Saturday, August 22, 2009

Confessions of a Former Junior Statistical Researcher

The following was left by an anonymous commenter to my How to Manipulate Infant Death Data post:

Reminds me of my first job after leaving university many decades ago.

I was a junior statistical researcher for a government construction agency. My bosses were off in another state at some pow wow, and one of the secretaries to the head of the department rushed in. A question had been raised in the legislature about how our agency compared to 'private industry' in terms of it's youth employment.

They needed the answer within a few hours and there was no time to discuss the job with the bosses, who were uncontactable anyhow.

So I wrote three nearly identical reports. One showed we matched the standard for private industry for youth employment. The next showed we had a lower youth employment rate and the third a higher rate. In each case I used a different definition of private industry for comparison. One was based on the home construction and repair industry statistics (better than us), another based on the general construction industy ('worse' than us) and another the housing, construction and building materials supply industry (the 'same' as us). I submitted all three reports and let our glorious leader say whatever he wanted. Apparently he was most pleased with the result

1 comment:

  1. Reminds me of the book "How to Lie With Statistics" by Darrell Huff: