Saturday, October 26, 2013

Just How Many Americans Are...

The typical American overestimates the percentage of the population which is Black, Hispanic, or gay.

For me as a demographer, it sometimes seems strange that others don't pour over the latest Census figures and polling data with the glee others dive into a new Harry Potter book.  But, people are strange <wink>.

So perhaps it is not unsurprising that the typical American wildly overestimates the percentage of the population consisting of minority groups.  I believe many people probably base their perceptions on TV programs and the frequency of media coverage involving Americans from various minority groups.  

As I discussed earlier this week, the typical American in a recent Gallup poll estimated a quarter of the US population is gay -rather than the likely more accurate 3.5%.

An older poll from 2001 finds a similar misperception regarding Black and Hispanic Americans.  The average percentages of the population offered by respondents argues that 33% of Americans are Black and 29% of Americans are Hispanic!  The correct percentages from the 2000 US Census are 12.3% Black and 12.5% Hispanic.

Now keep in mind that you can mark Black for your race on the Census, mark Hispanic as your ethnicity, and be gay -a characteristic the Census doesn't ask about individually.  Still, it is fun to ponder that -barring overlap- our poor, hapless typical American may think 87% of the US population is Black, Hispanic, or gay!

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