BYU researcher challenges Mormon gender gap study

Published December 16, 2011 11:56 am

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Mormon women may outnumber men in Utah, but the recent study published by Trinity College did not prove it, says Adam Brown, a research fellow with Brigham Young University's Center for the Student of Elections and Democracy.The study, described in Thursday's Salt Lake Tribune, reported that in 1990 there was a surplus of women among Mormons outside of Utah, but by 2008 "a dramatic shift had occurred," and LDS females now "outnumber males in Utah 3 to 2."Brown, writing at Utah Data Points, says that claim cannot be substantiated by the study's data. The sample size — 270 — is too small, making the margin of error too large.The study's authors did not include the margin of error for that sample in their release. When asked by The Tribune, they said it was "close to 5 percent," which the story noted.But Brown pegs the margin of error at closer to 6 percent (5.96 percent to be exact)."That means the survey is estimating that 54-66 percent of Utah Mormons are female," he writes.Extrapolating from the survey's 1990 figures and margin of error, the number of Utah Mormons who were female could fall between 48.5 percent and 56.5 percent.Thus, the two estimated ranges overlap, Brown writes. "From a statistical perspective, that means it is inappropriate to conclude that anything has changed since 1990."Brown says he has no "ax to grind about the gender gap story," but argues the claims about a dramatic shift "are premature."Peggy Fletcher Stack