Friday, August 06, 2004

Half-Life of a Bogus Stat

I caught a few minutes of the news while eating lunch. As introduction to a fluff piece on how to get along with co-workers, the anchorman said something like, “Since we spend almost half our lives at work…” What? Half our lives? You’re kidding, right? By my calculation, a person working a massive 80 hours a week would spend 48% of his time at work – and that’s assuming this poor schmuck had no childhood, no retirement, no vacations, no sick days, and no periods of unemployment. And for this guy to be the mean or median American (the only way one could justify saying we spend almost half our lives at work), there would have to be a helluva lot of people at work much more than 80 hours per week – again with no childhood, retirement, etc. – to make up for all the people who are clearly at work much less than 80 hours per week (including everyone who’s not part of the labor force, like homemakers, children, and retirees).

Clearly, this little factoid doesn’t pass the smell test. Yet a Google search for [“half our lives” work] pulled up copious references to the same claim, including some that omitted the “almost” or even replaced it with “more than.” Anyone know where this clearly bogus statistic came from? Is my hyperbole detector on the fritz?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think these folks mean "half our waking lives." The google search "half * waking lives" brings up 204 relevant hits. (The asterick is a google wild card for a word).