Causation and Correlation : A Primer For Senator Ted Cruz

Our junior Senator, Ted Cruz, came up today with some statistics related to gun crimes… He posits that murder rates are highest because of tough gun laws:

“For example, if you look at six cities with the highest murder rates, Detroit sadly in 2011 topped the list with 48 murders per 100,000 people,” said Cruz. “Baltimore, Maryland, was second with 31 murders per 100,000. Philadelphia was third with 21 murders per 100,000 people. Memphis, Tennessee, the only one of the top six without especially vigorous gun laws, was fourth with 18 murders per 100,000 people. Washington, D.C., was fifth with 18, and Chicago, Ill., was sixth with 16 murders per 100,000 people.”

By contrast, he said in his hometown of Houston, the murder rate was 9 murders per 100,000 people; in San Antonio, the number was seven, Austin, 4, and El Paso, 2. “That means that the rate in Detroit is 24 times higher than it is in El Paso,” said Cruz.

Senator Cruz is making the classic mistake of interpreting causation from correlation. He is missing that many of these areas developed tough gun laws AFTER their murder rates went up, which means that he has things exactly backward (this isn’t the first time Ted has had that particular problem). He also kinda conveniently ignored a better correlation, that of depressed economic activity to murder rates. Now, there’s some actual statistical evidence there and his own examples help make the case… take Detroit vs Austin. Detroit’s economy has been in the toilet for a long time. Austin, meanwhile, has continued to grow and prosper despite economic headwinds nationally.Every single example he mentions reinforces that correlation and it’s pretty easy to see that lack of economic opportunity is going to lead a larger percentage of the population toward crime and generate higher crime rates (including murder).

What’s so terribly disappointing is that Cruz is just not bright enough to come up with an argument that would be difficult to refute. It’s like the blood’s gone thin on the Republican side. Shame, really.

Also in Ted Cruz news today, he continued his unbroken string of boneheaded votes by casting one against the Violence Against Women Act which makes us wonder why he hates women.

Bonus! Fun Fact… Ted Cruz is serving in the Senate with fellow Teabagger Marco Rubio. Both are of Cuban descent, Rubio’s family left Cuba a few years before Castro took power and Cruz’s family fought alongside Castro and was then forced out!

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