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» Ranking is a trap from Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science
Ranks have lots of problems. They're statistically unstable (see the work of Tom Louis) and can mask nonlinearity. I was recently reminded of these patterns in seeing two sets of graphs reproduced by Kaiser:... [Read More]

Comments

Ken

A common logarithmic scale would have been a better choice. The decrease in David and Mary is still obvious, and the scale better reflects the importance of a change.

Jorge Camoes

For many, charts are the "lighter side" of data analysis. Thanks God for that, because statistics are so boring... That's why they can't resist to have some fun, even at the cost of a less (and less and less) clear message.

edmDusty

as ET says...if your numbers are boring, you've got the wrong numbers.

derek

I wonder how they'd look as sparklines? (apologies for the crude simulation of actual sparklines)

I realise that sparklines are not well equipped to deal with logarithmic scales.

Jon Peltier

If you presented a lengthy table of names (so more people could find their own name, of course), rather than just a few, you would need sparklines. This would be a two-word display for each name: the name and the sparkline.

zbicyclist

When I saw this in the original WSJ article, I thought it made the point well, and I still do. Logs would be confusing to the audience and the mindset of those reading a "baby name" article, even in the WSJ.

The graphs don't really need to be aligned to make the point in this case.

Full disclosure: My old grad school friend, Cleveland Kent Evans, is quoted in this article. Cleve's one of the new people named after two cities in Ohio. There's no sign of this becoming a trend.

derek

I don't have a problem with the reciprocal scale used, but I do have a problem with the filled area under the curve. That area is meaningless, and the curve should have been a line instead.

miked

I disagree. The area under the curve is arguably a measure of the name's overall popularity. Given a series of these graphs at the same scale (like the first four here), a comparison of those areas offers a quick way to guage relative popularities (for instance, there's a lot more red for "Nicole" than for "Farrah"). Though I can't prove it, I would imagine having that area filled in (against a background color) allows our visual system to do the "integration" quicker.

Again, I think this would be useful when eyeballing a series of these graphs, such as the table suggested above. At worst, at adds nothing (if you don't care about "overall popularity"). At best, it facilitates the perception of another related metric.

Kaiser

But wait, the area together with the reverse rank is dangerous! You can arbitrary make the area as large as you want by picking an arbitrarily large end-point for the rank scale. In the case of David, one could choose a y-axis of 1 to 200 for example.

Andrew Gelman

I'd prefer plotting proportion of total names (as is done on that baby names website), rather than ranks.

Ally sal

I think an illustration with more names would make more of a point. This only shows that Mary and David are getting uncommon. Oh and statistics get so boring!

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