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Avoiding “zombie facts” about immigration

John Salt at Royal Statistical Society debate

Avoiding “zombie facts” about immigration

On Tuesday April 21st, Professor John Salt was a panel member in Immigration – an evidence-based debate at the Royal Statistical Society (RSS). This was one of a series dealing with specific issues in the General Election campaign, sponsored with the website The Conversation.

John introduced the evening with a critical review of the statistics available on UK immigration and emigration flows and stocks. The sources discussed included the Office for National Statistics, the Home Office, the Department of Work and Pensions and the Labour Force Survey.

One of the main problems in the debate is the complexity of migration flows in relation to the reasons for moving, periods of stay and characteristics of those involved. This makes it impossible to encapsulate all aspects of migration into single number ‘targets’.

Other panellists included Professor Ian Preston (UCL Economics), and experts from opinion surveys and “fact check” organisations. Active engagement from the floor served to emphasise concern about how information was misused in the debate, including the repetition of ‘zombie facts’ - statistics that are wrong but, having entered the debate, continue to be repeated as if they were true.

For audio and slides of the presentations, see:

See also:


Professor John Salt

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