Sunday, August 16, 2015

Associations & Statistics: Who Are We Kidding?


John Haydon posted the graphic above on Facebook: "Statistics Show That Teen Pregnancies Drop Drastically After The Age of 20."

I laughed.

It shows how ridiculous the media and Americans are when it comes to statistics.

It reminds me of the old saying: “Figures lie and liars figure.”

I’ve written before about the use of surveys and analysis of data and how they can lead associations astray.

The other day, USA Today ran a big “research” story about CEO Compensation with a screaming headline that 9 CEOs paid 800 times more than their workers


  • Since the story opens saying that the average CEO of a Standard and Poor’s 500 company was paid “only” 216 times more than the average worker, USA Today was obviously “skewing” the research to get their desired headline.
  • Yes, CEO compensation is an issue but one wonders why USA Today extrapolates data to increase the negatives about the issue.
And, in the USA Today discussion of compensation ratios, one also wonders why we don’t see similar stories of other highly paid professionals.
  • Where is the story comparing compensation of NBA basketball all stars with average workers on the NBA teams (administrative assistants, equipment staff, etc.)?
  • Where is the story comparing compensation of movie stars with the average worker at a production company (makeup artist, copywriter, camera grip, etc.)?
  • Where is the story comparing compensation of television anchors with the average workers at a TV network (writers, camera people, etc.)?
If compensation ratios continue as an issue, what does it mean for associations and association professionals?

Will the IRS soon require that the 990 forms disclose not just the top five paid staff but also the ratio of highly paid staff versus all staff?

PS.  After writing this post, I came across a Wall Street Journal article that puts statistics in perspective. It  is headlined: What Are the Odds? Long, Most Likely.  Some highlights:
Not everyone is at risk of a being bitten by a shark. Here are a few of the recently reported odds of an attack:
  • 1 in 3.7 million
  • 1 in 11.5 million
  • 1 in 738 million
  1. The first describes the lifetime risk that someone in the U.S. will die from a shark attack. It’s based on an average lifespan of 77.6 years and assumes the entire population of the country is at risk.
  2. The second describes the rate of attacks in one year at 68 U.S. beaches and is based on attendance figures at the venues.
  3. The third estimates the number of beach trips before a swimmer in California would be injured by, specifically, a white shark.

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