Politico quotes Donald Trump :

Just this past week, Trump reveled in a mental list he has been keeping of how many tests the U.S. has conducted, approaching 14 million, in comparison with other countries — Germany at 3 million, Italy at 3 million. That list, like so many others, is designed to ensure American is ranked No. 1. Trump deflected when a reporter asked how America’s testing compared to other countries on a per capita basis, a measure by which the U.S. lags behind several countries.

“You know, when you say ‘per capita,’ there’s many per capitas,” he said. “It’s like, per capita relative to what? But you can look at just about any category, and we’re really at the top, meaning positive on a per capita basis, too.”

It has been a few decades since I was at school. Are there many, or even multiple, per capitas?

Btw, if I ought to be asking this on mathematics, cross validated (statistics), or elsewhere, feel free to migrate it.

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    N.B., Webster reports a 2300% one-day increase in lookups for the word merriam-webster.com/news-trend-watch/… And that's not the only weird/unintelligible thing he said on that day metro.co.uk/2020/05/21/… – Fizz May 24 '20 at 11:39
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    The sentence is unclear. Asking us to parse it will just lead to opinion-based (and probably party-politically influenced) answers – Oddthinking May 24 '20 at 15:26
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    What's opinion-based about it? All authorities agree on the meaning. Unless you mean Trump's opinion. – hdhondt May 25 '20 at 3:50
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    @hdhondt: The relevant question is not "Does the phrase 'per capita' have different meanings in different dictionaries?" as though the claim was a proof-read text from an Economics journal. It is "What did a non-statistician, non-epidemiologist politician with a history of using terminology loosely and vaguely when speaking off-the-cuff mean when he said there were 'many per capitas'? And is that true?" Anything else is attacking a strawman (unless you can show many people believe the literal claim.) And that is opinion-based. – Oddthinking May 25 '20 at 11:15
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    I disagree that this is opinion based. There are not "many" per capitas and I challenge anyone to suggest a plausible explanation of what Trump meant here. – DJClayworth May 25 '20 at 13:18

Here are a few definitions of "per capita":

Wikipedia: The phrase thus means "by heads" or "for each head", i.e., per individual/person.

Merriam-Webster: per unit of population : by or for each person

Investopedia: Per capita means the average per person

Dictionary.com: by or for each individual person

Legal dictionary: many definitions, all amounting to "to be determined by the number of people"

A quick search will reveal many more, but they all amount to the same thing.

  • This is incorrect. Per capita is in reference to a group of people. In the context of the above quote it means the group of people is the population of some country, but in other contexts it could also refer to the number of sick people or the heirs to some estate or what not. Simply because the term "per capita" does not mean there is only one of them. – PyRulez Jun 4 '20 at 0:05
  • Also, in reading the quote, there is also ambiguity in what is being counted per capita, tests, tests administered, or people tested. So in that sense there it also more than one "per capita" involved. – PyRulez Jun 4 '20 at 0:06

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