VITAL STATS Using true statistics to tell less than true stories

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

We will explore some *creative* ways of displaying true information

  • Levels and percentages
  • Correlation and causation
  • Sample selection
  • Axis powers

First, a few examples...

Murders per 100,000 people in 2010

Nearly 3 times as many people murdered in Chicago as in NY

Or, equivalently, 0.015% of all people

“Crime and killings in Chicago have reached such epidemic proportions that I am sending in Federal help. 1,714 shootings in Chicago this year!” - President Trump

Is 1,714 shootings in a year significant? Is it substantial in a population of over 2.7 million?

We could also present this as 700+ murders last year (!)


Not when we look at the statistics presented differently
Levels and Percentages

Levels and Percentages

Suppose we have data on student academic performance and....

  • 300 more students passed their state tests last year than the prior year
  • 10% less students passed their state tests last year than the prior year

Could both be true?

Sure, if the amount of students taking the test increased by more than the amount passing.

  • There were 966 traffic fatalities in New York last year (no wonder they take the subway!)
  • There were only 190 traffic fatalities in Wyoming last year

Where is it safer to drive?

Turns out you are 7 times more likely to die in a car crash in Wyoming (!)

But that's misleading, too. You only have a 0.0316% chance of getting in a deadly car wreck in Wyoming.

From the OK Board of Health's State of the State report:

  • In 2012, approximately 2,300 Oklahomans died from an unintentional injury
  • Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of premature death; males are more likely to die from an unintentional injury than females (some things you don't need stats for)
Correlation and Causation

Correlation and Causation

"Where there's smoke..."
"...there's smoke."

Does eating ice cream cause Polio?

Sample Selection

Sample Selection

Graduates from the University of North Carolina Geography program earn over $100,000 a year on average. So, why wouldn't everyone major in geography?

Outliers can skew the average

The "true" average salary for UNC Geography majors is *much* lower

"Our average starting salary is $80,000"

A new, troublesome, statistic...

The incidence of autism has steadily increased. Why?

Sample selection "Data Viz" done well

So, does it work?

Maybe. But there is an "endogeneity" issue because the type of person that wants to join Match.com is already looking for a relationship. We refer to this as a self-selection bias.

Axis Powers

Axis Powers

"A picture is worth a thousand words"

First, a note of caution....

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee

Most clear representation? 12.85% increase in abortions, 53.4% decrease in screenings

Using Excel to tell real fake stories

Created By
Travis Roach


Created with images by NS Newsflash - "Newspapers B&W (5)" • wuestenigel - "Fake News" • jodylehigh - "crash accident collision automobiles smashup transportation vehicles" • kirahoffmann - "glass broken fragmented hole crack disc window" • conner395 - "Orlando Police FL USA - Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor" • Gellinger - "polar bear polar bears predator iceberg cold" • jodylehigh - "climate change drought climate dry environment nature" • kaboompics - "calculator scientific numbers finance statistics calculate maths" • Santi Vedrí - "untitled image" • jakob.montrasio.net - "Traffic." • qimono - "speed car vehicle" • skeeze - "runners silhouette athletes fitness men military marathon" • tookapic - "notes notepad document notebook business office paper" • katexic - "sample from Spurious Correlations" • Hugo Jehanne - "Smoke" • silviarita - "ice ice cream milk ice cream" • adonyig - "dry mag wallpaper" • Hans-Peter Gauster - "Puzzle" • PixArc - "tattoo hand i love you" • 422737 - "bike velo wheel" • janetmck - "DATA"

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