87% of statistics are made up !

Today's press excitement over Ian Duncan-Smith's publication of a report about Tory social policy is full of statistics, but light on awareness of what the statistics mean.

In order to really understand what the statistics mean, you need to understand the context, and this was sorely lacking when I heard "Dave" on the radio earlier being interviews on Five Live he said words to the effect of ;

"50% of co-habiting couples with children will split up before the child reaches the age of five whilst only one in twelve who are married will do this."

So Dave's solution is to apparently offer tax breaks to "encourage" people to marry. I wonder why he didn't also think about these possible reasons for the statistics :

1) People marry older these days. Older couples having children are less likely to spliut than younger couples.
2) Co-habiting couples split up because they don't love each other or are unable to make the commitment to each other to marry. It is similar to "having a girlfriend" or "boyfriend". Trying to force these people to marry is actually just going to put the divorce rate up.

By "Dave" claiming that his statistics prove that married couples split up less often is stating the obvious. Of course married couples split up less than co-habiting couples, but co-habiting is often the way people discover if they are compatible. If they are not, they split, if they are compatible, they marry.

Dave's statistics tell us nothing that anyone with a brain couldn't work out for themselves.


cassilis said...

Not sure that's fair Nich. If the statistics are doing nothing but pointing out the obvious then why have successive progressive governments refused to take cognisance of them when legislating on social policy?

A tax incentive that supports marriage isn't about 'forcing' or even 'encouraging' individual couples to make a different decision about whether or not to get married - that decision will be made largely on the basis of love, compatibility etc.

It IS about the state signalling it's support for people who make that decision and making sure resources are directed to those circumstances where children's welfare is paramount and statistically better served.

Tristan said...


My favourite statistic is the one that says couples who cohabit and then marry are more likely to split up.

What this fails to account for is serial divorcees. There are people who live with someone, marry them, and then they break up. They do this over and over again. This really skews the statistics. Plus it fails to take into account religious and social aspects - some people may stay in bad relationships because they are expected to for religious or social reasons, not because the relationship is working.

Norfolk Blogger said...

It is like their daft conslusion that couples who have lived together long enough to realise they love each other and want to be committed to each other for the rest of their lives and, therefore, get married stand only a one in twelve chance of breaking up compared to couples who are just co-habiting and have not made that commitment yet, who stand a 50% chance of breaking up.

It is all so blindingly obvious I am surprised the Tories didn't also highlight that bears DO shit in the woods an the Pope IS a Catholic !

Anonymous said...

Nobody will talk about CLASS anymore. None of these stats were checked out for a correlation with income - POOR people are more likely to split up, which isn't surprising given the pressure that poverty puts on relationships.

But then I suppose that might mean they'd have to do something about poverty level wages, destitution level benefits and criminally high private sector rents, among other things.