Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Statistics And The People That Quote Them

I was listening to the debate between Sen. Edwards and Vice President Dick Cheney and I heard something interesting: Sen. Edwards was quoting some phenomenal statistics. He claimed that African Americans and Hispanics have a 50% drop out rate from school.

EDWARDS: Yes, but they didn't fund the mandates that they put on the schools all over this country. That's the reason 800 teachers — one of the reasons — 800 teachers have been laid off, right here in Cleveland. One-third of our public schools are failing under this administration. Half of African-Americans are dropping out of high school. Half of Hispanic-American are dropping out of high school.

Something I've learned in the business of analyzing revenue, profit models, business trends, etc and participating in negotiating contracts, the people who quote statistics the most are usually the people that think that you won't check what they say and will just accept that figure. They like to throw them around and make it sound like they know what they are talking about. And they are counting on you, the consumer or adversary, to be too stupid or too lazy to check.

Mr. Edwards obviously expected that when he laid out the obnoxiously inaccurate statistics about minority drop out rates. They were so obnoxiously inflated that I knew right away Mr. Edwards was throwing out a bogeyman and went to check it out.

According to the National Centers for Education Statistics the drop out rate for African Americans is 13%; a decrease in the rate by almost 8% points in almost three decades:

19 Status dropout rates represent the proportion of persons ages 16-
to-24-year-olds who are out of school and who have not earned a high school diploma
or equivalency credential, such as a General Educational Development (GED) credential. In 2000, 13 percent of Black 16- to 24-year-olds had not earned a high school diploma... Status dropout rate for Black students declined by 8 percentage points between 1972 and 2000, from 21 percent to 13 percent; for Whites the rate declined by 5 percentage points, from 12 percent to 7 percent; and for Hispanics the rate declined by 6 percentage points, from 34 percent to 28 percent.

And conveniently, the report also gives the statistics for Hispanics, which is at 28%. This can be confirmed by the National Centers for Education Statistics on Hispanics. The report goes on to explain why the Hispanic population might have a higher rate than their African American counterparts:

The 2000 status dropout rate for Hispanics born outside the
United States (44 percent) is higher than the rate for first-generation Hispanic youth (15 percent).31 However, among youth born in the United States, both first- and secondgeneration Hispanics are still more likely to drop out than their counterparts of other races/ethnicities (supplemental table 3.3b).32

You get that boys and girls? People immigrate here from other countries where the education program is not so good and they had long ago stopped attending school. When they get here and they do not have a rudimentary education to even begin them on the course of earning a highschool diploma, they are less likely to attempt to obtain one. Further, people that come to the United States, are the age studied by the program (16-25) and did not receive a high school diploma in their original country, regardless of whether they attended school in the US or NOT, are counted in the survey, thus over inflating the even stupendous statistic of 44% drop out rate for immigrants and further, inflating the base statistic of 29% of ALL Hispanic drop outs.

Once the immigrant statistic is removed, the statistics for citizen Hispanics, born and raised in the US, drops down to near their fellow minority students to 15%.

Now, this comment was in no way supporting a statistics of 15% or 13% as good for minority students. I am also not too excited to know that 44% of Hispanic immigrants do not have or seek a high school diploma. Education is important for improving our social structure, our economy and our way of life. There are certainly some things we need to work on to continue to reduce these rates, but, they are no where near his inflammatory claims of "half".

Talk about "fear mongering" and "racial" stereotypes.

If you didn't catch it, Mr. Edwards makes another mistake: 800 teachers are laid off in Cleveland, allegedly due to the education program and lack of substantial funding. But he isn't a lawyer for nothing and quickly tries to cover making a really big statistical boo-boo, by saying that the the "funding issue" is one of the reasons. Mr. Edwards, you should know what city you are talking about. According to this news source, the city of Cleveland is desperately looking for teachers. Particularly in math and science. They are helping teachers get their certificates to teach "out of field" or in other words, in a subject they didn't take as their major in college.

Also, it might be important to note that Sen. Edwards originally comments that Ohio was hit hard with the recession and lost a lot of jobs. News flash Senator, when the parents leave a district in search of employment or improved lifestyle, they usually take their children with them. If there are less children in the school district you don't need more teachers.

Mr. Edwards should know from his career as a lawyer, whenever you present your case to the jury, you should stick to the facts and you should know that there is ALWAYS somebody on the jury who is going to ask for a a copy of the transcript to verify what was said. Some might even ask for, a clarification.

Buyer beware: always be leery of statistics and the people that quote them.


ALa said...

Wasn't it a good debate. I don't remember ever watching a VP debate before. The libs are frothing again --my conformation that Cheney was a good as I thought he was...LOL.

Tom said...

I, too, have learned to be wary of statistics when quoted by those with political motives. And I say this about the right as well as the left.

However, you do a better job at investigating those stats than I'll ever do. Not my thing, but you seem to have a background in that sort of thing.

Frater Bovious said...

They say that 90% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

Like that one.

I had a family friend who was some kind of researcher for the FDA tell me that there were three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies, and statistics. He also told me that if you shot at a duck, and shot just in front of him, and you shot again, and shot just behind him, well, on average, the duck was dead.



Kat said...

hey everyone, I agree on one aspect, it doesn't matter who is quoting the number, you better look the damn thing up because it is either an out and out lie (made up on the spot or off the UPC label from a bottle of Jack Daniels), only part of the statistics or taken out of context.

I agree with your friend Frater, lies, damn lies and statistics! LOL