Saturday, May 30, 2009

Nerd Humor: The Stata Lesson

At the end of the conference honoring family sociologist Frank Furstenberg, two of his former students offered a film tribute. The form of their tribute, though, was a mock fulfillment of a long-standing promise they had made to Furstenberg to teach him the statistical analysis program Stata.

On the screen they had the graphic for "Stata Lesson One." The problem for the lesson: "Does Frank Furstenberg still matter?" As you might imagine, this was a bouquet of a presentation, but underneath the mock serious tone was an actually serious analysis.

They plotted Furstenberg's 40 years of publications and the abundance of citations of his work by others. Then, just to be sure that he wasn't resting on his laurels "while publishing junk," they plotted the citations of his recent articles. All three graphs were impressive. Where the trend line showed a small decline over the decades, the voiceover helpfully pointed out that the confidence intervals were just wide enough that the real trend could be slightly upward.

Stat humor went over big with this crowd. Very nicely done.

Friday, May 29, 2009

What Fathering Needs

I am attending a conference at the University of Pennsylvania honoring family sociologist Frank Furstenberg. I will post some good points as they come up.

Kathryn Edin, co-author of Promises I Can Keep, about which I have blogged several times, is working on a new study about the fathers of the teen moms she studied in that book. She found that the men wanted to be attached to their children, even if they didn't have much of a relationship with the mothers. These poor men mistrust women, who think they are valued only for their resources. They do want to be fathers to their children, though:

“They are confident they can be good dads because all that good fathering takes is love, not money.”

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Women On the Supreme Court Used to Have More of "It All"

Sylvia Ann Hewlett has documented the difficulties that very high achieving women have in "having it all" - marriage, children, and high-powered career. Hewlett's main finding is that women who do have it all are likely to have married young and traded off career steps with their husbands. However, there has been a paradoxical effect of opening more opportunities in public life to women since the 1970s. Women who seek the top careers are likely to put off marriage and children in favor of launching their careers first - and later run out of time.

Mrs. G. asks us to consider the case of women on the Supreme Court:

Ruth Bader Ginsburg married in 1954 and has two children with well established careers.

Sandra Day O’Connor married in 1952 and has three sons.

Sonia Sotomayor is divorced without children.

"I think there’s a codicil about women having it all, over a lifetime," she wrote to me. "If they thought in the 1950s that there was no chance of ever hitting the Supremes" they would marry, have kids, and pursue whatever career was open to them. However, "it didn’t work in the '70s and after for women who thought there was a chance of" making the Supreme Court, so they "gave up other things to go for the gold."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Alumni Survey 1: Advanced Degrees

I have been surveying the portion of Centre College alumni who graduated between 40 and 15 years ago. I focus on them because I am interested in how the parents' education, occupation, and cultural interests shape the children's educational choices. I have heard from about a quarter of those I surveyed - nearly 1400 respondents.

The first interesting finding is of how many of the graduates went on to get further degrees after college.

About a third of each entering class wants to be doctors. Another quarter express an interest in law.

Among the alumni, about 6% end up doctors or dentists, with another couple of percent getting other medical degrees.

About 14% end up as lawyers - which has been Centre's largest single occupational category since the colege's beginning nearly 200 years ago.

The business degree emerges as the second largest category, with 9% holding the MBA and another couple of percent having other professional certifications.

Teachers make up another 5% or so.

More than a quarter of the Centre alumni earned a masters degree.

All together about two-thirds of the Centre alumni in the prime of their working years hold some kind of advanced degree.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Army Successfully Fights Divorce

Here is some decent marriage news for Memorial Day. The Army, faced with an increasing divorce rate as the war has gone on, instituted a "Strong Bonds" program to help military couples learn to communicate better before they had a problem. As a result, the Army's divorce rate dropped from 2006 to 2007, and seems to be holding steady.

Still, in a survey of soldiers in Iraq in 2006, 20% said their spouses had contemplated divorce. War and deployment is unusually hard on families.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Showing the Religious Flow

Michael Bell made a fantastic chart of religious mobility, based on Pew Religion Forum data. It is lovely to ponder.