Free PDF of a New Book – “A Better Politics,” by Danny Dorling

“To make a real difference we need to shift common sense, change the terms of debate and shape a new political terrain.” – Doreen Massey (2015)

thewealthparade

When people look back on their lives, they often wish they had done things differently.

They wish they had not had to amass such debts, especially in paying for education. They wish one particular relationship had not ended, or that they had been with someone else.

They wish they had become a parent. They wish they had said goodbye to their loved ones properly before they died. And they wish that they had not had to worry so much through so much of their life about so many issues that they later realized were quite trivial.

This book is based on a few ideas that began with the findings of one academic paper published a decade ago, using data from a decade before that.

Those findings are being extrapolated forwards, and I have thrown in many ideas that are buzzing around academia, in books and articles, and reported in newspapers, magazines and elsewhere on the Internet. In all cases I try to give the most accessible source – one that is not hidden behind a paywall – in the endnotes to the book.

Most ideas in the book are not polished ideas and will need rethinking before coming to fruition. Inevitably, some will turn out to be stupid. What is certain is that there is no shortage of ideas and choices.

But before we adopt any ideas, we can all benefit from stepping back and asking what matters most – and why we appear to have forgotten to do this more in the countries, like the UK and the US, that are the most unequal. Then, and only then, can we ask what we should do about it.

Danny Dorling, 22nd March, 2016 on giving Radstats a free digital copy of his book, A Better Politics: How Government Can Make Us Happier.

Radical Statistics Issue 113

Radical Statistics Issue 113 is now online. Below is the Editorial:

cover 113Following the publication of the two general competition winners in the last issue of Radical Statistics, this issue includes the two winners of the 2014 student essay competition. The winner, Clara Musto, embarks on a critical analysis of the ‘gateway hypothesis’, i.e. cannabis as a stepping stone drug. She does so by focusing on Uruguay, where cannabis was recently decriminalised. In her essay, Geraldine Clark, who came second place in the student competition, focuses on higher education and more specifically the expectations and aspirations of non-traditional students at a post-1992 University. The essay provides new knowledge about the role of habitus and capital in explaining these students’ expectations and aspirations and adds to our understanding of these in relation to the widening participation across social classes and socioeconomic backgrounds in the UK.

The theme of widening participation in UK universities is continued by Vikki Boliver. Vikki examines the recent Russell Group publication Opening Doors and shows that the claims made here about widening access in our most elite universities do not stand up to scrutiny. Rather these institutions remain unrepresentative and this has changed little over the last decade.

In his article John Veit-Wilson unpicks the claims of UK Chancellor, George Osborne, to be introducing a ‘living wage’. John highlights the differences between this fictitious ‘living wage’ and the living wage as calculated on the basis of a decency level. The article demonstrates problems relating to measurement ownership and difficulties that emerge when the naming of a measure becomes political.

Included in this issue is also a set of reports from the 2015 Radical Statistics Conference that was themed Good Data, Good Policy. These include a conference report from the organisers, two of the concluding reflections, by Ludi Simpson and Alison Macfarlane, which address the past and future of Radical Statistics, and a workshop report by Ludi Simpson and Nissa Finney in which they imagine what a community agenda around race statistics would look like.

Rachel Lara Cohen
Trude Sundberg
Eileen Magnello
Larry Brownstein
Email: editors@radstats.org.uk

Welcome to York

We are all set, and looking forward to welcoming you in York!
Our weekend base is the Priory Street Centre (PSC, Priory Street, YO1 6ET). We will be there from 8.30 am Friday till 2pm or so on Sunday. You can leave luggage etc. there at your own risk.
Our main pub location will be the Brigantes pub (100m away from PSC, at 114 Micklegate, opposite the end of Priory Street). We have reserved their upper room from 5pm till closing time on both Friday and Saturday. However, we will not necessarily be there all the time, as food and drinks will also be available at the PSC (payment by donation: suggested minimum £6 for food; £1+ per drink; non-alcoholic drinks free).
Hot food (lasagne etc.) will arrive at PSC at 7pm each evening. I have ordered 20 portions. If you are arriving later on Friday and want one kept for you, please let me know.
I tried to arrange social events (group meal, Dave Rovics gig, pub quiz) but all of them were voted down or did not get support. But we hope to have music (maybe live, maybe dead) – so please bring CDs etc. (Is there anybody who wants to take charge of music? – Please let me know!)
At 10.30 on Sunday we shall set out for a 90-minute guided tour of York. This will reach places that other tours do not reach. The weather forecast is good! If you’d like to come on this, please pay an extra £2 when you check in and make sure your name is marked “Walk”. Equally, if you want to book a Saturday evening meal, please pay an extra £6 and mark your name “Meal”.
If you have not yet booked for the conference THERE IS STILL TIME! Please either book on the website or JUST TURN UP!!
Looking forward to seeing you.
JOHN BIBBY (Local Arrangements Commissar)

Workshop on Future Radstats Publications

Come to York for the Radstats conference on Saturday, 27 February 2016

Statistics of crisis in UK and EU

and one day earlier for a workshop to discuss

Future Radical Statistics publications

Friday, 26 February 12:00 – 6:00 pm (in the same venue as the conference)
Please email RS2020@radstats.org.uk if you would like to come for the meeting.There will also be evening social events open to all in the same venue.

Background

The Radical Statistics 2015 conference triggered several suggestions regarding future RadStats publications. A followup discussion took place in October. View the report of this meeting and the papers discussed.

The proposals have now been distilled down to just two. Click on links for detail.

  1. Radical Statistics in the 2020s (RS2020)
  2. Statistics for Radical Change (SRC): A Handbook for Community and Political Activists

Future developments will be posted on the Activity page of this website.

Posted on behalf of John Bibby, Jeff Evans, Humphrey Southall and Rachel Cohen.

 

Radical Statistics 112 Editorial

Issue 112 of Radical Statistics includes the winner and runner-up in the 2014 Radical Statistics essay competition (open entry) and features a host of articles on topics as diverse as a 19th century radical German demographer, deprivation in a former mining area in Yorkshire and official statistics in Norway. As such it nicely highlights the range of topics that can be subjected to a radical statistics perspective!

The essay by the first prize winner, Elisabeth Garratt, provides an excellent overview of the rise in foodbanks in the UK. This is an area that has received growing policy and media attention. This essay highlights that increased use of food aid is cannot be explained by its growing acceptability or people taking advantage of charity, but rather is associated with growing food insecurity. The essay also usefully outlines what different types of data can, and cannot, tell us about food insecurity. The second placed essay, by Dr Pauline McGovern, provides a highly engaging take on the use of path analysis. In her essay she makes use of creative and engaging metaphors and research on the effect of former occupation on the health of retired people. The essay is an excellent example of how we can present statistics in an immediate and creative way. Look out for the two student competition winning essays, which will be featured in the next issue of Radical Statistics.

The issue continues with two articles that, in different ways, examine area-level statistics. The first, by Sinead D’Silva and Paul Norman, explores the utility of administrative data in producing a simple scale of ‘social stress’ at the area level. Focusing on areas in Doncaster that have suffered coal mine closure, and consequent job loss and deprivation, they show that a relatively simple scale, constructed from publically available area-level data, provides a surprisingly good proxy for more complex Indices of Multiple Deprivation. The second article, by Mark A Green and Mark Strong, focuses on health-related quality of life (HRQoL). They note that it can be difficult to illustrate the impact of neighbourhood deprivation on HRQoL. As such they propose a novel solution: using BMI (a summary of weight that is socially meaningful) when explaining epidemiological effects to lay audiences. For instance, enabling us to see the approximate equivalence, in terms of HRQoL, of individual morbid obesity and living in a deprived neighbourhood.

The article by Asle Rolland engages with an important debate regarding the independence of official statistics. The article highlights crucial dimensions related to independence, and the desirability and potential limitations of independence, drawing on empirical examples and references to common practice, regulations as well as underlying philosophical principles. Continuing the focus on official statistics, albeit in this instance, their unavailability, Frank and Sarah Houghton, explore the health situation in Ireland, arguing that it is highly correlated with poverty, but that it is difficult to show this with any precision due to insufficient information, the tendency of the Irish government to restrict access to what information exists and diminishing regulation and data oversight. They suggest that there is no clear and transparent health funding model and the Irish health care delivery system is in a dire state, especially for the impoverished.

The final article is a biography of radical statistician Robert René Kuczynski (1876-1947). Kuczynski was a German economist, demographer and one of the founders of modern German vital statistics. As an urban statistician he investigated the housing conditions of the working population. He also was a proponent of democracy in Weimar Germany, but in 1933 he had to leave Germany and settled in England where he lectured in demography at the LSE, and later became a demographic adviser to the Colonial Office.

Issue 112 returns to contemporary issues to conclude with two brief comments by Christina Beatty and Alison Macfarlane. These highlight the British government’s increasing insistence that academic partners destroy data within an (overly) restrictive timescale.

Finally, a reminder that Radical Statistics welcomes your contributions. If you have either a full-length article or a brief comment that you would like to contribute, or if you are interested in reviewing a book that you believe is of potential interest to Radical Statistics’ readers, please get in touch with us at editors@radstats.org.uk.
Further information about how to submit is also available at: www.radstats.org.uk/journal

Rachel Lara Cohen, Trude Sundberg, Eileen Magnello, Larry Brownstein

Special Issue 111 Editorial: Is Britain Pulling Apart?

This issue includes four articles based around the theme of the Radical Statistics conference in March 2014 all discussing topics related to the questions – Is Britain Pulling Apart? It concludes with two comment pieces, one a response to Gorad’s paper that appeared in Radstats 110 and one that focuses on the academic boycott of Israel.
We begin with a contribution by Daniel Silver. He discusses and criticises the use of ward-level statistics of poverty, and shows how these may be used to disguise issues related to poverty levels. His contribution draws on important evidence from a project by the Open Society Foundation, “Understanding Europe’s White Working Class Communities”, which carried out a comparative study across six European cities.

Nissa Finney then turns a critical eye to ethnic segregation. She begins by revealing that, contrary to much news commentary, there has been increased ethnic mixing, not segregation, over the last decade. Moreover, statements about ‘white flight’ from areas of ethnic diversity are not substantiated. Instead she identifies processes of demographic change (differential birth and death rates) and constraints on economic choice, including some ethnic groups’ reliance on the private rental market, as drivers of specific pockets of segregation.

Nigel de Noronha continues the focus on housing. He analyses social class polarisation in Britain with a particular emphasis on those living alone in the private rented sector. By analysing the patterns and trends in solo living in the private rented sector and how do they vary across different neighbourhoods he finds that there has been a polarisation in this area where those from higher classes often live in their own property, whilst younger people are more likely to live in private rented houses. Routine and unemployed classes on the other hand are more likely to live in social housing.

Roger Seifert’s article looks at the political and social background to calls for a ‘living wage’ as opposed to a ‘fair wage’. He highlights growing social inequality and the declining share of national wealth going to workers. Using a wealth of historic and contemporary data and analyses, he argues that contrary to previous political and economic action around ‘fair wages’, the idea of a living wage represents a serious challenge to the confines of market-based thinking. This is because ‘fairness’, erroneously presupposes that a market system based on structurally unequal power can be fair, while demands for a living wage necessitates political action and state intervention.

In a critical comment Larry Brownstein responds to Stephen Gorard’s suggested Trustworthiness scale outlined in the previous issue of Radical Statistics’ journal. He argues in favour for the use of such a scale, however, sees potential issues and errors in Gorard’s discussion, and in particular with the way in which Gorard approaches confidence intervals.

The final commentary is by Jonathan Rosenhead. He makes the case for statisticians, along with other academics, to participate in an academic boycott of Israeli institutions. Directly addressing arguments about exceptionalism and academic freedom, he highlights the institutional complicity of Israeli universities in systematic policies of ‘politicide’.
Our next issue of Radical Statistics will include prize-winners from the 2014 Radical Statistics Essay Competition. If you have an article or short comment piece that you think would be suitable for a future issue of Radical Statistics or ideas about a themed set of articles please get in touch with us.

Trude Sundberg
Rachel Lara Cohen
Larry Brownstein
Email: editors@radstats.org.uk

Radical Statistics 40th anniversary conference – 7 March, London

Radical Statistics

2015 Conference and AGM

Saturday 7 March, 2015

Conway hall, 25 REd Lion square, london WC1R 4RL

Coffee & registration 9:00 am. 9:15 start, 5:00 close. 5:15 AGM

Conference Theme: Good data, good policy? Taking place in the run-up to the May 2015 general Election, the conference will focus on public policy and its relationship with the availability of ‘good data’. We aim to address questions such as: How good is the data we have, and is it used well for policy-making? What are the possibilities for the production and democratic use of good statistics, and the threats to such developments?

View the full programme of talks and break-out sessions.

Further information here

Register via Eventbrite

Plus, thinking of coming along for the welcome reception?

Lucas Arms, 245A Grays Inn Rd, WC1X 8QY
Friday 6th March, 6:30-10:30 pm

A social, beginning with a review by economists Larry Brownstein & Julian Wells (7:15 – 8:30 pm) of the book Capital in the 21st Century (2013) by Thomas Piketty.

Suggestions for those who wish to read something beforehand:
1. the set of critiques published in Real World Economics, including  articles by Yanis Varoufakis (quite mathematical!) and by Ann Pettifor (et al.) who spoke at RadStats 2012:
http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue69/whole69.pdf

2. interview of Varoufakis by the head of the Henry George School:
http://yanisvaroufakis.eu/2014/12/03/discussing-thomas-pikettys-inequality-

Big Data, Big Claims: RSS meeting on Big Data, 19 Jan. 2015

On 19 January 2015, I attended the meeting on Big Data at the RSS. The speakers included: Kenneth Cukier (Data Editor at The Economist); Haishan Fu (Director of Development Data Group at the World Bank); Alex ‘Sandy’ Pentland (Professor at MIT and Academic Director of Data-Pop Alliance); Nuria Oliver (Scientific Director at Telefonica); John Pullinger (UK National Statistician), with Denise Lievesley (Dean of Faculty, King’s College) as Chair.

It is impossible to summarise the contributions or the excellent discussion, but here are some comments (recorded approximately) that give a flavour of the discussion.

Kenneth Cukier: “Big Data allows data to be produced as frequently as is needed, not at the convenience of the producers.”

Haishan Fu: “The WB’s aim is to support national data producers and to incentivise the private sector … with a particular aim to help poorer countries ‘leap-frog’ to catch up”.

Nuria Oliver: “Access to data from phone systems allows inferences, at macro levels about responses to large-scale flooding, and at individual levels about the socio-economic status of the user or their likely responses on a range of social issues.”

Sandy Pentland: “Having access to more data will allow us to solve more problems … data [ownership? / access?] should be decentralised to the citizen.”

John Pullinger: “Big Data provides a wake-up call, and an opportunity, for our statistical institutions.”

At the end of the session, the Chair, Denise Lievesley, asked for reactions from the audience, in terms of what we would take away from the meeting. My reaction was that the discussion had made me realise, even more strongly, that statisticians (along with others) over the years have refined a number of crucial ideas, based on a sense of methodological quality (or validity). These relate to several issues.

First, causality is to be distinguished from correlation. This can of course be accomplished by RCT designs, as well as by carefully-controlled and replicated non-experimental studies.

Second, it is important to appreciate how the available indicators have been constructed and understood by the human beings (or processes) producing them. Hence John Pullinger’s timely offer of a course in questionnaire design to one of the “Big Data-enthusiasts” on the panel.

Third, the data analyst also needs knowledge of how the sample before us has been selected, and attenuated by various forms of non-response.

These three methodological concerns are not always fully acknowledged by enthusiasts for big data. An era when “Big Data” is being extensively hyped will produce additional challenges for statisticians re. data management and data analysis. These are already being addressed by inter-disciplinary teams many in universities and organisations. But there is no reason for statisticians to be reticent about the contributions they can make to these clearly important debates.

Jeff Evans