How Statistics Can Be Used and Abused

Essay by KeirHigh School, 12th grade March 2006

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Statistics can be very helpful in providing interpretation of reality but also can be used to distort our understanding. Discuss some of the ways in which statistics can be used or misused in different Areas of Knowledge to assist and mislead us, and how we can determine whether to accept the statistical evidence that is present to us.

When you turn on the news, what do you hear? 1 in 10 people in South Africa have AIDS , Unemployment Reaches New High of 9.3 Percent , etc. Statistics is supposed to convey information in an objective and comprehendible way to the general population. However, this is usually not the case. Most of the present statistics use objectivity as a veil to hide the personal agendas behind the numbers.

Statistics are comprised of numbers and language, both these could be manipulated in a way to "bend" the truth.

In the mathematical sense, statistics are made from information gathered from a specific sample population that was asked a specific question, and then given an error margin.

In order for the statistics to be valid, the sample population and error margins should be stated in the conclusion. Neglecting to mention any of these will cause the statistics to be misleading, for example, according to the U.S Bureau of Censes, the official unemployment rate in the U.S is 6% as of 2003. However, according to journalist Ed Finn, many groups were omitted in these government surveys, "the under-16 group, those on strike or locked out and those who weren't actively looking for work in the four weeks prior to the survey. But by far the largest groups omitted from the list of jobless in the U.S. are the working-age men who are out of work because they are in prison or on parole."...