A celebration (and mocking) of ridiculously useless research

Friday, January 26, 2007

Basic Division, 101

There are times, Gentle Readers, where even the brain trust here at Duh!scoveries Central are simply gobsmacked by the stupidity of so-called "scientists".

Apparently, for well over a decade now, the divorce rate in China has been incorrectly calculated, leading researchers around the world to marvel at the astonishingly high number of divorces in China - a traditional low-divorce society. Comparisons between China and other Asian countries saw an enormous surge in divorce in China during the 80s and 90s narrowing, and in some cases surpassing, the pre-existing differences in rates.

A by-product of globalization? The dangers of capitalism? The end of the Mao era loosening social strictures against divorce?

Nope - apparently the Chinese can't divide. Chinese statisticians have been counting the number of divorced people, rather than the number of divorces, and dividing that by the total population. As a divorce usually results in two divorced people, the "divorce rate" calculated from that number was twice as high as it should have been.

In this article, Xu Anqi, a researcher for the Marriage and Family Institute at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, has been lobbying the government since the 1990s to fix this problem.

"Based on the wrong statistics, many sensational research reports came out," she was quoted as saying.

Now that they can divide, the Chinese divorce rate has dropped from 2.76 divorces per 1,000 to 1.38.

This makes us wonder what other numbers coming out of China are fishy. How many kids does that one child per "couple" policy actually let you have? Do they truly have 1.3 billion people? Will a conga line of all the Chinese in the world really never end? Most importantly, will those lottery numbers in my fortune cookie work?

Enquiring minds want to know!