Friday, May 10, 2013

Bad data

People who use crappy data to support their claims make me crazy.  In theory people reporting on events in major news publications would at least make a cursory attempt to verify data that at a glance makes no sense whatsoever but theory is, in this case, not very similar to practice.

Today's example is the age at which women enter into prostitution.  I keep seeing articles popping up on Facebook about how prostitution needs to be cracked down on because the average woman getting into it does so at the age of 13.  This is obviously completely preposterous; plenty of women get into it in their late teens or early 20s (not to mention later...) so there would have to be huge numbers of 8 year old prostitutes running around.  Have 8 year olds been used illegally for sex?  Yes.  Are they a major demographic in prostitution?  NO!

I followed links and discovered these articles tended to cite other articles talking about how the magical number 13 was the average age at which prostitutes were trafficked into the profession.  Again, this still implies that there must be a very large number of girls being brought in at ludicrous ages and that simply bears no resemblance to the truth.  The vast, overwhelming majority of prostitutes are adults and would not tolerate children being abused this way.  Most people freak out when kids are abused and this just in - prostitutes are people.

I finally figured out where the magical 13 came from.  It turns out that when underage girls are trafficked into prostitution the average age is 13.  So yeah, for girls that are illegally forced into it who aren't 16+ the average age is 13.  Which means approximately nothing in terms of the great majority of people who get involved with prostitution.

And that is how people who want to crack down on prostitution use numbers drawn totally out of context to justify their ridiculous position.  You don't help people by criminalizing a harmless profession.  You don't fix things by putting marginalized people in jail.  You fix it by legalizing it, taxing it, and regulating it.

If only using science this badly were limited to just this one issue...

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