Statistics

The Boston Foundation has just put out a Greater Boston Housing Report Card [PDF], and drew some ridiculous conclusions. John A Keith of the Boston Real Estate Blog explains [via]:

From the report:

Fenway/Kenmore neighborhood

2004 estimated renter income: $24,132
2004 estimated monthly rent: $1,498
% of median income needed to pay rent in 2004: 74%

No.

Why not?

1) earlier in their report, the authors estimate rents on two-bedroom apartments throughout the city. They estimate a two-bedroom apartment in the Fenway would cost $1,498 per month. A two-bedroom apartment. Would one person, making $24,132, rent a two-bedroom apartment? Why would they? If they did rent a two-bedroom apartment, they’d have a roommate, thereby reducing their share of the monthly rate to $749. Rent would therefore require only 37% of their gross income.

He goes on to question another aspect of their methodology — using the advertised rental rates, which are often higher than what a landlord can get. It’s an interesting discussion, because there is obviously a diminishing pool of “affordable” housing in Boston. The median home price in our fair city of Cambridge is well over $600,000…

It always surprises me, the carelessness with which people use statistics. No where is this more true than in the education reform debate. For instance, when politicians say, “Half of our kids read below their grade level”. This kind of statement is used to provoke anxiety, and to justify raising (sic) standardized test requirements.

What they don’t choose to explain, (or understand for that matter), is that this is precisely the definition of grade level — 50% above the line, 50% below. That’s how you set a grade level, for god’s sake.

I cringe everytime I hear statistics being manipulated like this.

4 Responses to “Statistics”


  • doesn’t this analysis ignore the possiblity, (and liklihood), that a two-bedroom apartment rented by a single person would be occupied by a parent and a child, or more than one child, such as a single parent?

  • So… you’re wondering if the median renter income is rendered artificially low, because they are taking into account non-working minors? And that the parent median income is much higher than $24,000?

    That seems ludicrous, not to control for that, no?

  • no, i’m responding to this statement

    “Would one person, making $24,132, rent a two-bedroom apartment? Why would they? If they did rent a two-bedroom apartment, they�d have a roommate, thereby reducing their share of the monthly rate to $749”

  • I don’t think so, because a low-income single parent in need of a 2-bed, wouldn’t be able to spend 74% of their income on rent alone.

    It’s much more likely that there is an explanation for the artificially high rents, and low median icome — ow-earning students or post-college types. This group would double-up in a two-bedroom. And even if the $24,000 covers both renters, it’s also likely that Mom and Dad are helping out. No?

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