Don’t believe every number you see

I was lying in bed a couple nights ago reading last week’s issue of Newsweek.  The cover story was, of course, about the uprising in Egypt and the unrest in other Middle Eastern countries, such as Yemen and Tunisia.

While the overall issues being raised in Egypt are extremely important, it is the demographic aspect that fascinates me.  The initiation of the protests has been attributed to the young, increasingly sophisticated, population in these countries, who, through educaton and technology are learning more about the possibilities, and then using that technology to rally themselves to the streets.  It reminded me of the 60s when our rallies required telephones and word-of-mouth.

I read the article and then was drawn to the map that you see in this blog.  It was a nice map with percentages – HOW COULD I RESIST?  However, as I read the small print above the map I became confused.  The map was purported to illustrate the fact that the younger population was an extremely important segment of these countries due, if for no other reason, to their shear numbers.  The percentages represented “the population under 30 years of age.”

Once I read this I knew that sleep would have to wait until I got to the bottom of this.  I knew that 29 percent of the City of Detroit’s population was under 18 years of age, making us younger than any country on the map.  I jumped out of bed and went across the hall to the computer.  I pulled up the Census Bureau’s website and went to work.  My first search and computation found that 41 percent of the U.S. population is less than 30.  That is well beyond any country on the map – why are we not marching?  Next I went to the Bureau’s International Database and began to dig.  It soon became clear that the map represented population shares “less than 20 years of age.”  Next step was to send a letter to the Editor at Newsweek.

Well…I have yet to get a response and there is no mention in this week’s issue.  I had cancelled my subscription anyway after Newsweek had been sold last year and lost most of my favorite writers.

I promise that Data Driven Detroit will make every effort to GET THE NUMBERS RIGHT.  If you ever find a problem please let us know.  We guarantee to not only fix it but acknowledge your input on our site and in a personal thanks to you.

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