies that is simply the 21st century version of the flat-earth creationist. But we can celebrate the intricacies of these differences, rather than simplifying them into flat normative categories.

15 ad*m August 10, 2015 at 7:37 pm

Crimethink. Look what happens when you just make a joke about the existence of these differences.


16 Nyongesa August 10, 2015 at 11:44 pm


thank you

17 Adrian Ratnapala August 10, 2015 at 11:56 pm

Protectionism is an abstraction too.

18 NoahThompson59767 August 11, 2015 at 8:39 am

Meh, I’m not a fan of these “commenters, bring out your half-assed sociology theories” posts, but the comments are entertaining to watch. ::Fetches popcorn::

19 Hazel Meade August 10, 2015 at 3:04 pm

This isn’t that surprising.
People tend to adopt other positions of groups they agree with. For various reasons I won’t get into, women tend to align themselves with progressives/leftists/liberals. Progressives/leftists/liberals are typically more hostile to free trade. As a result, women tend to adopt an anti-trade attitude.

It would be nice if we lived in a world in which everyone adopted policies piecemeal from all over the political spectrum without checking to see what their friends thought, but who are we kidding?

20 E. Harding August 10, 2015 at 3:10 pm

“For various reasons I won’t get into, women tend to align themselves with progressives/leftists/liberals. – See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2015/08/women-like-free-trade-less.html#comment-158526613
-Do they? The married-single gap is larger than the gender gap.

21 Sid V. August 10, 2015 at 3:21 pm

Hazel, can please you get into those various reasons?

22 Hazel Meade August 10, 2015 at 5:08 pm

It’s a combination of liberals generally being better on women’s rights and progressives/leftists catering more to conventional internalized beliefs about women being more nurturing, caring about children, education, healthcare, and being anti-war. I dispute the idea that any of that is biologically innate, but all of this is just my opinion.

23 Jim Pier August 10, 2015 at 8:44 pm

Ah, then “better” means “agrees with Hazel Meade”?

24 Thiago Ribeiro August 10, 2015 at 10:04 pm

Apparently, it means agreeing with women themselves.
“For various reasons I won’t get into, women tend to align themselves with progressives/leftists/liberals.”

25 Anon August 10, 2015 at 9:59 pm

“…I dispute the idea that any of that is biologically innate, but all of this is just my opinion.”

You were going so strong until right there.
I would bet women, more than men, also tend to (incorrectly) attribute innate predispositions and characteristics to societal pressures vs. genetics and biology.

Anyway, I would agree that it’s large part “liberals generally being better on women’s rights” but I wouldn’t completely ignore the incentives of wealth redistribution, of which women are overwhelmingly beneficiaries.

26 BC August 10, 2015 at 10:00 pm

It’s understandable why women, particularly educated women, shy away from conservatives due to conservatives’ historical opposition to women in the workforce, women gaining political power, etc. I don’t understand why women disproportionately reject libertarianism however. Libertarian philosophy would seem to be gender neutral. (Or, maybe, the problem is that neutral is not good enough, as some people now claim about race?)

27 Hazel Meade August 11, 2015 at 9:19 am

That’s where all the internalized BS about teaching and nursing comes in. Women get trained to think they’re supposed to care a lot about education and healthcare because it’s in their nature. Also that they’re suppose to be anti-war, because mothers don’t want their sons dying. They get the message that there’s something unfeminine about caring about economics and foreign policy – or at least about adopting stances on economics and foreign policy that aren’t based in emotion.

28 Moreno Klaus August 10, 2015 at 3:51 pm

My impression, is that women care much less about politics or left-right dichotomies/polemics than men (???)

29 Hazel Meade August 10, 2015 at 5:44 pm

I do not get that impression at all.
I have a sister who is a raging leftist zealot. She’s totally on the “us” vs. “them” left-right dichotomy bandwagon.
Also historically, I suspect that women are if anything more moral absolutists than men are. Women always lead the church groups. Maybe that’s just because women historically had more free time to devote to church groups, but true nonetheless.

30 prior_approval August 11, 2015 at 12:38 am

‘Women always lead the church groups.’

At least one minor religious grouping, based in some tiny part of Rome, would disagree.

31 Hazel Meade August 11, 2015 at 9:21 am

No, I don’t mean the actual leadership (priesthood), I mean the informal church social activist groups. Like the temperance movement. Or who organizes the church picnic. Always a woman.

32 A Definite Beta Guy August 11, 2015 at 10:58 am

Properly understood, the Vatican is a rump state, not a religious group.

33 The Original D August 11, 2015 at 2:11 pm

I have an aunt on the other side of that war.

34 Jim Pier August 10, 2015 at 8:50 pm

Is that it, or do they prefer to avoid conflict, relatively?

35 Axa August 11, 2015 at 5:49 am

That may be a cause. Very few people in the world have the free time to analyze one by one every belief and research it’s validity. Thus, if Dems support single mothers, some people assume it is “safe” to support all the other ideas Dems have. But, the same happens to Reps. I’ve heard that since them lobby for war veterans, they are good people and all the things they propose are good.

This is a limit of the human condition. If we didn’t use this shorcut to assess people, we’d never get anything done. If we abuse the shortcut, optimal outcomes are never reached.

36 Cooper August 10, 2015 at 3:24 pm

Not at all surprising.

Women are cooperative, men are competitive (at the margins).

Men favor higher degrees of risk, women prefer less risk (again, at the margins).

Free trade versus protectionism fits well into this paradigm.

37 Jeff R. August 10, 2015 at 3:42 pm

Probably a good way to look at it.

38 Dain August 10, 2015 at 9:34 pm

Much of the classical liberal philosophy I read attempted to portray anti-free trade people as small-minded parochialists with a fundamentally zero-sum conflict-oriented view of the world. Funny how ev psych and the men/women dichotomy in fact turns this upside down.

39 8 August 10, 2015 at 3:27 pm

Abolish women’s suffrage and increase human liberty.

40 msgkings August 10, 2015 at 3:29 pm

This equation works perfectly when the variable ‘women’ does not equal ‘human’

41 Lord Action August 10, 2015 at 3:47 pm

I don’t think that’s fair. Without offering judgment on the citation above, it seems to suggest women are rather down on the concept of liberty to begin with. Maybe there’s some big compensating area where there’s an offset, but I don’t know what that would be.

42 Hazel Meade August 10, 2015 at 5:13 pm

Women aren’t down on the concept of liberty.

As with any large population group, the vast majority of people in it have opinions that are acquired mostly by casually absorbing them from friends and popular media. Women today, in this time and place, think particular things because that’s what their friends and neighbors think and what the TV tells them they ought to think.

43 Lord Action August 10, 2015 at 5:28 pm

“Women aren’t down on the concept of liberty.”

I’m interpreting the quoted passage and not trying to draw some general conclusion or report my beliefs. I don’t actually know what women think in any large scale way.

44 Adrian Ratnapala August 11, 2015 at 12:06 am

In family life, Mother really does usually know best. Every hour, mothers gather experience of how their intervention has better effects than this or that thing the kid was trying to do. Evolution might also have encoded such experience into our genes.

So at some margin, we can expect Mothers (and perhaps women in general) to be more paternalistic than Dads.

45 Urso August 11, 2015 at 1:01 pm

Very interesting point by AR.

46 Lord Action August 10, 2015 at 3:52 pm

I’m really not trying to make some thuggish point here.

I’m a pretty pro-liberty guy myself, but liberty is not the only thing you can be for. You could be for more safety at the expense of liberty. Or spending at the cost of taxes. It’s not unreasonable that there might be systematic gender differences in these things.

47 Bill Ellis August 10, 2015 at 7:27 pm

Well said.

48 Jim Pier August 10, 2015 at 8:47 pm

Crude locution, but likely accurate all else equal.

49 Martin Kennedy August 10, 2015 at 3:38 pm

The impact of gender on competition is interesting because a bit more nuanced than ‘men are more competitive than women.’ According to Leonard Sax who is a PhD (psychology) and MD (Psychiatry) women / girls can be quite competitive but in a different way from men. Women, he says, do not like to compete against friends or those they perceive as such. Men / boys relish the opportunity to whup a friend in competition. Vigorous competition does not threaten their friendship. My observations / life experience including being a father to both genders supports that perspective.

50 Moreno Klaus August 10, 2015 at 3:49 pm

Maybe because women feel the negative effects of free trade / hardcore capitalism much much more than men ???

51 Slocum August 10, 2015 at 4:02 pm

That seems unlikely. Women are more likely than men to work in non-tradeable sectors that aren’t exposed to foreign competition (education, health-care, public-sector jobs in general). In the U.S. Women make up 80-90% of K12 teachers, nurses, and therapists, and pharmacy is becoming similarly imbalanced. Also veterinarian medicine. None of these fields are exposed to foreign competition.

52 Anon August 10, 2015 at 6:55 pm


53 Slocum August 10, 2015 at 7:27 pm

Most K-12 students require supervision as well as instruction, so that’s not really out-sourceable. And nursing, various kinds of therapy, dental hygienics, and vet medicine are inherently hands-on professions.

54 Larry August 10, 2015 at 10:45 pm

Exactly right.

55 Jim Pier August 10, 2015 at 8:52 pm


56 Todd Kreider August 10, 2015 at 9:03 pm

I have no idea about trade but think that younger women have had more econ classes and so are more free trade than older women.

But why is is that 99% of the commenting here, econtalk and econlog are men?

(Of course, 99% is a low estimate)

57 FC August 10, 2015 at 10:47 pm

Male gorillas pound their chests, male humans comment on blogs.

58 Todd Kreider August 11, 2015 at 12:51 am

The male gorilla pounding chests theory is a start, but why 99%?

There must be a PhD thesis here somewhere.

59 Gorilla August 11, 2015 at 1:00 pm

I resent that comparison

60 BC August 10, 2015 at 9:52 pm

“We find that…differing material self-interests do not explain the gap. Rather, the gender difference…is due [in part] to…less willingness to relocate for jobs among women…”

Isn’t wanting a subsidy for one’s relocation preferences a “material self-interest”? Also, if one has a political or psychological bias against equal economic rights — “competition” is nothing more than a recognition that everyone has an equal right to participate in economic transactions with willing counterparties — and that bias leads one to oppose free trade, then maybe that is not a “material” self-interest, but it is a self-interest of some type.

61 Alan August 11, 2015 at 12:56 am

Under the TPP, the innovation-crushing FDA would not have been able to keep thalidomide out of the USA.

62 mapman August 11, 2015 at 6:58 pm

This “science” just reminded me totally unscientific but equally accurate rant:

They are totalitarian. A man is willing to let girls be girls and boys be boys. Women want all to be girls or, more accurately, to behave according to female standards.
Men enjoy competition; women deplore it. “Let’s have a cooperative game led by a caring adult.”
Men prefer freedom to security; women, security to freedom. Wear your helmet on your bike. Use sunscreen. Dodge ball is violent and dangerous. Don’t swim without a lifeguard.


Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: