Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Open Mind: Growthgate

February 16th, 2010
Suppose you have a child, a son — he’s 10. You want to know whether or not he’s growing normally, so every day you measure his height with a tape measure. You’ve done so since he was 5. You even plot the data on a graph, and notice two things about it. First: the measurements show a fair amount of jitter, sometimes they’re a wee bit higher, sometimes a wee bit lower, there’s noise in the data. Second: there’s also a trend. Your kid is a lot taller at 10 than he was at 5, in fact the trend over the observed time span is upward and reasonably steady. You even do a statistical analysis, estimate the growth rate, and determine that it’s definitely statistically significant — so it’s not a false trend due to noise in the data, it’s real. Your son is growing normally.
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