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Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research

Sex by numbers: what statistics can, and can't, tell us about sexual behaviour.

23 February 2016

Speaker: Prof David Spiegelhalter, Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk in the Statistical Laboratory, Centre for Mathematical Sciences, University of Cambridge

How often, with whom, and doing what? The statistics of sexual behaviour can be riveting, but can we believe them? At this seminar Professor Spiegelhalter looked at examples ranging from pre-nuptial pregnancy rates in 1580, through Kinsey and Shere Hite, to modern online surveys and the latest Natsal survey: each was given a rough 'star-rating' according to their reliability. In particular, he confronted two questions: why do men report more sexual partners than do women, and why are more boys born at the end of wars?