Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Seriously? Discrimination Over Coffee?

I read an article today reviewing a collegiate study about how women are discriminated against in coffee shops by male workers. The study was carried out by Caitlin Knowles Myers, a female economist from Middlebury College, Vermont, and several students. Eight Boston area coffee shops were selected and transactions were timed. It seems as though women were routinely made to wait up to 20 seconds longer for their coffee than men. Here are the findings of the study as summarized by the report's abstract, which can be found at http://www.middlebury.edu/services/econ/repec/mdl/ancoec/0711.pdf.
Despite anecdotal and survey evidence suggesting the presence of discrimination against customers in stores, restaurants, and other small transaction consumer markets, few studies exist that identify or quantify the nature of any unequal treatment. We provide evidence from a field study of wait times in Boston-area coffee shops that suggests that female customers wait an average of 20 seconds longer for their orders than do male customers even when controlling for gender differences in orders. We find that this differential in wait times is inverse to the proportion of employees who are female and directly related to how busy the coffee shop is at the time of the order. This supports the conclusion that the observed differential is driven at least in part by employee animus and/or statistical discrimination rather than unobserved heterogeneity in the purchasing behavior of female customers.

It is clear by the language of the abstract that the study was performed for a purpose. Rather than a scientific experiment, in which findings are presented, usually without comment on why the situation exists, and a conclusion is reached upon the facts, this study seems to have begun with a bias and a presupposition as to why a condition was occurring. "Facts" were then gathered in order to prove the presupposition.

If we are to embrace the modern scientific method, this study is suspect. Might I suggest that the bias shown fits the agenda of most colleges and universities in the U.S., which continually attack the only unprotected individual, the white male. Our politically correct culture allows any form of diatribe or libel against these individuals who are presented as the age-old oppressors of all that is good (read: feminine, "minority," or disadvantaged). This is not a study on coffee service times, but a philosophical treatise on white male oppression of customers in the work place. Seriously, the only options for delays allowed by the study were either that male workers were flirting (a statement about sexual desires getting in the way of the job), or that they held contempt toward female customers (a statement that promotes the notion of male recognition of and jealousy over female superiority).

My question is this? Should the mindful consumer put up with this dreck? The media will run this story to death and more studies will be done in order to "prove" the correlation between white male workers and the abuse or neglect of customers. This will only continue to erode the confidence our society has in its men which, in turn, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Men who are not given trust in society will live up to expectations. They will become untrustworthy. My suggestion to my readers is that we call these studies what they are: trash. I would also suggest that we build up our society by building up our men. Show them that we expect more out of them and that they are worth something and we will see our society turn around.

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