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LIS 950: Libraries and community

The purpose of this seminar is to explore an important topic in library and information studies in depth — in all its intertwined historical, cultural, philosophical, and political aspects — through a graduate reading/discussion seminar. The topic varies each time the course is taught; this time around, we will focus on "libraries and community"

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Problem with Figure 32

Figure 32 presents trends in Protestant, Catholic, and United Way Giving. All show a decline in the amount of giving over time (125). There are two major problems with the three graphs presented. First, each of the graphs uses a different scale on the vertical access (Protestant 0.0% to 4.0%, Catholic 0.0% to 2.5%, and United Way 0.00% to 0.16%). The scale of the vertical axes could be attributed to poor layout work done by Putnam or the publisher instead of negligence or an attempt to fool the reader. I can maybe overlook this shortcoming. Second, what the vertical axes measure are different. For Protestants it is “Giving per Member for 11 Major Protestant Denominations As a Fraction of Personal Disposal Income [emphasis added],” for Catholics it is “Giving per Catholic As Fraction of Household Income [emphasis added],” for the United Way it is “Giving to the United Way as Fraction of Total Personal Income [emphasis added]” (125). Fraction of Personal Disposal Income, Household Income, and Total Personal Income are not comparable units of analysis and this makes comparison between the three groups impossible. I cannot just ignore this problem and find that in this case Putnam is an untrustworthy and incompetent.


Blogger k8 said...

Great observation!

I missed it (and possibly other problems). I got so bored by the graphs, etc., that I just stopped looking at them. And I'm a somewhat visual learner!

7:22 PM  

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