Ann Coulter: How to Promote Bigotry With Statistical Sleight of Hand
Pulling Ann Coulter’s teeth.
When I first had this letter from Ann Coulter brought to my attention I wasn’t quite sure how to approach it. I knew I wanted to make a comment about it but felt sure most people who pay any attention to her already know she’s a bigot if not an outright racist and that she feeds people with similar mindsets some very tainted information.
What may be less well known, and what makes her so effective with both her ardent sycophantic followers and ignorant fence sitters is statistical misdirection. As with most of her media savvy friends - those ‘race realists’ firmly camped out within the right wing big tent - she denies the very existence of systemic racism but embraces the concept of reverse racism. If we fall for this obvious DARVO it makes it virtually impossible for us to say anything about her racism unless it can be shown her claims are obviously false.
Most people, while likely fairly literate, are less likely to be knowledgeable about how statistics are used and abused, so will accept official sounding numbers as being accurate and informative. It becomes a simple matter for someone intending to obfuscate the real information to mix and match samples with different focuses or by using unrelated samples that sound related.
“Even under Rubio’s scheme, all the children born to the 11 million newly legalized illegals will be instant citizens, able to collect welfare for their whole families and vote as soon as they are old enough.
Which won’t be long: The vast majority of illegal aliens are Hispanic, and Hispanics have a higher teen birthrate than any other ethnic group. In California, a majority of all Hispanic births are illegitimate. That’s a lot of Democratic voters coming.”
Even a quick look at the quote tells us she knows her intended audience quite well. She knows that with a little leading they will link illegal immigrants to unwed and teenage mothers, unwed mothers to disadvantaged unemployable or lazy children, lazy children to the use of welfare and welfare recipients to voting for the Democratic party. To validate the danger of legalizing illegal immigrants, Coulter throws a few statistical tidbits into the mix.
Her first statistic is the number of illegal immigrants currently living in the US, 11 million. That number is scary but accurate:
In summary, an estimated 11.5 million unauthorized immigrants were living in the United States in January 2011 compared to a revised 2010 estimate of 11.6 million.
She then goes on to tell us that most of those illegals are Hispanic, a vague comment designed to narrow the sample to a specific subset while still keeping it scary. Even if we grant that all the immigrants from specific countries are likely to be Hispanic the actual number is reduced significantly to 8.57 million.
Here comes the reason she wanted to specify Hispanics, their relatively high teenage birth rate of 49.4 per 1000. As Coulter states, it is indeed the highest of all. Of course the birth rate does not give us an idea of actual births without knowing the populations. To get an idea of the population we need to make a few calculations related to Coulter’s comments.
The number of female illegal immigrants less than 19 is around 12% of the total number. You’ll note I didn’t include 19 year old but I did include girls under 15. This is a limitation of the information source I’m using. The number of teenage female illegal immigrants of childbearing age should be around 1,028,400. That needs to be further reduced to just Hispanic females. 8,570,000/11,600,000*100=73.9% so there would be about 760,000 teenage female Hispanic illegal immigrants. At 49.4 per 1000 per year, the number of pregnant teenage Hispanic illegal immigrants would be around 37,544
All of the numbers Coulter uses up til this point are national numbers. She switches to a smaller more specific sample, that of California teenage single mothers, which may or may not reflect that of the larger national sample, in order to set up the welfare connection.
The number of illegal immigrants matching the criteria set by Coulter is tiny in comparison to the scary big number she originally mentioned, yet the way it is presented increases rather than decreases the apocalyptic image Coulter is trying to leave.
The number 37,544 is even less scary when compared to the number of Americans of voting age - 234,564,000. The number of new Hispanic welfare bums voting for the Democrats, even if we assume all children born to unwed teenage mothers end up on welfare and vote Democratic, is less than .016% of the voting public.
The best way to pull Coulter’s teeth is to work the numbers.