Archive for fact-checking

Nature on U.S. abortion laws

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , , , , on November 4, 2021 by xi'an

The 26 October issue of Nature has a news article on the involvement of US scientists and scientific organisations in fact-checking the dubious arguments made by anti-abortion supporters, incl. several US States. None of them (arguments) are convincing or objective, but providing data and statistical models to counter them is welcome, especially in a scientific journal like Nature.

“…an initiative to compare women who had abortions with those who wanted them, but were turned away from clinics for various reasons, including state restrictions or a lack of doctor availability. Called the Turnaway Study, the effort followed about 1,000 women in the United States for five years after they sought abortions. The women were similar in terms of physical, mental and economic well-being initially, but diverged over time (…) on average, receiving an abortion didn’t harm women’s mental or physical health, but being denied an abortion resulted in some negative financial and health outcomes.”

“Allowing states to ban abortion might even increase maternal and infant mortality rates (…) Unwanted pregnancies are associated with worse health outcomes for several reasons, including that people who plan their pregnancies tend to change their behaviour — drinking less alcohol, for example — and receive prenatal medical care long before those who are surprised by their pregnancy and don’t want it.”

“statistical methods developed over the past 30 years allow researchers to isolate and measure the effects of abortion policies (…) Abortion legalization in the 1970s helped to increase women’s educational attainment, participation in the labour force and earnings — especially for single Black women.”

“The United States is alone among wealthy nations in not mandating paid maternity leave (…) a single parent earning the minimum wage would need to spend more than two-thirds of their income on childcare, with care for the average infant costing about US$10,400 per year (…) two main reasons that women give for seeking abortions are concerns about money and caring for existing children.”

COVID by numbers [not a book review]

Posted in Books, Kids, Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2021 by xi'an

David Spiegelhalter and Anthony Masters have made a book out of their COVID related columns in The Observer. Here are ten key figures extracted from that book:

  1. The UK was hit by more than 1,000 separate outbreaks (…) [with] far more imports of Sars-CoV-2 from France, Italy and Spain than from China
  2. Reported Covid deaths depend on the day of the week (due to delayed reporting, and a weekend effect, but smoothing is very rarely applied)
  3. In the first year of Covid, over-90s had 35,000 times the risk of dying of Covid-19 as young children (with no relevance of the figure per se since an extra death of a young child would have moved it from 35,000 to 32,000, since there were thankfully so few deaths of young children)
  4. 2020 saw the highest number of deaths since 1918 in England and Wales (even when correcting for population increase or population ageing)
  5. The UK has led the World in testing Covid treatments (like dexamethasone and hydroxychloroquine, thanks to the centralised NHS, making me wonder why France with another centralised and public health structure was not able to do the same)
  6. People who have died with Covid have on average lost about 10 years of life (contrary to the authors’ intial hunch, and mine as well, to oppose to the less relevant loss of life expectancy across the entire population)
  7. Most people died “of” Covid rather than “with” it, but most have also had other medical conditions (with 91% of pre-COVID conditions)
  8. Alcohol consumption stayed the same during lockdown (which came as a surprise, given the general feeling for the opposite, and still as a worrying indicator of alcoholism)
  9. Most people with Sars-CoV-2 don’t infect anyone (which would need more details, as the figure should be weighted by the base probability to infect someone)
  10. The pandemic has been a net lifesaver for young people (with 300 fewer deaths for 15-29 year old, but it also has had a potentially negative impact on their life expectancy).
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