9

In his phenomenally thorough study of what the typical porn star looks like (see Is the typical female porn star a big-boobed blonde?) John Millward mentions in passing that:

only 5% of Americans are naturally blonde

But the reference he gives is incorrect. It seems like a low estimate and it isn't obvious how to estimate the correct statistic when people can choose to change their hair colour at will.

Are there good sources that give a reliable, believable estimate?

  • heh - phenomenally thorough... – Rory Alsop Feb 22 '13 at 10:23
  • Why would you doubt that? Practically only people of North-European ancestry would be naturally blond and that by far not all of them. 17% of Americans are of German origin, but only few of them are blondes. Same goes for Polish-Americans (3.2%). Scandinavian-Americans are more likely to be blond (also not all), but they are only 3.8%. – vartec Feb 22 '13 at 17:10
  • @vartec I doubt it simply because a larger percentage look as though they are blonde, certainly far more than 5% of the population. So i hope to see the real stats and verification that the technique to ID "true" blondes is reliable. – matt_black Feb 22 '13 at 23:17
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    IIRC, estimation on number of fake blondes range anywhere between 50% and 80%. So no surprise more people look blond. Btw. I think if you take in account just men, you'll get picture much closer to the reality. OTOH, percentage of natural blondes do not vary that much between genders. – vartec Feb 23 '13 at 10:30
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    I wonder exactly how one defines "natural blonde," given that a person's hair color can change naturally over the course of their life. – Nate Eldredge Dec 22 '14 at 22:36
14

It seems to be a small underestimation. A more precise estimate would be more than 5%, around 6%.

It turns out that people study the prevalence of hair color to understand which genes are related to it -- this gives us access to prevalence data for different hair colors, and -- in the US -- this seems to be around 10-12% for blonde hair of Americans of European descent.

distribution of hair color in US

Han J, Kraft P, Nan H, Guo Q, Chen C, et al. (2008) A Genome-Wide Association Study Identifies Novel Alleles Associated with Hair Color and Skin Pigmentation. PLoS Genet 4(5): e1000074. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000074

The study needs these numbers to be representative to exclude systematic bias in the choice of people with different hair colors, but they refer to American of European descent.

This, and the observation that the different studies give very similar numbers, leads me to conclude that a believable estimate (relative to European-descent Americans) lies between 10.7% and 12.7%.

Now, of course there are other ethnicities in the US. Interestingly in large part they are basically completely non-blonde. Thus we can correct the numbers and get a minimum estimate easily.

From this list we can see that there were 148,471,345 US nationals of European descent in 2011. This means between 15.9 and 18.9 million blonde Americans. Given that there were a total of 310 million Americans, we can estimate that in percentage, blondes are between 5.1% and 6.0%.

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  • Like it. Proper statistics at last and not just impressions and anecdotes. – matt_black Dec 20 '14 at 18:13

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