Friday, March 21, 2014

Google searches and gender

The NYtimes has an interesting op ed by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz: "Google, Tell Me. Is My Son a Genius?"
It starts with

"It’s hardly surprising that parents of young children are often excited at the thought that their child may be gifted. In fact, of all Google searches starting “Is my 2-year-old,” the most common next word is “gifted.” But this question is not asked equally about young boys and young girls. Parents are two and a half times more likely to ask “Is my son gifted?” than “Is my daughter gifted?” Parents show a similar bias when using other phrases related to intelligence that they may shy away from saying aloud, like, “Is my son a genius?”


"In American schools, girls are 11 percent more likely than boys to be in gifted programs. Despite all this, parents looking around the dinner table appear to see more gifted boys than girls.

Parents were more likely to ask about sons rather than daughters on every matter that I tested related to intelligence, including its absence. There are more searches for “is my son behind” or “stupid” than comparable searches for daughters. Searches with negative words like “stupid” and “behind,” however, are less skewed toward sons than searches with positive words.

What concerns do parents disproportionately have for their daughters? Primarily, anything related to appearance. Consider questions about a child’s weight. Parents Google “Is my daughter overweight?” roughly twice as frequently as they Google “Is my son overweight?” Just as with giftedness, this gender bias is not grounded in reality. About 30 percent of girls are overweight, while 33 percent of boys are. Even though scales measure more overweight boys than girls, parents see — or worry about — overweight girls much more often than overweight boys."

The most intriguing picture may be:

He ends with

"How would American girls’ lives be different if parents were half as concerned with their bodies and twice as intrigued by their minds?"

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