Sunday, October 16, 2011
Proper Disclosure of Statistics in Misinformation Era
I found this really cool tool on the OECD website the other day(link will be at the bottom). The tool contains massive amounts of statistical data for many countries in the world. What is really cool about this tool is the interface that allows you to easily see the most generally used statistics used often as success indicators for the economy, public health, education and others. It also has many less commonly published statistics that make up components of how the most general indicators, such as GDP, are calculated. The tool contains historical data for about the past decade or even prior and allows you to compare one country to another and extract.
As I played around with it more and more, it re-enforced how statistics can be so easily manipulated to show something positive that really isn't all that positive. A great example of this is how Stephen Harper is always boasting about his government bringing the unemployment rate down. He always leaves out the fact that the extra jobs created were mostly part time jobs and another fact that many people are stuck in part time jobs because they can't find a full time job.
This really bothers me as government, corporations and the media use stats quite often in an attempt to make a statement appear true that are not completely true which misinforms the public. This is a growing serious issue given current economic situation and the 1% vs 99% occupy movement. I think that we need a better set of standards and ethics that hold these institutions accountable for disclosure of full details when using statistics to inform or mislead the general public. More to come on this..........