Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving by the numbers

Holiday data roundup for the fourth Thursday in November.


42.5 million Americans (about 14 percent of the total US population) will travel at least 50 miles from home over Thanksgiving weekend. This represents a 4 percent increase in total holiday weekend trips, compared with 2010, but remains well below the peak in 2005 according to an annual report released by AAA.

Auto travel accounts for the lion's share (90 percent) of those trips. Despite notoriously long lines at the airport, only 8 percent of holiday travelers plan to fly, and the remaining 2 percent will travel via train, bus, or other mode.

About half of long-distance travelers (those going 50 miles or more) will make a day trip of it. The other half will spend an average of three nights away from home.


13.3 pounds of turkey are consumed by the average American each year, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

248 million turkeys were raised in the United States in 2011, up 2 percent from the prior year. U.S. turkey production for 2010 was valued at $4.37 billion. And, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the retail price per pound of turkey is lowest in November.

750 million pounds of cranberries were grown in the U.S. in 2011. Wisconsin grows the most (430 million pounds) followed by Massachusetts (210 million pounds).

2.4 billion pounds of sweet potatoes and 1.1 billion pounds of pumpkins were grown in the United States in 2010. No stats are available on how many are baked into pies.


A poll by Harris Interactive found that more than half of working Americans (59 percent) report checking their work email on major holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.

While many retailers tried to get a jump on the holiday shopping season this year, there is a clear spike in retail jobs each year from November to December. This should come as no surprise since about half of Americans spend time shopping on Thanksgiving weekend.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The numbers behind the NYC Marathon

   45,000 runners
+ 26.2 miles
+ 5 boroughs
+ 32,000 gallons of gatorade
+ 1 Sunday in November
= 1 NYC Marathon

Occasionally my two loves (running and data) come together in perfect harmony. This weekend is one of those times. In honor of the ING New York City Marathon, here are some eye-opening stats about the race.

Who's running:
In 2011 the race is more than 350 times larger than it was its inaugural year. In 1970, according to marathon organizers, "127 runners paid the $1 entry fee to NYRR to participate in a 26.2-mile race... Fifty-five runners crossed the finish line."

On Nov. 6, 2011 officials expect 45,000 runners to toe the starting line. To put that in perspective, there will be one NYC Marathon runner for every resident of Olympia, WA (or Harrisburg, PA - for those in the eastern time zone).
Of those 45,000 runners:
  • The sex ratio is 1.63:1.00 (62% men / 38% women, which is similar to the 2010 average for marathons nationwide which showed a 59/41 split)
  • One third are between the ages of 40 and 49.
  • The oldest male entrant is 87. The oldest female is 84.
Course info:

  • The race's 26.2 miles traverse all five of New York's boroughs.
  • The highest elevation along the course (approx 260 feet above sea level) occurs in the first mile, on the Verrazano Narrows bridge.

Who's making it happen:
  • More than 150 New York Road Runners staff work year-round on the marathon.
  • There are more than 8,000 volunteers for the event.
  • 130 bands will serenade the runners.
  • The week before the race, 100 people worked to clean up the post-snowstorm debris in Central Park that was blocking the race course.
Hydration and fuel:
According to Wolfram|Alpha "to help energize and hydrate the runners before the race begins" organizers will provide runners with:
  • 42,000 Power Bars
  • 90,000 bottles of water
  • 45,000 cups of coffee
On the course, there will be:
  • 62,370 gallons of water
  • 32,040 gallons of Gatorade
And with all that hydration (plus race-day nerves), expect long bathroom lines:
On Sunday, more than 1,600 portable toilets will be available for the runners. That works out to about one port-o-potty for every 28 runners, but you know the lines will be longer than that!

Data Sources:
ING New York City Marathon website
Running Trip "NYC Marathon by the numbers"
Running USA Annual Marathon Report (2011)
The Weather Channel

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

World population = 7 billion

It just so happens that this year the United Nation's announcement that the world's population reached 7 billion coincides with the lesson I teach on demographics, population growth, and urbanization in Intro to Sociology.

In searching for materials to make this data-intensive lesson more accessible to intro students, I came across this video from National Geographic.

It provides a series of facts about global population growth in a format that is eye-catching and memorable. This video is perfect for introducing the concept of demographic change.