Harry Dougherty: Statistical score

December 9, 2013 

Barry Saunders complains in his Dec. 5 column “Durham’s biases up for review” of the perceived bias in the operations of the Durham Police Department, quoting statistics of percentages of African-Americans arrested in several Durham districts.

Since the 2010 census reports that the overall percentage of African-Americans in Durham is about 41 percent, it is not surprising that, in the quoted districts, the percentage of arrests might be in line with the percentage of the population that is African-American. I am reminded of the comment that there are liars, damned liars and statisticians. In complaining of discrimination based upon his quoted statistics, Saunders may be in the latter category.

If I informed him that a national subset of our population was comprised of about 75 percent African-Americans and that the percentage of our national population that is African-American is about 13 percent (census estimate for 2012), would that be a basis for concluding that discrimination existed for that subset? If he said yes then he would be questioning the makeup of the starting teams of the NFL. Touche.

Harry Dougherty, Cary

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