Skittles, Math, and Risk

Donald Trump Jr tweeted a rather old (and idiotic) meme the other day, sparking conversation about refugees.  There are many, many things wrong with that meme, but others far smarter than I have covered them.  Instead, I want to focus on the bad math and conversation about risk contained therein.

In the meme it shows a bowl of Skittles, which I estimate holds probably two bags, so about 100 candies.  Assuming Junior Trump’s statement correct, 3 of those would kill you.  That would put the risk of death at 3 in 100, or 3%.  Rather high.  But the true risk of death from refugees is not 3 in 100.  It’s 1 in 3.64 billion.  In other words, 0.00000003%.  Effectively zero.  Whereas the risk of dying from food poisoning is 0.00006%.  You are far more likely to die eating actually poisoned Skittles then by refugees represented by Skittles.

But it is also important to remember risk is a part of everyday life.  If you get out of bed in the morning, you are taking a risk.  If you get in a car, you are taking a risk.  If you enter a high-rise building, you are taking a risk.  Let’s put some risks into perspective using the same candy metaphor:

Killed by Cancer: 1 Skittle in 540 is poisoned
Killed by Car Accidents: 1 Skittle in 8,200
Homicide (non-terrorist related): 1 Skittle in 22,00
Drowning in the Bathtub: 1 Skittle in 950,000
Killed by Home Appliances: 1 Skittle in 1.5 million
Killed by Deer: 1 Skittle in 2 million
Commercial Aviation Accident: 1 in 2.3 million

(Source for above numbers)

Notice that all of these have significantly higher risks of death than refugees.  So, let me flip the script: Mr. Trump, Jr: if I had you a bowl of Skittles, and just 1 in 8,200 of them are poisoned, do you take a handful?

4 thoughts on “Skittles, Math, and Risk

  1. What’s interesting is that this same meme was trotted out by the hysterical SJW contingent to describe the risk of women being raped by men. Of course, their biggest problem was that they used their “1 in 5 women are raped” faux statistic.


    • MP

      If we are to believe that “1 in 5 women are raped” (while at college) number, and considering that it’s merely a statistic and not an actual distribution, and since we know many, many women aren’t raped at all while in college, then we can assume that some unlucky few are raped at least once a day.


  2. Jon,

    I think you missed the point. The Trump campaign did not want you to focus on the numbers. They wanted you to focus on their point that refugees should not be thought of as humans; they should be thought of as poison.


    • Greg

      Of course. No one in politics wants you to focus on numbers – or actual facts of any kind.

      It’s amazing how many otherwise sensible people fear terrorists, but don’t hesitate to jump in their cars and drive off into traffic.


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