Tuesday, May 06, 2008

It's the numbers.

Commenting on a FOX television series about a bounty hunter tracking down fathers for non-payment of child support, Kathleen Parker takes the patriarchy's part and blames it all on women.

In fact, noncustodial mothers are 20 percent more likely to default on child support than noncustodial fathers, according to U.S. Census data. But we don’t see a reality show aimed at humiliating moms.

Is this because women, who have had fewer opportunities historically, are viewed as more deserving of the benefit of the doubt?

Or is it because civilized people would strenuously object to the public ridicule of moms whose children may be watching?

It’s preferable to imagine the latter. The question is why we feel no such decency toward men and the children who love them.


Just to begin to count the fallacies in this short excerpt, we have lying with statistics, false dichotomy, and strawman. One at a time, starting with lying with statistics:

noncustodial mothers are 20 percent more likely to default on child support .... But we don’t see a reality show aimed at humiliating moms.

How could this be? Surely if mothers are more likely to default, we'd be focusing on them--there'd simply be more of them to populate the television show! But there's a hidden assumption there: that there are equal numbers of noncustodial mothers and noncustodial fathers who must pay child support. What if there are more fathers? What if there are more fathers by a lot? According to Children's Justice, there are.

Total Custodial Mothers: 11,268,000. Total Custodial Fathers 2,907,000 (Source: Current Population Reports, U.S. Bureau of the Census, Series P-20, No. 458, 1991).

Technical Analysis Paper No. 42, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Income Security Policy, Oct. 1991, Authors: Meyer and Garansky.

* Custodial mothers who receive a support award: 79.6%
* Custodial fathers who receive a support award: 29.9%
* Non-custodial mothers who totally default on support: 46.9%
* Non-custodial fathers who totally default on support: 26.9%


Okay, so taking those two sets of numbers into account, it appears that there are at most 407,651 non-custodial mothers defaulting on support.* However, using the same assumption, there are 2,412,749 non-custodial fathers defaulting on support,** more than five times as many. For every non-custodial mother who fails to pay her child support, there are more than 5 non-custodial fathers failing to pay.

Using percentages instead of raw numbers, she implies that there are more women out there to be found by the bounty hunter when the reverse is true.

Second, she presents a false dichotomy: the choice to exploit non-paying fathers must be either because women, who have had fewer opportunities historically, are viewed as more deserving of the benefit of the doubt? Or is it because civilized people would strenuously object to the public ridicule of moms whose children may be watching.

How about because there are more of them? There are many more non-paying fathers than non-paying mothers, so more chances to find them for the television show.

And third, the strawman: it must be that Fox chose non-paying fathers because we feel no such decency toward men and the children who love them. (The decency being the aforementioned objection to ridiculing mothers in front of their children.) Obviously we're not civilized, if we don't equally object to ridiculing fathers. Strangely, I agree with that--I just don't expect Fox (or other media) to value civilized behavior over making money off showing dramatic entertainment.

* Assume that all parental couples are heterosexual. There are 2,907,000 custodial fathers, of which 29.9% receive a support award, therefore there are 2,907,000 * 29.9% = 869,193 non-custodial mothers who owe support. Of those mothers, 46.9% default, so 869,193 * 46.9% = 407,651 mothers default on their support obligation.

** Assume that all parental couples are heterosexual. There re 11,268,000 custodial mothers, of which 79.6% receive a support award, therefore there are 11,268,000 * 79.6% = 8,969,328 non-custodial fathers who owe support. Of those fathers, 26.9% default, so 8,969,328 * 26.9% = 2,412,749 fathers default on their support obligation.

1 comment:

Deja Pseu said...

Kathleen Parker *always* sides with the patriarchy, and takes any chance she gets to bash other women.