Lessons & Questions on: Economics


Percentages, the Swiss Army Knife of Comparison

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One of the quickest ways to become a smart consumer of statistics is to translate raw numbers into percentages, and raw increases into percentage gain. Percentages are not just an alternate way to present a statistic. They can give you a broader sense of the relative size of the statistic you are looking at. They […]

Activity Following “Surrogate Outcomes”

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Focused question: While “surrogate outcomes” and “clinical outcomes” are terms generally used in medicine, the same concept can be applied to a wide range of disciplines. Come up with the equivalent of a “surrogate outcome” and its corresponding “clinically meaningful outcome” for each of the following disciplines: Education Economics/Economy Politics  


Activity: New Housing Starts Graph

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The following graph is from Architect Magazine. The caption reads: “The construction boom of the 2000s often cited as the reason for the boom in housing prices doesn’t break precedent—or break records. At a time when U.S. population growth was slower, the 1970s saw two housing booms that produced more housing starts than the 2000s. The high […]


Glossary: Median Household Income

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  Adapted from Wikipedia; see Wikipedia for references and additional explanation. Please note that some of this definition may be specific to the U.S. The median household income is commonly used to generate data about geographic areas and divides households into two equal segments with the first half of households earning less than the median […]


Zero-day Comparisons

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Game of Thrones, Season 2 is getting illegally downloaded. A lot. In fact, it’s on track to be the most pirated show of 2012, and maybe 2011 as well: Maybe that’s interesting to you, maybe not. Here’s what’s interesting to me: notice the horizontal axis of the graph. What this represents is number of days […]


Activity: New Buildings Per Person

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Did overbuilding houses lead to the recession? Matthew Yglesias shows this graph to demonstrate that overbuilding wasn’t the problem: He explains: On the general subject of recession myths, here’s another statistical look at the myth that the speculative boom in land prices led to some kind of crazy amount of overinvestment in houses. What we […]


3 + C: Deficit Reduction

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  From http://www.dartmouth.edu/~benv/files/poll%20responses%20by%20party%20ID.pdf YouGov interviewed 1056 respondents who were then matched down to a sample of 1000 to produce the final dataset. The respondents were matched on gender, age, race, education, party identification, ideology, and political interest. YouGov then weighted the matched set of survey respondents to known marginal for the general population of the […]

europe and us

Activity: French Billionaires

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From Forbes: Bringing Up Bebe? No Thanks. I’d Rather Raise a Billionaire Quick: Name a French billionaire. Now name one who is self-made. A bit harder, non? According to the Forbes World’s Billionaires List, published today, France has sixteen billionaires. The U.S. boasts far more: 425. And a great number of those American billionaires, from Bill Gates (No. […]


Activity: Labeling Restaurant Food

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After nutritional labeling went into effect in New York City, a large sample of people were polled about how the label affected their behavior — 27% reported the new labels influenced their behavior, and 10% of people reported purchasing fewer calories as a result. However, when researchers looked at the average amount of calories purchased […]