Who survived the Titanic and why?

Bruno Frey, David Savage, and Benno Torgler report:

paper explores the determinants of survival in a life-and-death
situation created by an external and unpredictable shock. We are
interested in seeing whether pro-social behaviour matters in such
extreme situations. We therefore focus on the sinking of the RMS
Titanic as a quasi-natural experiment to provide behavioural evidence
that is rare in such a controlled and life threatening event. The
empirical results support that social norms such as “women and children
first” survive in such an environment. We also observe that women of
reproductive age have a higher probability of surviving among women. On
the other hand, we observe that crew members used their information
advantage and their better access to resources (e.g. lifeboats) to
generate a higher probability of surviving. The paper also finds that
passenger class, fitness, group size, and cultural background matter.

You’ll find a more speculative treatment here:

British passengers on the Titanic died in disproportionate numbers
because they queued politely for lifeboats while Americans elbowed
their way on, an Australian researcher believes.

Savage, a behavioural economist at the Queensland University of
Technology, studied four 20th-century maritime disasters to determine
how people react in life and death situations. He concluded that, on
the whole, behaviour is influenced by altruism and social norms, rather
than a “survival of the fittest” mentality. However, on the Titanic he
noted Americans were 8.5 per cent more likely to survive than other
nationalities, while British passengers were 7 per cent less likely to

“The only things I can put that down to are: there
would have been very few Americans in steerage or third class; and the
British tend to be very polite and queue.” (The ship’s first-class
staterooms were closest to the lifeboat deck.)

Savage admits there is no direct evidence for his hypothesis concerning the Americans.

I thank Leonardo Monasterio, a loyal MR reader, for the pointer.  Here is Leonardo’s post on Greg Clark.


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