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July 05, 2007

When Statistics Go Bad « Social Issues »
The number of women living with a husband is not equal to the number of men living with a wife, even though by definition the numbers should be equal. The gap is more than 100,000 in the New York metro area, well outside the statistical margin of error.


Census demographer Martin OConnell explained that the survey results are weighted by age, race and gender. If a 26-year-old black man is married to a 35-year-old white woman, and if 26-year-olds and blacks are underrepresented in the survey sample, then his interview may be weighted more heavily than hers. Theres no final step to make sure the number of husbands and wives is exactly equal, Mr. OConnell told me. If we did that, we would have to reweight the data again, and the data would endlessly spin around. Nonetheless, he says of the American Community Survey numbers, They are the best numbers you will ever get, any place.

That last line is the scariest, isn't it?

It all makes sense, but numbers/polls/statistics are misused more often than they are used correctly, it seems.

Non-smoothly-integrated link.

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