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How many people do we know? Spanish research reveals answer
18 November 2019 @ 12:45

IN WHAT IS probably the largest social research project ever, La Caixa bank has released the answer to a question not many of us would have thought to ask – how many people does each of us know? Not just friends and family, or even close acquaintances, but the staff from our nearest bars and restaurants, from the supermarket, the dry cleaner's, or the regular customers we share a queue with or stand at a bus stop with. Basically, anyone we've ever spoken to more than once.

According to the Social Observatory, part of La Caixa's charity and culture foundation, the average person in Spain knows 536 other people. This includes people they have not seen or heard from for many years, but who, perhaps, are contacts on Facebook, or those they bump into regularly.

But when it comes to our close circle – friends, family and the closest of our acquaintances – the average is just 23.

It could be this means we potentially have another 513 people we've already broken the ice with and who could become our friends – although that figure is likely to include those who really annoy us or whom we try to avoid.

Across the board, most people know between 300 and 600 people; those who know just 200 or around 600 make up fewer than 10%, and those who know fewer than 100 or around 1,200 make up only 3%.

At the opposite end of the scale, very few residents in Spain know as many as 2,000 – below 1% - and although the very odd occasional respondent turned out to know 6,000 or more, this is extremely rare and few enough cases that could probably be counted by hand.


Gender and social situation

Men, on average, know about 50 more people than women – and the figures for Spain are not, apparently, unusual: so far, this same research has only ever been carried out in the USA, where the average person knows 550 other people.

To this end, it seems the cultural environment does not make a huge difference, but educational level, apparently, does: those with at least further education or sixth-form studies know fewer people than those with degree-level qualifications and more than those with only compulsory high-school education; those who have trained or studied formal qualifications since age 16 know an average of 600 people, compared with those who have not, who know an average of 400.

Of course, the average fluctuates according to where we live, although only the extremes have been reported in detail – those living in almost total rural isolation compared with those living on bustling urbanisations – but it is not necessarily the case that those who live in small villages know fewer people than those in big cities; the former are, especially in Spain, often close-knit communities where everyone knows each other by nickname only and where mail is addressed to residents care of the local bar, whereas a huge metropolitan area, like in any country, can be somewhat impersonal.



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