Monday, June 26, 2017


Pareto Principle

The "Pareto principle" is also called the "80-20 rule." Italian engineer and social scientist Vilfredo Pareto observed a century ago that 80 percent of wealth is controlled by 20 percent of the population. This principle has subsequently been found a useful rule of thumb when applied to phenomena in computer science, biology, physics, economics and many other fields.

Researchers at Duke University, King's College London and the University of Otago in New Zealand, combined data from a long-term study of a group of people born in the same year in Dunedin, New Zealand with their electronic health records and governmental databases on such things as health, welfare and criminal justice. The quality and accuracy of these records is said to be quite high, unique among databases.

At age 3, each child in the study had participated in a 45-minute examination of neurological signs including intelligence, language and motor skills, and then the examiners also rated the children on factors such as frustration tolerance, restlessness and impulsivity. This yielded a summary index the researchers called "brain health."
A detailed analysis of the lives of nearly a thousand people from birth to age 38 shows that a small portion of the population accounts for the lion's share of social costs such as crime, welfare dependence and health-care needs as adults.
Just one-fifth of the study population accounted for 81 percent of criminal convictions and 77 percent of fatherless childrearing. This fifth of the group also consumed three-quarters of drug prescriptions, two-thirds of welfare benefits and more than half of the hospital nights and cigarettes smoked.
The researchers found they could have predicted which adults were likely to incur such costs as early as age 3 based on assessments of "brain health," giving them hope that early interventions could avoid some of these social costs.

The composite statistical picture the researchers created of this group shows that the most socially "costly" 20 percent of the study participants also carried 40 percent of the kilograms of obese weight and filed 36 percent of personal-injury insurance claims.

And the next step would be....? Well, anyway, it sounds a lot more interesting than phrenology.

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