Monday, June 18, 2012

Stats and Father's and Father's Day Stats

I spent most of yesterday driving back from somewhere on the Pennsylvania/Maryland/West Virginia border, so I didn't have time to do a proper Father's Day post.  I did call my dad though, so I guess I get half credit.

I wanted to do a post for my father, because he's pretty responsible for my love of stats.  If someone uncovers a stats gene some day, I got that from him too.  He's the only other person I know who truly finds numbers and stats a great way to unwind.  He's also the first person who I ever remember telling me to be more careful about how I read research.

As I recall, I was probably about 13 or 14, and someone had just told me that those from lower socioeconomic classes tended to score lower on the SATs.  I repeatedly this to my father, as I was outraged as only a teenage girl can be.  My father stopped me immediately and started explaining to me that socioeconomic status is not random, and therefore this may not be as bad as it looked.  College educated people would be likely to earn more and to also have children more likely to perform well on the SATs.  Whether this was a product of genetics or a general household emphasis, both nature and nurture would likely be stacked in favor of higher incomes.  We then had a nice long talk about school districts and testing bias, but he cautioned me strongly to remember that even if those situations were made perfectly equitable, higher income kids would like still score higher.  

It's not often that a single conversation changes your outlook so completely, but that one did.  Here we are a decade and a half later, and looking for faults in studies is still a good chunk of what goes through my head on a daily basis.  Luckily for me, I had lots of people in my life who valued truth and intellectual integrity over agenda, but my dad is the first one I remember pushing this in a way that stuck.  

My Dad is the best example I have of someone who would actually repeat or acknowledge research that contradicted his own personal beliefs.  He taught us that a win doesn't count if you have to distort the truth to get there.  I am eternally grateful for my Dad, and all the things he added to my life, statistically and otherwise.

To show my thanks, Dad, here are some numbers for you:

These show how important it is to have a dad.  
This is some census data about dads in America.
Here's a link to the Sabermetrics for the current Red Sox team.

So happy Father's Day dad, I sincerely hope that your emotional and mental state were at least one standard deviation above the median on a normalized scale.  Preferably two, even when adjusted for weekend vs weekday averages.


  1. That was a wonderful father's day gift! Thank you for the kind words!

  2. I agree. That is a stunningly good gift. Your first-child guilt shows early in the post, and I hate to inform you that you have just screwed yourself. You will never top this.

    As you are presenting the first grandchild, however, much will be forgiven. Not fair, but true. Your siblings will be playing catch-up the rest of their lives unless you do something deeply offensive.

    1. You forget, I'm the same daughter who nominated my mom to carry the Olympic torch for the 2002 winter games as an "every day hero who inspires" basically Mother's Day has been a let down for almost 10 years. It happens. I just count on natural charm to get me through.

    2. Yeah, you shot your bolt early in both cases.