Thursday, May 17, 2012

Two good stats articles from the NY Times

OK, I spend a fair amount of time on this blog making fun of the NY Times' statistical reporting. So today, two articles where the Times does a good job explaining, reporting, and illustrating statistics.

I thought the Times did a great job explaining the census data released this morning, which show that 50.4% of the US population younger than age 1 are minorities as of July 1, 2011. Interestingly, when I read the Census Bureau press release, I learned also that there are four majority-minority states (Hawaii, California, New Mexico, and Texas). The District of Columbia is also majority-minority. I did think that the Times' graphic illustrating Generational Gaps in Minority Births was confusing (screenshot below). A better title might have been "States with Largest Generational Gaps in White Population" because that is what I think the graphic shows.

Source: The New York Times
I would also quibble with the "tipping point" characterization of the births graphic illustrating the article.
Any thoughts about this? Let me know in the comments.

In a different kind of article, I thought the Times did a very thorough job of explaining new research on HDL, "good cholesterol" and why simply raising HDL may not prevent heart disease. The story is a good illustration of the point that I've made and reiterated about using statistics: correlation and causation are not the same thing. I've just begun reading Jim Manzi's book "Uncontrolled," (I'll be writing more about that later). The episode is a good illustration of the progress of scientific knowledge he describes in his third chapter.

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