College Math Teaching

August 28, 2018

Conditional Probability in the news..

Filed under: probability — Tags: , — collegemathteaching @ 1:11 am

I am going to stay in my lane here and not weigh in on a social science issue. But I will comment on this article, which I was alerted to here. This is from the Atlantic article:

When the ACLU report came out in 2017, Dyer told the Fresno Bee the findings of racial disparities were “without merit” but also said that the disproportionate use of force corresponds with high crime populations. At the end of our conversation, Dyer pointed to a printout he brought with him, a list of the department’s “most wanted” people. “We can’t plug in a bunch of white guys,” he said. “You know who’s shooting black people? Black people. It’s black-on-black crime.”

But so-called “black-on-black crime” as an explanation for heightened policing of black communities has been widely debunked. A recent study by the U.S. Department of Justice found that, overwhelmingly, violent crimes are committed by people who are the same race as their victims. “Black-on-black” crime rates, the study found, are comparable to “white-on-white” crime rates.

So, just what did that “recent study” find? I put a link to it, but basically, it said that most white crime victims were the victim of a white criminal and that most black victims were the victim of a black criminal. THAT is their “debunking”. That is a conditional probability: GIVEN that you were a crime victim to begin with, then the perpetrator was probably of the same race.

That says nothing about how likely a white or a black person was to be a crime victim to being with. From the blog post critiquing the Atlantic article:

What the rest of us mean by “black-on-black crime rate” is the overall rate at which blacks victimize others or the rate at which they are victimized themselves––which, for homicide, has ranged from 6 to 8 times higher than for whites in recent decades. Homicide is the leading cause of death for black boys/men aged 15-19, 20-24, and 25-34, according to the CDC. That fact cannot be said about any other ethnicity/age combination. Blacks only make up 14% of the population. But about half of the murdered bodies that turn up in this country are black bodies (to use a phrase in vogue on the identitarian Left), year in and year out.

In short, blacks are far more often to be the crime victim too. Even the study that the Atlantic article linked to shows this.

Anyhow, that is a nice example of conditional probability.


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