“percentage of…” zeitgeist

by DRM

Sometimes you type the beginning of a query into Google search and as the suggested terms appear under the box you get pulled into the zeitgeist like Alice fell into the looking glass.

I was looking for a global demographic info bit and typed “percentage of” into Google.

The following list appeared as suggestions:

  • Percentage of black people in America
  • Percentage of Americans with college degrees
  • Percentage of obese Americans
  • Percentage of completion method
  • Percentage of homosexuals in America
  • Percentage of Christians in America
  • Percentage of a number
  • Percentage of water in a human body
  • Percentage of men who cheat

These are the things that we wonder about.

Black people, smart people, gay people, godly people, and men who cheat: the five specific queries designed to measure the individual against the whole.

You can only imagine what the personal stories are behind the millions of queries that prompted Google’s algorithms to offer up these queries. People looking for validation; students researching papers; some guys looking to settle a debate at the end of the bar.

The next step was obvious:  What were the answers?

First, though, I wanted to guess.

The table in this post shows my guesses, and the facts from the primary source that Google offered up in the search.

I was on target with black people and college grads.  I overshot on obesity (although more than 65% of Americans are overweight.)

The number of homosexuals is much lower than I estimated.  My 10% number comes from a fact that I first heard during my freshman orientation for college in the late 1970’s.   Surf the web and you find that the number of homosexuals is a highly politicized.  The world would be a much easier place is everything was defined as pan-sexual…

There are a lot more Christians than I thought, and I picked a pretty high number.   There is a Christian majority, without question; it’s just not a very uniform definition of practicing faiths.

About 37% of men have cheated in a committed relationship — a lot lower than my 55% estimate.  This was the loosest data point, and one that requires, like homosexuality, that a person identify themselves truthfully to whomever is doing the counting.  And, in life, some things are best left private.

Oh, about two-thirds of the human body consists of water.  My guess was 96% and I don’t know what I was thinking.