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Gender, social norms, and survival in maritime disasters
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Economics.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Economics.
2012 (English)In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, ISSN 0027-8424, E-ISSN 1091-6490, Vol. 109, no 33, 13220-13224 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Since the sinking of the Titanic, there has been a widespread belief that the social norm of "women and children first" (WCF) gives women a survival advantage over men in maritime disasters, and that captains and crew members give priority to passengers. We analyze a database of 18 maritime disasters spanning three centuries, covering the fate of over 15,000 individuals of more than 30 nationalities. Our results provide a unique picture of maritime disasters. Women have a distinct survival disadvantage compared with men. Captains and crew survive at a significantly higher rate than passengers. We also find that: the captain has the power to enforce normative behavior; there seems to be no association between duration of a disaster and the impact of social norms; women fare no better when they constitute a small share of the ship's complement; the length of the voyage before the disaster appears to have no impact on women's relative survival rate; the sex gap in survival rates has declined since World War I; and women have a larger disadvantage in British shipwrecks. Taken together, our findings show that human behavior in life-and-death situations is best captured by the expression "every man for himself."

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 109, no 33, 13220-13224 p.
Keyword [en]
altruism, discrimination, homo economicus, leadership, mortality
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-181408DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1207156109ISI: 000307807000026OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-181408DiVA: diva2:557635
Available from: 2012-09-28 Created: 2012-09-24 Last updated: 2017-12-07Bibliographically approved

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Elinder, MikaelErixson, Oscar

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