A friend of mine is a government documents librarian, and he wrote today on facebook:
“The 1940 U.S. Census reported more than 1,100 women with the occupations
of locomotive engineers or firemen. The published Census reports
listed them as “Tailors and tailoresses.“”
Falsely reporting the data to preserve the status quo, exhibit A.
My librarian friend further reports that explaining the intricacies behind why they did this would take ten minutes, but that it boils down to ‘cover your ass.’ So, still – protecting the perceived status quo.
WOW OKAY he just explained it got so much more banal. Still sexist – at least, a reflection of sexism from decades prior – but more convoluted. See:
boy. Here we go down the rabbit hole. Starting in 1910 they used sex
as a way to double check machine tabulation of the records. In other
words, if a woman was listed in an unusual occupation, they checked the
original record (ditto for children listed
as lawyers, people over 90, etc.). Inevitably this meant that female
numbers were depressed (if not suppressed). By 1940 when it was obvious
that the early numbers were way too low, they either had to admit the
earlier screw-up, or be currently accurate (thereby suggesting a HUGE
increase in women in unusual occupations) or hide them in similar
occupation classes. RR engineers and tailoresses were considered to be
in the same class: semi-skilled, I believe. So as I said, more CYA than
deliberate sabotage. Clear?”
SO. Initial assumptions lead to depressed numbers of women in ‘odd’ occupations. So they hid the ladies so no one could tell their statistical oops from earlier.
Not ‘falsely reporting data to preserve the status quo,’ as I originally assumed (BAD SHADES), but falsely reporting data to make it look like you hadn’t been screwing up for years prior… said screw-ups being themselves based on the perceived status quo.
Which makes a ton of sense, really. People making bad decisions based on assumptions is a lot more common than people setting out to be malicious, I think.
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