Monday, July 02, 2007

Statistical ignorance scores a win for sinophobia

Fueling sinophobic hysterics the most emailed story at nytimes.com earlier this week was a story entitled “As More Toys Are Recalled, Trail Ends in China” accompanies by the typically shoddy economics in the NYtimes Economix column.

Both stories are based on the statistic that China is responsible for 60 percent of all product recalls (Time magazine in a similar story this week reports 48% but whatever). And argue that China and the evils of outsourcing is the source of this menace. Of course this next paragraph in the article provides the useful statistic that China actually produces 80% of the toys sold in the US.

Though these statistics don’t quite match up (one is for products, one is for toys), assuming they did, then elementary statistics would tell you that Chinese products are safer on average than toys produced elsewhere. If you’re producing 80% of the toys, but are responsible for only 50% of the recalls, that must mean you are potentially twice as safe as other companies.

Anyway, a long line of really bad reporting at the nytimes, though partially redeemed by their surprisingly excellent balanced reporting on poverty.
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