Why Statistics Matter

1 Mar

It is no big secret to anyone that statistics was NOT my favourite course during my university career. However, I do recognize the importance of statistics. This is was clearly demonstrated to me when I read a report at a workshop for growing the informal employment sector in Botswana.

A study was done about the informal sector, and part of the study was based on the income levels of those working in the informal sector. The mean income was BWP 2,557.65 (or about $320) with a standard deviation of 7,202.41 – this high of a standard deviation means that the responses are very spread out over a large range of values (the minimum was BWP 0 and the maximum was BWP 60,000 – $7,500). BUT the mode (most frequently encountered response) was BWO 500 ($62.50). The quartile analysis was revealed a more clear picture: the mean incomes for the first, second and third quartiles were BWP 500, BWP 1,000 and P3,050 respectively.

So why does this matter? It gives a very clear explanation of how the mean does not necessarily give an accurate representation of the data. This is particularly important in a country like Botswana. Botswana is currently labeled as an upper-middle income country, with a GDP/capita of $16,800 (or BWP 134,400). However I can tell you from experience that this not reflect the reality of the situation in most of the country – particularly in remote, rural areas. And if more statistics were available, they would tell you (and all the donors that have pulled out of Botswana) too.

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One Response to “Why Statistics Matter”

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