Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

Yahoo news headline: U.S. Newborn Survival Rate Ranks Low. How the hell can this be true? First, consider the source, Save The Children. While I'm sure they're a fine organization, I don't think you will ever hear them say "Everything is great - send your hard earned money to The American Cancer Society". Secondly, statistics can say anything you want them to. I suspect that in the U.S. heroic efforts are made to save severely ill and premature children and when these efforts fail we include the deaths of these infants in our mortality data. In other countries advanced in utero surgery may not be available and when these children die, they may not include them in their statistics. Finally if you break down the statistics by race and income, we compare favorably to any other nation for like statistics.
You have probably heard how dangerous guns are to "children" because gun control groups are always bemoaning our gun happy society. What you don't know, is that to them anyone between conception and 21 is considered a child. If you consider only people under the age of 18 the numbers drop of wildly, but that doesn't make good ink. Again, if you break things down by race and sex, an 8 year old white girl is much more likely to die in the family swimming pool than by gun violence, how many parents are aware of this?
Bottom line, before you get your shorts in a knot over a sensational news story, consider the source, know and understand how the data to support the news story was collected.

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