Subscribe to Decision Science News by Email (one email per week, easy unsubscribe)
LET’S PUT THAT INTO PERSPECTIVE
The NYT had a nice infographic entitled “The typical American lives only 18 miles from mom“. They’re saying the median distance to mom is 18 miles.
But when you look at the data in greater depth (thanks to the graph in the article, which we reproduce above), it looks like the mean distance is over 200 miles. That’s the crow-flies distance from DC to New York, a 4 hour drive sans traffic. You might say the median is the better statistic, and we agree: relatively few people living on the opposite coast from their parents drive the average up. However, the downside of the median is that it doesn’t let you appreciate how far from their parents a third of the country lives. In the spirit of putting numbers into perspective to improve comprehension, let’s put that into perspective. Values are rounded. Drive times are from online maps and do not include traffic delays or even a single pit stop.
- 1 in 3 lives over 100 miles from mom (New York to Philadelphia, a 2.5 hour drive)
- 1 in 4 lives over 200 miles (DC to New York, a 4 hour drive)
- 1 in 5 lives over 350 miles (DC to Boston, a 7.5 hour drive)
- 1 in 6 lives over 600 miles (DC to Chicago, a 10.5 hour drive)
- 1 in 10 lives over 900 miles (DC to Minneapolis, a 16.5 hour drive)
When the miles are in familiar units, people live farther from mom than it first seems. Also, mentioned in the article,
- A lot of people take care of their parents
- A lot of people’s parents help take care of their kids
- A lot of people are poor or middle class, which increases the chance they’ll care for parents or grandkids
- A lot of people live in super-dense areas
… which also make the surprising stat seems less surprising.