Compared to what?

..a New York Times survey comprising scores of detailed interviews exploring the families’ [of September 11 World Trade Center victims] emotional, physical and spiritual status. That survey found lives colored by continuing pain. Almost half still have a hard time getting a good night’s sleep. A few said they no longer flew on airplanes. About a third have changed jobs or quit. About one in five have moved since 2001, and a fifth of those who still live where they did on Sept. 11 would move if they could. Very few who lost a spouse have remarried.

What do these numbers mean? Without some comparision group, almost nothing. Robert Musil has the numbers and a good lesson in statistical thinking.

Addendum: Thanks to Newmark’s Door for the link. Of course, I take it as understood that proper statistical thinking in no way diminishes our profound sympathy for the victims of 9/11.


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