Mark Twain popularized the phrase “Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics”, which was used to describe the power that numbers can convey, even for weak arguments.
For example, we see the number of about 3% as the death rate from the COVID-19 pandemic. But that statistic assumes we know the number of infected. Right now the denominator for that fraction is the number of confirmed people that tested positive. If it turns out through wider testing that many more people have been exposed, that 3% will drop, maybe as low as 1% or less. I live in a county close to Los Angeles county. We have about 300 cases, while LA county has over 10,000. To give those numbers context, LA County has over 10 million people, while my county is under 1 million. So the rate of infection is .1% in LA County, and .03% in my county. Or, the rate of infection is over three times greater in LA county than in my county.
Which leads me to this headline I recently saw in Utah news: “Utah County sees 75% increase in domestic violence 911 calls during pandemic”. Taken alone it sounds terrible. How does it compare to other states and countries? I googled and found the following: Domestic Violence call are up 18% in Spain, 30% France, 20% in Houston, 18% in Charlotte, and 35% in Cherokee County South Caroline.
So one might think that one of the most Mormon places in the world has some real problems. But again, we don’t have all the data. What is the rate per 100,000 of calls? What if the calls went up from 20 last year in March to 35 this year? That is a 75% increase, but with those low numbers, one could say that the Mormons are doing a really good job of living their religion. Unless we know the number per capital, we really can’t make a judgment. I googled and could not find the answer. But what I did find is historical evidence that Utah has had a higher number than the National average for domestic violence. From that one could guess that the numbers driving the 75% increase are actually large, therefore the increase is indeed very troubling, particularly in light of the very LDS population of Utah county. But, it is just a conjecture as I can’t find the actual numbers.
I started off writing this post to delve into the huge increase in calls in Utah county compared to the rest of the world, but then decided that I could not make a case one way or the other if there is a problem in the LDS culture that makes domestic violence any better or worse that the general population. I’ll save that for the reader with more information than I have available.