Department of Awful Statistics
Six months ago, I visited North Carolina’s state treasurer, Janet Cowell – the only Democrat in the administration now – and met with citizen advocates.. Our trip had impact, on us at least. On the plane coming home my colleague turned to me shell shocked, “How can it be legal to have so much poverty in such a wealthy state?”
Ask two questions: How rich is the state? And what percentage of its children live in poverty? That’s a working definition of good fiscal policy…. Let’s look at North Carolina. It is the 39th richest state, and yet it ranks 12th for the percentage of children living in poverty – only 11 states fare worse.
Um, ma’am….if it is the 39th richest state, that means it’s the 12th poorest state. That means there are 11 states that are poorer. And if it is the 12th for percentage of children living in poverty….then again there are 11 states that are poorer. It’s exactly the same proportion, not out of line at all. What’s with this “And yet…” thing you got going?
Theresa Ghilarducci seems to be a veritable fountain of strange metrics. I didn’t think much of her book because of that; as I recall, she spends a lot of time straining to avoid obvious calculations, in favor of exotic ones that purport to prove that we can and should spend oceans more money on social security. But this is incredibly weird, even by her standards.