Newsflash: majority of Americans don’t understand basic math

(This post has been updated) A study conducted by the Center for Economic and Entrepreneurial Literacy, released Thursday, finds that many Americans aren’t exactly the brightest bulbs in the room. Which means if you wonder how we got into this mess, you have to at least consider the average intelligence of the masses that took out a mortgage loan they couldn’t afford — however politically incorrect it may be to do so. “The national survey conducted last week shows that an overwhelming number of Americans are unable to answer some of the most basic questions about borrowing, interest rates, terminology, and even basic math,” the Center said in a press statement. “More troubling is that many Americans admit to making poor decisions with their own personal finances.” No kidding. Some highlights from the survey are eye-opening — and others are questionable, as early commenters caught onto (such as FICO being the most important part of originating a loan, for example). But the following two findings stood out to me more than anything else:

  • 65% of respondents could not identify what would remain if you subtracted 25% from 8.
  • One in three respondents could not identify what 1% of 50,000 was.

Wow. If people can’t do basic math, is it any wonder that the survey also found that half of respondents have overdrafted their checking account at one time, while a third of respondents have paid a bill late in the past year? We can continue to blame Wall Street all we want for this mess, which nearly every borrower on the planet has proven they are wont to do. But, at some point, I think we need to wonder when personal responsibility enters the equation. Like, you know, maybe, when 2 out of 3 people don’t know elementary-school-level math.

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