Monday, August 31, 2015

Best Bang?

An article in Columns, UGA's faculty and staff weekly newspaper, notes that the university is #3 in "best bang for the buck" in the southeast.

A few points:
  • Read "best bang for the buck" the wrong way and you'll get in trouble. So just stop.
  • While UGA is 3rd in the southeast, the article fails to note it's 52nd in the U.S., down from 32nd a year ago. Ouch.
  • UGA is actually tied for 1st in the southeast. Just listed third. Six schools have an overall score of "12." So that 52nd above nationally? We're in a tie for that, based on points.
The 2015 national rankings are here.

Ahead of us in the southeast are East Carolina University and North Carolina State University. For the life of me I can't figure out the tie-breakers. It's not alphabetic, not any of the obvious metrics listed across the page. Anyone see it? If so, lemme know.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Dog Owners

I missed doing this for National Dog Day or whatever the hell it was called, but here's a quick look at how dog ownership correlates with other factors.

As compared to non-owners, dog owners tend to be:
  • more politically conservative
  • more likely Republican
  • more likely to believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible
  • younger
  • less educated
  • watch less TV news
  • read fewer newspapers
This is based on 2012 national survey data provides by ANES. When I have time, I'm gonna do a more complete cat vs dog owners because I have both questions available in a nice, fat data set with lots of other variables.

Excessive Drinking

Athens-Clarke County, home of UGA. Party School. Downtown bars. Vomiting students. Underage possession. You know the story. So you'd expect Clarke County to rank high in the state in terms of percent who meet the "excessive drinking" threshold.

No, not really.

According to the 2015 Georgia health data, the statewide average is 13 percent. The "winners" in the county excessive drinking contest are (envelope please) ...

1. Dawson (18%)
2. Fulton (16%)
3. (tie) Muscogee, Forsyth (15%)
5. (tie) Cobb, Chatham, DeKalb, and Richmond (13%)

So where's Athens-Clarke, home of UGA? Would you believe 31st place? At 9 percent "excessive drinking?" Wow. I'm not sure that word, excessive, means what they think it means.

Methodology note -- not every county is measured on excessive drinking. Perhaps people there were too drunk to ask other drunk people how much they drink. So the rankings cover just 58 of 159 counties.

Media Use and Science Knowledge

While skimming the latest issue of Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly (stop laughing, I publish academic work there too), I came across this study:

Science News Consumption Patterns
and Their Implications for Public
Understanding of Science

First, the title is missing a colon. All academic articles, to be truly academic, must include a colon. There's even a name for this -- titular colonicity. Serious flaw.

Second, it's an interesting academic study. The gist of it is this, that those who rely on online-only sources are more likely to have a better understanding of science, and this includes statistical controls for such factors as age, education and whether a respondent was a science major (a neat control). For you nerds out there, I draw from Table 2, which looks at predictors of science knowledge. These are unstandardized regression coefficients after lots of other controls.

Primarily television -- .04 (non-significant)
Primarily newspapers -- .02 (ns)
Equal online and media -- .02 (ns)
Primarily online -- .08*** (sig at .001 level)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

More Fun with Frosh Names

I wrote about this the other day, my analysis since 2008 of UGA freshman first names. Read it and enjoy. Today, let's look at the 2015 freshman class, it's first names, and do a little quick-and-dirty comparison.

Okay, so here's the top 10 of the most recent freshman UGA class.

1. (tie) Emily and John
3. Hannah
4. William
5. (tie) Anna and Caroline
7. Sarah
8. Mary
9. Madison
10. Matthew

For fun, I picked a likely birth year for freshman (1996) and looked at the Social Security's listing of popular baby names for that year, looking only from Georgia, to see how the UGA first names compare. Below, the Top 10 for that year, in Georgia.

Boy’s Name
Girl’s Name

So at UGA, John is the most popular boy's name, but in the state of Georgia in 1996 (a rough guess as to the birth year), it was 9th. The next most popular boy's name for UGA is William. It's third on the Georgia 1996 list. Matthew is 10th at UGA, 10th in the state. So there's a decent correlation here. Among girl's names, the top UGA one has always been either Emily or Sarah. Emily is 5th in Georgia that year, Sarah 6th.

So let's flip the data. Christopher is the top boy's name in 1996. Where is it in the 2015 freshman class? Would you believe 32nd place? And Joshua, Georgia's #2? At UGA, 49th. With the girls names, it's kinda the same. In Georgia Ashley was tops in 1996, but at UGA it's only 24th. Hannah is a better fit. At UGA it's 4th, in Georgia that year it's 2nd.

The Special Case of Madison

Madison has never made UGA's top 10 until this year. Indeed, in 2008 it was in 235th place at UGA. But look at 1996. It's 9th in Georgia. That explains, I suppose, its move up. Madison was 22nd in 1995 in Georgia. So it's growing popularity helped it slip into the UGA top 10.

Yeah, I do this with data all day.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Frosh First Names

Every academic year I ask UGA for the first names of the latest freshman class. There's a lot you can do with these data, but let's keep it simple and ask what's the most popular first name, and has that changed over time?

First, the Top 10 of Fall 2015:

1. (tie) Emily and John
3. Hannah
4. William
5. (tie) Anna and Caroline
7. Sarah
8. Mary
9. Madison
10. Matthew

Keep in mind these ranks represent small actual numbers. Of the 5,035 first names provided to me, 61 students are named either Emily or John. Third place, Hannah, has 56 students sharing that name. Here are a few interesting factoids:

  • I've asked for these data since 2008 and never has a male name done better than second place (also John, back in 2011).
  • Since 2008, either Sarah or Emily have held first place. 
  • Sarah fell this year, but it also fell in 2010. We're talking small numbers here, so there's some random walk involved in the data.
  • Madison has never made the Top 10. In 2014 it was in 15th place. In 2008, it was tied for ... wait for it ... 235th place? Wow.
Below is a quick-and-dirty image that shows the Top 10 across years.

I highlighted Emily, Sarah, and John to show how much they've dominated over the years. When I have more time, I can crank the data some more. For example, it's fun to compare what proportion of unique names (one person only with it) we see over time. My hypothesis has always been that as UGA improves in diversity, we should see more one-name-only students, but so far the data has not supported that hypothesis. Damn those data.

Finally, I leave you with a word cloud of the 2015 freshman names because all bright visual people hate word clouds, and I'm not a visual guy -- so there.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Survey: Exactly How Many?

I often criticize national, regional and local news media on how they handle public opinion survey stories. Today it's The Red & Black's turn.

In an otherwise fine story about how the law has changed concerning underage drinking, this shows up in the fifteenth graf of the online version:
According to an anonymous straw poll conducted  by The Red & Black with almost 150 200 underage university students, the new law will not alter student habits.*
OK. I can quibble about using an N of 150 without stating its unscientific -- which is kinda the journalistic equivalent of why bother using it in the first place. Let's set that aside for the moment. Later in the story there's this from the fifteenth graph of the print version:
According to an anonymous straw poll conducted by The Red & Black with almost 150 underage university students, the new law will not alter student habits.
Weird. Different N for different stories, but wait. This kinda makes sense. The print version no doubt went to bed far sooner than the online version, so the N of 150 for print versus an N of 200 for online kinda makes sense, if you continued to collect surveys from your "sample" (note my intentional typographic sneer of the word sample). We know, from the story, that:
Over 90 percent of the non-freshmen students surveyed said they either illegally drank before the change and plan to continue, or they did not drink before and do not have plans to start now. Roughly two-thirds of non-freshmen respondents said they planned to drink underage, while less than half of the incoming freshman respondents answered the same way.
What's bothersome to me is there are no details on how this "sample" was collected. It's a straw poll, but what the hell does that mean? Did you stand at Tate Plaza and grab people? Survey folks at your favorite watering hole? Snag people hiking up Baxter Hill? Troll the dining halls? When you report a poll, even a bad poll like this, readers deserve just a little more information on how it was done. Spend a few words if you're going to report on a poll, just like you'd spend a few words describing a source quoted in a story.

Oh, and explain the discrepancy in your online version, saying it has updated numbers.

* I screwed up earlier, repeated the 150 twice. Online has 200, print 150. What I get for a rushed blog just before class.