In the past couple years I’ve developed more of an ability to read between the lines and a little more critically than I used to. But it’s weird, because it doesn’t always happen. At least, not automatically — sometimes I feel really on the ball and author biases seem obvious. Other times I revisit something and I think, “man, how could I not see that before?”
I’m not sure why it’s not a consistent ability. I hope someday it will be automatic, all the time. Maybe I just need practice.
Note: I am investigating the slowness issues on this blog. This article took about 3 hours to write, which is way too long for its length. I apologize for any trouble you had reading this.
I ran across and read this article about people living in the place they were born. I was interested mainly because I’m a sucker for maps and data correlation. I like to see trends of data matching to masses of people. I was disappointed by the post, however. The author’s conclusions bothered me enough to post a comment — and then continued to bother me enough to blog about it, too.
I’d like to take this opportunity to practice critical thinking and itemize exactly what’s wrong with the post, in furtherance of being able to do this in the future more readily.
The thrust of the article is of interest to me, having recently moved. As I said, I’m fascinated why some people leave and some people stay. I enjoy wondering at other people’s motivations, and it’s neat to see data that hints at large trends based on masses of individually motivated people.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t quite scratch that itch. The graphic is a map of the US, color-coded by percentage of people who live in the same state they were born. It’s interesting from a certain standpoint, but the article makes a specious tie with mobility, the recession, and being stuck. I say “specious” because there are a *lot* of confounding variables that produced that map.
Starting off, the map is presented with a flavor. He wants us to see it as people who are “stuck” where they were born. Residency in one’s birth-state becomes a proxy for whether someone falls into the “stuck” category; the implication is that everyone’s goal is or should be to move out of state. A mark of success is leaving your home.
Second, it has two pieces of data, total: you were born in a state and do or do not live in that state currently. There aren’t any constraints or mitigating factors, such as “did you move to your current state regardless of your will, i.e. as a child.” Does it include prisoners? Technically they’re stuck, but in a different sense, and regardless of where they were born.
Third, I don’t see a link to the source data. Presumably the author didn’t come up with the graph by himself.
In order to support the “stuck” statement, there needs to be decorating data that describes what “stuck” means. If it means you want to leave but you cannot, then that needs to be represented or the data filtered. Framing it that way illustrates that this doesn’t actually have anything to do with where someone was born. If you are perfectly happy where you grew up, then you aren’t stuck in one place. There’s nothing wrong with staying and being content.
I would love to see the supporting data for the graph and supporting information, because it really is fascinating to see trends. Unfortunately this, albeit short, article doesn’t really do it for me.