Dying Children and Numbers in Context

A New York Times article this morning, reporting that up to 4 million infants die every year for the lack of very simple medical care items, provides a classic example of reporting numbers out of context. The article informs readers that the Bush administration proposes to spend $323 million in 2007 on aid for maternal and child health care in developing countries, down from $356 million in 2006.

Apart from the failure to adjust the spending figures for inflation, very few Times readers are probably aware of the fact that the 2007 appropriation comes to $1.08 per person in the United States, or 0.013 percent of federal spending. This program may or may not be a good use of public money, but it is a trivial item in the federal budget, and readers should be made aware of this fact.

--Dean Baker

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