Saturday, January 29, 2011

How To Lie With Statistics

Another easy post. The United States Of Shame lists has a map showing every state leading the nation in some shameful category. The links where the data was drawn from are listed. Just browsing through two dozen, I found that half of those I checked were an unfair characterization. Maine gets rated as dumbest based on lowest SAT scores, but the link shows that it had one of the highest percentages of students taking the SAT. (I know, they prefer the ACT in the Midwest, so that's not a fair comparison either.) If 53% of the students in one state are taking the SAT, how much would you bet that those tend to be the better students? And thus, not a fair comparison for Maine's 86%? Many of the others are based on some advocacy group rating states by their assessment of how good the laws are, not the actual events.

If your state got unfairly described, be comforted by the knowledge that some of us get it.


Anna said...

LOL that was a great list!

I took a graduate-level on statistical analysis when I was in undergrad, and they basically taught us how (not) to lie with statistics. I remember we analyzed that data set that says that women make 0.70 per dollar that men make - which is still repeated verbatim by every feminist in the country. HOWEVER, if you control the data for a single variable (time spent at current job) the difference shrank to 0.98 on the dollar. Nowadays, researchers are reporting that women make more than men, but the feminists still robotically repeat the 0.70/1.00 statistic (which was not true in the first place).

Erin said...

Re the Maine example: reminds me of the comparison between the US and certain foreign countries in educational achievements. You're comparing the masses to the few elite. Maine, by the way, has an SAT Initiative that requires all public school juniors to take the SAT. That's why their participation is so high.

bs king said...

...and no one even mentioned that Georgia was called "most sickly" based solely on flu rates....or that by "infertility" for Vermont they meant lowest birth rate...and while I will certainly not defend Mass drivers, they haven't been the worst for several years now.

Guess this is why they tell you not to believe everything you read.

karrde said...

Well, one state earned its ranking honestly, for unemployment.