Does drinking help your blogging? Long before the book Freakonomics came out, I’ve used this blog to warn of the dangers of reporters attempting to interpret statistics. A classic example of why reporters and numbers don’t mix is this article at Inc.com about a recent study displaying a correlation between drinking and income: “Regular drinkers make 10% to 14% more money than those who do not drink, according to the study…” Quote:
“Edward Stringham, co-author of the study and professor of economics at San Jose State University, concluded that drinking is a productive activity because it increases social capital — an economist’s way of saying that going out for a beer after work and schmoozing will form useful relationships, both social and professional, that can turn into job opportunities.”
I drink socially, okay. So I am in no way about to suggest that drinking in moderation is a bad thing. However, I believe it is a bad thing to confuse the activity of drinking with suggesting it is a necessary activity to form useful relationships. I mention the book Freakonomics, because anyone who has read it should see red lights going off upon reading an article about a study that reveals a “correlation” such as this. And one would be correct to be skeptical as by the end of the article, the reporter has interviewed CEOs (who, likely, have not read the study) who “see merit in the theory” that drinking makes you more successful. (Which has transferred a “correlation” into a “cause” by the way in which a reporter has spun the article.) As the “viral” aspects of this story move on and people who have not read the study start hearing about it from others who heard merely “drinkers make more money than those who don’t,” the “correlation” and “causal” aspects of this research will be blurred further.
I’d be happy to discuss my theories on this topic in greater detail. Perhaps we should get together for a drink.
Which reminds me: After yesterday’s whipping of the Tennessee Titans by the Dallas Cowboys, I owe Cole Huggins a bottle of Jack Daniels.
Technorati Tags: statistics