These days, statistics are always being thrown around to make bold claims and endorse political agendas. And while they are just numbers, we need to remember that they are capable of being just as deceptive and misleading as words can be. Improper methodologies, survey biases, and unrepresentative samples can skew results and give faulty conclusions.
Don't take my word for it, see for yourself!
1. 1 in 4 women is raped on college campuses
This is one of the most widespread statistics floating around the media today — and it couldn't be further from the truth. It is important to remember that there were several flaws in the studies that were conducted. The 1-in-5 or 1-in-4 figures are based on surveys conducted at a handful of large universities. In a 2015 study conducted by the Association of American Universities, not only was the response rate extremely low (about 19.3%), but the questions were vaguely worded. Questions were based on very broad definitions of sexual assault, including forced kissing, online predators and intimate encounters the person had while intoxicated.
On that note, it is important to note that men are often underreported in sexual assault incidences. Contrary to what mainstream media would have us believe, men can often be the victims of rape, with women as the perpetrators. Up until 2010, surveys largely counted penetration as rape. This, of course, would give an inflated number of female victims when compared to male victims. When the definition was broadened to include "being made to penetrate", such as being forced to penetrate someone else without consent, the results were quite different. The rates of nonconsensual sex nearly equalized between men and women.
People throwing around the statistic don't realize that it cannot be generalized to apply to all college campuses in the nation. Furthermore, if anyone has ever taken a basic statistics course, they know that surveys about controversial topics often have a voluntary response bias: people who hold strong opinions tend to respond to the survey. In this case, it is very likely that rape victims were more likely to complete the questionnaire, hence the inflated 1-in-4 figure.
Sexual assault is already a very serious and gruesome issue in and of itself — misleading statistics that exaggerate it further are creating more hysteria than necessary.
2. Women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns in the same job
Once again, this statistic is extremely widespread, and for the record, it is true. However, most people jump to the worst possible conclusion and assume its due to gender discrimination and sexism in the workplace (which is illegal). The figure only represents the difference in the average earnings between men and women working full time. Men and women have varying concentrations in different occupations, some of which have higher incomes than others due to the nature of the work itself. It is also important to note that gender differences exist in aptitudes, interests, and priorities which explains the disproportionality of women in nursing and men in engineering and technology.
When differences in occupations, positions, hours worked per week, and education are taken into account, the gap narrows drastically.
3. 98.6 degrees is normal body temperature
Actually, it isn't. The number is just a statistical average. "Normal" body temperature is influenced by many factors, including time of day, activity, body part measured, and emotional excitement. The number also varies by age.
4. Hand sanitizers kill 99.9% of germs
Don't we love the thought of having clean, germ-free hands? Well, guess what? Only under laboratory conditions do hand soaps and sanitizers destroy almost all germs. In such conditions, human subjects are carefully cleaned first and then covered on the surface with a bug. Real life, unfortunately, doesn't work that way. Hand soaps and sanitizers target specific germs and are about 46-60% effective.
5. 50% of marriages end in divorce
This one is no longer true. In the '70s and '80s, divorce rates peaked, but ever since, they have been on the decline in America. There are several reasons why marriages are more successful now, including later marriage age, birth control, and the shift in gender roles over the past few decades. There is evidence, however, that divorce rates are higher in lower income families. Regardless, the majority of marriages today are successful today, so this statistic is outdated and irrelevant.
6. We only use 10% of our brains
This myth is so widely circulated that it is laughable. It is unclear where it originated from, but neuroscience has confirmed repeatedly that we actively use the entirety of our brains. At certain moments of the day, when we are resting, it is possible that we are only using 10% of it, but this isn't a perpetual occurrence. For an organ that uses almost one-fifth of the body's energy, it would be a bit concerning if we were only making use of a small fraction of it.
These are only a few flawed statistics, but the media and the news are filled with hundreds more. It is extremely important to look into how these studies were conducted to make sure the data is reliable. It's a scary thought, but the deeper we look into the things, the more lies and flaws we uncover.