1304.5 - Stats Talk WA, Mar 2009  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/03/2009   
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All

An Average Case?
The Search For A Mean Person....

I was sitting in my office, cleaning my thirty-eight and wondering where my next case would come from. I like being a private eye and even though I’ve had the living suitcase beaten out of me a few times the sweet smell of crisp banknotes makes it all worth while. Not to mention the dames, which are a preoccupation I rate just ahead of breathing.

That’s why, when the door to my office swung open and a long legged beauty named Esther Mation came striding in and told me she needed some help, I was all ears.

“What can I do for you sugar?”

“I want you to find someone for me.” she replied.

“Missing person? Have you tried the police?”

“Not exactly, Mr Smythe.”

“Call me Phil, sugar. Alright, what’s the deal?”

“The average person, the man/woman in the street. I want you to find him or her for me.”

I’ve had some fruitcakes call on me before, but when they’re built like she was, you listened.

“Well, how do you know the average person exists?”

“That’s for you to find out, Phil.”


I said I’d give her case a try, for three hundred bucks a day, expenses and a dinner date. She smiled and okayed the deal. We rode down in the lift together. Outside it was getting dark. Maybe the average person did exist or maybe they didn’t, but if they did I’d find them somewhere in Western Australia.

My first lead was the Australian Bureau of Statistics website <www.abs.gov.au>. When the ABS celebrated its 100th anniversary back in 2005 they’d made most of the stuff on their website free, a real bonus for skin flint private dicks like me.

The first task was simple, I was looking for either a man or a woman. ABS publication 3101.0 (Australian Demographic Statistics) informed me that as at June 2008 there were 1,094,851 males and 1,068,396 females in WA, so our average person was a male. Man or boy I wondered? Using the same publication I calculated that the average age of Western Australian men was 37 years of age, all 10,156 of them.

This was looking like a real demographic hunt, so what better place to go than the greatest source of demographic data, the ABS Census of Population and Housing. As the last Census was in 2006 we’d be looking at those then aged 35.

Where was our man born? Birthplace data revealed that 65% of now 37 year old, WA enumerated males were born in Australia. At that age my candidate should have completed his education and most likely be part of the work force. According to the 2006 Census almost half of these blokes had finished year 12 or equivalent as their highest year of school completed. Twenty one of them surprisingly reported they hadn’t attended any school at all. This dropped the number of potential Mr Averages to 4,677.

Of those 37 year old males who finished year 12, around 40% of them obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher, while a little under a third had either a diploma/trade certificate or completed no further education. This made our typical WA male a year 12 completer who went on to become a university graduate, all 1,890 of them.

I figured this well educated chap would have a job and indeed he did. Only 0.8% of our 37 year old male, year 12 completer, uni grads were unemployed at 2006 Census time, with 85% working full time. This was beginning to sound like your quintessential Aussie bloke putting in some hard yakka. My search had narrowed only slightly, there were still 1,478 men in the frame. So, was my man a money grubbing capitalist or had he opted to serve the nation as a hard working public servant? Overwhelmingly he’d chosen the private sector to work in, 77% so engaged. But there were still 1,137 in my list of possibles.

And where were our ‘inclining towards average’ men working I asked myself? A little over 10% were in the Mining industry, and around 8% were in the Manufacturing, Education and Health industries. But the winner was the Professional, Scientific and Technical Services industry with 300 (26%) of our selected men in that sector. All in all this mystery man appeared to be doing very well for himself, but did he have anyone with whom to share his good fortune and relative youth? It looks like it as 70% (203) of these chaps were married. Looking at what type of dwelling he lived in didn’t get me much closer to my goal, 169 (83%) lived in separate houses. And of those 79% (133 men) were purchasing those dwellings, a man with a mortgage.

So when our professionally employed chap waves goodbye to his wife each week day morning how does he get to work? Well, naturally he drives there, with 87 men (65%) choosing the traditional, though not necessarily eco-friendly, way to get to the workplace.

But surely this man is more than just a breadwinner, he must have a soul. It appears he is somewhat spiritual with 70% (61 men) stating they were Christians. Thirteen per cent said they had no religion. Of the Christians just over half (32) were Catholics.

I was now very close to my mystery person. To recap; he was a man born in God’s own, is 37 years of age, has a uni degree and a full-time job with a private sector professional services company, is married, lives in a mortgaged house, drives to work and is Catholic. I’d worked my way down from 2,163,247 people to just 32 who fitted the average person profile.

Search For The Average WA Person Flow Chart

Now that I’d got this far, where to from here? Well, the ABS prides itself on its confidentiality. Any more information and you may just be able to identify this person. It looked like this was the end of the road for my search. And probably my chances with Esther.

When she visited me later, I told her what I’d found. But I had something else to tell her. She wasn’t just a doll who walked in off the street. I’d checked and found she was actually employed by the ABS. They’d chosen her to get me to do the Bureau’s dirty work. With rising costs they could get a small group of average people answering survey forms instead of the thousands of respondents they require now. Esther confessed that she’d been a bit nasty, but that the end result justified the means. And, as she took my phone off the hook and lowered the blinds, she reminded me that mean is just another word for average.

Phil Smythe
Article by: Phil Smythe (Assistant Director, Client Liaison and would be private detective)