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On weird and wonderful statistics

September 7, 2011

My feet have finally touched the ground again after a few weeks of running around like a mad thing. Hurrah!

This means I can finally start going through my folder of bookmarks that got filed under ‘oooh, interesting, but not relevant right now’.

Like this piece from the BBC, commenting on the recent celebration from the ONS of all the strange topics that state surveys have asked the general population about over the years.

I can see why they are of such historical significance – and I wonder whether some of the research done now will ever seem as odd as some of these figures do.

Like the figure from the 1941 survey into ‘foundation garments’ that found that:

On average, women owned 1.2 brassieres (housewives 0.8 and agricultural workers 1.9)

1.2? It’s more like 16 now!

The facts on their own are interesting, but I really wish we could see past them and find out why these answers came out from the survey.

Was ownership low because the war was ongoing (although rationing was almost worse after the war finished and 1941 seems early to notice results).

Or was it because actually most women didn’t wear them at all (I’ve just found out that 50% of British women don’t wear one now).

It’s brilliant to be able to map out the changes – and sometimes more interesting in comparison terms than the snapshot results of the survey itself.

A snapshot by its very nature means you are only getting a single peak into what’s happening, but behavior is more than just that snapshot.

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