### Don’t Be Fooled by the Mean (or How to Avoid Absurd Statistical Claims in Your PR and Market Research Surveys)

An article in The New Yorker claimed that a hundred years ago most Americans died in their mid-fifties. Alas, they were fooled by a statistic and the claim is not true.

### A Better Way to Get Census Data

The U.S. Census is one of the most useful tools for research and marketing because it tells you how many people fit specific demographic profiles and where they live. It started out as a simple count of how many people live in each state in order to allocate congressional seats. But it has since become a rich…

### Forget the Math — For Good Sampling You Need Equality, Inclusion, and Representation

In basic stats class, all of us learned about the importance of random sampling. It provides the foundation for the iron-clad mathematics of estimation, statistical significance, and margins of error. But the problem in social science, market research, and opinion polling is that random sampling (sometimes referred to as probability sampling) almost never exists. So…

Customizing MaxDiff exercises by piping in text from previous survey answers might seem like a good idea, but analyst beware: if you are estimating individual-level scores using hierarchical Bayes or latent class analysis, you must split the data into subsets before you calculate the scores. Your results will be nonsense otherwise. Here is the scenario…

### Statistically Significant Sample Sizes

There are no magic numbers for sample size. There is no such thing as a statistically significant sample. Unfortunately, those two words—statistically significant—are bandied about with such abandon that they are quickly losing their meaning. Even people who should know better (the data wonks at Google Surveys should know better, right?) are saying ridiculous things…

### Data Geniuses Who Predict the Past

If there is one thing I hope you remember from your college statistics class, it’s this: Correlation does not imply causation. This is especially important to remember in our world of big data. Any large dataset will have hundreds of thousands of correlations, but most of those correlations will reflect purely random occurrences that mean…

### A Fun and Easy Way to Try R

Data wonks have more fun than you may think. If you have not yet begun working with the R statistical program (which is mesmerizing, extremely powerful, hard to learn, but weirdly intuitive, and FREE) then here is a fun and relatively easy way to give it a test drive. It is becoming a tradition that,…

### Election Season’s Dumb Statistics

A favorite pastime in my household is to laugh at the absurd statistics our local weatherman conjures up to make his reports sound dramatic, scientific, and driven by a deep analysis of data. Things like, “These are the first three consecutive days since 1989 of 90+ degree temperatures following an immediately preceding four-week string of…

### Hurdles to Using Big Data

Last year, Gartner, which charts new trends and emerging technologies via its “Hype Cycle” tracking, decided to abandon its tracking of Big Data. The reason? Big data, they said, has become so ubiquitous and embedded in so many other technologies, that it is no longer a thing of its own. And yet, how many of…

### No, You’re Not a Data Scientist

The hottest new job title invading the world of market research is “data scientist.” It has many of us starting to wonder, aren’t we all data scientists? Whether quantitative or qualitative, we spend most of our time collecting, manipulating, interpreting, and presenting data. Our methods are grounded in social science. Put the two together and…