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Every Man for Himself! Gender, Norms and Survival in Maritime Disasters

  • Elinder, Mikael

    ()

    (Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN))

  • Erixson, Oscar

    (Uppsala Center for Fiscal Studies)

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 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, that the gender gap in survival rates has declined, that women have a larger disadvantage in British shipwrecks, and that there seems to be no association between duration of a disaster and the impact of social norms. Taken together, our findings show that behavior in life-and-death situation is best captured by the expression ‘Every man for himself’.

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Paper provided by Research Institute of Industrial Economics in its series Working Paper Series with number 913.

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Length: 78 pages
Date of creation: 10 Apr 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hhs:iuiwop:0913
Contact details of provider: Postal: Research Institute of Industrial Economics, Box 55665, SE-102 15 Stockholm, Sweden
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  1. Bruno S. Frey & David A. Savage & Benno Torgler, 2008. "Noblesse Oblige? Determinants of Survival in a Life and Death Situation," IEW - Working Papers 389, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
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