More or Less

Tim Harford presents BBC Radio 4's surprising and refreshing guide to statistics in the news.

  • Duration 5 mins
  • Updated Tuesday 26th July 2016
  • Introductory level
  • Posted under Radio, Statistics
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More or Less was an idea born of the sense that numbers were the principal language of public argument. And yet there were few places where it was thought necessary to step back and think - in the way we often step back to think about language - about the way we use figures: what they really measure, what kind of truth, if any, they capture.

Yet no politician, no economist, and in recent years no doctor, teacher, chief constable or any number of others, has been able to make a case or answer one without regaling you with numbers.

Open the pages of any newspaper and you will see risks of this, targets for that, new spending and new cuts, arguments about productivity, performance indicators, measurements, statistics and quantification of every kind.

And so was born More or Less, initially with six programmes on BBC Radio 4 and now a permanent part of the schedule with two series annually, one in the summer, one in winter.

Since January 2005 it has been produced in association with The Open University.

More Or Less is on BBC Radio 4 on Fridays at 4.30pm, with a repeat on Sundays at 8.00pm; on iPlayer; by podcast - or dip into the archive.

Counting Terror Deaths

Is 2016 an unusually deadly year for terrorism?

In a joint investigation with BBC Newsbeat and BBC Monitoring, we've analysed nearly 25,000 news articles to assess whether 2016 so far has been a unusually deadlyyear for terrorism. It certainly feels like it. But what do the numbers say? We estimate that, between January and July this year, 892 people died in terrorist attacks in Europe - making it the most deadly first seven months of a year since 1994. But the vast majority of those deaths have been in Turkey. The number for Western Europe is 143, which is lower than many years in the 1970s.

Dying 'at the hands of the police'

This week retired footballer Dalian Atkinson died after being 'tasered' by police. His death has renewed concerns about the number of people who die after coming into contact with the police. Recently it was claimed that one person a week dies 'at the hands of the police' and that 'black people are disproportionately affected.' We take a look at the numbers.

Olympic predictions

As the Games in Rio draw to an end, we look back at the medal predictions we made before they started. Which countries have performed as expected? And which failed to meet our expectations?

The cost of a wedding gift

Can economics tell us how much to spend on a wedding gift? Our reporter Jordan is in a tight spot. He's heading to an old friend's wedding and needs to figure out how little he can get away with spending on a gift. Luckily, economist Maria Kozlovskaya is on hand to explain her findings on our 'internal exchange rate' for gift giving. Can she preserve Jordan's friendship while protecting his wallet?

Episodes in this series

Episode Description
The supermarket effect Tim Harford and his team investigate EU Referendum, Desk of Good News, tribute to Trumpton and Antiques Roadshow. Read more
Plastic bag plummeting Tim Harford and his team investigate plastic bag decline, Olympic medal stats, income inequality and maternal... Read more
Grammar schools, lottery wins and slimming Another edition of the statistics show. Read more
Counting Terror Deaths Is 2016 an unusually deadly year for terrorism? How many people 'die at the hands of police'? Also, Olympic... Read more