The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
The Forum - On Line Opinion's article discussion area



Syndicate
RSS/XML


RSS 2.0

Main Articles General

Sign In      Register

The Forum > Article Comments > The tyranny of averages > Comments

The tyranny of averages : Comments

By Joe Lane, published 21/11/2014

Life expectancy for indigenous men has risen by a year, while infant mortality has been reduced, but is the latter the reason for the former?

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. All
Ahh! Statistics and data, don't you just love em.

Change one little itsy bit of data, and it changes the whole game.

Some groups, such as our politicians and another unmentionable group have been past masters at this.
Posted by Wolly B, Friday, 21 November 2014 7:56:06 AM
Find out more about this user Recommend this comment for deletion Return to top of page Return to Forum Main Page Copy comment URL to clipboard
Joe, I have been concerned about the interpretation of statistics in regard indigenous people for many years. Given the huge increase in the number of fair skinned, urban dwelling people identifying as indigenous, we have to accept that the data is now seriously flawed.
How can you accept that health outcomes from such widely disparate economic and geographic groups can be lumped together, then averaged out and expect the result to be truly representative.
I would like to see the health figures for people living in remote areas, both indigenous and white, and used as a comparison against people living in urban/large town settings.
I would also like to see a comparison between indigenous and non indigenous health outcomes, based on socioeconomic factors. I would say that the results might surprise a lot of people.
Posted by Big Nana, Friday, 21 November 2014 12:16:36 PM
Find out more about this user Recommend this comment for deletion Return to top of page Return to Forum Main Page Copy comment URL to clipboard
There are also problems with the quality and availability of data. For example, deaths of Aboriginal people are not always recorded:

http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/0/2A715635CFE929A8CA257943000CEFDF?opendocument

Data accuracy is improving in many ways, but this can create other problems do changes in statistics over time represent improving or deteriorating quality of life, or simply better information?
Posted by Rhian, Friday, 21 November 2014 3:48:52 PM
Find out more about this user Recommend this comment for deletion Return to top of page Return to Forum Main Page Copy comment URL to clipboard
Multimodal distributions are a useful tool for "social justice" rent-seekers of all stripes.

The disadvantage or systemic problems faced by those at the lower end are used to advocate for special treatments and funding that those at the upper end are, by virtue of already having better resources, able to leverage to their own advantage. In order for that situation to continue, which is obviously desirable if you are one of the beneficiaries at the upper end, it is important to ensure a couple of things, which the author has touched on. The conditions of those at the bottom must remain obviously below par and the multimodal nature of distribution of advantantage across the population must be minimised by averaging selectively.

Saul Alinsky, in his Rules for Radicals, made this point decades ago and George Lakoff had a good popular treatment in his book Framing the Debate.

I'll leave it to the readers to think about some examples of such an approach within our modern Western societies. They're not hard to find. Look for any long-persistent situation of social disadvantage as a first step.
Posted by Craig Minns, Friday, 21 November 2014 4:31:30 PM
Find out more about this user Recommend this comment for deletion Return to top of page Return to Forum Main Page Copy comment URL to clipboard
Hi Big Nana,

Yes, there are such huge differences between the conditions of life for people in remote settlements, and for people in cities, especially if they are working (in which case, their stats are not much different from those applying to other working Australians).

By lumping apples and oranges together, not only are funding and policy measures dissipated, but - much worse - the impression is given that stats relating to Aboriginal people are bad by virtue of the people being Aboriginal. No, the stats are bad because people 'choose' (or are forced by circumstances to 'choose') patterns of living which are destructive, regardless of what group they are associated with, NOT because of Aboriginality - that must be the most damaging and life-destroying 'analysis' possible (Christ save us from 'good intentions'): what alternatives does it leave people if they come to believe that their predicament is an inevitable consequence of who they are, and that therefore there is little they can do ?

The US psychologist Bernard Weiner has been working for decades on the proposition that we, all of us, make choices in relation to success or failure, in terms of whether or not we think factors affecting us are changeable (i.e. not innate), and manageable (i.e. not luck, or beyond our control), or not. Ultimately, he suggests, our outcomes depend on our efforts (putting it all very baldly). Check him out: look up 'Attribution Theory' on Wikipedia. Brilliant.

Life is, of course, incredibly hard for some people, and a breeze for others. But it should never, never, be impossible.

[I'm chewing over those other issues.]

Joe
Posted by Loudmouth, Saturday, 22 November 2014 9:27:03 AM
Find out more about this user Recommend this comment for deletion Return to top of page Return to Forum Main Page Copy comment URL to clipboard
Hi Big Nana,

You touch on a very, very sensitive subject, but one that will have to be confronted sooner rather than later. Yes, a high proportion of 'southern' or urban Indigenous people are pretty pale, often indistinguishable from Anglo-Australians, let alone so many non-White migrants. But technically, by choice, Indigenous.

Inter-marriage is necessarily high in urban areas, probably 90 % now, even 95 %. So many Indigenous people have not only an non-Indigenous parent, but three out of four non-Indigenous grandparents. Ray Martin has one Indigenous great-great-grandparent out of sixteen, and there are people claiming Indigenous status - and some of the perks that might go with it - who are even less Indigenous. But we're getting into dangerous, Andrew-Bolt, territory there.

But people know it. I recall an anguished conversation a friend had with me forty-odd years ago - like me, he had married an Indigenous woman; they had had two beautiful kids, blond and blue-eyed. At what point, he agonised, do people become something as well as, or even other than, Aboriginal ?

On the other hand, people are usually raised by their mother, and if a mother is Indigenous, children imbibe that status and outlook - after all, until recently, most Indigenous people knew only their Indigenous relations. My wife certainly didn't know anybody else but Aboriginal relations, uncles, aunts, cousins, in-laws, grandfather, etc., who passed through her small country town, staying overnight or a few days in a very crowded house, so there would have frankly been no other family or deep social links but Aboriginal.

But not so young Indigenous people these days, born and bred in the cities for two or three generations now. Culture ? Apart from knowing their Aboriginal relations, and a few words, laboriously learnt, and that bloody silly kangaroo dance, not much Aboriginal culture - and after all, for God's sake, people are in the city, mixing with other kids in the city, with all the modern conveniences and inconveniences of city life. They're city kids.

So yes: when ? Every new generation will test that question.

Joe
Posted by Loudmouth, Saturday, 22 November 2014 3:15:28 PM
Find out more about this user Recommend this comment for deletion Return to top of page Return to Forum Main Page Copy comment URL to clipboard
  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. All

About Us :: Search :: Discuss :: Feedback :: Legals :: Privacy