Inside Higher Ed notes that it’s become more or less the conventional wisdom that one of the reasons the United States’ economy is at such risk is because other parts of the world are doing much better in the higher education department, whether you measure graduation rates, those who graduate with degrees in engineering, or any of countless other points of comparison.

But a report released today suggests that many of the most commonly cited figures are highly questionable, based on the sort of apples and oranges comparisons that statisticians should have rebelled against years ago. In a number of cases, the flaws may overstate significant problems in American higher education. In many other cases, the flaws may render data valueless for promoting the kinds of education reforms that are needed, the study says.

The study argues that countries “are losing the chance to benefit from comparisons because the flaws are so significant.” In other words, there may be reason to panic, but we don’t yet have quite have enough good data to justify doing so.

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Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.