Talking about data

Herald Insights today has a nice interactive story about the “pay gap” in New Zealand, i.e. differences in rates of pay for men and women.

The pay gap is a bit complicated — there are lots of possible reasons why people in the same occupation category might get paid differently, regardless of their gender. The Insights piece doesn’t attempt to do a very detailed analysis of the causes of pay differences in occupations or trends in these differences over time.

So it’s not a perfect analysis but arguably that’s asking too much — good data journalism like this encourages us to talk about an issue and explore further. It gives us more information than anecdotes and gut feelings but it is just a starting point. It doesn’t have to give us the complete answer; we’ll need to look in academic journals to find that.

So in that sense, the pay gap piece seems to have been quite successful at stimulating discussion. Here’s just a few tweets that I personally saw, and I’m sure there were lots of others:

Also, it would be great if the headline writers didn’t feel they have to hook people in to interactives like this with offering a concrete answer. The headline on the main Herald site was “Do you get paid fairly? This will tell you”. The interactive sort of answers that question (based on your occupation and gender only), but the headline puts people in the wrong frame of mind for thinking more deeply about the issue.