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STATISTICS LESSON: Other

image001.jpgDavid Weinberger explains a basic — but often overlooked — aspect of statistics:

At some point we noticed a crack in the windshield of our car. It’s a single line, about 8 inches long, not the spider web fracture typical of a pebble or assassination attempt. We don’t know exactly when it happened or how.

Our insurance covers it. But when I went to file the claim through SafeLight, the person on the phone insisted that I give a reason why the glass broke. The fact is that I don’t know. But that is not an acceptable answer. Rain? Hail? Pebble? Collision? Branch? Vandalism? Collision? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. So I said it was vandalism.

I wonder how many of our national statistics are skewed by a failure to provide an “I don’t know” or “Other” box.

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