February 26, 2012

Students ‘flee NZ’

From the Herald (and via a Stat of the Summer submission), a story on students leaving NZ because of job fears.  According to the poll, students are more likely to be worried about getting a job when they finish than about their next rent bill or next decent meal. That’s what you’d hope, and it doesn’t really seem surprising.

We aren’t told whether the students planning to head overseas are the ones worried about getting a job here, or whether they’re the ones who could easily get a job in NZ but looking for higher pay or new surroundings.  In fact, it’s worse than that.  The story says

While a third planned on moving straight into career mode after study,…18 per cent were heading overseas – either for work or timeout.

That is, the 18% planning to head overseas includes all the ones aiming for time off and foreign travel.  This means there is absolutely no support in the story for the headline claim that students are leaving NZ because of job fears.

The other interesting part about the story is the attribution: “an online Colmar Brunton survey of more than 1000 students conducted on behalf of Student Job Search.”  That sounds like it’s one of the surveys from saywhat.co.nz, a site where people aged 15-30 can sign up to do fill in questionnaires for the chance to win prizes.   It’s hard to tell how accurate these polls are: they are a self-selected sample, but the respondents do have to give some personal information that could help adjust for the selection bias. The website uses age and gender as examples, which would be completely inadequate, but they may collect more useful information in the sign-up process (or, of course, by mining it from Facebook and the like).



Thomas Lumley (@tslumley) is Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Auckland. His research interests include semiparametric models, survey sampling, statistical computing, foundations of statistics, and whatever methodological problems his medical collaborators come up with. He also blogs at Biased and Inefficient See all posts by Thomas Lumley »


  • avatar
    Alan Keegan

    The thing is what else could have been done to get to students? Good luck getting phone interviews of students or visiting them at home.

    That being said, it couldn’t have been that hard for Colmar Brunton to email invitations out to a sample of SJS members. Maybe they used saywhat as your claim instead of that because of low response rates.

    But the claim doesn’t seem completely implausible – anecdotally many of my fellow students had ambitions to go overseas. Although there’s a difference between wanting to go overseas and actually doing so. There is that spike in the mid 20s age group for people departing NZ.

    6 years ago

  • avatar
    Thomas Lumley


    The headline is certainly plausible, it’s just that the story provides no support for it beyond that plausibility.

    Getting a true random sample of students would be tricky, but asking them why they want to go overseas would be trivial — there’s no excuse for collapsing ‘time-off’ and ’emigration for work’.

    6 years ago