Statistics

26 posts
Men and women faced different experiences in the labor market

Last week, I showed how the aggregate statistics, unemployment rate, masked some unusual trends in the labor market in the U.S. Despite the unemployment rate in 2018 being equal, and even a little below, that in 2000, the peak of the last tech boom, there are now significantly more people "not in the labor force," and these people are not counted in the unemployment rate statistic. The analysis focuses on...

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What to make of the historically low unemployment rate

One of the amazing economic stories of the moment is the unemployment rate, which at around 4% has returned to the level last reached during the peak of the tech boom in 2000. The story is much more complex than it seems. I devoted a chapter of Numbersense (link) to explain how the government computes unemployment rates. The most important thing to realize is that an unemployment rate of 4...

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No such thing as raw data

Nick Barrowman on the myth of raw data: Assumptions inevitably find their way into the data and color the conclusions drawn from it. Moreover, they reflect the beliefs of those who collect the data. As economist Ronald Coase famously remarked, “If you torture the data enough, nature will always confess.” And journalist Lena Groeger, in a 2017 ProPublica story on the biases that visual designers inscribe into their work, soundly...

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Following your gut, following the data

The Wall Street Journal highlighted a disagreement between data and business at Netflix. Ultimately, the business side “won.” However, maybe that’s the wrong framing. Roger Peng describes the differences between analysis and the full truth: There’s no evidence in the reporting that the content team didn’t believe the data or the analysis. It’s just that their fear of damaging a relationship with an actor overruled whatever desire they might have...

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Apps gather your location and then sell the data

The New York Times takes a closer look at the data that apps collect and what they know about you: At least 75 companies receive anonymous, precise location data from apps whose users enable location services to get local news and weather or other information, The Times found. Several of those businesses claim to track up to 200 million mobile devices in the United States — about half those in...

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When cycling is faster than driving

Deliveroo is a service that picks up and delivers food. Data from their delivery riders showed that it was faster to ride a bike than other modes of transportation in cities. Carlton Reid for Forbes: Smartphone data from riders and drivers schlepping meals for restaurant-to-home courier service Deliveroo shows that bicycles are faster than cars. In towns and cities, bicyclists are also often faster than motorized two-wheelers. Deliveroo works with...

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Cohort and age effects

I’m just gonna put this xkcd comic right here. Tags: causation, humor, xkcd

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Reduced privacy risk in exchange for accuracy in the Census count

Mark Hansen for The Upshot describes the search for balance between individual privacy and an accurate 2020 Census count. It turns out to not be that difficult to reconstruct person-level data from publicly available aggregates: On the face of it, finding a reconstruction that satisfies all of the constraints from all the tables the bureau produces seems impossible. But Mr. Abowd says the problem gets easier when you notice that...

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The merry-go-round of investment bankers

Here is the start of my blog post about the chart I teased the other day:   Today's post deals with the following chart, which appeared recently at Business Insider (hat tip: my sister). It's immediately obvious that this chart requires a heroic effort to decipher. The question shown in the chart title "How many senior investment bankers left their firms?" is the easiest to answer, as the designer places the number...

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Neural networks to generate music

Kyle McDonald describes some of the history and current research on using algorithms to generate music. On how David Cope incorporated Markov chains to aid in his work: In 1981 David Cope began working with algorithmic composition to solve his writers block. He combined Markov chains and other techniques (musical grammars and combinatorics) into a semi-automatic system he calls Experiments in Musical Intelligence, or Emmy. David cites Iannis Xenakis and...

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