Beware of the Survivorship Bias of Politicians: COVID-19 Letter Published in The Financial Times


The news that UK business secretary Alok Sharma has been tested for Covid-19 highlighted the issue of survivorship bias, that is the systematic overestimation of performance and underestimation of risk by ignoring non-survivors.

In the early stages of the epidemic, the risk perception of politicians broadly matched that of the general population. However, if the proportion of decision makes that have been infected by the virus and survived exceeds that of the population, the executive’s risk appetite could surpass that of the people they represent.

Politicians need to ensure that they make decisions in such a way that suvivorship bias does not affect their judgment.

Dr Duncan Robertson

School of Business and Economics, Loughborough University

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