New evidence suggests a shift, possibly because of a “a subtle fear of boys and the trouble they might bring.”
It’s a signal that the man may make not only a good friend but a good parent, she said.
“That’s the bottom line message that women get when they see a man with a dog: He’s capable of nurturing, of giving without receiving a lot, of caring for another. He’s made a commitment to this animal,” Dr. Fisher said. “And one thing women have needed for years and years is a partner who could share the load, be responsible, care for them if they’re sick and show up on time.” (Just for the record, Mr. Morrill is happily married and not in the market for a relationship).
Gay men and women with pets can communicate the same character traits to potential mates, who will evaluate and appreciate them in a similar manner, said Daniel J. Kruger, a research professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor who studies human mating strategies. “The kind of benefits you see in terms of increasing the perception that someone is reliable and caring — I think those are generalized across everybody,” he said.
There’s ample research to demonstrate that the messages sent by dog ownership influences others’ judgment and behavior.
One study that asked volunteers to rate people based on photographs found that they ranked someone as happier, safer and more relaxed when they appeared with a dog.
In another series of experiments, men had more luck getting a woman’s phone number if they had a dog with them, and both men and women had more luck panhandling when they had a dog with them.
Another study found that when women heard vignettes about men who acted like “cads” who were uninterested in a long-term commitment, they rated the men more highly if they owned a dog.
For single people who own pets — and more and more young singles do — pet ownership may even make or break a relationship, according to a 2015 survey that Dr. Fisher and her colleagues conducted among more than 1,200 Match.com pet-owning subscribers. Among the findings:
■ Nearly one-third of respondents said they had been “more attracted to someone” because they had a pet.
■ More than half said they would find someone more attractive if they knew he or she had adopted a pet.
■ Most respondents said they thought their date’s choice in pets said a lot about their personality.
■ More than half said they would not date someone who did not like pets.
Women tended to have stronger opinions on many of these matters than men, the Match.com survey also found.
“Women are generally more discerning than men about their mate choices,” said Peter B. Gray, an anthropologist who was the lead author of the survey report. “They want to know if this person is a good fit, and this may be one way to assess whether someone is telling the truth and is the right fit in a large, anonymous society.”
Another interesting finding from the Match.com survey was that roughly two-thirds of respondents over all said they would judge their date based on how he or she responded to their own pet. “That people might let a cat or a dog influence the most important close relationship in their life — that’s phenomenal,” said Justin Garcia, an associate professor of gender studies at the Kinsey Institute, who is also a scientific adviser to Match.com and a co-author on the paper.
But as more young adults postpone marriage and children and remain single for longer, he said, they may view their pets as one of the more stable and long-lasting aspects of their life.
Whether dog owners truly are more empathetic and nurturing than those who don’t own pets is harder to ascertain. In a series of studies, two Canadian researchers, Anika Cloutier and Johanna Peetz, showed that pet owners certainly believed their pets had a positive effect on their romantic relationships. They also found a correlation between pet ownership and higher relationship satisfaction.
Ms. Cloutier acknowledged that it’s hard to know what comes first, the dog or the personality traits that make someone likely to commit to a relationship, and that the links could reflect reverse causality. “It could be that couples who are more committed and already feel very positively about their relationship are those that decide to invest in the relationship to the pet,” she said.
And beware the cynics who might misuse this information. Frat houses have for years used the trick of adopting baby animals, from puppies to baby chicks to kid goats, to draw visitors. Men or women could similarly “borrow” a friend’s dog for an afternoon walk to lure potential mates.
But ultimately, Dr. Fisher comes down on the side of pet owners, who must devote a lot of time to their animals. In a world full of messages, not all of them necessarily honest, she said, dog ownership is generally “a real honest message.”
Too many boys are trapped in the same suffocating, outdated model of masculinity, where manhood is measured in strength, where there is no way to be vulnerable without being emasculated, where manliness is about having power over others. They are trapped, and they don’t even have the language to talk about how they feel about being trapped, because the language that exists to discuss the full range of human emotion is still viewed as sensitive and feminine.
Men feel isolated, confused and conflicted about their natures. Many feel that the very qualities that used to define them — their strength, aggression and competitiveness — are no longer wanted or needed; many others never felt strong or aggressive or competitive to begin with. We don’t know how to be, and we’re terrified.
But to even admit our terror is to be reduced, because we don’t have a model of masculinity that allows for fear or grief or tenderness or the day-to-day sadness that sometimes overtakes us all.
Case in point: A few days ago, I posted a brief thread about these thoughts on Twitter, knowing I would receive hateful replies in response. I got dozens of messages impugning my manhood; the mildest of them called me a “soy boy” (a common insult among the alt-right that links soy intake to estrogen).
And so the man who feels lost but wishes to preserve his fully masculine self has only two choices: withdrawal or rage. We’ve seen what withdrawal and rage have the potential to do. School shootings are only the most public of tragedies. Others, on a smaller scale, take place across the country daily; another commonality among shooters is a history of abuse toward women.
To be clear, most men will never turn violent. Most men will turn out fine. Most will learn to navigate the deep waters of their feelings without ever engaging in any form of destruction. Most will grow up to be kind. But many will not.
We will probably never understand why any one young man decides to end the lives of others. But we can see at least one pattern and that pattern is glaringly obvious. It’s boys.
I believe in boys. I believe in my son. Sometimes, though, I see him, 16 years old, swallowing his frustration, burying his worry, stomping up the stairs without telling us what’s wrong, and I want to show him what it looks like to be vulnerable and open but I can’t. Because I was a boy once, too.
There has to be a way to expand what it means to be a man without losing our masculinity. I don’t know how we open ourselves to the rich complexity of our manhood. I think we would benefit from the same conversations girls and women have been having for these past 50 years.
I would like men to use feminism as an inspiration, in the same way that feminists used the civil rights movement as theirs. I’m not advocating a quick fix. There isn’t one. But we have to start the conversation. Boys are broken, and I want to help.
Credit Illustration by Ben Wiseman
This article appeared in the May 25, 2014 issue of The New York Times Magazine.
Losing weight is simple: Ingest fewer calories than your body burns. But how best to do that is unclear. Most experts advise small reductions in calories or increases in exercise to remove weight slowly and sensibly, but many people quit that type of program in the face of glacial progress. A new study, published in March in The Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, suggests that minimal calories and maximal exercise can significantly reduce body fat in just four days — and the loss lasts for months. The catch, of course, is that those four days are pretty grueling.
Researchers in Spain and Sweden had 15 healthy but overweight Swedish men restrict their calories to about 360 a day, a reduction of approximately 1,800 calories. What calories they did ingest came in liquid form: Some men drank mostly sugary carbohydrates, others a high-protein drink. The men also exercised — a lot. Their days began with 45 minutes of cranking an arm-pedaling machine for an upper-body workout. Then, as a group, the men strolled for eight hours across the Swedish countryside, with only a 10-minute break every hour. They were allowed as much of a low-calorie, sports-type beverage as they wanted during their walks.
Most of the men “were surprised that it was easier than they thought it would be,” says José Calbet, a professor at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in Spain; he and his colleague Hans-Christer Holmberg, a professor at Mid Sweden University in Ostersund, led the study. Some of the subjects experienced “minor problems with pain in the joints” and blisters on their feet, according to Calbet, but none dropped out or complained of hunger.
After four days, the men had each lost almost 11 pounds, with nearly half of that coming from body fat; the rest of the loss came primarily from muscle mass. The researchers had anticipated that the high-protein drink would protect people against muscle-mass loss. In fact, the losses were the same, whether the men had been given sugar or protein.
More surprising, the men did not immediately put the weight back on after the study ended. “We thought they would overeat and regain the weight lost,” Dr. Calbet says. Instead, when the volunteers returned a month later, most had lost another two pounds of fat. And a year after the experiment, they were still down five pounds, mostly in lost body fat.
Dr. Calbet and his colleagues hope to study whether women respond similarly to men and whether repeated bouts of such a program might affect muscular health and appetite hormones.
But given the doleful statistics on weight loss — most people regain everything they lose dieting and more — these results are startling. They also, at the moment, are inexplicable. “The only explanation we can offer” for the sustained loss, Dr. Calbet says, is that the men were inspired by their hypercompressed success to change their lifestyles. The men moved more and ate less than before.
By the time boys from poor neighborhoods start kindergarten, they are already less prepared than their sisters. The gap keeps widening: They are more likely to be suspended, skip school, perform poorly on standardized tests, drop out of high school, commit crimes as juveniles and have behavioral or learning disabilities.
Boys tend to have more discipline problems than girls over all. But the difference is much bigger for black and Latino children — and more than half of the difference is because of poverty and related problems, the researchers found. For instance, while boys in well-off families have almost the same test scores as their sisters, the gap is more than three times as large in the most disadvantaged families, the study found. While well-off boys are 3.1 percentage points less likely than their sisters to be ready for kindergarten, the most disadvantaged boys are 8.5 percentage points less likely.
The pattern is clear at Astor School, a kindergarten through eighth grade public school in a low-income part of Portland, Ore. More than half the students are economically disadvantaged, and nearly half are minorities.
Credit Carl Kiilsgaard for The New York Times
Girls generally enter kindergarten with skills suited to doing well in school, like sitting still and using a pencil, while many boys act younger, having trouble listening to adults and controlling their impulses, said Jeff Knoblich, the school counselor.
“Boys get a message from a very young age to be a man, and to be a man means you’re strong and you don’t cry and you don’t show your emotions,” he said. “I see boys suffering because of that, and a lot of that comes out in aggressive behaviors.”
Problems in elementary school have long-term effects. Early suspensions are strongly correlated with not graduating from high school. The modern economy relies on skills like cooperation, empathy and resilience — and many boys are entering the work force poorly equipped to compete.
The researchers — who also included David Autor and Melanie Wasserman of M.I.T., Krzysztof Karbownik of Northwestern and Jeffrey Roth of the University of Florida — examined various reasons boys could be falling behind. By analyzing brothers and sisters in about 150,000 households using databases from the health and education departments in Florida, they could control for differences in families.
They concluded that boys aren’t born this way. Babies of low-income mothers are less healthy, but the boys are not worse off than the girls.
Though disadvantaged children are more likely to be in underperforming schools or neighborhoods with drugs and violence, this alone does not explain the gender gap, the researchers said. Even in the same neighborhood and schools and for children of the same race, the gender gap is wider in less-advantaged families.
“Boys particularly seem to benefit more from being in a married household or committed household — with the time, attention and income that brings,” Mr. Autor said.
The researchers compared families based on whether the parents were single or coupled, and also looked at the education level of the mother, the income of the neighborhood and the quality of the school. They said they could not isolate which variable mattered most, probably because they are all intertwined.
But they said there were clues to why boys are extra sensitive to disadvantage. A big one is that impoverished households are more likely to be led by single mothers, and boys suffer from a lack of male role models.
For every 100 black women not in jail, there are only 83 black men. The remaining men – 1.5 million of them – are, in a sense, missing.
Among cities with sizable black populations, the largest single gap is in Ferguson, Mo.
North Charleston, S.C., has a gap larger than 75 percent of cities.
This gap – driven mostly by incarceration and early deaths – barely exists among whites.
Figures are for non-incarcerated adults who are 25 to 54.
In New York, almost 120,000 black men between the ages of 25 and 54 are missing from everyday life. In Chicago, 45,000 are, and more than 30,000 are missing in Philadelphia. Across the South — from North Charleston, S.C., through Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi and up into Ferguson, Mo. — hundreds of thousands more are missing.
They are missing, largely because of early deaths or because they are behind bars. Remarkably, black women who are 25 to 54 and not in jail outnumber black men in that category by 1.5 million, according to an Upshot analysis. For every 100 black women in this age group living outside of jail, there are only 83 black men. Among whites, the equivalent number is 99, nearly parity.
African-American men have long been more likely to be locked up and more likely to die young, but the scale of the combined toll is nonetheless jarring. It is a measure of the deep disparities that continue to afflict black men — disparities being debated after a recent spate of killings by the police — and the gender gap is itself a further cause of social ills, leaving many communities without enough men to be fathers and husbands.
Perhaps the starkest description of the situation is this: More than one out of every six black men who today should be between 25 and 54 years old have disappeared from daily life.
“The numbers are staggering,” said Becky Pettit, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas.
And what is the city with at least 10,000 black residents that has the single largest proportion of missing black men? Ferguson, Mo., where a fatal police shooting last year led to nationwide protests and a Justice Department investigation that found widespread discrimination against black residents. Ferguson has 60 men for every 100 black women in the age group, Stephen Bronars, an economist, has noted.
The distributions of whites and blacks
Most blacks live in places with a significant shortage of black men.
But most whites live in places with rough parity between white men and women.
Percent men →
The gap in North Charleston, site of a police shooting this month, is also considerably more severe than the nationwide average, as is the gap in neighboring Charleston. Nationwide, the largest proportions of missing men generally can be found in the South, although there are also many similar areas across the Midwest and in many big Northeastern cities. The gaps tend to be smallest in the West.
Incarceration and early deaths are the overwhelming drivers of the gap. Of the 1.5 million missing black men from 25 to 54 — which demographers call the prime-age years — higher imprisonment rates account for almost 600,000. Almost 1 in 12 black men in this age group are behind bars, compared with 1 in 60 nonblack men in the age group, 1 in 200 black women and 1 in 500 nonblack women.
Higher mortality is the other main cause. About 900,000 fewer prime-age black men than women live in the United States, according to the census. It’s impossible to know precisely how much of the difference is the result of mortality, but it appears to account for a big part. Homicide, the leading cause of death for young African-American men, plays a large role, and they also die from heart disease, respiratory disease and accidents more often than other demographic groups, including black women.
Where black men are missing
Black men, as a pct. of all black adults
National average, all races
Rates are shown in counties with at least 1,000 prime-age black men and women.
Several other factors — including military deployment overseas and the gender breakdown of black immigrants — each play only a minor role, census data indicates. The Census Bureau’s undercounting of both African-Americans and men also appears to play a role.
The gender gap does not exist in childhood: There are roughly as many African-American boys as girls. But an imbalance begins to appear among teenagers, continues to widen through the 20s and peaks in the 30s. It persists through adulthood.
Rates by age group
The disappearance of these men has far-reaching implications. Their absence disrupts family formation, leading both to lower marriage rates and higher rates of childbirth outside marriage, as research by Kerwin Charles, an economist at the University of Chicago, with Ming-Ching Luoh, has shown.
The black women left behind find that potential partners of the same race are scarce, while men, who face an abundant supply of potential mates, don’t need to compete as hard to find one. As a result, Mr. Charles said, “men seem less likely to commit to romantic relationships, or to work hard to maintain them.”
The imbalance has also forced women to rely on themselves — often alone — to support a household. In those states hit hardest by the high incarceration rates, African-American women have become more likely to work and more likely to pursue their education further than they are elsewhere.
The missing-men phenomenon began growing in the middle decades of the 20th century, and each government census over the past 50 years has recorded at least 120 prime-age black women outside of jail for every 100 black men. But the nature of the gap has changed in recent years.
Since the 1990s, death rates for young black men have dropped more than rates for other groups, notes Robert N. Anderson, the chief of mortality statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both homicides and H.I.V.-related deaths, which disproportionately afflict black men, have dropped. Yet the prison population has soared since 1980. In many communities, rising numbers of black men spared an early death have been offset by rising numbers behind bars.
It does appear as if the number of missing black men is on the cusp of declining, albeit slowly. Death rates are continuing to fall, while the number of people in prisons — although still vastly higher than in other countries — has also fallen slightly over the last five years.
But the missing-men phenomenon will not disappear anytime soon. There are more missing African-American men nationwide than there are African-American men residing in all of New York City — or more than in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Detroit, Houston, Washington and Boston, combined.
Places with the lowest rates
|Place||Pct. black men|
Places with most missing men
|Place||Pct. black men||«Missing»|
In places with at least 10,000 black residents.