Monday, August 2, 2010

Damned Statistics

A short item about our housing review appeared in the Sunday Times (News Review, Section 4, page 10).  It only contained two ‘facts’ both of which were wrong.

“A report published on Thursday warned that it make take 60 years to repair the damage done by over-development and rezoning of land in Ireland during the past decade.”

The report actually says that if the number of households continued to grow at the 1996-2006 rate, there is enough housing stock to last 3.5 years.  There is enough land zoned for residential use to last 13.4 years.  Together there is enough housing and land zoned to last 16.8 years.  The phrase ‘60 years’ is not used anywhere in the report.

“The report also claimed that there are more than 300,000 unwanted properties in Ireland.”

The report actually states that there are over 300,000 vacant homes, including holiday homes, in Ireland with an oversupply of 120,000 units (in excess of an expected base vacancy rate and holiday homes).  Again the phrase ‘unwanted’ is not used anywhere in the report.  The key figure is 120,000 and not all of them are unwanted – there is a huge social housing waiting list.

This isn’t the only example of misreporting and misquoting of our statistics over the past few days, but it makes me very leery of believing any statistic reported in a newspaper and reminded me that one really does need to go to base sources at all times.


Bernadette in Australia said...

That's very sad. We're constantly being told that we have to save traditional media from invading bloggers at least partly due to the greater accuracy...these days I just don't trust anyone.

Kerrie said...

The greatest trick her in Oz is to select stats from reports for we poor readers, and refer knowingly to the report, but never tell us where to find it. Or to produce a graph that uses an axis from 4.1 to 4.6 instead of 0 to 5, and then write as if a rise from 4.35 to 4.38 is statistically significant!