How Numbers can be Manipulated

February 15, 2012 in Daily Bulletin

As the United States heads into another Presidential election season, and the partisan rhetoric begins to rev up, Sanderson at the Chicago Tribune reminds everybody that the statistics and numbers that we’ll all soon be hearing can easily be manipulated. He points out that:

  • In January 2011 Illinois increased the state’s income tax from 3% to 5% – a 2% increase. However it would be just as accurate to say that the increase from 3% to 5% was a 67% increase.
  • A few years ago another headline pointed out that the social security benefits increase would be the smallest in 4 years. What wasn’t as widely reported was that social security benefits are tied to inflation and so the headline could just as easily have read that inflation was the smallest it had been in 4 years.
  • If a company tells you that people who switched over to their services saved, on average $100, the numbers are likely inflated because the people who wouldn’t save money by switching wouldn’t have switched in the first place.

For many more fascinating examples like this, some of which show how you might be manipulated in your everyday life, read through Sanderson’s thoughtful and balanced post over here.

Source: The Chicago Tribune

Via: Freakonomics