Monday, March 27, 2017

Johnson's "The reasons we don’t study gun violence the same way we study infections"

This article from The Washington Post is a summary of an article from the Journal of the American Medical Association. Both are simple, short articles that demonstrates how to use statistics to make an argument. Here, that argument is made via regression in order to demonstrate the paucity of funding and publications for research studying gun related deaths.

What did the researchers do? Regression. A regression line was generated in order to predict how much money is spent studying common causes of death. We see that deaths by fire arms aren't receiving proportional funding relative to the deaths they cause. See the graph below.

How to use in class:

1) How is funding meted out by our government in order to better understand problems that plague our country? Well, it isn't being given to researchers studying gun violence because of the Dickey Amendment. I grew up in a very hunting friendly/gun friendly part of Pennsylvania. I've been to the shooting range. And it upsets me that we can't better understand and study best practices for safe gun ownership.

2) Another issue: We don't talk about suicide enough. Half of the gun deaths were suicides.

3) There seems to be under-funding of possible accidents, as opposed to diseases, that cause death (shooting, motor vehicle, falls, and asphyxia). Why might this be?

4) The above image demonstrates correlation/linear relationships as well as gun violence as an influential observation.

5) Regression, y'all. 

The WP article states, 

"If public health issues were funded based on their death toll, gun violence injuries would have been expected to receive about $1.4 billion in federal research funding over about a decade — compared with the $22 million that it actually got, the study found." 

They predicted Y (research funding) based on X (death toll) and found a discrepancy, and the discrepancy is used to make an argument about the funding short fall. If you go to the JAMA article, they describe the research article publication shortfall as well. According to that regression equation, there should be over 38K articles published about gun deaths. Instead, there are 1,738.