Discussion Suppose you are a justice of the Supreme Court. Based on the evidence presented and the..

Discussion

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Suppose you are a justice of the Supreme
Court. Based on the evidence presented and the rules regarding gender-based
differences, do you think the law should be upheld? Let’s go through the seven
steps introduced in this chapter with a view toward making the decision the
Court was required to make.

Step 1: Determine if the research was a
sample survey, a randomized experiment, an observational study, a combination,
or based on anecdotes. The numbers in Table 6.1 showing arrests throughout the
state of Oklahoma for a 4-month period are observational in nature. The figures
do represent most of the arrests for those crimes, but the people arrested are
obviously only a subset of those who committed the crimes. The data in Table
6.2 constitute a sample survey, based on a convenience sample of drivers
passing by certain locations.

Step 2: Consider the Seven Critical
Components in Chapter 2 (pp. 18–19) to familiarize yourself with the details of
the research. A few details are missing, but you should be able to ascertain
answers to most of the components. One missing detail is how the “random
roadside survey” was conducted.

Step 3: Based on the answer in step 1,
review the “difficulties and disasters” inherent in that type of research and
determine if any of them apply. The arrests in Table 6.1 were used by the
defense to show that young males are much more likely to be arrested for
incidents related to drinking than are young females. But consider the
confounding factors that may be present in the data. For example, perhaps young
males are more likely to drive in ways that call attention to themselves, and
thus they are more likely to be stopped by the police, whether they have been
drinking or not. Thus, young females who were driving while drunk would not be
noticed as often. For the data in Table 6.2, because the survey was taken at
certain locations, the drivers questioned may not be representative of all
drivers. For example, if a sports event had recently ended nearby, there may be
more male drivers on the road, and they may have been more likely to have been
drinking than normal.

Step 4: Determine if the information is
complete. If necessary, see if you can find the original source of the report
or contact the authors for missing information. The information provided is
relatively complete, except for the information on how the random roadside
survey was conducted. According to Gastwirth (1994, personal communication),
this information was not supplied in the original documentation of the court
case.

Step 5: Ask if the results make sense in
the larger scope of things. If they are counter to previously accepted
knowledge, see if you can get a possible explanation from the authors. Nothing
is suspicious about the data in either table. Remember that in 1973, when the
data were collected, the legal drinking age in the United States had not yet
been raised to 21 years of age.

Step 6: Ask yourself if there is an
alternative explanation for the results. We have discussed one possible source
of a confounding variable for the arrest statistics in Table 6.1—namely, that
males may be more likely to be stopped for other traffic violations. Let’s
consider the data in Table 6.2. Notice that almost 80% of the drivers stopped
were male. Therefore, at least at that point in time in Oklahoma, males were
more likely to be driving than females. That helps explain why 10 times more
young men than young women had been arrested for alcohol-related reasons. The
important point for the law being challenged in this lawsuit was whether young
men were more likely to be driving after drinking than young women. Notice from
Table 6.2 that of those cars with young males driving, 11.4% had blood alcohol
levels over 0.01; of those cars with young females driving, 9.4% had blood
alcohol levels over 0.01. These rates are statistically indistinguishable.

Step 7: Determine if the results are
meaningful enough to encourage you to change your lifestyle, attitudes, or
beliefs on the basis of the research. In this case study, the important
question is whether the Supreme Court justices were convinced that the
gender-based difference in the law was reasonable. The Supreme Court overturned
the law, concluding that the data in Table 6.2 “provides little support for a
gender line among teenagers and actually runs counter to the imposition of
drinking restrictions based upon age” (Gastwirth, 1988, p. 527).

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