John Lott Makes a Mistake. Again. News at 11.

Last week, John Lott released a working paper showing that illegal immigrants in Arizona “are at least 142% more likely to be convicted of a crime than other Arizonans.” I didn’t bother reading it or reporting on it because Lott is spectacularly dishonest and unreliable in his work and it’s not worth the time to pore through his dreck to find out how he tortured the data. Anyway, I figured that someone else would do the work eventually, and today Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute comes through. I’m sorry that Alex had to waste a week of time he’ll never get back on this, but since he did let’s find out what Lott got wrong:

Lott wrote his paper based on a dataset he obtained from the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) that lists all admitted prisoners in the state of Arizona from 1985 to 2017….The variable that Lott focused on is “CITIZEN.” That variable is broken down into seven categories. Lott erroneously assumed that the third category, called “non-US citizen and deportable,” only counted illegal immigrants. That is not true….A significant proportion of non-U.S. citizens who are deported every year are legal immigrants who violate the terms of their visas in one way or the other.

I’m sure it was an honest mistake. Nowrasteh uses a more reliable variable to get a better estimate, but even so, it counts both legal and illegal immigrants. So he provides both a high and low estimate for the number of illegal immigrants in Arizona prisons:

In other words, illegal immigrants are a smaller percentage of the prison population than the overall population.

There are all sorts of potential sources of error here, including pretty much all of the estimates of everything. That’s just the way it goes with this stuff. In any case, I imagine that Lott will come roaring back, insisting that he knew all along about the limitations of the CITIZEN variable and then filling the web with statistical gobbledygook to show that he was right all along. Maybe. But given his track record, I’ll believe the Cato estimates until someone I trust comes along to tell me that Lott has a point.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

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Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

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Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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