Posts tagged ‘gender differences’

September 11, 2013

Harvard Business School gives itself a ‘gender makeover’ to ‘foster female success’

by Grace

Here is the problem, at least as perceived by many:

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As a way to close this gender salary gap, Harvard Business School set out to give itself a gender makeover, changing its curriculum, rules and social rituals to foster female success“.

It is an ambitious plan, intended  “to change how students spoke, studied and socialized”.

But in 2010, Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard’s first female president, appointed a new dean who pledged to do far more than his predecessors to remake gender relations at the business school. He and his team tried to change how students spoke, studied and socialized….

Am I the only one who thinks this sounds a little creepy?

… The school saw itself as the standard-bearer for American business. Turning around its record on women, the new administrators assured themselves, could have an untold impact at other business schools, at companies populated by Harvard alumni and in the Fortune 500, where only 21 chief executives are women. The institution would become a laboratory for studying how women speak in group settings, the links between romantic relationships and professional status, and the use of everyday measurement tools to reduce bias.

Many of us are familiar with the gender wage gap, including the part about women often feeling they have “to choose between academic and social success” and that business schools see their graduates “part by gender after graduation, with more men going into higher-paying areas like finance and more women going into lower-paying ones like marketing”.

But I didn’t realize that a typical HBS female student had to “be taught how to raise her hand”.  Who knew that these best and brightest examples of high-achieving women were such wallflowers?  Apparently they need coaching on how to participate effectively in classes where men tend to take over discussions.

… Reach up assertively! No apologetic little half-waves! …

Women at Harvard did fine on tests. But they lagged badly in class participation, a highly subjective measure that made up 50 percent of each final mark. Every year the same hierarchy emerged early on: investment bank and hedge fund veterans, often men, sliced through equations while others — including many women — sat frozen or spoke tentatively. The deans did not want to publicly dwell on the problem: that might make the women more self-conscious. But they lectured about respect and civility, expanded efforts like the hand-raising coaching and added stenographers in every class so professors would no longer rely on possibly biased memories of who had said what.

Marianne Bertrand from the Chicago Booth School of Business recently gave a presentation that included a list of “documented robust gender differences in a set of psychological attributes”.

–Women are more risk averse
–Women negotiate less/women do not ask
–Women perform more poorly in competitive environments and shy away from such competitive environments
–Women lack in self-confidence (while men tend to be overly confident)

Even if the environment can be modified to promote more women into corporate leadership roles, Bertrand points out that policy responses will only be effective if we can confirm that these are learned behaviors.

… Innate or learned? nature vs. nurture?  …

Related:  Women who graduated from highly selective colleges more likely to drop out of workforce (Cost of College)

August 27, 2013

Surge in part-time jobs may be good for working mothers

by Grace

Are we seeing a convenient confluence of moms wanting to work less with a surge in part-time jobs?

Headlines continue to remind us of the surge in part-time employment.

Part-Time Work On The Rise, But Is That A Good Thing? — NPR

The Rise of Part-Time Work — New York Times

Most Of The New Jobs Were Part-Time — Business Insider

Who Can Deny It? Obamacare Is Accelerating U.S. Towards A Part-Time Nation — Forbes

The trend is undeniable.

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And then we have this:  ‘Many Working Moms Want To Work Less’

According to a recent Pew poll, 67% of all mothers would ideally forego full-time work in favor of working part-time (47%) or not at all (20%). By contrast, only 25% of fathers would choose part-time work (15%) or not to work (10%). Among all women who describe themselves as “financially comfortable,” only 31% would ideally work full-time and another 34% wouldn’t work at all. And among married mothers, only 23 percent would ideally like to work full-time. These are large percentages of different types of women who would choose family or personal priorities over full-time employment.

Current labor statistics bear out these fantasies: women are twice as likely as men to work part-time even though they are also more likely to be college-educated and thus more marketable.

Of course, part-time employment does not work as a solution for everyone.

It’s true that the trend toward part-time, benefit-free employment can be financially ruinous to individual workers. One fifth of the country’s jobs are part-time, and many are low-skilled, dead end positions. But it’s easy to overlook how unrewarding full-time employment can be for many people, too – especially when the researchers and reporters and pundits who write about workforce trends tend to have fascinating, flexible jobs with decent pay.

Moms who want to cut down their working hours may look more attractive to employers.

I just wonder if there may be a glimmer of hope for mothers wanting to downsize their work week, but who have not been able to find suitable part-time opportunities.  The new economics of employing part-time workers creates an environment that dissolves some of the old arguments used to defend policies requiring every staff member to put in 40+ hours per week.  Now the parent who wants to spend less time at the office and more time at home may be a more attractive job candidate.

Related:  Long hours may explain why educated women quit the workforce – ‘the time divide’ (Cost of College)

July 24, 2013

Quick Links – Children need facts to learn; parents read more to girls; a new blog

by Grace

‘Children can’t think if they don’t learn facts’ (The Daily Telegraph)

The academics who criticised rote learning are wrong – it is at the heart of all knowledge

Author and journalist Harry Mount responds to the professors of education who oppose Britain’s new national curriculum.  They claim it will ‘will place an overemphasis on memorising “endless lists of spelling, facts and rules”’, thereby robbing children of the “ability to think”‘.

Those academics think knowledge and thought are at war with each other in a zero-sum game; that you can’t have one without destroying the other. They say that rote learning is less important than “cognitive development, critical understanding and creativity”. How wrong they are – and how depressingly keen on the dreary, Latinate jargon of academese. You can’t be critical or creative, or develop, without knowing anything. Knowledge and thought aren’t chickens and eggs: knowledge always comes before a decent thought. Brilliant thinkers invariably know lots of things; and people who don’t know anything are usually stupid, unless they have had the cruel misfortune to have their natural intelligence stunted by an education system that prizes ignorance.

Daniel Willingham would further argue that we need “inflexible” knowledge , which is “memorizing with meaning”.  Rote knowledge, which is memorizing without meaning, is typically a precursor to flexible knowledge.

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Why parents read more with their daughters

Girls get more reading time with their parents than boys do.

There Are Plenty of Reasons Why Parents May Read More With Their Daughters

One theory holds that girls might have a greater inclination toward such activities. (Theories suggesting innate differences between boys and girls and between men and women are hotly debated.) Another theory is that parents may be following cultural scripts and unconscious biases that suggest they should read with their daughters, and have active play with sons.

It is also possible, Baker says, that the costs of investing in cognitive activities is different when it comes to boys and girls. As an economist, he isn’t referring to cost in the sense of cash; he means cost in the sense of effort.

“It is just more costly to provide a unit of reading to a boy than to a girl because the boy doesn’t sit still, you know, doesn’t pay attention,” he says, “these sorts of things.”

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Check out a new blog.

My son recently launched a new blog.  Occam’s Razor Scooter “is dedicated to news, pop culture, sports, and whatever else the author finds interesting”.  Politics is a particular focus, with a regularly updated guide to next year’s US Senate elections.  And the blog’s “dog of the day” feature is worth checking just for a daily smile.

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July 10, 2013

Quick Links – ‘Women’s deaths from painkiller overdose’; over-regulation hurting the economy; students need to learn patience

by Grace

‘Sharp rise in women’s deaths from painkiller overdose … rise of the single-parent household’ partly to blame

Women are catching up to men.

PORTSMOUTH, Ohio — Prescription pain pill addiction was originally seen as a man’s problem, a national epidemic that began among workers doing backbreaking labor in the coal mines and factories of Appalachia. But a new analysis of federal data has found that deaths in recent years have been rising far faster among women, quintupling since 1999.

More women now die of overdoses from pain pills like OxyContin than from cervical cancer or homicide. And though more men are dying, women are catching up, according to the analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the problem is hitting white women harder than black women, and older women harder than younger ones.

In this Ohio River town on the edge of Appalachia, women blamed the changing nature of American society. The rise of the single-parent household has thrust immense responsibility on women, who are not only mothers, but also, in many cases, primary breadwinners. Some who described feeling overwhelmed by their responsibilities said they craved the numbness that drugs bring. Others said highs made them feel pretty, strong and productive, a welcome respite from the chaos of their lives….

Women are more likely to rely on prescription pain medicine.

Deaths among women have been rising for some time, but Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the C.D.C. director, said the problem had gone virtually unrecognized. The study offered several theories for the increase. Women are more likely than men to be prescribed pain drugs, to use them chronically, and to get prescriptions for higher doses.

The study’s authors hypothesized that it might be because the most common forms of chronic pain, like fibromyalgia, are more common in women. A woman typically also has less body mass than a man, making it easier to overdose.

Women are also more likely to be given prescriptions of psychotherapeutic drugs, like antidepressants and antianxiety medications, Dr. Volkow said. That is significant because people who overdose are much more likely to have been taking a combination of those drugs and pain medication.

Broader social trends, like unemployment, an increase in single-parent families, and their associated stressors, might have also contributed to the increase in abuse, but they are slow moving and unlikely to be a direct explanation, Dr. Volkow said.

Related:  ‘Record Number Of Families Rely On Women’s Income, Many Of Them Headed By Single Mothers’ (ThinkProgress)

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Over-regulation is making America poorer.

In a research paper that appears in the June 2013 issue of The Journal of Economic Growth titled “Federal Regulation and Aggregate Economic Growth,” economists John Dawson (Appalachian State University) and John Seater (North Carolina State University) examine the relationship between the growth in regulations (measured by the pages of federal regulations) since 1949 and economic performance (measured by real GDP growth). As the authors point out in their introduction:

Macroeconomists typically divide government economic activity into four broad classes: spending, taxation, deficits, and monetary policy. There is, however, a fifth class of activity that may well have important effects on economic activity but that nevertheless has received little attention in the macroeconomic literature: regulation. Although microeconomists have analyzed both the causes and effects of regulation for decades, macroeconomists have joined the discussion only much more recently, with a number of empirical studies suggesting that regulation has significant macroeconomic effects.

Economist Mark J. Perry thinks this study actually under-estimates the total cost of regulation since it does not include “wasteful rent-seeking that private firms engage in before the regulations are in place, as they attempt to influence (support, oppose or change) federal regulations when they are first being proposed and considered”.  State and local regulations are also excluded.

… Adding in these costs of rent-seeking, and the costs of state regulations, paints a pretty depressing picture of how much poorer we all are due to the crushing burden of government regulations.

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Patience may be an undervalued 21st century skill.

According to Daniel Willingham, the problem of students’ declining attention span is less about technology changing the brain, and more about never having to face boredom.

Most teachers t think that students today have a problem paying attention. They seem impatient, easily bored.

I’ve argued that I think it’s unlikely that they are incapable of paying attention, but rather that they are quick to deem things not worth the effort.

Today’s kids are rarely forced to be bored.

We might wonder if patience would not come easier to a student who had had the experience of sustaining attention in the face of boredom, and then later finding that patience was rewarded. Arguably, digital immigrants were more likely to have learned this lesson. There were fewer sources of distraction and entertainment, and so we were a bit more likely to hang in there with something a little dull. …

Students today have so many options that being mildly bored can be successfully avoided most of the time.

If this analysis has any truth to it, how can digital natives learn that patience sometimes brings a reward?

Jennifer Roberts, a professor of the History of Art and Architecture at Harvard, suggests an exercise in which students are asked to study a painting for three hours.  While this seems excessive, this long duration of simple observation causes the students to see features about the painting that they would never have noticed if they had given up after a few minutes.

… The goal is that the student think “Okay, I’ve seen about all I’m going to see in this painting.” But because they must continue looking, they see more. And more. And more. Patience is rewarded.

July 3, 2013

Quick Links – Digital dementia; college debt without a college degree; college graduation rates not keeping up

by Grace

Digital dementia may be an emerging problem

While dementia is a disease that typically plagues the elderly, a new type of cognitive condition is affecting younger individuals in their early 20s and teens – a disorder known as “digital dementia.”

Digital dementia is characterized as the deterioration of brain function as a result of the overuse of digital technology, such as computers, smart phones and Internet use in general, Medical Daily reported.  This excess use of technology leads to unbalanced brain development, as heavy users are more likely to overdevelop their left brains, leaving their right brains underdeveloped….

Common symptoms of digital dementia include memory problems, shortened attention spans and emotional flattening.

According to experts, this disorder has become a significant problem in South Korea, which is home to the world’s largest population of Internet users.  The World Bank found that 83.8 percent of South Koreans have Internet access, and The Wall Street Journal estimated that 85 percent of the country’s population will have smartphones by 2017.

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‘Third of student loan borrowers never earned degree’ (CBS News)

(MoneyWatch) One out of every five adults 20 years of age or older owe money on student loans, and more than half of them are worried about this debt, according to a new study by the Urban Institute.

The exact figures for American adults: 19.6 percent have student loans and 57 percent are concerned about repayment.

A third of the debtors are not college graduates, and 9 percent of them possess only a high school degree. The high school graduates may have incurred debt by pursuing nondegree training or helping to pay for a child’s education. Some 25 percent attended college but did not graduate.

Women worry more.

Women are no more likely to incur college debt than men, but they are 8 percent more prone to worry about it….

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‘College graduation rates in the United States are continuing to slip behind’ those of other countries.

College graduation rates in the United States are continuing to slip behind, according to a report published on Tuesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, failing to keep pace with other advanced nations.

Dropped from fourth to 11th place

In 2000, 38 percent of Americans age 25 to 34 had a degree from a community college or a four-year institution, putting the nation in fourth place among its peers in the O.E.C.D. By 2011, the graduation rate had inched up to 43 percent, but the nation’s ranking had slipped to 11th place.

April 17, 2013

Quick Links – Women avoid science careers; electronic portfolios; Wisconsin’s ‘post-union era’

by Grace

‘Women With Both High Math and Verbal Ability Appear Less Likely to Choose Science Careers Because Their Dual Skills Confer More Career Options’ (University of Pittsburgh)

Study also finds that women with high math skills and only moderate verbal ability are the ones who appear more likely to choose STEM careers

Why are women with more options turning away from STEM careers?  Are they being steered away from these careers, or are they making choices based on their own interests?

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Electronic portfolios are becoming more accepted by employers.

Job seekers are increasingly using electronic portfolios as a way to:

  • showcase achievement
  • demonstrate learning and experience
  • give and receive peer feedback (privately or publicly)
  • achieve promotion, and much more.

Some universities host e-portfolios for their students, or other sites and resources can be used.  Clemson University has an ePortfolio Program with a gallery of  examples.

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In a ‘post-union era’, Wisconsin aims to reward ‘hard-working, high-achieving, and outstanding’ state employees.

After the “virtual elimination of collective bargaining and automatic dues collections” invalidated union contracts for Wisconsin state employees, the compensation system has changed from one that mandated automatic pay raises for all employees.

Bigger raises for fewer people

Under the discretionary merit pay program, fewer  employees received raises compared to the old collective bargaining agreement; the average raise was more money.

April 5, 2013

To eliminate the gender wage gap, don’t let women major in sociology

by Grace

Advice on how to eliminate the gender wage gap from Christina Hoff Sommers:

Talented young women who aspire to be rich and powerful would be advised to major in economics or electrical engineering rather than psychology or social work. They should be prepared to work 60 hours a week at the office rather than combining shorter hours with home, family, and other pursuits they find fulfilling. Those who stick with this course will find that their W-2s are equal to those of their male counterparts.

While some sex discrimination undoubtedly exists, it is does not appear to be the reason for most of the gender wage gap.  The gap mainly arises from the choices women make about their jobs and their families.  Perhaps some women need to be “empowered” to make different decisions, but I suspect most women already exercise free choice.

… But American women today are as independent-minded and self-determining as any in history. It is condescending to suggest that they have been manipulated when they choose home and family over high-octane careers—or to pursue degrees in education rather than engineering.

Related:  The Gender Wage Gap Is Getting Worse (thinkprogress.org)

April 3, 2013

Quick Links – College recommended but not marriage; record student loan write-off; minimal sequester effects; plus more

by Grace

◊◊◊  Why Do Economists Urge College, But Not Marriage? (The Daily Beast)

Megan McArdle:

Both are good for you. Only one is viewed as a proper aim of society.

College improves your earning prospects.  So does marriage.  Education makes you more likely to live longer.  So does marriage.  Yet while many economist vocally support initiatives to move more people into college, very few of them vocally favor initiatives to get more people married.  Why is that, asks Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry? His answer:

Meanwhile, economists’ “cosmopolitan perspective” (as Cowen puts it) makes them not feel good at the idea of public policy that would interfere with personal choices (allowing for a second that getting married is a “personal choice” in a way that going to college isn’t). Most economists think that government should not interfere or have a stance one way or another with decisions that feel intimate to people. That is a complete value judgement. And it’s a completely defensible one.

But at the level of the economics profession, this leads to bias: much more ink is spilled on, and thought given to the college wage premium than the marriage wage premium. One is mostly praised and interpreted in a certain way, while the other is mostly ignored. And, of course, the thing that academic economics focuses on has an effect on elite debate and public policy, especially when the socially liberal, pro-higher ed biases of economists line up well with those of the rest of the elite.

Another reason suggested by McArdle is that economists have typically been very successful in college, but perhaps not so successful in marriage.

◊◊◊  Banks wrote off $3 billion of student loan debt in the first two months of 2013 (Chicago Tribune)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Banks wrote off $3 billion of student loan debt in the first two months of 2013, up more than 36 percent from the year-ago period, as many graduates remain jobless, underemployed or cash-strapped in a slow U.S. economic recovery, an Equifax study showed.

◊◊◊ The sequester happened and the sky didn’t fall.

Report: Most Colleges Not Hit Hard by Sequester

Most universities will face only minimal effects from the automatic budget cuts that went into effect at the beginning of the month, according to a report released Thursday by Moody’s Investors Service. The report looked at the projected financial effect of the 5 percent cuts to domestic discretionary spending, known as sequestration, and found that only 1 percent of colleges and not-for-profits stood to lose more than 3 percent of their annual revenue as the result of the cuts.

Research universities were most likely to be hit hard by the cuts because federal funding for scientific research is one of the areas affected. While some financial aid programs — particularly federal work-study and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant — will also be cut, the Pell Grant, bedrock of need-based financial aid programs, is safe for the 2013-14 academic year.

◊◊◊  1 in 5 high school-age boys are diagnosed with ADHD, double the rate for girls.

Fifteen percent of school-age boys have received an A.D.H.D. diagnosis, the data showed; the rate for girls was 7 percent. Diagnoses among those of high-school age — 14 to 17 — were particularly high, 10 percent for girls and 19 percent for boys. About one in 10 high-school boys currently takes A.D.H.D. medication, the data showed.

It makes me wonder if just “being a boy” is considered a disease.  Schools, pressure to succeed in academics  and the pharmaceutical industry are all getting blamed for what may be an over-diagnosis problem.

March 28, 2013

Long hours may explain why educated women quit the workforce – ‘the time divide’

by Grace

Why do so many highly educated mothers drop out of the work force?  Probably because they can afford it and because the long hours they are required to work are tough on family life.

… Today, whether you’re male or female, if you’re taking home an upper-middle-class salary you’re expected to work an average of 50 hours, and probably more, a lot of it after you’ve gone home. As of 1997, the average workweek for a man with graduate education was 50 hours, and for a women 47—that three-hour difference can be accounted for, of course, by all the women who went on mommy tracks. Among American dual-career couples, in the 1990s, 15.2 percent of those with at least college degrees worked a joint 100 hours a week or more, whereas only 9.6 of couples without diplomas did that. Try to imagine what that 100-hour workweek looked like to a child: that’s five 10-hour days, plus commutes, for both parents. And those are just averages—for people at the top of their fields, the numbers were a great deal bigger.

That the workweek is ballooning for America’s educated, salaried classes, even as it’s shrinking for less educated, hourly workers, or turning into part-time work, has been called the “time divide”—the increasing inequality of time spent working, which tracks with the rise of economic inequality. As of 2002, for example, Americans in the top fourth of earners toiled an average of 15 hours more than earners in the bottom fourth….

Women currently enrolled in college do not fully realize the price of “leaning in” to their career, according to Judith Shulevitz writing in The New Republic.

When I meet young female undergraduates and graduate students today, which I do when I speak at universities, I don’t find them neo-traditionalist or lacking in aspiration. They don’t seem to want to stay home with their kids. They have every intention of using their formidable educations to achieve professional success, just as I did when I was in college. And like me back then, they don’t really grasp what that will require.

In our interview, Jacobs told me about a recent class in which he and his students discussed a study done of graduates of the University of Chicago’s business school. After 10 years, the study’s researchers found, the female graduates were making half of what their male classmates were making; the 90th percentile for women was where the median was for men. “Of course,” added Jacobs, “they’re all making a ton of money. It’s not like you could feel terrible for these women. But in terms of the disparity, it was pretty dramatic.” As the discussion continued, the young women in the class started putting their heads in their hands or on their desks. They hadn’t heard any of this before. But they’ll be hearing a lot more of it in the years to come.

I was clueless about all this when I was in college, mainly because my plans did not include children.  It was only after my first child was of school age and my job required me to be away from home 50-60 hours a week did I fully realize the challenges of balancing work and family.  My long commute, which contributed to the lack of flexibility, was a particular problem.  Even with good childcare, my husband and I could not escape the stress of trying to manage a family while dealing with a combined workweek of more than 100 hours.  So I simply quit working, grateful that I could afford it.  Other circumstances, including a major home remodeling project, also factored into my decision.

Another consideration in having one parent stay home with the children is the expanded flexibility it often gives the working parent to grow his career.  In our case, my husband no longer needed to factor in my availability when he had to work late or go out of town on business.  So in addition to lowering stress levels at home, it probably helped him in advancing his career.

Of course there are downsides to having one spouse drop out of the workforce.

Shulevitz thinks we need more government regulation so that professional mothers can stay in the workforce.

 Professional accomplishment shouldn’t and doesn’t have to look like this. The main reason white-collar workers can be driven to work 80-hour-or-so weeks is that very few of them have government protections. Most of them are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act, which mandates the 40-hour-week and overtime pay. American managers aren’t allowed to join unions. Other countries have laws that protect against overwork even for professionals, such as standard or maximum number of hours anyone can work in a week….

Related:  ’84% of working women want to stay home with kids’ (Cost of College)

March 8, 2013

Lack of college-educated men may be a reason for declining marriage numbers

by Grace

The lack of college-educated men may signal more problems for the future of marriage.

The importance of marriage is on the rise among women while decreasing among men.

 … According to Pew Research Center, the share of women ages eighteen to thirty-four that say having a successful marriage is one of the most important things in their lives rose nine percentage points since 1997 – from 28 percent to 37 percent. For men, the opposite occurred. The share voicing this opinion dropped, from 35 percent to 29 percent.

Gender imbalance may be creating an obstacle to marriage for college-educated women.

… Across the United States today, young women are much more likely to graduate from college than their male peers, a trend that’s been compounding itself for a few decades now. And because college graduates overwhelmingly tend to date other college graduates, that’s created an enormous imbalance in the national dating pool. In Portland, the situation is particularly dire. According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, there are 33 percent more women in Portland who are under the age of 35 and have at least a bachelor’s degree in than there are men. That’s on par with New York, which is notorious for its lopsided gender ratio.  

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Marriage is on the decline, and the lack of college-educated men suggests a continuation of this trend for highly educated women, a group that has been most resistant to the trend so far.

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Where to find college-educated men
Recently I was at local watering hole on one of their ladies’ nights, a practice I mistakenly thought had been ruled illegal.  By the looks of the crowd, I would say that young women looking for college-educated men of marrying age might want to check this place out.  Promoting itself as “definitely worth the 30 minute train ride from” New York City, this establishment might be especially attractive to NYC women who are experiencing the effects of that city’s gender imbalance.  But considering the long-term trend, I wonder if we’ll soon be seeing “men’s nights” at these types of places.

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