This is the time when we make lists. The best movies of 2014. The best books. The funniest cartoons. The greatest photos. The most amazing sports performances. The 10 best botched athlete celebrations. (No kidding, The Washington Post ran that. You can see the videos here. ) Not to be outdone, here’s my contribution: The year’s best statistics.
Below you will find 15 in no particular order. To be candid, I outsourced the hard work to my friend Ben Beach, a numbers buff who keeps a running tab of intriguing stats. Included in the list are numbers applying to 2014 and numbers announced in 2014. Of the 15 stats, eight come from Ben, the remainder from me. Ben’s are the most interesting.
● Nine percent of Americans carry no cash, and half carry $20 or less.
● China’s government estimates that by 2020, about 30 million eligible bachelors will be unable to find a wife.
● First-year enrollment in law schools has dropped 30 percent in four years, falling from 52,488 to 37,924 — the lowest level since 1973.
● On average, children run a mile 90 seconds slower than their counterparts 30 years ago.
● Global life expectancy has increased by about six years since 1990, reflecting gains in rich countries against heart disease and in poorer countries against diarrhea and malaria.
● On English-language Web sites, you can choose from 466 e-cigarette brands and 7,764 flavors.
● In 2013, more than 40 percent of American births were to unmarried mothers for the sixth consecutive year. (In 1997, the share was 32 percent.)
● Only half of American men shave daily.
● The median amount of student borrowing to pay for college — adjusted for inflation — has doubled in the past two decades to about $27,000.
● The suicide rate for Americans 45 to 64 rose 40 percent from 1999 to 2011, making this group more suicide-prone than the young or old.
● Two years after the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, 52 percent of Americans support gun ownership, up from 32 percent in 2007.
● Since the financial crisis, money flows between countries have dropped nearly two-thirds, from $8.5 trillion in 2007 to about $3 trillion in recent years.
● U.S. health spending remained at 17.4 percent of the economy (GDP) for five years, from 2009 to 2013. (Since 1960, there’s been one comparable period. From 1993 to 2000, spending stabilized at 13.4 percent of GDP.)
● There were 232 extra-inning baseball games in Major League Baseball this year, up from 185 in 2006.
Behind every good number there’s a good story. That’s why I’ve included links to sources for all these figures. For the curious, they are a beginning to understanding what shapes these numbers. Happy New Year, everyone.
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