I read the article “Sickeningly low vaccination rates at silicon valley day cares” from wired.com this morning.
The author attempts to answer a very interesting question. How do some of the world’s most renowned innovators from Silicon Valley stack up in the heated vaccination debate? The author uses vaccination data for children in tech company sponsored child care facilities to make the claim that “anti science, anti-vaccine thinking (exists) in one of the smartest regions on the Earth”.
The first piece of evidence given to support this claim is, “of 12 day care facilities affiliated with tech companies, six – thats half – have below average vaccination rates, according to the states data.” Their italics. This piece of data does imply that many silicon valley parents don’t vaccinate their children. However, a much stronger argument could be made with another simple statistic.
Let me explain. 6 of 12 simply provides evidence that silicon valley parents are probably a lot like the rest of us when it comes to vaccinating our children. One would expect this by the very definition of average. Given five numbers (1,2,3,4,5), the average is 3. If I pull three of these five (1,3,4) from a hat and say that half are below average, in support of some claim, I haven’t said much at all.
Solution? Simply report the average of the sample. If its below the national average, then you have some evidence to support that claim that silicon valley parents vaccinate their children less than the rest of us. In fact this would be a much more interesting claim than the one made by the article. Perhaps innovation and forward thinking thrive on unscientific thinking on occasion? The article gives the following graphic.
which definitely shows some low end potential. However, without stating the national vaccination average how can we really be sure about anything?
A better title might be, “Silicon Valley parents might vaccinate their kids just like the rest of us”. However, I understand why the author didn’t take this route. Who would click? Again, there is a much more interesting story lying right there in the open. Do silicon valley parents vaccinate their kids less than the rest of us? This counter-intuitive piece of information would warrant further investigation into the minds that generate innovation.