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Of placebos and straw men

Lining them up

Consider this simple and effective display accompanying the NYT article titled "Recession Drives Women Back to the Work Force".  This is somewhat surprising because jobs are harder to come by during a recession. 


The journalist also told us that the interpretation of this data is controversial among economists.  The trend seemed to have been a decline in participation till 2004 and then a rise since then for 25-to-34-year-old women.  If there were an up-trend, it appeared before the start of this recession.  And participation rate dropped after the 2001 recession.  So much is still under study.

The use of small multiples is a good idea, and the color coordination between the two charts is well thought out.  A minor miss is the vertical scale: for any small multiples chart, one should always use the same scale.  In this case, using the same scale will allow readers to compare the levels of participation between men and women.

The following chart plots a related data set, focusing on the difference between men and women, among those married.  As before, the participation rates are of very different levels.  The male rate has steadily declined in recent decades while the female rate rose from the 30s in the 60s to about 70% in the 90s. 


Reference: "Recession Drives Women Back to the Work Force", New York Times, September 19, 2009; Bureau of Labor Statistics.


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A reasonable assumption is that by 2005 things were getting tougher, house prices had almost reached their peak as interest rates rose. As things get tougher for families with children the result will be that the wife will seek work instead of looking after the children fulltime. What will make this easier is that the husband is having his hours reduced. In some situations the wife finds it easier to obtain full time work so the husband removes himself from the labour market, resulting in less male participation.

H. Simpson

this is a great site -- thanks for all the work.

one small request: can you make the data available as well as the charts? it would allow for others to try their hand at charting.

If you already do this (and I missed it), sorry for the waste of time.

Thanks again for the fun site.

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