Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pedantry alert...

So are there more women working than men?
Catherine Rampell at the NY Times Economix picks up Mulligan's error: The Mancession
Casey B. Mulligan noted, for example, that for the first time in American history women are coming close to representing the majority of the national work force.
At least Rampell used "work force" instead of "labor force" but she repeats Mulligan's error. Women are coming close to holding a majority of payroll jobs, but not a majority of the work force or labor force. Back in February, Rampell phrased it better:
With the recession on the brink of becoming the longest in the postwar era, a milestone may be at hand: Women are poised to surpass men on the nation’s payrolls, taking the majority for the first time in American history.
To belabor this point: Say there were 50 women and 100 men in the work force, and each women worked two jobs (men only one). The CES would report 200 payroll positions; half for men, and half for women. The CPS would report 150 people had jobs, 50 women and 100 men. Would it be correct to say there were as many women in the work force as men? No.

Both surveys have value, and I'm using this to make a point: The CES is about positions. The CPS is about people. [More]

OK, I get the point, but beg to differ on the importance.   When (and I think it's likely) women do outnumber men in the workforce, will economists begin to wonder what's happening?

If women are working two jobs, maybe some credit should be accrued.   Disdaining "positions" is frankly sexist, and I rarely use that term.  I think more economists would understand if there were no tenure and they had to support a family on their own.
Regardless of the call, the trend is not to be argued with.

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