Whoopee, it’s World Statistics Day at last. ...said no one, ever.
But maybe we should. As the sheer amount of statistics available to us continues to grow exponentially in the digital age, experts are arguing that we can use this information to make the world a better place.
The UK’s National Statistician John Pullinger argued that we’re “living through a data revolution”. He said that being able to understand the statistics that surround us is key, and can “help us make good choices” - not just as individuals, but for the country as a whole.
One thing we all seem to have an odd predilection for is falling back on misconceptions and form mistaken opinions around these. And for some reason (maybe we’re just a miserable lot), we often think things are worse than they really are.
Superstar statistician Hans Rosling is one of those fighting a (thankless?) constant battle for us to embrace a more fact-based world view.
So here are some key facts that you’re probably getting wrong, to celebrate World Statistics Day and brighten up your Tuesday.
1. The UK has far fewer benefit fraudsters than you think
It turns out we haven’t the foggiest how the British population is made up. We think the amount of welfare money being claimed fraudulently is 34 times more than it really is.
We also grossly overestimate the proportion of immigrants, teenage pregnancies, and unemployment, among, well, a whole lot of other things, according to an Ipsos-Mori survey about our mistaken perceptions.
2. The world is on course to end poverty in the next 15 years
Ending extreme poverty is one of the UN’s millennium goals, and you’ll be pleased to hear we’re actually on track for success. The below chart, showing what proportion of the world is living in extreme poverty (currently defined as less than $1.90 per day) is based on data from Max Roser for Our World in Data.
Crime is probably lower than you think it is
More than half of us think that violent crime is rising. But crime has actually fallen by 53 per cent in the past twenty years, according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales. Just in the years between 2006 and 2012, violent crime is down from over 2.5m to under 2m incidents.
4. More of us are living in democracies than ever before
The turn of the millennium marked the first time that more than half of the world’s population was living in a democracy. This chart once again, comes from Our World in Data.
5. And finally, we’re all spending less time at work
Good news, everyone! We’re becoming more productive all the time, and this means we can spend less and less time working.