Nice graphic, bad info in gender inequality infographic

Just a quick note on this graphic, which is bound to show up everywhere in the next few days, after appearing in National Journal and Feministing.

Two points about it:

  1. It’s very attractive.
  2. It’s very misleading.

It’s not for me to say which is more important, but because my expertise is more relevant to point #2, I’ll focus on that below.

The problems are just in the top two parts of the graph.

At the top, the yellow bars show job losses for women compared with men (in black), and the text says women have lost jobs since July 2009, while men have gained. That’s since the end of the recession, but if you widen the view a little, remember, men lost a lot more jobs than women during the recession — and their employment numbers are still down. Men are down about 4 million jobs since their peak in 2007, while women are down about 2 million since their peak in early 2008, as this graph from the  Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows:

That’s just moderately misleading. It is important that men are gaining jobs faster than women now, but readers should also be informed of the context for that: greater net losses for men.

The next section is the most dramatic, showing sweeping upward curves growing further and further apart. The text box is fine, but the graph uses nominal dollars (follow the small asterisk) — that is, not adjusted for inflation. That means the big white bar showing the gender gap for college graduates in 2011 — representing a gap of 25% — is several times larger than the tiny white bar showing a bigger gender gap in 1980: 32%! Similarly, for the non-graduates, the 2011 gap of 23% looks much bigger than the 39% gap in 1980.

Sheesh!

Once again, I’m here pointing at people exaggerating gender gaps. Please don’t take that the wrong way. Gender gaps are big and important. There is lots of gender inequality. Progress toward gender equality in the US has largely stalled. That’s serious. Pretty graphics with bad information in them aren’t.

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