Statistical Guilt

Leila Loupis makes an interesting statement about the love/hate relationship (that we all have) with statistics. The hate part comes from when she says:

They can be our biggest nightmare, as we struggle to translate complex statistical terms into language that the general public can understand.

I think that’s absolutely right as has been demonstrated in the post – have a look at the infographic in the post. Here’s the text from the infographic:

‘All poor children could be sent to school for $16 billion – ½ of what Americans & Europeans spend on ice cream annually ~ UNESCO’

‘Lies, damn lies and statistics’ « World Education Blog:

(Via World Education Blog.)

I think it is very wrong to match up two unrelated numbers to give a perspectives. In this case, does it mean that half of Americans and Europeans should stop eating ice-cream? Even if they do, how does that help the poor children – is there a way – if we wanted to – to channel all that ice-cream money to the poor children in an effective way?

It is one thing to put a number in perspective. For it to stop there, however, I think is wrong. It generates undue sub-conscious guilt.

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