Debullshitifying the Brexit numbers

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On the BBC's More or Less podcast (previously), Tim Harford and his team carefully unpick the numerical claims made by both sides in the UK/EU referendum debate. Read the rest

UPDATED Race, income and outcomes: how rich does a black criminal have to be to get treated like a white one?

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Lawyer-turned-data-scientist David Colarusso analyzed 2.2 million sentencing records from Virginia to determine the relationship between race, income and treatment in the criminal justice system. Read the rest

More single adults living with parents than on their own for first time since 1880s

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A new Pew Research report finds that the number of single adults still living with their parents is at historically high levels -- in the US, the number of singles still at home outnumber the cohort of those living out of the house, something last seen in the 1880s. Read the rest

America's wealth gap has created an ever-increasing longevity gap

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In The Association Between Income and Life Expectancy in the United States, 2001-2014, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, economists from Stanford, MIT and Harvard analyzed 1.4 million US tax records to see how income correlated with lifespan. Read the rest

Black Americans killed at about 20x the rate of Europeans

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Black Americans Are Killed At 12 Times The Rate Of People In Other Developed Countries, writes Nate Silver. And the ratio gets worse when you compare to other western democracies such as the United Kingdom and Germany. America's often tagged with a much higher homicide rate than similar nations; it's a difference that would become modest were the killing of black people to stop.

Extending on an analysis by the academic Kieran Healy, I calculated the rate of U.S. homicide deaths by racial group, based on the CDC WONDER data.3 From 2010 through 2012, the annual rate of homicide deaths among non-Hispanic white Americans was 2.5 per 100,000 persons, meaning that about one in every 40,000 white Americans is a homicide victim each year. By comparison, the rate of homicide deaths among non-Hispanic black Americans is 19.4 per 100,000 persons, or about 1 in 5,000 people per year. Black Americans are almost eight times as likely as white ones to be homicide victims, in other words.

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Three pieces of statistical "bullshit" about the UK EU referendum

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Economist Tim Harford attacks three of the statistics being widely cited in the campaigns over the upcoming referendum on the UK remaining in the EU, two from the "leave" camp and one from the "stay" camp. Read the rest

Piracy dooms motion picture industry to yet another record-breaking box-office year

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Once again the MPAA has released its box-office numbers for the year, and once again, this year has smashed all records (as has been the case throughout our young century) (really!). As always, the astronomical rise-and-rise of their fortunes is somehow used to launch a call for more publicly subsidized enforcement against "piracy." Read the rest

Outliers: the statistical mysteries that hold the key to understanding

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John Johnson and Mike Gluck's new book, Everydata: The Misinformation Hidden in the Little Data You Consume Every Day is a tour-de-force of statistical literacy. This excerpt, a chapter on understanding statistical outliers, is as clear an explanation of what an outlier is, and what it means, and why it matters, as you're likely to find.

Up to half of the Americans killed by police have a disability

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Police violence is America is a statistical black hole, where data collection on shootings and killings are kept in haphazard or nonexistent form across local, state and federal levels, leaving scholars to piece together statistical pictures using techniques developed to reconstruct genocides from survivors' accounts. Read the rest

Calculating US police killings using methodologies from war-crimes trials

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Statistician Patrick Ball runs an NGO called the Human Rights Data Analysis Group, which uses extremely rigorous, well-documented statistical techniques to provide evidence of war crimes and genocides; HRDAG's work has been used in the official investigations of atrocities in Kosovo, Guatemala, Peru, Colombia, Syria and elsewhere. Read the rest

The correlates of Trumpism: early mortality, lack of education, unemployment, offshored jobs

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Wonkblog runs the numbers on the counties with the strongest support for Trump and finds that the typical Trump supporter is likely to live in a place with higher-than-normal mortality for whites (middle-aged white mortality has been increasing since the 1990s at a rate unseen in the developed world since the collapse of the Soviet Union), lower-than-usual rates of university eduction, higher-than-normal rates of unemployment, where manufacturing jobs have vanished due to offshoring. Read the rest

Sometimes, starting the Y-axis at zero is the BEST way to lie with statistics

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If you've read Darell Huff's seminal 1954 book How to Lie With Statistics, you've learned an important rule of thumb: any chart whose Y-axis doesn't start at zero is cause for suspicion, if not alarm. Read the rest

500 phrases from scientific publications that are correlated with bullshit

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Matthew Hankins catalogs 500 phrases used in scientific articles that researchers use to figleaf the fact that their results aren't statistically significant, and to hand-wave-away the fact that they're publishing anyway. Read the rest

Science is really f*cking hard

The rash of high-profile journal retractions, revelations of systematic frauds in peer-review, and journals publishing deliberately bogus papers (e.g. "Get Me Off Your Fucking Mailing List") -- are we experiencing a crisis in science? Read the rest

Kansas officials stonewall mathematician investigating voting machine "sabotage"

Wichita State University's Beth Clarkson (who is also chief statistician of WSU's National Institute for Aviation Research) discovered "odd patterns" in Kansas electoral voting records, so she requested public docs to help her get to the bottom of things -- requests that state officials ignored, dodged, and stalled. Read the rest

When scientists hoard data, no one can tell what works

Peer review and replication are critical to the scientific method, but in medical trials, a combination of pharma company intransigence and scientists' fear of being pilloried for human error means that the raw data that we base life-or-death decisions upon is routinely withheld, meaning that the errors lurk undetected in the data for years -- and sometimes forever. Read the rest

Being a cop just keeps on getting safer

The police will tell you that the reason they're arming up with surplus military gear and pursuing a shoot-first posture to their job is that being a cop is deadly business -- but as the saying goes, you're entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. Read the rest

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