Lies, More Lies, and Statistics

On Oct 10, Pennsylvania released a preliminary report on received ARRA (i.e. “simulus”) funds.  The study concluded that “$262,592,907.68 has been spent to date and 1,408 direct full-time equivalent jobs have been created or retained.”  According to these figures, each job cost $186,501.

This report was not official because recipients of ARRA funds can adjust their reports between October 11 and October 29. 

The federal government also provided updated data on stimulus funds on Oct 30, which claims Pennsylvania received $428,596,62 to create a total of 7,427 jobs.  According to these figures, each job cost $57,708.

The vast discrepancy between the preliminary Pennsylvania figures and the Federal figures is odd at least.  How did these numbers change so much during the late and revisionary periods?  Perhaps these questions are moot points, but they should at least remind of us of the dangers of statistics.

It is appropriate to invoke the cautionary adage first spoken by the late British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, “there are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” 

To learn more about unscrupulous statistics and government transparency, visit ATR’s Center for Fiscal Accountability.