Poppy Noor and statistics

Well, yes, this is The Guardian but still. On wages:

This year, prices in the private rental market dropped for the first time in six years, with the UK average rent falling to £921 a month. ONS data puts the average UK wage at around £27,000. This figure is skewed upwards by the small number of people who earn disproportionately more than the average,

She links here to show us those wages:

In April 2015 median gross weekly earnings for full-time employees were £528,

Just in case any Guardian writers should stumble upon this the median is where 50% of the population (here, the population being defined as full time employees) get less and 50% more. This number is not subject to distortion by those who earn disproportionately more than the average. That form of average would be the mean, which can indeed suffer from such distortion.

Our Cambridge graduate in politics and sociology doesn’t understand this. To the point that when she tries to explain it she gets it the wrong way around. Note further that the Guardian’s subs and editors are equally clueless for allowing this to go to print.

but if even you are lucky enough to earn that, you’re still spending around 50% of your wages on rent every month.

That’s a slightly different little statistical trick. The average rent is, at least I think it is (altho it doesn’t in fact matter that much for this point, it still stands if it’s the median) the mean rent across the country. And it’s the mean rent for all types of households. Four bed houses in Chelsea, bedsits in Hull.

And how many one earner households (which are in a minority note) are occupying the average amount of dwelling space for the country?

I don’t actually know, this is a guess, but I would suspect that the average (mean or median) British dwelling is a 2 or even 3 bed house. We should be comparing the rent of that against a single wage earner why?

There’s also this:

I currently live in a three-bedroom house with four other people (luckily, I live with couples) in order to bring my rent down. Far from being fancy, it was one of the cheapest places I could get – on the top floor of a council estate. Even so, I need to work at four jobs in order to afford the rent and still eat each month.

Umm, yeah. Average rent in London is higher, yes, £1,200 perhaps. Note again that’s per dwelling, not person. That rent would be split 3 ways perhaps, normal enough to split by bedroom not number of people, so £400 a month? Hell, let’s call it £600 a month for Poppy alone.

Four jobs? Umm:

Currently a Policy Officer in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Soon to be a Frontline Social Worker (July 2015 Cohort). Previously managed the QA Review for Challenge Partners. Co-founder of the Letsspeakclearly blog. Contributions to The Guardian Newspaper, Channel 4 News, The Evening Standard the ‘Yet We Still Rise’ UpRising Blog and the MyPersonality Wiki. Features in The Mirror and Varsity. London Board Member for UpRising. Pro-bono tutor for The Access Project, occassional runner for the GoodGym and an alumni of the Future First Network. Founding member and ex Vice-Captain of Trinity College Women’s Football Team and the Trinity College Politics Society. Ex-Access Officer for Trinity College.

OK, maybe she’s not updated Linked In.

Poppy Noor is a London-based freelance journalist. She writes about class, politics, inequality and education, and has provided social commentary for Channel 4 News and Newsnight.

Err, what’s her definition of a job? Freelance? Or is she counting doing a piece or two for The G as a job, doing bits for Newsnight as a job, Channel 4 another? She does get the concept of freelance, does she? By her seeming definition I’ve got 7 jobs as regular gigs……

We’re used to numeracy not being a requirement at The G but surely they still demand at least a tad of logic?

44 thoughts on “Poppy Noor and statistics”

  1. We’re used to numeracy not being a requirement at The G but surely they still demand at least a tad of logic?

    You don’t go there much, do you? Logic was discarded before numeracy.

  2. Slightly off-topic, I ended up (yes, I shouldn’t have) arguing with a well-educated idiot lefty on Facebook yesterday. He insisted I watched some “brilliant” video by some Yale-PhD lefty. So I did. His argument boiled down to that he wanted to challenge the idea that capitalism will make a country rich (a quite subtle strawman) in 5 seconds, and his killer argument was – poor countries like Nigeria, Indonesia and Haiti are dirt poor and also capitalist. QED! Wahey!

    It was quite interesting on a persuation level talking to a friendly audience, and was quite emotional and entirely stat-free, and also made claims that were if not untrue in 1997 when he was talking, have been contradicted by more data since (which my interlocuter had trouble accepting).

    But really, defining “Capitalism” so widely as to include any kleptocracy that’s “Not Socialist” and then saying – “some of them are still dirt poor” is a fascinating argument. Also, he never mentioned any non-capitalist countries and how they’re doing, or present any alternative – a classic “down with this sort of thing” with just the unspoken presumption of “Therefore Socialism!”

    But let’s take it further. Let’s accept his definition of capitalism for the sake of argument. So we’ve got 3 data points:

    – All rich countries are capitalist.
    – Some capitalist countries are poor.
    – All non-capitalist countries are poor.

    He conveniently left off the last one. So sure, his point is trivially correct – broadly-defined “capitalism” is not the sole condition required for prosperity. But this is a straw-man –
    nobody says it’s the single factor. However, it seems to be one of several factors that needs to be present, since no non-capitalist country has been prosperous.

    He could have been more enlightening by looking at pairs of countries like the Koreas or Germanies, neighbouring african countries when one was socialist and the other not, or looked longitudinally e.g. at China when it took the Capitalist Road. But no. The biggest applause line was “Wealth is the problem” corrolary – no wealth no problem????? WTF?

    And breathe…

  3. @Chris – my interlocuter did the whole “he’s got a PhD in PolSci (or whatever) and has written 20 books on global capitalism, but I’m sure you know more than him”.

    To which my response was “any idiot can write books. Shall we apply your standard there to say homeopathy?”

  4. Trinity admitted her when she can’t tell mean from median. Affirmative action?

    P.S. she doesn’t understand the singular/plural distinction either: “an alumni “.


  5. @abacab
    “broadly-defined “capitalism” is not the sole condition required for prosperity”

    So true, and I think Adam Smith got there first, or was the first to write it down at any rate when he made that comment about peace, easy taxes and a tolerable administration of justice. All else can be left to the natural order of things, which imv is the point where capitalism can come in with people risking their own money for investment gain.

  6. Why does a freelance journalist need to be in London? Couldn’t she bash out stuff from a flat in Sunderland, Taunton or Neath? £275/month for a flat in Taunton according to Rightmove. OK, you’re not going to get popup cronut shops and agitprop theatre on your doorstep, but it’s basically fine.

  7. The Pedant-General

    “P.S. she doesn’t understand the singular/plural distinction either: “an alumni “.”

    Ah, but there’s the rub. In order to use the singular, she would have to submit to the oppressive patriarchal hegemony that distinguishes between alumna and alumnus.

    Her progressive use of the plural is a rebellious example of “sticking to the man”.

    And with a name like “Poppy” I’m guessing she’s not from exactly poverty-stricken stock either…

  8. In addition to Tim’s points.

    Without wanting too be harsh, this seems to be a multiply dishonest (or thick as pigshit) correspondent. She uses ONS stats for wages, but ignores them for rents in favour of a market survey from a letting agent, then quotes an average rent including London as if this means something for the whole country.

    Then she ignores inflation when talking about rising rents … while ONS data shows rents outside London being down by 12-15% relative to CPI never mind RPI.

    Then the letting agent survey used is from February, yet is published every month, and May data is available.

    Then she assumes that banning letting agent fees is good for tenants, which is questionable – see the unexplained 2% one off rental increase in Scotland in 2013 when they did that.

    There’s more but I have things to do.

    I plump for thick as pigshit..

    She is also playing the compare cash rents ignoring inflation thing to justify the Outrage. In fact rents outside London are down by 10-15% since 2010 relative to cpi, never mind Rpi.

    The ons numbers show that rents outs

    The rent when you drop Central London from the stats is actually

    She also seems not to know that banning letting agent fees is bad for tenants … see the 2% extra rent increases in Scotland in 2013.

  9. Bloke in North Dorset

    Mr Very Angry,

    “What also about tax? Doesn’t that consume about 50% of the ‘average’ workers wages?”

    Most people don’t look at their whole package, only their take home pay. Taxes are just some obscure line on a payslip so when the likes of Brown allowed fiscal drag to increase taxes this was seen as the capitalists pigs ripping off workers.

  10. “What also about tax? Doesn’t that consume about 50% of the ‘average’ workers wages?”

    The average worker pays a marginal 20% income tax, 12% national Insurance, somewhere about 13% employer’s national insurance (though the average worker may be too dim to realise that it’s him that’s paying the employer’s contribution) and, very possibly, 9% student loan repayment. The “50%” figure may take into account his Council Tax, VAT, duties on petrol, beer and so on, taxes on insurance, …….

  11. OT…A year ago today, I was walking on air, overjoyed by the referendum result. Today, I am less optimistic than I was that we will fully escape the clutches of the Fourth Reich; but, nevertheless, Happy Independence Day!

  12. I bet mum&dad are still subbing her. Comments are closed clickbait doesn’t pay much, I’d guess.

    Maybe she could hook up with someone with a mortgage. After a few dinner parties she’d be such an expert on house prices she could add The Economist to her list of gigs.

  13. “Today, I am less optimistic than I was that we will fully escape the clutches of the Fourth Reich; but, nevertheless, Happy Independence Day!”

    Pardon the pendantry, but you ain’t independent. Congratulations on the anniversary of an important event, but save the name for when you are actually independent.

    If ever.

  14. alumnus. -a, -i
    she can’t even get the pretentiousness right.
    what’s wrong with good old gender neutral “graduate”?

  15. “I am less optimistic than I was that we will fully escape the clutches of the Fourth Reich”


    On July 4, 1776, representatives of England’s 13 North American colonies ratified an agreement to separate from England, the Declaration of Independence.

    War ensued.

    On June 23, 2016, Great Britain voted to begin to get ready to start to prepare to form an exploratory committee to think about creating a negotiating team to talk to another team to decide on how to set up talks about how they might change relationships.

    GB/EU are still planning the meeting to plan the meeting. The Royal Navy is still in port.

  16. One thing about her I do admire, which is that when she was orphaned at 15 or 16 she still managed to get her A levels and get into Cambridge even while bouncing around council paid B&Bs and the like.

  17. Gamecock: You guys declared independence from us in 1776 but it took a few years to make it stick, and we still ‘had words’ as late as 1812. I hope it doesn’t take that long for our independence to stick. I also hope the eventual breakup of the EU doesn’t precipitate a series of minor skirmishes or something a bit more serious.

  18. Every time I post on CiF that Guardian articles clearly demonstrate that their recruiting policy insists applicants demonstrate they have actively failed to get a basic English and Maths qualification (as demonstrated by a certain journalist with a foreign holiay home), my comment gets deleted. I wonder why.

    On a similar vein, I was wandering aorund our local Russell Group university open day, and there was a stand for “university study skills”. They teach a course teaching “the basic maths and english you need to do a degree”. What? I asked. Y’know, the stuff you shouldn’t have been allowed into ‘O’ levels without knowing?

  19. I can’t believe we’re going to go down the rent controls and socialism route again. Why is the human race so fucking stupid?

  20. CS
    Libby Purves was opining that we need rent controls in The Times recently. What planet do these people live on?

  21. The effect of rent controls is one of the few absolute truths in economics – and yet we’re back to thinking they’d be a right old wheeze to try again.

    And we were doing so well…

  22. “One thing about her I do admire, which is that when she was orphaned at 15 or 16 she still managed to get her A levels and get into Cambridge even while bouncing around council paid B&Bs and the likE”

    Gracious if you to point this out Tim. Not something I would have known otherwise.

  23. @Timmy

    Very gracious of you. I don’t think anybody who manages that can truly be thick. But innumerate is a different issue, of course – and frankly lots of graduates, even of courses with a quantitative component, don’t seem to understand the consequences of the mean/median distinction.

  24. Why don’t rich socialists (and there are plenty around) start up businesses or go into the Buy-to-Let market so they can demonstrate the benefits of worker love-ins and low rents?

    After all it’s a constant whine from lefties that businesses and Buy-to-Let is easy and exploitative.

  25. Getting to university used to require (maybe still does) aptitude in one relatively narrow aspect of life’s rich tapestry.

    Plenty of unworldly or thick outside of their area of learning people around. And if some unfortunate accident of upbringing has led to you becoming a socialist it seems that a stunning susceptibility to confirmation bias goes with it. All evidence that you are wrong is simply ignored.

    Hence why real world events suggesting the contrary, logic and common sense do not mean socialism can never work because of reasons.

  26. As the saying goes, clearly Cambridge University is not what it once was, assuming her statement about it is even true. And when most of everything else she writes is utter bollocks you have to ask yourself if the bio is true, don’t you?

  27. AndrewC: getting to university used to require being in the top 15% of your year group. Now it requires being in the top 50% of your year group.

  28. @jgh

    Indeed. As it still does in e.g. Germany (15-20%) and others. Which is why Germany can have much reduced uni fees compared to the UK.

    As should be obvious…..

  29. “P.S. she doesn’t understand the singular/plural distinction either: “an alumni ”

    Difficult question. With a nod to BiF, what’s worse? Getting wank latin wrong or using wank latin in the first place?

  30. John,

    No, I can believe her bio is true.

    I just don’t trust a lot of university courses any longer. If your subject is something as vague as politics, you can do any old garbage. The kids don’t know if it’s garbage (and the easier it is, the better). No-one is going to test it in the real world. No-one’s going to die because of your terrible course.

  31. Tractor Gent: Y’all were supporting the Confederacy in our Civil War. The US/GB relationship didn’t really start to smooth out until the Great War. So, 1776 to 1918 before relations became good. It could be a very long Brexit…

  32. getting to university used to require being in the top 15% of your year group. Now it requires being in the top 50% of your year group.

    True. But getting in to Oxbridge should be as difficult as ever, since I don’t think the number of places available have increased that much.

  33. “But getting in to Oxbridge should be as difficult as ever”: harder if you’re a boy. And much harder if you’ve been to a state school, thanks to the successful campaign of the Forces of Progress to bugger them up.

    “getting to university used to require being in the top 15% of your year group”: or 5% depending on how old your are. And presumably much less than that before The War.

  34. @ abacab. The lefty progressive conversation always follows the same pattern: 1) LP announces that they have identified a “problem” be it global warming, poverty, inequality or anything else that makes them morally and intellectually superior to you (in their own head at least). Having identified said problem it is therefore their prerogative to declare a ‘solution ‘, “something must be done”. The solution of course always involves government intervention, taxing people the LP doesn’t like and giving to those they do, with a large ‘admin fee’ in the form of jobs and goodies for all like minded LPs along the way. When I counter that the solution won’t work , they simply accuse me of denying the problem. When I explain why there solution might actually make the problem worse, they produce lots more evidence that there really is a problem. If you can debate them at all it run s through a series of logical fallacies, straw men, false dichotomy and the like ( I have taken to playing logical fallacy bingo) but usually just begins and ends with ad hom attacks.
    I have generally found that the only way to shut them up is to outdo them in virtue ” yes I am worried about CO 2 emissions, but right now I think we should focus on the 2bn people without drinking water or the 1bn without sanitation, don’t you?”

  35. Dearieme, not much harder if you have been to a state school, indeed not only are there effectively affirmative action ‘quotas’ but there are many colleges that simply refuse to admit anyone from public school. The public school entrants are increasingly in subjects like Classics -although they are insisting that to do a degree in classics you don’t need to have done Greek or Latin (so as not to discriminate!). The real competition is from smart foreign students these days.

  36. “but there are many colleges that simply refuse to admit anyone from public school”

    Name one please.

  37. “Dearieme, not much harder if you have been to a state school”: oh yes it is; I know whereof I speak. Or at least I know where things were a decade or two ago. The state percentage of admissions was well down from its peak in (around) the late 60s.

    “they are insisting that to do a degree in classics you don’t need to have done Greek or Latin (so as not to discriminate!).” Balls; they dropped the insistence on Latin and Greek because otherwise their departments would have to close because so few pupils were still taking Latin and Greek at school. (And no bloody wonder if Latin was still being taught the way it was taught to me.)

  38. @ Mark T
    You have simply got your facts wrong – there are no quotas, just a lower standard for ‘A’ level results for pupils from “underperforming” state schools (any pupils at underperforming private schools are screwed), and generous bursaries for poorer students from state schools.
    Quotas are out ever since the US Supreme Court backed the Chinese families in California who claimed that racial quotas were unjust discrimination.
    Fifty years ago, virtually all those studying Greats were from Public Schools so my mind boggles at your claim that “Public School entrants are increasingly in (subjects like) Classics” as there aren’t any other subjects like Greats unless you think Nat Sci is like Greats because it is four-year course.

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