Monday, June 25, 2012

Arizona Immigration and fake statistics

In case you haven't heard, the Supreme Court ruled on Arizona's immigration law today.

I was not surprised to see this show up on some of the feminist blogs I read, as they generally have a pro-immigration slant, but I was more than a little surprised to see that Amanda Marcotte considers this a women's issue.

In a blog post for the XX blog on, she argues that the laws surrounding checking IDs will likely result in racial profiling (certainly) and probably target the young (highly likely) but that this will also target women more than men (wait, huh?).

Her reasoning:
.....women, especially in poor or rural communities, are also much more likely to be out and about without legal identification than men, especially if they don't drive or drive often. Women that are poor or undereducated are much more likely to be stay-at-home mothers with few resources, which makes it very easy to let concerns about up-to-date licenses or ID slip, especially if you don't drive a car much because someone else in the household is using it for work. If your daily life is dedicated to running errands for your family, you may not have much cause to worry about keeping all your papers in order generally, until it's too late and you're finding yourself in jail for not being able to prove citizenship on the spot.
A few comments:

  1. I have searched for 20 minutes for any study or proof that women leave the house without their ID more often than men.  I can't find it.  Maybe the idea is that women walk around more than men?
  2. Women that are poor and undereducated are not more likely to be stay at home mothers.  56% of SAHM have at least some college education or more.
  3. I can't find any hard data on which gender lets their license expire more often, but I also can't find proof that it's women.
I hate statistics based on bad data, but I really hate statistics just pulled from thin air.  Some assertions are self evident for sure....I don't know that many people would argue that a group of teenage boys out on a corner is more likely to be stopped by the police than a group of 70 year old men....but the paragraph above states quite definitively several things that don't seem at all definitive.  I could be wrong, but there weren't any sources attached to check with.  When you factor in the idea that men are probably more likely to be stopped than women, it's hard to figure out where this particular point is coming from.

If you disagree with Arizona's law, that's fine....but don't make up statistics about it's impact on women to justify that.  If it's wrong, it's wrong because it impacts people in general, not women in particular.


  1. I don't have any statistics, but anecdotal evidence from my work indicates that the people most likely to let their license expire are those who change addresses and don't get the reminder notice. Those tend to be people in their 20's who have yet to settle into regular jobs which lend themselves to keeping the same address for some time. My experience supports that young men are somewhat more likely to be in this situation then young women. Single moms tend to be more responsible than single men without such responsibilities. No studies, just 15 years of experience.

  2. Counterarguments, also pulled from the air: women carry purses, making them more likely to have an ID with them. Women who are SAHM can go to DMV when it's open more easily. Men are more likely to be homeless, meaning...something.

    I suspect that behind this reasoning there lurks two automatic principles for Ms. Marcotte's writing: It is fashionable to be against this, so as a writer and important thinker, I need to come up with a new reason other people haven't thought of; relatedly, I have to tie most things into how unfair the world is to women. Therefore, I must write an essay demonstrating that this is unfair to women. Great! I'm half-done already! Now all I need are reasons.

    Since she beclowned herself during the Edwards campaign years ago, I have regarded Amanda Marcotte as a high-school mean girl concerned more with finding a good put-down than with being correct.

    Racial profiling, BTW, is common in nice liberal northeastern cities as well as yahoo flyover country. I can pull a Sailer post on that if you need it.

    1. I have no doubt profiling is common in many places. It just always kind of surprises me when I see it in articles about this as though it may or may not happen. My first thought is always "well....they're not looking for Canadians".

      I'm not working from a legal definition of profiling, btw, just the common sense one. A white native English speaker will probably never arouse a "reasonable suspicion" of being in the country illegally.

  3. I think you're right about Marcotte using feminist language to frame an issue when that doesn't really make sense.

    That being said, Hispanic stay at home moms are more likely to have lower levels of education than both non-Hispanic stay at home moms and women who work outside the home. Page 11 of the ASA paper you linked to hints at this.

    According to my (crude) look at the 2011 CPS data, Hispanic women out of the labor force, whose spouses are in the labor force and have a child show something like a 30 percent gap in educational attainment (HS diploma) compared to non-Hispanic women with those characteristics. So while, as you say, more than 50% of all stay at home moms report "some college" or more, only about 20% of Hispanic stay at home moms report the same.

    1. Good catch....I had broken Marcotte's statements down to far and was just looking at her assertion as one about all stay at home mothers. While technically that's what she said, I'll give her the benefit of the doubt that she meant specifically Hispanic SAHM.

      I am curious however how that data changes for women with undocumented status. Clearly it would be hard to study, but I do wonder what the citizen vs. non citizen rates would be. I'm not guessing that they'd be more educated that the citizens, but I'm wondering if they'd have a lower rate of stay at home motherhood due to family instability.

    2. Interesting thought. Might have a chance to take a peek at this tomorrow morning, will write if I do.

      Keep up the good work-- TMK sent me here a few weeks ago, glad he did.

  4. Weirdly, I notice at least one report that racial profiling wasn't ever mentioned. At least, none of the briefs or arguments in court mention racial profiling.

    This is odd, and it apparently means one of these things:

    1. The lawyers didn't have any evidence that racial profiling would/could/might occur.
    2. The lawyers had evidence that racial profiling wouldn't/couldn't occur
    3. The way the law surround the appeal process is structured didn't let the lawyers bring up 'disparate racial impacts' as a reason to throw out a State law.

    In response to possibility #3: I thought 'disparate racial impacts' is an argument that is encouraged when discussing Constitutionality of a law in the appeals process.

    I conclude that either item #1 or item #2 are true.

    Don't get me wrong; I am against laws that enable police to arrest people for driving while Black/Hispanic/White/other-race.

    But I am very suspicious when the opponents of the law talk about racist applications of the law out of court, and say in court that they can't find any evidence the law will be applied in a racist manner.

    1. I've read some analysis that at least suggested profiling is easier to bring to court once the laws actually being enforced...and since this was preemptive they didn't go that route (meaning they can rechallenge in the future).

  5. ...and to belatedly connect this to the post, most of the complaints about the Arizona law affecting women more first assert that it will affect Hispanic women more than any other women...

  6. I'm writing a paper on the Arizona Immigration law and was just interested in hearing other opinions. What were the reasons behind creating the law? Do you think it is racist and should be dropped, why or why not? Feel free to rant on, I'm looking for all opinions. Thanks!