Realist, not conformist analysis of the latest financial, business and political news

Bad Statistics About Coronavirus

From our Swindon correspondent:

 

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So, the government and Public Health England (PHE) are banging on about this uptick in road traffic. Bear in mind, the main person talking about this is Professor Yvonne Doyle, a qualified doctor and medical director at PHE.
It would be comforting in these times to have people who one thought had a good grasp of statistics in government, maybe a transport minister who understands traffic patterns who can talk to one of the 18,000 minions working with him to see if there might be a reason before tweeting about it.
Anyone who understands stats knows that you don’t base anything on 1 data point. Maybe there’s a freak reason for it. There’s never a need to get worried. People running anything should know that. “OK, that’s odd”. Make a cup a tea and come back to it the next day and see if it’s still happening.

But I suspect this can be dismissed by something we all know very well: the roads are generally busier on Mondays. That uptick is from Sunday to Monday. If you look closely, it’s roughly where Thursday and Friday the previous week were. This is normal. This is why the congestion charge doesn’t apply on weekends: London’s congestion problem is mostly Monday to Friday.

Now, OK, this hasn’t been seen for a few weeks, but I suspect this effect has been masked by more and more people switching to working from home, but at a certain point, you’re going to hit a base level which includes only the necessary workers, and for a lot of them, they still skew towards Monday to Friday. Your bins are collected on a weekday, farmers markets take place on weekdays, you won’t get a PC repaired on a weekend and so forth.

Seriously, why do we hand over a combined £8.7bn to PHE and the DoT when they can’t do stats properly?
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jgh
jgh
1 year ago

There was exactly the same uptick exactly 14 days ago, also to exactly the same level as three days previously, also a rebound from a weekend dip. They should be using something like 3-day averages and ignoring the most recent three days.

Phoenix44
Phoenix44
1 year ago
Reply to  jgh

Or just a seven day moving average, so you always capture the weekend in the data.

jgh
jgh
1 year ago
Reply to  Phoenix44

And lo! The graph displayed two days later shows a continuing trend from the previous week.

John B
John B
1 year ago

‘Anyone who understands stats knows that you don’t base anything on 1 data point.’

Anyone who understands stats is not in Government. All Government policy is based on the datum that justifies it taking ever more power and control.

Itellyounothing
Itellyounothing
1 year ago
Reply to  John B

Government is Geography students, all the way down. Sometimes its called PPE or SPS, but it’s just posh Geography.

Spike
Spike
1 year ago

No, even Geography students learn stuff and take exams. Government is Grievance Studies grads. Sociology, perhaps.

Phoenix44
Phoenix44
1 year ago

Depends what you mean by government. There is a tiny number of MPs who did Maths, and only a slightly better number who did proper sciences. There are apparently twice as many History, Archeology and Anthropology graduates as Science grads.

Quentin Vole
Quentin Vole
1 year ago
Reply to  Phoenix44

Part of the explanation is that with a STEM degree, you can get a real job. With an arts degree, you’ve a choice (in decreasing order of remuneration) of management consultancy, politics, teaching or burger flipping. For those too dim for consultancy, wotcha gonna do?

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