Bryan Caplan  

Julian Simon Moment of the Day

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The 2007 Statistical Abstract of the United States lists death rates per 100,000 population.

The 1951 Statistical Abstract of the United States lists death rates per 1000 population.

When you look at the numbers, it's easy to see why. Back in 1949, the death rate of 1-4 year olds per 1000 population was 1.5 (itself a huge improvement over 1900's 19.8). In 2003, the death rate of 1-4 year olds per 100,000 population was 31.5.

If the denominator hadn't been changed, modern tables would be hard to read because the numbers would be so small.


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COMMENTS (8 to date)
ed writes:

Huh? You think ".315" would be too hard to read??

You make it sound like death rates have declined by an order of magnitude, but for most ages they've only gone down by around a half. The overall death rate has gone down by less than 30% since 1950. (The overall rate has declined less than the age group rates because there are more people in the older, higher-death-rate groups.)

General Specific writes:

I agree with Ed: 0.3 isn't too difficult to read.

But let's give credit where credit is deserved. Modern sanitation, government sponsored health care efforts, clean water, government sponsored medical R&D, and the private medical community at large.

I don't think Julian Simon made any contributions to medical science. And let's not forget that all those socialist countries seem to have achieved similar goals. Julian Simom is like Nostradamus: those who admire him can use his rather generalized language to "prove" any of his prognostications.

But given that oil is now running between $90 and $100 a barrel, soon to go higher, I think Simon's predictive powers are now proving--what's the word--depleted?

Independent George writes:

I misread the post at first and didn't realize the first two numbers were mortality rates per thousand, and the last was mortality rate per hundred thousand. For a moment, I thought you were trying to tell us that it had doubled in the last hundred years.

dearieme writes:

The rate in the age group (-1) to 0 would have increased though.

Fly Fisher writes:

I don't have a strong opinion on this, but I do support Brian's point about the decimal point. When listing a statistic as X people per Y, most readers will feel better if X is a number greater than one. I suspect that a statement about 31.5 people per 100,000 will be received better by the general population than will a statement about 0.315 people per 1000. For instance, if 2% of the population carried some characteristic, then I would say 2 out of 100, or, perhaps, 20 out of 1000. Describing this as 0.2 out of 10 or 0.02 out of 1 would probably get some strange reactions. I am far from an expert on this, though.

On another note: Bryan and Arnold provide two services with their blog. They alert us to interesting reports, studies, or commentaries; and they provide their own analyses and opinions on related topics. Sometimes they do both, but sometimes they do only one. Seems to me that Brian was alerting us to a report with this post, but a couple responses have countered his analysis and opinion which, in my assessment, don't exist in the post. Curious.

Finally, dearieme writes:


The rate in the age group (-1) to 0 would have increased though.

Ouch!

Zubon writes:

The rate in the age group (-1) to 0 would have increased though.

Show. Abortion plus miscarriage in 1951 versus 2003/2007. The factors that reduced infant mortality presumably had an effect on live births, and illegal abortions were far from unheard of. You may be right, but that is a lot of ground to assume.

I am especially curious about the -1 to -0.75 age category, for different reasons.

spencer writes:

Interestingly the average annual rate of decline from 1900 to 1949 was -0.37% while from 1949 to 2003
it was -0.02%.

The rate of improvement is moderating very, very sharply. It would be interesting to see this charted with some sort of smoothed ten year average.

That seems to me to be the significant change that the comments seems to be ignoring.

P.S. you might find my post on FDR and business investment in the 1930s at angry bear of interest.
http://angrybear.blogspot.com/

8 writes:

Contraception increased demand for abortion even before Roe.

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