Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

More Stupid Questions: The “More Cow Bell” Curve, and other Standard Equal (and Unequal) Distribution post

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Friday, September 28, 2012

Originally entitled as: More Stupid Questions: The “More Cow Bell” Curve, and other Standard Equal (and Unequal) Distribution post

I have returned to the title which I originally started… though I vascillated between this one, as well:

Yes. More Stupid Questions… and, “I gotta’ have more Cow Bell.”

Okay, the title says it all.

That is, unless you don’t understand statistics, the bell curve and equal distribution.

But, just in the case you don’t, here’s some low-down.

According to estimates by the United States Census Bureau, our nation’s population has recently exceeded 314,469,757. And with 4.47% of the world’s population, we are the 3d most populous nation in the world. China & India, with 1,344,130,000 (19.13%) & 1,241,491,960 (17.19%), are 1st & 2d, respectively. American population is about 25% the population of India. Expressed another way, India has 75% more people than the United States.

I mentioned those figures just to give an idea of how small the U.S. really is by comparison.

Nevertheless, I digress. And so quickly! (My goodness!) Let’s return to statistics, the bell curve and equal distribution.

As you may have read in a previous post entitled “Ask a silly question, get a silly answer. Yes, there’s such thing as a STUPID question.”, the bell curve is used to display information.”

In that post I had explained, writing that, “We know that simply by looking at the shape of that curve, there’s a whole lotta’ space up inside the middle. And that’s what statistics tells us. It says that about 95% of all things counted will occur within 2 standard deviations from the mean. The “mean” is the average thing which occurs in the middle. It’s the answer to ‘what’s the average of 12 and 6.’ (The answer is 9. Because 12 + 6 = 18. And 18/2 = 9.)”

As a minor, finer point, the median is also closely related to the mean, because the median is the literal, middle item, found in the middle, if we were to begin counting all the items. The mean and median are very closely related numbers, though they are different.

In other words, the bell curve is essentially a mirror image. If it was to be folded in half, each half would resemble each other. Each side tapers off, and indicates a decline in the number or value of items being counted, or measured. And the middle of the bell curve where the peak, or highest point of the bell is situated, contains the most of any number of items that are being counted, or measured.

Moving along, in the United States, we know that the demographic of the population – a measure of the characteristics of the population – is as follows:

White/European = 63.7 %
Black/African = 12.6 %
Hispanic = 8.7%
Other/Unknown = 6.2 %
Asian = 4.8 %
Two or more = 2.9 %
Native American/Alaskan = 0.9 %
Hawaiian/Pacific Islander = 0.2 %
TOTAL = 100%

As you can see, the values (which are expressed as a percentage) are arranged from high to low.

Some people mistakenly confuse the Bell Curve with the so-called “law of averages.” I say so-called, because it is neither a proper term (it is not any kind, or type of law), nor is the idea it purports to expound or explain, scientifically valid.

The type of information the bell curve can tell us is like this: If we took a classroom of 100 students in 11th Grade, and tested them on general information – that information being general knowledge, facts or figures of a nature which would have been covered in 5th Grade – we would imagine that some would score high, some would score low, but that most would score in the middle. The middle is the average. The high is rare, and the low is rare, and while there are few of them, they are approximately the same number of high scorers as there are low scorers. That is to say, they are “equal in numbers” to each other. Again, refer to the Bell Curve illustration above, and examine the numbers across the bottom. The numbers we see are 20 – 80. While, in reality, the numbers go from 0 (not displayed) through 100 (also not displayed), it is more practical to display 20 – 80.

The curve shows us that Normal Distribution says there would be the same number of people scoring 20 as there would be scoring 80. It also shows us that there would be as many people scoring 30 as there would be scoring 70, AND that there are more people scoring 30 & 70 than there are scoring 20 & 80. And finally, we would see that there would be the same number of people scoring 40 and 60, and that the number of people scoring between 40 & 60 (inclusively) would be more than the combined number of people scoring higher and lower scores. In essence, they are the majority. They are the middle of the Bell Curve.

Again, it was necessary to understand FIRST before presenting the following.

As mentioned above, the American population has the following demographic:
White/European = 63.7 %
Black/African = 12.6 %
Hispanic = 8.7%
Other/Unknown = 6.2 %
Asian = 4.8 %
Two or more = 2.9 %
Native American/Alaskan = 0.9 %
Hawaiian/Pacific Islander = 0.2 %

Now, why is it that our nation’s prisons – federal, state & local – do not have the same demographic?

According to a December 2011 report by the United States Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, prisons in the United States have an “estimated number of inmates held in custody in state or federal prisons or in local jails per 100,000 U.S. residents, by sex, race and Hispanic/Latino origin, and age, June 30, 2010” which is distributed as follows:

Males
White = 678
Black Males = 4,347
Hispanic/Latino = 1,775
Total = 1,352

Females
White = 91
Black = 260
Hispanic/Latino = 133
Total = 126

(Data is “Based on the total incarcerated population on June 30, 2010, and the U.S. resident population estimates for July 1, 2010, by sex, race and hispanic/latino origin, and age.”)
Reference: Correctional Population in the United States, 2010; December 2011, NCJ 236319

As we can see, in the Male population, there are 630% MORE Blacks, and 260% MORE Hispanics incarcerated than Whites.

In the Female population, there are 285% MORE Blacks, and 147% MORE Hispanics incarcerated than Whites.

Why?

Equal Distribution and the Bell Curve would suggest that the White population would be MORE than the Black and Hispanic population combined. Equal Distribution would suggest that the Prison Population would look like the General Population, which is:

White/European = 63.7 %
Black/African = 12.6 %
Hispanic = 8.7%
Other/Unknown = 6.2 %
Asian = 4.8 %
Two or more = 2.9 %
Native American/Alaskan = 0.9 %
Hawaiian/Pacific Islander = 0.2 %

But, it’s not.

Why?

Here’s some additional, disturbing facts:

“As of 2009, the three states with the lowest ratios of imprisoned people per 100,000 population are Maine (150 per 100,000), Minnesota (189 per 100,000), and New Hampshire (206 per 100,000). The three states with the highest ratio are Louisiana (881 per 100,000), Mississippi (702 per 100,000) and Oklahoma (657 per 100,000).”[Reference]

What do these facts & figures mean? What are their implications?

Alternate Title: The Bell Curve: Equal Distribution, and Unequal Distribution in our nation’s prisons.

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