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« The Value of Financial Blogs: Answering David Merkel's Good Question | Main | The Bernanke Circus »

December 15, 2009



Robert -- Many (most?) polls use a new sample each time. Should we take each new one with a grain of salt? The BLS payroll survey adjusts once a year. The UM consumer confidence survey uses a rolling panel. The various Fed surveys (like the Philly Fed) change frequently as they find new businesses. Who knows what the ISM does?

Do you really think that the Census Bureau, arguably the best on survey techniques, chooses a method that knowingly creates a break in data interpretation every 2 1/2 years? It is like saying that they are incompetent -- that they know how to adjust their sample.

BTW, I did not realize that Barry Ritholtz had any opinion on this subject.

To summarize, drawing a new sample is not a change in methodology or in the data series. Those who think otherwise never took the first course in methods. They are just blowing smoke, and you seem to be buying it.

But I am curious about why people are so very confident about things like this. There is such a great willingness to disbelieve actual data -- especially from the government.


Robert Simmons

Are you saying that they randomly select a sample, then use that sample repeatedly over the course of 2.5 years, then randomly pick a new one? If so, I'm still going to take it with salt. It's not meaningless like Ritholtz would have us believe, but still


Robert -- The frequency of changing the sample has nothing to do with whether or not it is random. There are many important considerations in survey research design. The Census Bureau has an excellent and expert staff.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is accepting the opinions of pseudo-experts who are playing on your pre-conceived notions. The critics that I cite in the article have no background in research design and have never conducted a survey. They are typical "market strategists" who have an opinion about every subject.

If you and I sat in a room with the census experts on one side of a table and these guys on the other, you would soon see the difference. Since I can't arrange that for you (heh heh), we have to figure it out for ourselves.

I understand and appreciate your comment, but I think you are throwing the salt over the wrong shoulder!


Robert Simmons

If you're changing your sample every 2.5 years, clearly you're not taking a random sample. Doesn't that suggest that each change in the sample should make us take the results with a few extra grains of salt?


is there reallya difference between the 3 stooges and the 3 layers of government?


Jay -- I really teed it up for comments with the Stooges! Nice going.

I could have also cited the Supreme Court versus the Seven Dwarfs with similar effect:)

Thanks -


Jay Weinstein

It's a lot easier to say Larry, Moe, and Curly than Legislative, Executive, and Judicial. Plus, what would you rather watch, The Stooges or C-Span?

The single best thing this country could ever do is require each incoming elected official to take an intense course in elementary statistics.

It used to drive me ape how much play the old Super Bowl indicator would get every year---it still pops up every now and again...

Thanks to Jeff--I am also a charter member of the David Merkel fan club.

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