Houston, we’ve had a gender-class-culture problem


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Jessica, I largely agree with Rowling, but I don’t agree with her if she wants the discussion to be only about gender. Right now liberals and conservatives would like the discussion to be about two different things – which, of course, is often the case in any political struggle. As for the relevance of culture vs. gender, I’m personally currently of a boring ‘both are probably relevant’ opinion, but let me just quickly elaborate.

So, the above quote is one, very important part of the question; it has always been applicable, presumably through human history. This is what conservatives are keen to downplay – they would like the case to be seen mostly or purely as an issue of the ‘incompatibility’ between different cultures or the ‘inherent violence’ of Islamic culture, and many proclaim not to be able to see why a comparison with violence committed by non-Muslim men could possibly be relevant.

The other aspect is the conservative argument – which liberals in turn tend to downplay – that culture does seem to play some part. Again, different versions of the argument exist, but that’s not the important point here. Now, I don’t want to make too much inference from the Cologne case for now, as the only thing we know is that a large number of women were hurt, but little about their assailants.

Statistically, however, immigrants (and their descendants, but that’s an even more complicated question) from different countries fare very differently on average depending on where they are from; this is true across host nations, and not only in the West. That’s where the conservatives are right; even if you control for common social and economic (and demographic) indicators, this difference (often) persists. Now, people who fare badly get more press, but empirically it is easy to observe ethnicity having an impact either way.

Where it gets more complicated is that culture interacts with gender: In Europe, men do much worse than women in many immigrant communities, and this is a much more pronounced difference than among the natives. Moreover, it also interacts with class, as does gender, and both at the same time. What we end up with is an exciting, but hard-to-handle three-way interaction.

Pakistani female doctors

The female MD: countries should woo her; some do. Source: http://www.dailyrounds.org/blog/doctors-or-wives-is-a-pakistani-female-medical-students-dilemma-real-or-self-made

So in other words, an outcome of the US being very selective with their non-Hispanic immigration has been that many recent immigrants do extremely well. As Pew outlined in their 2012 report The Rise of the Asian Americans, Indian-Americans, for example, earn more than 50 per cent more than the median personal income; the difference between household incomes is more than 75 per cent higher.

Pakistani-Americans, by comparison, do not stand out, but are still doing better than the population at large. While their personal incomes are only slightly higher than the median, the share of Pakistani Americans who have a college degree is twice as high as for the general population (27.9 % vs. 55.7 %).  While there is a gender difference, it is not huge (and at least for Indian-Americans, it still favors men).

Clearly, the by now almost mainstream European reactionary argument of Islam being a dysfunctional religion has no grounding in data in its simple form. Now Pakistani Brits (and Pakistani Danes) don’t do nearly as well; they are mostly working class, and the men clearly do worse than the women. Thus, we see that gender having a cross-cutting effect on who gets higher education to begin with, but also is important in affecting the negative effects of not being middle-class; and that ethnicity or culture again affects the interaction between the two so much that working-class immigrants seem to be the worst off – in Europe at least – while highly educated immigrant men seem to be among the best off.

Coming back to the original topic of sexual violence, as for the data I know the best – i.e., the very detailed registry data from Denmark – this also seems to be the case there (although I have to say that crime is not my usual topic). There is a clear overrepresentation of non-Westerners (as they are unhelpfully categorized) among those found guilty of sex crimes. Now, some not insubstantial part of this effect is explained by class alone: simply that lower class people commit more of those crimes, and more of the non-Western migrants are lower-class. Yet a substantial effect remains, although, I suspect, not among white-collar immigrants. I.e., it is working-class immigrants who fare particularly badly; and when it comes to violent crime and sex crimes, men (of all races and classes) vastly outnumber women as perpetrators. Thus, the full intersection.

This, I think, is worth looking seriously at by policy-makers. The most obvious differences between migration to the US and to Europe are often said to be what characterizes the host countries: that in the US, people expect and accept diversity, and they much less so in Europe, especially outside of France and the UK (the liberal explanation); and that the much less generous welfare state incentivizes people to work, and thus doesn’t ‘trap’ them in receiving benefits (the conservative explanation). However, migrant characteristics are vastly different also: The US and Canada tend to pick people who are very foreseeably going to be productive members of society. Europe has received many more working-class migrants, who are neither received as well or as good at adapting – and for the men, this results in very different crime rates.

Canada has taken what seems like a not very egalitarian consequence of this: they are now not taking any single men. That’s quite a drastic policy change, but much of the electorate is onboard with it, also since there is still so much goodwill towards the not-freaking-Harper government for being, well, not led by Harper. While I don’t have the statistics on it, I would be very surprised if they didn’t in their ‘health and security’ screening also find out whether people seemed like potentially successful new citizens. The interviews that many countries, but very notably those on the North American continent carry out among UN refugees and internally displaced persons are largely about desirability. It is also exactly what the US does, and did even when it was people from its supposed ally who was doing the fleeing, as after the Vietnam War – which is likely to explain at least part of the difference in reception between the educated first and less well-educated second waves of refugees from Viet Nam to the United States.

Going back to Europe where authorities can be less selective about who is arriving than their North American counterparts, the interaction between culture, class and gender does seem, from an empirical perspective at least, to bring to the forefront legitimate policy questions of targeted immigration policies – something that the political left in Europe has puzzlingly refused mostly on egalitarian principles and less on liberal cultural principles (with Britain being a possible exception). That is, many European social democrats were rather willing to discriminate between different applicants on the basis of culture than on class. While this may seem intuitive given a materialist background, it hardly is a defense of the electorate of these same parties: when asked in polls, the British public for example is highly skeptical of immigration in general, but highly positive of the immigration of doctors and nurses: whereas three quarters of the British public favor reducing immigration in general, roughly the same share supported admitting more immigrants – if they were doctors or nurses. Similarly trending results were found in a highly-cited 2010 experiment published in the American Political Science Review using US data.

In other words, it seems that a large segment of the population mostly has material interests in mind when it considers immigration. A smaller section – maybe 20 % – may be genuinely anti-immigration, no matter its benefits, but that is way too small a group to wield political power outside of a class alliance. Most likely, the larger group is a mix of middle-class and working class citizens, while the ‘true’ reactionaries are the current UKIP voters, whose core voters are overwhelmingly petit-bourgeois. This can be understandable, though: from a working-class perspective, increased competition for the kinds of jobs and social benefits your own group depends on is unlikely to be welcome, especially when those jobs and benefits are already being squeezed. This indicates that mostly, immigration-skeptics are not primarily motivated by cultural disdain or xenophobia, but by more tangible self-interest – like everybody else.

Now a current problem of the immigration policies of (North-Western) European countries is that it has been successful in attracting mostly the opposite group of people, i.e. low-skilled males. As Texas A&M professor Valerie Hudson pointed out two days ago in Politico Europe, there is a striking sex imbalance in the current group of migrants and refugees coming to Europe. In Sweden, 71 per cent of all applicants for asylum in 2015 were male. According to Hudson, “18,615 males aged 16 and 17 entered Sweden over the course of the past year, compared with 2,555 females of the same age.” That is actually enough of an imbalance to seriously skew the sex ratio in the population at large for the young cohorts. Again, quoting Hudson: “when those figures are added to the existing counts of 16- and 17-year-old boys and girls in Sweden—103,299 and 96,524, respectively, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s International Database—you end up with a total of 121,914 males in Sweden aged 16 or 17 and 99,079 females of the same age.” While I argued just a few days ago that the overall number of immigrants – just about one million in the ‘record-breaking’ year of 2015 – is not a problem by itself for a continent of 500 million people, the class and gender of those migrants may pose a problem and Europe would do well to devise a strategy that either favors families and women like Canada does (without excluding single males partout, as there are obvious ethical problems with doing so), or strongly favors high-skilled migration (again, like both Canada and the US) or both. This stands in contrast with current liberal approaches in Europe. Simultaneously, there is no empirical evidence, however, of there being a benefit of limiting immigration from Muslim countries like many right-wing politicians claim; it is matter of whom you attract from those societies.