Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
Happy Fourth of July! Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
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Folks, I've had some fantastic conversations recently with writers who'd like to contribute to Understandably, including many readers who would also like to become writers. (Link here, in case that interests you, too.)
Really good talks. However, I'm surprised at how often a simple phrase has come up in these conversations: "the average American." As in, what the "average American" thinks," or how close the audience of Understandably is to the "average American."
In almost all of these conversations, however, the person who mentioned "the average American" then corrected himself or herself to point out that whatever most of us think of as the average American is probably wrong.
I think they’re right about that—and, me being me, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
So, on the Fourth of July, this most American of days, I thought I’d share some of the stats. Here’s what the “average” across all Americans really looks like:
This is actually our median age, not our average, but it’s as close as I could find. A decade ago, it was 37.2. Go back to 1970 and it was 28.1. Does nearly a year's difference in 10 years suggest we live longer? Or is it that we have a lower birthrate?
Sex: 50.8 percent female
The ratio has gone down very slightly since 1990; maybe .2% of the difference. This is partially explained by the fact that women have a roughly 5% longer life expectancy to begin with.
Hey, this is a good time to point out that the professor from Wharton who went viral after (in my view) mischaracterizing her students' beliefs about how much income they thought average Americans have, still hasn't responded to my multiple attempts to reach her.
Average wealth: $121,760
Plenty of room for a "lies, damn lies, and statistics" analysis in this one. The average person has $121k in wealth; the average family has $748,000.
Happiness: 7 out of 10
A Gallup poll earlier this year found that Americans are basically satisfied with their own lives (69% satisfied; 30% not satisfied), but when you start asking about most particular issues ("the size and power of the federal government?" 32% satisfied; "the moral and ethical climate?" 20% satisfied), things go downhill pretty fast.
Also, in our reader happiness survey earlier this year, we had a 7.667 out of 10 average happiness rating. I do wonder if this has changed in the last six months or so; anecdotally people seem a bit less happy this summer than last.
Race: 57.8% White
The U.S. Census Bureau has some funny ways of categorizing race. But without belaboring the point: As of last year, the U.S. is now 57.8% white, 18.7% Hispanic, 12.4% Black and 6% Asian.
Cars and school
The average American has a high school degree and some college, and drives about 14,263 miles per year. If you were forced to bet, you'd put your money on the idea that our average American drives a Ford F-150 pickup. But, if it's not an F-150 it's either a Honda Accord or Civic.
There are roughly 393 million firearms in the United States. We only have 330 million people, so it’s a little over one gun per person on average.
So, there you have it. The average American might be hard to define, but the most Average American would be a White-presenting 38-year-old mixed race woman who lives in a medium sized city or suburb.
She has a high school degree and some college. She has either 1 or 2 children, and there's roughly a 6 in 10 chance that she's still with her partner.
If forced to choose, she's slightly more likely to say she's a Democrat (46%) than that she's a Republican (43%). But she's really an independent. She has a gun, and she probably but not certainly owns a smartphone (90%).
She most likely drives about 20 minutes each way to work (where she makes about $56,000 a year), has about $4,500 in savings, prefers chocolate ice cream, and spends nearly seven hours a day on her phone.
If you know anyone who matches that description, let her know—by being completely average she’s probably also 100 percent unique. I hope she—and everyone else—has a wonderful Fourth of July!
7 other things
Elon Musk stopped tweeting for 9 days. Then, he reemerged with a tweet showing he'd brought four of his children to meet the Pope. (Daily Mail)
The city of Orlando apologized for its fireworks announcement, which read: “A lot of people probably don’t want to celebrate our nation right now, and we can’t blame them. When there is so much division, hate and unrest, why on earth would you want to have a party celebrating any of it?” the email began, adding: "But you know what ... we already bought the fireworks.” (Mediaite)
A group of about 100 white supremacists took to Boston’s “Freedom Trail” for a surprise march Saturday afternoon, where tempers flared between the group and bystanders and they allegedly assaulted a Black man. The "Patriot Front members" wore white masks and uniforms, carried shields, and carried upside-down U.S. flags along and banners representing Benito Mussolini’s National Fascist Party. (Boston Herald)
Why your fingers wrinkle in water. (There was kind of a gross photo in the original link here, so I'm sharing a link to the Pocket version of the story). (BBC)
Columbia University says it won't participate in the annual U.S. News rankings (they were #2 last year), after a math professor took issue with the accuracy of the data Columbia provided. (NYT, also via Pocket)
German flag carrier Lufthansa says it's deliberately raise the prices of flights this summer in a bid to dissuade people from actually booking a ticket. (Paddle Your Own Kanoo)
Two year anniversary of this gem. Funny how it seemed unusual then! (BBC via Twitter)