Maybe a reason it would have been better to keep ASA in Chicago

April 28, 2011 at 1:08 pm 6 comments

| Gabriel |

Matt Wray was interviewed today on the Freakonomics podcast to talk about his research on suicide in Las Vegas. My first thought was that his skillful redirection of the Hungary question demonstrates a good return-on-investment for RWJ’s media training. My second thought was to wonder how worried should I be that half the discipline will be visiting this desert oasis of self-murder this August. Let’s work out the math of the expected mortality, shall we?

About 85 Americans kill themselves a day, which out of a population of 300 million works out to a daily personal risk of 2.8*10^-7. Wray et al SSM 2008 estimates that the odds-ratio doubles during a visit to Vegas, which implies a daily risk of 5.6*10^-7. ASA usually has an attendance of about 4000 people, each of whom we can assume stays for about four days. This works out to 16,000 person-days, at a risk of 5.6*10^-7 per day, which works out to an expected 0.009 suicides. Of course, we have to account for the baseline risk had we all stayed home and presented papers via Skype, so the excess mortality is something like 0.0045 suicides. Another way to put this is that we could expect a single excess sociologist’s suicide if we were to hold ASA in Vegas every year for the next two centuries.

This blood will be on your hands, ASA!!! *

* For the benefit of people with no sense of humor and who extend the whole “civility” thing to ASA governance debates, I should be explicit that I’m kidding about this.


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  • 1. Jenn Lena  |  April 28, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    With your * thing, I get the sense you’re talking about me. Then again, you know I have a fantastic sense of humor. What gives?

  • 2. tina  |  April 28, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    You bloodthirsty bastard.

  • 3. jeremy  |  April 29, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    I do think that if your ASA roommate kills themselves you should automatically get a free membership renewal.

    • 4. gabrielrossman  |  April 30, 2011 at 6:02 pm

      Wouldn’t the real parallel be that your next submission to ASR should just go through?

  • 5. Brian A. Pitt  |  April 30, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    Nice Post. Given this risk, attendees ought to be able to renew for 2011-12 at no fiscal cost!

  • 6. cperchesk  |  May 3, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    We discussed variations in mortality rates in undergrad demography today. Perhaps I could have used this example? I’m not sure that they would have found your post as amusing as I did.

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