Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese


I Think I’m Bringing Down The Average

So I was reading a Stats Can report the other day1 and came across some interesting data on housework2,3:

Time spent on domestic work varied among women according to their working arrangements. Among women who were working at the time of the survey, those who were part of a dual-earner couple and worked part-time spent the most time on domestic work—an average of 21.0 hours per week. Less time was spent on domestic work by full-time working women who were part of a dual-earner couple (13.9 hours per week), or women who were the sole wage earner in a single-earner couple (15.2 hours per week). The least amount of time was spent by single working women. On average, they spent 7.7 hours per week on domestic work. [emphasis mine]

To me, this seems like quite a drastic difference! Women who were part of a dual-income couple did quite a bit more housework (13.9 hrs per week if they worked full-time and 21 hrs per week if they worked part-time) than single women (7.7 hrs per week). Most surprisingly, women who were in a couple where their partner didn’t do any paid work did more housework (15.2 hrs per week) than women in couples where their partner did paid work (13.9 hrs per week)! Shouldn’t they be doing less housework?

To me, the most striking question from all of this is: how come single women need so much less housework done than coupled women? Remember, the data on coupled women is only the housework being done by the women – there is also housework being done by their partner! For example, in couples where both partners work full-time, the women do 13.9 hrs and the men do 8.6 hrs for a total of 22.5 hrs per week. Compared to the single women doing 7.7 hrs per week, that’s nearly three times as much housework being done in that household4! I realize there there is a bit more housework to be done when two people live in a house – twice as many dishes, twice as much laundry – but the total workload shouldn’t even be twice as much as there are some things that don’t take longer by having more people in the house (e.g., vaccuuming). I suppose some of the extra workload could be attributed to housework related to children that isn’t child care per se (e.g., I know from my friends with kids that they generate a heck of a lot of laundry, especially when they are very little), but would this make the workload three times as much? I suppose it’s possible that single women are more likely to hire, say, a housekeeper, since they don’t have anyone else in their house to share the housework with, but that data wasn’t provided. Another possibility is that more single people rent (as opposed to owning a place) compared to coupled people5 and owning comes along with more maintanance tasks that renters don’t need to worry about (e.g., fixing things, cleaning gutters). Any other thoughts on why single people do so much less housework than coupled people? Or am I just bringing down the average?

Another thing in the report is, not surprisingly, that women do more of the unpaid domestic chores than men (on average) and men do more paid work than women (again, on average). But apparently that’s changing:

During the past quarter century, the involvement of men and women in paid work and housework has changed. A study1 comparing three generations of young people—the late baby boomers (born 1957 to 1966), Generation X (1969 to 1978) and Generation Y (1981 to 1990) found an increasing similarity in the involvement in paid work and housework between men and women from the late baby boomers to those in Generation Y.

Despite the narrowing of the differences, men continue to have an overall greater involvement in paid work than women, and a lesser involvement in housework.

For example, at ages 20 to 29, late baby boom men did on average 1.4 hours more paid work per day than women. In Generation Y, this difference had narrowed to 1.1 hours.

Late baby boom women, when they were aged 20 to 29, did 1.2 hours more housework per day than men. By the time Generation Y arrived at the same age group, the difference had narrowed to 0.4 hours. This was due entirely to a decrease in the time women spent on housework.

When looking only at dual-earner couples, the dominant family form since the 1980s, the study found that young adults are increasingly sharing economic and domestic responsibilities. As women have increased their hours of paid work, men have steadily increased their share of household work.

Women aged 20 to 29 in dual-earner couples in Generation Y did an average of 6.7 hours of paid work per day in 2010, up from 6.4 hours for their counterparts in Generation X.

On the other hand, dual-earner women in Generation Y did 53% of the total housework done by couples, down from 59% for their counterparts in Generation X.

Average daily time spent on paid work and housework by men and women in young dual-earner couples is more similar for those without children and particularly so for Generation Y.

However, for both Generation X and Y, with the presence of dependent children at home, the contribution of women to a couple’s total paid work time declined while their contribution to housework increased.

My question about all this is: only 6.7 hours per day of paid work? Pfft! I could do that in my sleep!

  1. What, you don’t read Stats Canada reports?? []
  2. What, you don’t think data on housework is “interesting”? []
  3. Note that “housework” did not include child care, which was discussed in a separate part of the report. Housework included unpaid domestic work such as “housework, yard work and home maintenance.” []
  4. Single men do 6.1 hrs per week, meaning there is nearly four times as much housework being done in household of a dual earner full-time working couple []
  5. This may be my Vancouver-based assumption, given that it’s nearly impossible to own a place on a single income here. Hell, it’s nearly impossible to own a place on two incomes here! []


Adventures in Adventuring

Dr. Dan mentioned this on his blog the other day, but I feel compelled to confirm that, in fact, October 19th will mark The Great Drs. Beth & Dan Victoria Adventure of 2011!

You see, Dr. Dan is going to Victoria to give an invited guest lecture on his science-y brain thoughts at a high falutin’ stats conference. And seeing as he is flying all the way to Victoria, I figured the least I could do is take a day off to join him on said Island for adventure-y fun times. In fact, Dr. Dan has a stopover in Vancouver and I am going to hop on his plane for the trip over to the Island, spend the day adventuring, and then hop on a flight back to the mainland first thing in the morning1. Adventures may involve beautiful scenery, great food, tasty beverages, and, with any luck, some hottie sightings. Also, I have it on good authority that sumptuous robes may be involved.

In addition, as the calendar of Nerdidays tells me, October 20th is World Stats Day. I cannot explain in words how excited I am to be able to spend World Stats Day Eve with my favourite statistician!

  1. Thanks to a fortuitous seat sale, it’s about the same price for me to fly to Victoria as it would be to take my car on the ferry! And certainly much, much faster! []


How Did You Celebrate World Maths Day?

Day 253Me, doing the gang sign for “pi,” in honour of World Maths Day. You did know that today was World Maths Day, right? I knew about this important occasion because I downloaded the Nerdidays Calendar from Dr. Dan’s website. Because days like World Maths Day are just too important to miss!

So, what did you do to celebrate?

I did the following:

  • spent much of the day calculating descriptive statistics for a project at work. I even made a few bar graphs! w00t!
  • got a free coffee at McDonald’s. They gave me a cup of coffee and I gave them $0.00 – that’s pretty good math by my calculation!
  • had a massage. Because, really, getting a massage is a good way to celebrate any occasion.

And now I’m going to teach some statistics.

What a great World Maths Day!


You can’t spell “wine” without “win.”

And so the blogging streak of 2011 ends, a mere 42 days into the year. I blame BC Ferries for not having wifi on the Queen of Alberni. And then I blame the fine glass of wine that was waiting for me when I got to Rachel’s place, which put all thoughts of blogging out of my head. In conclusion: you can’t spell “wine” without” win”!   Anyhoo. I’m here in Nanaimo to give a guest lecture on inferential statistics to Rachel’s research methods class. All the fun of confidence intervals, alpha levels, and, of course, why correlation is not equal to causation. Along with few paradoxes. Anyway, that just reminded me that there was a slide I wanted to add to my slide deck, so I better get to that – my lecture starts in an hour!

In the meantime, here’s what I wrote on the ferry last night, fully intending to blog it when I got to Rachel’s:

I had grand plans to write a blog posting on the ferry tonight. I’m heading over to Nanaimo as I’m giving a guest lecture on stats in my friend’s research methods course at Vancouver Island University. And here I am on the boat – but there’s no wifi! Fail!

I’m on the 8:15 p.m. ferry, which gets me to Duke Point at 10:15, so I’m going to pretty much hit the hay as soon as I get to Rachel’s1. So nothing fancy for this blog posting, which I’m typing in Notational Velocity2 and will copy and paste to my blog once I get there, publishing it posthaste3!

Notes from the ferry ride:

  • Some guy told me I had “a real purty smile.” I find this amusing because I have brace! Nice try, dude.
  • I know they are a rip off, but I love, love, love the White Spot veggie burger combo when I’m on the ferry. Love. In fact, I wasn’t hungry *at all* before I left for the ferry, but as soon as I got on the boat I was *starving.* My brain knew that it wanted the veggie burger and tricked me into thinking I wasn’t hungry until I got here.
  • Another thing I love: hot chocolate made from powder and hot water. Like the stuff they have on the ferry. So tasty.
  • It costs me nearly twice as much to park my car for the weekend ($40) as it will for the round trip ferry ride as a foot passenger ($28). Still a lot cheaper than paying to bring my car with me though.
  • Oh gawd, now the guy is telling me that “you use less muscles smiling than frowning.” Seriously, is this really your A material?
  • And now I’m “very beautiful” and “have a very beautiful name.” Even though he doesn’t know my name. WTF?
  1. editor’s note: That was the plan, but some wine and baked brie, and catching up from not having seen each other since *July* got in the way. We did get to bed around midnight, so it wasn’t the end of the world []
  2. N.V. is a totally awesome little notes program for Mac that I first read about over on Catherine’s blog []
  3. ha! []


Happy World Statistics Day!


I can’t believe that I didn’t even realize that today is 20/10/2010!!

Fortunately, my Official Statistician & Tattoo Consultant, Dr. Dan, brought this momentous occasion to my attention via The Twitter1.  It is also World Statistics Day, the day on which we celebrate all the awesomeness that is statistics.

So today I encourage everyone to hug a statistician or other number-loving geek if you do not have a statistician readily available!

Image Credit: Posted by Koen Vereeken on Flickr.

  1. he, in turn, was informed by Dr. Steph, so really I also owe Dr. Steph props for making sure I was informed of this []


212 against and 6 for

Darren tweeted this today and I though I’d share it here:

It’s a list of organizations and individuals who are for and against the government’s decision to scrap the mandatory long-form of the census. That’s 212 against the government1, and a mere 6 in favour. You don’t even need a statistician to tell you that this is a lot more people and groups that think it is a bad idea than think it a good idea.

  1. and I am pleased to report that two organizations to which I belong – the Canadian Evaluation Society and the Canadian Public Health Association – are on the “against” side []


Why You Should Care About the Government Scrapping the Mandatory Long-Form Census

I wrote this posting for my other blog, but I figured that I’d post it here too, given that (a) most of my readers probably don’t read my other blog and (b) I just had a little debate on the issue on my Facebook wall, which prompted me to share this info a little more widely (also, I’m adding in a few more things than my original posting):

A friend of mine just sent me a link to this news story and it’s gotten me quite livid:

Tories scrap mandatory long-form census
StatsCan says quality of data will suffer

Every five years, Canada conducts a census, with the next one scheduled for 2011. In the past, every household received the short census form, which contains just a few questions (like number of people in the home and their age and sex) and 1 in every 5 households received a mandatory long form. The long form contained questions about a variety of things, like income, education, and ethnicity, and provided a lot of really important information about the population of Canada. For example, I work in health care and we use census data all the time. Knowing the makeup of our population allows us to make informed decisions about providing health care to meet the needs of the people living in our region. All levels of governments (municipal, provincial, and federal), community agencies, and other organizations use the data from the census long form to develop evidence-informed policy.

But the ability to do that now at risk, as the federal government has, apparently without consulting anyone, decided to scrap the mandatory long form, citing that the long form represented “what most Canadians felt was an intrusion into their personal privacy in terms of answering the longer form” (Source) – though I haven’t seen from anything I’ve read thus far how they determined that this is how “most” Canadians feel. And given that Canada’s Privacy Commissioner has had only 3 privacy complaints in the last 10 years, “none of which have been upheld” (Source and Source), I’m doubting that “most” Canadians are up in arms about the intrusiveness of the census. Instead of the mandatory long form, they are replacing it with a “voluntary household survey” that will be sent to 1 in 3 households, the members of which can choose to complete – or not to complete – the survey. This raises very serious concerns about the quality of the data – the people who choose not to respond to the long survey may be different from those who choose to respond to it, which will result in skewed information. Which means we won’t have the data we need to make policies and provide appropriate services.

“Senior statisticians at Statistics Canada have conceded the change will make it more difficult to obtain reliable, detailed information.” (Source)

All of this brings up questions about politicians’ understanding of the importance of data and evidence-informed practice, not to mention their ignoring the scientific experts on the matter – in this case, the statisticians at Stats Canada (and any other statistician who has been asked). As David Eaves noted in his article, “Why you should care about the sudden demise of the mandatory long census form”:

This is a direct attack on the ability of government to make smart decisions. It is an attack on evidence-based public policy. Moreover, it was a political decision – it came from the minister’s office and does not appear to reflect what Statistics Canada either wants or recommends. Of course, some governments prefer not to have information; all that data and evidence gets in the way of legislation and policies that are ineffective, costly and that reward vested interests (I’m looking at you, tough-on-crime agenda). ” [emphasis mine; Source]

In another news article on the topic I read:

Liberal MP Marlene Jennings “argued that Clement has shown in postings to the social media site Twitter that he does not understand how the mandatory nature of the long-form census allows Statistics Canada to properly weight the short form data. Clement debated sample size and data weighting with other posters, including an economist.

“(That’s) something Mr. Clement seemed not to understand when he was tweeting yesterday, so maybe he should take a stats course,” she said” (Source)

A graph showing ethnic origins of Canadians fr...

Image via Wikipedia

This lead me to check out Clement’s Twitter stream, where he referred to having a mandatory (as opposed to voluntary) long form as “state coercion” – I guess it’s fine to have the state “coerce” you to complete the short form – or, you know, obey any of our other laws – but they draw the line at the long form?  And as for his understanding of statistics – well, he said that statisticians can fix the problems resulting from the bias that will result from a voluntary (instead of mandatory) form with “large sample sizes.”  Now, I, my Official Statistician, and anyone who has passed a first year statistics course can assure you that this is not true.  There is no way to create data from any groups that don’t respond to a voluntary census.

As I mentioned, I was engaged in a debate about this on my Facebook wall and my sister’s contribution to that was so awesome, I just have to share it with you.  Essentially, the debate I was having involved the other person making claims like the mandatory long form of the census is “undemocratic” because it invades our privacy and that the census is “inaccurate” (then suggesting that market research, which would not be appropriate for the purpose of the census, would be better), and, of course, that the long census being mandatory is “state coercion” (i.e., Tony Clement’s words).  My sister’s comment:

Does anyone else find it funny to read a conversation about protecting privacy and rights on Facebook? Why does everyone want to envision the government like something out of a science fiction novel. We are the government. We have health-care, public/secondary and post-secondary education at a fraction of its real cost. If my personal data on who does more house work in my home or if my child can read can help society as a whole, of course they can have it and should have it. Do we really feel safer with the illusion that we are protecting ourselves from exploitation because it is not mandatory? Is this before or after we have posted up our kids latest baseball game home movie on YouTube?

-My sister

She has it exactly right.  Statisticians, academics, social scientists and like need access to the robust data provided by a mandatory census in order to provide services to Canadians.  The Conservative government and their supporters are making it sound like we are sitting around planning all sorts of nefarious things to do with census data – completely ignoring the fact that there are lots of safeguards on the privacy of census data.

Stuff you can do about this:

  • The Liberals are demanding the Conservatives reverse this decision to scrap the mandatory long form and, if they don’t, to introduce legislation to protect it themselves. Personally, I’ll be writing to my own MP, Industry Minister Tony Clement, and the Prime Minister to inform them about why the long form is so vital. And I’ll be writing to some Liberals to suggest that they stick to their guns on this one and introduce legislation to protect the mandatory long form.  Don’t know who your MP is? You can search here to find out!
  • Sign the petition:
  • Spread the word!

Remember, even if you aren’t going to use the census data directly, this is an issue that affects you and the services you receive!

Image Credit: First image posted by lusi on Stock Exchange. Free to use under the terms listed on that site.  Second image has the reference in the caption.

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#46 – Random Things I Learned on the Stats Canada website

OK, this posting has been sitting in my Drafts folder since FOREVER.  I started writing it and it started going sideways and there’s really no point to it.  It’s just a bunch of random stuff. A post in which I meander through things, not making any coherent argument.  Also, it, like many of my postings today, isn’t about my supposed theme, Stuff Books Taught Me, but rather stuff that the Stats Canada website taught me (although that’s kind of bookish).  Anyway, it’s late in the Blogathon now and I’ve been tweaking it when I’ve had a spare minute here and today. So I’m thinking that it’s now somewhat passable as a blog posting and I figure you’ll forgive me for not making any sense.

So I was tooling around on the StatsCan website1 the other day2. I wanted to know what the average age of people having their first kid is these days, and how this compares to the average age of people having their first kid in my parents’ generation. My mom and dad were 28 and 30, respectively, when they had my sister and 30 and 32 when they had me and it seems that, compared to most of my friends’ parents, they were pretty damn old. For their generation. But I’m 31323and very few of my friends have babies, or are planning to have babies in the next few years even4. So it seems that the average age of having one’s kids has increased in the last generation. But I’m a scientist and hence, love evidence, so I figured a trip to the StatsCan website would show me if what I thought was true is, well, true. And it seems to be, but reading through some of the info there, and elsewhere, I noticed something. It’s rather difficult to find info on fathers.

First off, the average age of women having kids in Canada has, in fact, increased in the last 25 years:

Average age of women giving birth in 1980 was 25.9
Average age of women giving birth in 2005 was 29.25


Women aged 30 to 34 had the highest proportion of births in 2005… 31.4% of total births.5

The only information I was able to find on dads, though, was categorized by moms:

“In 1983, women in their 30s and older accounted for only 14% of live births to first-time mothers. By 1999, this proportion had more than doubled to 32%.

The story was similar for the fathers of babies born to first-time mothers. In 1983, men in their 30s and older fathered 32% of the babies of first-time mothers. By 1999, that had risen to 51%.”6

Why is it reported like this? Why not the average age at which men have their first kid? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that paternity is not 100% certain, whereas maternity is? And I’m not a statistician – maybe this info is on Stats Canada and I just don’t know where to look for it?

Data from the 2003 US census7 shows that the birth rate of women aged 30 to 34 years in the US reached its highest rate since 1964, at 95.1 births per 1,000 and that the “birth rates by age of mother peak at age 25–29 years (115.6 births per 1,000 women).” This report goes on to report birth rates for women broken down by, for example, ethnicity… by level of education attainment… by level of education attainment broken down by ethnicity… and a bunch of info on rates of births among unmarried mothers. Oh my, unmarried mothers! For shame!8

Now, here’s the information from the same report7 on dads:

“Birth rates for males aged less than 25 years continued to decline; birth rates for fathers aged 15–19 and 20–24 years posted all-time lows of 16.9 and 73.5 per 1,000, respectively. Birth rates increased for men in the 25–54-year age groups and were unchanged for men aged 55 and over.”

So, page after page of data on moms, but only one short paragraph on dads. And men aged 25-54 were just all lumped in together? And though it tells us that the birth rate for men in the age group “increased,” it doesn’t tell us what that rate actually is, nor how much it increased…. unless I want to flip back to page 57 to find the table with this data. Apparently it’s not worth including this in the text. However, this report does mention that “Information on age of father is often missing on birth certificates of children born to women less than 25 years of age and to unmarried women”7 – supporting my hypothesis that information on fathers is harder to get than mothers, since maternity is always certain at birth.

As is often the case when I’m goofing off on the web, I go to a site for one particular thing – in this case, the average age of people having kids – and then I start looking up all kinds of random shit. The next thing that came to mind was stats on divorces, what with being divorced and all.

“Most Canadians marry once and only once, and less than 1% walk down the aisle more than twice, according to a new study.

In the case of a second marriage, Canadians who were in their 40s when they remarried faced only half as great a risk of marital dissolution than those who were under 30. Even those who remarried in their 30s had a 27% lower risk of breaking up.”9

So that’s kind of nice news for those who are divorced should we ever consider marrying again. I used to volunteer with a women back when I lived in Ontario who was happily married in her second marriage and who used to refer to her first marriage as her “practice marriage” – I thought it was pretty funny.

In addition to being a divorcée, and you might not know this about me because I hardly ever mention it or lord it over everyone or anything ;-), I have a PhD. Also, I like to be unique. So I decided to look up how unique having a PhD makes me. And I found this:

  • In 2001, there were 128,625 with a doctorate in Canada. The population of people over 15 years of age (from which this data was drawn) was 23,901,360. That’s half a percent of the population that have PhDs10 – yeah, I think that’s rare enough!
  • On average, doctoral graduates took about 70 months, or five years and 10 months, to complete their program… This usually followed four years at the undergraduate level and two to three more years at the master’s level.” – Mine was just a few weeks shy of six years, but when you consider that I did my Master’s degree in just one year, instead of the two to three cited here, I like to think this makes me above average
  • Also making me above average is my age of graduation – “On average, PhD graduates were about 36 years old when they graduated. Slightly over half (55%) were between 30 and 39, while 24% were 40 or older, and 20% were 29 or younger”11I was 29 when I got my PhD, making me 7 years younger than the average.
  • Making me much worse than average: “Slightly over half (56%) of all doctoral graduates completed their program without owing any money directly related to their graduate education. Of those who were carrying debt directly related to their graduate studies, about 41% reported owing $10,000 or less, 27% owed between $10,000 and $20,000, and 32% owed more than $20,000”11. Mine was, if I recall correctly, about half ($35K) for undergrad and the other half for grad school. It may have been a bit more for undergrad and a bit less for grad, but not by much.

Making me rare, but I wish it weren’t:

For every woman who held a doctorate in either science or engineering in Canada in 2001, there were four men, according to a new study that profiles scientists and engineers with PhDs.12

Since only 128,625  Canadians have a PhD and women only make up 1/4 of that (i.e., about 32,000 women), assuming that half of Canada’s population (~15 million)  is female, doesn’t that meanthat I’m in the 0.2% of females with a PhD?

Also in the same report:

The study found that for each age group, the earnings of females with science or engineering PhDs were significantly lower than those of their male counterparts. For every dollar earned by a male doctorate holder, female doctorate holders earned 77 cents. In contrast, a woman in the general labour force earned 71 cents for every dollar earned by a man.12


The earnings gap between young women and men only declined moderately during the 1990s, despite a dramatic increase in the proportion of young women holding a university degree, according to a new study.

From 1991 to 2001, the proportion of 25- to 29-year-old women holding a university degree went from 21% to 34%. In contrast, the proportion of 25- to 29-year-old men holding a university degree only rose moderately over the period, from 16% in 1991 to 21% in 2001.

Despite the sharp increase in the proportion of young women with a university degree and the fact that university degree-holders generally earn more than other workers, the gender earnings gap only declined slightly over the period.

Specifically, women aged 25 to 29 earned 20% less than men in 1991. By 2001, the gap had narrowed slightly to 18%. Virtually all of this decline was related to the rising educational attainment of young women.

One reason why the earnings gap only declined slightly in the 1990s, despite the rapidly rising educational attainment among young women, is that the gap among university graduates actually increased over the period. It went from 12% in 1991 to 18% in 2001.

This was largely the result of real wage declines in female-dominated disciplines, such as health and education, and real wage increases in male-dominated disciplines, such as engineering, mathematics, computer sciences and physical sciences.13

OK, that’s all I have. As you can see, I was totally phoning it in with the long quotations by the end of this, and there’s no coherent message.  Which is why I never got around to posting it before now.

1What, you don’t read info on stats just for fun?
2Where “the other day,” by the time I’m posting this, is probably like 6 or 8 months ago!
3OK, see, the draft had 31, which means it had to have been at least 6 months ago when I started writing this, but I just turned 32 and a half.
4OK, again, this is something that has changed since I started writing this posting. Now that I work out in the suburbs, *everyone* I work with has babies. So maybe it’s just the city people I hang around with that are baby-free into their 30s.
8Um, ya, that’s me being sarcastic.

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All math should be taught via foodstuffs

Not sure how to cite this one. It came from here.  Props to my friend Dan for posting this in Facebook.