09 November 2011

Honesty in Government

[UPDATE] -- copied Sales the first time, same issue.

As I transition into data scientist, which means re-adding my stats mojo to my RDBMS mojo (not replacing the latter with the former, by the way), I've come across more than a few postings and writings in the statosphere about truth in data. The writing is always by data professionals (not lobbyists and the like, near as I can tell), and the point is always that the data is truth. By truth one means the most accurate picture of the real world, unadorned by propaganda.

Today's Federal data dump includes September wholesale inventories. They were down .1%. Here's the quote: "..were $462.0 billion at the end of September, down 0.1 percent (+/-0.2%)* from the revised August level." What's the starry thingee, one might ask? Well, it's the link to a footnote.

Here's the footnote:
"* The 90 percent confidence interval includes zero. The Census Bureau does not have sufficient statistical evidence to conclude that the actual change is different from zero."

Two points to note about the footnote: 1) the CI is 90% level, which is very generous and 2) it spans 0, which means what the note says. I wonder how many of the reports about the report will bother to tell us about that.

Here's the link to the original; click the link for Excel or PDF.

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