CAT Critical Reasoning Practice question with Solution 28

The “suicide wave” that followed the United States stock market crash of October 1929 is more legend than fact. Careful examination of the monthly figures on the causes of death in 1929 shows that the number of suicides in October and in November was comparatively low. In only three other months were the monthly figures lower. During the summer months, when the stock market was flourishing, the number of suicides was substantially higher.

Which one of the following, if true, would best challenge the conclusion of the passage?

[A]. The suicide rate is influenced by many psychological, interpersonal, and societal factors during any given historical period.
[B]. October and November have almost always had relatively high suicide rates, even during the 1920s and 1930s.
[C]. The suicide rate in October and November of 1929 was considerably higher than the average for those months during several preceding and following years.
[D]. During the years surrounding the stock market crash, suicide rates were typically lower at the beginning of any calendar year than toward the end of that year.
[E]. Because of seasonal differences, the number of suicides in October and November of 1929 would not be expected to be the same as those for other months.
Answer: C

Suicide rates in October and November of 1929: tidal wave or a ripple in a kiddie pool? The author certainly believes that the so-called “suicide wave” following the stock market crash in October 1929 was not such a big deal. In support, the author notes that the suicide rates in October and November of 1929 were lower than the rates for the months before the crash. We need to weaken that argument, meaning that we are looking for a choice suggesting that suicide rates in those months were in fact unusually high. The whole key here is: high as compared to what? We know October and November were no big deal compared to the other months in 1929, but maybe a better comparison would be with the suicide rates in Octobers and Novembers of the surrounding years. This makes for a better comparison because it eliminates other seasonal factors that might come into play when analysing suicide rates throughout the year. Choice (C) picks up this distinction. When viewed in comparison with other October-November periods, 1929 does in fact seem like a high suicide period. Thus (C) weakens the argument.

(A) is out of the scope. The issue is whether the suicide rates were unusually high during the period mentioned and not the root causes of suicide in general.

(B) and (D) strengthen the argument. If October and November (or late months in general) typically have high suicide rates as compared to other months, then lower rates for those months in 1929 would support the author’s view that the “suicide wave” was in fact more myth than reality.

(E) doesn’t affect the argument either way: knowing that suicide rates are expected to be different in different seasons doesn’t tell us whether the results in 1929 were unusually high or low

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