The Shocking Truth — Answers and Sources

By | August 27, 2013

Here we have the quiz plus answers and sources from last week’s show about The Shocking Truth.

  1. Due to out-of-control residential and commercial real estate development, total
    U. S. forest acreage is the smallest it has been in a century.

  2. Driven by economic injustice and environmental deterioration, infant and child mortality rates are surging in the developing world.

  3. Globalization is taking its toll on the world’s poorest people, with the poverty rate spiraling out of control over the past two decades.

  4. Cost analysis for standard grocery items (including eggs, meat, butter, coffee, etc.), when weighed against average wages, shows these items to be six times more affordable today than a century ago.

  5. As the overall rate of US violent crime continues to grow, women stand a greater risk than ever of being sexually assaulted.

  6. Toxins in the environment are believed to be the primary cause of the rapidly growing US mortality rates associated with cancer.

  7. The current acceleration of population growth will lead to a doubling of the planet’s total population within a century if left unchecked.

  8. Studies throughout the developed world, but in the U.S. in particular, show a rapid global drop in intelligence correlated with more hours spent watching TV and playing video games.

  9. Sub-Saharan Africa has been experiencing an economic boom for the past two decades, and is estimated to provide the best return on investment of any developing region in the world.

  10. We live in the most violent period in human history.

1. False.

There are a lot more trees than there were 100 years ago. US forests grew 380% between 1920 and 1997.

2.  False

Children are 1/3 less likely to die before age five than they were in 1990.


3. False

The percentage of people in the world living on less than $1.25 per day has been cut in half since 1990, ahead of the schedule of the Millennium Development Goals which hoped to reach this target by 2015.

4. True

 While the price of food has skyrocketed, the percentage of the average wage required to purchase these items has plummeted.

The Affordability of Food

In 1913 (according to multiple sources), the average wage was around $0.21/hour (or $750/year). Below is a chart of the above food items, as a percent of the average wage in 1913 (in blue) and 2013 (in orange). As you can see, all items are more affordable now than they were in 1913 (and most items to a major degree).

5. False

U.S. violent crime down for fifth straight year

(CNN) — Violent crime in the United States fell for the fifth consecutive year in 2011 with murder, rape and robbery all going down, although crime remains a serious problem in many urban areas, the FBI said on Monday.

The report of all crimes reported to police nationwide showed slightly more than 1.2 million violent incidents nationwide, while property crimes hit a nine-year low.

Compared with 2010, the new figures show violent crime down 3.8 percent overall. Property crime was down 0.5 percent.


The dramatic decline of rapes and sexual assaults

I stumbled upon this post from Angus Johnston about the significant decline in the incidence of rape. He claims that the incidence of rape has declined 88% since 1973. I do not doubt his figures, but the resource he linked to has been moved. In my search, I could not quickly find numbers prior to 1994, but the 1994-2010 numbers will suffice here.

According to National Crime Victimization Survey — an annual survey that samples the population directly — the rate of female rape or sexual assault victimizations has declined by 58% between 1994 and 2010. In 1994, 5 in 1000 females above the age of 12 answered that they had been raped or sexually assaulted that year. In 2010, the number was 2.1 in 1000, or 0.21%. These figures include completed, threatened, and attempted rapes and sexual assaults.

6. False

Cancer death rate falling at the rate of 1.8% per year.

From the National Cancer Institute:

U.S. Cancer Deaths Continue Long-Term Decline

According to the latest national data, overall death rates from cancer declined from 2000 through 2009 in the United States, maintaining a trend seen since the early 1990s. Mortality fell for most cancer types, including the four most common types of cancer in the United States (lung, colon and rectum,breast, and prostate), although the trend varied by cancer type and across racial and ethnic groups. The complete “Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975–2009″ appeared January 7 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The report also includes a special section on cancers associated with the human papillomavirus (HPV) that shows that, from 2008 through 2010, incidence rates rose for HPV-associated oropharyngeal,anal, and vulvar cancers. HPV vaccination rates in 2010 remained low among the target population of adolescent girls in the United States.

7. False

About That Overpopulation Problem

Research suggests we may actually face a declining world population in the coming years.

The world’s seemingly relentless march toward overpopulation achieved a notable milestone in 2012: Somewhere on the planet, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, the 7 billionth living person came into existence.

Lucky No. 7,000,000,000 probably celebrated his or her birthday sometime in March and added to a population that’s already stressing the planet’s limited supplies of food, energy, and clean water. Should this trend continue, as the Los Angeles Times noted in a five-part series marking the occasion, by midcentury, “living conditions are likely to be bleak for much of humanity.”

A somewhat more arcane milestone, meanwhile, generated no media coverage at all: It took humankind 13 years to add its 7 billionth. That’s longer than the 12 years it took to add the 6 billionth—the first time in human history that interval had grown. (The 2 billionth, 3 billionth, 4 billionth, and 5 billionth took 123, 33, 14, and 13 years, respectively.) In other words, the rate of global population growth has slowed. And it’s expected to keep slowing. Indeed, according to experts’ best estimates, the total population of Earth will stop growing within the lifespan of people alive today.

And then it will fall.

8. False

Are We Really Getting Smarter?

Advanced nations like the U.S. have experienced massive IQ gains over time (a phenomenon that I first noted in a 1984 study and is now known as the “Flynn Effect”). From the early 1900s to today, Americans have gained three IQ points per decade on both the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales and the Wechsler Intelligence Scales. These tests have been around since the early 20th century in some form, though they have been updated over time. Another test, Raven’s Progressive Matrices, was invented in 1938, but there are scores for people whose birth dates go back to 1872. It shows gains of five points per decade.

In 1910, scored against today’s norms, our ancestors would have had an average IQ of 70 (or 50 if we tested with Raven’s). By comparison, our mean IQ today is 130 to 150, depending on the test.

9. True

And Now For Some Unexpectedly Good News

Don’t look now, but sub-Saharan Africa is booming. Since 2003 its growth has been skyrocketing, and, to quote none other than McKinsey, “today the rate of return on foreign investment in Africa is higher than in any other developing region.” There are several reasons: commodity prices, Chinese investment, diaspora remittances… and, I would argue, the GSM revolution that has swept the entire continent, in some places famously taking communications straight from talking drums to cell phones, leapfrogging land lines entirely.

 McKinsey quote source:

10. False

You are less likely to die a violent death today than at any other time in human history.

The homicide records go back in many parts of Europe to the 1200s. And they all show an astonishing trend. Namely, that the rates of homicide have plummeted, from anywhere from 30 to 100 per 100,000 per year down to the [current] European average, which is between one and two per 100,000 per year.

Forensic archaeology (“CSI Paleolithic”) reveals that 15 percent of prehistoric skeletons show signs of violent trauma. Ethnographic vital statistics of surviving non-state societies and pockets of anarchy show, on average, 524 war deaths per 100,000 people per year.

Germany in the 20th century, wracked by two world wars, had 144 war deaths per 100,000 per year. Russia had 135. Japan had 27. The US in the 20th century had 5.7. In this 21st century the whole world has a war death rate of 0.3 per 100,000 people per year. In primitive societies 15 percent of people died violently; now 0.03 percent do. Violence is 1/500th of what it used to be.


  • Van Mosher

    I thought they were all false 80% not too bad.