Posts tagged ‘employment’

How to Lie With Statistics, Women and Child Care Edition

By , 3 August, 2012, No Comment

My latest post is up at Forbes, highlighting two research papers that look at the impact women’s earnings and the cost of child care have on women’s decisions on whether to have children and whether (or how much) to work. They are good papers, but they both make a critical error:

Both papers assume that men commit full-time to the labor force, and that the choices families are about the balance of women’s working hours and caring hours. It’s one of the most infuriating aspects of the work-life debates that the choice is so often framed that way. The reality is that in addition to earning potential and cost of child care, the degree to which male partners share in child care duties is a major factor driving women’s career and family choices.

Leaving working fathers out of the choice equation tarnishes the studies’ results, and can have a dangerous effect, if policymakers feel that the solution suggested by papers like these is to expand the choices available to women without expanding choices for men. Framing the work-life conundrum as a women’s issue only makes it more likely that it will remain women’s burden. The research error becomes self-fulfilling.

This case is a perfect example of the problem outlined by Darrell Huff in his classic book, How to Lie With Statistics. I’m a great advocate for inserting more data into debates about work and family, but it’s equally important to be skeptical of the data presented to us. Ask not just, ‘Does this data answer the question we’re asking?’ but also, ‘Are we asking the right questions?’ At the moment, I’m not convinced we are.

Read it all here.

Review: ‘Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions,’ by Paul Mason

By , 10 February, 2012, No Comment

Paul Mason, the Economics Editor of the BBC’s Newsnight program, has a new book out. In it, he argues that the myriad forms of protest we’ve seen over the last year – the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement, student protests, protests against austerity budgets in Europe, are linked, part of a global revolution. Over at my Forbes blog, I’ve got a long review of the book.

The links are, according to Mason:

1. “the near collapse of free-market capitalism,” and in particular the opportunities it presents to the young;

2. rapid demographic growth creating a “youth bulge,” where young people come to represent a growing percentage of a country’s overall population, compounding and amplifying the impact of point 1;

3. growth in educational attainment, which Mason uses to argue that the young people sans opportunity are those who played by the rules and feel their economic loss more acutely as a result. He calls them “graduates with no future”;

4. “an upswing in technical innovation, a surge in desire for individual freedom and a change in human consciousness about what freedom means.” Technology and individualism, Mason says, allow protests to assume a networked structure than can overpower traditional hierarchies.

I’ve been skeptical of this argument since it first appeared on Mason’s blog a year ago.

The three core problems Mason identifies – youth unemployment, the youth demographic bulge, and the diminishing returns on education- are real ones. But in Mason’s account, they are depicted as three components of the same, global problem. That’s simply not accurate.

To learn exactly what’s wrong with Mason’s economic assumptions, and how a more rigorous look at the economic data undermines his argument, read the whole thing.

Turning the Corner

By , 30 October, 2009, 1 Comment

The wise minds at the BEA say the economy has turned a corner, posting GDP growth at a relatively robust rate (3.5%) in the third quarter, just like Ben Bernanke promised it would.

Still, the fact that we’re rising from rock bottom doesn’t tell us how long it will take to get back to where we were, or what the recovered economy will look like. For that, we need to dig deeper into the numbers, and, simply put, the picture isn’t pretty.

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