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Statistical: Ten Easy Ways to Avoid Being Misled By Numbers

Anthony Reuben

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Economic statistics

An accessible guide to interrogating the many statistics we are bombarded by every day.

There's no getting away from statistics, however hard you try. Open a newspaper and see how long it takes you to find the first item based on numbers. It might be a poll about what people think of the US president or the latest figures showing what has happened to wages. Perhaps the country is experiencing record temperatures or the head of the NHS is arguing that the organisation needs more money. We use them every day.

It's not just in the news either. The company you work for may be revealing its gender pay gap or your child's school could be contacting you about its funding for the year. Your friends could be arguing about who is the greatest English batsman of all time or whether they should buy a petrol or diesel car. Perhaps you are trying to choose between different loans or just deciding whether to take an umbrella out with you today.

Statistics don't need to be scary. If you can add, subtract, multiply and divide then you already have most of the tools you need to challenge the numbers all around you. And in this book you'll find the other tools you need to deal with the things you hear that set off alarm bells in your head. There will be hardly any sums to do and no unreasonably tricky mathematical concepts. As long as you hear the alarm bells at the right time you can treat stories with due suspicion. No longer will you need to be scared by stories about the growing risk of things or threats that will bankrupt the economy. You will be free to go about your life without being misled by dubious statistics and bogus claims.

We are all users of statistics whether we like it or not, and everyone needs the confidence to challenge the numbers they hear. STATISTICAL is here to tell you how.

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Anthony Reuben

Anthony Reuben was the BBC's first Head of Statistics and now works on the corporation's fact-checking Reality Check brand, which he helped create. Anthony has 23 years' experience in journalism, and has been read by millions of readers of the BBC News website over the past 12 years. He has twice won the Royal Statistical Society's award for excellence in journalism and been shortlisted twice for the British Journalism Awards.

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