Archive for July, 2015

Mathematical Malpractice Watch: Inequality

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

Politico has a silly article up from Michael Lind, claiming that the South skews all the statistics for the country and that, without the South, our country would be in awesome shape. A typical example:

Economic inequality? Apart from California and New York, where statistics reflect the wealth of Wall Street, Hollywood and Silicon Valley, the South is the region with the greatest income inequality. Southern exceptionalism has helped to ensure that the American Dream is more likely to be realized in the Old World than in the New.

Yes … when we eliminate 60 million people from consideration, the statistics look good for our side! And let’s just ignore that whole Texas oil thing.

The thing is, the difference in inequality is something that you can measure. I looked at a population-weighted mean gini index for various subsets of states. States that voted for Romney in 2012 have a weighted gini index of .460. States that voted for Obama are way more equal at uh … um, actually, they’re higher at .464.

If you restrict that analysis to Southern States, you do get a higher index of .467. But then again, if you restrict that analysis to coastal blue states, you get .469.

God damn those coastal elites, ruining the country!

Crime is a little different, being higher in the red states (384 per 100,000 vs. 359 per 100,000) and higher in the South specifically (402), but the difference is not that dramatic and even the blue state crime rates would be very high (although both would be lower than violent crime rates in the UK). And all regions have seen a huge drop in violent crime rates over the last two decades.

He goes on to point out that the South is much more religious (which … is bad thing?) and has a higher rate of gun ownership (although even the North would still have one of the highest rates in the world. And again … gun ownership is not ipso facto a bad thing). He is right that the South has more executions but then fumbles the ball again, arguing that Obama’s poor showing in Southern states (except Virginia and North Carolina and Florida and strong showings in Missouri and Georgia) proves racial animus and not that the South vote Republican no matter who is running.

He also ignores basically anything that might that favor the South, such as 40% of our military hailing from the South. Or that most of the job growth in Obama’s presidency has been in the South (specifically in Texas). Or the fact that, over the last few decades, the American people have been voting with their feet, moving South by the millions.

South-bashing is in these days, I guess, so I can’t blame Lind for trying. Better luck next time.