mun23 wrote:

Roland: The alarming fact is that 90 percent of the people in this country now report that they know someone who is unemployed.

Sharon: But a normal, moderate level of unemployment is 5 percent, with 1 out of 20 workers unemployed. So at any given time if a person knows approximately 50 workers, 1 or more will very likely be unemployed.

1. Sharon's argument is structured to lead to which of the following as a conclusion?

(A) The fact that 90% of the people know someone who is unemployed is not an indication that unemployment is abnormally high.

(B) The current level of unemployment is not moderate.

(C) If at least 5% of workers are unemployed, the result of questioning a representative group of people cannot be the percentage Roland cites.

(D) It is unlikely that the people whose statements Roland cites are giving accurate reports.

(E) If an unemployment figure is given as a certain percent, the actual percentage of those without jobs is even higher.

2. Sharon's argument relies on the assumption that

(A) normal levels of unemployment are rarely exceeded

(B) unemployment is not normally concentrated in geographically isolated segments of the population

(C) the number of people who each know someone who is unemployed is always higher than 90% of the population

(D) Roland is not consciously distorting the statistics he presents

(E) knowledge that a personal acquaintance is unemployed generates more fear of losing one's job than does knowledge of unemployment statistics

Dear

mun23,

It's a bit confusing what you have posted here. You have posted two questions and only one OA. I assume the OA you posted was for question #2, and it's not clear whether you want help for question #1 and/or question #2.

In my reading, the OA for #1 is

(A) and the OA for #2 is

(B). I'll just discuss #2 ---- since you posted the OA to #2, I assume that's the one about which you have a question.

Roland is concerned --- 90% of people in the country know someone who is unemployed, and Roland apparently takes this as evidence that unemployment is high. This is a somewhat bogus argument. Sharon raises what is at root a very sensible objection --- because 90%

know someone who is unemployed does not necessarily mean the unemployment rate is high. I'm going to guess that the vast majority of the population, almost everyone, personally knows someone over the age of 80 --- this doesn't mean that the majority of the population

is over 80, but just that there are enough 80+ year olds distributed in the population densely enough that virtually everyone knows at least one person like this.

Sharon's argument is essentially a probabilistic argument --- if every person knows 50 people, then if 5% = 0.05 = 1/20 of all people are unemployed, then there's a very high chance that of the 50 random folks one person knows, at least one of them is unemployed. One subtle thing about this argument --- this argument works well if 1/20 is a true probability, that is, if we can pick essentially any group of fifty people, and the probability that any one person is unemployed is 1/20, and this probability is more or less constant as we look at different groups of 50. If the probability is not fixed --- if it's higher in some places and lower in other places --- then that changes the nature of the argument.

Suppose, for simplicity, the entire country consists of just ten cities, with small and equal populations. Suppose people know each other well within each city, but essentially no one from one city knows any one from any other city. (This is a highly unrealistic scenario, just to demonstrate the logic.)

SCENARIO #1: 5% of the people in each of the cities are unemployed --- then, most people in each city would know someone unemployed. Because there's an even distribution, about 90% or more of the population would know someone unemployed, even though only 5% of the population is unemployed. This assumes more or less even distribution of the unemployed. This is consistent with Sharon's argument.

SCENARIO #2: Now, consider an extreme of population concentration --- 50% of the people in City #1 are unemployed, and everyone in the other nine cities are fully employed. Here, everyone in City #1 would know someone unemployed, but City #1 is only 10% of the population. Assume the folks in different cities don't know each other, so no one else know the unemployed in City #1. Thus, 5% of the population is unemployed, and only 10% of the population knows someone unemployed.

In other words, if the unemployed are more-or-less evenly distributed in the population, that is, if we could go anywhere, any region or any subgroup of the population, and the probability that any single person is unemployed is about 5%, then we could have only 5% unemployment but a very high percentages, maybe 90%, who

know someone who is unemployed: again, this is essentially Sharon's argument. BUT, if the unemployed are not even distributed, and are instead concentrated geographically in particular places, then Sharon's argument would no longer be valid.

That's why

(B) is an excellent answer, the best answer for question #2.

Does this make sense?

Mike

_________________

Mike McGarry

Magoosh Test Prep

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. — William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939)