It’s commonly believed that in shipwrecks like the Titanic, women and children were rescued before men.Not so, according to a new study by economists Mikael Elinder and Oscar Erixson reported by Freakonomics. In fact, women had a lower chance of survival than men.
The idea of chivalry has persisted since the sinking of the Titanic 100 years ago: 70 per cent of women and children survived, while only 20 per cent of men did. Crews were also supposed to defer to passengers.
But when Elinder and Erixson analysed 18 shipwrecks over 300 years, they found that the reality was “every man for himself.” From the study:
By investigating a new and much larger sample of maritime disasters than has previously been done, we show that women have a substantially lower survival rate than men. We also find that crew members have a higher survival rate than passengers and that only 7 out of 16 captains went down with their ship. Children appear to have the lowest survival rate.
Women had a much higher survival rate if the caption implemented the policy of “women and children first.”
What happened on the Titanic was highly unusual and has spurred misconceptions about what people believe about disasters, the authors said.
Here’s a chart showing survival stats for the maritime shipwrecks studied:
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