Sampling in Seinfeld

I’ve been on a bit of an inadvertent hiatus from blogging – stuff picked up at my day job and then I got married. Time to get back into the swing of things.

I went to the DMV this morning. (That’s the “Department of Motor Vehicles”, for non-American readers; this is the government agency that handles vehicle registration and driver licensing.) It was “fun”, by which I mean not fun, but I was reminded of this clip from Seinfeld (transcript here):

JERRY: Elaine, what percentage of people would you say are good looking?

ELAINE: Twenty-five percent.

JERRY: Twenty-five percent, you say? No way! It’s like 4 to 6 percent. It’s a twenty to one shot.

ELAINE: You’re way off.

JERRY: Way off? Have you been to the motor vehicle bureau? It’s like a leper colony down there.

ELAINE: So what you are saying is that 90 to 95 percent of the population is undateable?


ELAINE: Then how are all these people getting together?

JERRY: Alcohol.

Jerry is implying here that the people at the DMV are a good sample of the general population. This seems like a reasonable assumption, although of course we can quibble:

  • rich people are more likely to own multiple cars, which means they have to go the DMV more often to handle car-registration-related business;
  • similarly, poor people are more likely to not have cars at all and perhaps not even be licensed drivers. Since Seinfeld is set in New York, which has low car ownership rates, this is especially true, although it might be counteracted by the fact that public transit is better in the more wealthy parts of that city;
  • results should vary by time of day, day of week, and DMV office

Still, it kept me amused while I waited.

6 thoughts on “Sampling in Seinfeld

  1. Except for drivers licenses, there’s little reason to go in person. Rich people are more likely to renew vehicle registration by mail, or have someone go in their place. Poor people are more likely to have the time, and perhaps can’t afford the postage. In fact, one might assume that some number of people are getting paid to stand in line (it’s New York, right?) And just like Walmart, who dresses up to go to the DMV?

    In England, except for driving tests, it’s all done by post anyway, even new license photos.

  2. My own choice for a perfect cross-section of the population no longer exists, unfortunately. But back in the early 1990s I used to hang out at the main post office at 30th and Market between 9 PM and midnight on April 15th every year to see who showed up to file their tax returns just before the deadline.

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