Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Who Is the 300,000,000th American:? NPR vs NPR

At 7:46 this morning NPR aired an interview with Carl Haub, a Census Bureau Population Reference Bureau demographer, about who might be the 300 millionth American. 7:46 was the exact time at which the USA was predicted to pass that population mark.

Haub said that, given the current makeup of the US population, it was most likely that the 300 millionth American was a "white, non-Hispanic baby, probably male" because whites make up more than 70% of the population.

About a half hour later, NPR reporter Maura Liasson, in a different story about the future ethnica make-up of the USA, reported that "chances are good" that the 300 millionth American was a Hispanic person who walked across the border.

I love the news.

Update: Liasson seems to be taking her cue from a NY Times story which says, "This year, there's a good chance the 300 millionth American has already walked across the border from Mexico."

But the Times goes on to quote the left-leaning Brookings Institution demographer William Frey as asserting that "the 300 millionth American -- born months ago or on Tuesday -- is probably Hispanic because they are the fastest growing demographic group in the U.S."

Do I need to point out the fallacy in that? The fastest-growing group is not necessarily likliest to produce a baby at moment x if the absolute size of that group is small. And Hispanics make up about 14% of the U.S. population.

It seems pretty clear that Liasson, the Times, and the Brookings Institution want the 300,000,000th American to be Hispanic.


Chewie said...

"It seems pretty clear that Liasson, the Times, and the Brookings Institution want the 300,000,000th American to be Hispanic."

Two things seem pretty clear.

1) that's quite a leap and an assumption about what they "want" -- if you feel it's a fair one, then this one is too:

2) that you do not want the 300 millionth baby to be a Hispanic for some reason.

Otherwise, a mere factual/statistical correction, sans the pissy slap at their objectivity, would suffice.

David Wharton said...

Chewie, as to number (2), I previously wrote this and this. Make of it what you will.

I don't think I'm off base in suggesting that NPR & the NYT would go for a statistically flawed/vague/shaky demographic analysis in order to make the 300 millionth American story a story.

"300 Millionth American is White American Boy" = "Dog Bites Man."

But "300 Millionth American Is Mexican Who Walked Across Border," now, that's something worth reporting.

Even if it probably isn't true.

Chewie said...

Your post reads as though you are ascribing more sinister and political motivations to them, rather than mere circulation concerns. But, OK.

I still think it's a leap. I misquote sometimes. It's not because I want the quote to say something other than what it does, it's because I made an error.

You'd have to be psychic to state that "it seems pretty clear that Chewie wanted the quote to say x in order to sell ads."

David Wharton said...

You call it a leap, I call it an inference. An inference is less sure than a deduction, but that doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't make them -- we should just be clear about their certainty. Hence my "seems".

I now think the Times and NPR were just following the line of the Brookings Institution, which is reputable, but also well-known as a left-leaning think tank.

If you base your story solely on the line of a left-wing think tank, and don't investigate other sources, I think it's warranted for me to propose that the journalists involved are only looking for what they want to find.

If my post insinuated that the Times and NPR experince some schadenfreude at the discomfiture of ordinary white Americans at the increasing Latinization of the US population, well, I believe that's true, too.