Statistic Clarity

Recently I have been bombarded with the almighty statistic that 70% of the British have passports and that only 20% of Americans do.  If you look at this statistic blindly and without context it could be thought that Americans don’t travel often and don’t care about the rest of the world. When I heard this statistic it was used to highlight America’s deplorable worldview. Believing this to be a skewed statistic I decided that I should research the subject and show that without understanding the many shades of gray the statistic is misleading.

1.)  Europeans all need passports to enter other countries. They incorrectly assume this is true about Americans.

2.)   Britain has few attractive vacation destinations and almost all of their vacation travel is to outside of Britain.

3.)   Until 2009 Americans didn’t need passports to enter Mexico and Canada (2009, only need them if flying.)

4.)  Americans do not need passports for travel on the North American Continent.

5.)   For Americans these territories do not require passports: American Samoa, Baker Island, Howland Island, (Jamaica), Guam, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Islands, Navassa Island, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Palmyra Atoll, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands (St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas), and Wake Island.

6.)   Inter-United States travel is diverse and attractive: Hawaii, Alaska, Florida, and California.

7.)  20% of British travel is outside of Europe; this is the SAME percentage of American passport ownership.

8.)  Rethink the statistic.


You would see that Americans will naturally have a lower amount of people who need passports and that this not a sign of isolationism or indifference to the outside world. In reality Americans and British travel outside of their continent that the same rate. I can understand how someone could be misled by this statistic if they lacked proper context.

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