What is the 1% meme solution?

What is the point of the instant-publishing blogosphere if it doesn’t produce results?

Six weeks ago I wrote about this old thing:

“While women represent half the global population and one-third of the labor force, they receive only one-tenth of the world income and own less than one percent of world property. They are also responsible fortwo-thirds of all working hours.”

And I explained, in a supportive way, that this is not true, wasn’t true at the time it was invented, and shouldn’t be part of the modern feminist lexicon anymore.

Yet, even though the truth is now out there, the meme is still out there, too. The insulation between our echo chambers must be too good. There’s a hole in the knowledge-space continuum.

Specifically, you can find this thing repeated in these places — and many others:

  • undp.org: “…Yet some 75 percent of the world’s women cannot get bank loans because they have unpaid or insecure jobs and are not entitled to property ownership. This is one reason why women comprise more than 50 percent of the world’s population but own only one percent of the world’s wealth.”
  • un.org. “Women comprise more than 50 percent of the world’s population, but they own only one percent of the world’s wealth, United Nation statistics say.”
  • womenaid.org. Women “earn a tenth of the world’s income and own a hundredth of the world’s property.”
  • womenforwomen.org. Women “only earn 10 percent of the income and own 1 percent of the property).”
  • Trust.org: “Women own just 1 percent of land in the world, according to UNDP.”
  • unifem.org: “…earn 10 percent of the income and own 1 percent of the property…”

10 thoughts on “What is the 1% meme solution?

  1. why is this such a point of contention? other than wanting the facts to be correct (or as correct as we can figure them), what is the true harm in repeating this? is it worse than the potential gain? i know in the last post you ended it with “And debunking it won’t hurt feminism”, which i agree with. But i am curious about the impetus for the crusade to debunk it.


  2. That’s a fair question, as I seem to be worked up about it (though two blog posts might not quite deserve the label, “crusade”). I think I care more about it because of the sexist perception that statistics and math are male domains, like economics (and rationality). So I would like feminism to hold itself to a high standard and be able to stare that attitude down.


  3. (I wasn’t sure which post to respond to so i’m just gonna respond twice). “The burden of proof is not on us (me) to show they are wrong, but rather to point out that they were never demonstrably true, so we shouldn’t use them”. Herein lays the problem. This is like one of those articles about Wall Street excess, defense contracting monopolies, and the abuse of money in politics that are filled with criticisms but fail to offer any solutions other than “people need to stop”. What you’re basically saying is that the poorly articulated math by a single woman claiming credit for a universally spoken quote disqualifies everyone else on the planet from repeating it because “you” and a few others were unable to locate any scientific proof that validates the claim. I’m sorry but in order to claim something is false you have to be able to prove it but showing the truth. This article alleges a falsehood of facts but shows no evidence to the contrary, other than that business about “So, it looks to me like U.S. women alone earn 5.4% of world income today” a statement that could be described in your own words as “a guess based on an extrapolation wrapped round an estimate”. My main problem is that this article rejects having any responsibility to demonstrate the truth and then criticizes others for doing the same. The reason why “the instant-publishing blogosphere” hasn’t produced any results is because this article has no revelations to repeat. It would be one thing if you posted the “true” statistics on world property, world income, the labor force, or global population as it pertains to women, but instead you took the lazy way out by saying “These things are hard to measure, hard to know, and hard to explain”. The blogosphere is similar to a courtroom; it feeds on gossip but at the end of the day in order to reverse any commonly accepted “meme” it has to be proven wrong beyond the shadow of a doubt. In other words the burden of proof is on you and unless than duty is fulfilled the conventional wisdom will not change. (Nor should it)


  4. I can’t control what goes on out there on the Internet. But I do know for a fact that you can disprove a made-up statistic without knowing the true statistic. Often that’s because it’s not knowable (which is the case for the question of what percentage of all property in the world is owned by women).

    In that case, maybe all you have is logic. Sometimes some contextual facts are enough to show the claim is implausible (as was the case with my simple description of US women’s share of world income – that alone debunks the 10% myth as implausible).

    Here’s an example where I used the same approach to knowledge – but one you might agree with since the claim I was debunking was a racist stereotype.

    A guy in our local paper wrote an essay, trying to be cute, which said seven-out-of-ten bad drivers in Chapel Hill are Asian. No one can say what the true fact is in this case, but you don’t need to. Here’s what I wrote:

    In the 2000 Census, Asians were only 3% of the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill population. Yet Cho says that “Seven out of 10 times, it’s an Asian driver” you see doing “something unusual” – such as “stop in the middle of the road to let someone in or out,” “go irritatingly below the speed limit,” or “pull out of a side street when you are only 25 feet away from it.”

    Not only are Asians only 3% of the local adults, but less than 60% of them are immigrants who were old enough to learn how to drive before they immigrated here. Even if they *all* learned bad habits as young drivers before moving here, it’s hard to get from less than half of 3% to 70% of the “unusual” driving around here. Unless you’re just playing to a stereotype.

    (You can read the whole thing here: http://blogs.newsobserver.com/orangechat/driving-while-asian-unfair)

    How’s that for the “lazy way out”? Must I observe and record all the bad driving behavior in town to debunk this?


  5. i’ve been trying to find the source for these stats too…without much success. though i don’t think ‘not finding’ the source necessarily means it’s not true.

    i’d have to be pretty naive to not know that there are significant inequalities between men and women worldwide.


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