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7:53am on Wednesday, 29th June, 2005:

Statistical Ignorance


According to a report in (what else) The Independent, "Men called David and women called Susan are more likely to earn in excess of £100,000 a year".

Well no, they're not. For this to be correct, a higher proportion of people called David or Susan would earn £100,000 a year than for other names. However, the way the figures were calculated was simply for Barclays Bank to scan the names of 60,000 customers who earn more than £100,000 a year and announce which ones were most common. In other words, a higher proportion of people who earn £100,000 a year are called David or Susan, not a higher proportion of people called David or Susan earn £100,000 a year.

It's not even worth writing to complain — The Independent's editorial staff seems to regard innumeracy as a necessary condition to literacy.

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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).