“Worst Ever” and statistical manipulations

Bruce McQuain provides an example of the mis-use of statistical information in <a href=”http://www.qando.net/?p=529″>Lies, Damn Lies and Nancy Peolsi’s Charts</a>. There is a lot invested in trying to ‘prove’ doome and gloom for political ends that one needs to be very very careful in accepting claims made about fuzzy measures. Job losses are one such fuzzy measure. What makes it fuzzy is the lack of an appropriate standard and the definition of what is actually being shown.

The appropriate standard involves questions about whether measuring the absolute quantity or the quantity as a percentage. Whether it is employment or deficit, using absolute measures is often much more dramatic than using percentages because both the population and the budget have grown significantly.

The definition of the measure is important because it draws lines that may or may not be easy to see and may or may not be appropriate for the knowledge sought. With employment, you will have different results if you look at unemployment claims filed, actual number employed, surveys of employment, or service sector.

As Bruce indicates with several charts, politicians can lie with statistics. It is up to you to qualify what is presented to learn the quality of the arguments that use it.

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