The case of the decimal place: teenage pregnancy

percent.jpgThe Tories published a report meant to highlight inequalities under Labour, which accidentally overstated the rate of teenage pregnancy among girls in deprived areas by a factor of 10, reports The Guardian.

The actual rate of teen pregnancy is 54.32 per 1000 girls aged 15-17, or 5.4% in the 10 deprived areas referred to by the Tories. But the Conservative party slipped up by a decimal place, instead claiming that 54% of teen girls in these areas become pregnant.

To top it all, in the same 10 deprived areas Labour said that, since 1998, there had been a 10.5% decline in the under-18 conception rate, reversing a previous upward trend.

Moreover, as The Economist noted recently, “Today, only half as many girls between 15 and 19 bear a child in their teens as when their grandmothers were that age.” (Part of an interesting dissection of whether or not Britain is, as Cameron suggests, “broken”: they conclude not. Via Wonderland).

As Cath Elliot points out:

It took others outside of the Conservative Party to point the mistake out to them. It took people with a grasp of sodding reality to read that figure and go: “Hang on, 54%? That can’t be right!” and delve a bit deeper into the stats.

But I wonder how many Tory Party faithful had already checked through the report prior to its publication yesterday; I wonder how many of them had looked at that figure, nodded along, and thought: “54% of ‘em pregnant: yep, sounds about right.” Or alternatively, and probably more realistically, how many of them had read it and muttered to themselves “54% of ‘em. 54% of the feckless sponging hordes spawning kids just so they can get their own council houses and benefits and live in luxury off the rest of us just like their feckless sponging work-shy parents before ‘em”