Can we take The Economist seriously?

I’ve recently read an article from The Economist newspaper (reprinted in a Czech newspaper) about global positive changes of the world. Let’s look at some arguments presented in the beginning of the article.

They say that number of people with income of one dollar per day or less has strongly decreased in China during the last 25 years. No mention whether the “one dollar per day” is just a term for a standard comparable unit of what you can buy for your basic living or whether it should be taken as actual monetary income and thus it doesn’t say anything because what you could buy for one dollar in (different areas of) China 25 years ago and what you can buy for it now is likely to be very different.

Another argument was that the number of children dying before the age of 5 has decreased by one quarter worldwide since 1990. As I don’t have any idea how many small children survived, I don’t know whether the decrease was achieved by improvement of health care, living conditions, etc. or perhaps just by reduced birth rate. Neither I understand why global changes are once demonstrated by data from China and next time by worldwide data.

I didn’t bother to read the rest of the article. Improper use of relative and absolute numbers and careless mixing of different sources is either ignorance or manipulation. The article was an excellent demonstration of the saying that with enough statistical data you can prove anything. This doesn’t necessarily mean the conclusions are wrong, they are just based on void inputs; whatever they would say and conclude could be “proven” using such methods.

The shame is such a stupid article could be printed in a media which are probably willing to be taken seriously. It reminds us that we should be careful about all inputs and conclusions presented in newspapers.

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