The Modal American

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When trying to characterize a dataset, we often reach for the old standby: the mean of each property. If we give it some more thought, we might consider using the median. But sometimes you really need the underused mode, the most common value for that property:

Looking for the average American is like putting a bunch of people with different qualities into a blender, hoping a clear-cut human would come out intact. [And] when news headlines and politicians reference the average American, they really mean the typical American, a.k.a. the modal American.

Episode 936 of NPR’s great ‘Planet Money’ podcast describes how the hosts attempted to identify this elusive creature.