Magazine | December 31, 2009, Issue

Letters

Regression Dissection

I am normally a fan of Kevin A. Hassett’s NR contributions, but I found his most recent column (“The Metamorphosis,” December 21) unconvincing. The graph accompanying the piece appears to show that in states where voters supported Obama, businesses were more likely to exaggerate the number of jobs that had been created by the stimulus. A closer look reveals several problems.

Most important, there is an outlier in the upper-right corner of the graph — a state that hosted more fake jobs per capita than any other, and also voted for Obama at an astounding 90-plus percent. (Presumably, this is the District of Columbia.) Given that the other dots show no obvious pattern, it is reasonable to suspect that the correlation wouldn’t exist were this single data point removed. 

Also, the source of the fake-job data — newspaper reports compiled by the Washington Examiner — is not comprehensive and may not be representative. There are undoubtedly many fake jobs that newspapers did not uncover (some major papers probably didn’t even look), and the Examiner may have missed some reports. As I count only 41 dots, there are about ten states for which the Examiner found not a single fake job; Hassett simply leaves these states out of his analysis, introducing another potential problem.

Further, the data are not weighted by population. States with few inhabitants can throw off the correlation as a whole, and states with many inhabitants don’t influence the correlation as much as they should.

Finally, the fake-job data are presented by percentile rank. That is, the state with the highest number is ranked 100, the lowest zero, with the rest spaced evenly between. This can both exaggerate variation (even if there is very little difference between the highest and lowest number, they appear as zero and 100 on the graph) and obscure it (even if there is a huge gap between the 50th and 52nd percentile, they appear very close on the graph).

Stewart Jefferson

Evanston, Ill.

Kevin A. Hassett replies: Our charts must meet a very high standard before we will elevate them from the minor leagues to the big leagues (NATIONAL REVIEW, of course), but we seldom have room to describe every test that we have run. We investigated each of the questions raised in this letter before publication.

The outlier question is a genuine concern, but when we tested the relationship without D.C., it held. We used only 41 states (including D.C.) because those are the only states for which we have data. It may be that the relationship would be weaker if we added data on the other states. It seems unlikely to us, but this is clearly an area worthy of future research. 

It is true that we did not population-weight the regression, but the fake-jobs numbers are calculated on a per capita basis. If you do weight by population, the regression is still significant, with a slightly steeper slope. We normalized the data into percentiles because the actual numbers are very small decimals — percentiles make the chart easier to read.

Readers can always contact me at khassett@aei.org and ask for more detail on any chart. We will always provide data, programs, and outputs to skeptics and supporters alike.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

In This Issue

Articles

Politics & Policy

Growth Is Not Enough

On hearing that the unemployment rate had finally started to drop, conservatives and Republicans were stony-faced. On December 4, the Department of Labor reported its initial estimate that the economy ...
Politics & Policy

Air Power

While on the surface it seems to be a simple matter of environmental policy, the finding by the Environmental Protection Agency that greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare actually ...

Features

Books, Arts & Manners

Sections

Happy Warrior

Czar Vlad’s Guano

We pundit types are expected to have opinions on everything, but I confess I would have been momentarily stymied had I chanced to be in the big geopolitical-analysis chair on ...
Politics & Policy

Letters

Regression Dissection I am normally a fan of Kevin A. Hassett’s NR contributions, but I found his most recent column (“The Metamorphosis,” December 21) unconvincing. The graph accompanying the piece appears ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ Winters in Illinois: Obama finally gets tough with the terrorists. ‐ Just in time for Christmas came a new batch of polls bearing glad tidings for Republicans. Many more people ...
The Long View

Transcript: Larry King Live

LARRY KING: Tomorrow night! The whole hour with the cast of Fantasy Island! Living and not! From Indianola, Mississippi! Hello! CALLER: Hi, Larry. Hello, Mr. Claus. S. CLAUS: Ho ho. CALLER: I just ...
Politics & Policy

Translators

In the beforetime, under a different administration, There were marsupial words, chameleon words in trees, Words shedding their wings and tunneling in the sea –  Clever and strong, out-thronging all our mute associations. Among ...

Most Popular

Elections

What Do Republican Voters Want?

The latest entry in the post-Trump conservatism sweepstakes was Marco Rubio’s speech at the Catholic University of America in early November. The Florida senator made the case for a “common-good capitalism” that looks on markets in the light of Catholic social thought. “We must remember that our nation ... Read More
White House

Impeachment Woes and DACA Throes

This excerpt is from episode 176 of The Editors. Charlie: Yesterday was the day on which the rain stopped and the sun hid behind the clouds and the eyes of the nation turned in unison toward Capitol Hill for the first day of public hearings in the impeachment of Donald Trump. The results of that first day were ... Read More
Books

The Houellebecqian Moment

We are living in the imagination of Michel Houellebecq. The bête noire of French literature has spent decades deploring the erosion of Western mores that he believes resulted from the sexual revolution of the 1960s. His last novel, Submission, revolved around the election of a theocratic Muslim to the French ... Read More
Culture

‘Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself’

It was just one more segment to fill out the hour, and thereby fill the long 24 hours of Saturday’s cable news on November 2. Or so it seemed. Navy SEAL Mike Ritland was on the Fox News program Watters World to talk to Jesse Watters about trained German shepherds like the one used in the raid that found ... Read More