Blog of the Week: The Upshot

I highly recommend you regularly check out The Upshot, a New York Times blog which features outstanding commentary on the economics and often the data behind the news.  The blog just turned one, and featured this list of the 250 most popular posts.  Here is one of my personal favorites on What 2000 Calories Looks Like.

I recently asked Dr. Justin Wolfers (@JustinWolfers), an old economist friend of mine and one of the authors regularly featured on Upshot, about his views on how every day people could be sound consumers of data.   He offered some interesting advice for data consumers,

  • On the notion of the latest greatest study craze: "Generally speaking, no single study ever overturns a pre-existing literature.  Accretions to knowledge are typically a bit more gradual than that."
  • On where you go for your "everydata" consumption: "I know this sounds self-serving, given I write for the NY Times, but generally more reputable outlets (the NYT, WSJ, the Economist) are more likely to get it right, both in terms of finding the truly interesting studies, and in terms of representing them accurately." 

My exchange with Justin just reinforced to me how difficult it is to be a good consumer of data, (what Justin termed "a bloody good question!") because you are required to have some degree of statistical knowledge, be a bit of a cynic, and also "read the fine print."