Letter to the editor: Hood should be careful when selectively applying statistics


To the Editor:

In his July 8-14 column (“What to do when they’re wrong”), John Hood cited three “true” statements. They may be true, but at least two of them don’t tell the whole story.

First, absolute poverty undoubtedly has gone down since 1960 (due in large part to social programs the John Locke Institute generally opposes). What the op-ed ignores is the accumulation of wealth by the top 10% of Americans. According to Wikipedia they controlled 70% of the wealth in the U.S. in 2019.

Not living in “absolute poverty” doesn’t mean that all Americans are living decently. According to Bloomberg, 44% of Americans 18-64 are “low-wage” workers, i.e., earned less than two-thirds of the median wage for full-time workers adjusted by region. The Brookings Foundation estimated that 53 million Americans have a median wage of $10.22 an hour, with a median annual salary of $17,950. That level of income precludes home ownership (and, increasingly, renting adequate living quarters).

Finally, the statistics on killings by police that Mr. Hood cites indicate that whites, Blacks and Hispanics are killed by police generally in proportion to their percentage of the population. He then admits that Blacks and Hispanics are “disproportionally likely to die in this way.” Since that seems counter to his argument he wishes it away by contrasting it to a statement that is completely different, saying it is not the same as saying that the police are more likely to shoot them “in similar circumstances.”

Confused?? I was.

Statistics are not the whole truth, especially when applied selectively to make a political point.

Michael Cotter
Chapel Hill


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