Do you ever ask yourself, when you hear statements about what America as a nation thinks or wants, if these declarations are representative of the average American? In a country as diverse and dynamic as the United States, is there even such a thing as an “average” American?
To answer that question, we tried to create a profile* of the average American based on data from the census, research, and polls. Here’s what we found.
According to the recent census, our average American is a white female, between 30 and 34 years old, with German ancestors. If we use the median age of 32, years she was born in 1989, when the most popular girl’s name was Jessica. She lives in California and is married. She’s a five-foot, four-inch brunette, and the mother of a two-year-old boy.
She thinks America is one of the best countries on earth, but its government should do more to solve problems, that society benefits from increased racial and ethnic diversity, and that the earth is getting warmer due to human activity.
She believes in God, heaven, and hell, considers herself Christian, says her religion is important to her, and attends church at least a few times a year. She believes what’s “right” or “wrong” will depend on the situation, and she relies on common sense more than religion for guidance.
Jessica believes mass shootings are a big problem in America, that it’s too easy to buy a gun. If gun regulations were strengthened, gun violence would decrease. She doesn’t own a gun, but she supports Second Amendment rights.
Financially, this average American earns $47,000 a year, owes debts totaling $87,000, and has a net worth of about $8,000. But she’s not discouraged. Jessica still believes in the American dream, and that she can attain it, despite the rising costs of health insurance and childcare. She believes that if she works hard, she’ll succeed in life and move up the economic ladder to enjoy a standard of living as good as or better than her parents’.
If majority rule prevailed in America — which would require all Americans to vote — women like Jessica would have more influence in shaping our laws.
But our government isn’t chosen by average Americans. Even if all the Jessicas in America voted the same way, they simply don’t outnumber all the non-Jessicas. She is only a collection of the characteristics found in the greatest frequency, not a clone army with identical thoughts and opinions. And a government run by average Americans might have little to offer Americans who don’t fit the average mold.
What makes democracy work aren’t simply large groups of like-minded people, but that essential component of democracy: compromise — the willingness to make tradeoffs to build coalitions that amount to a true majority of voters.
*Author Note: This composite is drawn from average values for Americans according to the most recent figures from the census or opinion polls — except when the details are specific to millennial women.
When possible, we used data specific to millennial women. If that wasn’t available, we used data from millennials, and when that wasn’t available, we used general population data. We believe most of these figures are correct and up to date, though some are drawn from studies or articles written as far back as 2018.
Featured image: Shutterstock
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