Interpreting Data

26 Sep

It is a myth that data speaks for itself. The analyst speaks for the data. The analyst chooses what questions to ask, what analyses to run, and how they are interpreted and summarized.

I use excerpts from a paper by Gilliam et al. on the media portrayal of crime to walk through one set of choices made by a group of analysts. (The excerpts also highlight the need for reading a paper fully than relying on the abstract alone.)


From Gilliam et al.; Abstract.

White Violent Criminals Are Overrepresented

From Gilliam et al.; Bottom of page 10.

White Nonviolent Criminals Are Overrepresented

From Gilliam et al.; first paragraph on page 12

Relative Underrepresentation Between Violent and Nonviolent Crime is a Problem

From Gilliam et al.; Last paragraph on page 12
From Gilliam et al.; First paragraph on page 13

Compare the above with the following figure and interpretation from Reaching Beyond Race by Sniderman and Carmines. Rather than focus on the middle two peaks: 28 vs. 43, Sniderman and Carmines write: “we were struck by the relative absence of racial polarization.” (Added on 10/4/2023)