Saturday, May 8, 2010

Tyler Cowen has nerves of steel

With no apparent sign of fear or hesitation, he links to the following WSJ article:
Do Girls Speed More Than Boys?
Survey Says Girls Drive More Aggressively; Insurers Up Rates

Some big auto insurers are raising the rates they charge to cover teenage girls, reflecting the crumbling of conventional wisdom that young women are more responsible behind the wheel.

In a survey of teenage drivers, Allstate Insurance Co. found that 48% of girls said they are likely to drive 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. By comparison, 36% of the boys admitted to speeding. Of the girls, 16% characterized their own driving as aggressive, up from 9% in 2005. And just over half of the girls said they are likely to drive while talking on a phone or texting, compared to 38% of the boys..

The results were "a surprise to many people," says Meghann Dowd of the Allstate Foundation, an independent charitable organization funded by Allstate which sponsored the survey.

While teens fessed up about their own bad behavior, they also said their friends drive even worse. The study found that 65% of the respondents, male and female, said they are confident in their own driving skills, but 77% said they had felt unsafe when another teen was driving. Only 23% of teens agree that most teens are good drivers. This suggests teens recognize in their friends the dubious and dangerous behavior they won't admit to indulging in themselves.

The data was gleaned from online interviews with 1,063 teens across the country. It was conducted in May 2009 for the Allstate Foundation by the TRU division of TNS Custom Research Inc., a Chicago-based youth research and marketing firm. (For highlights of the study, see

The survey relies on what teens report about themselves, and Allstate Foundation spokeswoman Meghann Dowd says that means the results could be affected by how forthcoming individuals are when answering the survey questions.
(read the rest here)

I don't know how he does it. I started to sweat when I hit the second paragraph and it just got worse from there. I'm not ashamed to admit that I get nervous around studies that:

1. assume that teenage boys and teenage girls are equally likely to tell the truth about their illegal driving habits;

2. assume that teenage boys and teenage girls are equally likely to be aware of their illegal driving habits;

3. have a spokesperson who talks about individuals not being forthcoming but doesn't mention the possibility that this effect might be more prevalent for one gender;

4. don't cross-check their findings against highly correlated hard data like highway patrol citation records;

5. contain at any point any variation of the phrase 'online interview.'

I have to sit down now. I'm getting dizzy...

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