Monday, 24 October 2011

Always Check Assumptions

Full Ministry of Justice statistics on the cohort arrested in connection with Augusts's English riots offer considerable support to the analysis coming from the liberal left at the time, namely that rioters were, in the main, directionless, alienated and deprived youth.

"The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and Home Office background analysis shows that those arrested during the riots overwhelmingly came from deprived areas and had the poorest educational backgrounds." Guardian.

"More than one in 10 of the young people appearing before courts had been permanently excluded - [whereas] the figure drops to 0.1% among all those aged 15." BBC.

So far, so obvious.


Now, I've not seen the report itself, but it seems that (at least) one major assumption is built into this, an assumption which must skew the figures quite radically; MoJ analysts apparently assume that the sample of those arrested is automatically representative of all those taking part. If anything, the converse seems more likely to me, and that those caught by the authorities are not a representative sample, but simply those less able and less practised in escape and evasion.

Not very scientific.

Update from John Robb: US gang membership is now estimated 40% higher than in 2009, and the combined factors of high unemployment with all these elective overseas oil wars and their inevitable product - returning, often traumatised and uncared for combat veterans who can see little or no future - is not a happy prospect, to judge from past history. 

So maybe it's a bit too soon to get complacent about gangs and organised crime.

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