In this new edition--with revised benchmark statistics, updated resources, and a new section on the rhetorical uses of statistics, complete with new problems to be spotted and new examples to illustrate those problems--Joel Best's best-seller exposes questionable uses of statistics and guides the reader towards becoming a more critical, savvy consumer of news, information, and data. Does a young person commit suicide every thirteen minutes in the United States? Are four million women really battered to death by their husbands or boyfriends each year? Is methamphetamine our number one drug problem today? Alarming statistics bombard our daily lives, appearing in the news, on the Web, seemingly everywhere. But all too often, even the most respected publications present numbers that are miscalculated, misinterpreted, hyped, or simply misleading. Entertaining, informative, and concise, Stat-Spotting takes a commonsense approach to understanding data, and doesn't require advanced math or statistics.
pt. 1. Getting started. Spotting questionable numbers Background. Statistical benchmarks ; Severity and frequency pt. 2. Varieties of dubious data. Blunders. The slippery decimal point ; Botched translations ; Misleading graphs ; Careless calculations Sources: who counted and why? Big round numbers ; Hyperbole ; Shocking claims ; Naming the problem Definitions: what did they count? Broad definitions ; Expanding definitions ; Changing definitions ; The uncounted Measurements: how did they count? Creating measures ; Odd units of analysis ; Loaded questions ; Raising the bar ; Technical measures Packaging: what are they telling us? Impressive formats ; Misleading samples ; Convenient time frames ; Peculiar percentages ; Selective comparisons ; Statistical milestones ; Averages ; Epidemics ; Correlations ; Discoveries Rhetoric: what do they want us to think? Using short-term turnover to measure long-term problems ; Sudden turns for the worse ; Designating myths ; Rhetorical flourishes Debates: what if they disagree? Causality debates ; Equality debates ; Policy debates pt. 3. Stat-spotting on your own. Summary: common signs of dubious data Better data: some characteristics Afterword: if you had no idea things were that bad, they probably aren't Suggestions for those who want to continue stat-spotting.
Includes bibliographical references (pages 133-144) and index. This edition updates benchmarks, includes a new chapter on rhetoric, updated a few examples, and thoroughly updated the bibliography.