Not technically "lying", but........

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"news stories don't probe deeply enough, so they don't show how the data are amenable not only to one "obvious reading, but also to a second, less apparent reading that can draw a radically different conclusion from the same data" (86)

Chapter 5

IANS

We look to statistics and number as solid evidence, as proof of a fact. IANS states that we shouldn't take statistics we see in the news at face-value, because they tend to stress the importance of numbers, and not their significance. Yes, it may be true that women in 1995 accounted for 19% of adolescent/AIDS cases, their "highest yet". But what about the men's cases? This was only a portion of the data. In reality, the total cases among males and femals fell; it just happens that the female cases of AIDS did not fall nearly as much as the men's cases did. Thus, the actual number of women cases fell, but in relation to the total amount, the percentage had to be adjusted to account for the shift in numbers, (which was larger in relation to men's cases).

 

So the findings were presented as bad information, but in reality, they were good! (We can find these "omissions" if we read data carefully....the key in reading this data is "women's" cases)

We must understand that as numbers change, so do percentages. (for example: I have a presidential scholarship. It is a percentage of my tuition. Tuition went up significantly this year. My scholarship went up. Did that mean I was getting a bigger scholarship, more money? No, all it means is that my scholarship was adjusted to the tuition hike)

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4 Comments

Jackie Johns said:

The tie between hard numbers and percentages makes sense when you sit long and hard and think about it, but it is indeed one of those things that taken at face value can be grossly misinterpreted. Your own example of scholarships and tuition hikes was a good way of reiterating this fact.

Nessa said:

The percentage example can also be applied to the work study pay raise- sure, we're technically making more, but we receive less hours (plus inflation has made prices rise anyway), so do we really benefit? Nope. This just stresses the idea of always looking at both sides of the equation- the good isn't always good and the bad isn't always bad.

Jeremy Barrick said:

The importance of numbers. AS NUMBERS CHANGE, so do the statistics. About your tuition, that sux! Isn't that the way it always seems to work out? Gas goes up, beer, and cigarettes go up, but our wages remain the same. It blows!

Maddie Gillespie said:

Your personal example tied in well with the lesson in the chapter. Math is definitely not my strong point, but you're right that we need to be careful abou the results of polls and how percentages appear as opposed to what they actually are. Numbers are wacky. Plain and simple. If a person sees a number that looks and/or sounds important and impressive, they're more likely to believe it. Jeremy made a good point too when he blogged about the rising prices of gas and cigaretteswhile our wages remained the same. It's a pain but what can we do except to try and filter our way through various numbers. This seems remotely familiar: Math Curse by Dr. Suess - great book and it's all about a kid who can't get numbers out of his head!

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