Is the Washington Post congenitally incapable of doing math?

From today’s WaPo opinion page, Charlotte Allen tells her fellow women they stink at stuff:

Women really are worse drivers than men, for example. A study published in 1998 by the Johns Hopkins schools of medicine and public health revealed that women clocked 5.7 auto accidents per million miles driven, in contrast to men’s 5.1, even though men drive about 74 percent more miles a year than women.

Note that the figure given is accidents per miles driven. Which means that “men drive more miles a year than women” has nothing to do with the point the author is attempting to make. It would make as much sense to write “even though dark-horse Juno failed to win the Best Picture Oscar.”

But the version as published contains a percentage! A deftly inserted percentage never fails to give a soothing impression that somebody, just off-stage, is industriously doing some science.

Allen goes on to observe that

The only good news was that women tended to take fewer driving risks than men, so their crashes were only a third as likely to be fatal.

“Don’t drive with her, drive with me — I’m a much better driver, because I’m 10% less likely to get into a fender-bender, though I suppose I ought to mention that I am three times more likely to kill us both.

The article also remarks that “[n]o man contracts nebulous diseases whose existence is disputed by many if not all doctors” (Gulf War Syndrome, call your agent!) and that men don’t miss work because they’re depressed (you too, William Styron and Pete Harnisch!) Oh, and that women are congenital failures at analytic thinking in general, and math in particular. Is it possible the article is some kind of bizarre performance piece meant to illustrate this latter point?

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4 thoughts on “Is the Washington Post congenitally incapable of doing math?

  1. Dirty Davey says:

    Atrios notes that scarcely two months ago, Post ombudsman Howell had a column asking why “young mothers” (women 18-34 with children) don’t read the Post.

    Somehow this piece doesn’t seem likely to solve that problem.

  2. Zajj says:

    I can understand the root of some of her frustration, but for goodness sake! This persistence of nonsensical statistical spin—put forth to legitimize a useless ‘nature v. nurture’ argument—makes me want to shrink back into the shadows to avoid losing my mind. Blah.

  3. Jessie says:

    This seems to be Charlotte Allen’s logic:

    A. I am stupid

    B. I am a woman.

    C. Ergo, women are stupid.

    The shame isn’t in her idiocy in writing this, but in the WaPo running such crap. WTF???

  4. Dirty Davey says:

    Interesting. In her online chat today, re: the driving issue, Allen comments in response to a question about why insurance companies charge men more:

    “Young men are worse drivers and get charged more. According to the Johns Hopkins study, however, young men’s bad driving is more than made up by older women’s bad driving.”

    Depending on how you take “older”, and given that women live longer, maybe some or all of the issue is actually age, and only reflected in sex because of lower male life expectancies. If there’s a big cluster of minor accidents among 80+ year old drivers, women might account for far more than half those accidents while still crashing with the same frequency as men of the same age.

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