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Paul’s ‘head-scratching’ stats

Sen. Rand Paul was wrong when he said that 60 percent of law students and 55 percent of medical students are women. The share of female students at law and medical schools in the United States is 47 percent each and hasn’t varied much in 10 years.

The Kentucky Republican also repeated a myth that “nine out of 10 businesses fail.” Government data show that almost one-half of new businesses last beyond five years and about one-third of them continue operating after 10 years.

Women ‘won’ the war

Paul was asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” if former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s recent statement about women was “helpful.” Huckabee said Republicans “don’t have a war on women,” and then went on to say that Democrats “insult the women of America” by providing them with free birth control and making them think that they “cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government.” Paul didn’t answer the question about Huckabee, but rather spoke of the percentage of female students in veterinary, law and medical schools.

Paul, Jan. 26: This whole sort of war on women thing, I’m scratching my head because if there was a war on women, I think they won. You know, the women in my family are incredibly successful. I have a niece at Cornell vet school, and 85 percent of the young people there are women. In law school, 60 percent are women; in med school, 55 percent.

It’s true that the vast majority of veterinary students at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine are women. It’s not quite 85 percent; Stephanie Specchio, a spokeswoman for the college, told us it is 80 percent. That’s not surprising. Nationwide, women make up about 79 percent of enrollment in veterinary medical colleges, according to the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges.

Paul is wrong, though, about the percentage of women in law and medical schools — nationwide and at Cornell University.

At no point during the last 10 years has the percentage of women enrolled in U.S. medical or law schools exceeded 50 percent, even though women make up slightly more than half of the U.S. population.

Let’s first look at the gender makeup of the nation’s medical schools. In 2013, there were 83,472 medical students — 44,524 men (53 percent) and 38,948 women (47 percent), according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

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The AAMC provides total enrollment by gender and school in two charts from 2004 through 2008 and 2009 through 2013. The charts show there has been little change in 10 years. If anything, the percentage of women med students is trending downward. It was 48 percent in 2004 and ticked up to 49 percent in 2005 and 2006, before falling back to 48 percent from 2007 through 2009. It dipped to 47 percent in 2010, where it has remained through 2013.

Female representation at the Weill-Cornell Medical College is actually slightly below the national average. Weill-Cornell had 502 medical students in 2013. Fifty-four percent were men, and 46 percent were women, according to the AAMC (see page 3 of its 2009-2013 chart).

The trend at Weill-Cornell favors men, too. The class that entered Weill-Cornell in 2013 was 58 percent male and 43 percent female, according to the school’s website.

The story is pretty much the same at the nation’s law schools.

There were 139,055 students enrolled in Juris Doctor programs at 201 law schools in the United States during the 2012-2013 academic year. Fifty-three percent of those students were men, and 47 percent were women, according to the American Bar Association. The trend, too, has been downward. The ABA data show women represented 49 percent of total J.D. enrollment in the 2003-2004 academic year, and then the percentage dipped to 48 percent in 2004-2005 and 47 percent in 2005-2006. It has remained at 47 percent since then.

At Cornell University Law School, 44 percent of the students entering the law school in 2013 were women, according to the school’s website.

Failing businesses

Paul, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, also appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union,” where he falsely said that “nine out of 10 businesses fail.”

A 2002 study found that, after four years, one-third of new businesses closed under “unsuccessful” circumstances, according to their owners. And government data show that almost one-half of new businesses last beyond five years and about one-third of them continue operating after 10 years.

Paul made his claim on CNN while explaining how his approach to creating jobs differs from President Obama’s:

Paul, Jan. 26: The president thinks that you collect money from the rest of the country, bring it to Washington, and then we re-pass it out. That creates jobs. Well, what he misunderstands is that nine out of 10 businesses fail, so nine out of 10 times, he’s going to give it to the wrong people. He gave $500 million to one of the richest men in the country to build solar panels and we lost that money.

We reached out to the senator’s press office for the source of his claim, but we didn’t receive a response.

Paul didn’t mention a specific time period for business failures, but sources show higher business survival rates over a period of years than what he claimed.

The Small Business Administration says “about half of all new establishments survive five years or more and about one-third survive 10 years or more.” That statement was included in a September 2012 update to its list of frequently asked questions.

SBA’s claim is backed up by data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Business Employment Dynamics program, depicted in the to the right.

The data behind the BLS chart, which covers the period from 1994 to 2010, show that about 78 percent of businesses survive two years and almost 42 percent last eight years. The rate of survival drops as the years go on, but at no point is the survival rate as low as 10 percent, as Paul claimed.

BLS also cautions that “survival rates for establishments vary by industry.” For example, the health care and social assistance industry “consistently ranks among the industries with the highest survival rates over time, while construction ranks among the lowest,” BLS said.

Plus, not all business closures are considered failures. Some close without any debt. Some are sold to other businesses, and some were never intended to be around for long.

In a 2002 study of Census Bureau data, Brian Headd, an economist with the Small Business Administration, found that after four years, “only one-third of new businesses (33 percent) closed under circumstances that owners considered unsuccessful.”

Headd, March 20, 2002: As shown in Figure 1, [the Business Information Tracking Series] showed that about half of new businesses remained open for a reasonable time period and the [Characteristics of Business Owners] showed that about a third of all closed businesses closed while successful. Contrary to what is commonly believed, not all closures are failures. Only one-third of new businesses (33 percent) closed under circumstances that owners considered unsuccessful.

Headd wrote that the “significant proportion of businesses that closed while successful calls into question the use of ‘business closure’ as a meaningful measure of business outcome.”

He called it a “myth that 9 out of 10 businesses close in their first year.”

Paul made the business failure claim as he described President Obama’s job creation methods. “The president thinks that you collect money from the rest of the country, bring it to Washington, and then we re-pass it out,” Paul said. “He gave $500 million to one of the richest men in the country to build solar panels and we lost that money.”

As far as we can tell, Paul is referring to a $535 million loan guarantee the Department of Energy awarded, in 2009, to Solyndra, a now-defunct solar manufacturing company. Solyndra had been given $528 million of that loan amount when the company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2011, and the government hasn’t recovered any of that money.

But, overall, the entire portfolio for the Energy Department’s Loan Programs Office “remains very strong,” according to the agency.

In a September 2013 update on its loan portfolio, the department said that it had disbursed $18.5 billion of the $34.4 billion that had been allocated for loan guarantees, and had lost $799.7 million. The losses were just over 4 percent of the total amount disbursed and over 2 percent of the total loan amount.

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