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?
    ReplyReply
  • 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?
    ReplyReply
  • 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“
    ReplyReply
  • 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?
    ReplyReply

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