You know you are thinking like a sociologist or a statistician when…

Last week, I received a phone call from the news editor of the campus newspaper regarding a story: this year’s freshman class is 52% male, a change from recent years where it tended to be 51/49, 52/48 female. (For those who don’t know: Wheaton College tries to have an even gender ratio.) I was asked, “how would this affect the freshman class?”

My first thought was to check how much of a percentage change this was from previous years. Having a freshman class that is over 50% male might be a symbolic change might a 3% difference between last year and this year is less important than a 5 or 7 or or 10% difference from the previous year. Thinking about this possible story in this way takes the shock value of the percentages away and puts it in a more proper context.Second, in absolute numbers, how many more males does this mean are in the freshman class? Since it is likely a small percentage change, this is perhaps a shift of 10-20 people, not a huge number among roughly 600 freshman. Even if the next three freshman classes had these same percentage distributions, this is only a shift of roughly 40-80 males throughout the entire college of about 2,400 underclassmen.

While this might make a good example of thinking statistically for my Statistics class, there could be broader implications about who I now am as a person…

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