Adam Grant asks: What makes some men miserly and others generous? What motivated Bill Gates, for example, to make more than $28 billion in philanthropic gifts while many of his billionaire peers kept relatively tightfisted control over their personal fortunes?
New evidence reveals a surprising answer. The mere presence of female family members — even infants — can be enough to nudge men in the generous direction.
In a provocative new study, the researchers Michael Dahl, Cristian Dezso and David Gaddis Ross examined generosity and what inspires it in wealthy men. Rather than looking at large-scale charitable giving, they looked at why some male chief executives paid their employees more generously than others. The researchers tracked the wages that male chief executives at more than 10,000 Danish companies paid their employees over the course of a decade.
Interestingly, the chief executives paid their employees less after becoming fathers. On average, after chief executives had a child, they paid about $100 less in annual compensation per employee. To be a good provider, the researchers write, it’s all too common for a male chief executive to claim “his firm’s resources for himself and his growing family, at the expense of his employees.”
But there was a twist. When Professor Dahl’s team examined the data more closely, the changes in pay depended on the gender of the child that the chief executives fathered. They reduced wages after having a son, but not after having a daughter.
Daughters apparently soften fathers and evoke more caretaking tendencies. The speculation is that as we brush our daughters’ hair and take them to dance classes, we become gentler, more empathetic and more other-oriented. [Continue reading…]