Monday, April 16, 2012

You'll have to find the money clause here yourself . . .

. . . because I'm not going to put it in bold print or anything for you.

For years the Southern Poverty Law Center has been issuing alerts about "hate groups" in the US that have been used fairly uncritically in the mass media.

Now, in an upcoming edition of Social Sciences Quarterly, 
  • Stephan J. Goetz, 
  • Anil Rupasingha, and 
  • Scott Loveridge point out that the SPLC methodology leaves, ah, a bit to be desired.

  • The abstract:

  • Objective
    The recent surge in hate group activity is a concern to many citizens and policymakers. We examine the roles of socioeconomic factors measured at the county level that are hypothesized to account for the presence of such groups, including social capital and religious affiliations.
    We estimate a Poisson regression model using counts of hate groups provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center for each of the over 3,000 U.S. counties. Our regressors include a wider set of variables than has been considered in previous studies, such as Jefferson and Pryor (1999).
    Our approach produces a better statistical fit than that in Jefferson and Pryor's paper, and the additional regressors contribute significantly to our understanding of hate groups.
    Both social capital stocks and religious affiliation exert an independent and statistically significant influence on the number of hate groups, as does the presence of Wal-Mart stores, holding other factors constant.

    If you got it, give yourself a gold star and get back to work handing out that shopping cart.
  • 1 comment:

    rkeefe57 said...

    The money clause comes at the end of this ridiculous study, in the Conclusion section:

    “However, our discovery of an association between Wal-Mart locations and hate groups could lead the corporation’s foundation to play a larger role in supporting the types of local groups that enhance the social capital index used in our analysis.”

    Looks like a typical shake-down to me. "We discovered that Wal-Marts cause "hate groups" and so they should pony up money for our pet causes."

    Below is a summary of some of the more egregious flaws in the methodology:

    There are several problems inherent in the Goetz & Company study from the get-go:

    1. There is no legal definition of "hate group," which is why even the FBI does not, cannot, designate hate groups.

    What exactly was Goetz studying then?

    2. The SPLC uses the deliberately meaningless term "hate group" in its fundraising materials because it allows them to denigrate any group without accusing them of any actual crimes.

    Without a legal definition, a "hate group" is anything the SPLC, a private fundraising organization, says it is.

    That's simply not good enough.

    3. For reasons known only to the authors, Goetz, et al, compared the number of "hate groups" on the SPLC's spurious 2007 map with the number of Wal-Mart stores in the US in 1998!

    What's up with that?

    If the authors had compared the number of "hate groups" claimed by the SPLC for 1998 there would have been almost half as many groups, which would completely skew their findings.

    So would comparing 2007 "hate group" numbers with 2007 Wal-Mart numbers because there were more than 1,000 more Wal-Marts around than in 1998, a 40% increase.

    As long as you're picking and choosing your data sets to fit your hypothesis in advance, why not compare 2007 "hate groups" with 1907 blacksmith shops and correlate the connection between "hate groups" and horses?

    But wait! There's more!!

    4. In 2008, the year the 2007 "hate group" data was collected, it turns out that 147 of the 926 alleged groups were not affiliated with any known city or town.

    These homeless "hate groups" simply float about in the SPLC's fundraising literature, padding the numbers.

    That's over 13% of the total. Is it possible that a 13% discrepancy is statistically insignificant?

    By 2010 the number of phantom groups had doubled to 26% and still stands at 1 in 4 today.

    5. Last October, the SPLC's public relations chief, Mark Potok, the man in charge of cooking up the SPLC's "hate group" numbers each year, admitted on camera that his numbers were "anecdotal," "a very rough estimate," and "an imperfect process."

    In the past, Potok has admitted in the press that his reports include "groups" that are nothing more than post office boxes and that his "Hate Map" fundraising tool "does not include original reporting by SPLC staff.”

    THIS is "hard data"??

    Maybe there is actually a correlation between "hate" and Wal-Marts or maybe not, but either way, picking and choosing the data sets that produce the desired results or relying on SPLC fundraising propaganda is a dismally poor way to go about proving it.