“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)
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 is now online. Below is the Editorial:
Following 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
Many thanks to the organisers of Conference 2016 – Roy Car-Hill for an excellent programme and John Bibby & Jan Böhnke on local arrangements.
There were about 60 people attending the event in York.
You can view the 2016 Conference speakers’ presentations, pictures and a storify of tweets from the day at the conference page.
Come to York for the Radstats conference on Saturday, 27 February 2016
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.
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.
- Radical Statistics in the 2020s (RS2020)
- 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.
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.
Rachel Lara Cohen
This issue begins with two articles about the effect of demographic
change. Maria Sol Torres Minoldo turns a spotlight on Argentina,
while Alan Marshall, John Read, and James Nazroo focus on the
United Kingdom. Both pieces take issue with the argument, common
in the media and amongst politicians of all stripes, that an ageing
population is increasingly likely to constitute an unsustainable drain
on national resources. Specifically Minoldo produces considerable
data to show that the ‘dependency’ ratio (of ‘working adults’ to
‘pensioners’) is seriously flawed at assessing levels of real material
dependency in society. Marshall, Read and Nazroo decompose estimates of
population ageing. They show that, contrary to public discourse, older
age longevity accounts for only a small part of expected demographic
change, with the far larger part due to the ageing of the baby boom cohort.
As such population ageing may largely be a temporary, not permanent,
We follow this article with two reflections on the research process. In
the first Alan Sloan provides us with some qualitative reflections from
his work as a survey interviewer. He highlights the social context of
non-response and the emotional and practical ways that interviewers
respond. For many of us who work regularly with survey data this
reflection from the messy and human side of data collection serves as
a salutary reminder of the social uncertainty that data retain.
Following this, Stephen Gorard addresses the contentious issue of
how to assess the trustworthiness of evidence. His article produces a
framework to be used both by users and producers of research
evidence that enables a judgement-based star-rating of research
evidence. The framework emphasises design, sample size and quality,
data quality, fidelity of intervention, and threats to validity.
We finish the issue with four comment pieces addressing a diverse
range of contemporary issues – all of which in different ways highlight
the ways in which statistics and social policy are interwoven. The first
piece by Alison Macfarlane provides an overview of what has happened
with care.data, the proposed data linkage between GP and hospital
records. She shows that poor handling of the process and the huge
public resistance engendered has produced serious obstacles for
academic health research. Ludi Simpson then offers a cogent critique
of the ways in which segregation measures are used. He points out
that since there will always be some segregation these measures
provide ready grist for politicians seeking to ignite moral panics over
Boycott Workfare provides us with an important discussion of the
impact of and use of statistics to support the workfare policies forming
part of the government’s social policies. The comment is a critique of
workfare, forming part of the government’s austerity politics, which
involves a toughening of the treatment of and sanctions put on welfare
claimants. The edition ends with a discussion of abortion and abortion
statistics in Ireland by Frank Houghton. His comment exposes the
ways in which the Irish government and public institutions shy away
from openness around the actual number of abortions taking place in
a country which has been criticised for its restrictive abortion
With this issue of Radical Statistics we welcome Trude Sundberg, a
Social Policy expert from the University of Kent to the editorial team
and say goodbye and thank you to Alistair Greig who has been part of
the team for the past two years.
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 at editors @ radstats.org.uk.
Rachel Lara Cohen
The judges have chosen the following winners of the 2014 Critical Essay Competition which closed in July with decisions in Oct.
Two prizes each were awarded in the Student and the Open category.
The winning essays will appear in an upcoming issue of Radical Statistics in 2015.
1st: Clara Musto – On the gateway hypothesis
2nd: Geraldine Clark – Yearning to Earn or Yearning To Learn?
1st: Elisabeth Garrat – The rise in UK foodbanks: What can statistics tell us about the current landscape of food insecurity and food aid in the UK?
2nd: Pauline McGovern – Path Analysis for People who Hate Statistics
The award for first prize is £50 and the second of £30, both in book vouchers.
Congratulations to the prize winners!
Also, many thanks to the judges for making the 2014 Radstats Critical Essay Competition a success.
CALLING EVERYONE to enter the Radical Statistics Critical Essay Competition!
GET your essay published & WIN a book token
Submit an original essay that addresses a current social research/policy question with critical use & interpretation of relevant data sources (3,000 words max) by 1st July 2014
F i r s t p r i z e £ 5 0
S e c o n d p r i z e £ 3 0
Plus 1 year subscription membership to Radical Statistics (RadStats).
All winning essays will be published in the RadStats newsletter/journal.
Please tell students and others and post this flyer in your department or community.
There are two categories:
- Student*: undergraduate or postgraduate
- Open: any non-student
Your submission must be unpublished & unaided original work:
- either specifically produced for the competition
- or originating from your course of study or dissertation
Your essay could address a current social research policy/question with critical use & interpretation of relevant data sources, or be a critique of statistical methodology in an applied context.
Prizes will be awarded on the basis of readability, clear presentation of statistical material, critical perspective & convincing argument.
Essays do not necessarily have to involve statistical modelling, only critical use & interpretation of relevant data sources.
The deadline for submission is 1st July 2014
Judge’s decisions by 1st October 2014
Winning essays will be featured on the website & published in a special issue of Radical Statistics.
Enter by sending your essay, including full name, email & postal address, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Note: if entering in the student category, please provide university & details of essay origin when submitting (ie module details for coursework essays or whether the essay stems from an undergraduate, masters or PhD thesis).