Thursday, December 11, 2008

Damn Lies

Having dealt with a large amount of data in my line of work in the last while I have become more than a little bit sensitive and touchy about a few things related to the area of statistics. The above quote sums up what I am trying to get at here, being the constant hijacking of various bits of information, and presenting them in a way which, by exluding other relevant factors is completely misleading and unhelpful.

I talked about this briefly a few posts ago where I mentioned the importance of putting things in CONTEXT before judging them to be relevent/important/interesting in any way at all.

Well the nice folks at the Irish times gave me something to grind me teeth to yesterday: "Ireland ranks fourth dearest in price survey"

Now I realise what they are saying is for the most part correct, Ireland is undeniably an expensive place to live, but it is the inclusion of sentances like "a trip to the movies checks in at €8.22, down from €9.50 last year. By contrast, a cinema ticket in Lithuania costs just €3.63." which get me a little worked up.

Yes the absolute euro cost is almost three times higher, but to willingly OMIT the fact that the GDP per capita is 6 times higher in ireland ($51600 in Ireland vs $8590 in Lithania (2006 UN stats link)) renders their argument on this instance completely meaningless, seeing as going to the cinema in Lithuania, on a Lituanians wage, would take up more of the average persons income.

This example is by no means an isolated example, these "news stories" crop up all the time and all they do is serve to misinform and confuse people... Lies I tell you! Damn LIES!!!