Unpleasant Statistics: Santa Causes Kids to Turn Away From Christianity

By Max Candocia

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December 23, 2017

This December, I surveyed a 312 users from Reddit, Facebook, and, to a lesser extent, other social media sources on how they celebrated (or didn't celebrate) Christmas. You can find an active version of the survey here . I automatically generate a good portion of this article, so I may update it in the future.

Other Articles in Series

This is the fifth and final article, and I'm keeping it short and (bitter)sweet. I'm going to use statistics to show that Santa makes kids turn away from Christianity when they become an adult...without abusing statistical methodology, of course.

Religious Transitions

Below is a plot of the religions that respondents were before 18 and their current religion. The diagonal is fairly high, although, apart from atheism/agnosticism, there are many off-diagonal elements that indicate someone switched religions, including between different sects of Christianity.

plot of chunk badstats-religion-matrix

Taking all responses from people who were Christian before turning 18 and are now 18 or older, a sample size of 194, I construct a logistic model to determine the effects of parents telling their kids Santa is real, controlling for gender and region of the US. I do not consider transitions from one form of Christianity to another as leaving Christianity.

Note: blue means more likely to turn away, red means less likely to turn away
plot of chunk badstats-badmodel

Oh, no! Look at that figure on the bottom. Apparently kids who were told they got gifts from Santa were up to 2.5 (1/0.4) times as likely to change religions than kids who got gifts and were not told that Ol' Saint Nick brought them. It even has a star next to the number, which means that it is STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT at the 95% confidence level. You probably want to keep them away from the West Coast and other countries, too.

Click Here for a half-decent model and an explanation of why the above should not be taken at face value

Source Code

I have the source code for my analysis on GitHub here. All the responses (after removing timestamp/order info) will be released once I finish my article series.


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