America's most sexist states revealed in major new report

'Sexism where she was born, which we call background sexism, affects a woman’s outcomes even after she is an adult'

Maya Oppenheim
Wednesday 22 August 2018 21:59
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New Hampshire residents demonstrate the lowest levels of sexism, followed by Alaska, Wyoming, Vermont and Connecticut
New Hampshire residents demonstrate the lowest levels of sexism, followed by Alaska, Wyoming, Vermont and Connecticut

America's most sexist states have been revealed in a new report which suggests that women from areas with higher levels of misogyny go on to earn less money.

The midwestern state of Arkansas was found to be the most sexist by researchers at the University of Chicago’s Becker Friedman Institute and National University Singapore, while New Hampshire was the least.

Utah, Alabama, West Virginia and Tennessee were also among the worst offenders, while Alaska, Wyoming, Vermont and Connecticut were found to have some the best attitudes towards women.

The researchers used statistics from the Census Bureau and the General Social Survey - a biennial nationally representative survey measuring Americans’ beliefs on a wide range of subjects – to reach their conclusions.

From that they drew on eight questions on attitudes towards gender issues that have been part of the survey since the 1970s, to measure the prevalence of sexist beliefs.

They also looked at the degree to which Americans agreed with statements like “women should take care of running their home and leave running the country up to men” and “it is much better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and women takes care of the home and family.”

They used this to create an index of sexist attitudes.

“Sexism is highest in the Southeast and least extreme in New England and the West,” Kerwin Kofi Charles and his fellow authors wrote. “The figure shows that there is substantial variation in mean sexism across states within each geographic region of the country.”

The researchers also sought to understand how the prevalence of sexist beliefs in the areas where women grew up and in the places they worked as adults affected outcomes such as wages, workforce participation, and the age they marry or have children.

They found state-level differences can have a substantial impact on the lives of women.

“Sexism in a woman’s state of birth and in her current state of residence both lower her wages and likelihood of labour force participation and lead her to marry and bear her first child sooner,” they wrote.

As a result they concluded that the prevalence of sexism in a woman’s birth state appeared to affect her later earnings and outcomes even if she relocates to a place with less sexism.

The research hypothesises that women from a young age internalize the beliefs espoused by those individuals which surround them. If they are discouraged from working as a child, this is likely that they will take these beliefs with them, the authors stated.

“Sexism where she was born, which we call background sexism, affects a woman’s outcomes even after she is an adult living in another market through the influence of norms that she internalized during her formative years,” they wrote.

The study focused only on white women because researchers wanted to ensure they were tracking gender discrimination rather than racial discrimination.

However, the results of the study could not be explained by political affiliation.

Some of the least sexist states, such as Wyoming and Alaska, also tend to be the most consistently Republican in presidential elections. On the contrary, some Democratic strongholds, such as Illinois and New York, were found to be in the middle of the study.

The research found while the level of women's workforce participation and wages has risen across the board, "the gap between men and women that existed in a particular state 50 years ago is largely the same size today."

"In other words, if a state exhibited less gender discrimination 50 years ago, it retains that narrower gap today; a state that exhibited more discrimination in 1970 has a similarly wide gap today," the researchers explained.

Women were paid the least, worked at the lowest levels and got married the youngest in states where inhabitants voiced views women are less capable than men, that families were hurt when women go to work, and that men and women should follow strict gender roles, according to the research.

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