Matthew Ladner

Statistical Interpretation

Posted on May 11, 2006 | Author: Matthew Ladner
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Columbia University President Lee Bollinger kicked up a controversy by arguing for revamping the school’s graduate journalism program curriculum. Bollinger argued that the news media is a vital democratic institution and that journalists require a more rigorous academic education in order to do their job responsibly. Occasionally I read articles which make me think that folks like Bollinger are on to something.

For example, the Republic recently ran a story on the new corporate education tax credit in which the author conducts a “casual survey” of business lobbyists. Quoting the lobbyists of two companies, the reporter concludes there is a lack of interest in participating in the new tax credit. This lack of enthusiasm “underpins the arguments that Gov. Janet Napolitano and others made during the protracted debate over the credits: That there's no one clamoring for them ...”

Statistics 101 teaches it is dangerous to draw broad conclusions from a small sample. Sample bias is an even greater concern. But in this case, the point of the reform was missed, businesses may not be clamoring for it, but parents are. Thousands of students languish on scholarship waiting lists, and polls indicate that 92% of Arizonans support one or more school choice measures. Fortunately, poll figures like this need no further statistical interpretation.

Matthew Ladner is director of state projects at the Alliance for School Choice and a Goldwater Institute Senior Fellow.


Key Links:

- Arizona Republic: "Tax credit gets cool reception"
-Goldwater Institute: "Survey Shows Majority of Arizonans Endorse School Choice"

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