Sex, lies and overblown statistics

August 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

John Kay writes in the Financial Times

Statistics are only as valid as the sources from which they are drawn and the abilities of those who use them. When I discover something surprising in data, the most common explanation is that I made a mistake.

A short and worthwhile read about how to consume statistical information. Among the basic questions to ask yourself and the author are “what is the question to which the number is the answer?”, “where does the data come from?” and “is an unexpected finding a feature of the data or a feature of the world?”


Edit (@10:55): this post on Kay’s website is pretty great too. It’s about political decisions and how they rarely adhere to cost-benefit analyses or statistical evidence. He wrote this in 2003, right around the time the UK was considering adopting the Euro.


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