After the Western GOP Debate on October 18th (part 1, 2, 3, and 4), hosted by CNN and moderated by Anderson Cooper, Mr. Cooper decided to do a “Keeping them Honest” segment on his show the next day (below).

Amongst other items fact-checked, he zeroed in on a statement that Rick Perry made to Mitt Romney, concerning Texas’ outperforming Massachusetts when it came to job growth (01:15-01:36 in the clip).  Cooper’s analysis supported Perry’s claim as factually correct, but with a caveat such as to … erode the influence of Perry as contributing to that fact (? – you, the reader, will have to judge his intent):

In fact, Texas has created more jobs than Massachusetts, but that’s largely because the state is so much bigger, and the population is growing so much faster.

So – to clarify – Mr. Cooper asserts that Texas has created more jobs than Massachusetts, due in part to the fact that the population is growing so much faster in Texas.  I’m sure, because this is a “fact-checking” segment, he has the data to support his claim.  Surely he’s not confusing correlation & causation – or specifically, inferring that there is a causation – that population growth causes job growth – when perhaps there is only correlation?  Or further “perhaps” – surely there’s not an opposite causation than he inferred (that being, job growth causes population growth)?

Since the correlation/causation issue might be lost on some, let’s illustrate with Wikipedia’s example:

The more firemen fighting a fire, the bigger the fire is observed to be. Therefore firemen cause fire.

Mr. Cooper didn’t cite any data sources along with his claim, and I’m not aware of any off-hand (and also too lazy to search) – so I’m not sure.  But let’s noodle through this a little:  If one state created lots of new jobs, could that potentially cause people to move there?

Is unemployment still over 9%?

Let’s look at the converse situation – are jobs leaving Michigan because people are leaving Michigan?  Or are people leaving Michigan because jobs are leaving Michigan?  Did America become the land of opportunity because people just decided to hop on a boat & come there, or did people decide to hop on a boat & come to America because it was the land of opportunity?  Did the firemen cause the fire, or did the fire cause the firemen?

To be clear: I’m not arguing that the job growth in Texas directly lead to the population growth, or that policies which lead to job growth have lead to population growth.  I have my predispositions were I to have to guess, but I’m not arguing that – I’m arguing that not enough data was presented to demonstrate causation – but causation was claimed.

According to the Anderson Cooper 360 website, “About this Show”:

Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news.

Perhaps next time Mr. Cooper will either cite his sources, or for lack of data – leave his inferences about causation out of his report.  Or maybe just actually “tell stories from many points of view” – and let the viewers make up their own minds about the news – instead of subjecting them to his conclusions?

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