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Stats Geek Let Down




I was like a kid in a candy store when I saw your local statistics (“Who’s Your City,” Aug. 7). As a professional economist and entrepreneur I live and die by numbers, estimations, trends and logic. I was thrilled to see a local publication utilizing graphs and sourced numbers.

I was disappointed that you choose this very “social” topic to utilize such powerful and illuminating information. I believe the poverty rate would have tied many of the figures you published together. I would give my right arm to see such statistical analysis applied to other very real and pressing problems in our society. Asia holds one-third of the United States’ debt. California’s debt is larger than all the other states’ debt combined. Only around 20 percent of the population in Humboldt works in the open private sector. Etc.

I would recommend that your readers keep these three things in mind when looking at statistics.

1 . One must always discount (take some value away from) statistics relative to source and situation. I figure on at least 10 percent.

2 . The majority of the time statistics are provided to the populace via the media and most all other sources they are presented with a reasonably biased view (in the form of context, not pure definition). All things are biased by mere observation -- thus, “biased” is always a relative term.

3 . There is almost always a bigger picture that needs to be considered.

I have seen both sides of every debate and “wedge issue” use statistics to serve their ends but very rarely to truly enlighten.

— Thomas Bruner, Westhaven

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