"To be too certain of anything is the beginning of bigotry." -- Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Quiz: Do You Know Your Facts?

     One article in last Sunday's New York Times proclaimed: "Everything has only gotten worse ..." while a few pages later a headline from the usually critical Nicholas Kristof told us, "This Has Been the Best Year Ever (Again)."

     So what are we to believe?

     I read an important book published last year called Factfulness by Hans Rosling. His message is that we need to rely on facts to inform us about the world, not our fears, emotions, or any rules of thumb or the popular media. All these sources feed into our prejudices and preconceived notions -- whether we're man or woman, young or old, Democrat or Republican -- and give us a distorted view of the world.

     In his book Rosling offers a quiz to test the reader's knowledge. For example, he asks: "In all low-income countries across the world today, how many girls finish primary school? A. 20%; B. 40%, or C. 60%." What do you think?

     Hans Rosling, who died in 2017 at age 68, was a Swedish physician and professor of international health. My quiz below is inspired by his book, but I've tried to focus my questions more on the United States. Still, the questions will hopefully illustrate his point that we need to know the true facts, not the facts as massaged by politicians, corporations, the internet or the media. That's the only way we can respond to real problems, and not get paralyzed by unfounded fears or misdirected sympathies.

     The answer above, by the way, is C. 60% of girls even in low-income countries get at least a primary school education. Most people think the number is lower than that -- an example of how we often believe things are worse than they really are.

     So put on your thinking cap. Here's the quiz:

1. What is the poverty rate in America today?
A. 15%    B  12.3%    C  11.8%     D. 9.7%

2. How many homeless people are in the U. S.?
A. 1 million    B. 500,000    C. 200,000    D. 100,000

3. Since 1980 the share of Americans judged to be middle class by the Federal Bureau of the Census has:
A. Increased significantly    B. Increased slightly    C. Decreased a little bit    D. Decreased drastically

4. In the year 2000 the federal estate tax kicked in for estates worth over $1 million. In 2020 the threshold is:
A. Still $1 million    B. $10 million    C. $11.4. million    D. $11.58 million

5. At what income level do Social Security benefits start to become taxable for a single person?
A. $0.00 (it's all taxable)    B. $25,000    C. $32,000    D. $60,000

6. How many women currently serve in the U. S. House of Representatives?
A. 154    B  132    C  101    D 87

7. For every 100 women age 25 - 29 who have at least a college degree, how many men of the same age have a college degree?
A. 124    B. 104    C. 96   D. 85 

8. In the year 2000 11.6% of people age 65 and over suffered from dementia. The latest figures show the rate of dementia among the elderly is:
A. 18%    B. 14%    C 11.6%    D. 8.8%

9. Currently the obesity rate in America is:
A. 40%    B. 30%    C 25%    D 12%

10. How have the number of murders per year changed over the past 40 years?
A. Almost doubled    B. Increased by about 20%    C. Remained about the same    D. Decreased  by about 30%

11. In 1999 there were 16,849 deaths due to drug overdose in America. What's the latest figure (as of 2017)?
A. 15,387    B. 22,200    C 36,010    D. 70,237

12. The number of major oil spills by tankers (defined as 1000 tons or more) was 636 in 1979. By 2016 that number decreased to:
A. 535    B. 121    C. 37    D. 6

13.  Global climate experts project that over the next 50 years the average temperature will:
A. Get slightly warmer    B. Get dangerously warmer.  C. Stay about the same   D. Get colder

14. The phrase: "The U. S. in his initials stands for 'Unbelievably Stupid'" refers to which president?
A. Gerald Ford    B. George W. Bush    C. Ulysses S. Grant    D. Donald Trump

     Come back in a few days for my next post to see the answers, which will offer both good and bad news . . . but also help us recognize progress when we've made it, and point us in the right direction when we're trying to solve ongoing problems.


DUTA said...

What??!! America has poverty, homelessness, obesity, dementia, murder?
I'm not being cynical, just feeling sad about what the world has come to. Australia, considered for ages, Heaven on earth, is burning like Hell, and no one can help. I hope they're praying to God - only He can.

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com said...

Hey Tom! Happy New Year! But are you asking us to actually think??? Especially on New Year's Day? But you have certainly thrown out a BUNCH of provocative questions of which I can't wait to hear the answers to. Meanwhile, I completely agree that it is very important for us to take the time to check out facts before blindly jumping to conclusions. There are ways of course, but it does require we slow down a bit and take the time to find reliable sources for information. Obviously that will be extremely important in the year ahead. ~Kathy

Janette said...

Great questions. Of course I could not wait. I got most of them. The one I missed was overdoses. That was shocking.

Olga said...

Sounds like a worthwhile book. Has all those problematic numbers . . .

Arkansas Patti said...

I do tend to think things are worse mainly by all the headlines we see each day. Be interesting to see if we might be better off than I think. That would be nice.

David @iretiredyoung said...

Don't make us wait too long to get the answers!

Diane Dahli said...

I read Kristof's optimistic article this week, and actually quoted it in my blog. I'd love to believe his stats, but am reaching the point where I'm questioning everything, including the facts in this book. It's a bad place to be, and makes us lose faith in the sources we once thought were invincible. So my question is, what cam we depend on for true, unshakable facts these days?

Laurie Stone said...

I'm not sure I want to know the answers... or do I? Everything seems so hopeless these days and the daily grind of awful, scary news doesn't help.

Rebecca Olkowski said...

Oh Wow! I thought I was done with test-taking about 50 years ago. But it's always good to keep your brain stimulated and know the real facts.