Stacking up chores, haphazardly…

A fairly awful “statistical” graph appeared in the Business section of the Sunday New York Times, today. It slices the day chores of a population along the day by percentages, which means that an erratic dynamics for one activity (sport, say) impacts all activities of top. This is one problem. Another one is that we naturally react to surface representation more than to slices, so the global information of how the day is spent. Since activities are piled up, comparing two populations with respect to one single activity is almost impossible, except for sleep which is the bottom activity. This is not mentioning the side effects of how the questions were asked to the participants, how non-response was processed and so on… And the biases resulting from a raw interpretation like “On an average weekday, the unemployed sleep an hour more than their employed peers” which does not account for the difference in the categories, like the fact that people may be unemployed because they are sick and other side effects.

2 Responses to “Stacking up chores, haphazardly…”

  1. I agree with you that stacked area graphs aren’t usually very helpful. However in this case the animation of the graph allows further exploration so I think the net effect is a decent graphic.
    In particular your question about comparing a particular activity across populations can be done by clicking on the activity and then clicking back and forth between the populations of interest.

    • Thanks! ’tis true that the active webpage provides the whole information, but the information content of the paper version is somehow limited. Actually, I just walked into a room by mistake at JSM 2009 and saw exactly the same type of graph!!!

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