# What the mean age means.

The Math of Life and Death is a good addition to the when are we ever going to use this collection of popular science books. With numeracy being so important in life, a regular diet of these ideas keeps someone mentally fit. Consider the story of student loans as one example.

Often the mathematical manuscripts show mean and median differing in network systems like in the case of income or the social graph. Or, how much Bill Gates skews average wealth but not legs.

Kip Yates reminds us of other instances.

“However, ecological fallacies can be more subtle than this. Perhaps it would surprise you to know that despite having a mean life expectancy of just 78.8 years, the majority of British males will live longer than the overall population life expectancy of eighty-one years. At first this statement seems contradictory, but it is due to a discrepancy in the statistics we use to summarize the data. The small, but significant, number of people who die young brings down the mean age of death (the typically quoted life expectancy in which everyone’s age at death is added together and then divided by the total number of people). Surprisingly, these early deaths take the mean well below the median (the age that falls exactly in the middle: as many people die before this age as after). The median age of death for UK males is eighty-two, meaning that half of them will be at least this age when they die.”

Kip Yates

Numeracy is becoming more important because we are generating more data. Luckily, we don’t have to become mathematicians but we do have to see if ideas pass the sniff test. We have to think about how survivor explains sampling, and consider gambling parlays. We have to be mathematically minded.

## 6 thoughts on “What the mean age means.”

1. […] Harford’s bump up (Bayesian baby) these ideas. Riddles like: most British men live past the average age help too. A steady dose of numeracy uses the availability heuristic for our own […]

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2. […] bump up (be Bayesian baby) these ideas. Riddles like: most British men live past the average age help too. A steady dose of numeracy uses the availability heuristic for our own […]

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3. […] Maybe this is being too hard. Average, like the saw, has its uses. The aim here is to combine numeracy with psychology to get by in the world. That means presenting the ‘best’ wait times or predicting rain more often. Being numerate is understanding that the average age is 78, but if you make it to 65 you’ll probably live well past eighty. […]

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4. […] Wharton Moneyball 2/16/22. In a talk about transgender athlete the hosts note that at the extremes men and women are not competitive but on average they are. Another case of average ‘meanings‘. […]

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5. […] helps: relative vs absolute saving rates, people live longer the longer they live, what the mean age means, the vaccine friendship paradox, how many ants long is Central Park?, or how many rolls of toilet […]

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6. […] a data set where the mean is misleading. More here, here, and […]

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