Thinking Economics

Thinking Economics

Most human behaviour can be viewed through an economic lens to identify trends, patterns, biases and misconceptions. This column assesses Nigerian behaviour by applying Economics to behaviour and behaviour to Economics.

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Quantifying Rape: The Case of the Missing Data

Chuba Ezekwesili

Chuba Ezekwesili

Chuba is a data analyst & the co-founder of Akanka - a global design firm.

Like every other sensitive social issue, the topic of rape tends to create two sides in an argument: one side heavily vested in anecdotes and the other side heavily vested in repeatedly dismissing the topic in a request for data from the other side. One side argues emotionally, while the other side dismisses callously. The points against arguing without data are well established –the risk of being wrong, the tendency toward dismissing facts that don’t agree with one’s sentiments and the lack of direction without data.

However, we rarely focus on the other extreme – the side that dismisses an argument due to lack of data. This attitude can be quite attenuating for two reasons: it fails to look into why the data is absent and it tends to hinder the discourse. Once we obstinately focus on the data we wish to see, we fail to realise the significance of what we cannot see.

The data that lies unseen tells as much of a tale as the data that lies visible. One of the stories from the ‘Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes’ by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle demonstrates the significance of absent data. Here is an exchange between the famous Sherlock Holmes and a Scotland Yard detective during a theft investigation: 

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