Statistics for Anything

Come on, fess up. You and I and a lot of other people often tend to take at face value the daily news fed to us from television, radio, the dailies, and even from some online blogs. We stop questioning assumptions, and rely on what might be fuzzy data. The Internet can set us straight, if we choose to dive a little deeper. The Internet can be a fun playground, yet it is also a fine repository of substance. For example, I spent the better part of an hour reading through an autumn, 2004 statistical report from the Social Security Administration’s Deputy Chief Actuary Alice H. Wade and her staff. I was looking for the source material for the proposed Social Security program changes. Dry reading? Yes, thirty pages-ful. My guess is that very few of our elected officials have read those pages, or if they did, could not get past the complex statistical data. Not that I could, either. But, the point is, it is there on the ‘net for us to examine. And there are other websites that I bring to your attention this week that sift through (or bring you) statistical data so that you, not a spinmeister, can draw your own conclusions.

Stats.org . The experts at the Statistical Assessment Service located at George Mason University check out the facts and figures behind the news. They are quick to point out false conclusions. Pick a category and then read their corrections to popular misconceptions. Categories include education/family, drug use, health/disease, polls/surveys, gender issues, crime, and media factoids, among others. Their up-to-the-minute blog covers current news items and corrects inaccuracies. Mark this as a first stop on your way to sharpening your critical thinking skills.

The Numbers Guy . I’m giving what I think is a back door entry to Carl Bailik’s column in the Wall Street Journal. Bailik is a freelancer with an advanced math degree who shows his readers how low numbers can be used and abused. If this back door link does not work when you try to access it, I guess you will have to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal (if you don’t already) or else rely on the guys and gals at stats.com.

Statistical Resources on the Web . Thank the University of Michigan for putting up a huge database of links to all sorts of statistical information. Just a sampling of the many found here: business & industry; consumer; cost of living; housing; military; health; and comprehensive subjects. Best Place to Live? Look here. An excellent research site to add to your bookmarks.

Fedstats.gov . This is a search gateway to federal agencies so that you can find topics by choice. This was my jumping-off point to finding Social Security Administration’s Deputy Chief Actuary Alice H. Wade’s research. But if you are more interested in maps or geography, census data or military budgets, you can use this site as your search engine.

Fast Facts . I thought I had found a treasure trove of some links to unusual information, such as Floptracker (Internet companies that have gone bust), or Notable Presidential Pardons. Yet when I tried to access Floptracker, I had no luck. Maybe you will have better luck when you choose one of the links on Fast Facts.

Nationmaster.com . I found this site a long time back and was waiting for a time when it would be appropriate to mention it in a weekly column. This site makes a good research tool, but for much of the info you need to be a “supporter,” meaning that you can access the huge statistical database for $10 a month or $30 for six months. Some information on the site is free, such as its “Factoids” area, and it is interesting reading. If you want charts, graphs, or comparisons, Nationmaster has 4500 of them to dig into. Even if you don’t want to be a supporter, this is still an interesting website to look at, particularly for any sort of business person.

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~ by IndianaDunesPoet on May 22, 2005.

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