Significant Disparities

RECEIVED Fri., Feb. 7, 2020

Dear Editor,
    In the article “Going Nowhere Fast” [News, Feb. 7], writer Austin Sanders reports on significant disparities between traffic stops/arrest rates for Black/African American drivers and white drivers. His argument would be even more compelling were he to interpret his statistics correctly. If Black people make up only 8% of the population of Austin but 15% of all traffic stops, then they are overrepresented by almost 88% (87.5%, to be exact) in stops. Similarly, since white people make up 54% of Austin’s population and only 47% of the traffic stops, white drivers are underrepresented by 13%, not just 7% as Sanders states.
    Later in the article, OPO Director Farah Muscadin suggests that (my quotes) “the rate of stops and arrests is double that of a particular demographic’s share of the population.” Her statement is supported by an analysis similar to that above, but not the (inaccurate) analysis Sanders provides.
    Note to ed.: If Sanders misinterpreted similarly the stats for arrests stemming from stops, then the 25% of arrests being Black people (Sanders’ 17% plus the population rate of 8%) constitutes an overrepresentation of that minority by over 300%! In the same manner, white drivers composing 31% of arrests (the group being 54%, minus the 23% “underage” Sanders cites) constitutes an even larger underrepresentation of that group, close to 43%.
Michael Crecelius
   The News team responds: Thanks for writing in, Michael. We goofed and mixed up percentage points with overall difference in percentages. Your interpretation of the data is correct, and we’ve updated our story to reflect that. In the meantime, Austin is signing up for a course on statistical analysis to prevent this from happening again!
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