HBR has written previously about the current low rate of interest in the UK’s economy. Indeed the Bank of England’s current strategy is to keep it that way, at least until the money men work out what on earth they are doing. In this series, HBR investigates the low rate of interest in the British economy amongst the general public, and tries to work out what is best to do about it.
The first step, of course, is primary research. The bank announces the interest rate on a regular basis, but we very rarely get to see the data behind the press releases. How do we know that Carney et al have got their sums right? Are the people of Britain actually very interested in business after all? Thankfully, the wonderful people at Google have given the man on the street a means by which to canvas other men on the street, the Google Survey. We asked 350 UK internet browsers how interested they were in Business, on a scale of 1 to 7, and this is what we found:
Crikey, that’s a lot of information! How do we read that? Well the first thing to note is that a large chunk of the population is not at all interested in business, so our friends at the Bank of England are not wrong. And it looks like men are more interested in business than women. Now that is interesting, I hear you murmur. Misogynists will be nodding approvingly, while national programs will be launched to get our girls more interested in business. Maybe this is why the boards of the UK are so bereft of female directors?
But wait just one gosh-darned minute. Because this column is not just a shrine to silly business satire, it is also a place where we care about proper data analysis. Because there is a problem in the raw data that Mr Google provided me with, in that the sample is not representative of the overall population. And in fact, if you weight the data appropriately, this is what you get:
Now that’s more like it. Once again, it looks like overall no one is that interested in business (40% totally uninterested overall!), but this time round women are actually even more interested than men in business, so pipe down misogynists. What is really going on here? It turns out that the problem was that our sample contained a disproportionate number of older women, and age is actually the area where you start to see differences between respondents:
The chart above shows the percentage selecting 6 or 7 (i.e. very interested), vs. the percentage selecting 1, or not interested at all, and isn’t it interesting? Older people are the most uninterested, while the most interested people are aged 25-34. Obviously the question is whether that means interest rates will naturally rise as people get older, or whether people just lose interest as they get older. Either way that is some intriguing information.
So what have we learnt? We have learned to avoid sexist stereotypes, because ladies love business, and we have learnt that data always tells the truth, except when it doesn’t. We have learnt that the youth of today aren’t so indifferent after all. And finally, the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street has been spot on, as when it comes to business, interest rates in the UK remain low.
Hat tip: Google Surveys