Gur Huberman pointed me to this paper by Tamar Kricheli-Katz and Tali Regev, “How many cents on the dollar? Women and men in product markets.” It appeared in something called ScienceAdvances, which seems to be some extension of the Science brand, i.e., it’s in the tabloids!
I’ll leave the critical analysis of this paper to the readers. Just one hint: Their information on bids and prices comes from an observational study and an experiment. The observational study comes from real transactions and N is essentially infinity so the problem is not with p-values or statistical significance, but the garden of forking paths still comes into play, as there is still the selection of which among many possible comparisons to present, and the selection of which among many possible regressions to run. Also lots of concerns about causal identification, given that they’re drawing conclusions about different numbers of bids and different average prices for products sold by men and women, but they also report that men and women are using different selling strategies. The experiment is N=116 people on Mechanical Turk so there we have the usual concerns about interpretation of small nonrepresentative samples.
The paper has many (inadvertently) funny lines; my favorite is this one:
I do not however, believe this sort of research is useless. To the extent that you’re interested studying behavior in online auctions—and this is a real industry, it’s worth some study—it seems like a very sensible plan to gather a lot of data and look at differences between different groups. No need to just compare men and women, you could also compare sellers by age, by educational background, by goals in being on Ebay, and so forth. It’s all good. And, for that matter, it seems reasonable to start by highlighting differences between the sexes—that might get some attention, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting a bit of attention for your research. It should be possible to present the relevant comparisons in the data in some sort of large grid rather than following the playbook of picking out statistically significant comparisons.
P.S. Some online hype here.