hypothesis posed, hypothesis tested

Kim Weeden sent me a guest post based on the post I wrote yesterday for Scatterplot.  I include it in full below.  At this rate we are moving toward A Unified Theory Of Sex Differences In Academia faster than most sociology journals can even get something under review.
In Jeremy’s last post, he offered this hypothesis, “Men are more likely than women to submit comments to journals that directly attack a paper that was previously published in that journal.” It so happens that I can offer some data that are relevant to the hypothesis. 

I identified at all the comments published between 2005-2013, inclusive, in the top 10 “sociology” journals ranked by 10-year h-metric (see Jacobs 2011 for more info). I excluded the Annual Review of Sociology and the Annals of Tourism Research, 6th by H factor. Yes, Thomson Reuters/Web of Science categorizes ATR as a sociology journal. With all due respect to my Cornell Hotel School colleagues, I don’t. 
The 10 journals are ASR, AJS, Journal of Marriage and the Family, ASQ, Demography, Criminology, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Soc of Ed, Population and Development Review, and Social Networks. Just out of curiosity, I also looked at Social Forces, 23rd by H, but as it turns out SF didn’t publish any easily identifiable comments in this period. In fact, three of top 10 journals — ASQ, SoE, and Criminology — did not publish any comments, at least that met my criteria. 
To identify comments, I searched my database of articles for “comment”, “commentary,” “response,” “rejoinder” and “reply.” I only used the three “r” keywords to help identify comments that weren’t picked up through the first two keywords — e.g., Fisher’s comment on the McPherson, Smith Lovin, and Brashears paper on social isolation. The responses written by the original authors are not included in the “results.” 
I only counted comments that were directed at a particular piece of scholarship. This excludes, for example, the exchange in SoE between Brint, Bills, DeLuca, Morgan, and Warren about the direction of the sociology of education as a field. I also didn’t count comments as part of a symposium on the life’s work of deceased scholars. 
I found 38 comments in these journal-years. (Small n, blah blah blah.) Of these, 32 (84%) first authors are men, 6 (16%) are women. Among all authors, 50 of 64 (78%) are men, and 14 (22%) are women. 
In 2010, 53% of ASA members were women: 51% of regular members, 60% of students. 
But wait, you say, how do we know the gender distribution of comment-writers isn’t proportionate to the gender distribution of the authors who publish in these journals? We don’t. I didn’t code all of the authors of all of the papers in the 7 journals, because that would require an enormous amount of work and this is a blog post. 
I’d point out, though, that the seven comment-containing journals includes two journals (JMF and JHSB) in fields where women are overrepresented, perhaps balancing out the two journals in fields where women are underrepresented (Social Networks and, less so, ASQ). And, the bulk of the comments (21) were published in ASR or AJS, which I believe are more gender balanced than 80/20. Correct me if I’m wrong.
I also can’t say anything about whether women are just as likely as men to submit comments, which was how Jeremy stated the hypothesis. But, the gender difference in the acceptance rate of submitted comments would have to be huge in order to generate the gender difference in the authorship of published comments.

Author: jeremy

I am the Ethel and John Lindgren Professor of Sociology and a Faculty Fellow in the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

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