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Why Are Averages Bad?

Supermarkets can get away with using average sales to order inventory to replenish items sold off in the previous week. But if a florist does the same, ignoring the fact that such events as Valentine's Day and Mother's Day result in giant peak sales events, that florist may not remain long in the business.

Few of us would accept an average bag of groceries “set” by the store as if that should please the average person. Billionaires do not wish to be confused with the homeless, although for purposes of computing average income, both stats are baked in and their differences are invisible in the average. Would we accept a blind date with a woman with a statistically “average face.”

While no one seems to mention it, Averages lump all sorts of disparate qualitative and quantitative differences in order to obtain a single numerical stereotype that is presumed to essentially describe the entire population. By that theory a nine pound skunk would be exactly the same as a nine pound porcupine.

The average of the universe is emptiness knowing that less than .000000001% of space is occupied by matter. But that hardly means that nothing exists but only that things are many but far between and with no central plan of distribution of the galaxies, nebulae, etc.

Two teachers with classrooms side by side, may each speak of test results with an 87% average for both classes i.e. so as to convince administration officials that they did similar jobs teaching. But if the standard deviation for one class is 3.5 points and for the other is 12.5 points, it becomes obvious that the first teacher taught the whole class but that the second had a few whiz kids and a number of dullards with whom the material did not register. Thus averages in and of themselves tell us virtually nothing about a population.