In a recent essay in The New Yorker, Kathryn Moeller examined the origins of an oft-cited but inaccurate statistic that women spend 90 percent of their income on their children, while men devote only about 30 percent. That statistic has been used repeatedly to make a case for the value of investing in girls’ education in low-income countries.
On this episode of School’s In, Moeller joined hosts Dan Schwartz and Denise Pope to explain how so-called “ghost statistics” actually hurt efforts for women’s empowerment.
“We need to learn to be really careful with data in this moment when everything is data-driven,” said Moeller, a visiting assistant professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and the Lemann Center for Educational Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Brazil. “What are the statistics we’re using? What are the stories those are telling? And do we know they’re true? These are hard conversations we need to be having, but I think they’re really necessary.”
She also expressed the need for more qualitative data. “We have good data on girls’ education that we can use to drive education policy globally,” she said. “But we also have an overreliance on quantitative data. In thinking about girls’ and women’s lives, educational experiences and outcomes, we often need more holistic tools for understanding that.”
Subscribe to our monthly newsletter.