Thomas Sowell on sloppy use of statistics to make a racial disparity case

But the biggest hoax of the past two generations is still going strong — namely, the hoax that statistical differences in outcomes for different groups are due to the way other people treat those groups.

The latest example of this hoax is the joint crusade of the Department of Education and the Department of Justice against schools that discipline black males more often than other students. According to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, this disparity in punishment violates the “promise” of “equity.”

Just who made this promise remains unclear, and why equity should mean equal outcomes despite differences in behavior is even more unclear. This crusade by Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is only the latest in a long line of fraudulent arguments based on statistics.

If black males get punished more often than Asian-American females, does that mean that it is somebody else’s fault? That it is impossible that black males are behaving differently from Asian-American females? Nobody in his right mind believes that. But that is the unspoken premise, without which the punishment statistics prove nothing about “equity.”

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Too many of the intelligentsia — both black and white — jump on the statistical bandwagon, and see statistical differences as proof of maltreatment, not only in schools but in jobs, in mortgage lending, and in many other things.

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Wherever we want to go, we can only get there from where we are. Not where we think we are, or wish we are, or where we want others to think we are, but where we are in fact right now.

But political spin and pious euphemisms don’t tell us where we are. After a while, such rhetorical exercises don’t even fool others.

If we don’t have the truth, we don’t have anything to start with and build on. A big start toward the truth would be getting rid of the kinds of statistical hoaxes being promoted by Secretary of Education Duncan and Attorney General Holder.

via The Big Racial-Disparity Hoax

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