More or Less: Behind the Stats-logo

More or Less: Behind the Stats


Tim Harford and the More or Less team try to make sense of the statistics which surround us. From BBC Radio 4

Tim Harford and the More or Less team try to make sense of the statistics which surround us. From BBC Radio 4


London, United Kingdom




Tim Harford and the More or Less team try to make sense of the statistics which surround us. From BBC Radio 4




Does wearing a mask halve your chances of getting Covid-19?

Masks, you may not have worn them before 2020 but now we’re all at it. With the rise of the Omicron variant countries have scrambled to reintroduce public health policies, among them mask wearing. Health officials and scientists agree that masks help reduce the incidence of covid19 infections – but by how much is still debated. Several newspapers recently reported that masks could cut Covid-19 infections by 53%, we look at how they came to this number and whether we should be believe it....


Simpson’s Paradox: How to make vaccinated death figures misleading

Vaccines are the best way to stop deaths and serious cases related to covid19, this is an irrefutable fact. However, recent ONS data seems to show that vaccinated people had a higher all cause death rate than unvaccinated people. Why is this data misleading? Here’s a clue: it’s to do with a quirky statistical phenomenon called Simpsons Paradox. (Image: The Simpsons / TCFFC )


A TikTok tale

Nowadays if you are an academic and who needs some participants for a study you go online, but over the summer academic studies were inundated with participants who all happened to be teenage girls ... we explore how one TikTok can tip the balance of data gathering. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Chris Flynn (Image: TikTok logo is displayed on a smartphone screen/Getty/NurPhoto/contributor)


The carbon cost of breakfast at COP26

A French minister told people to eat fewer croissants at this year’s COP26 summit, after the menu said the carbon cost of the pastry was higher than that of a bacon roll, even if it was made without butter. Tim Harford investigates whether this claim could be true, and how the effect of food on climate change can be measured. (Image: Continental breakfast with coffee and croissants: Getty/Cris Cantón)


Same data, opposite results. Can we trust research?

When Professor Martin Schweinsberg found that he was consistently reaching different conclusions to his peers, even with the same data, he wondered if he was incompetent. So he set up an experiment. What he found out emphasises the importance of the analyst, but calls into question the level of trust we can put into research. Features an excerpt from TED Talks (Image: Getty/erhui1979)


The art of counting

Who is counting, why are they counting, and what are they are counting? These three questions are important to ask when trying to understand numbers, according to Deborah Stone, author of Counting, How We Use Numbers to Decide What Matters. In this episode, she explains how different ways of totting up can have real-world consequences. (Image: Betta Blue Red Veiltail/Getty Images/zygotehasnobrain)


The numbers behind Squid Game

Netflix has announced that South Korean survival drama Squid Game is its most popular series ever. We scrutinise the statistics behind the claim, and look at the odds of surviving one of the show’s deadly contests.


The prize-winning economics of migration and the minimum wage

Do immigrants drive down wages, do minimum wage increases reduce job opportunities, and do people who did well in school earn more money? These are questions that the winners of the 2021 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics looked to the world around them for answers to. David Card, Joshua Angrist, and Guido Imbens developed ways of interpreting what they saw that changed the way economists think about what they see. In this episode of More or Less, presenter-turned-guest Tim Harford explains...


Bonus episode: the first ever More or Less

A chat with More or Less's founding producer and presenter plus the first episode in full. Tim talks to Michael Blastland and Sir Andrew Dilnot about how More or Less came into being (after several rejections), whether politicians and journalists are more numerate now, and where the name come from. Then, the very first episode of More or Less, originally broadcast on Radio 4 on 13 November 2001.


Twenty years of More or Less

A look back at our origins, plus the usual mix of numerical nous and statistical savvy. It’s two decades since More or Less first beamed arithmetic into the unsuspecting ears of Radio 4 listeners. We revisit the show’s genesis with the original presenter and producer. Why are there two different figures about our vaccination rate doing the rounds and how does the UK now compare internationally? Plus listener questions on how the colour of your front door affects your house price, TVs on...


The Gender Pay Gap

Tim Harford talks to Planet Money’s Stacey Vanek Smith about the gender pay gap in the US and the UK – and how Renaissance writer, Machiavelli might be an unlikely source of inspiration for women in the workplace.


Is it easy being green?

Is our electricity extra expensive and our insulation inadequate? And a tale of tumbling trees. Internet infographics suggest we’re paying way more for our energy than countries in the EU. Are they being interpreted correctly? And what part, if any, has Brexit had to play? Insulation Britain activists have been gluing themselves to motorway slip-roads to raise awareness about poor home insulation. Their website says we have the least energy efficient homes in Europe. What’s the evidence?...


Covid trends, face mask use, and the universal credit cut

A coronavirus check-in, our daily mask use measured, and a minister's claim on the universal credit cut questioned. There was a time when the latest Covid statistics were headline news daily, but as the pandemic has stretched on into its second year and third wave people don't pay as much attention. But on More or Less we still keep an eye on them because that’s how we roll. A recent article estimated that 129 billion single-use face masks are used every day around the world. It sounds...


How many holes are there in a drinking straw?

Tim Harford talks to Jordan Ellenberg, professor of mathematics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, about the pandemic, geometry and drinking straws. (multi-coloured straws/Getty images)


Death, Tax and Dishwashers

New data appears to show that double vaxxed people between 40 and 79 are getting Covid at higher rates than people who are unvaccinated, but that's not the case. It's all down to how Public Health England estimates the size of different populations. The Office for National Statistics described 2020 as "the deadliest year in a century". Now that we're more than two-thirds into 2021, we examine how this year is shaping up. We answer your questions on the new health and social care levy, and...


Vaccine waning, hot dogs and Afghanistan

Should we be worried that the protection against Covid-19 provided by the vaccines is going down? Could it really be the case that eating a hot dog takes 36 minutes from your life? The Bank of England holds 35% of Government debt. Who owns the other 65%? Has the UK spent more on Test and Trace than on its operations in Afghanistan?


The Bill for Afghanistan

American President Joe Biden has said the war in Afghanistan cost more than $2 trillion. Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Centre for Strategic International Studies helps us unpick what’s included in this figure.


Covid, HGV driver shortages and protest costs

English Covid restrictions were lifted in July. Back then, some predicted that there could be as many as 6,000 hospital admissions a day by the following month. So, what happened? The Metropolitan Police says it’s spent £50 million on policing Extinction Rebellion since 2019. They’re on the streets again – can it really be that costly? The economics correspondent at The Economist Duncan Weldon puts government borrowing during the pandemic into context and talk about his new book, 200 Years...


Reason, numbers and Mr Spock

Writer Julia Galef talks to Tim Harford about the role of numbers in helping us think more rationally, and what Star Trek’s Mr Spock can teach us about making predictions. Julia is author of The Scout Mindset, a book about how our attempts to be rational are often clouded or derailed by our human impulses, and the ways we can avoid these traps. Producer: Nathan Gower (Image: Leonard Nimoy as Mr Spock. Credit: Bettmann/Contributor via Getty Images)


The extraordinary life of Robert Moses

Dr Robert Moses, a pioneer in African-American civil rights and mathematics education has died at the age of 86. Charmaine Cozier looks at an extraordinary life, from the courthouses of 1960s Mississippi to the classrooms of modern public schools, and traces the philosophy and values that threaded their way through his life. Presenter: Charmaine Cozier Producer: Nathan Gower Portrait of American Civil Rights activist Robert Parris Moses, New York, 1964. (Photo by Robert Elfstrom/Villon...