Research shows that age is not correlated with fertility…um OK

I’m back on my data hunt for my course project to develop a web app…and I came across a research paper that explored factors associated with fertility in a small district in India*.  The abstract of the paper begins with:

“This paper focuses on the cause and effect relations on human fertility. Here fertility is used as the number of children ever born for a woman….”

Alarm bells rang as soon as I see ’cause and effect….’.  But I was intrigued, so I read on.  The factors that this study looked at were ‘natural factors’ (including age of woman, age of woman at marriage, religion and type of family) ‘economic factors’ (including employment of woman and spouse, income of woman and spouse) and ‘knowledge factors’ (including education of woman and spouse).  I should now mention that this is clearly NOT a piece of medical research, rather came from a journal of anthropology.  Studies that look at non-medical factors can be revealing never-the-less, so here we go…
I loved the result that the more educated a woman and her spouse were the fertility rate lowered.  Basically you can possibly turn this around and say that the less educated you were the more likely you were to have children.  I think we can guess why.  But it is the way that the report concludes which makes it sound rather amusing…
“Conclusion: Higher employment, higher income of both husband and wife and nuclear family system could bring the reduction in the fertility level of the women in Kanyakumari district”

CORRELATION DOES NOT EQUAL CAUSATION – BAHHHHHH

I know that this research paper was probably trying to assess what causes the high birth rate in this particular district, but I think the translation and the way the conclusions have been made make this a paper a funny read if you are into that kind of geekery.  So Ladies – lose the jobs, dumb up your brain cells and knock a few out of your husband too, and don’t worry, age is not correlated with fertility, that is if we want to learn some lessons from Kanyakumari district!

Oh yes and here is another one of my favourite xkcds.

Cancer Causes Cell Phones – Duh!

* K. Senthamarai Kannan* and V. Nagarajan, “Factor and Multiple Regression Analysis for Human Fertility in Kanyakumari District“. Available at: http://www.krepublishers.com/02-Journals/T-Anth/Anth-10-0-000-08-Web/Anth-10-3-000-08-Abst-PDF/Anth-10-3-211-08-416-Kannan-K-S/Anth-10-3-211-08-416-Kannan-K-S-Tt.pdf

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