A hundred years after the Titanic sank, two Swedish researchers say today that when it comes to sinking ships, male chivalry is "a myth" and more men generally survive such disasters than women and children. Economists Mikael Elinder and Oscar Erixon of Uppsala University also showed in their 82-page study that captains and their crew are 18.7 percentage points more likely to survive a shipwreck than their passengers. "Our findings show that behavior in life-and-death situation is best captured by the expression 'every man for himself'," the authors wrote.
The researchers analyzed 18 of the world's most famous maritime disasters, ranging from the HMS Birkenhead that grounded in the Indian Ocean in 1852 to the MV Bulgaria tourist ship that sank on Russia's Volga River last year. Only 17.8% of the women survived compared with 34.5% of the men. In three of the shipwrecks, all the women died, Elinder said. The Titanic, however, is an exception; Captain Edward Smith threatened to shoot men unless they yielded to women for lifeboat seats, and 73.3% of the women survived. (Read more Titanic stories.)