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Informative Statistics and what they tell us

Not everything of interest is can be determined by computation from statistics, but a lot can. This page contains statistics taken from the Statistical Abstract of the United States and other sources together with some conclusions that may be drawn from them. References are to table numbers in the 1991 edition. Unfortunately, both table numbers and page numbers are subject to change in the successive annual editions. At present, the statistics are listed in a somewhat random order - to be fixed when I think of a good way of arranging them. If the Government would put the Statistical Abstract on the Web with consistent table names from year to year, links to the tables could be used. The Statistical Abstract Web page lacks the main tables of economic interest.

Central Intelligence Agency -- World Factbook has basic facts about the countries of the world.

Here's a link to the entry for the United States. I'll omit statistics included there.

  1. From 1950 to 1990, the agricultural labor force in the U.S. went from 7.160 million to 3.186 million, i.e. from 6.7 percent of the labor force to 1.7 percent. (Total employment went from 58.9 million to 117.9 million.) Table 631

    Thus most sons of farmers and farm workers did not become farmers. At the same time, agricultural production increased greatly, and the U.S. remained the world's largest agricultural exporter. From the point of view of an individual farmer, this was often disappointing, but this reduction in agricultural labor permitted increases in employment in other activities, thus increasing the standard of living. The good side of this for farmers is illustrated by this 1921 advertisement from Successful Farming Magazine.

  2. Here are some selected numbers of people (in thousands) working in various industries in 1983 and 1989. Table 395.

    1. Mining - 869 to 664 (from table 697) The decline suggests why Simon won his bet with Ehrlich. Fewer people in mining means that the mineral resources were extracted at lower cost.

    2. (more to come)
Global Carbon Dioxide Emissions
Region 90 '95 '96 '90-96 '95-96
U.S. 1618 1706 1759 +8.7 +3.1
Asia-Pacific 1126 1465 1546 +37 +5.5
France 112.6 109.4 111.0 -1.6 +1.5
Germany 281.9 254.7 260.1 -7.8 +2.1
Italy 120.9 121.8 121.9 +0.8 +0.1
U.K. 170.0 163.5 168.3 -1.0 +2.9
E.U. Total 949 936 957 +0.8 +2.3
(Asia-Pacific excludes Japan, Australia and New Zealand.)

This table of carbon emissions in tonnes (metric tons) came from Nature, 1997 July 17, p.213, which got it from a report issued by the London based World Energy Council.

At the end of 1996, world emissions of carbon were 6.5 billion tonnes. These included 2.4 billion tonnes from coal, 2.8 billion tonnes from oil and 1.3 billion tonnes from natural gas.

My impression of these statistics is that the year-to-year changes in carbon emission are more a reflection of the activity of a country's economy than of changes in technology or government policy.

Even more random statistics

The U.S. Postal Service handles 600 million pieces of mail per day.

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