Humanities for the Unbound Mind / Reflections

Afternoons playing with numbers. Well, it is what I do.

Originally published January 19, 2018

Hello again.

I’ve seen a great deal of huffing and puffing of late over which state is richer and whether that state has a lot of immigrants, or voted for which party. Statistics are wonderful tools, but they are easily manipulated by those with a specific mind set, or agenda. Consequently, I thought I would spend a bit of time poking around for source numbers. These are just a few of the things I found, the chart I developed to pull these numbers is included, along with links to my sources.

I chose some very simple comparison points. GDP per state as compared to the GDP of foreign countries. Given that production, what do the polls show about party make up of the state. Interesting enough, the average difference between those claiming affiliation with one party or the other is 12.5%. Only nine states can claim that either party is declared more than 50% of the time. Perhaps now you understand a bit of how hard it is for a campaign to keep the pulse of the country during large elections. One of the serious impacts on this rather balanced political landscape is the practice of gerrymandering. It’s a bit like playing with weighted dice. So, on to some more comparisons.

The 25 states that produce the most GDP kick out 85% of the total US GDP. That total is $15 trillion (with a T) in US dollars. Actual number is $15,150,520 million.  The 25 states that produce the least economic output kick out a total GDP of $2 trillion, or $2,678,647 million. If California (the top producer at $2.44 trillion) was a separate country, it would have the 6th largest economy in the world. Texas is second at $1.64 trillion, New York is third at $1.45 trillion. Now, how does that play out in the political arena?

Watch carefully, I’d offer to let you hold my beer but I drink wine.

For those states that are the top 25 producers of GDP:

Party winning vote for:RepublicanDemocratVariance
Presidential Election13124%
Both Presidential & Governor1094%

For those states that are the least 25 producers of GDP:

Presidential Election17930.76%
Both Presidential & Governor15346.15%

Now, look carefully, please. Those states that produce the greatest amount of economic output in our country are actually pretty evenly divided. I chose 25 as an arbitrary dividing mark. If I chose, say, the top three, California and New York were both Democratic all the way, while Texas was Republican. But that’s the point. How the numbers are parsed, what they are compared to, what the time period of collection on each data point might be, all contribute to the outcome.

The moral of this story is that statistics presented in meme-form rarely convey information that is valuable in making decisions. They are, however, great for arousing emotions and starting arguments. A single data point taken out of context and used to “prove” a selected agenda or position cannot be trusted. Dig, do the research, or stay out of the debate.

As promised, table I used to formulate the above conclusions is here.

These are the links I used for gathering that information.
Religious Landscape Study

This site included information that I found fascinating about immigration and economic impact throughout the US. Many folks seem to forget that even if an immigrant is undocumented, as a whole they contribute $11.74 billion to state and local treasuries in sales and excise, personal income, and property taxes.

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