this is what happens when I think too hard about method

I have several posts I’m ruminating–the most pressing probably a response to Henry’s reportage of the Hirshman-Schmitt debate on data about women voting rationally, or irrationally, or something. I have a good deal to say, most of it incoherent babble and objection to the “data” from a census being more valuable than anecdotal evidence (ie, real experiences narrated by real people).

I don’t have the energy to link it all up here, but essentially Hirshman (in one breath, more or less) is somehow both critical of academics AND insists that people who make claims about mothers BE academic.

Um. That wasn’t especially coherent. Clearly Hirshman would get all up in my face for that. But anyway.

Hirshman says that data from the census and from the Bureau of Labor Statistics proves mothers who leave work to raise their children, thinking they can “go back later,” are screwing themselves economically.

When a non-academic refutes this claim, using anecdotal evidence, Hirshman is scandalized that such poor journalism exists.

My reaction to this exchange, which kind of devolves in the comments of Henry’s post into an argument about rhetoric, is not about the the topic itself. I think it’s abusive that this woman is trying to scare mothers into trying to keep their jobs and have kids just so they don’t lose that time moving up the corporate ladder. But frankly I don’t care about women who are in corporate jobs that are so high-stakes that to leave for a couple of years would keep them from making partner. Sounds heartless, I know. But the mothers I worry/think about are those who have to decide whether to quit their job at Burger King or if they’ll be able to work enough hours to justify paying a sitter. I might be ignoring a part of this, but it just sounds like a rich person’s dilemma, and I. don’t. care.

Yes, Ms. Hirshman, both your daughters are working and have children. But their mother has a law degree. They were able to go to college. They have money for decent childcare. I think you offering up your own daughters as evidence is–gasp!–anecdotal and unacademic. And not fair.

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One thought on “this is what happens when I think too hard about method

  1. I haven’t paid much attention to the stories emerging from Hirschman’s book, for obvious reasons. (My “career” is still a work in progress, and I have no children.) So, I tried to read over her response, but I’m not sure I follow. But then, I rarely follow social sciences discussions of statistical evidence. As Barbie once said, Math is hard. I *do* wonder about a) the use of the term “rational,” since it carries heavy freight away from its definition within political science, and b) the failure to move the argument to a more radical position, such as “mandatory paid parental leave,” “universal health care,” “make that damn Bush admin. civil rights commission do its job” that might actually change things. *sigh*

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