Sometimes I ask good enough questions to get the right answer. Here is the Robert Higgs way to understand information given to you in the press and by the government or other sources.
Robert Higgs @ Kevin, here is the list as recreated in recent years for a seminar I’ve taught for advanced students at the Mises University summer program:
1. Was (is) this reported information possible?
2. Was anyone in a position to know the reported facts?
3. Who reported this information first? Why? What incentives did this reporter have to take care and be accurate? Was this reporter likely to be biased? Did this reporter edit the data in any way?
4. If second, third, and other reporters passed along the data before the data reached the source from which they are now drawn, the same questions asked above about the first reporter must be asked about subsequent reporters.
5. How was the information compiled? Were basic data summed, averaged, or edited? Who, if anyone, checked the calculations performed on the information?
6. Is this evidence part of a larger whole or itself an aggregate of subsets of
reported data? Were the raw data edited or subject to exclusions of some kind?
7. Were the data corrected, interpolated, or projected from existing data to obtain missing data?
8. Were benchmarks employed to establish weights, levels, or other standardization measures? Where did the benchmarks come from? How reliable are they?
9. Are the data a whole population or a sample? If a sample, was it random? Stratified (if so, how)? Repeated (how often, when, by whom)?
10. How are measured concepts (e.g., a price index, national income, employment rate) defined? Who implemented the sampling or data collection projects? Why? Their capacity and incentives for accuracy? Their bias?