Friday, May 23, 2008

FLDS and Arithmetic: Part II

In an earlier post, I tried to show that claims by the Texas authorities were internally inconsistent. We now know that those claims were false—admitted to be false by the same people who made them. There isn't enough information yet to work out the details of the true story with confidence, but there is enough to make at least a first try. The relevant facts are:

Some weeks ago, the Child Protective Service announced an increase in the number of minors in their custody and explained it as due to their having concluded that some of the people they had thought were adults were actually minors; there was no explanation of the basis for that conclusion. My memory is that the number given was in the twenties; one webbed source says 25 but I have not yet checked back over the old news stories to be sure.

A few days later, they announced that out of 53 girls aged 14-17 in their custody, 31 either were pregnant or were mothers. Some versions of the story included a separate number for the ones who were pregnant--two. CNN gave that number in its initial story then removed it without, so far as I could see, any explanation. On the basis of those figures, I calculated that the number pregnant was far below what the average would have had to be for that many to be mothers, and concluded that some of the figures were probably bogus.

At some point thereafter, the CPS announced that two of the 31 were sufficiently pregnant so that they would shortly be having their babies in CPS custody. The babies were born. The CPS then announced that it had discovered that both of the "minors" were in fact adults, one of them 22. According to various news stories, the latter had a birth certificate which she claimed to have shown the authorities early on. That claim is consistent with an earlier news story to the effect that the CPS was refusing to accept birth certificates as evidence of age. It was on the basis of that that I concluded that the CPS had to be deliberately lying, since they were making statements about the ages of women in their custody without having any way of knowing how old the women actually were. At that point their count of pregnant minors appeared to be down to zero.

The news stories also reported that 24 more of the women who were supposed to be 14-17 claimed to be adults. A later story reported that the CPS had conceded that at least 15 of its 31 "minor mothers or pregnant" were in fact adults. My guess is that that included the two who had had their babies.

Finally, we have one more fact. The Texas appeals court, in finding the seizure of the children to be entirely unjustified, reported that the CPS had actually identified five women who were or had been pregnant and were asserted to be minors--presumably that meant "still asserted."

Now for a little arithmetic.

The CPS started out with 5 young women aged 14-17 who they believed either were mothers or were pregnant—the five counted by the appeals court. That was not a very impressive number if they wanted to justify taking 400+ children away from their parents. So they selected 26 of the youngest looking mothers among the adults—readily available to them since the mothers were trying to stay close to their children—and reclassified them as minors, getting a total of 31.

That fits the total of 26 women who claim to be adults—15 of whom so far the CPS has admitted are adults. It's one higher than the figure I saw for the number reclassified as adults.

One possibility is that they reclassified 25 adults and, in addition, one of the women they initially thought was a minor was in fact an adult. That gets the number of "pregnant or mothers" down to 30, however.

We might eliminate that anomaly with additional detail I have not yet mentioned—a 14 year old girl who apparently was included in the count of "pregnant or mothers" but who the CPS, according to a news story, has now conceded is neither. If they initially misidentified her—perhaps someone thought she looked pregnant, or perhaps she had refused to take a pregnancy exam—that would give them a starting number of six, one a mistake, bringing the total back up to 31.

The numbers fit together pretty well, and are at least consistent with my earlier conjecture, that the CPS vastly exaggerated the number of minors who had been pregnant in order to justify its actions. What else might the number tell us?

If my calculations are correct, there were actually about 27 (53-26) women age 14-17 among those seized in the raid. Five of them had at some point had children, none were pregnant. According to the appeals court, four of them are 17 (or were when seized), 1 sixteen. They were alleged to have become pregnant at age 15 or 16.

According to one webbed source, the rate of teen birth for girls aged 15-19, was about 10% in Texas in 2000. Assume that the same figure holds for ages 14-17. If the 27 young women were evenly distributed by age, then on average each had spent two years in the 14-17 year range. If their pregnancy rate was average for Texas, about 20% of them should have gotten pregnant, for a total of of about five and a half--slightly more than actually did.

The calculation is probably a bit high, since I have assumed that pregnancy rates were constant over the range 14-19 and they almost certainly increase with age. Also, I've seen a lower figure for the pregnancy rate from another source, possibly for a different year. But my numbers are enough to suggest that the rate of teen pregnancies in the FLDS population was not strikingly out of line with that for Texas in general.

Finally, consider the question of the ratio of young men to young women. Various people commenting on my posts argued that the teen women greatly outnumbered the teen men, providing evidence that boys were being driven out in order to leave more wives for the older men. That ratio was calculated, however, using the CPS claim about how many young women there were aged 14-17, a claim we now know was false. If we accept the estimates I have just offered, the real number was about half as large--27 rather than 53. I haven't seen any figures on the number of males age 14-17 in CPS custody to compare with that.


Will McLean said...

15 males, ages 14-17

27 females to 15 males is is still a striking imbalance.

David Friedman said...

Will points out that 27 females to 15 males is still a striking imbalance. It would be more impressive if we didn't already know that the CPS had been routinely and deliberately lying about ages in its public statements.

His figures don't include the disputed females. But they also don't include any males who claimed to be adults and weren't. Given that the CPS was trying to maximize the count of minor women who were or had been pregnant, one would expect them to be a lot more selective in accepting claimed ages by females than in accepting them by males.

In any case, thanks for pointing out that page to me.

David Friedman said...

It occurs to me that the page Will points at provides indirect evidence in support of the point I made in my first response. It lists 26 "disputed females" and no disputed males. If the CPS was applying the same standards to both, it would be a bit odd for them to have 26 women who claimed to be adults--fifteen of whom the CPS had conceded were adults a of yesterday--and no men.

Will McLean said...

The FLDS bishop's list has 22 females age 14-17 vs thirteen males of that age: a similar disparity.

Anonymous said...

Another comparison figure, in addition to the TX teen pregnancy rate, might be the percentage of teens who have ever had sex (given that the legal issue is sex and not pregnancy, and since the FLDS are TRYING to get pregnant, whereas most teens are not, which would inflate the FLDS numbers)?

It does not seem like the FLDS would be an organization to use contraception, so the number of underage girls who have given birth is probably not significantly less than the number who have ever had sex.

This publication claims that over 40 percent of 17-year-old girls have had already had sex:

Anonymous said...

Why in the world would those adult women taken into custody as minors despite having the birth certificates not sue for false imprisonment?

Will McLean said...

Never assume malice when incompetence is sufficient explanation.

I’m glad that a Texas appeals court made what I think is the right call on the FLDS case. At the same time, I think David’s assertion that CPS lied willfully is weak.

There was a group of disputed status. They said they were adults, CPS said they thought they were minors.

David argues that CPS knew all along that they were adults, but knowingly lied. This doesn’t make sense.

If CPS actually believed they were certainly adults and said otherwise, they were following a monumentally stupid strategy. If they knew they were adults, they also knew that their lawyers would immediately order certified copies of their birth certificate from their state of birth, the court would rule them adults, and CPS would look, at best massively incompetent and at worst liars.

What is more likely is a much more ambiguous situation. More than one observer has noted that the young FLDS women tend to look a lot younger than their actual age. CPS had temporary custody of females who looked like minors, but said that they were adults. Minors in a FLDS style plural marriage would be putting their husband at risk if they admitted their true age, so they would have a motive to misrepresent their age if they could. Some presented documentation that they are adults, but it might be forged or borrowed. CPS believed, plausibly, that if they misidentify a female minor as an adult she would be at significant risk of statutory rape if she returned to her family. They treated any female claims of adulthood with great skepticism.

Boys wouldn’t have the same motive to lie about their age, and wouldn’t be at the same risk if they returned, so it would be rational not to subject their claims to the same skepticism.

I think the likeliest and simplest explanation is that CPS actually thought there was some chance that some of the disputed claims of female adulthood were false.

kbp said...

Considering how this action started in 2005, through Hilderbran's push to pass laws in which his own documents available on the state's web site show the FLDS was the only target of those laws, people have view the case blindly to not see intent.

Was it the CPS that waited FIVE DAYS to move in on April 3rd save Sarah after she reported the beatings that had sent her to the hospital, had threatened her life and that of the child she was carrying?

I try to take what I am told as the truth, but I like to verify.

If we focus only on one or two details reported by the CPS, it leaves one having to believe they MIGHT be telling the truth. Focus on the bigger picture.

The records of this mess from start to date tell me there is little truth being told to us by the authorities involved, unless you count the half-truths thrown in to spin the media.

David Friedman said...

Will thinks my reasons for believing the CPS deliberately lied are weak. So far as I can tell, the only alternative is to assume that every news story I saw on their claims about how many minors were pregnant or mothers misrepresented what they had said.

Without that assumption, we have the CPS publicly asserting that there were 53 female minors aged 14-17, 31 of whom were pregnant or mothers. They knew at the time that 26 of those women, including most of the "pregnant or mothers" category, claimed not to be minors, and that some of them had birth certificates showing they were not minors.

So they made a statement that they knew they had no reason to believe was true and had good reason to believe was false, and they did it in order to try to justify what they had done. What alternative can Will suggest to viewing that as a deliberate lie?

So far as the statement about fractures, it is possible that the person who made it really wasn't aware that 9% of a collection of minors having at some point broken a bone was not unusual, but it's hard to believe. Surely he, like most of us, knew fellow students who came to class with a broken arm or on crutches and had all their friends autograph the cast.

I am willing to believe that, at the time of the initial raid, the CPS believed there was reason for it, although even then their basis for seizing all children was extraordinarily weak, as shown by the explanation offered at the time—that to raise a child believing the doctrines of the FLDS was child abuse.

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

At the 14 day hearing, CPS submitted some documentation to the Court that they said supported their claim that there was a 'pervasive' climate that favored under-aged motherhood.
In that document they had Pamela and Louisa Jessop listed with their correct birth years.

These are the two adults who recently gave birth while in CPS custody as 'minor children.'

So yes. CPS knew that they were adults all along.
for documentation, see here, and
see here

There's more than enough incompetence to go around as well. But they were dishonest. CPS' Darrel Azar is also reported as saying they have 'dozens' of pregnant minors or under-aged girls in custody, and even with the inflated numbers CPS created, they never got up to more than 2.5 dozen.

Anonymous said...

Girls of fourteen can be legally married with their parents consent. If however,some county clerk issues them a marriage license and a justice of athe peace marries them, their marriage is lawful and cannot be voided by anyone, including their parents, if their husband is at least sixteenyears old. Such a marriage can only be voide by one of the parties to it, and then only by a successful lawsuit in a Texas District Court