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Significant Digits for Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the numbers tucked inside the news. Today’s number is 2.8, the percent of all venture capital ($3.3 billion worth) invested in U.S. companies with all-female founder teams this year. Entrepreneurs of color also struggle to secure financial and professional resources.

1,460 billion metric tons of organic carbon

A major new federal assessment of the Arctic region and climate change trends released on Tuesday says the world’s warming temperatures are causing permafrost to melt, which could result in the ground releasing the organic carbon it now stores — about 1,460 to 1,600 billion metric tons worth. Permafrost covers 24 percent of the land in the Northern Hemisphere, including huge swaths of Alaska, Canada, Siberia and Greenland. The Washington Post reports that “warming temperatures allow microbes within the soil to convert permafrost carbon into the greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide and methane — which can be released into the air and accelerate warming.” [The Washington Post]

3.9 million letters from the IRS

A new working paper from three Treasury Department economists shows that when, in 2016, the IRS sent 3.9 million letters giving recipients tips on how to enroll in health care coverage, the mailing likely saved the lives of 700 people. As a result of obtaining insurance, the number of premature deaths dropped, especially among Americans between the ages of 45 and 64 — in that group, deaths fell by one for every 1,648 people who received one of the IRS letters, compared to people who did not receive the notices. The randomized controlled trial, the gold standard among researchers for studying the effects of policy interventions, was actually the result of a budget shortfall — the Obama administration had planned to send the mailings to everyone who paid a fine for not having insurance, but had to scale things back to stay within budget. As a result, approximately 600,000 uninsured taxpayers were randomly chosen to not receive notices about their tax fines and insurance status. [The New York Times]

2 percent of head coaching transitions

Willie Taggart has been a head coach four times, including high-profile positions at Oregon and Florida State, but was fired from the latter on Nov. 3 after a shaky start to the season. FiveThirtyEight’s Josh Planos crunched the data on a decades’ worth of head-coaching transitions at the Football Bowl Subdivision level and found that in only 2 percent of those transitions did a black head coach directly succeed another black head coach. [FiveThirtyEight]

5 years in jail

Planning a wedding can be a stressful time for many brides, but one California woman was sentenced to jail for five years after trying to defraud the popular wedding website The Knot twice. The story starts with Vermyttya Miller using The Knot to book a wedding reception venue, claiming she had suffered a serious injury, canceling, and receiving a check for $10,000 from an insurance policy that covered her if the event was called off. Later she emailed The Knot’s insurer trying to get a second check, claiming the first one had been stolen. Miller eventually pleaded no contest to insurance fraud and, in addition to the jail time, was ordered to pay $22,500 in restitution, which covers the $10,000 check and $12,500 in investigative costs. [Los Angeles Times]

$191 million settlement

If you’ve seen advertisements from the University of Phoenix featuring employers such as Microsoft, Twitter or Adobe and wondered if the school really had relationships with those companies, the Federal Trade Commission had similar concerns. On Tuesday, the for-profit university agreed to pay $191 million to settle charges that it recruited students using misleading advertisements. The Wall Street Journal reports this amount includes $50 million in cash as well as the cancellation of $141 million in student debt, though the cancelations “won’t affect student borrowers’ obligations for federal or private loans.” [The Wall Street Journal]

1 vote

If you’ve ever doubted the importance of a single vote, Julia Mejia is a clear example of how much it can matter. After a recount that took three days, Mejia won her spot as an at-large member of Boston’s city council by one vote over her closest opponent, Alejandra St. Guillen. The result was certified on Monday by the city’s Board of Election, and St. Guillen said she will not challenge the outcome in court. [WGBH]

SigDigs: Dec. 11, 2019