Cooking the Books
September 23, 2002 9:27 AM   Subscribe

Cooking the Books The Office of National Statistics feels that the UK population is a little too small - so they're inventing one million people to fill the gap. Why did they do a census if they were going to make it all up?
posted by tabbycat (9 comments total)
Looks like they are using calcuable formulas to extrapolate missing data from people they did not count. Seems perfectly in line with necessary steps to ensure a proper count.
posted by benjh at 9:32 AM on September 23, 2002

Yup, this is a non-issue. next.
posted by zeoslap at 9:41 AM on September 23, 2002

I don't see how it's a non-issue.

The idea of the census is to collect empiracal data from which extrapolations can be made. Applying extrapolations necessarily based on older back into the data set is hardly what I would think of as good science. I have no problem with estimating how many people were uncounted, but the details have to be marked as unknown because, well, they're unknown. Maybe someone with a better knowledge of statistics as a way of measuring a population can help me out here.
posted by holycola at 10:12 AM on September 23, 2002

Curiously, all one million of these people recorded their religion as "Jedi Knight."
posted by jozxyqk at 10:14 AM on September 23, 2002

Holycola, it's a non-issue because this is a British rag that is shocked, shocked, about a practice that has been standard for more than 50 years. (The "deck" in "hot-deck imputation" is a deck of punch cards.)

There were some interesting legal questions about imputation, based upon the no-sampling decision by the Supremes, but they were resolved.

Sampling's a complex issue, and deserves to be talked about, but this article is sensationalist and deliberately naive.
posted by ptermit at 10:25 AM on September 23, 2002

what is going on with the uk? just last week the country went through a minor A-level grade fixing scandal whereby they altered an inordinate amount of british student's grades because they were too high and threw off the grade comparisons from last year.
posted by eatdonuts at 11:01 AM on September 23, 2002

This has been a political issue in this country, too, since legislative districts are determined by population. The Republicans made a great deal of political hay about it in the run-up to the 2000 elections.
posted by briank at 11:30 AM on September 23, 2002

Thanks for the pointers, ptermit. I'll read more about it as it still smells a bit off to me (especially with the contrast between sampling and enumeration). Also sorry all for the mangled syntax of my first post. Ugh. Nobody should have to read that on a Monday :)
posted by holycola at 12:13 PM on September 23, 2002

Anyone who knows one iota about statistics would tell you that this isn't "cooking the books"... far from it. It primarily gives new immigrants and the underclass the same right to be counted as those who have their own houses.

Admittedly, this underclass is less likely to vote, but just the fact that they are accounted for matters greatly, effecting the funding these areas receive.

Is it really in society's interest to not have as accurate a count as possible of those who are crammed into overcrowded slums or in need of housing and possibly medical assistance? Obviously, for some of those who would rather not address these social problems, the answer is yes.
posted by insomnia_lj at 3:03 PM on September 23, 2002

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