The Trouble With Statistics

wooden lettersDespite what the left-brain types may want you to believe, numbers are as slippery as anything.

Case in point: According to Forbes, Hartford, Conn., is the 10th-best city to find a job.

Except, notes the Hartford Advocate, “Hartford’s booming job market is even more impressive considering that it was just last month when Forbes called the city 17th worst in the nation to look ‘for jobs this winter.’ For those of you playing along at home, that means Hartford leapfrogged 23 ranking slots in just about 21 days.”

But back in November, Hartford was the 5th best city to find work.

What gives?

Well, turns out the three lists use different sources for their claims, “though the two articles are packaged with virtually the same appearance — a handy and easily digestible ‘top-10 list’,” says the Advocate.

The articles list the data sources, but don’t mention that the results can fluctuate or refer back to earlier Forbes coverage proclaiming the opposite viewpoint. Should they?

According to Forbes Spokesperson Alexandra Talty, who spoke with the Advocate, no.

“We believe that the Forbes reader understands these kinds of statistics, and understands that if you look at one thing, you can come up with one answer, and if you look at a different thing, you could come up with a different answer,” she told the Advocate.

As we said. Numbers are slippery.