Saturday, August 06, 2016

On the Jedi phenomenon and the Australian census

Via io9, I learned of a Brisbane Times article dealing with the Jedi phenomenon in the Australian census. Funny as the idea of claiming the faith of the Jedi Knights of Star Wars fame might be, it messes with census data.

The Jedi phenomenon began in 2001 when an email campaign mistakenly claimed the government would have to recognise it as an official religion if 8000 people selected it in the census.

Now [HKlie] Sturgess, president of the Atheist Foundation of Australia, is leading a campaign for people not to treat the census as a joke.

This is because if people fill in the "other" box in the religion section of the census with an answer such as Jedi they are counted as "not defined" rather than "no religion".

Ms Sturgess said this skews the census results by making Australia appear more religious than it is.

"People shouldn't waste their answer," she said.

"Answering the religion question thoughtfully and honestly matters because it benefits all Australians when decisions on how to spend taxpayer dollars are made on sound data that accurately reflects modern-day Australia."

This little incident says a lot about the problem with modern statistics. I will elaborate in the next few days. In the meantime, be amused with this.

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