Tuesday, February 23, 2010

On Harry Reid's Calling Men Abusers

On the U.S. Senate floor, while being televised on C-Span, Majority Leader, Harry Reid said "Men, when out of work, tend to become abusive."

Most unemployed men become abusive?! So, according to Reid, if we filled a room with a 100 unemployed men and 100 unemployed women, many men and far fewer women would be abusive.

What's his evidence? He had none but post hoc, his staff dug up a 2004 Dept. of Justice study that found merely that men who are unemployed are more likely to argue with their wives than men who are unemployed. Duh. But the percentage difference is small, the percentage of men who abuse their wives is small, and there's no male vs female comparison. In short, the study provides absolutely no support for Reid's statement that most unemployed men tend to be abusive.

In fact, when domestic violence does occur, a metaanalysis of 250 studies of domestic violence by California State University professor Martin Fiebert finds that women "are as physically aggressive or more aggressive than men in their relationships with their spouses or male partners. The aggregate sample size in the reviewed studies exceeds 365,000."

Instead of lambasting men, half the population, Majority Leader Reid would more wisely focus on identifying initiatives that would create good, stable jobs for men and for women. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment among men in January 2010 is 10.8% versus women's 8.4%, That is the largest gap since BLS started collecting the data, as David Brooks reported last week in the New York Times. 80 percent of jobs lost in the current recession have been to men. Indeed, the recession could be called a He-Cession. Yet 40% of the jobs expected to be created by federal job stimulus programs are targeted at women.

Other recent articles, for example, the March 2010 cover story in The Atlantic Monthly, How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America, and one in the New York Times, The New Poor: Millions of Unemployed Face Years Without Jobs, suggest that ever more people, disproportionately men, are likely to find themselves un- or underemployed.

Especially because unemployment is likely to remain high, if we are to reduce domestic violence, spouses must be more supportive. That's not easy--it's scary for a spouse to lose their spouse's income. So perhaps this is a time to encourage couples to work on their communication, perhaps abetted by counselors and workshop leaders. That and thoughtful private- and perhaps public-sector job-creation initiatives are far more likely to reduce domestic violence than unfairly blaming men.


Anonymous said...

Well, Reid's statement is a dumb one, but Fiebert's study doesn't address it. It's not a study of joblessness on abusiveness.

It does show that men are overrepresented in their contribution to domestic violence relative to how many in the population are men.

Brooks' article also raises this point: "men have lagged behind women in acquiring education and skills. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at age 22, 185 women have graduated from college for every 100 men who have done so."

Is this statistically true?

Unemployment: in aggregate, men are about 25% more likely to be unemployed than women. If 40% of the jobs in the jobs bill are targeted to women, then 60% are available to men? Or is the remaining pool equally divided between men and women? Obviously, if the former is the case, then it's a much different outcome.

I suspect you have clear answers to all of these questions, and were a bit hot under the collar when you first posted.

Marty Nemko said...

Anonymous, please reread my post re your asserting that the Fiebert metaanalysis is irrelevant.

Yes, for the first time since records on this were kept, many more women than men get college degrees, a complete reversal.

Your comment implies that it's all men's fault. Are you asserting that men suddenly have become stupid and/or lazy? Many other externalities are at play: for example, the K-12 and college curricula have grown ever more pro-female and anti-male.

And re 40% of ObamaJobs targeted at women, remember that when women or minorities have a deficit, government imposes massive redress programs but when men suffer the deficit--in this case, far higher unemployment and represent 80% of the job losses in this recession, there is no redress.

Anonymous said...

When you first posted the link to the Fiebert work, you summarized the findings as something like "women initiate 30% of domestic violence." You have since reframed
with an equal force argument, but still, as summarized it's not looking specifically at joblessness and abuse as Reid's comment did.

Interesting that his staff were apparently tagged on the original comment hard enough that they needed to do some leg work.

The website related to Fiebert's work is an annotated bibliography without analysis. Is the paper available, also?

That is an immense swing in college degrees, to from a minority position to an
almost 2:1 lead. It's very interesting. How often is this number measured?

I still don't understand the mechanics of targeting 40% of jobs to women, and would be interested to hear more specifics on how that is to be accomplished.

It's very interesting that you take the comment to imply that "it's all men's fault."

In the context of Brooks' point and the original summary of the study on domestic violence, if we were to substitute "native" or "white" for "women" and "immigant" or "nonwhite" for "men" - that comment which openly blamed immigrants would suddenly sound like one you would accept or on occasion make without flagging.

Food for thought.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the census has more data than the small study Brooks is citing, and the BLS study Brooks cites does not seem to be comparable with prior BLS data.

If you know of a prior study with similar methodology, please do share - it sounds like you might as you refer to records being kept.

The Census has much more data, both historically and in terms of total numbers.

Unfortunately, the Census table has something odd going on (at least in the way their Excel is labeled.)

The data aren't exactly comparable - the Census is using age 25 as its cutoff, versus 22 for Brooks, and the table that's simplest to work with is years in college, rather than graduation - but it looks to me as if gender parity in rates of spending four or more years in college was reached in the early 90s. Men continued at around that plateau, while the number of women spending 4+ years in college continues to grow.


The Census data available put the trend as having started 15 years ago or so, and do not describe a sudden reversal (except when men suddenly found college less attractive once Vietnam ended.)

Marty Nemko said...

Most Recent Anonymous,

I must admit it offers little food for thought. Your questions parsing the statistics avoids the core point: politicians, the media, etc unfairly tar men.

Least worthy of comment is your ad hominem comment that I blame immigrants prima facie.

Marty Nemko said...

Even More Recent Anonymous,

Are you too losing the forest through the trees. I don't want to get into a micro-data-parsing exchange on my blog. Is not the larger, unarguable truth that politicians, the media, etc can, with impunity, unfairly denigrate men, which they'd never do with women.