Numbers, Data, Stats, and Other Nitpicks

Affordable Cohousing is not numbers cruncher heaven. Just stating that upfront. I do my best but Affordable is about housing, cohousing, community, and equality. I use numbers to compare apples to oranges, income to outgo, and the possible to the probably impossible. But numbers are so tricky that they are themselves a whole field of study. One fit for top-notch research librarians and physicists of any kind. In other words, a whole different subject.*

Graphic of Color Symbols


When I can find reliable numbers, I quote them and give my sources. I use sources generally considered reliable, professional, and unbiased. I favor research centers, professional publications, and Census figures from any year except 2020.** For the Census, I often use third-party sources because they are easier to understand without a graduate degree in statistics and coding. The Pew Research Center is a favorite source because it studies the social and economic areas related to housing and asks the right questions.

I trust Wikipedia. Not many people will admit that but you know that “everyone” does or it wouldn’t be growing by leaps and bounds. And all those people who don’t trust it wouldn’t be going around saying so — they would just ignore its existence.  I trust Wikipedia so much I make a monthly micro-donation of $5 automatically deposited on the first of the month. Wikipedia is the contemporary version of the Almanac, the book on your desk with all the names and numbers from the last year. Grain prices, the average height of 10-year-olds, the names of all the Beatles, the dates of all the wars, the populations of micro-islands, etc. Everything all in one place. In many languages. Updated thousands of times every third second. If Wikipedia was an Almanac, the desk that held it would be too large for my office, even for my whole corner of the block.

Opinions and Corrections

Estimates, assumptions, and informed opinions I label as such. I attempt not to record an opinion unless it is in my opinion informed. I post corrections when they are called to my attention. (It’s less embarrassing if you tell me about them than if they are allowed to just proliferate around the world in social media.)

Rounding Numbers

I round numbers, particularly of $$$. Since Affordable is not a data hound, it rarely means anything to my readers if I replace $348,761.76 with ~$350,000. The rounded numbers are easier to remember anyway. The little squiggly called a tilde, “~”, appears quite often. It means approximately, around, about. In addition to being easier to say and to type, rounded numbers are actually more truthful than precise numbers pretend to be. Anyone who tells you there are exactly 9,674,823,179,652 stars in the sky is hardly likely to be able to prove it. ~10,000,000,000,000 is close enough to convey “an enormous number.”

Switchplate Dingbat

*For an expert analysis of all the numbers that control our lives and how little anyone knows about them, see Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil. Subtitle: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy. An unlikely contender for the NYTimes Bestseller List and Best Book of the Year, it achieved both. It’s very funny as well. Math as you wish it had been.

**Remind me to correct this if we manage to get a re-do. Or the Census people have been keeping double books so it can pull out the correct figures under the next President.