Impact of a Daughter on Fathers

The impact is evidently softening. From Adam Grant:

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.

There are even studies showing that American legislators with daughters vote more liberallythis is also true of British male voters who have daughters, especially in terms of referendum and policy choices about reproductive rights. “A father takes on some of the preferences of his female offspring,” argue the researchers Andrew Oswald at the University of Warwick and Nattavudh Powdthavee, then at the University of York. For male chief executives, this daughter-driven empathy spike may account for more generous impulses toward employees that temper the temptation toward wage cuts.

Is it possible that proximity to infant girls prompts greater generosity?

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  • This seems to match along with another study I read about male business leaders that mentored women. My memory says that 91% of the male mentors had daughters.

  • Of course. Haven’t you watched the scholarly movie, Despicable Me?

  • attytjj466

    I have no doubt it is true, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I have two wonderful daughters who have/do greatly impact me.

  • kylearoberts

    “they reduced wages after having a son, but not after having a daughter.” Granted, we don’t have the whole study here, but isn’t there another possible conclusion? I.e. having a son made them more selfish, or more cutthroat, whereas having a daughter had no effect?

  • Barb

    Once we got a chance to speak face to face with the CEO of our Corporation and someone asked him why he started to promote more women to higher positions—his answer “My daughters wondered why I only had men around me and wouldn’t I want them to aspire to lead?”

  • PLTK

    Or an even worse interpretation–they plan to pass down what they make to their sons (and hence are more selfish) but don’t care so much about the daughters as they won’t carry on the family name.

  • Susan_G1

    Bill Gates is a better man than many than many of the super rich. But these small studies mean little.