100 Mind-Blowing Facts About the Economy

In no particular order…

1. The unemployment rate for men is 8.4%. For married men, it's 4.9%.

2. The unemployment rate for college graduates is 3.9%. For high school dropouts, it's 13%.

3. According to The Wall Street Journal, in 2010, "for every 1% decrease in shareholder return, the average CEO was paid 0.02% more."

4. According to The New York Times: "From 2001 to 2011, state and local financing per [college] student declined by 24 percent nationally."

5. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index ranks the United States as the 24th least-corrupt country in the world, just behind Qatar and ahead of Uruguay.

6. Since the recession began in 2007, the number of Americans receiving disability benefits has risen by 1.6 million, and the number of Americans employed has fallen by 4.8 million.

7. China's labor force grew by 145 million from 1990 to 2008. The entire U.S. labor force today is 156 million.

8. In 1998, oil industry executives told Congress that oil would average $10 a barrel for the following decade. In reality, it averaged $44.9 a barrel. Most people are terrible at predicting the future -- even (or especially) experts.

9. In 1999, one of the best years for the market ever, more than half of stocks in the S&P 500 declined. Two companies, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) and Cisco, accounted for one-fifth of the index's return.

10. From 1929 to 1932, the total amount of money paid out in wages fell by 60%, according to historian Frederick Lewis Allen. By contrast, from 2007-2009, total American wages fell less than 5%. What we experienced in recent years was nothing close to the Great Depression.

11. A Honda Civic hybrid starts at $24,200 and gets 44 miles per gallon. A Civic with a normal gas engine starts at $16,000 and gets 39 MPG. If you drive 15,000 miles a year and gas averages $4 a gallon, it will take 47 years for the hybrid to justify its cost over the traditional model.

12. China's working-age population is expected to shrink by more than 200 million between now and 2050. The U.S.' is expected to rise by 47 million.

13. According to author Charles Murray, just 3% of American couples both had a college degree in 1960. By 2010, 25% did.

14. At the height of his success, Andrew Carnegie's annual income was 20,000 times the average American's wage, according to historian Frederick Lewis Allen. That's the equivalent of about $720 million in today's economy. In 2010, hedge fund manager John Paulson earned $4.9 billion, or nearly seven times what Carnegie earned in his prime. The key difference: Carnegie made steel to construct buildings. Paulson bought derivatives to bet against them.  

15. If state, local, and federal employment followed the same trend from 2008 through today as it did from 2005-2008, the unemployment rate would be 6.5% instead of 8.2%.

16. In Russia, 0.00007%  of the population (100 people) controls 20% of the wealth.

17. According to the International Energy Agency, global governments spent $409 billion on fossil-fuel-industry subsidies in 2010. That's nearly double the annual GDP of Ireland.     

18. According to a 2007 Gallup poll, Americans give Hugo Chavez a 9% approval rating -- the exact same as they gave Congress last fall.    

19. For the 2012-2013 fiscal year, California will spend $8.7 billion on prisons and $4.8 billion on its UC and state college systems.

20. Boeing (NYSE: BA  ) accounts for almost 2% of all U.S. exports.

21. North Dakota has 0.7 unemployed people for each available job opening.

22. Because of its one-child policy, China's labor force will start to decline in 2016.

23. A rare 1-cent coin from 1793 recently sold for $1.38 million. That sounds amazing until you realize it's an annual return of less than 9%, or about the same as stocks have produced historically.

24. The U.S. makes up less than 5% of the world's population, but a third of the world's spending on pharmaceuticals, according to the IMS Institute for Healthcare.

25. Average monthly rent in New York City ($2,935) is about the same as the nationwide average monthly income ($3,052).

26. Since December 2007, male employment has fallen 4.7%. Female employment fell just about half that amount, 2.7%

27. In 1929 -- the golden year before the Great Depression-- 60% of American households earned a wage below what Brookings Institution economists classified as "sufficient to supply only basic necessities." Well over half the country lived in poverty, in other words. One-fifth of households earned half the poverty wage.

28. According to writer Dan Gross: "The United States produced about as much output in the third quarter of 2011 as it did in the third quarter of 2007, albeit with about 6 million fewer workers on the payroll."

29. According to the Department of Agriculture, one-third of the calories Americans consume come from restaurants, almost double what it was three decades ago.

30. Since 1994, stock market returns are flat if the three days before the Federal Reserve announces interest-rate policy are removed.

31. PCs outsold Macs by nearly 60-to-1 in 2004. Last year, the ratio was closer to 20-to-1, according to analyst Horace Dediu.

32. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) earned more in net income last quarter than its entire market cap was in 2004.

33. If you earn minimum wage, you'll need to work 923 hours to pay for a year at an average public four-year college. In 1980, it took 254 hours.

34. According to a study by the Dallas Federal Reserve, foreign-born citizens made up 14% of the labor force in 2002, yet accounted for 51% of total jobs growth from 1996-2002.

35. Forty percent of kids raised in a family in the top income quintile stay there as adults, and 40% of those born into the lowest quintile remain there. Only 8% of those raised in the top quintile drop to the lowest quintile as adults, according to the Pew Economic Mobility Project.

36. According to a report by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, just over half of students who enroll in a four-year college receive a bachelor's degree within six years.

37. Federal government spending declined year over year in the third quarter of 2011 for the first time since 1955.

38. In 1914, Henry Ford made the unprecedented move of paying line workers $5 for an eight-hour shift -- double the going rate. Adjusted for inflation, that works out to around $14 an hour in today's dollars. By contrast, a New York Times article broke down an average auto worker's 2008 salary, including insurance and paid vacation, and came to $45 to $55 an hour.

39. Five of every six American families earn more than their respective parents did, according to the Pew Economic Mobility Project.

40. Federal Reserve economist Bhashkar Mazumder has shown that incomes among brothers are more correlated than height or weight.

41. According to David Wessel of The Wall Street Journal, "the share of insured workers with deductibles of $1,000 or more rose to 31% in 2011 from 18% in 2008."

42. A composite hedge fund index has returned 1.3% year to date as of July 11. The S&P 500 returned 8.3% during that time. People call the former "smart money."

43. Ten percent of Medicare recipients who received hospital care made up 64% of the program's hospital spending in 2009, according to The Wall Street Journal.

44. According to a Rutgers survey based on a nationwide sampling, only 51% of those who have graduated college since 2006 are now employed full time. Twenty percent are in graduate school. The rest…

45. As a percentage of GDP, government spending was higher in 1983 under President Ronald Reagan than it will be this fiscal year (23.5% vs. 23.3%, respectively), according to data by the Tax Policy Center.

46. More government jobs were eliminated on net in 2010 than in any other year since at least 1939. As a percentage of government workers, the decline was the largest since 1947.

47. According to Sheldon Jacobson of the University of Illinois, the added weight carried by vehicles due to obesity in America consumes an additional 938 million gallons of gasoline a year.

48. The median American family's net worth fell to $77,300 in 2010 from $126,400 in 2007, according to the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finance. That erased nearly two decades of accumulated wealth.

49. According to UCLA: "Only 3.1 percent of the world's children live in the United States, but U.S. families buy more than 40 percent of the toys consumed globally."

50. Delaware, a famous business haven, has more corporations than people -- 945,000 to 897,000, according to The New York Times. One office building in Wilmington is home to more than a quarter-million registered businesses.

51. A study of retired investors between 1999 and 2009 showed those who hired a stockbroker underperformed those managing their own money by 1.5% a year. "Fees accounted for only about half the gap," writes Jason Zweig of The Wall Street Journal.

52. According to Manpower's 2012 Talent Shortage Survey, 49% of U.S. businesses report difficulty filling available job openings.

53. According to U.S. News & World Report, the average law student graduates with more than $100,000 in student loans. According to the American Bar Association, just over half of those who graduated law school in 2011 have full-time jobs that require a law degree.

54. Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimate the world is overweight by a collective 17 million tons, or the equivalent of 226 million people weighing 150 pounds.

55. Only 52% of American families say they were able to save anything in 2010, according to the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finance.

56. Adjusted for inflation, the median average hourly wage was lower in 2011 than it was in 2001.

57. "In 2010, 6.0 percent of families reported that their spending usually exceeds their income," according to the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finance.

58. Five years ago, coal provided about half the nation's electricity. Today, it's about one-third. Natural gas' share during that time rose from 21% to 30%, according to the Energy Information Agency.

59. According to research by Demos, the average American couple will pay $155,000 in 401(k) fees over their careers. That reduces the average account size by about a third.

60. Since 1968, the U.S. population has increased from 200 million to 314 million, and federal government employees have declined from 2.9 million to 2.8 million.

61. According to the Boston Consulting Group, manufacturing wages, benefits and taxes are $22.30 an hour in America, compared with $2 an hour in China. But since American factory workers are more productive, China's effective labor costs are only 55% lower than Americans, and may drop to less than a third later this decade.

62. From 2002 to 2008, 12 congressional incumbents lost in primary elections. During that time, 13 members died in office. So the odds of losing a primary are lower than the odds of dying in office.

63. According to the Economist, "The average life expectancy of public companies shrank from 65 years in the 1920s to less than ten in the 1990s."

64. According to The New York Times: "In the last five years, the United States and Canada combined have become the fastest-growing sources of new oil supplies around the world, overtaking producers like Russia and Saudi Arabia."

65. As of June 2011, 32% of American homes were cellphone only, up from 17.5% in 2008, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

66. Solar panel prices have plunged 82% since 2009, according to Bloomberg.

67. According to writer Tim Noah, average stock options granted to CEOs between 1992 and 2000 rose from $800,000 to $7 million, and average total compensation quadrupled.

68. According to analyst JW Mason: "In 2007, [nonfinancial corporate] earnings were $750 billion, dividends were $480 billion, and netstock repurchases were $790 billion." In other words, businesses paid shareholders nearly double what they earned.

69. Americans drove 85 billion fewer miles over the last 12 months than they did in 2008, according to the Department of Transportation.

70. Oil production at America's Eagle Ford was 787 barrels in 2004, 308,000 barrels in 2009, and 36.6 million barrels last year.

71. In 1989, the CEOs of the seven largest U.S. banks earned an average of 100 times what a typical household made. By 2007, more than 500 times.

72. In 1990, the three largest U.S. banks held 10% of the industry's assets. By 2008, the top three controlled 40% of the assets.

73. Clean water and sewers were voted "the greatest medical advance" since 1840 by readers of the British Journal of Medicine.

74. Americans will inherit $27 trillion over the next four decades, according to the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College.

75. America is home to less than 5% of the world's population, but nearly a quarter of its prisoners.

76. According Dartmouth political scientist Dean Lacy, states that receive more federal government spending than they contribute in tax revenue tend to support Republican candidates, who typically vow to cut spending.  

77. According to economists from the International Monetary Fund and analysis by Bloomberg, implicit government subsidies to large U.S. banks roughly equal their annual profits.

78. Ten years ago, people were stunned when overnight lending rates plunged to 2.5%. Today, that's the yield on 30-year bonds.

79. In May this year, the Dow fell 18 days and rose four days -- the worst combination since 1903. It never posted two consecutive gains, likely for the first time ever.

80. After new bank regulations go into effect, JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) says 70% of customers with less than $100,000 in deposits or investments will be unprofitable for the bank.

81. According to John Cawley of Cornell and Chad Meyerhoefer of Lehigh University, obese people incur annual medical costs $2,741 higher than non-obese people, or almost $200 billion nationwide.

82. According to economist Christina Romer, real GDP per capita in American grew 0.58% a year from 1800-1840; 1.44% from 1840-1880; 1.78% from 1880-1920; 1.68% from 1920-1960, and 1.82% from 1960-1991.  We not only grew richer, but at an increasing rate.

83. In 2007, the Congressional Budget Office estimated federal tax receipts would be $3.4 trillion in 2012. In reality, they'll be around $2.5 trillion. Again, the future is unpredictable. Always.

84. Many talk about how much we import from China, but few discuss how much we sell to them. Exports from the U.S. to China were $19.2 billion in 2001, and $104 billion in 2011.

85. As recently as 1975, China wasn't one of American's top 10 trading partners. The world changes fast.

86. According to economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, 80% of all income growth from 1980 to 2005 went to the top 1% of wage earners.

87. From 1970 to 2012, median household income increased at one-tenth the rate it did from 1949-1979.

88. If you're fed up with unemployment caused by offshoring, you'll love this: According to a 2006 Government Accountability Organization study, the processing of unemployment insurance claims are partially offshored in several states.  

89. Among high school seniors who scored more than 700 on the math and verbal portions of the SATs (a very high score), 87% have at least one parent with a college degree. Fifty-six percent have a parent with a graduate degree, according to author Charles Murray.  

90. We tend to underestimate how powerful the agriculture boom has been in the last century. The 1952 book The Big Change describes life in America in the year 1900: "In most parts of the United States people were virtually without fresh fruit and green vegetables from late autumn to late spring."

91. The first American hotel to offer every guest a private bathroom didn't open until 1907.

92. According to biographer Ron Chernow, John D. Rockefeller's net worth peaked at $900 million in 1913. That equaled 2.3% of the U.S. economy. A comparable net worth today would be $340 billion, or eight times richer than Warren Buffett.

93. Some people don't see progress coming. In 1906, future President Woodrow Wilson said the automobile offered "a picture of the arrogance of wealth."

94. According to Morgan Stanley, 9% of all S&P trading volume is in Apple stock. One in 25 of all hedge funds has more than 10% of their fund in Apple.

95. Housing may be turning faster than you think. According to David Wessel, "The fraction of homes that are vacant is at its lowest level since 2006."

96. America is aging. Older workers (age 55+) are about to overtake younger workers (age 25-34) for the first time.

97. According to the Pew Research Center, every one of the eight largest EU nations ranks Germany as the hardest working  -- except for Greece, which ranks itself as the hardest working. Five of the eight rank Greece as the least hardworking.

98. In 1900, the standard American workweek was 10 hours a day, six days week. Historian Frederick Lewis Allen notes in a 1952 essay: "If anybody had suggested a five-day week he would have been considered demented."

99. Facebook (Nasdaq: FB  ) claims 100 billion friend connections have been made on its social network. That's about the same number of humans that have ever lived since 50,000 B.C., according to the Population Reference Bureau.

100.  According to Bankrate.com, nearly half of Americans don't have enough savings to cover three months expenses. Worth noting: The average duration of unemployment is now 10 months.

For more on the recession's impact on the economy, check out my latest e-book, 50 Years in the Making: The Great Recession and Its Aftermath for your iPad, Kindle, on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. It's short, packed with information, and costs less than a buck.

Check back every Tuesday and Friday for Morgan Housel's columns on finance and economics.

Fool contributor Morgan Housel owns shares of Microsoft. He also Tweets. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Cisco Systems, Facebook, JP Morgan Chase, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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  • Report this Comment On July 17, 2012, at 4:41 PM, FrankAndrews wrote:

    #38 $5 in 1914, according to even BLS's skewed calculator, would be worth $114 today and $107 in 2008. There are several other "facts" on this list that need to be checked.

  • Report this Comment On July 17, 2012, at 4:44 PM, TMFMorgan wrote:

    ^ I don't think you read it correctly. It's $5 for an 8 hour day, or $0.63 an hour. I'm not sure where you're getting $114, but the CPI conversion from 1914 is about $21 today. So $0.63 times $21 is about $13 an hour.

  • Report this Comment On July 17, 2012, at 4:48 PM, TMFMorgan wrote:

    I see now. You're looking at a day's pay, while I used hourly pay. Both are correct.

  • Report this Comment On July 17, 2012, at 5:20 PM, kyleleeh wrote:

    For number #12 I would say please keep #8 in mind.

  • Report this Comment On July 17, 2012, at 5:21 PM, TMFMorgan wrote:

    ^ Smart.

  • Report this Comment On July 17, 2012, at 5:35 PM, Centaur22 wrote:

    <<<10. From 1929 to 1932, the total amount of money paid out in wages fell by 60%, according to historian Frederick Lewis Allen. By contrast, from 2007-2009, total American wages fell less than 5%. What we experienced in recent years was nothing close to the Great Depression.>>

    Wages may not have dropped as much, but household net worth in 2007-2010 dropped 40%. How does that compare to the Great Depression?

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/fed-americans...

  • Report this Comment On July 17, 2012, at 5:42 PM, BabsD wrote:

    Could you please clarify number 51 for me? What else besides fees can explain the gap?

  • Report this Comment On July 17, 2012, at 5:43 PM, TMFMorgan wrote:

    BabsD,

    Poor investing decisions.

  • Report this Comment On July 17, 2012, at 5:52 PM, TMFMTHead wrote:

    Is #33 more a comment on the rising cost of education than it is on the stagnation of minimum wage? I suspect the first is most of the answer. While there is much discussion of the rising cost of health care, few are discussing how fast the cost of a four year degree is increasing....and more important, why it is increasing.

    #71 Are the CEOs today five times as smart? I suspect that is not the case. Perhaps the Boards are five times dumber to hand out those kind of pay increases.

  • Report this Comment On July 17, 2012, at 5:59 PM, marshalchaifetz wrote:

    For #11, according to http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/bymodel/2012_Honda_Civic.shtm... the 2012 Civic Hybrid gets 44 MPH combined city and highway. However, the various Civic regular gas engines average between 25 and 33 MPG combined, depending upon the model.

  • Report this Comment On July 17, 2012, at 6:11 PM, jozie28 wrote:

    # 39 - But only half of Americans exceed their parents' wealth.

  • Report this Comment On July 17, 2012, at 6:16 PM, TMFMurph wrote:

    "37. Federal government spending declined year over year in the third quarter of 2011 for the first time since 1955"

    Misleading fact #37!

    While true, this "decline" is from an abnormally inflated rate....sort of like the retailer who doubles the price of his merchandise and then adverisies a 50%-off sale.

  • Report this Comment On July 17, 2012, at 6:49 PM, derickincj wrote:

    Where can I see a source for each fact. Thanks.

  • Report this Comment On July 17, 2012, at 6:54 PM, xetn wrote:

    Some other facts: If there were no minimum wage, we would have a lot more people working rather than being on the dole. The minimum wage has been referred to as the Government Guaranteed Unemployment Act.

    You must be using "official" unemployment stats, because I think the actual unemployment rate is much higher (over 20% when you add in the people who have given up or are underemployed.)

    Incomes peaked in the 90s and have been falling since.

    Without federal government intervention in education, the cost of all education would be much lower. All government intervention (anything depending on taxes) always goes up and the quality always goes down.

  • Report this Comment On July 17, 2012, at 7:03 PM, TMFMorgan wrote:

    <<While true, this "decline" is from an abnormally inflated rate>>

    Totally, no doubt about that whatsoever. I just wonder how many people who (rightly) say spending is out of control and should be cut know that it already is being cut.

  • Report this Comment On July 17, 2012, at 10:44 PM, Zombie111 wrote:

    Congratulations on being less corrupt than Uruguay!

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2012, at 2:39 AM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    ---> Some people don't see progress coming. In 1906, future President Woodrow Wilson said the automobile offered "a picture of the arrogance of wealth." <---

    Oh, I don't know. Maybe it's just that we don't recognize the arrogance of wealth for what it is, when it's so prevalent.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2012, at 2:48 AM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    >>>"If there were no minimum wage, we would have a lot more people working rather than being on the dole" <<<

    You mean the Federal minimum wage law that was first established in 1938? Right after the massive unemployment of the 1930s and before the massive employment growth of the 40s? That minimum wage is the one you mean, right? Because those are some really big exceptions to your unsourced, unfalsifiable assertion.

    >>> All government intervention (anything depending on taxes) always goes up and the quality always goes down.<<<

    Nothing convinces me like dogmatic statements of "fact," especially "facts" that could be disproven if only one could find an example of a country where government spent more on education but costs were lower. Or maybe a dozen examples.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2012, at 2:49 AM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    Oh and hi, xetn. Didja miss me? ;)

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2012, at 5:31 AM, clbjblk wrote:

    All you have to do is call the fools that think Portfolio RECOVERY have a better creit rating than you do and how they care so much if they are right or wrong and the rest is easy go with the unfair and wrong until proven they do not care how much it cost to prove them wrong they bought your or somebodies debt and want you to pay them just to get them off your back, bad advice on a fair stock pick,like to see there pep rally in the morning get the money even if they do not owe it just keep bothering them we are a good stock we can do that.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2012, at 7:04 AM, Tokun wrote:

    Good work and Right on DJD. Used to think all fools based their opinion on facts and logical conclusions rather than dogmas. So where did this one come from?

    >>> All government intervention (anything depending on taxes) always goes up and the quality always goes down.<<<

    c'mon fools, we are better than that.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2012, at 10:48 AM, barrycahn wrote:

    I would think that an article that touts "facts" wouldn't need to add the snarky commentary in a few of them.

    14. At the height of his success, Andrew Carnegie's annual income was 20,000 times the average American's wage, according to historian Frederick Lewis Allen. That's the equivalent of about $720 million in today's economy. In 2010, hedge fund manager John Paulson earned $4.9 billion, or nearly seven times what Carnegie earned in his prime. The key difference: Carnegie made steel to construct buildings. Paulson bought derivatives to bet against them.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2012, at 10:51 AM, TMFMorgan wrote:

    ^ Everything in there is factual.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2012, at 12:16 PM, Mega wrote:

    "The key difference: Carnegie made steel to construct buildings. Paulson bought derivatives to bet against them."

    I think some people may draw the implication that investing is less worthwhile than manufacturing?

    But that may not be your opinion, considering you're a financial writer. The capital markets are important, and people deserve pay for their performance regardless of the industry they are in.

    I would just point out that Paulson was generally long in 2010 (not short via derivatives) and his pay the past 2.5 years is way out of proportion with his poor performance.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2012, at 1:21 PM, jmontgomery100 wrote:

    #11 is misleading since the Civic Hybrid model has, among many other things, an automatic transmission as standard equipment. If I price the non-Hybrid Civic with all the standard equipment of the cheapest Hybird Civic it comes to roughly $20,600. You "could" also include the tax credit for buying a Hybrid vehicle...but then again....you could also consider the additional costs to insure a hybrid over the regular Civic.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2012, at 1:59 PM, jdp245 wrote:

    #10 - You have to keep in mind that wages as a percentage of GDP are at the lowest rate on record (the records go back to 1929). #10 just means that the problem existed prior to and independent of the financial crisis. The death of the middle class is by far the worst economic crisis our country is facing right now.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2012, at 2:06 PM, TMFMorgan wrote:

    <<I think some people may draw the implication that investing is less worthwhile than manufacturing?>>

    I hope not -- it's virtually one in the same. I don't think you'll find a bigger fan of investing than me. But I'd argue that naked credit default swaps have virtually nothing to do with investing. They are entirely removed from investing in anything in the real economy -- by definition, a derivative isn't investing in a product or service, but instead is derived from a security that is. The larger point of the stat is that, almost without exception, there's more money to be made in today's economy trading financial products than there is actually making stuff.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2012, at 2:09 PM, jdp245 wrote:

    #29 - Depressing, as I sit here at work eating a Subway sandwich at my desk.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2012, at 2:29 PM, jdp245 wrote:

    Further to my point, above, about #10 and the death of the middle class, see #86 and #87.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2012, at 3:32 PM, Sunny7039 wrote:

    1) Every single one of these facts needs to be carefully verified. VERY carefully.

    2) Pretty much every one of them deserves to be verified -- in other words, the selection is interesting in what it has the potential to reveal.

    I consider this a good starting point for research, not a set of conclusions I should accept.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2012, at 3:39 PM, Sunny7039 wrote:

    #96, if true, may be a good thing.

    Experience, if combined with flexibility, is a powerful combination. And if not . . . well, . . .

    The other point is, I know so many people over 50 who have been unemployed for so long that they are seeking -- and obtaining -- disability benefits. This is one of the most ominous developments resulting from the 2008 financial fiasco. People who get on disability tend to stay on disability. Also, many don't realize that those who have been on Social Security disability for over 24 months qualify for Medicare. This is at once a huge loss of productivity to the economy as a whole, a huge loss of experience, and mentoring, AND a huge drag on those who are in the labor force. One of our worst problems is thus compounded in every respect. Wonderful, huh?

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2012, at 3:45 PM, Sunny7039 wrote:

    >>> All government intervention (anything depending on taxes) always goes up and the quality always goes down.<<<

    Uh huh. That's why the National Institutes of Health are such a failure compared to medical and pharmaceutical research funded by the for-profit private sector. Just kidding.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2012, at 3:48 PM, Sunny7039 wrote:

    <<<The median American family's net worth fell to $77,300 in 2010 . . . >>>

    Keep in mind that in the event of the serious illness of a major family breadwinner, $77K may end up being nothing more than an emergency fund.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2012, at 4:25 PM, TMFMorgan wrote:

    <<Every single one of these facts needs to be carefully verified. VERY carefully.>>

    Fair point. There are a few reasons I didn't include linked sources to each one: 1) Some have several sources from unlinked PDFs or spreadsheets. 2) If you include over 100 links, the text looks like a zebra and is hard to read, 3) The selfish reason: If I included links to each one, most readers would click away and never return.

    Anyone can email me at mhousel@fool.com and I'd be happy to verify any one of these from my original source (though I'll be gone for most of the next two weeks).

    Thanks for reading,

    Morgan

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2012, at 4:53 PM, kyleleeh wrote:

    <<I think some people may draw the implication that investing is less worthwhile than manufacturing?

    But that may not be your opinion, considering you're a financial writer. The capital markets are important, and people deserve pay for their performance regardless of the industry they are in.>>

    Not investing in general but I'll go out on a limb and say that manufacturing is WAY more worthwhile then hedge funds investing in derivatives. How would our society be different if we got rid of hedge funds and derivatives? How have they improved anything in our society since they were implemented? Now think what life would be like if we stopped manufacturing stuff.

    Also if people in finance were given compensation based on performance most of them would be receiving a bill rather then a paycheck.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2012, at 6:20 PM, SharpNJ104 wrote:

    As to #82, I'd like to know how much it has decreased since 1991!

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2012, at 6:23 PM, TMFMorgan wrote:

    sharpjn104,

    Real per-capita GDP grew 1.55% a year from 1991 to 2010.

    http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?s[1][id]=USARGDP...

    -Morgan

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2012, at 11:09 PM, awallejr wrote:

    "45. As a percentage of GDP, government spending was higher in 1983 under President Ronald Reagan than it will be this fiscal year (23.5% vs. 23.3%, respectively), according to data by the Tax Policy Center"

    Kudlow and Laffey need to see this.

  • Report this Comment On July 19, 2012, at 1:13 AM, gcp3rd wrote:

    #101: It's always fun to read a fascinating article like this. Thanks for posting Morgan.

  • Report this Comment On July 19, 2012, at 1:25 AM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    @Kahuna: Good to see you again. I'm sure you know we're going to disagree.

    Given that other nations have experienced inflation comparable to the United States over comparable time periods, and yet are not experiencing the same educational cost increases (or at least not to the same degree), it should be clear that there are some other factors at work here.

  • Report this Comment On July 19, 2012, at 1:26 AM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    ^^ In addition to inflation, not instead of, to be clear.

  • Report this Comment On July 19, 2012, at 2:38 AM, newbear100 wrote:

    An ingenious way to start a meaningkess discussion : "according to New York Times" etc. According to them Times, there were no suspicions of Jew killingn concentration camps, until discovered by some Hollywood actors in a "movie". Please don't push this too far....

  • Report this Comment On July 19, 2012, at 2:39 AM, newbear100 wrote:

    Sorry for the typos.

  • Report this Comment On July 19, 2012, at 11:12 AM, defridgerator wrote:

    @newbear100

    >>

    An ingenious way to start a meaningkess discussion : "according to New York Times" etc. According to them Times, there were no suspicions of Jew killingn concentration camps, <<

    You can't make conclusive statements just because it wasn't reported in the Times (or other news reps). And just because it's in the papers, doesn't mean it's true. Truth is subjective to the person's perspective.

    Are you referring to the 1940s when it wasn't reported? Do you think that reporters were boots on the ground behind enemy lines so that they could make such discoveries? There was a war going on - news stories covered our side of the war. I could hazard a guess that it was suspected that Jews were being killed in German concentration camps, but you don't make news stories on guesses. At least not in the Times.

    >>until discovered by some Hollywood actors in a "movie". Please don't push this too far....<<

    Right - and because it's in a Movie produced in Hollywood, it must be factual.

    There's a lot here that I could say - but I'll leave it with: You're making assumptions without all the facts.

  • Report this Comment On July 19, 2012, at 11:18 AM, Melaschasm wrote:

    4. According to The New York Times: "From 2001 to 2011, state and local financing per student declined by 24 percent nationally."

    This smells like a lie, although it may depend upon how the terms are defined.

    During the past Decade, many local school districts in Michigan claimed 'spending cuts'. However, per pupil spending has increased every year excluding last year. Last year Michigan cut spending by less than $200/student and the upcoming school year will have the highest per pupil spending in history.

    From what I have seen, every State has significantly increased per pupil spending over the past decade.

  • Report this Comment On July 19, 2012, at 11:27 AM, TMFMorgan wrote:

    ^ I should have noted to make it clearer that the statistic is in reference to college, not public grade school. I'm going to ask to have it added in the article.

    thanks,

    Morgan

  • Report this Comment On July 19, 2012, at 4:15 PM, Gregory63 wrote:

    " think some people may draw the implication that investing is less worthwhile than manufacturing?"

    Somebody who thinks a directional bet on derivatives is "investing" hasn't learned very much from this site or any source material on sound investing.

    It's properly, "speculating". There IS a difference.

  • Report this Comment On July 19, 2012, at 8:29 PM, sigman58 wrote:

    @sunny7039

    "Uh huh. That's why the National Institutes of Health are such a failure compared to medical and pharmaceutical research funded by the for-profit private sector. Just kidding."

    NIH is wildly successful at research, funding further research, and to a lesser extent funding clinical trials. But by themselves I do not think a single drug has been brought to market - not their role.

    The for-profit private sector always has to finish the job which is a lot more costly to do.

    The numbers on average costs of drug development are staggering, in large part because only one out of every ten gets approved but the expenditures are borne upfront.

  • Report this Comment On July 19, 2012, at 10:28 PM, Sunny7039 wrote:

    Well, sigman, I have to congratulate you. I can't tell whether that was a non sequitur or not.

    The vast majority of basic scientific research across all disciplines is done by not-for-profit entities all over the world. Absent the scientific foundation this research provides, no one could reliably bring very much of anything to the market at all.

    When someone says that government is paid more and more to make life worse and worse, I don't know what alternate universe they live in. Who, for example, do they imagine is protecting the global shipping lanes, not to mention stuff as diverse -- and essential -- as patents, trademarks, water supplies, and air traffic?

    Who is providing a forum (i.e., court system) in which businesses may enforce their contracts? And what would happen to contracts that couldn't be enforced (except by what -- private tribunals with private security forces at their command)?

    Just what part of "externalization of costs" do presumably economically literate people doggedly fail to acknowledge? And why?

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2012, at 11:43 AM, capstone100 wrote:

    What I notice is a trend towards going to great pains to point out how the wealthly has benefited in this country at the expense of the poor. Spend more time on knowing your audience/more time on balancing your points. The 1% provides 40% of the tax base and the top 10% pays 70% of taxes. Compare these numbers to how our founding fathers intended the federal governmet to operate.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2012, at 12:12 PM, Bigwavecarver wrote:

    China now has over 400 billionaires and no more land to buy and the land cannot grow or produce food anymore which is why potash is Canadas biggest export to China right now. In five years 50 % of those billionaires will own US land and several US based companies. Made in China... full circle.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2012, at 12:37 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    @Capstone: "The 1% provides 40% of the tax base and the top 10% pays 70% of taxes"

    I sense a Heritage Foundation source here.

    First off, the top 1% pay money that pans out to 40% of FEDERAL INCOME taxes. In order to make your claim, you have to disingenuously ignore sales taxes, licensing fees, state taxes, property taxes, school taxes, and every other tax in existence.

    Of course, what's perhaps more important is that the reason the top 1% are paying such a bigger

    "share" of federal income taxes is that by far the vast majority of productivity gains over the past few decades have gone to them. They are making far more money; meanwhile, overall tax rates have gone down, making the pool of federal tax income ever smaller.

    Finally, you must also remember that the top 1% rarely require the same level of services as the rest of us, which means that reductions in service stemming from this constantly decreasing flow of money fall disproportionately on the rest of us.

    It's not a pretty picture. And it's not at all the picture you tried to paint.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2012, at 1:13 PM, hbofbyu wrote:

    #54 ...the world is overweight by a collective 17 million tons, or the equivalent of 226 million people weighing 150 pounds.

    17 million tons! Just think how much faster the world would spin if we weren't so fat!

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2012, at 1:47 PM, dhuddle wrote:

    Morgan, Great Job!!! I love this type of article. It causes me to think. Some of the comments here prove that some people will complain about anything. To the people who say "Verify them" I would say "Verify them yourself." You didn't make them up - you took them from sources. If someone disagrees, they can disprove them. As for the conspiracy theorists who try to find some sort of bias - I think all Morgan did was find a lot of facts that were interesting. Morgan, keep up the good work!

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2012, at 1:56 PM, JoeBudelis wrote:

    Re #11: Using 29 mpg as the average of the combined city and highway mpg given by marshalchaifetz above; and, using the $20,600 price of the comparably equipped non-hybrid Honda Civic given by jmontgomery100 above, the calculated time to recover the cost differential is 5 years. It'll be even less for someone who does only or mainly city driving.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2012, at 2:22 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    Of course, if somebody is doing only or mainly city driving, they could save vastly more by using public transit.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2012, at 2:22 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    *pushpushpush* lol

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2012, at 7:39 PM, xetn wrote:

    DjdynamicNC:

    "You mean the Federal minimum wage law that was first established in 1938? Right after the massive unemployment of the 1930s and before the massive employment growth of the 40s?"

    Exactly, that is because the US government inducted several million unemployed (and employed) into the service to fight WWII and they were no longer unemployed. It also hired several million women workers, many of whom had not been previously employed to manufacture all manner of goods, not the least of which were aircraft, guns, etc.

    Just for your information, a wage is nothing more that a price. We all should know that higher prices reduce demand. In this case, price fixing a wage (price) reduces demand for that produce/service (employment). Before a minimum wage law, anyone that wanted a job could get one. However, the effects of the depression, with its attendent loss of demand for many goods and services greatly reduced the need for employees.

    We can see the same issues with the government trying to prop up the prices for all manner of Ag products during the same period but demand never increased. Free market pricing automatically adjusts supply and demand. A price is the best indication of the demand for any product or service. This is true because most exchanges are voluntary and both parties to the transaction (buyer/seller) believes they are getting more than they are giving up, else the transaction would not occur (unless coercion in involved (Obamacare).

    Perhaps you are just too hung up on socialist ideals to thing clearly. If you really want definitive facts regarding the economic fallacies, read the free pdf book "Economics in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt. Just google. I doubt you will bother.

    Welcome back.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2012, at 10:20 PM, mtulig wrote:

    Does #60 included the military? Between 1965 and 2010, Active Duty Military Personnel declined from 2,653,926 to 1,468,364 ( www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0004598.html ), about 1.2 million. Then the rest of the federal government rose by 1.1 million.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2012, at 9:01 AM, velvetdagger wrote:

    Several items about the detrimental costs imposed on the economy by obese people. Hmm...but no statistics about the relative median net worth of the various ethnic groups. Ditto for crime rates (by type of crime and ethnic group).

    Once upon a time there was a country that identified one of its key national problems as "the Jewish Problem." Scapegoating has been a very useful political tactic from time to time.

    "Figures don't lie, but liars can certainly figure."

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2012, at 10:40 AM, BrownDirtCowboy wrote:

    >>>> Most of those FACTOIDS are the result of the insidious effects inflation has had on the United States Economy over the decades from about 1900 and beyond. <<<<<

    Check your definitions. A "Factoid" is a lie that has been presented as the truth by the news media so frequently that people actually believe it IS an actual fact. - Like what happens when people watch Fox News all day. This is a list of "facts, not "factoids."

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2012, at 12:37 PM, Gregory63 wrote:

    "The for-profit private sector always has to finish the job which is a lot more costly to do. "

    This is backward. Private sector firms recruit from public sector research teams, and they tend to hire whoever's research is most promising, and thus they avoid more blind alleys and the huge cost by being able to cherry pick research talent from the public sector.

    I'm not quite sure where you got this idea.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2012, at 4:03 PM, Ab351ba wrote:

    Good Information!

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2012, at 5:12 PM, Sunny7039 wrote:

    @capstone:

    "Great pains," huh? Frankly, it was easy.

    Who SAID the wealthy were benefitting "at the expense of the poor?"

    I didn't. Nor did I imply it. (Do "poor people" man our patent offices? Do "poor people" operate the court system? Er, that would be a stretch.)

    You, of course, did not refute a single observation I made, because . . . all of them happen to be true.

    But you did help to remind us as to who, exactly, volunteers for our armed services. You're right, it is generally speaking "the poor," -- or at least disproportionately so.

    Thanks. Cheers!

  • Report this Comment On July 22, 2012, at 12:50 AM, Melaschasm wrote:

    One of the reasons why such a huge share of income taxes are paid by the rich is because we have created so many deductions are credits that nearly half the people pay nothing.

    As DJ mentioned, income taxes are not the only type of taxes and many other forms are not as progressive. However, even when considering total taxation, the rich still pay the lions share of taxes.

  • Report this Comment On July 22, 2012, at 2:30 AM, NOTvuffett wrote:

    Morgan, I seldom agree with you, but good job on compiling these obscure facts.

  • Report this Comment On July 22, 2012, at 3:32 AM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    >>> Exactly, that is because the US government inducted several million unemployed (and employed) into the service to fight WWII and they were no longer unemployed. It also hired several million women workers, many of whom had not been previously employed to manufacture all manner of goods, not the least of which were aircraft, guns, etc. <<<

    @xetn: Ok, you said that if it wasn't for the minimum wage law, we would have much lower unemployment. I responded by pointing out that unemployment was catastrophically high in the years preceeding the implementation of the minimum wage, and has never since approached anything like that level. At the very least, that logically implies that there is limited or no correlation between minimum wage and unemployment, or that the correlation is tenuous enough that other factors easily override it, or even that the correlation is negative. None of which supports your claim.

    You ignored this empirical evidence in favour of propping up your argument with AnCap dogma like "free market pricing automatically adjusts supply and demand." That's fine as far as it goes, but it's not logically sound, even ignoring the question of whether there has ever existed a truly free market with sufficient freedom of information flow to create the conditions for "automatic" accurate price adjustments.

    The reason we butt heads is not because of our contrasting beliefs; the reason we butt heads is because of our contrasting approaches to logic and empirical evidence (which, itself, may be what leads us to our conflicting beliefs). You're simply far more idealistic than I am, and I admire you for it. Your faith in the market and in humanity's capacity for not abusing power is inspiring.

  • Report this Comment On July 22, 2012, at 1:09 PM, lowmaple wrote:

    hbofbyu: If much of that weight comes from animals and plants then that weight gain is neutral. However Morgan, how much biomass and coal have been burned to make the earth lighter. Perhaps the friction of the pollution floating around will slows the earth's rotation down.

  • Report this Comment On July 22, 2012, at 2:04 PM, Spider8r wrote:

    "16. In Russia, 0.00007% of the population (100 people) controls 20% of the wealth."

    I have to think that is a better distribution of wealth then when the Communist were in charge and controlled everything.

    "38. In 1914, Henry Ford made the unprecedented move of paying line workers $5 for an eight-hour shift -- double the going rate. Adjusted for inflation, that works out to around $14 an hour in today's dollars."

    In 1914 $5 was 1/4 of an oz of gold, worth about $400 dollars today, or $50 an hour.

    http://www.coinstudy.com/image-files/indian-five-dollar-gold...

  • Report this Comment On July 22, 2012, at 2:15 PM, notjustmoney wrote:

    #50. Ooops. Since the Supreme Court says corporations are people, Delaware actually has a population of 1,842,000--which means it's entitled to another representative in Congress. With only another 108,000 corporations, it should have three reps.

  • Report this Comment On July 22, 2012, at 2:17 PM, Spider8r wrote:

    DJDynamicNC wrote: "...faith in the market and in humanity's capacity for not abusing power is inspiring."

    Is that logic of yours ever ablied to the abusing power when it comes to government regulations, taxes, etc.?

    “A government is a body of people, usually notably ungoverned.” -- Malcolm Reynolds

  • Report this Comment On July 23, 2012, at 11:16 AM, PoorerThanU wrote:

    Nobody's probably reading anymore, but I want to reinforce Spider8r's point.

    Having faith in government = having faith in people. The leaders in government are people. DJDynamic, if you fear humanity's capacity for abusing power then you should FEAR government!

    I trust this makes perfect sense?

  • Report this Comment On July 23, 2012, at 11:43 AM, dmesmerf wrote:

    From the article:

    "5. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index ranks the United States as the 24th least-corrupt country in the world, just behind Qatar and ahead of Uruguay."

    It would be most entertaining to know where the U.S. would rank if Illinois were ruled out of the calculations. "Senate seat for sale! Get your own seat in the U.S. Senate! Senate seat for sale!"

  • Report this Comment On July 23, 2012, at 1:08 PM, zgriner wrote:

    This title is woefully misleading. These aren't facts, just various assertions that Morgan Housel decided to call 'facts'.

    The only fact in this entire article is that Morgan Housel has a definite left-wing bias in his writing. This shows up in the sources of his 'facts' and the 'facts' that he chose to include.

  • Report this Comment On July 23, 2012, at 1:17 PM, zgriner wrote:

    Another problem I have with these so-called facts is that there is no context for many of them. And, in many cases, no sources.

  • Report this Comment On July 23, 2012, at 8:19 PM, Sunny7039 wrote:

    xetn writes in part:

    "Free market pricing automatically adjusts supply and demand. A price is the best indication of the demand for any product or service. This is true because most exchanges are voluntary and both parties to the transaction (buyer/seller) believes they are getting more than they are giving up, else the transaction would not occur . . . "

    So. Am I correct in surmising that you support an immediate return to Mark-To-Market accounting for all assets, including those on all bank balance sheets?

    You know what I'm talking about -- all that paper that was "worth" tens of trillions, and then suddenly no one wanted.

    If so, I agree. In the context of a capitalist system, Mark-to-Market is the only real standard. It should never be suspended for any reason.

  • Report this Comment On July 24, 2012, at 12:25 PM, masporrer wrote:

    Whether the figures are exactly right or provide topics for debate, the trending is interesting.

  • Report this Comment On July 27, 2012, at 1:49 PM, ibuildthings wrote:

    101: When the tax consumers outnumber the tax producers, such that they don't care about tax rates but do want tax-supported goodies, the peril is immediate.

  • Report this Comment On July 27, 2012, at 7:42 PM, dianalcpc wrote:

    Re: #96 Older workers (55+)overtaking younger workers (aged 25-34).

    With over 50 MILLION, legalized abortions since 1973 of people who would've been these younger workers (now aged thru 39 years old) , is it any wonder. The 55+ are the boomers who contributed to the blackest mark our country will ever wear, participating in legalized abortion of their offspring, and now there won't be enough taxpayers to support them in their old age.

    How different our country would be today if those 50 million people had lived, grown, reproduced, and participated in our economy with the unique contributions they could've made. It is arrogant to assume that these aborted children are all from low socio-economic families - not true. Abortion is no respector of persons and cuts across race, gender, wealth, social status, religion, et al.

    Abortion has been a catastrophic disaster in every arena: morally, socially, ethically, financially, psychologically, and spiritually.

    China's one-child policy, more abortion and infanticide, has created the same "lack of workers" problem for them. It was the girl babies they didn't want - well who will birth the next generations? Maybe they only wanted males to fight.

  • Report this Comment On July 29, 2012, at 10:50 PM, skypilot2005 wrote:

    Morgan,

    +rec

    Great idea for the article. I enjoyed reading it.

    Sky

  • Report this Comment On July 31, 2012, at 5:35 PM, TideGoesOut wrote:

    Anyone happen to have a graph of most/all countries' average teacher salaries as a percentage of GDP? I'm not sure that's exactly what I am looking for, so related suggestions are welcome.

  • Report this Comment On August 01, 2012, at 2:31 PM, thidmark wrote:

    #101

    The next time the Congressional Budget Office makes an accurate prediction will be the first time.

  • Report this Comment On August 07, 2012, at 4:29 AM, FoxHat wrote:

    A lot of reading, a lot of writing. I can only wonder how many of all people here are actually ready? Set at your desk and eat your Subway sandwich ...and ask yourself this; if they laid me off tomorrow, how long could I make it?

  • Report this Comment On August 07, 2012, at 3:07 PM, jdp245 wrote:

    @FoxHat, I'm 34, so I am still early in my career, but if I lost my job today, I'd have enough liquid assets to live without income for about 3 years without dipping into my retirement accounts. About twice as long if I sold my apartment at its latest appraised value and rented instead. I've worked hard to save what we have, but I cannot imagine having to start over again; that would be crushing.

  • Report this Comment On October 27, 2012, at 6:51 PM, fooldyadidnti wrote:

    45. As a percentage of GDP, government spending was higher in 1983 under President Ronald Reagan than it will be this fiscal year (23.5% vs. 23.3%, respectively), according to data by the Tax Policy Center.

    46. More government jobs were eliminated on net in 2010 than in any other year since at least 1939. As a percentage of government workers, the decline was the largest since 1947.

    One would think spending would have fallen, given #46. But I guess the administration found more pet projects to blow money on, as opposed to employing people directly. No surprise there.

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