Home > Uncategorized > The male chauvinist bias of a Bill McBride graph. 2 graphs.

The male chauvinist bias of a Bill McBride graph. 2 graphs.

Why are we even having this discussion?

Bill Mc Bride and Tyler Cowen take a slight long run decline of the male participation rate (40-44 years of age, unemployed+employed men as a % of the total population of the same age) as a sign of ‘secular stagnation’. As Cowen states: “You sometimes hear there is no evidence of automation putting people out of work, but arguably the automation of manufacturing, plus IT-enabled foreign competition, are significant factors behind this trend”


According to feminists scientists tend to exclude women from scientific discourse. So, let’s pose the feminist question: does the picture alter when we include women into the analysis. See graph 1 and 2. Graph 1 (the male graph) is more or less consistent with the Mc Bride graph albeit in fact only for Italy. Graph 2 (the female graph) – not so much (ahem). Mc Bride and Cowen really have to answer the question why automation is consistent with dramatic increases in the female activity rate – that’s where all the action is. Couldn’t resist to include Turkey in the female graph: again, dramatic changes. And there are clear political/economic/social/cultural differences between countries. These seem much more significant that automation.




Source: Eurostat, data retrieved 28 February 2016. Technical details: the Eurostat phrase is activity rate while the BLS uses the word participation rate, the Eurostat data base does not contain data for the 40-44 group but only for the 25-54 group.

  1. February 29, 2016 at 4:18 am

    Well done!

  2. June 7, 2016 at 1:40 am

    The problem with your conclusion is that you are conflating Mc Bride’s intention to use male participation as a proxy with his conclusion about the effect of automation on labor utilization in general.

    What you’ve effectively measured, is the increase in dual income households (which, in turn, is caused by relative declines in earning power by the heads of household, and enabled by the progress if feminism).

    The use of “male participation in labor” as a proxy for isolating the effects of industrial automation make sense given the proportion of men in the industrial labor segment. (This doesn’t seek to measure office automation … which would be more difficult as the amount of “work” being done various as whole new forms of bureaucracy, management and analytics have been invented and developed over these time frames).

    • merijnknibbe
      June 7, 2016 at 8:20 am

      Dear Jim,

      I’m glad to be able to tell that recently Tyler has, when it comes to the importance of female labour market participation, seems to have a view comparable to the one voiced in this blogpost. http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/06/are-work-hours-allocated-justly-and-efficiently.html

      Which is not to say that male participation is not important, in a cultural and an economic sense. And you’re right that many ‘male’ jobs have taken large hits. But that’s (A) nothing new and when push comes to play male labour supply is pretty flexible when it comes to accepting jobs. Some years ago I investigated British data on job growth in British lower education. Up to 2008, the proportion of women increased rapidly. After 2008, the proportion of men suddenly started to increase.

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