Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Causation and correlation: occupational edition

Reuters produces and the NYT publishes a report on a study of bivariate correlations between occupations and death rates. Neither the authors of the study nor the reporter seems to understand that the estimates are not causal.

This will give you the idea:
Higher than average risk of death from HIV/AIDS was found among male tailors and dressmakers and male hairdressers, while accidental poisoning by drug was high among male painters, decorators, bricklayers, plasterers and roofers.
I look forward to the pathbreaking research on the causal effect of proximity to scissors and sewing machines on HIV/AIDS that is inspired by this work.

No link to the study, no mention of whether it is published and not even any quotes from experts. This is an "F" for sure.

Hat tip: Jessica Goldberg

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