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Chivalry Isn't Dead on New York City Subways, But Manspreading Remains a Top Offense, College Study Finds

What to Know

  • The students observed the behavior of more than 5,100 subway riders on 21 different lines at various time intervals from Oct. 6 to Nov. 7
  • They found a higher percentage of female passengers were seated than male passengers, especially on crowded trains
  • Manspreading continues to be the top etiquette rule violated, with men in their 30s most likely to sprawl

Despite all the hustle and bustle and oblivious faces immersed in their own thoughts and iPhones on the subways of New York City, chivalry is alive and well, according to a new Hunter College study. 

The study, based on observations by Hunter College students who assessed behavior of more than 5,100 straphangers on geographically dispersed subway lines (21), different days of the week and at varying time intervals from Oct. 6 to Nov. 7, found men were "consciously or not" relinquishing their seats to women. 

Seventy one percent of females were observed seat versus 63 percent of males, the study found. As the subway cars grew more crowded, the difference is even more apparent; when there were 40 or more passengers in the back third of a car, the percentage gap between seated males and females climbed to 13 points. 

The students' finding mirrors the results of a 2012 study by analysts at the Metropolitan Research Authority. 

"It is possible that other factors lead more male passengers to stand in crowded cars – perhaps women take up less space on the seats, or are quicker to respond when a seat opens up," the study said. "But a plausible explanation of our findings is that when it comes to the city’s straphangers, chivalry, perhaps, is not quite dead. 

The study also looked at five rules of subway conduct -- and while chivalry may be alive, manspreading, the heart of the MTA's Courtesy Counts campaign over the last few years, certainly isn't dead. According to the study, 26 percent of the seated male passengers observed during the month-long window were guilty of manspreading -- and there was no indication the perpetrators were less likely to manspread as the train cars filled up, the students found. Men ages 30 to 39 were mostly likely to manspread (30 percent of those observed with legs sprawled), followed by those ages 40 to 49 (29 percent). Only 17 percent of manspreaders were found to be dozing. 

Straphangers wearing backpacks while standing on crowded trains was another common etiquette violation, with, not surprisingly, teenagers, possibly going to or from school, the most frequent offenders (70 percent of those observed), followed by those ages 20 to 29. 

Though many New York City subway riders have no doubt encountered a fellow straphanger eating something particularly odorous or undesirable on the train, the Hunter College students didn't find eating to be a particularly bad offense. Just 4 percent of riders observed were eating (females slightly more likely than males) -- and a minuscule proportion were seen grooming, the study found. 

The Hunter College study was directed by Sociology Professors Peter Tuckel and Mike Benediktsson, and Urban Policy and Planning Professor William Milczarski. Professors Tuckel, Benediktsson, and Milczarski collaborated with Hunter students in research methods and data analyses courses in the Department of Sociology and the Department of Urban Policy and Planning.

Click here to see the full results.

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