Statistics matter Mr. Lammy, statistics matter

David Lammy does seem to major in an insistence that Britain treats those of differential melanin contents differently, even unfairly. At which point we’ve got to insist that statistics matter. Really matter, for they’re how we understand the world around us:

More than half of the inmates held in prisons for young people in England and Wales are from a black and minority ethnic (BME) background, the highest proportion on record, the prisons watchdog has said, prompting warnings that youth jails have hit “American” levels of disproportionality.

About 51% of boys in young offender institutions (YOIs) – prisons for boys aged 15 to 17 and young adult men aged 18 to 21 – identified as being from a BME background, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) found.

In addition, the inspectorate found 42% of children in secure training centres (STCs) – prisons for children up to the age of 17 – were from a BME background.

The proportion of BME boys and men behind bars in YOIs in England and Wales is nearly four times the 14% BME proportion of the wider UK population.

It’s that last line which is the error. For ethnicity as a portion of the population varies by age cohort - obviously enough, mass immigration is a recent enough phenomenon. Rough numbers from Nomis tell us that in these age groups some 23% or so of the population are BAME.

Thus the number of young men in those prisons is disprortionate, yes, and we’d love to know why too. But we still have to start with the right numbers.

For example, when we consider who has the top jobs - as has been done recently - there is the other side of this same number. The young are indeed more likely to be BAME than the general population and thus the old less so. Who is it that has the top jobs? Those who have aged into them. That may or may not be the entire explanation but it’s an important point to take into consideration before we make any conclusions.

For statistics really do matter, they’re how we make sense of a complex world.