9 out of 10 cats prefer not to eat gravel

GraphStatistical analysis is one of those tools that can both efficiently reveal the truth and completely obscure it. It is amazing how easy it is to confuse and convince most people simply by producing some numbers. Even people who should know better sometimes make horrendous mistakes. Given that most people have almost no training in statistical analysis at all, it is not surprising that advertisers and campaigners find it so easy to deceive the unwitting public.

Numbers have a lure of their own. They promise accuracy and simplicity. If I told you that apples might be a bit better than oranges but I’m not really sure, you probably wouldn’t base an important decision on that information. But if I declared with 76% certainty that apples had 127% of the goodness of oranges then, for some reason, it seems that you would be much more to likely go for the apples. (Well, maybe not you, but this appears to be true for the majority of the population.)

The purity of numbers can be a good thing. Careful and accurate statistical analysis can reveal facts that would otherwise be hidden from us. In some cases, particularly in engineering and medicine, this is a very good thing indeed. But in everyday life it just seems to make people easier to deceive.

With that in mind, here are some statistics from the CIA’s World Factbook:

EU Birth Rate: 10 births/1,000 population
EU Death Rate: 10 deaths/1,000 population
EU Net Migration Rate: 1.6 migrants/1,000 population
Iran Birth Rate: 16.57/1,000 population
Iran Death Rate: 5.65/1,000 population
Iran Net Migration Rate: -4.29 migrants/1,000 population
USA Birth Rate: 14.16/1,000 population
USA Death Rate: 8.26/1,000 population
USA Net Migration Rate: 3.05 migrants/1,000 population
World Birth Rate: 20.09/1,000 population
World Death Rate: 8.37/1,000 population

Net migration is the total rate of immigration less the total rate of emigration, it thus reveals the effect of migration on the increase or decrease of population but does not reveal how many people are immigrating or emigrating. I tried to find some figures for immigration and emigration alone but failed. The European Commission has some incomplete and incoherent figures for 2003 but they are confused by the accession of 10 new states to the EU.

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Published in: on May 9, 2007 at 12:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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