That’s the freakiest award of all times. Graphically it’s a simple diagram like billion others, too. Simply too simple, just oversimplified!
There are so many wrong aspects and it’s just looking quite … ugly! Come on it’s an absolutely ordinary chart stating what? That people with low income can afford college for their children much less than rich people? Wow, how would anyone ever have considered that! Its and ordinary chart stating the obvious. That’s a journalistic gold medal?
You Draw It: How Family Income Predicts Children’s College Chances
So what’s wrong about it?
For journalistic matters it’s absolutely important to define the real issue in which this graphic is embedded, we call it context. There is no comparison without mentioning the connected aspects. A number is a number and a chart is a chart. It’s neither big nor small until you show it’s context in which it is embedded.
In this example there should have been shown e.g. necessarily the parents income distribution to get an idea which percentiles are really important to look at. If most of the people are rich, who would care about it. Then most of the children could attend a college and everything would be fine. But if not, than it would really matter. Additionally the article could state, how much children wanted to go to colleges compared to how much really could, to again get important context for the chart. This is journalistic work. But that’s not this chart. This chart is just a fancy technical implementation.
But there is more that missing or wrong. Let’s see if there is really a definition of „poor“ and „rich“ parents. Which group do „poor“ and „rich“ parents in fact belong to? Are these the average incomes of all parents – which would not make sense, as there are quite much children who do never want to attend a college at all. It is not necessary for a good educational system that all of us have the change to attend higher education, it’s important that all who want to attend are able to do. That’s quite a big difference in contemplation. But maybe these are only these parents who wanted to send their children to a college – which would make sense, but data would not be possible to get, as you would have to make a big survey of people’s plans before – or all parents who applied for a college place, or all who did send their childrens there – which would execlude the ones who could not send their children there, and would make no sense again?
Than it is absolutely not clear which averaged incomes are compared here. And what ’s income exactly? Gross income before all expenditures for living or net income after you pull these off? Or only before taxes or after?… This may have quite huge effects on your results as it distorts one of the two axes and the resulting curve!
So at least you have to exactly define your group and „parents“ seems no good definition here.
Another problem is the percentile: In the end it is quite predictable that the occurring graph will look like more or less like a straight line, as it completely eliminates the very unevenly distribution of parents numbers within a percentile! But this is very, very important to make a meaningful statement about chances being fair or not. If 90% of all parents would gather in the lowest 10th percentile, the graph would still look not so much unfair as it is, as it would hide that 90% of all children would nearly not have any chance at all, but make them appear as being only 10% (even there are no percentages, it is very likely, that peolpe with associate it, as we are not used to percentile charts at all)! To avoid this it would have been necessary to present the mentioned context.
If you don’t know, what you are exactly talking about, how should anyone give a guess about what? The graphic is nonsense as long as everyone can sum up what he or she thinks meets all of this not defined parameters of „parents“, „rich“, „poor“ and so on. Just regarding individual prejudice…
And then there are different advices on how you can draw the line above the chart (if you do not know what to do…) But most of these examples do NOT meet the condition marked within the chart! There is a small point which tells you, you should draw the line exactly through it. But why? Why should anyone do that? Should you give your guess, now, or are you told to draw what is expected from you? And why do most of the examples above the line NOT run through this very specific point? So actually these examples just tell you what you might not draw anyway…
So after you drew your line and finally compare all the estimates of all drawings, you will see the average is quite close to the actual line and why? Because it’s exactly what most of the drawers predicted. And it’s absolutely predictable, too, that people’s guesses will vary let’s say 20 percent and…. they do. Wow… And they are close to the line because you had to draw through this specific point, even if you didn’t want to…
It’s even more disappointing: The only thing one can really see is, that most people just do not think about it, if you ask them to draw a line in this chart!
They just start drawing, but that’s exactly not, what the graphic wants. It wants you to think before.
And why do we know? Just compare the average on the very left bottom. Zero percent for the poorest? That’s simply absolutely no realistic guess. There are scholarships and programs to help poor people, everyone knows. So at least there should be a small percentage of them being able to attend a college. Everyone could guess that with just thinking before drawing. But it’s more fun to just draw… so you should have fun, there is nothing wrong about it.
BUT at least this should NOT lead to an journalistic and graphic award and absolutely not to a gold medal.
He judges, what have you seen here?
Diagram stating the obvious wins Gold at