Monday, April 1, 2013

Poll: how old are Ravelers ?

I've been following this thread in Ravelry for quite a while now.

I find all of this discussion fascinating for two reasons: 
First it seems that none of the posters are questioning the truth of the data beyond it perhaps not reflecting knitters as a whole community. I get the sense that even Ravelers tend to think that most knitters fit into a demographic somewhere north of 50 or 60. I notice there is quite a bit of commentary about older knitters being less likely to use the Internet or social media sites. That may be an accurate assumption based on this research from 2012. Secondly, I feel that some of the discussion reflects ageism in our larger culture. After all why are we asking the question if not to categorize. Years ago I read a suggestion that to determine if there is a prejudice at work simply change the target group. So what happens if we ask about the gender, race, abilities, religion, nationality or socioeconomic status of knitters?

Survey information collection is generally considered to be flawed at best by most researchers. It is used because information is hard to come by and it provides a starting point for further research. Poll size is frequently cited by statisticians as being at fault for skewing the results. There are over 2 million Ravelers but only about 11,000 have completed the survey. That percentage of response would not be considered acceptable by most researchers. So is that number truly reflective of the total knitting community both on and off Ravelry?

We have no information on response rate or compliance rate which is critical in any survey situation. In other words how many knitters saw the poll and how many of those who saw it chose to answer. 

Why do some people do the poll and others do not has an impact on the results. If you don't care about the topic or are simply uninterested in the answer you are less likely to add your information. Many people are very private about topics relating to demographics and would never share this information in any situation.

Ravelry is international but the poll is in English so how would non English speaking knitters change the data?

In my previous corporate life I worked for an amazingly ageist company. Anyone over 40 was considered less valuable as an employee. When I was 45 I was told during a review by a younger manager that I was clearly just counting my days until retirement. I was so shocked by her rudeness at the time I didn't even respond. That experience has most definitely skewed my perception on the topic of ageism. Perhaps I've become oversensitive?

I've also read that ageism is much more prevalent among individuals who lack the experience of an extended family. I was lucky to have two of my four grandparents living in my parent's home at various times. My maternal grandfather was one of the most highly self-educated individuals I have ever encountered. My paternal grandmother was traveling the world in her late seventies after being an entrepreneurial go-getter for many years. Having those relationships makes me very open to seeing older individuals as having a great deal to offer me as role models for my own life.

In most marketing campaigns we see a clear preference for attracting younger consumers. The theory here is said to be "get em young and keep them for a lifetime". In truth the boomers are said to control a much more significant portion of all consumer spending yet are largely ignored by advertising and retail product development. 

Before I step off my soapbox I have to share that I'm also pretty amused by younger people who reject others on the basis of age, after all it won't be long before it starts happening to them too!


  1. Well, this was the first time I saw this survey. So, like you said a lot of Ravellers won't even know about this survey.
    I agree with a lot of what you said about ageism. One of my best friends is over 20 yrs older than me, in fact she's slightly older than my parents. I've always worked with people slightly older than me.

    All 4 of my grandparents were alive till I was an adult, the first one passed away when I was 25 & the last one when I was late 30s. They all lived active healthy lives into their 70s & 80s.

    Interesting post. Oh and over half the knitters I meet when I teach (in the UK) don't even know about Ravelry.

  2. If you don't follow the Big Boards on Ravelry, you wouldn't know about this poll. I don't, and I didn't!

  3. I never answer these surveys, and I don't fit into the largest group (according to the results) on the Ravelry one. =)

    Echoing YarnAddictAnni above, I've found (working in a yarn store) that well over half the knitters, and more than two-thirds of crocheters, I meet have never heard of Ravelry.

    The assumption that I see made time and again on the forums of Ravelry is that the posters there are representative of crafters in general, and that has definitely not been my experience.