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Why the new global wealth of educated women spurs backlash

The spread of education across developing nations is transforming global inequalities and playing a key role in closing the gender gap. Economics correspondent Paul Solman sits down with economist Surjit Bhalla and sociologist Ravinder Kaur to discuss Bhalla’s book, “The New Wealth of Nations,” as well as the backlash to increasing equality.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The tariffs on imported metals announced today play into a much larger economic narrative from the president and others about United States, competitiveness in the world, and where the U.S. has fallen behind.

    Part of that bigger picture is what’s happening as developing nations improve their economic conditions.

    And that’s the focus of tonight’s Making Sense story, with Paul Solman as our guide.

  • Paul Solman:

    So your book is about education and particularly the education of women.

  • Surjit Bhalla:

    And that’s the new wealth of nations.

  • Paul Solman:

    And you’re his wife and an academic.

  • Ravinder Kaur:

    Who came up with the title of the book.

  • Paul Solman:

    Indian economist Surjit Bhalla and his wife, Ravinder Kaur, Professor of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, in the U.S. recently to spread the message of “The New Wealth of Nations.”

  • Surjit Bhalla:

    The key thesis of the book is that education and the spread of education has transformed the world and has transformed relationships, inequalities between countries and, finally and most importantly, between the sexes.

  • Paul Solman:

    And the cost? What’s the cost?

  • Surjit Bhalla:

     The cost is that people in the West are going to lose out relative to the people in the East, the East meaning the rest of the world, the West meaning the advanced countries.

    What happens, when the world is filled with everybody graduating from high school, then the Western people will lose their advantage over the rest of the world.

  • Paul Solman:

    And so that’s why the person with a high school diploma in the United States has seen her or his, usually his, earnings…

  • Surjit Bhalla:

    Decline, yes, in real terms, by something like 10 percent or 15 percent over the last 25 years. The real wage of those who went to college, but didn’t graduate has stayed the same. And the real wage of college graduates, the creme de la creme, has risen by only 0.5 percent per annum.

  • Paul Solman:

     But it’s not the creme de la creme anymore, because you can go beyond college.

  • Surjit Bhalla:

    Well, no, this includes beyond graduate. Whether it’s doctors or it’s lawyers, everything is transferable now.

    Even surgery can be done transatlantic by the use of technology. Where is the real advantage left for an American or a British or German or Western professional?

  • Paul Solman:

     Isn’t that why there’s a reaction against immigration?

  • Ravinder Kaur:

    Yes.

    You know, there’s always a scapegoat when things are not going well for you. And it always tends to be somebody we think of as the other. You know, it could be a person of a different color. It could be a person of different religious persuasion.

  • Surjit Bhalla:

    Different sex.

  • Ravinder Kaur:

     Of different sex or whatever. So, today, maybe men are resentful of women.

  • Surjit Bhalla:

     Previously, there were always the bottom 20 percent who lost out, but they could come home and feel superior to or dominate their wives.

    Now they come home, and the women are the major breadwinners, or are more educated than them, or more able than them.

  • Paul Solman:

    Or at least are competing with them.

  • Surjit Bhalla:

    Or competing. From where they were here, now they’re equals. That can mess up the psychology of men.

  • Ravinder Kaur:

    I think it is a threatened masculinity issue. Why do you see more, you know, such crime in places where the gender gap is closing?

  • Paul Solman:

    According to the World Health Organization, for example, violence against women surged in both Nicaragua and Uganda following public information campaigns promoting women’s rights.

    And then there’s the so-called Nordic paradox. Though Iceland Norway, Finland and Sweden take the World Economic Forum’s global index of gender equality — the U.S. ranks 49th — they are also among the worst in Europe for domestic violence and sexual assault.

  • Ravinder Kaur:

    So, for quite some time, my argument has been that if you see more violence and if you see more gender crime, it’s a backlash. How dare this woman be in the public space, and you know how dare she aspire…

  • Surjit Bhalla:

    Be equal.

  • Ravinder Kaur:

    … to the same things?

  • Paul Solman:

    And compete with me.

  • Ravinder Kaur:

    And compete with me. And the women are competing, because, if you look at high school results, if you look at college graduation results, the girls are performing way better.

  • Surjit Bhalla:

    So while we had the protests against globalization earlier was against men and women in general from the emerging world who were threatening the jobs and the livelihoods and the rate of growth of livelihood in the Western world, I think the new element is about the emerged and emerging equality between women and men.

  • Paul Solman:

    And you see that as happening both in the West and in the…

  • Surjit Bhalla:

    Oh, yes, absolutely.

  • Paul Solman:

    In the developing world.

  • Surjit Bhalla:

    Absolutely. Equality is going to be threatening to a lot of men.

  • Paul Solman:

    And that, say Bhalla and Kaur, helps explain the rise of repressive regimes around the world.

  • Surjit Bhalla:

    So, the Taliban is a very — and ISIS is a completely male-dominated and enslavement of women even. And this one is a lot more, in my view, as anger and resentment against women.

  • Paul Solman:

     Part of the reaction in the world is farmers, and they’re reacting against modernity a bit, against globalization. Why?

  • Ravinder Kaur:

     The value of the kind of livelihood that people get from agriculture is nowhere what it used to be. It’s not highly profitable anymore. And the point is that this is where, for the first time, women have gained from not inheriting property, because they flee to the cities, to the towns.

    They can leave, because they’re not going to inherit the land. And it’s the men who are left with the land, and, in fact, they are facing in many places what people call — are calling a bride drought. They cannot find women who will marry them, because those women are departing.

  • Paul Solman:

    Another reason for the bride drought, the high ratio of men to women in places like India, after decades of selective abortion of female fetuses, as the NewsHour’s Fred de Sam Lazaro has reported, with the help of Ravi Kaur.

  • Ravinder Kaur:

     You have 111 men to 100 women in India. And so that’s…

  • Surjit Bhalla:

    That’s at birth.

  • Ravinder Kaur:

    At birth.

  • Paul Solman:

     And what’s driving the demand for sons?

  • Ravinder Kaur:

    It’s the son who’s expected to support the parents in old age. But as more and more women get educated, they discriminate against daughters less, because now daughters are as capable as sons of providing you with old age care or support.

  • Paul Solman:

    So you’re saying, as education has increased and certainly with respect to educating women…

  • Surjit Bhalla:

    Male privilege and male advantage has decreased, and I absolutely think it is a better world than what we have seen.

  • Ravinder Kaur:

    I agree with the fundamental proposition that, you know, male privilege will decrease with female education, but it’s still going to take time.

  • Paul Solman:

     For the PBS NewsHour, this is economics correspondent Paul Solman in New York.

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