statistics, the first cousins of lies

Posted in humbug alert, opinion on November 7th, 2009 by george

policing cambridgeThis little magazine dropped through my letterbox the other day. Its purpose is to summarise police work in the area over the past year. All very commendable, but I take issue with one claim made in an artice entitled, ‘Life on the street’. In it, PC Christian Dicks states that, “The average homeless person in Cambridge can make £400 a week by begging.” He goes on to say, “In London I’m told its more like £1000.”

I cant help wondering where PC Dicks gleaned this information. My guess is it is the result of an exaggerated account of a particularly good day. Perhaps, a few days before Xmas, someone wound up with £73 one evening. He or she was probably far from average. Most likely they were playing seasonal music. Excited by their success, they bragged about it to fellow beggars & buskers, rounding their earnings up to £80 in the process. In this new polished version of reality, our braggart puts in a 5 day week and earns £400. And hey presto, in the giddy world of statistics, £400 becomes average earnings. Read more »

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