Wednesday, April 18, 2007

On Average

A recent study being touted in the media claims that on average women and men work about the same (in and out of the home). I heard about it this morning on the radio. The finding doesn't really surprise me, nor does the finding that in poorer countries women more than men.

What does surprise me is that there was not a single standard deviation, margin of error etc mentioned in the slate article, or the abstract I found online. The Slate article blithely compares averages as if there were nothing else in the world worth looking at.

In Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands, men actually work more than women,
although the differences are small. In Belgium, Denmark, Finland, and the United
Kingdom, women work slightly more, though less than 5 percent. Among rich
countries, the largest differences emerge in Italy, where women work eight hours
while men work only 6.5, and in France, where women work 7.2 hours and men 6.6.

So In Italy women work on average 1.5 hours more than men, and this is considered a "small" difference.

While men and women spend about the same time working in rich countries, women do work more than men in poor countries. And the gap widens as countries get poorer. While in the United States, which has a per capita GNP of roughly
$33,000, there is no difference between the amount of male and female work, in
Benin, Madagascar, and South Africa, which have a per capita income of less than
$10,000, women work one to two hours more per day than men.

So, 1.5 hours in Italy isn't considered a big difference... but in Benin, Madigascar and South Africa 1-2 hours is? I'm lost.

You know what would make this whole article a lot clearer, Standard Deviations. Do we remember those press? They were some of the things that got Larry Sander's in so mcuh trouble a few years back when he asserted that standard deviations for men were larger in the math and sciences resulting in more men at the top of the science food chain. It tells us how much variation was in the sample so we know how the rest of the data looks, (You know, representing those handfuls of people in the US who make more or less than 33k)

Well are the standard deviations for the hours worked men and women in America the same? And what about in Italy, because depending on how big the standard deviation is it can tell us how important that 1.5 hours really is, does it really symbolize a significant gap between the two? And what about in Benin, Madigascar and South Africa,? We can't really tell how significant that 1-2 gap is without the standard deviation.

I gotta say 20 minutes vaccuming while the man watches TV is pretty damn significant to me, even if it doesn't seem that long "on average" without some kind of proof that it isn't that important, I'm definetly going to start whining. And I think the women in Italy should throw a large riot.


DED said...

Standard Deviations. Do we remember those press?

Too complicated. Presented this way, it's more sensational and great fodder for the pundits and "debate" shows.

Shinobi said...

I know, we wouldn't want to muddle things up with pesky facts or anything. Then people might start getting ideas... and thinking...