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Math Is Hard

In addition to self-reflection, common decency, and basic infrastructure maintenance, we Americans are apparently really bad at demographic math.

“When people’s average perceptions of group sizes are compared to actual population estimates,” writes Taylor Orth, senior survey data journalist at YouGovAmerica, “an intriguing pattern emerges: Americans tend to vastly overestimate the size of minority groups.”

For example, poll respondents guessed that 21 percent of the U.S. population is transgender while the actual proportion is 1 percent; military veterans were estimated at 40 percent while it’s really only 6.

Interestingly, the reverse is also true: People tend to underestimate majority groups.

Why the discrepancy? A recent study claims that it’s entirely rational, but I have my doubts. After all, coherence isn’t exactly one of our strong suits, either.



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