Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lies, damn lies and Tory statistics

Airbrushing pictures isn't enough, the Tories are now airbrushing the statistics. We saw that with Chris Grayling and his abuse of the crime figures, to the point where the chairman of the UK Statistics Authority felt that he had to intervene, warning that Grayling's wilful misinterpretation of the figures was
likely to damage public trust in official statistics

Grayling's flailing defence of the indefensible, attempting to claim that the changes in recording methods didn't affect his argument - which is utter rubbish.

Then this week, we've had a minor decimal error in a report, which now states that 54% of girls in the most deprived areas get pregnant before the age of 18.

The actual figure is 5.4%.

Perhaps it was a simple mistake, but why did nobody spot it?

Is it that they don't understand statistics? Was it just a simple error?

Or did somebody look at the figures and assume that because this was about areas of deprivation that the figures must be right? Do they actually believe the propaganda?

The Lib Dem Danny Alexander put his finger on it
"The Tories seem to think that half our teenagers are pregnant, our cities are like The Wire and that people will get married for a few extra quid. If they really believe Britain is like this, it's remarkable that Conservative MPs can pluck up the courage to leave their houses. They should lower their drawbridges, spend less time tending their moats and duck houses, and join the rest of us in the real world."
Meanwhile, Don Paskini reviews a book that puts the lie to the tabloid tales of teenage pregnancy and challenges the received wisdom of the Daily Mail. Doubtless, because it is based upon academic research, it will receive precisely no coverage. I wonder if we'll hear that the birth rate to mothers aged 15-19 is now lower than it was in 1957 or is half that of the peak year of 1971? I doubt it.

Perhaps that is because it doesn't allow for easy answers - like encouraging marriage or tackling teenage pregnancy. Failed marriages and teenage pregnancy aren't causes in themselves, but symptomatic of a wider injustice - that of social and economic disadvantage. That may not fit the received narrative that Britain is a broken society, but it appears to have some foundation in reality.

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