At Least Get Your Statistics Right

gen-yIf you are looking for a rage anuerism, I recommend a new piece of crap over at Huffington Post by Wait But Why about why Gen Y’ers should stop complaining and accept the decreased quality of life associated with stagnating compensation in light of increasing productivity. I’m not even get into which groups are most likely to experience stagnating compensation versus those who are profiting off increasing productivity (but here’s a hint, Baby Boomers business owners are probably profiting off the increasing productivity gains of Gen Y workers). These points are more eloquently and angrily written by Adam Weinstein on Kinja. And I hope it’s obvious to most why this is unfair and plain old mean to 20-odd percent of the U.S. population, so I won’t expand on that here.

What I will do is complain about the statistics based-arguments that this author makes to prove why Gen Y’ers deserve all we get from the conditions set up against us. The author uses Google Ngrams to demonstrate that the words we use to describe careers are all wrong, so we deserve the shitty careers we get.

2013-09-15-Geny102013-09-15-geny11

What are these graphs even showing? What are these tiny percentages even telling us? Does it matter that “a secure career” is about half of “a fulfilling career” and why? I really hope that readers aren’t looking at charts like this and thinking “well look! the statistics proves it!” Google Ngram measures the appearance of words in books, so even if a fulfilling career is turning up more than it used to, who is writing these books and for what audience? Without knowing who these words are for and where exactly they are showing up, it doesn’t really do much to support the author’s arguments. Maybe, just maybe, the lack of information about what these charts are showing is the exact point. Without a rational, fair argument – just obscure things!

We’ve written before on the blog about economists knowing everything, and this is just another example of the glorification of numbers and statistics even if they don’t make sense at all. They just lend some authority. Look! Graphs that go up and down! This must mean the argument is correct!

Lies, damn lies, and statistics. The only thing worse than false, mean-spirited arguments against Gen Y is using faulty statistics to make your point.

Frankly, I wonder whether HuffPo, Time and others write insufferable articles like this just to increase their web traffic, knowing that it is complete drivel. But at least, please, get your statistic-based arguments right/meaningful/not utter piles of crap.

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Categories: News and Analysis, Poverty and Inequality

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