An errant decimal point leads to Conservatives inflating pregnancy rates among the poor by a multiple of 10
The Tories were facing embarrassment last night over an errant decimal place, after a key statistic in a document issued to much fanfare turned out to be wrong by a multiple of 10.
The Conservatives launched the attack document, called Labour's Two Nations, to try to show the rise in inequalities under the current government. It claimed – three times – that women under 18 are "three times more likely to fall pregnant in the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived areas. In the most deprived areas 54% are likely to fall pregnant before the age of 18, compared to just 19% in the least deprived areas."
Within hours, the Labour party had leapt on the accusation, showing that in the ten most deprived areas used by the Tories, the rate of conception is actually an average of 5.4%.
The figures said that 54.32 per 1000 women aged 15-17 years old fell pregnant, which becomes 5.4%, not the 54% the Tories had arrived at. To top it all, in the same 10 deprived areas Labour said that, since 1998, there had been a 10.5% decline in the under-18 conception rate reversing a previous upward trend.
The Schools secretary, Ed Balls, was not slow to arrive at a broader rebuttal. "They are so out of touch with family life in Britain," Balls said of the Tories, "that they believe over half of teenage girls in the poorest areas fall pregnant."
This particular butter-fingered operation of the calculator appears to be careless rather than malicious but comes just 10 days after the shadow home secretary, Chris Grayling, was publically rebuked by the head of the UK Statistics Authority Sir Michael Scholar.
Then Grayling was reprimanded for using non-comparable crime statistics to suggest rises in violent crime which Scholar warned were likely to damage public trust in official statistics.
OMG. Seriously. I'm a Mathematician, so I know that mistakes happen. Decimal places in the wrong place, losing a minus sign etc. But how out of touch must you be to get a result that says over half of all teenagers in poor areas fall pregnant, and not double check your sums? I'm always calculating stuff, then going "WTF? That can't be right..." and redoing the calculation. Not only that, but none of the proofreaders noticed this?! 19% of teens in affluent areas getting pregnant? I'm not seeing that many prams gracing the streets of Surrey, I must tell you.
If the writers of this leaflet hadn't had their milk stolen by Thatcher, they might have had enough vitamins to pay attention when they were taught percentages... :P