Confounding in a nutshell

“Do mobile phone towers make people more likely to procreate? Could it
be possible that mobile phone radiation somehow aids fertilisation, or
maybe there’s just something romantic about a mobile phone transmitter
mast protruding from the landscape?
The match between mobile phone towers and birth rates is an extremely
strong correlation and it is highly statistically significant. There
is no doubting the mathematical finding that more mobile phone masts
mean that there will also be more births. This is about as rigorous as
statistics can get.
Mobile phone masts, however, have absolutely no bearing on the number
of births. There is no causal link between the masts and the births
despite the strong correlation. Both the number of mobile phone
transmitters and the number of live births are linked to a third,
independent factor: the local population size. As the population of an
area goes up, so do both the number of mobile phone users and the
number people giving birth.”

Go read the whole thing, it’s worth it.


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