TLDR: This is embarrassingly bad statistical analysis on Wired's part. Proper replacement headline options:
Child Vaccination Rates Follow Normal Distribution
Study Shows Silicon Valley Parenting Is Average
Now, on to dissection. A direct quote form the article:
Of 12 day care facilities affiliated with tech companies, six—that’s
half—have below-average vaccination rates, according to the state’s
Full stop right here. Think for a moment on this question: what percentage of people have below-average intelligence?
What does average mean? Statistically, average is the typical, most representative score. In a normal distribution, approximately half the scores will be above the average while approximately half will be below.
So, how many day care facilities should we expect to have below-average vaccination rates? About half. And how many will have above-average rates? Um, about half. And what does the chart say?
Quick, new headline:
The Amazingly High Vaccination Rates at Silicon Valley Day Cares
After all, half of all silicon valley day cares have above-average vaccination rates, right?
OK, perhaps I'm being overly harsh here about a minor...total demonstrated lack of understanding of statistics that should be part of the first four weeks of an undergraduate course in statistics. Maybe it's just a silly error.
Later they claim one terrible daycare has only a ~40% immunization rate, which is obviously a very significantly low score. Why is it that one so low?
But Google has a simple explanation—a representative chalked it up to
old data. “In 2013-2014, these two childcare facilities had
immunization rates of 98 percent and 81 percent,” says a Google
spokesperson, emphasizing that immunization is important to the
company. “The reported numbers for the current year are lower simply
because many parents have not yet provided updated immunization
records. We’ve asked them all to do this, so we can update the
If this claim is true, then the previous year immunization rate was extremely high and should have a headline of how great Google Parents are at vaccinating their kids. Yet the present rate has said to have fallen to half the previous year levels? That's not a statistical trend - that can only be explained by throwing out half the kids and getting a whole new set with extra-ordinarily low rates of vaccination. Is that claimed in the article?
No, and the writer of the article doesn't claim - or apparently investigate - if this perfectly reasonable sounding explanation is true or not.
Furthermore, there is another glaring error in the article - all throughout the article it cites information as being direct, these-kids-definitely-aren't-vaccinated - but that's not apparently the case! The data refers to the percentage of parents who have provided medical documentation establishing that their child has been vaccinated to their childcare facility. Big brother isn't in play here - Wired Magazine does not have access to private medical records. The report of evidence is not on child vaccination, but on paperwork.
So finally, I propose the best possible headline that this report and data as written can possible support:
Parents In Silicon Valley Don't Keep Up On Bureaucratic Paperwork That Does Not Clearly Impact the Safety Or Health of Their Children
Governmental Data Too Out Of Date And Incomplete To Draw Wide-Reaching, Judgmental, Damning Conclusions
Now there's an article I can get behind. I obviously have no future in journalism.