Saturday, July 13, 2013

Selective use of 'research' to substantiate our prejudices

I have recently returned from a couple of days walking in the Brecon Beacons with a couple couple of friends - one happens to be the editor of the Journal of the Market Research Society.

We were talking about the way that 'research' is being devalued by politicians and the media. This selective use of research or the use of a few facts and figures masquerading as research is a subject he has talked about in his excellent blog.

Here is a good example. Readers of my blog will know that the FT has been publishing anything that it can find to try and justify increases in taxes and reduction in benefits of older people. I have no idea why it is taking this view but can only assume that the editor has a thing about older people.

Anyway, in yesterday's FT there was an article titled: "Pensioners see incomes rise at three times rate of average wages." On the following day the FT ignored to publish research just released from the ONS that shows that:

Retired households are much more likely to be towards the bottom of the income distribution than at the top of the distribution. Whereas retired households made up 35% and 41% of the bottom and second quintile groups respectively, they only made up 10% of the richest fifth in 2011/12. 
How strange that FT decided not to publish that data - I wonder why.

The real story, if the FT had taken time to read the research was that:

Among retired households, there is a higher degree of income inequality before taxes and benefits than for non-retired households. In 2011/12, the richest fifth of retired households received 57% of total original income for all retired households. In comparison, the richest fifth of non-retired households received 47% of total income for that group.  In 2011/12, the Gini coefficient for original income was 60% for retired households, compared with 45% for non-retired households.

There are many publications and broadcasters (yes BBC I mean you) that have a clear political or social agenda. I thought the FT had more of a neutral approach to issues - clearly wrong. So I guess it proves that old adage that you cannot believe everything that you read in the press. Perhaps a more accurate statement is that you cannot know what doesn't appear in the press. Dick Stroud

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