David Goodhart responds to Jonathan Portes and it’s as bad as you might expect. To focus, remember he said 50% of schoolchildren in Bradford have special educational needs? Here’s the tape:
Bradford has just opened two more schools for children with Special Educational Needs,’ he writes. ‘On some measures nearly half of all children in the area qualify for special help.’
Goodhart tries to source it:
One of the main authorities on cousin marriage within the Pakistani community in Bradford is a woman called Nuzhat Ali who told me that almost 30 per cent of Pakistani children suffer from mild or severe disability as a result of cousin marriage adding “that almost half have special needs at school.
Before quoting this, he tries to hide behind “on some measures”, but the quote clearly refers to having special educational needs, a term which has a legal definition and which is what the ONS counts. And suddenly all is clear. Making the charitable assumption that this isn’t just some random person he met, this could actually be the truth…if you stick with what she said rather than Goodhart’s gloss on it.
50% of the subgroup of children with Pakistani origins who have mild or severe disability might well be statemented for SEN. That’s kind of the point of SEN. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if 50% of white kids who have a mild or severe disability were statemented, because the point of statementing is precisely to give disabled kids additional help. Obviously, that’s 50% of 30%*, i.e. 15% of Pakistani children, so the question is 15% * (fraction of Pakistanis in BradMet schools).
The variable is, I think, less than 0.5 = 50%, so your answer is something less than 7.5% of the total school population, rather than 50% of the total.
If the relevant subgroup was those children, of Pakistani origin, who have a mild or severe disability that is positively identified as the result of cousin marriage, which is an alternative reading of the quote, the subgroup in question would be even smaller (some kids have disabilities for other reasons or none) and so would the final score. I don’t believe it is, though, because 30% is implausibly high.
My guess is that she is talking sense, but Goodhart either got his sums wrong or didn’t care. Meanwhile, Goodhart apparently wants to wave the Very Serious Journalist Cock even though he’s not actually a journalist and never has been and talk about going out of London and talking to people, not “looking at databases”, in a weird vaudeville of the US pundits vs. Nate Silver.
*Rather, it’s 50% of “almost 30 per cent”, which could be as little as 25%. As the national average is 20% and the maximum 27%, that would be getting close to the point at which you might think there was actually nothing to see here at all and kick the null hypothesis over the main stand. But there is no way of knowing how much exaggeration is at work here.