Andrea C.

First Place Winner

Eighty-five percent of statistics are misleading, maybe even this one. After reading Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, I began to take a new, investigative approach to the misuse of statistics. In their analysis of conventional economics, Dubner and Levitt display the fear of rising crime in the 1990s, except no crime climax ever occurred. New York City politicians accredited their enforcement laws for the unexpected absence of murders, rapes, and thefts, but statistically there was no causation between the presence of police and decreased crime rate. But the public believed their mayors and senators, and if I were in the crowd I would too after hearing the long speeches about how many more police badges were being worn. Dubner and Levitt, however, claim that because Roe v. Wade was enacted, mothers who normally raised children who would commit crime often had abortions.

I cannot help wondering what the public would have done if they realized abortion was the cause of decreased crime. Would society start to profile women who would birth rapists and murderers and force them to have abortions? Would Republicans, whose members' interests are often pro-life, no longer oppose abortion if they found out that it decreases crime? Without uncovering the truth, I would remain blissfully ignorant of the situation and very impressionable myself. When politicians in NYC claimed that their actions reduced crime, they probably received more votes, more funds, and confidence from the public, all rewards I believe were given by mistake. The politicians did not exactly cheat themselves into benefits by abusing facts and statistics, but I began to realize that the opportunity is open and some may choose to take it.

In my school's Junior Statesman of America chapter, at one meeting's discussion about whether or not the Occupy Movement was beneficial or detrimental to America, one of the debaters convincingly argued with a list statistics that the movement is full of violent riots and exaggerated that they have no organization or sanitation. I immediately questioned where she had gotten her facts from, and unsurprisingly her source was a national conservative database that is biased for Wall Street's profiteers. Because her statistics' source was biased and thus unable to create truly accurate studies, I exploited her argument as being untrustworthy by trying to cheat members' trust through the misleading information. After reading Freakonomics, I discover that I will study the social sciences on a research basis. By preventing the abuse of information in my own studies as well as reevaluating others, I will not only protecting my own opinions but those of others. When I lead my own research project in college, I will be aware of how important an impartial procedure is needed to create valid findings thanks to Freakonomics. Realizing that eighty-five percent of what I read is swayed has motivated me to help make the world's information more reliable.