chapter  4
18 Pages

Miscounting Social Ills

ByNeil Gilbert

Social policy deliberations have become muddled by an increasing tendency among advocates for different groups to generate questionable estimates of social ills afflicting their clients. The development of social welfare policy in the US has benefited from a tradition of advocacy research— studies that measure social problems, heighten public awareness, and recommend solutions. The expanding volume and declining quality of advocacy research has spawned the use of emotive statistics— startling figures that claims document "hidden crises" and "silent epidemics". The problems such as abductions by strangers, child abuse, rape, and homelessness have been magnified by advocacy research. A 1993 New York Times Magazine cover story proclaimed "Rape Hype Betrays Feminism". The investigation of "rape-crisis feminists", Katie Roiphe remembered a poster at college announcing that one in four women had been a victim of rape. Thus, advocacy research is a thriving source of copy for the media, often providing it with two lively stories-one of hype and the other of disputation.