Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A single data point is often meaningless without its context

(Chart updated with a suggestion by Andrew Losowsky)

In case you haven't heard, we're bracing for a monster hurricane down here in Miami. While praying to the gods of uncertainty and chance to push it a bit to the East, back into the Atlantic Ocean, I decided to relax for 15 minutes from installing shutters and getting supplies by designing a quick chart. I'm offering it for free to Breitbart News.

This morning, Breitbart published a story by reporter John Binder with this alarming headline “2,139 DACA Recipients Convicted or Accused of Crimes Against Americans.” This is its lede:
As Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of the Obama-created Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), from which more than 800,000 un-vetted young illegal aliens have been given protected status and work permits, the number of them who are convicted criminals, gang members, or suspects in crimes remains staggering.
It's a staggering number indeed. Staggeringly low. If there are roughly 800,000 DACA recipients, 2,139 of them are just 0.27%, or roughly 3 out of 1,000. The numbers in the story suggest that undocumented youngsters protected by DACA commit proportionally far fewer crimes than American citizens do. This is, of course, if the data are reliable. Breitbart mentions its source, USCIS, but doesn't link to the specific report this comes from.

To put these data points in context I made the charts below; sources are thisthisthis, and this. If you have other figures that would make for a better comparison, let me know. For instance, to be more accurate we'd need to get the felony rate just of Americans who were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012. This was one of the requirements to apply for DACA. Also, it might be the case (I don't know) that a conviction doesn't immediately lead to your DACA status being revoked.

Finally, we'd need to consider the rate of Americans who have been convicted of “significant misdemeanors” or are affiliated with gangs, as the second graphic only plots felony —but not misdemeanor— convicts up to 2010. This might make the difference even larger: