Wednesday, March 7, 2007
Before The Shooting Starts
The Freakanomics Statistical Analysis of the Month Award goes to Richard Gelles, the dean of the University of Pennsylvania's School of Social Policy and Practice, for his explanation of the graphic you see below.
You'll notice that back in 1976, the number of women killed by their intimate partners was 18% greater than that of men. Fast forward 30 years, and while both numbers have decreased significantly, there are now three times as many women getting killed by their intimate partners as there are men.
Counterintuitively (as the best Freakanomics analyses always are), this is actually, according to Gelles, a good sign:
The disproportion in fatalities, while seemingly adverse to women, reflects a major gain... Abusive men are killed less often now because women can get free of them more easily.
"We've eliminated a good deal of defensive homicide by giving women easier access to shelters and ERs and by measures such as mandatory arrest laws" that restrain or punish abusive spouses, Gelles said.
I follow the logic, and agree that it makes sense. But this is why I would make a lousy social scientist. Hand me that statistic and I'm wondering what the hell is going wrong.