On Sinking Ships, Women Have 'Survival Disadvantage'

Aug 5, 2012
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(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SINKING FEELIN'")

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And now, parsing the data on shipwrecks. Anyone who's ever seen Leonardo DiCaprio hustle Kate Winslet from a spectacularly sinking Titanic to safety, knows that when the boat goes down, it's women and children first, right? Wrong.

Two economists from Sweden's Uppsala University researched shipwrecks over the last three centuries; they found that women and children have, quote, "a distinct survival disadvantage compared to men." What's more, captains and crew survive wrecks at a significantly higher rate than passengers.

So it's back to the classic Every man for himself. Men in general have better survival chances, say the study authors. Unless, like poor Leo, they go in for self-sacrifice. All of this data means the Titanic disaster, in which women were three times more likely to survive than men, is the exception and not the rule. On any other boat, Kate Winslet would have been out of luck.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SINKING FEELIN'")

CHRIS THOMAS KING: (Singing) I got that old sinking feeling like I'm going down soon.

WERTHEIMER: You're listening to NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.