Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The AP, CNN, Damn Lies and Statistics

Gotta love those professional editors at I know this is minor but I see this stuff all the time. Check out the headline from an online article at

American life expectancy longer than ever

  • Story Highlights
  • U.S. life expectancy rises to almost 78 years in 2005
  • Drop in deaths from heart disease, strokes led to rise
  • U.S. still lags behind at least 40 other countries
  • Spain has longest life expectancy, at 83.5 years
Take note of the final bullet point... Now read the last paragraph verbatim:

The United States continues to lag behind at least 40 other nations. Andorra, a tiny country in the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain, has the longest life expectancy, at 83.5 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Japan, Macau, San Marino and Singapore ranked second, third, fourth and fifth.

This is an example of lazy editors. Some one at (either human or machine) glanced over this article and gleaned that "Spain,
has the longest life expectancy, at 83.5 years, " and then wrote the summary for the bullet points. However in truth Andorra is the country that has the longest life expectancy, at 83.5 years, not Spain.

Minor, I know. But the other thing that gets me is how they claim that life expectancy for Americans is nearly 78 years, the longest in U.S. history. Good news right? Then the little dig - we still lag behind 3 dozen other countries. The next paragraph starts out: More bad news: The annual number of U.S. deaths rose from 2004 to 2005... What was the previous bad news? That we lag behind other countries? So what. Gee, if we were number one we would be blamed for taking all resources of the world so that our people could be number one. But I digress.

Comparing these U.S. stats against static homogeneous countries that don't have millions of immigrants pouring across their borders every year is disingenuous. It's apples and oranges.

Oh well, keep your filters on. Read between the lines. U. S. bad, everyone else good.



Anonymous said...

I read some where (a t-shirt perhaps) that 73.4% of all statistics are made up on the spot.