A Small Taste of Some Deliciously Crunchy Numbers

Remember that Gloriously Glorious Unscientific Romance Reader Survey of 2006 we tried to run back in November? I finally got around to tabulating the data and crunching some numbers today. So far, I’ve only worked out the numbers for age and education, because those were the ones that interested me the most, but they’re pretty astounding.

The mean age is 30.44 years.
The mode is 21.
The median is 29.

77.65% of the Bitchery who responded have completed at least a Bachelor’s.
23.53% have a Bachelor’s and nothing else.
15.29% have completed some post-baccalaureate work.
24.71% have completed a non-doctorate post-baccalaureate degree.
4.71% are working on a PhD or MD.
4.71% have a PhD or MD.

100% of the respondents aged 18 to 21 are in college.

86.05% of the respondents between 22 and 35 have completed at least a bachelor’s.
86.96% of the respondents between 36 and 60 have completed at least a bachelor’s.

Say it with me, folks: Holy crapping damn.

However! There are big fat caveats all over this here study, kittens, so here are some reasons why this sample is No Good and Probably Not At All Representative of the Average Smart Bitch, Much Less the Average Romance Novel Reader:

1. It’s a self-selecting sample.

2. Method of data collection deeply flawed (if nothing else, the comments section might’ve influenced people to not post, especially if they felt shy because they didn’t conform to the existing respondents).

3. Preamble to the data collection (i.e., my rant about how romance readers are perceived as stupid) probably urged more of the over-educated among us to post.

But the numbers are still cool to look at, no?

More numbers to look at after I’m done massaging the data this weekend, and you’ll get to find out just how gay and/or godless and/or god-fearing our readership is—at least, the readership who bothered to respond to that survey.

Those of you with more extensive training in statistics and the social sciences: Interested in helping me design a more scientific survey with results that might, y’know, mean something? E-mail me, baby (candy @ smartbitchestrashybooks.com).

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  1. 1
    rebyj says:

    I love being surrounded by smart people!

    Do people with college educations enjoy romance novels more than someone like me? (a grandma with a PHD in life)

    I have to say, my romance novel education does help me kick ass in trivial pursuit and games like that.(As if my rural kentucky education would give me geography and historical knowledge? nope, it’s all from the romances!)

    Do more surveys! Who cares if they are scientific? We’re fiction fans after all.

  2. 2
    emily says:

    I just started getting into romance novels a few months ago. I’m finding they’re a great escape from dealing with my master’s thesis (in environmental engineering).

    ~a 26 y.o. woman

  3. 3
    dl says:

    SB’s are not only entertaining and bitchy…we be smart and educated too!

  4. 4

    You didn’t give your sample size. How many smart bitches responded?

  5. 5
    Candy says:

    Lucinda: Good point. I forgot to include the information in this post, but I’ll definitely included the numbers when I do the more comprehensive breakdown. But here are some numbers for you:

    Total number of respondents: 91
    Total number of people who gave valid information about age: 88
    Total number of people who gave valid information about age and education level: 80

    And rebyj: Of course formal education has little to do with one’s ability to enjoy and dissect romance novels, but it’s fascinating to see how the numbers contradict certain assumptions made about romance novel readers, i.e. we’re uneducated and/or stupid schlubs who love reading romance because we’re intellectually lazy.

  6. 6
    SamG says:

    I didn’t respond at the time.  I did decide though, that I was just an average bitch, not a smart one.

    Sam…age 40 (for 2 more days) and only educated to the associate level…

  7. 7
    Claire says:

    “100% of the respondents aged 18 to 21 are in college.”

    Dizzam!  Thats awsome!

  8. 8

    You’re going to have a problem, even with a sample size of 80, in that age and education are related. Older people tend to be more educated because they’ve had more time to go to school. Like, what 22-year-old has a PhD?

    What you really need to do is find the average education of (say) sci fi readers in the 35-40 year old bracket and see if that’s different than the average education of the the romance readers in the same age/sex bracket.

    Comparing education of sci fi readers to romance readers might be a very nice comparison because if you find no difference, you’ve done the most conservative test out there. (I’m working under the assumption—haha—that sci fi readers are geeks!)

    I predict that comparing the education of say mystery readers or thriller readers to the eductation levels of romance readers in the same age/sex categories will not yield a significant difference. I refuse to make a prediction regarding the comparative education levels of sci fi readers versus romance readers

    And, you left out one assumption in your original list. You are assuming that education is a good proxy measure for intelligence or IQ.

    SWAK,
    Lucinda

    Lucinda Betts *~* http://www.LucindaBetts.com
    PURE SEX, Kensington, Aphrodisia—out now!
    NIGHT SPELL, Kensington, Aphrodisia—out now!
    MOON SHADOW, Kensington, Aphrodisia—March 2007

  9. 9
    Sallyacious says:

    It was my thorough study of the works of Georgette Heyer that made my Theatre History instructor (and then head of the department) assume that I’d had one helluvan education prior to attending his class on my way to BA #2.

    For the record, I had. But a great deal of my history came from her very well researched books. It was Heyer’s treatment of much of that history that made me explore certain things in greater depth myself. Never underestimate the power of a good storyteller.

  10. 10
    Kalen Hughes says:

    It’s good to be among the over-educated heathens!

  11. 11
    Candy says:

    You’re going to have a problem, even with a sample size of 80, in that age and education are related. Older people tend to be more educated because they’ve had more time to go to school. Like, what 22-year-old has a PhD?

    This is why dealing with age ranges instead of discrete ages is useful. And believe it or not, the number of people in the 22 to 35 range (n = 43) who have PhDs/MDs in this particular sample is the same as those in the 36-60 (n = 23) range, i.e. 2 in each group.

    This sample skews young. Seriously, seriously young. But like I said, this is an extremely flawed sample.

    And, you left out one assumption in your original list. You are assuming that education is a good proxy measure for intelligence or IQ.

    Not sure I’ve ever explicitly stated that education is a good proxy for intelligence (which I don’t believe), though I have explicitly stated I’m interested in exploding the notion that romance readers = uneducated schlubs.

    And while some of the smartest people I know don’t have any advanced degrees, I think it’s reasonable to assume somebody is fairly bright in a certain way if she has a PhD.

    Your suggestion for sampling SF/F and romance readers and then comparing them is an interesting idea; it’d be even more interesting to see how much cross-over there is between the two genres. I know I enjoy both equally.

  12. 12

    I knew we were a bright bunch.  I only had to read the SB posts and comments to know that.  But it’s nice to have it validated.

  13. 13
    Jane says:

    I’m 18, a high school senior, and read romance novels like mad.

    I actually wrote my Common App college application essay on my obsession with romance novels.  (My mom’s response when I told her:  “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”)  And, in one of my acceptance letters, the dean of admissions of the school (which is, I might say, is a very competitive school and ranks among Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford on some lists) said that my essay was his favorite part of my application, even if he has never read one of these romance novels.

    I’ve always thought, though, that romance readers were way underestimated.  The statistics, though not very scientific, are pretty cool.

  14. 14
    Wry Hag says:

    Well, I’ll be dicked if I know what my dumb ass is doing here!

  15. 15
    Kay Webb Harrison says:

    I have a Masters in Spanish; I taught it for over 20 years. I have been reading romance, mystery, and Sci/Fi//Fantasy since my teens. I get a lot of Jeopardy questions correct because of something I read in a romance.
    I didn’t discover this site until after the poll.
    Thanks,
    Kay

  16. 16

    Candy, you said:
    And believe it or not, the number of people in the 22 to 35 range (n = 43) who have PhDs/MDs in this particular sample is the same as those in the 36-60 (n = 23) range, i.e. 2 in each group.

    My response (statistically speaking) is that that range is too broad! If you start on a PhD right out of college, you’d be hard pressed to be finished at the age of 22 (which is how old I was when I graduated from college). On the other hand, if you start on a doctorate right out of college, you’d better be finished by the time youre 35! Even if you get a biology or anthropology degree (which take the longest), let’s hope youre finished in ten years or less! (Although we all know the perenial graduate student!(

    So I’m not surprised that in your sample you have the same number of PhDs in both those categories (22-35, and 35-60). They’re too broad to find any difference.

    I suggested taking an age range of 35-40 because most people will have had time to complete their maximum education, although I know there must be brilliant geniouses out there who graduated from Harvard at the age of 16, and knockout grannies who went back to school to get that PhD.

    If you had a lovely NSF grant, you could collect data from all readers and correct for age as you’ve suggested. But if you’re doing your study on a shoe string, it might be more efficient to collect more targetted data. Look at an age where people are old enough to have obtained a maximum education.

    I missed your original research question in November. (I’m a new lurker here, and I love the bitchery.) So when you said: “…No Good and Probably Not At All Representative of the Average Smart Bitch, Much Less the Average Romance Novel Reader” I took the “smart bitch” part to mean intelligence rather than education. My bad.

    With the data you’ve collected and crunched like granola, you’re able to show that most romance readers in your sample have at least a college education.

    That’s interesting in an of itself. But a curmudgeon (or college professor) might hypothesize that of readers, romance readers are the most poorly educated.

    As the leader of the smart bitches, it would be your job (and what a fun job it would be) to prove him (too dumb of a hypothesis to belong to a woman) wrong.

    Thus, comparing the education of female readers in the targetted age range (like perhaps 35-40) in different genres, might help you defeat the annoying professor.

    The graph you’d make from your data would have genre on the x-axis (across the bottom) and average education level on the y-axis. You could make a bar chart. If the bitchery is right, all the bars would be about the same. (An ANOVA would find no significant difference at the 0.05 alpha level). If the snide curmudgeon was right, the other genres would be singificantly higher than romance. But wouldnt be amazing if the bar for romance readers was higher than for all the other genres?!

    This is waay to amusing for my deadlines! Thanks for letting me slack here!

    SWAK,
    Lucinda

  17. 17
    Myriantha Fatalis says:

    Personally, I have to question how many grunting, knuckle-dragging romance readers (c’mon, you know there have to be some) would hang out at a place called Smart Bitches.  I’m assuming that SB readers consider themselves to be “smart”, regardless of any self-deprecating humor expressed.

    In fact, I bet that we’d test high for bitchiness, too, if you found a way to measure that!

  18. 18

    Myriantha, youre right! To make the perfect control, Candy and Sarah would have to make a new website: Nice Dumb Girls Who Love Romantic Books!

    Think of it! Not only would it be good for statsitical control, but finally Candy and Sarah could use all the LOLs and smilies and boogying spidermans that they can hack up!

    This is a great idea! You’re brilliant! (Which is, of course, why you hang out at this site!)

  19. 19
    Ann Aguirre says:

    Wow, we really are smart bitches.

  20. 20
    AngieZ says:

    As a 41 year old mom and business owner with an associates degree (obtained at 35), I am interested in the differences in the expectation/perception towards women’s education now as opposed to “back then”.  When I graduated from high school only one or two of my friends went to college.  When my daughter graduated and went to college this year, only one or two of her friends didn’t go to college. 

    I am looking forward to the day when I get my two girls through college because I am going to pursue as many advanced degrees as I can afford.  Right now I can live vicariously through my well educated daughters.  Boy if I only knew then what I know now…

  21. 21
    --E says:

    Let’s not forget that your survey only sampled people with internet access and time to fiddle about. That’s going to skew in favor of office jobs or educational environments, which are more likely to mean college degrees.

  22. 22
    Candy says:

    E: That is an EXCELLENT point. And while more and more people can afford personal computers and home Internet access, I’d argue that any sort of exclusively on-line sample of romance readers will skew towards the young, educated and relatively affluent.

    Lucinda: Thanks for your excellent comments. As for controls, the RWA collects information about romance readers in general, which should provide a decent baseline for us to compare the Smart Bitchery should we decide to conduct a less off-the-cuff and better-designed study. Also, one of our regular readers, who’s working on her PhD in Australia, is working on a big survey of on-line romance readers, which, once it’s done, should provide another excellent baseline for us to compare to, though this time it’d be comparing the Smart Bitchery with the on-line romance community at large.

  23. 23
    Elle says:

    To design a scientific survey you must first clarify what exactly you are trying to prove (or disprove.)  For instance, if the hypothesis is that romance readers are *not* uneducated schlubs, you must define the control group (is it the general population???  Monday night football fans???  Sci-fi readers???)  Since (as it has already been pointed out) the Smart Bitches site probably self-selects from the better educated, more computer savvy romance readers, it is not necessarily true that any results from surveys on SB posters can be generalized to *all* romance readers. 

    Your survey was interesting, but since the respondents were totally self-selected, it makes one wonder whether it is under or over-estimating the educational level of this group.  You correctly noted that your intial appeal seemed to be looking for validation that romance readers are well-educated, so that may have prompted the better educated members to speak up and the others to remain silent.  But…I am aware of several *very* well-educated SB regular posters who did not respond to the survey (as far as I saw), and I wonder whether some of the questions were a bit too personal for some people to feel comfortable tossing that type of information out into cyberspace. 

    An anonymous polling of a random sample of the SB population compared to a random control sample of ????? would be more scientific, but probably would not have made for such interesting reading as the personal histories recounted in your initial survey.

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