The effect of gender on FixMyStreet reports

A study published in 2017 by Reka Solymosi, Kate J Bowers, and Taku Fujiyama used publicly available data for FixMyStreet to investigate (among other things) whether men and women reported different things using the site, and found a gender divide relating how people were moving around when they found the problem:

[M]en are more likely to report in categories related to driving (potholes and road problems), whereas women report more in categories related to walking (parks, dead animals, dog fouling, litter.(p. 954).

This study is open access and available online, and you can also watch Reka’s 2018 TICTeC presentation on the subject. 

A potential limitation of this study was that it could only use reports that weren’t publicly anonymous, as the reporter’s name was used to approximate gender. If there was a gender skew in terms of which users were more likely to report anonymously, this might mistakenly pick up differences in anonymisation as a gender divide (for instance, if a lot of women were reporting potholes, but were more likely to do so anonymously).

To investigate this, we internally replicated the study on both anonymous and non-anonymous reports. This found that there was a gender skew related to anonymisation, with women being 10% more likely to report anonymously and that some types of report were more likely to be reported anonymously than others.

However, despite this factor, the original study’s conclusion was validated by this analysis. The categories highlighted are differently gendered when including the non-anonymous data, with men reporting far more problems with road surfaces and women reporting more litter related issues.

Future blog posts will further explore reasons and implications of this divide. The replication can be read online or downloaded as a PDF.