One result of this groupthink is falsified research that takes years to uncover and decades to refute. An egregious example is Lenore Weitzman’s study on the economic consequences of divorce. Weitzman, a radical Jewish feminist, published a study that reported a 73 percent decline in women’s standard of living after a divorce while men’s standard of living increased by 42 percent. “Her study won the ASA 1986 Book Award for ‘Distinguish Contribution to Scholarship.’ It was reviewed in at least 22 social science journals and 11 law reviews. Weitzman’s findings were cited in more than 170 newspapers and magazine articles, 348 social science articles, 250 law review articles, 24 state court cases, and one US Supreme Court decision” (100).I remember reading about that study, incredulous that people accepted it as fact.
At least one sociologist, Richard Peterson, remained highly skeptical of Weitzman’s findings and wanted to review her data which she refused to make available. After nearly 10 years of stonewalling “the National Science Foundation, which had funded Weitzman’s research, finally threatened to list her as ineligible for future research funding if she did not release her dataset to Peterson – so she did” (98). What Peterson found was a mess of ‘inaccuracies,” “inconsistencies,” and a large amount of missing data. He replicated the study as best he could and found only a 27 percent decrease in standard of living for women and only a 10 percent increase for men. Meanwhile, another larger, better designed study found that both women and men suffered economic decline after a divorce.
Smith points out that this research on divorce was not merely an academic debate. It had real-world consequences. Weitzman’s findings were used by courts and legislatures to rewrite divorce laws, and men suffered real financial losses as a result. “In the end, the admitted huge errors in her research – which helped shape major legal and cultural changes on divorce, including some that profoundly affected divorced men – have not hurt Weitzman’s career. She is currently the Clarence J. Robinson Professor of Sociology and Law at George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia” (101). And here the final kicker, nearly twenty years after they were discredited, “Weitzman’s erroneous findings continue to be cited today in the best-selling Introduction to Sociology textbook on the market” (104).
In most cases of divorce, especially when there are kids, the couple suddenly has to support two households on the same income that previously supported one. Of course they suffer an economic decline. Only a radical Jewish feminist could get some other conclusion.
The problem is not just bad research. It is an academic culture that promotes radical Jewish feminists writing fraudulent papers.
This particular Weitzman erroneous finding probably caused many billions in damages.
The real test of the integrity of an academic field is not whether it has charlatans. The test is what happens to those charlatans once they get exposed.