Saturday, June 7, 2008

Debunking myths with statistics

Myth #1: Eating local is the key to curbing global warming. Ummm, not really. Transportation costs only account for 11% of the carbon stamp when it comes to food, and the difference between local and distant only accounts for 4%. (Hat tip: MR)

Reversal: Eating locally may still help prevent allergies, so it has switched from altruistic to mostly selfish.

Myth #2: The SATs are a poor measure of predicting college success. Actually, they may not be all that bad. Researchers at the University of Minnesota found that the correlation between math and verbal scores with GPA, correcting for the difficulty of the class, averages .55, with a sample size of 100,000+. This is a strong correlation. Additionally, they found that these scores were not solely an artifact of socioeconomic status.

Reversal: The question of whether or not these tests are predictive of college success is separate from whether or not how much colleges should weigh them as admissions criterion. Hate the game, not the player.

Myth #3: Legalizing Prostitution would turn any country in a modern-day Gomorrah. Not in New Zealand! 5 years later, the act decriminalizing it has not led to an increase in sex workers and may have even had a positive effect on their health and safety.

Reversal: New Zealand is weird. At one point their history there are believed to have been hobbits.