Gender, Social Norms, and Survival in Maritime Disasters

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 109(33) 13220-13224, August 14, 2012

5 Pages Posted: 16 Oct 2012

See all articles by Mikael Elinder

Mikael Elinder

Uppsala University - Department of Economics; Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN)

Oscar Erixson

Research Institute of Industrial Economics; Uppsala University - Department of Economics

Date Written: August 14, 2012

Abstract

Since the sinking of the Titanic, there has been a widespread belief that the social norm of ‘women and children first’ 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 new picture of maritime disasters. Women have a distinct survival disadvantage compared to 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 prior to the disaster appears to have no impact on women’s relative survival rate, the gender gap in survival rates has declined since WWI, and that 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’.

Keywords: altruism, discrimination, homo economicus, leadership, mortality

Suggested Citation

Elinder, Mikael and Erixson, Oscar, Gender, Social Norms, and Survival in Maritime Disasters (August 14, 2012). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 109(33) 13220-13224, August 14, 2012, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2161890

Mikael Elinder (Contact Author)

Uppsala University - Department of Economics ( email )

Box 513
Uppsala, 751 20
Sweden

Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN) ( email )

Box 55665
Grevgatan 34, 2nd floor
Stockholm, SE-102 15
Sweden

Oscar Erixson

Research Institute of Industrial Economics ( email )

Box 55665
Grevgatan 34, 2nd floor
Stockholm, SE-102 15
Sweden
+46(0)704676110 (Phone)

Uppsala University - Department of Economics ( email )

Box 513
SE-75120 Uppsala
Sweden

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