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August 23, 2006

Do Elite Women Want to Breed?

August 23, 2006 | By | One Comment

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BreederLast week Charmaine participated in a round table discussion on the world’s de-population. The take-away from the research was that a growing population is a market driver. That there was more innovation from 1900 to 1950, than from 1950 to 2000 — As good as life has become in the last 50 years all advances, including, well, blogs, were merely incremental improvements. As compared to the great advancing leaps in the first 50.

Growing populations are wealth creators and wealth drivers. Growing populations produce innovation and inventors. And more. De- population doesn’t. For example, the creator of the HIV-AIDS vaccine…was aborted in 1974.

This is a cross post from Charmaine late last year.

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The New York Times is horrified. Elite young women at prestigious Ivy League schools are indicating an interest in, gasp, motherhood.

The article and its supporting ‘research’ is heavy on anecdote and fails to explain its methodology — the source of its “data” is email responses from some young women at the Ivy’s. So, even though I think the conclusion is interesting and one that I agree with, in all honesty the researcher in me has to point out to you that this is not terribly reliable reporting.

The more interesting question is: what is that sterile Grey Lady, The Times up to here?

Well, the headline may read neutrally: “Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood,” but the text is anything but. The idea that young women might choose motherhood is clearly, from their perspective, a bad trend.

Let me offer my own anecdotal evidence: frankly, the young women The Times quotes, who feel comfortable expressing a preference for motherhood, don’t sound at all like the co-eds I taught at the University of Virginia, a few years ago, who felt pressured to be single-mindedly devoted to a high-powered career track, and would admit to interests in marriage and motherhood only sotto voce.

Here’s the good news, Shirley Tilghman, President of Princeton, [now the #1 school, besting Harvard] said to the reporter:

“There is nothing inconsistent with being a leader and a stay-at-home parent. Some women (and a handful of men) whom I have known who have done this have had a powerful impact on their communities.”

Cheers for her.

Here’s the bad, from Peter Salovey, dean of Yale:

What does concern me, is that so few students seem to be able to think outside the box; so few students seem to be able to imagine a life for themselves that isn’t constructed along traditional gender roles.

The man is dean at Yale and he misses the irony that he is the one who isn’t thinking outside the box?

Memo to Peter: You’ve got it exactly backward. In today’s world, thinking outside the box involves constructing a life outside traditional male career paths. For both men and women, but especially for young women.

It is precisely the female inclination to think outside the box — sequencing, part-time work, entrepreneurial innovation — that is enlivening the 21st century work world.

Alert Reader, Carl at Gelf Magazine has outstanding reporting and an astute observation.

Dr. Yoest,

I saw your post about yesterday’s NYT article …And noticed your comment about the methodology:

“The article is heavy on anecdote and fails to ever explain its methodology, the source of its “data” is email responses from some young women at the Ivy’s. So, even though I think the conclusion is interesting and one that I agree with, in all honesty the researcher in me has to point out to you that this is not terribly reliable reporting.”

Carl continues:

It seems you had reason to be suspicious. Over at Gelf, to which I contribute, we’ve run a copy of the survey the NYT reporter emailed to Yale students, as sent to us by one of the recipients. The survey seems to have leading questions, basically implying that all Yale women must be straight and want kids: story here David Goldenberg byline .

Well said. Carl nails it down:

Among the leading questions, many from right at the top of the survey:

When you have children, do you plan to stay at home with them or do you plan to continue working? Why?

If you plan to continue working, do you plan to work full-time in an office, or full-time from your house, or part-time in an office, or part-time from your house? Why?

If you plan to stay at home with your kids, do you plan to return to work? If so, how old will you wait for your kids to be when you return?

Was your mom a stay-at-home mom? Explain whether she worked, and how much she worked! Were you glad with her choice (to either work or stay-at-home or whatever combination she did)?

How do you think college-age men at Yale feel about whether wives should stay at home with their kids?

In polling we call this “priming the pump.” It is used to direct answers with subtle questions with subtle assumptions. Good polls are designed to uncover the truth (of opinion) across a broad sample. Bad polls have an agenda. This is, as Carl suggests, a bad survey.

No matter what our differences in the blogosphere, the work by Gelf Magazine shows us why the NYT chopped 500 off the head count and is bleeding red ink. The NYT has lost the public trust — because of such questionable reporting.

As Arthur C. Brooks writes in The Wall Street Journal in The Fertility Gap, swing states like Ohio will soon be populated with the next generation — that is tilting toward conservatives. The Roe Effect.

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Thankyou (foot)notes:

The New York Times isn’t doing much better since Charmaine’s post from last September.

Outside The Beltway has more on the NYT’s firings.

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