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The 1%

People really seem to latch on the the concept of 1%. In daily life 1% is taken to mean “very little”. I’ve noticed that many people have a cognitive gap when the numbers get very large. “1%” continues to be perceived as “very little”. Reality quickly veers off from perception.

In the United States – especially since 2011 – we’ve been hearing about “the 1%”. The US has 300 million people, give or take. Our “1%” is about 3 million people.

How big is 3 million people? It’s enough to populate a city the size of Chicago or L.A.. Or two Manhattans.

1% of the world population is about 70 million people. That’d be a country on par with the UK or Germany.

Here are some comments I saw on Youtube today:


“less than 1% are terrorists and fanatics.”

Youtube Comment 1


“Those were not 1% , those were a LOT of people.”

1 Percent Youtube Comment 2


%1 of 1 billion = 10 million. Set aside what they are discussing; it’s clear that neither of these people understood that they were talking about 10 million.

What is it that makes “1%” not scale in our minds?