Whenever he thought about it, he felt terrible. And so, at last, he came to a fateful decision. He decided not to think about it. ~John-Roger and Peter McWilliams
Question #79047 posted on 09/16/2014 9:36 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I hear all the time that as a white male I'm privileged. When I ask for hard numbers on that, I hear that it's like asking for hard numbers on gravity--It's just so obvious that you're a moron for asking for it.

I guess I'm a moron because I still like to see numbers (something of the scientist in me). I've tried looking for numbers on this, but all the numbers I've seen seem incomplete, i.e. compare men and women without taking into account different choices that men and women culturally make. I.e., how many hours a day do full-time exempt women work vs full-time exempt men? Are there any good numbers that reduce the confounding that happens because men and women decide different priorities?

-White Male


Dear White Male,

Reasons why whites are privileged:

  • Blacks tend to be arrested more often than whites [1][2][3][4]
  • There is a salary gap between whites and minorities [5][6][7]
  • Racism still exists in America, and whites are typically favored [8][9]
  • Poverty is more wide-spread among minorities than whites [10][11][12]
  • Whites tend to be more educated [13][14][15]
  • Whites tend to have longer life expectancies than blacks, though eclipsed by Asian Americans and Latinos [16]

Reasons why men are privileged:

  • The gender pay gap favors men (and yes, some may be explained by women leaving and reentering the workforce, but source 17 discusses this more in depth) [17][18][19]
  • Men have a "power" position in society and American culture [20]
  • Some view the fact that men have the priesthood in the Church as an example of male privilege. I don't want to have this discussion here, but I think it is important to say that some people see this as an example of inequality.

Obviously there are more examples that I could give, but this should be enough to show you that simply being born as a white male in America sets you apart from 99% of the world. You are privileged in many regards.

As for the numbers seeming incomplete, this is difficult to address. Clearly, race does not explain all the variation in salaries, health, education, crime, etc. I think what those claiming inequality are actually asserting is that if you were born as (for example) an average black woman, it would be much harder for you to reach the specific goals that you might currently have than if you were born a black male. In fact, you likely would not even have the same goals, since many of your desires are culturally defined and deemed "possible" from what you have seen around you. Of course there are reasons that may explain why blacks are more likely to be arrested: you could claim that a higher percentage of blacks than whites grow up in poverty, leading to a greater likelihood of a life of crime, which is often passed to their kids and causes a cycle. But that doesn't change the fact that blacks are more likely to be arrested, which is inherently sad and wrong.

The salary difference between men and women is a little different, as you mentioned. It is absolutely true that the average woman works fewer hours than the average man. There is also evidence to suggest that women leaving the workforce and reentering (possibly due to having children or caring for them) explains some fluctuation in the wage difference. And some is explained by the fact that women tend to be less flexible with hours and overtime than men (generally due to children and family), as explained in the New York Times article cited as source 17. However, even accounting for this, it seems that women are paid somewhat less.

There can be a lot of debate over how privileged you are after controlling for various variables. But, the fact remains that the average white man fares much better than the average minority woman in America in terms of salary, education, poverty, crime statistics, and racism.