One of the best ways people and news outlets strike fear and dread into our hearts is the use of statistics. Why? Because they know we’re too lazy to challenge it or figure out where they got those numbers. They also know we’re probably going to take those stats and spew them to our friends and coworkers so we can appear more informed than we really are. It’s how conservative talk radio works. It isn’t inherently false, but its twisted in a way that it becomes misleading.
I know I’ve made a habit of looking at the negative side of things because it’s usually what’s the most realistic. However, and maybe it’s just because I’ve become a more positive person, I’m going to make you feel a lot better about the world and your own circumstances by showing you how these common stats aren’t totally true and that the actual reality is much more pleasant. For starters…
4. The Murder Rate
Turn on the news. Someone is always getting murdered. And its almost always with a gun. Sometimes an unlucky person will get stabbed to death, but its usually gun violence that kills the most people. And if you just went blindly on what you hear, you’d think gun violence and the murder rate must be astronomically high. But guess what? The murder rate has dropped by about 50% over the last 20 years (unless you’re in Chicago or other major cities, but forget that for the sake of this argument).
Even more, gun and other violent crime has drastically dropped in the same period of time. Now, if you’re super cynical, you might think that the numbers are skewed because the population is rising faster than the amount of crimes being committed. But guess what? These numbers aren’t calculated based on the percentage of the population. Instead, it’s based on the actual number of crimes committed. So by that logic, fewer crimes committed in a larger population would shrink that percentage even more.
So why does the murder rate seem so scary? Because that national 4.5% rate based on 2014 stats accounts for each incident per 100,000 people, not the 319 million people that live in the United States. If we’re basing it on the entire population, that percentage would be laughably small.
3. Cell Coverage and Reliability Data
Perhaps the only commercials worse than The General Insurance is all the fighting among Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint as they try to claim they’re the biggest, best, and fastest mobile service provider in the country. This has been going on for almost a decade. Sure Verizon or T-Mobile can show us their coverage maps and claim they “reach” 300 million people, but they don’t specify how good that coverage is. Do you get full bars or barely any signal at all?
The issue here is that every cell phone company believes that we’re stupid (and most of us are). They think that they can show us maps of coverage areas and offer “unlimited” data plans because A) we don’t know how cell service works and B) we don’t bother reading the fine print. The most recent ad campaign aired by Sprint might be the closest thing to honesty that you’ll ever find. There, Verizon’s old “Can you hear me now?” dweeb says, and I quote: “Sprint’s network reliability is within 1% of Verizon’s.”
What’s worse is that they think we’ll be fine with that. They think we won’t look further into what that really means. And you know what? They’re probably right.
2. The Average Income
Americans are obsessed with money. White people are especially concerned with whether or not they can classify themselves as “middle class” so they can feel some sort of connection to a presidential candidate. The problem with the idea of “middle class” is that no one really knows what it is, but it sounds definable so we just roll with it. But how exactly do you define it? Maybe check the average income of every working American. You know what that number is (based on 2014)? $72,641. How depressed are you right now? You’re poverty-stricken, aren’t you?
The good news is that number isn’t entirely truthful because of a laughably distorted level of income distribution between the super rich and the super poor. So before this turns into a super political argument, just know that there’s a different number that adjusts for the income disparity – the median income. This number takes the average income and divides everyone into 2 groups – those who make more than the average, and those who make less. When you adjust for that, the median income is now $51,939. Much more attainable to most people and a much more accurate representation of how much money most of us (don’t) really have.
But even that number doesn’t really matter. For example, I live in an area where the median income is roughly $50,000. However, the median income where I was born and raised is only about $38,000. The real problem is that we live in a vicious circle. If you want to make more money, you probably have to move to a place where the median income is higher. But that also means the cost of living is higher, so you probably won’t pocket anything extra in the end.
1. The Unemployment Rate
Oh the horror that is the unemployment rate. Every month a story comes out about how many jobs were added or lost and how the percentage fluctuated ever so slightly. At one point, the unemployment rate was almost 10% and you’d have thought we were on the brink of another Great Depression. Right now the unemployment rate is at about 5%, meaning only 5% of able-bodied, eligible Americans are jobless.
But think about if you flipped that number around. 95% of people in this country can and do work. That’s astounding because the actual percentage of people in your life that you feel confident in their ability to do a job is probably around 60%. Instead, practically everyone you know has a job. Do you know why? Because there are roughly 138 million jobs in this country. And sure you could do some quick math and say that 5% of 318 million is 15.9 million, which seems like a lot of people who don’t have jobs. But if you take away those who are retired, under 16, members of the military, disabled, full-time students, or stay-at-home moms (all of which are exceptions and not counted toward the unemployment rate), then you’re left with people who are part-time students, those who have a working spouse but don’t necessarily need a job, criminals, kids who are over 16 but still living at home but not working, and others. So it’s still a pretty small number by comparison, which is exactly what no one will tell you because they want you do be filled with anger and sadness over how bad things allegedly are.