No evidence for an association between gender equality and pathogen prevalence – a comment on Varnum and Grossmann 2017

by   Alexander Koplenig, et al.

In a previous study published in Nature Human Behaviour, Varnum and Grossmann claim that reductions in gender inequality are linked to reductions in pathogen prevalence in the United States between 1951 and 2013. Since the statistical methods used by Varnum and Grossmann are known to induce (seemingly) significant correlations between unrelated time series, so-called spurious or non-sense correlations, we test here whether the statistical association between gender inequality and pathogens prevalence in its current form also is the result of mis-specified models that do not correctly account for the temporal structure of the data. Our analysis clearly suggests that this is the case. We then discuss and apply several standard approaches of modelling time-series processes in the data and show that there is, at least as of now, no support for a statistical association between gender inequality and pathogen prevalence.


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