As a new parent, I’ve found myself reading a lot about child-rearing and the like and one thing has become very apparent that is really starting to annoy me.
People parade statistics around far too much and hold them in too high esteem. Some examples of stats I’ve read recently include:
Breast-fed babies are 24% more likely to be upward mobile.
Breastfed babies are 41% more likely to go to college.
This sort of statistics drives me nuts, because it is so often misrepresentative of what’s going on.
People scanning those stats may quickly come to the conclusion that breastfeeding your baby will result in your child having higher upward mobility and being more likely to go to college.
But of course, it’s more that breastfeeding your baby and higher upward mobility / going to college are all effects of something else entirely.
Correlation does not imply causation.
More affluent and educated families are more likely to breastfeed their children, and for longer. They’re also naturally better positioned to provide for better upward mobility for their children and to provide and prepare for them to go to college/university. So it’s not so much a function of breastfeeding your child as it is of your social standing.
And yet, people parade around these statistics as some sort of advertisement for breastfeeding. Don’t get me wrong, breastfeeding is fantastic and I’m highly supportive of it, but we can do a better job if educating people than blindly misleading them about the “benefits” of breastfeeding.
This of course applies to a far wider arena than just breastfeeding or parenting. It’s spread all around us, and it’s just another example of why we should be so skeptical of stats.