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  • The Bridge Street Press
  • The Bridge Street Press
  • The Bridge Street Press
  • Little, Brown Audio

Bad Data: How Governments, Politicians and the Rest of Us Get Misled by Numbers

Georgina Sturge

4 Reviews

Rated 0

Cultural studies, Social research & statistics, Politics & government, Political structure & processes

A thrilling behind-the-scenes exploration of how governments past and present have been led astray by bad data - and why it is so hard to measure things and to do it well

'Essential reading ... An incisive and urgently needed book' Tim Harford

'[An] entertaining introduction to the uses (and misuses) of data ... a penetrating analysis of why statistical literacy matters to our politics and our daily lives' Professor Jonathan Portes


Our politicians make vital decisions and declarations every day that rely on official data. But should all statistics be trusted?

In BAD DATA, House of Commons Library statistician Georgina Sturge draws back the curtain on how governments of the past and present have been led astray by figures littered with inconsistency, guesswork and uncertainty.

Discover how a Hungarian businessman's bright idea caused half a million people to go missing from UK migration statistics. Find out why it's possible for two politicians to disagree over whether poverty has gone up or down, using the same official numbers, and for both to be right at the same time. And hear about how policies like ID cards, super-casinos and stopping ex-convicts from reoffending failed to live up to their promise because they were based on shaky data.

With stories that range from the troubling to the empowering to the downright absurd, BAD DATA reveals secrets from the usually closed-off world of policy-making. It also suggests how - once we understand the human story behind the numbers - we can make more informed choices about who to trust, and when.

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Praise for Bad Data: How Governments, Politicians and the Rest of Us Get Misled by Numbers

  • Essential reading for anyone who's ever wondered where all those numbers come from. Even more essential reading for anyone who hasn't. An incisive and urgently needed book

  • The plural of anecdote is not data. But Georgina Sturge's entertaining introduction to the uses (and misuses) of data in public policy and debate combines numerous stories, some amusing, some disturbing, with a penetrating analysis of why statistical literacy matters to our politics and our daily lives

  • [An] excellent book ... there's something here for everyone who wants to better understand the limits of our knowledge about the country ... informative and at times amusing - TLS

  • A whistle-stop tour of all the ways the data that forms the basis of policymaking can fall short - New Statesman

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Georgina Sturge

Georgina Sturge is a Statistician at the House of Commons Library. She is one of a team of senior statisticians who advise the 650 Members of Parliament - from all parties - on the use of statistics and who carry out impartial research for them. Whenever there is a debate in Parliament, they compile general background information for Members and answer their direct questions.

Georgina sees first-hand how data is used in the policy process. She sees the constant demand for it, how politicians are not able to take 'no data' for an answer, how statistics get warped and how nuance and uncertainty are overlooked. She sees how important decisions being made based on data that is really not robust enough for that purpose.

Her background is in quantitative public policy analysis. She trained in this at the United Nations University and Maastricht University Graduate School of Governance. Prior to working at Parliament, she worked as a primary researcher in the fields of global development, international migration, social security, poverty and inequality. She has helped design and carry out primary data collection through large-scale population surveys in several countries.

She is a member of the Office for National Statistics' expert advisory group on population and migration statistics and an advisor to the University of Oxford's Migration Observatory.

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