Saturday, March 17, 2007

Numbers, numbers   posted by Razib @ 3/17/2007 11:20:00 AM

The survey about medical doctors & evolution from a few years back has been nicely reformatted. Interestingly, adding the % of Hindu docs and assuming that 1/3 of the Muslims are South Asians gives the regularly quoted figure that "5% of American doctors are Indian American" some backing. I was surprised that males were such a large % of docs, but I suppose that there are a lot of older practitioners in the field from before the time that med school graduation rates were around 50/50 gender wise. Also, recently The New York Times repeated the standard "estimated six million Muslims who live in the United States" figure. The number comes from Muslim groups, so some skepticism is warranted because most religious groups try and inflate their numbers (more estimates) when possible (and Muslims in particular have been aiming to find figures which would show that they are nearly as numerous as Jews). The American Religious Identification Survey found only 1.1 million Muslims. But, I realized there is another way to check which numbers might be correct: these quotes also imply that 1/3 of American Muslims are South Asian. That sounds about right, either South Asians or blacks are the most numerous group of Muslims. Unlike religious data, the Census does collect ethnic data. Checking the most recent Census data it seems likely that the total number of South Asian Americans (Indian + Pakistani + Bangladeshi + Sri Lankan + Nepali) is somewhere between 2.5 and 3 million (here are the numbers for Asian Indian in 2005, you can also find Pakistani American by selecting "population group" to the left, though Bangladeshis and other groups will take some googling or trolling the Census site). Let's take 3 million to err on the side of a high number, and use 6 million for Muslims since it is nice & round. If 1/3 of American Muslims are South Asian, that means 2/3 of American South Asians are Muslim! This is not true. Around 85-90% of American South Asians are from India. Let's be generous (to Muslims) and assume that all 15% of the non-Indians are Muslim (obviously most Sinhalese are not, and a disproportionate number of Bangladeshis in the USA are likely Hindu and Pakistanis likely Christian). Let's also assume that 15% of Indians are Muslim, since that's about their proportion in the Indian population (this is probably an overestimate as American South Asians are biased toward particular regions and ethnic-caste groups, and none of these are Muslim). You get a total of 825,000 Muslim South Asians. Assuming that 1/3 of Muslims are South Asian, you get 2,475,000 American Muslims. Assuming 1/5 of Muslims are South Asian, you get 4,125,000 Muslims. To reach 6 million fewer than 15% of American Muslims must be South Asian. 1) This is not plausible, all the proportions are between 1/4 and 1/3. Though aggregate numbers are not something you can guess by visual inspection, proportions are. People couldn't pretend that half of American Muslims were Albanian, for example, because the number of brown, white, black and Asian Muslims is pretty obvious in a mixed gathering (yes, I know there are ethnic mosques, but you can count those up separately). Note that I'm also being a bit generous with the number of South Asians (it is likely closer to 2.8 million than 3), and the % who are are Muslim (likely less than 10% of Asian Indians are Muslim, groups like Gujarati Hindus, Punjabi Sikhs and Malayalee Christians are highly overrepresented among American Asian Indians). Anyway, checking the numbers took me all of 15 minutes (I'm including writing up this post, double checking it for errors). I know people are on a deadline, but seriously, "the paper of record"?

Update: Here is how not to comment on a post which took me 15 minutes of simple multiplication and division. Please, do read what I write before offering an opinion!

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