"Coming Out as an Atheist" Why a massive gender gap in the data?

As many of you know, A/N hosted my survey "Coming Out as an Atheist" last fall, and in the end it attracted a huge response (thanks in part to cross listings on other sites). A total of 8,204 "atheists" started with survey and over 9 of 10 completed the 51 questions.

Standard demographic information was collected. These data include age, occupation, country (and region within the US), race, level of education and partnered status. All of these data were interesting and useful, especially used in cross tabulation with some of the other opinion questions, but not surprising. See my other blog posts for the basic results.

The one demographic variable that stands out is gender. Of the 8,204 respondents, 74.4% indicated male. Why the massive gender difference in those taking the survey? As I begin to present these data in more formal, academic settings I will be pressed to defend this sample as meaningful and as representing the views, at least, of English speaking atheists with access to the Internet. I will be asked if indeed most of these atheists are male as indicated by the data. To this point I have no answer to this question, so I am turning to you reading this blog post (especially females!) for some conjecture.

Let’s look further into the data for some clues.

When comparing where the respondents are from, the gender gap is actually lowest with those from the US at 72.4% males. Here are the numbers for other “Western” nations/regions:

Canada 75.7%
UK 84.1%
Western Europe 84.6%
Australia 73.9%

I have bolded the numbers from Europe, and as you can see, the gender gap is even more dramatic. Why? Atheists from Europe, can you shed some light on this?

As I examine age relative to gender, the gap goes down somewhat at the youngest age category, 18-25, but is still prominent. Same results when I examine relative to region within the US; slightly more females proportionately in the Northeast and fewer in the Bible Belt, but the differences do not appear to be statistically significant.

As I look through the results from the one open ended question “Please provide an example of a social situation where you experienced stigmatization because you are an atheist.” of the 4,179 respondents who answered the question, “only” 70.1% were male; females that responded to the survey were ever so slightly more inclined to share their experiences. No major clue there.
So, where does that leave me in terms of answering the question about the gender gap in the survey results? My personal experience indicates no gap at all, and as many of my atheist friends are female as they are male.

Could this be related to the phenomena that I have been calling “social believers?” Is it possible that females are more likely than males to be social believers and to shy away from even “coming out” on an Internet site? Certainly in this age of Google, it is a risk to become a member of a site like A/N since anyone searching your name will see the affiliation. My data do show that females are a bit more impacted by the stigma associated with atheism (see the blog post where I detail gender differences) and thus one might conclude that fewer females would visit sites, like A/N where the survey could be found.

One question that perhaps Brother Richard, our august host, can answer is what is the gender ratio of A/N members. This answer would be interesting and may –or may not- show a gender gap within the population of “online atheists.”

NOTE: "As of right now, there are 8,840 members, 2,186 of whom classify themselves as female." So posted felch grogan below. This means that the A/N population is 75% male....almost exactly the same as the sample generated by the survey.

I will be looking into this question more deeply, but I thought it would be useful to present the question to A/N. Any thoughts –especially from females- will be appreciated!

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Comment by Little Name Atheist on June 21, 2009 at 11:48pm
Since this was a poll of people who access the Internet on a regular basis, I wouldn't doubt that more women would have answered the poll if they'd had time. Women, in general, still end up spending more time with children.
Comment by Mel on June 21, 2009 at 10:51pm
I think it's the online presence thing. At least among people I know (mostly 20-30 year olds) the males tend to spend more time online than the females.



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