I was impressed to see Geoff Bascand, the head of Statistics New Zealand, come out in defence of the labour market data – specifically the way unemployment and underemployment are calculated.
It is true that the labour market data jumps around, and that what it defines might not be exactly what everyone trying to use it “wants” – but Statistics New Zealand is transparent about what they are recording and the shortcomings, and then a lot of this data is available free for us to help us make informed decisions. How is that not awesome?
Lets be honest, we can’t accurately measure the exact thing we want in the social sciences – we are always working with incomplete data measuring something that is only related to the variable we are positing theories about. Instead of complaining about it we just need to recognise that we need to use clear and consistent theory and logic to help us accurately use the data that is available.
Instead of complaining about the data – as many people who write on blog and in comment sections do – lets try to understand what is being measured, how that relates to what we are trying to discuss, and then use that to have a useful and open discussion about it. Just because the data doesn’t fit your preconceptions doesn’t make the data wrong – either your interpretation of the data is wrong, or your theory has issues