Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Billionaires will be boys
The findings of this piece (via Grobstein) are intriguing but I'm not sure how seriously to take them. The claim that this research allegedly supports is that billionaires are likelier to have sons than daughters because it's adaptive from the POV of maximizing grandchildren. But the presentation fails to address what is, to my mind, the obvious question, which is how much of this effect is due to third-world culture. I wish, in particular, that they had a graph showing (a) regional variation, (b) ethnic variation -- I'm very curious to know if the finding is robust if restricted to Jewish or techie billionaires, for example. The Forbes list for 2008 had a rather large number of Arabs, Indians, Russians, and other poor-country rich people who would presumably abort their female offspring. I wonder how much of the effect remains when you restrict yourself to, say, techie billionaires. Collecting the data is unfortunately quite difficult, but a preliminary look at the obvious suspects -- Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Steve Ballmer, etc. -- didn't seem to give anything like the 60% male headline number.