Are four million women really battered to death by their husbands or boyfriends each year? Does a young person commit suicide every thirteen minutes in the United States? Is methamphetamine our number one drug problem today? Alarming statistics bombard our daily lives, appearing in the news, on the Web, seemingly everywhere. But all too often, even the most respected publications present numbers that are miscalculated, misinterpreted, hyped, or simply misleading. Following on the heels of his highly acclaimed Damned Lies and Statistics and More Damned Lies and Statistics, Joel Best now offers this practical field guide to help everyone identify questionable statistics. Entertaining, informative, and concise, Stat-Spotting is essential reading for people who want to be more savvy and critical consumers of news and information.
* Pertinent examples from today's news, including the number of deaths reported in Iraq, the threat of secondhand smoke, the increase in the number of overweight Americans, and many more
* A commonsense approach that doesn't require advanced math or statistics
PART 1 GETTING STARTED
A. Spotting Questionable Numbers
B.1 Statistical Benchmarks
B.2 Severity and Frequency
PART 2 VARIETIES OF DUBIOUS DATA
C.1 The Slippery Decimal Point
C.2 Botched Translations
C.3 Misleading Graphs
C.4 Careless Calculations
D. Sources: Who Counted-and Why?
D.1 Big, Round Numbers
D.3 Shocking Claims
D.4 Naming the Problem
E. Definitions: What Did They Count?
E.1 Broad Definitions
E.2 Expanding Definitions
E.3 Changing Definitions
E.4 The Uncounted
F. Measurements: How Did They Count?
F.1 Creating Measures
F.2 Odd Units of Analysis
F.3. Loaded Questions
F.4 Raising the Bar
F.5 Technical Measures
G. Packaging: What Are They Telling Us?
G.1 Impressive Formats
G.2 Misleading Samples
G.3 Convenient Time Frames
G.4 Peculiar Percentages
G.5 Selective Comparisons
G.6 Statistical Milestones
H. Debates: What If They Disagree?
H.1 Causality Debates
H.2 Equality Debates
H.3 Policy Debates
PART 3 STAT-SPOTTING ON YOUR OWN
I. Summary: Common Signs of Dubious Data
J. Better Data: Some Characteristics
K. Afterword: If You Had No Idea Things Were That Bad, They Probably Aren't
L. Suggestions for Those Who Want to Continue Stat-Spotting
Joel Best is Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice at the University of Delaware. Among his many books are Flavor of the Month: Why Smart People Fall for Fads, More Damned Lies and Statistics: How Numbers Confuse Public Issues, and Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists, all from UC Press.
"If you ever scan the newspaper, watch the TV news, or surf the blogs, you should read this charming book. If you're a journalist, read it twice."—James M. Jasper
"As we now swim in information, much of it bogus or biased, spotting dubious data is super important. In Stat-Spotting, Joel Best plays off the format of field guides to give readers good, common sense ways not only to sense bad data but to understand what's wrong. Broken up into short independent sections much like field guides to various flora or fauna, the book is easy and enjoyable to read. Easy, enjoyable, and valuable. I will recommend it to my students, and to others, as a resource for critical consumers of numbers."—Bernard Madison, University of Arkansas
"The purpose of Stat-Spotting is to help readers become more critical consumers of statistical claims. It is an important work addressing a significant problem in contemporary society: thoughtlessness about numerical claims. Best's work here provides a direct, accessible guide to critical readings of statistics."—Neil Lutsky, Carleton College
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