Tuesday, October 08, 2019

The Importance of Providing Context for Data

Data in Everyday Life: How Serious is the Student Loan Debt Crisis?

Did you know that 1 in 4 Americans have student loan debt? In the United States, there are more than 44 million people who collectively owe $1.56 trillion in student loans.

I thought 25% seemed too high. Thankfully this post also provides the number, 44 million. The USA population is currently estimated at 330 million. 44 million is closer to 14% than 25%. My guess is that the 25% is of some subset of the USA population (people between certain ages maybe)?

I think a point about the importance of providing the proper context when showing data has also been made in this post. There is certainly a sensible argument for why 25% of certain ages is a more useful figure for understanding how widespread student debt is (rather than saying 14% those in the USA have student debt). But in the case where that decision is made the details should be spelled out.

Related: Operational Definitions and Data Collection - Data Can’t Lie (data can be wrong) - Poorly Stratified Data Leads to Mistakes in Analysis - Understanding Data

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