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07-Apr-2020 10:49 by 8 Comments

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What Unz did seems reasonable from a distance (and I can understand why he made the choices he did in making his estimate), but his conclusions don’t seem to hold up on closer inspection.Unz’s claim Unz’s argument has two parts, a numerator and a denominator.

Meanwhile, during the 2010s the average Asian student was nearly 300% more likely to make PBK, with their proportion of Junior Year PBKs running even higher.

In the present post, I concentrate on the statistics about Jewish students, because this is where I have learned that his statistics are particularly suspect, with various numbers being off by factors of 2 or 4 or more. Some people have sent me some information showing serious problems with Unz’s methods and his numbers.

Unz’s article was discussed, largely favorably, by academic bloggers Tyler Cowen, Steve Hsu, and . This post is long because, if we’re adjudicating claims based on statistics, details matter.

Numerator incompatible with denominator As my correspondent writes, “If Unz wants to compare the representation of Jewish students among National Merit Scholar semifinalists to that among Harvard undergrads, he must use the same methodology for both data sets. In comparison, Jewish admissions in competitive west coast colleges such as Stanford and the University of California are much lower, reflecting that they are drawing from a different geographic distribution of applicants.

This substantially nullifies Unz’s arguments about Harvard’s admissions preferences for unqualified Jewish students (particularly in comparison to non-Jewish whites, whose enrollment at Harvard he substantially underestimated).” OK, so going from 25% to 10%—that’s a factor of 2.5. My correspondent writes: Performing Weyl Analysis on Stanford’s public directory yields the result that 4-5% of Stanford’s undergrads are Jewish (half of the 9.5% Hillel figure cited by Unz), which also happens to coincide with the percentage of Jewish CA NMS semifinalists one finds via Weyl analysis.

Based on the 2000 Census estimates, the first group includes approximately 1 in 20 American Jews, while the larger set raises the fraction to 1 in 12.

I’m a little miffed the list doesn’t include Rosenthal or Gelman, but hey, what can you do? Typically over 40% of Harvard College students come from New England and the mid-Atlantic, a group of states that includes 48% of American Jews but only 21% of the white population.

A few months ago we discussed Ron Unz’s claim that Jews are massively overrepresented in Ivy League college admissions, not just in comparison to the general population of college-age Americans, but even in comparison to other white kids with comparable academic ability and preparation.

Most of Unz’s article concerns admissions of Asian-Americans, and he also has a proposal to admit certain students at random (see my discussion in the link above). Hsu writes: “Don’t miss the statistical supplement.” But a lot of our trust in those statistics seems to be misplaced.

This all suggests that Unz’s estimate of 6% Jewish National Merit Scholar semifinalists is too low, even using the Weyl method that Unz described (and, which by Unz’s report, gave results within 0.1 percentage point of what he got from direct inspection of the names).

While the Weyl method may produce different results on a state-by-state basis from Unz’s “direct inspection” method, my correspondent found that the Weyl method produced higher Jewish totals than reported by Unz in these states in almost every state checked.

I received an email from a Harvard alum who went through the names of Harvard students from the classes of 2009-2012 and estimated the proportion of Jews using the same scale-up methods [see details below] that Unz used to validate his personal estimates of the rate of Jewish names in high-achieving groups (Unz stated here that these scale-up methods produced results within 1% of his own estimates based on direct inspection).

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