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Hello, I was a little confused in this weaken question. Could you kindly explain it to me and why the correct answer is the correct answer. Thank You.
 Robert Carroll
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In the stimulus, we know that the ratio between two things has changed - the increase in new car prices has outpaced the increase in average individual income. If new car sales to individuals maintain a level percentage during the same time period, then of course, with new cars being relatively more expensive compared to average individual incomes, people would be spending more on new cars. But we don't know this. We don't know who's buying new cars now, and if that changed so that individuals aren't buying as high a percentage of new cars as they did 25 years ago, the conclusion of the stimulus would be weakened.

Answer choice (E) provides evidence that individual sales have seen a drop in percentage of all new-car sales. So perhaps those expensive new cars are being bought by entities other than individuals. This would undermine the conclusion of the argument.

In this stimulus, just because the relation between prices and incomes has changed in some way doesn't mean that people with smaller relative incomes are actually the ones buying those cars. The poor argument in the stimulus illicitly assumes that people's buying habits did not change in 25 years.

Robert Carroll
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Hi - I understand your explanation re: the average concealing segments within the new car market that might be very expensive vs. very inexpensive, and that this gap would weaken the argument if it existed. If (E) had read "sales to non-individuals were on average were more expensive," I'd see how that's the right answer. I just don't understand why (E), which is about the portion of individual sales vs. non-individual sales, entails anything at all about price? I see how it could be compatible with your price explanation, but nothing about (E) mentions that. Thanks for your help.
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Hi nM2,

You do have to read between the lines for answer choice (E) to get to the relationship between individuals purchasing cars and the increase in price.

Since this is a weaken question, an answer choice is correct even if it only makes the conclusion slightly less likely to be true. Here, we are told that individuals (as opposed to corporations) make up a smaller market share of new-car purchasers than they did 25 years ago.

This makes the argument vulnerable to attack on the grounds that the increase in the average car price has not been driven by individuals investing a greater share of their individual income into purchasing cars. Rather, it's possible that the other segment of the market is driving the average car's purchase price up.

Again, we're not certain that the non-individual market is paying more per car than the average individual is. It's just possible that this is occurring, which slightly weakens the link between the average car's sale price and the percentage of income individuals are spending on cars.

I hope this clears things up. Feel free to ask any follow-up questions!


Athena Dalton
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I read all of the explanations that have already been posted but I still don't understand how answer choice A does not weaken the argument. The conclusion was that individuals who buy new cars today spend on average a greater portion of their incomes buying a new car. However, if there is more than one wage earner then this would explain how the amount that each individual spends on a new car could go down even though the price of a new car relative to each individual's income has gone up. The conclusion doesn't say that the cost of a new car relative to income has gone up. Rather, it says that the average amount spent per individual relative to average income has gone up. If the expense is now split between two wage earning individuals instead of one wage earning individual then the average amount spent per individual would go down. Answer choice A seems to provide a clear alternate explanation that weakens the argument. What am I missing?
 Adam Tyson
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It seems like you are confusing two concepts here, martinbeslu, and falling into the trap of answer A as a result. The stimulus is about individuals buying cars and comparing the prices of the cars to individual income. Answer A is not about individual income, but about household income. If the author had concluded that households are spending more on new car purchases, answer A would weaken that claim, but that isn't the claim in the stimulus.

Imagine this: I make $40k per year, my wife makes $60k per year, and my daughter, who lives with us, makes $100k per year. I buy a car for $15k. Not "we" buy a car, but "I" buy a car - an individual buyer. The argument is that the price of that car is a larger percentage of my income than it used to be. What do the incomes of my wife and daughter have to do with this calculation? Nothing, because we aren't talking about household income or about a family buying a car.

Now, if "we" all pooled our money and bought the car, then we wouldn't be "an individual" buying a car, but a group buying a car. If that is more common today than it used to be, that hurts the argument. Maybe all cars today are sold to groups, like families and corporations and charitable organizations, and only incredibly wealthy individuals buy cars by themselves anymore. THAT would hurt the claim that individuals are, on average, spending a higher portion of their income on cars now than they used to. That's what answer E is all about, showing us that individual sales may not be the same as they once were.

Put another way, what if the average price of a car went up because a whole new class of super-expensive cars was created, and those cars were only sold to corporations. Maybe self-driving cars, owned only by certain companies, cost a million bucks each, and they are fully responsible for pulling up the average price of new cars? Individuals could be spending the same percentage of their income that they always spent, even though the average price of a car has gone up relative to individual income.

Focus on the individuals here - that's the key to this argument! Don't confuse individuals with households or other groups!
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I have read all the explanations above, and I think I understand why (E) makes the right answer instead of (A). But I just want to make sure one thing.

If there was another answer choice which said that non-individuals' average price rose substantially now than 25 years ago, but the proportions remain the same. Would this also be weaken the statement?

 Jeremy Press
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Hi astroworld,

Yes, that could also weaken the argument, because it's suggesting another driver (an alternate cause) of the increase in average price paid for a new car during the last 25 years. Check out the complete question explanation that I have posted at the top of this thread here, and let us know if any issues still remain with your understanding of this question!

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Administrator wrote: Fri Jan 21, 2011 12:00 am Complete Question Explanation

Weaken, #%, CE. The correct answer choice is E.

In this weaken question, we are looking to undermine the conclusion's explanation of a certain numerical observation. What we've been observing over the last 25 years is offered in the first sentence (the premise): average new car price has risen steadily in relation to average individual income. In other words, the average price of a new car has been going up faster than the average individual income has been going up. The conclusion in the second sentence offers a causal driver of this change, i.e. a reason why this is the case: individuals are spending a larger amount relative to their incomes (a larger percentage of their incomes) than they used to spend on cars 25 years ago. This is certainly one possible cause of the change in relative new car price. But it is not the only possible cause. A very good way to attack this conclusion would be to suggest an alternate explanation (an alternate cause) of the change in relative new car price.

There is a subtle shift in language in the argument, and an attentive test-taker who catches that shift will be rewarded. The first sentence talks about the change in relative price "paid for a new car," without saying anything about who (or what) is paying that price. The second sentence talks about the price individuals pay for a new car. The author has thus assumed that individuals are the ones paying the higher relative prices the first sentence refers to. But what if some other entity (like a corporation) were buying more higher-priced cars? Then individuals would have nothing to do with the rising relative price. This would be an excellent prephrase.

Answer Choice (A): This answer choice is incorrect, because even if households had more wage-earners than they used to have, that wouldn't necessarily undermine the notion that, judged on an individual basis, each individual is paying a higher percentage of their income than they used to pay for a new car. For this answer choice to affect the scenario, we would need further information that households were pooling their incomes and purchasing cars (which would undermine the idea that individuals are paying more, and suggest that households are responsible for the relative price increase in new cars).

Answer Choice (B): Since the argument is about what is driving the relative price increase in new cars, information about the number of cars sold is irrelevant, and this answer choice is thus incorrect.

Answer Choice (C): This answer choice is consistent with the factual scenario described, and could make it somewhat more likely that individuals paying higher prices relative to income are in fact responsible for the relative price change in new cars. This cannot be a Weaken answer and is therefore incorrect.

Answer Choice (D): This answer choice is irrelevant, because it merely discusses changes in the number of new cars sold and in the population, not changes in price of new cars and income of individuals.

Answer Choice (E): This is the correct answer choice. This answer choice fits the prephrase. If more new cars are being sold to entities other than individuals (like, for example, corporations), then it could very well be that those entities are paying much higher prices for new cars and are entirely responsible for the relative price change in new cars. Since this answer poses a potential alternate cause (to the one offered by the argument's conclusion), it weakens the argument and is correct.
What's wrong with the possibility of people buying less cars but paying more? Isn't possible that people are buying less but paying more?

You could say this relies on an assumption of them paying more, but your explanation to E requires that other entities are paying more to make up the difference?

What is wrong with more entities buying cars more but paying less?

How do we know that because people are buying less they are paying the same price?
 Adam Tyson
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It looks to me like you are falling into a common trap of weaken questions, ericj_williams. You are looking for an answer that disproves the conclusion, and not finding that kind of result in answer E . But that's not the goal of a good weaken answer. A weaken answer simply has to raise some doubt about the conclusion. It's some evidence against the conclusion, and not necessarily very strong or persuasive evidence (although it may be).

If answer E is true, and a smaller percentage of new car sales are to individuals than was previously the case, that would mean there is a growing percentage of such sales to groups rather than to individuals, and thus it could be the case that individuals are paying the same percentage they always were while the groups are the ones driving up the average price. Not that this MUST be the case, but that it COULD be the case, and that is enough to raise a doubt and weaken the argument.

Don't look to poke holes in the answer to show why it isn't good enough to destroy the argument. Just look to see if it 1) raises some doubts and 2) does so more than any of the other answer choices. If the answer meets those two requirements, then it is the answer that does the most to weaken the argument.

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