Be Wary of Statistics


  As Benjamin Disraeli said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Although I do use statistics here and do believe in their usefulness, I was reminded by a news story last week why we need to be careful. As read by the radio news announcer, the story went something like this: November saw the largest one month increase in consumer spending in several years. The story went on to talk about several positive things this increase in consumer spending, and by implication, consumer confidence, might portend for the economy. The last line of the story changed everything, however, and made me wonder how it could have even found its way past the news editors or how the announcer could have read it without adding an editorial comment of their own at the end. The last line said "experts attribute most of the rise in consumer spending to the recent increase in gasoline prices". This was a ‘top of the hour’, network news, type broadcast! Sort of makes you wonder who is working in the news rooms these days and where the news reporter’s discerning eye has gone.


On a different note, Bob at Black Holes and Astrostuff honored me with an award several days ago. I am not really hip to many of the awards and memes that I see in various places, but I am grateful for his acknowledgment of this site. The award is called "The Totally Useful and Deserving Blogger Award". Thank you Bob. I will proudly display the award in my sidebar. I also would like to pass on this award to two sites. The first is Anna at My Only Photo. Anna and her army of regular readers are certainly deserving of an award like this. The second site is JD at TechFun. In addition to his own commentary, his site posts lots of interesting links to topics in the news. He must spend a bunch of time every day reading! In addition JD has always been generous in helping his blogging compatriots figure out the more technical aspects of their WordPress blogs and is greatly appreciated for that! 

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Will Sig
1 Anna

Will glad that I stayed on your blog instead of coming back later to read your latest post. This is really nice of you to give me and my army, lol, this award. Congrats to you too, and JD. I have a big backlog of awards on my list, but when the time is right I will definitely display it and give you the BIG THANKS in form of write up! Thank you again.

On the side note, I know what you mean about statistics, you really have to understand first, and watch out for fine print or a print that is written in the way that does not stand out and many miss it. This is really good point, Anna 🙂


2 Will

Yes indeed. I just found it really odd that the new folks did not see the contradiction in their story. Yes, spending was up, but how does having to pay more for gasoline translate to increased consumer confidence!!??



3 Bob

Congrats on a well deserved award, and good selection in Anna.


4 Bob

The line lies, damned lies and statistics is funny, the tv news people were asleep at the switch, crazy talk.


5 Anna

Will you said: Yes, spending was up, but how does having to pay more for gasoline translate to increased consumer confidence!!?? – not sure how I can answer this, but lets have some fun using my crazy brain side:

Scenario 1: Gasoline Increases, Consumer Stays Home, Shopes online, consumer finds how easy it is and also thinking I am not spending gasoline money, consumer spends more.
Scenario 2: Gasoline Increases, Consumer Still Drives, Consumer is now under lot of stress, consumer needs to reward themselves to feel better, consumer spends more.

Will kidding aside, I don’t know.

Bob, thanks for indirect award.

Anna 🙂


6 Huston

Will, thanks for this great article. The content is very well written. Thanks again!


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