Thought Food for People Who Enjoy Numbers, Analytics and Scorekeeping

“Number don’t lie, but they can deceive.” — Unknown

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

Every picture tells a story. So do numbers. I’ve often been heard to say you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Numbering things is one of those activities that goes as far back in time as another distinctively human activity, naming things.

Being fascinated by numbers, so I always enjoy reading the Harper’s Index. These numbers come from a variety of places, designed to entertain while also making one think.

Some of the numbers here are from a Harper’s magazine several years old. I have updated most of these and added plenty of new ones.

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Photo by the author.

In answer to the question, “How much of the time do you think you can trust the government in Washington to do what’s right — just about always, most of the time, or only some of the time?”
In 1958: 76% said “just about always” or “most of the time”
In 1970: 50%
In 1976 (Post-Vietnam War and Watergate): 33%
(EdNote: I’d be curious what that percentage would look like today.)

Number of buildings the Pentagon owns or rents around the world, 2008: 316,238
Number of sites where these building are located: 4,668
Number of sites that are in foreign countries: 761
Number of sites located in foreign countries in 1967: 1,014

Percentage of persons classified as poor in U.S. who had air conditioning (2008): 85%
Percentage who had air conditioning in 1971: 36%
Percentage of persons classified as poor in U.S. who have a color TV set: 97% Percentage in 1971: 40%
Percentage of U.S. poor who own an automatic dishwasher: 40%
In in ’71: 20%
Percentage who own a refrigerator: Almost 100%
In 1970: 75%

Detail from 8'x 12' painting by the author, 197. Photo by the author.

Total Federal spending, 1968: $774 billion
Total Federal spending 2008: $2.5 trillion
Total Federal Spending 2018:
$4.1 trillion

2008 Federal Wall Street/AIG bailout package: $700 billion

Number of persons in prison with drug crimes as most serious offense: 400,000 in 2008
Number in 1980: 24,000
Percentage of people incarcerated for drug crimes: 43% (Source:BOP)
or 20% (Source:

More Incarceration Numbers

Number of people in state prisons, 2019: 1.3 million
Number in federal prisons and jails: 221,000
Number in local jails: 612,000
Number of people locked up in local jails who have not yet been convicted or sentenced: 540,000
State with the highest incarceration rate: Oklahoma (1,079 per 100,000)
Country with the highest incarceration rate: USA (698 per 100,000)
Country with highest after U.S.: El Salvador (614 per 100,000)
State with lowest incarceration rate: Massachusetts: (324 per 100,000)
Country with lowest incarceration rate: Guinea Bissau (10 per 100,000)
Incarceration rate in Norway: 74 per 100,000

Number of persons worldwide who have died from starvation in the last hour while I was writing this: 5,000 . (25,000 a day)
Number of children in past 24 hours who died from malaria: 1200

Percentage of Haitian babies born with low birth weight: 25
Percentage of Haitians using adequate sanitation facilities: 30
Percentage of world illness caused by unsanitary drinking water: 80

Approximate number of deaths caused by 1998 civil war in Congo: 2.9 million Number of deaths caused by the conflict in Syria since 2011: 470,000 (as of 2017)
Number of refugees caused by Syrian conflict: 5 million+

Number of live nuclear warheads in U.S. arsenal, 1966: 32,040
Estimated number of live warheads in U.S. arsenal today: 4,000
Estimated number in Russia: 4,300
Estimated number of warheads in Pakistan today: 150
Estimated number of warheads in India: 140

Number of synapses in human brain: 100 trillion
Number of video surveillance cameras worldwide: 245 million as of 2014
Number of smart phones in the U.S., 2019: 285 million (Statista)
Number of smart phones worldwide: 2.1 billion

Current status of Federal Debt: $16.17 trillion
Amount of debt in intra-governmental holdings: $5.8 trillion
Total U.S. debt: $22.03 trillion

Number of times Bob Dylan has performed “Mr. Tambourine Man” live in concert: 903
Number of times he’s performed “Tangled Up In Blue”: 1685
Number of times Dylan says the word “Broken” on the song “Everything Is Broken”: 33

Estimated number of times average person blinks in a day: 17,000

Portions of this were originally published at on October 6, 2018.

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

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