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Created: September 8, 2003
Latest Update: September 8, 2003

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Index of Topics on Site What Numbers Can't Do:
"So I'm Only 26. What Does 26 Really Mean?"

Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, September 2003.
"Fair use" encouraged.

On Monday, September 8, 2003, a CSUDH student, wrote:
Soc 220:

I was reading over the lecture, and I started thinking about how numbers really don't give you too much information; they are much more of a generalization or estimation. This is something I encounter frequently, but never really gave much thought to. I date a guy who is a bit older than I am, and I am constantly offended when I am around his friends and they figure out that I am "only 26". What does 26 really mean...other than I have been alive for 26 years?. The fact that they think they can draw generalizations about 26 yr olds really bothers me. They do not know my background or where I come from or what knowledge I have. Sorry to vent, but I consider myself a "mature" 26 year old. I have seen a lot, and take notice of my surroundings in order to always learn more about the world.

See you in class,

On Monday, September 8, 2003, jeanne responded:

You're right. "26" is just a label that fits all of the people in the world who are your age. Couldn't possibly tell us very much about them, could it. This difference you have touched on is one that peole often forget in statistics. Knowing where to include you in an age group, can help if we are trying to determine the age patterning of heart attacks. Then it doesn't really matter that we don't know much about you as a person. But trying to decide whether you fit into a a socil group of friends is a very different issue. There, it matters very much who you are and what your lived experiences have been.

As in most issues, we need to consider different perspectives to determine the social structure in which we are using numbers.

What might happen if we were considering mortality instead of just heart attacks above? Then we might find that 26 year olds were dying as fast as 56 year olds if we were sending them off to war. In this case 26 and 56 have very different meanings with respect to our search for information and data.

Good submission. For an A, I would like you to reflect to me that there are times when the 26 is meaningful, and times when it is not. jeanne