Misuse of statistics

Other Names:
Biased adjustment of statistics
Misleading reports
Misreporting of statistics
Misinterpretation of statistics
Biased adjustment of official statistics by government
Unethical use of statistics
Corruption of statisticians
Statistical malpractice
Official abuse of statistics
Numerical reports are deliberately slanted in order to make a situation appear more as the writer or his employers would like to have it.
Police in the UK are reported to improve the rate of crimes they have solved by extracting "confessions" from cooperative prisoners. USA military personnel exaggerated deaths of enemies. Investment fund managers choose periods of comparison to maximize the sales value of their fund. Governments change methods of determining unemployment and then compare rates developed from the different methods. In the UK, between 1979 and 1988, 19 changes were make to the way unemployment was calculated; all but one decreased the amount of unemployment. The government also masked for two years the widening gulf in living standards between rich and poor by a statistical mistake. In the statistics published by the United Nations, including the World Bank, certain countries are treated for political reasons as though they do not exist. Thus Taiwan, despite its productivity, is not mentioned, nor is South Africa. This makes the UN data of questionable value for any global comparative study, especially with respect to the economic future of particular regions.
As Benjamin Disraeli said about statistics: "There are three kinds of lie - lies, damned lies and statistics". Statistics only serve those presenting them.
Narrower Problems:
Misleading public opinion polls
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
01.01.2000 – 00:00 CET