A Meaningless Statistic

Heard on NPR’s Morning Edition Wednesday:

“The number of foreclosures this year are expected to reach 2 million, a number not seen since the Great Depression.”

Statistic 1: Population of the US in 1933*: 125 million

Statistic 2: Population of the US in 2009: 307 million (US Census estimate)

Statistic 3: Foreclosures as percentage of population 1933: 1.6% or 16 per 1,000

Statistic 4: Foreclosures as percentage of population 2009: 0.65% or 6.5 per 1,000

(* I used 1933 as the reference for the Great Depression as that's when the greatest number of foreclosures took place.)

Analysis: While the total number of foreclosures might be greater, as a percentage of all mortgages and population, the rate is less than half that of 1933.

Conclusion: The number presented in the NPR report has no meaning because there's absolutely no context. It just sounds bad.

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