The Firing Line

The Firing Line

Dear transient

I was deeply offended by Marty McAndrews’s reporting of Will Hancock’s position in “Drifting on the Drag.” I don’t believe that the other side of the issue of transience and how it affects the general population was acknowledged at all. I’m open-minded and accepting of other lifestyles, as long as it doesn’t infringe on others’ right to live as they deem fit.

I feel harassed every day I stroll down the Drag by usually cocky transients who feel that they’re entitled to my hard-earned money which goes toward an honest education and is beneficial to society and myself. How do transients earn their own or give back to our honest, hard-working and progressive society?

Oh, that’s right, they typically don’t.

Dear transient: If you want my money, get off of your bum and do something! Sing, play instruments, dance, engage in a meaningful conversation with me or teach me something new about yourself or the world. Don’t you dare feel like you’re entitled to my money and possessions at the expense of my sense of well-being, safety and day-to-day happiness. That’s blatantly parasitic, especially when I’m retaliated against in offensive and vulgar acts when I so politely decline because you’re deserving of acknowledgment as are the rest of us. We all rationalize the way we live and merely want to be accepted for it, and there is a place in society for everyone. You are human, as am I. Let’s work together to make transience a more healthy, beneficial lifestyle for you and for others like me in our world.

— Erica Thorson
Electrical engineering senior

Statistically significant

In his Firing Line that ran in Friday’s Texan, Joseph Gauthier reviewed the evidence regarding the relationship between the minimum wage and unemployment and concludes “serious doubts about its quality.” As a statistician, I admire his scholarly instincts and couldn’t agree more about the need to hold researchers to high evidentiary standards, especially when their conclusions suggest changes in public policy.

It is thus unfortunate that Gauthier’s letter exhibits some of the “mathematical and statistical sophistry” he claims to see in the report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Gauthier writes, “For example, anywhere from 57 to 85 percent of the results were deemed statistically insignificant. That is, anywhere from 57 to 85 percent of the results are likely to have occurred by chance.” This second sentence reflects a widely held but false interpretation of what it means for a finding to be statistically insignificant. Anybody who fails to see the fallacy should revisit his or her understanding of something called a p-value.

To be sure, the findings in question might be nonsense. Then again, the sample sizes involved might have been too small for the study to have adequate statistical power to detect the hypothesized effects of minimum wage laws on employment. No person, statistician or otherwise, can assign an unambiguous probability measuring which of these two explanations is more likely for the study at hand. I would observe, however, that it is common for studies to yield statistically insignificant but suggestive results and for these results to end up being confirmed by further research and better data. It’s worth remembering that it took more than 200 years of trying before scientists could drum up statistically significant evidence against Newton’s theory of gravity, and it was false the whole time.

— James Scott
Assistant Professor of Statistics
McCombs School of Business