The Joy of Stats, and some less joyous stats

The Joy of Stats, and some less joyous stats

Mike Steedle
December 30, 2010
Miscellany, Reading, Visualization

Hans Rosling‘s The Joy of Stats is now available in its entirety on YouTube, via FlowingData:


You may recognize Rosling from his 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes video, which has gotten a lot of press – on the Internet, at least.

This dovetails nicely with the classic How to Lie with Statistics, which I just read over Christmas. It re-sharpened my eye towards deceptive visual representations, and not a day after finishing it did I see some intellectually dishonest charts on The Heritage Foundation’s Top Ten Charts of 2010.  Their #1 is pretty egregious – see if you can guess why:


3 thoughts on “The Joy of Stats, and some less joyous stats

  1. Why not compare the amount of money made by the top 1% instead of the number of people in the top 1% to what they pay in taxes? The caption makes claims about tax progressivity, yet nothing about the progressiveness of our tax system can be derived from the data presented. For all the reader knows, the top 1% could earn 40% of the income and the top 10% could earn 71% of the income.

    Additionally, looking at some of the other charts at the link, #6 should show percentage of income rather than inflation-adjusted dollars and #8 should show tax revenue as a percentage of GDP rather than inflation-adjusted dollars.

    In short, there is some spin to make the data appear to support the points the Heritage Foundation is attempting to make better than they actually do. I’m not commenting on the underlying arguments, themselves. Rather, I am pointing out that these charts can be misleading and may not do anything to support the organization’s claims, to discriminating readers.

  2. Indeed.

    Sure, while it is factually correct that top 1% paid about 40% of taxes, the slide ignores that fact they the top 1% also takes in 20% of all income with an average adjusted gross income AGI of $1.7 million. Not too shabby.

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