Sometimes I keep posts hanging around in my feed reader for ages - I intend to write something on them and they eventually fade away. One of these which I am now finally getting to is this post from the Freakonomics blog regarding the occurrence of middle names in reported crimes. I bookmarked the post as I thought that the reasoning behind the post was flawed. Essentially, the post states that there appear to be many crimes reported and then published (in a newspaper) perpetrated by people with the middle name Wayne. The tongue in cheek conclusion to the post is - tell your daughters to reject any romantic advances from people with this middle name.
This is a very unfortunate post to be turning up on the Freakonomics blog, and is a good example of the way in which folk statistics get passed around in the public forum with little real backing, explanation or analysis.
The data reported is a list of crimes perpetrated by people with the middle name Wayne. What is missing is the total number of crimes reported and the popularity of the Wayne as a middle name. And that is just for starters. I'm still puzzled as to why such a poorly thought out post of a statistical nature would appear on a blog for such an acclaimed author/book.
[Imagine some extreme cases: everyone has the middle name Wayne, 10 crimes are reported out of a population of 10, 000, etc.]