Columnists on the Shannon Matthews case: fun with selective statistics

Suzanne Moore in the Daily Mail:

Twenty-five years ago almost three-quarters of those who lived in council housing worked full-time.

Now fewer than a third do.

This is something that’s come up again and again in regard to this case, and it’s been used to prove that there’s a growing problem of child-abducting maniacs living on benefits, or something.

The problem is that the stats Moore’s quoted are only part of a bigger picture. The stats she missed: twenty-five years ago 42% of the population lived in council housing. Now, it’s 12%.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s say the population is 50 million and hasn’t changed. That means 25 years ago, 21 million people lived in council housing, so  5.2 million of them didn’t have full time jobs. Today we’ve got 6 million people in council housing; assuming Moore’s right, that’s 1.9m people not working full time. Even assuming that not working full time is bad – those part-time bastards! – the stats show a massive decrease in the number of people who don’t have full-time jobs. Which proves that we’re going to hell in a handcart, or something.

I don’t have a particular agenda here; it just bugs me when stats are used to prove a point when they do no such thing.