Thursday, January 07, 2010

Working off of stories is good, but working off of data is even better

In yesterday's QOTD, I included some excerpts on Amanda Ripley's piece on education, and why the most important factor in that equation is the motivation of the teachers.

Here is a similar finding in another public arena, the area of crime fighting, by Heather MacDonald:

The spread of data-driven policing has also contributed to the 2000s' crime drop. At the start of the recession, the two police chiefs who confidently announced that their cities' crime rates would remain recession-proof were Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton and New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. As New York Police Commissioner in the mid-1990s, Mr. Bratton pioneered the intensive use of crime data to determine policing strategies and to hold precinct commanders accountable—a process known as Compstat. Commissioner Kelly has continued Mr. Bratton's revolutionary policies, leading to New York's stunning 16-year 77% crime drop. The two police leaders were true to their word. In 2009, the city of L.A. saw a 17% drop in homicides, an 8% drop in property crimes, and a 10% drop in violent crimes. In New York, homicides fell 19%, to their lowest level since reliable records were first kept in 1963.

The Compstat mentality is the opposite of root causes excuse-making; it holds that policing can and must control crime for the sake of urban economic viability. More and more police chiefs have adopted the Compstat philosophy of crime-fighting and the information-based policing techniques that it spawned. Their success in lowering crime shows that the government can control antisocial behavior and provide public safety through enforcing the rule of law. Moreover, the state has the moral right and obligation to do so, regardless of economic conditions or income inequality.

Just as the raison d'etre of this blog was data driven--namely, to promote the pricing and probabilities data generated by prediction markets to improve public policy decisions--I believe that a key to improving the quality of life for every individual is found in the quality of data and the analysis, science, accountability, and transparency that comes with it.

Listening to the stories of politicians just isn't good enough.

UPDATE: In light conversations with friends, family and neighbors, I've often heard nice stories about how a given family is more prone to have one gender offspring over the other gender. Guess what the data says?

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