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Significant Digits for Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the numbers tucked inside the news.

3,600 students scammed on Instagram

There’s another side to Instagram beyond selfies and influencers. The New York Times reports a digital media company called I’m Shmacked convinced more than 3,600 students to pay $45 to $500 to participate in a “college ambassador program” in which they would run affiliate Instagram accounts. Students were told their work on the social media platform could generate profits through a variety of sales channels, but many students have concluded they will never be paid or make their money back. [The New York Times]

31 percent increase in depression

Millennials have been blamed for killing dozens of things, including power lunches and diamonds. But a new report from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association says significantly more people born between 1981 and 1996 are suffering from chronic health problems such as depression, hypertension and high cholesterol. Between 2014 and 2017, the rate of depression in this demographic — approximately 73 million people in the United States alone — rose by 31 percent. [Bloomberg]

640,000 metric tons of plastic

A new report from Greenpeace says more than 640,000 metric tons of lost and abandoned fishing gear account for the majority of the large plastic pollution found in the oceans. The items include nets, lines, pots and traps from commercial fishing operations, and the gear can kill animals. According to the report, abandoned fishing gear has washed up on Arctic coastlines and remote islands in the Pacific Ocean. [The Guardian]

2.5 million names

Every year, millions of high school students take the SAT and submit their scores to colleges as part of their applications. An investigation by The Wall Street Journal found that the College Board, the nonprofit that owns the SAT, has been charging universities 47 cents a pop to access test-takers’ names and personal information so the schools can inflate their application pools and rejection rates. All those rejection letters may break students’ hearts, but low admission rates improve colleges’ reputations as elite schools. [The Wall Street Journal]

3 times the generator sales

Disaster capitalism has come to California after utility company Pacific Gas and Electric announced it would implement rolling blackouts across the state to help prevent wildfires. A company called Generac dominates the home generator market, and its CEO said sales have tripled since last year. California is temporarily allowing sales of generators that don’t meet the state’s strict emissions standards, and NBC News reports that environmental advocates are concerned about the risks of increased pollution, carbon monoxide poisoning and fire result from the machines’ extended use. [NBC News]

69 percent approval

After a week that included a shooting at a Halloween party and a journalist at VICE exposing a nationwide rental scam, Airbnb was dealt another setback on Tuesday: a loss in a municipal referendum vote in Jersey City, New Jersey, a popular rental area close to New York City. Preliminary totals show that 69 percent of voters cast their ballots to preserve an ordinance regulating short-term rentals. The online rental company spent more than $3 million on the election, but it was a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of business the company does there: Airbnb said hosts in Jersey City made more than $16.7 million last summer alone. [The Jersey Journal]