Data: to use or not to use….

Did you know that: only Russia , the Ukraine and Lebanon have as much inequality of income and wealth as the USA? If you even want to give democracy a chance, this should suggest how hard the road will be to recover even a modicum of greater equality! Between CEOs and minimum wage workers the difference is 5,000 per hour vs $7.25 per hour, and every day it’s getting worse.

Why do I find myself going through these exercises over ad over–to keep me angry? And maybe it’s just that I find statistics fascinating–and wish that my education had included more of that and less of the caculus-driven stuff I managed to do well at but never understood and never use.

It’s what made me love the book called, “the signal and the noise, why so many predictions fail–but some don’t.” Author, Nate Silver who is famous for his election polling–FIVEHIRTYEIGHT.COM and a system for forecasting baseball performance called PECOTA, He is amazed at the number of important people who regularly make false predictions but who are completely unfazed by it. He goes from one field to another–like the financial forecasting leading up to 2008, election polls, and more. But he also describes some successes–like, believe it or not, weather forecasting has gotten more and more accurate. That is, the data collected by the Feds. Local TV and radio newscasters, he notes, have a regular pattern of predicting rain more often than the actual data suggests. He conjectures that people get mad when you predict good weather and it rains, but forgive you when it’s reversed.

It fits my general predilection not to believe th data–but also reminds me that the reason for being skeptical is first and foremost because I DO NOT understand it. He is not an enemy of Big Data, but he reminds us, to beware.

And above all to beware of some people’s USE of data to defend their partisan agendas. And educaztion friends–it’ll help us in our education wars too.

Don’t miss reading this book and it’s no even expensive!

4 Responses

  1. You are humble enough to admit you don’t understand the data some people use to support their ideology and smart enough to know when something doesn’t sound right.

  2. Deb, low and non-income was on my mind this morn, so glad to find this.

    I really don’t care about CEO pay. It’s totally irrelevant. I’m more concerned about the employer of 40 or 100 people who lives richly but pays his people below the equilibrium wage.

    But let’s talk about even having a job. Why are so many unemployed? And it’s not all about education. We’ve talked about the dairy farms in Ohio who must hire only herd managers who speak fluent Espanol. Because immigrant Mexicans are the only people they can find to work their farms.

    Think you not that there are plenty of young people from Cleveland, Columbus, Youngstown, Toledo, who dropped out, haven’t a diploma, but could work a dairy, tomato, lettuce farm?

    On the flip side, for those with jobs, you are quite right. Pay for the lower 2/3 has not kept up with GDP for 40 years. Why?

    • You are right on all scores. And yes, the idea that everyone has to have a BA only raises the bar without creating more jobs. It means more students who have no interest in college have to go into debt to get jobs that don’t require it.


    • Forget a decent wnining percentage, I think it’s fair to say Blyleven would have those missing 13 magical wins if he pitched for the Orioles in the 90s and the Yankees in the 2000s. With 300 wins, he’d already be in.As for Mussina, you have him pegged correctly as a borderline HOFer who makes for an interesting debate but whose fate will undoubtedly be determined by outside factors like the other pitchers on his first couple ballots. Syferdet has it right in his blog. If he’s going up against peers like Maddux, Schilling, Big Unit, Glavine, Smoltz on a yearly basis, he’s got an uphill battle ahead of him.

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