Junk Statistics

On Feministing, Samhita talks about a new study that shows that 56% of all female-owned American businesses are home-based compared with 47% of all male-owned ones. The news piece says grandiosely,

“A significant percent of women having businesses in the home are comprised of women who are doing it for family reasons,” said Kathleen Christensen, director of the Workplace, Workforce and Working Families program at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in New York.

I find myself constantly referring to Echidne’s post about junk science. She talks about junk medical science, but it applies to junk social science just the same. A difference of 9 percentage points suggests that a small subset of American women prefers working at home, either due to a traditional view of motherhood or due to inability to find daycare.

Compared to other gender gaps, this one is tiny (in the US, women make 62 cents on the male dollar). It can be explained entirely with ad hoc things with few policy implications: maybe it’s because conservative women would rather work from home; maybe it’s because of daycare problems, which women face more than men because their spouses are less willing to stay home with the kids; maybe it’s because female-owned businesses tend to be smaller than male-owned ones.

In any case, the operative terms are “some” and “maybe.” The government should subsidize daycare, but not because of this 9-point gap; I submit that anyone who uses it as a pro-daycare talking point knows less rhetoric than a cucumber.

Of course, this doesn’t prevent some commenters on Feministing from bullshit-analyzing that trend even after someone pointed that it’s very weak.

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