Home Journalism Numbers Are Important - What's The Reference Population?

Numbers Are Important – What’s The Reference Population?



An argument in favour of not spending tax money – and yes, the licence fee is a tax, Gordon Brown said so – on the BBC. The people who work there seem to have no idea of numbers. Here it’s the idea that the reference population matters.

That is, sure, we can look at the number of, say, black people who are in sprint finals. This will be disproportionate to the number of black people in the population. But that’s not our reference population. We need to look at the proportion of the population that can run fast – sprint in fact – as a result of having a nice genetic endowment of lots of fast twitch muscles. Given that lots of fast twitch muscles is associated with a West African genetic heritage this is what is creating that disproportion in the sprint finalists. We can go do much the same with East Africans and long distance running.

There is, please note, no ought or should here. These are simply observable facts about our own human species. Certain genetic endowments leads to certain likelihoods – no more than that – of certain outcomes. As with Tay Sachs and Ashkenazim, these are just things that are.

And I’m sorry but this is important. Especially when we run (sorry) this the other way around. Say we observe some number of some segment of the population doing or not doing something. It’s possible that there are genetic influences upon this. It’s possible that there’s racism afoot. Structural impediments in the society say – the untouchables are poor, poor people don’t become billionaires, so we’ve a shortage of untouchables among billionaires.

But, logically, if we find that the number doing, or not doing, the thing is about the same as that genetic endowment in the general population the correct answer is to shrug and say that there’s no obvious impediment there. Or, if there is, that we’ve already put the systems in place to overcome them.

At which point, black chaps and chappesses doing PhDs in the British university system. There are those, on the one and possibly vile side, who will say that those with black skins are stupid and that explains any paucity. There are those on the other side, equally misguided and vile, who will say that society is structurally racist and that explains the paucity.

But the important thing is to first study whether there is a paucity that needs to be explained. This requires comparison to the correct reference population. At which point, the BBC:

Black applicants least likely to be offered PhD places

Mebbe, mebbe not.

White applicants are offered places to study for a PhD at a higher rate than black, Asian and ethnic minority candidates, data obtained by BBC Newsnight has found.

The programme sent freedom of information requests to 133 UK universities, requesting data for the academic years between 2015 and 2020. Of the 62 universities which responded, all but one had a higher acceptance rate for white applicants.

The data shows the imbalance was starkest for black applicants.

Fifty one universities provided a detailed breakdown by ethnicity, and this showed black applicants had the lowest proportion of successful offer rates at 33 of these universities. This data includes offers to home and international applicants.

Well, that could be true. Would be interesting if it were, something that we’d like to investigate if the numbers really are that way. Except the only numbers we’re given are these:

From the data obtained by BBC Newsnight, one example showed there were 8,088 offers for white candidates, compared to only 386 for those of black ethnicity.

We’re not actually told the correct reference population, which is the racial breakdown of the applicants as against the same background of the successful applicants. So we have to fall back on the broader comparison of with the general population. This being what we’re likely to be interested in anyway, is some sector of the general population disadvantaged by some feature of the society in general?

386 out of 8,088 is 4.7%. In the general population blacks (as opposed to BAME, this is blacks that are being talked about) are about 3.5%:

Now, we should indeed refine this. As we know mass immigration is a relatively recent thing. The effects are still working through the population like that proverbial pig through the python. The non-white population among the over 80s is very much smaller than that among the target population for PhDs, those in their 20s. And by far the fastest growing section among the under 10s is “mixed”, showing that Britain is dealing with immigration the way it always has, miscegenation.

I’m also not going to bother to go do that, that’s left as an exercise for the reader.

But note what the BBC has done there. We have a general population incidence of 3.5% for blacks. We have a PhD student offer incidence of 4.7% for blacks. And the BBC is using this as evidence for discrimination against black would be PhD students.

Abolish the licence fee, if not the BBC itself. For verily we should stop being forced, by law, to pay for this shit.



  1. Facts are irrelevant, it’s the feelz that is now important. You want to make the blacks feel discriminated against so that the do-gooders can continue to “help” them on well paid state funded jobs.

  2. “black, Asian and ethnic minority candidates”

    Black and Asian candidates ***ARE*** ethnic minority candidates. WTF do the BBC think we live, South Africa? There once was a time the BBC was the standard holder for things like this being correct. They’re clearly using Lord Reith connected to a dynamo as their clean energy source.

    • WTF do the BBC think we live, South Africa?

      To the denizens of Broadcasting House, this is exactly what they think, that the Tories are the equivalent of South Africa’s apartheid era National Party and that every obstruction, adverse decision or bad luck in their lives is become some person or institution is racist. When you have an existence based upon the victimology of race then you see racism everywhere.

      Thank god I no longer pay for this BBC propaganda and associated bullshit.

  3. Words are also important: “suitably qualified” are omitted before the word “candidate” and if the BBC are comparing the proportion of candidates accepted who are black with the BAME proprtion of the population they may have innocently (and ignorantly) come to an erroneous conclusion.

  4. They’ve certainly proved that whites are discriminated against. But as a white man, I naturally believed that anyway.

    However, I’d argue that what your article really proves is that nothing needs to be done. Blokes and birds are bonking and adding new DNA to the populace. People, whether black, yellow, green, rainbow or even white manage to get an education. All that’s necessary is to stop meddling and annoying the present inhabitants by trying to swamp them with other races and cultures, and let them sort it out on their own.

    But I think you already agree with me.


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VERB (transitive)
1. to delete or erase; blot out; obliterate
2. to wipe out or destroy

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