April 24, 2013

Crisis: On "American Averages"


1.   Why "American Averages"?
2.   Why use "American Averages"?
"On an Average Day in America"
4.  "Life, Death and the Average Body"
5.  "Habits, Tics, Rituals and Other routines"
6.  "Sex: With ourselves, spouses, friends, strangers"
"The Mind: Its Thoughts, Moods, and Memories"
8.  "The Money We Make and Spend"
About ME/CFS


Yesterday, I wrote about Prozac, psychiatry and the DSM-5. Today I am writing about "American Averages", which is with two capitalized As because it is the title of a book.

1. Why "American Averages"?

First some facts.

"American Averages" is a book from 1980 by Mike Feinsilber and William B. Mead, with the subtitle "Amazing facts of Everyday Life". I bought it in 1983, and so it can be said to be 30 years old. It consists of some 395 pages of reported facts, on the following general pattern
No muss, no fuss, no fun. Three dairy cows out of 4 born in the United States these days are the product of artificial insemination.

Who does the work around here? In the US, women do 41 per cent of it.
  As you might expect, women are 99 per cent of the secretaries, 97 per cent of the registerd nurses, 97 per cent of receptionists, 95 per cent of the telephone operators, 87 per cent of the cashiers, and 61 per cent of the social workers.
  But you may be surprised to learn that women also are 45 per cent of the editors and reporterts, 36 per cent of the biologists, 11 per cent of the medical doctors (but only 3 per cent of the dentists), 35 per cent of the restaurant managers, 42 per cent of the bar tenders, 10 per cent of the security guards, and 17 per cent of the farmhands.
These are all or part of 11 similar entries on pages 264 and 265 of the book, from chapter 9, called "Work life".

I like it and have read all of it, in 1983, indeed mostly to get a fair image of the average American, which I also think it did give me.

2. Why use "American Averages"?

Basically, because (1) I have no other comparable book, and (2) there does not seem to be another comparable book. Especially the second fact sounds a bit odd, but I have made a search and can't find anything much like it.

In any case: I think it is high time for me to give some feedback and facts -but I cannot take on board more than a few entries, gathered from vastly more facts.

3. "On an Average Day in America"

What did the
256,068,000 Americans of 1980 do? And Note that there are now 315 million (give or take a few), so basically add 1/5th - and mind this is about one single average day in the US of A:
10,930,000 cows are milked.
500 million cups of coffee are drunk.
10,205 people give blood.
1,253 people are arrested on marijuana charges.
1 of every 6 Americans sits down with a good book.
205 animals are buried in pet cemeteries.
3 million people go to the movies.
180 women are raped, 53 people are murdered, 1,108 people are robbed, and 2,618 cars are stolen.
Amateurs take 19,178,000 snapshots.
9,077 babies are born, including 360 twins or triplets.
And so on, without a doubt: There is nearly 2 pages more of the same. (And note that this makes over 365,000 arrests on marijuana charges a year, circa 1980, which is over 1 per 1000.)

4. "Life, Death and the Average Body"

Now we get to the real facts.
How long will you live? At the turn of the century, 1 American in 25 reached age 65. Today, 1 in 5 does. And by the year 2000, 1 American in 5 will be 65 or older.

Delicate machinery. Three of every 10 important diseases suffered by women are in the reproductive organs.
Actually, I don't know the statistic for males, but I suppose it is appreciably less. Also, there seems to have been a major increase in longevity.
Miscarriages. Of every 100 conceptions, 55 abort spontaneously.

Ulcers. On average, 1 man in 10 gets ulcers.
Note the ulcers! At the time this was written, maybe as much as 25 million American males with ulcers were told, in 1980 alone, by the American Psychiatric Association, that they suffered from a  psychiatric disease, while they did not: See peptic ulcer (Wikipedia).
Murder, here and there. On average, an American's risk of being murdered is several times that of a person in Australia,
Austria, Belgium, Canada, (etc.)
The "(etc.)" is mine, and abbreviates a considerably longer list. The reason is that the US has far freer gun laws - that I, for one, am not against. (See my own chapter 11 to "On "The Logic of Moral Discourse"".)
Men are accident prone. A man is almost 3 times as likely as a woman to be killed in a car wreck, and more than 5 times as likely to drown or be accidentally shot to death.
   In fact, most kinds of accident you can think of kills more males than females.
This is somewhat interesting: It's not just that women get older than men.
Where the doctor is. For every 10,000 Americans, there were 14 doctors in 1960 and 18 in 1976. By 1990 there will be 24.

Upward bound. Every generation of Americans is taller than its parents by about an inch.
One doctor per 250 non-doctors is a rather good statistic, though I do not think the compilers were really weighing the risks that many of these more recent doctors are not really well educated.

And as to the length: I am tall, with 1 meter 95 centimeters, but indeed this is an odd fact: An inch with every generation?!

5. "Habits, Tics, Rituals and Other routines"

We get the sex in the next chapter.
Talking dirty. At leisure, 1 of every 8 words spoken by the average adult is a cuss word. At work, he or she tones it down to 1 in 29.
  The average college student throws in a dirty word for every 11 clean ones. The average college woman has just as foul a mouth as the average college man, except she says "shit" more than he does, and he says "fuck" more than she does.
To show that the differences between the sexes are not as large as many think they are...
The bookish American. The avarage American reads at least 2 books per year, and  10 per cent claim they read more than 50.
I am certainly a deviant, but indeed I know (and don't have a TV, that allowed me to read many more books).
The drugs that kill. The drug most likely to kill you, on average, is alcohol taken with some other drug. (..) The second biggest killer is heroin (..). As a killer, marijuana is twenty-sixth on the list of 26 drugs. By comparison, aspirin is tied for tenth.
On the place of (..) there is a fairly long list with names of medical drugs. It is fairly certain (but I do not have the numbers to prove it), that these days, SSRIs should be in such a list of names of medical drugs.

Finally, for the marijuana, note that it is last of the 26 drugs. In fact, I do not myself know of any death through marijuana for over 40 years of its use in Amsterdam.

What the Bible means. Thirty-eight per cent of adult Americans believe that the Bible is the literal word of God, while 45 per cent consider it the "inspired" word of God. Thirteen per cent would rather categorize it as an ancient book written by men.
Being a total non-believer, what I am most amazed at, also in comparison with Europe, is the fanaticism of a considerable segment of the American population.
Whatever happened to the natural look? Nineteen out of 20 American women wear makeup, and 7 out of 10 make up differently for dates than they do for classes.
Surely, quite a good question, also seeing that this is new: My mother's generation wore little or no makeup.
On your own. After the time taken up by work and other obligations, the avarage American has about 35 hours per week - 20 percent of his time - to himself. Housewifes have about 40 hours of free time, and women with outside jobs 30.
This is again pretty insane - and even more insane is what these 35 hours a week are being spend on: Watching TV, mostly. Also, it is very worthwile to notice that these statistics date from before "the sexual revolution", that started with 1980: Even in the 1970ies, women's lives were freer than male lives.

6. "Sex: With Ourselves, Spouses, Friends, Strangers"

We have arrived at what nearly everybody is most interested in.
Intercourse, oral sex, orgasm and what not. Among women, intercourse ranks as a poor fourth as a source of orgasm.
  Masturbation is the hands-down winner. Eighty-two per cent of women masturbate, and of those, 95 per cent orgasm regularly.
I don't think this has much changed. What did change, and what did change rather a lot, were the frequencies, the positions, and the liberties:
Wow! Singles of the 1970s were at least twice as likely to vary the old missionary position (..). Hunt found that 37 per cent of single women sometimes used rear-entry vaginal intercourse, 6 times the rate in Kinsey's day. One sixth of the young, sexually active singles surveyed by Hunt had tried anal intercourse, an act on which Kinsey didn't even publish any data.
   Oral sex has really taken off.
Then we have this - and mind you: This was 1980, at the latest:
More than Kinsey, less than Portnoy. The average man between 18 and 24 who masturbates does it once a week - three times a year more than in Kinsey's day. (..)
   The average woman between 18 and 24 who masturbates does it 37 times a year - 16 more times than in Kinsey's day.
That may not seem very much, but then there is this:
The sexual revolution is real. Proportionally, about twice as many single men in their late teens and early 20s are sexually active than were a generation ago. They're having it a third as frequently too.
  That's nothing compared to feminine progress. A single woman in her late teens or early 20s is 2 to 3 times as likely to be having sex as her more demure predecessor. And she is having it at least three times as often.
And surely, the one main reason for all of this is female contraception, that started in the 1960ies (in Holland, at least).

But there still is this fact, no doubt:
Man versus machine. According to research by Masters and Johnson, the avarage woman using an electric vibrator can keep it up for an hour or more and can have as many as 50 orgasms.
  During sex with a partner, only about 1 woman in 6 has multiple orgasms.
And there is another thing, that can be concluded with fair confidence, given the above: It is - very probably - not true that women have 10 times more intense feelings than men do (as the blind seer Tereisias claimed, who had been a woman as well as a male, and who did so some 500 years BC). In fact, it probably is the about the same.

7. "The Mind: Its Thoughts, Moods, and Memories"

Now let us unbent somewhat - but only somewhat, for the first item is quite important, and supports all I have been saying:
Hitting the books, softly. Pau; Copperman, president of the Institute of Reading Development, in California, says the average kid today learns less than her or his parents did.
  In testimony before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Education, Arts and the Humanities, Copperman said: "The average high-school student today takes 25 per cent less English, 35 per cent less world history, 35 percent less geography, and 20 per cent less science than students a generation ago. He is assigned less work, and the textbooks he is given have been rewritten with a reading level two tears lower than the grade he is in."

I think this is 35 years old - and since then it has been going down much more! Not only that:
We're all sheep. Sociologists say that the average person picks up the opinions and attitudes that are important to him from his parents and peerss, not from analyxing ideas.
This does not amaze me at all. And here is an illustration:
Happy Yankee Doodle. According to Gallup polls, the average American is twice as happy as the average West German, and more than 5 times as happy as the average resident of the Far East.
What is the conclusion of this astounding finding? That you can't trust polls without check. In the same class:
Upbent and downbeat. Nine of every 10 Americans say that their life is satisfying.
There is in fact a sizable break-down, but I will not list it.

Now an item that is only to settle terminology:
IQ. By definition, the average person has an IQ of 100. Sixty per cent of us have IQs between 85 and 115.
   Here's how psychologists interpret the numbers:
     IQ of 145 or above            Brilliant
             130                        Very superior
             115                        Superior
             105                        High average
              95                         Average  
              85                         Low average
              70                         Inferior
              55                         Very inferior
      below 55                         Severely abnormal
As it happens, I am brilliant, though I personally do not care much for IQs over 140: Too little researched, and all brought down to a single number, which seems a mistake to me. Here is a somewhat better standard:
What did you get on your SATs. That stands for Scholastic Aptitue Tests, which have a lot to do with whether your son or daughter gets into that prestigious college. SATs are taken during the junior or senior year of high school. There is a verbal test and a math test, and a perfect score is 800 in each.
There is a note from 1983 by me: "I did a verbal SAT once and scored 100%", but I did not say I was considerably older than  junior of senior high school.

Now we get some payment for our troubles:

Does the average kid with a high IQ really do better in life? You'd better believe it. (..) In fact, he or she was taller, heavier, and stronger, had broader shoulders, and outperformed the average child in athletics.
  They way outperformed the average person their age academically, socially and professionally. On average, they earned a lot more money and they seemed a lot happier.
I must agree, and am not the least bit astounded. The only breakage I know, on average, is ... M.E. (But even there somebody like me could have done a lot better than I have, because I could not accept the education I got.)

Now for something else, but relevant:

Two kinds of depression. (..) about 1 of every 50 Americans is a manic-depressive. It's a serious thing, and the average manic- depressive comes down with the condition in his or her mid-20s.
It's as likely to be a he as a she.
 Neurotic depression, which isn't so serious, afflicts 1 of every 27 Americans.

There's more (there often is), but the relevance is that this perfectly obvious distinction has been totally denied in the DSM-5, that also has gigantically, and wholly falsely, unless mankind has definitely changed the last 25 years, widened the definition of "depression".

To stick with our subject, more or less:
Sad statistics on the retarded. Nearly 1 of every 1,000 Americans is in an institution for the mentally retarded.
Actually, I would consider that very low - it is 1 in  250.000 or so, which would mean 64 persons in Holland, where there are considerably more.

Finally, a bit more on IQs:
Rise and fall. The average American scores best on the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, a standard IQ test, between the ages of 25 and 29.
  (..) Between the ages of 40 and 44, our average American dips below the scores of 16- and 17-year olds.
  The decline gets a bit steeper around age 50, and sharper still at about 70.

This is for the average American. What is true is that I scored probably highest age 28, before I fell ill. (But as I said: For me, this is mostly misleading, not so much because there are no extremely high IQs, but because precisely those have not been investigated well.)

8. "The Money We Make and Spend"

Now we get to the money, but I'll take it less, since much of this is outdated. Even so, that is an interesting fact, as we shall see. Indeed, we start with an item that grew by almost the same amount, it seems, even though that did not change much:
What we make and how we spend it. The average American's income in 1978 was $ 8,174.54. Taxes took $ 1,503,04, leaving
$ 6,671.50; the average American spent all but $ 329.49 of it.
(..) Want to know how muvh the average full-time worker was paid in 1978? $ 13,275.
  Here's how the average American spent his or her average dollar. In 1978:

    Housing                                                       $  .30
    Food                                                              .18
    Transportation                                                  .14
    Medical expenses                                              .10
    Clothes and jewellery                                         .08
    Recreation                                                       .07
    Insurance premiums                                           .05
    Education, religion and charity                              .03
    Liquor and other alcoholic beverages                      .02
    Makeup, haircuts and other personal grooming          .01
    Cigaretters and other tobacco                               .01
It seems as if all of this has - roughly - twice doubled since, but it also seems as if about the same goes for the prices. (I know I am speaking very roughly.)

What I am fairly amazed about are medical expenses; education, religion and charity; and liquor and other alcoholic beverages: The former is much too high, and especially the
education, religion and charity entry much too low - but then I am speaking of numbers that are in fact 35 years old:
Here's the average income tax for people like you. (...) These figures refer to the total personal income for 1978:
   The average American

    with income between                        pays this much of it
                                                       in federal income tax:
    $  5,000 and $ 10,000                       $     431  or 5,8%
    $ 10,000 and $ 15,000                       $  1,211  or 9,7%
    $ 15,000 and $ 20,000                       $  2,072  or 11,9%
    $ 20,000 and $ 30,000                       $  3,452  or 14,2%
    $ 30,000 and $ 50,000                       $  6,725  or 18,3%    
    $ 50,000 and $ 100,000                      $ 16,801 or 25,4%
    $ 100,000 and $ 200,000                    $ 43,913  or 32,9%
    $ 200,000 and over                           $176,179  or 37,1%
Here is my main reason to copy this (and the last entry, at least, is misleading): This has radically changed: Those with (really) high incomes pay far less these days.

Here is something that remained the same - except that in some branches that too got quite insane:

The boss earns more. In 1978, U.S. News & World Report asked 372 big companies how much they paid their top executives in 1977:
The median pay for board chairmen was $308,190, up 11 percent
The median pay for company presidents was $259,785, up 15
The median pay for vice presidents was $179,419, up 11 percent.
Altogether, of 918 top officials, only 36 were paid less thah $ 100,000, while 62 got $ 500,000 or more.
These days, it is considered "normal" to pay millions a year, sometimes even several tens of millions. That is all greed, and greed only, that is, if one subtracts psychopathology.

Now suppose you were 30 in 1980 (as I was): What about your grandparents? Here is an answer for American grandparents:
Indulging ourselves. (..)
In 1929, the average American spent the equivalent of $ 1,769
In 1978, the average American spent the equivalent of $ 4,150
That is slightly above twice as much, in 50 years. I do not believe it has grown  by much, since 1978.

Here is another item that is important:
Democracy is expensive. The average winner in the 1978 U.S. Senate race spent $ 1,058,671 on his campaign, up from $ 552,423 in 1974 (..)
Now (1) the amounts have much risen, and what is more important (2) corporations are claimed to be "people" by the US Supreme Court.
How much we own. At the end of 1978, the average American had $ 5.10 in assets - cash, securities, house equity and so forth - for every dollar of debts.
Currently, the situation is much worse. Finally, an important statistic:
The size of the government. One of every 5 American workers is employed by the government, and $ 1.00 of every $ 5.00 spent in this country is spent by the government.
I do not know how this is now.

I am at around half of the book, so there still is half to do. Maybe I'll do it tomorrow, but this was a fairly heavy task for me, and tomorrow I also must go shopping.

In any case: This is the sort of book that is bought far less than it should have been, and I would recommend you to buy one if there is a more recent one. But that I very much doubt: It seems this was a one time, also once printed book, that also cannot be found anymore.

It's a great pity, for there is much more that is worthy to know in a book of this kind, than in almost any other book one may buy.

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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