A deeper look at aggregate data analysis

A recent article in the January 23, 2012 issue of National Review drew some interesting conclusions from a research paper by Casey B. Mulligan, a University of Chicago economist, about the growth of the social safety net during the ongoing Recession.  The interesting part, though, was not in the conclusions themselves, but in how the author of the article misused the data to get there.

In his write-up, Hassett states that spending on social programs “increased not only due to the recession, but because the eligibility requirements for most programs were expanded, and their benefits increased.  Spending per person has gone up, not just total spending.”  This much is true.  But throughout the remainder of the article, Hassett carefully bends his words and the data to mislead the reader and conclude that staying home and collecting a government check has never been so attractive.

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Welcome to Stat Chat

Demography is destiny – or so, reputedly, said French philosopher and founder of sociology, Auguste Comte. While the assertion is, perhaps, too strong, demography can help us understand changes in economies, cultures, and politics. This is why we, research professionals at the University of Virginia Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, are pleased to offer our new blog: Stat Chat.

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