P2-04: The Water Contamination Crisis in Flint, Michigan: Elementary Statistics through Case Study

By Kendra Burbank, University of Chicago


This poster will summarize an introductory statistics course I developed and taught to undergraduates this year at the University of Chicago. The course used Flint's 2014 - 2016 lead contamination crisis as a case study to introduce statistical concepts.

By analyzing data from news reports, scientific publications, and simulations, students studied how the government, the citizens, and the press used and misused statistics throughout the crisis. For example, students learned about distributions while studying income inequality, percentiles while studying federal regulations for permitted lead levels in water, and p-values while evaluating the evidence that water caused an increase in blood lead levels. In their final unit, students used regression to predict the health impacts on Flint’s children and to propose cost-effective interventions.