Exactly how many people are left handed? Let’s find out!
In this article you’ll discover what percentage of people are left handed, which countries have the most (and least!) left handed people, if male or female lefties are more common, and the chances of having a lefty child. You’ll also find out why left handed people are becoming more common every year!
Table Of Contents
- How Many People Are Left Handed?
- Is Left Handedness Becoming More Common?
- What Countries Have The Most Left Handed People?
- What Countries Have The Least Left Handed People?
- Is Left Handedness More Common In Males Or Females?
- What Are The Chances of Having a Left Handed Child?
Ever signed for a delivery and had the driver ask if you’re a lefty? Apparently we’re still that much of a rarity that people feel the need to point it out to us every time they notice.
I’m not having a go, as a lefty I do it myself. All the time…
What makes for the fascination? Just how many people are left handed exactly?
How Many People are Left Handed?
According to experts, roughly 12% of the world is left handed. However, this figure varies depending on geographic location, gender, and date of birth amongst other factors.
Check out the rest of this article to dive into these factors in more detail!
Less than 1% of the world is ambidextrous (can easily use both the left and right hand), and an even lower number is ambilevous (finds using both hands equally awkward).
This figure is averaged from studies undertaken in North America and Western Europe. In these developed countries being left handed is less likely to be discouraged due to social stigmas, which should result in a less skewed overall number. Although it should be noted that left handed discrimination does still occur in these countries. Read about left handed discrimination here.
Right Handed (~87%). I’m sure you didn’t come to this article unaware that right handed people make up the majority of the population. It is estimated that right handed people amount to roughly 87% of the world.
Left Handed (~12%). The second most common handedness type, studies show that on average us lefties make up around 12% of the population. Although this does vary depending on location, as in some countries being left handed may still have a social stigma attached to it. For example Taiwan (5%), Japan (4.7%), and Korea (2%) all have a much lower population of lefties. Scroll down a little further to see the lefty representation broken down by country.
Ambidextrous (<1%). An ambidextrous person is able to perform any task equally well with either hand, although they do still tend to favor their dominant side. Truly ambidextrous people are incredibly rare, and are estimated to make up less than 1% of the population.
Ambilevous (<1%). An ambilevous (or ambisinister) person is the exact opposite of an ambidextrous person, finding it generally awkward to use either hand to undertake tasks.
Is Left Handedness Becoming More Common?
Even until recently, being left handed was still discouraged in many developed countries. We can see this when we look at the number of lefties in different age groups in North America. Only 6% of over-65s identified as being left handed, whereas a whopping 15% of under 30s said the same.
Check out the graph below which shows the percentage of lefties broken down by year. These results were taken from a large study by Gilbert and Wysocki (Hand Preference and Age in the United States, 1992) which included over 1 million people. The increased number of people identifying as being left handed is almost certainly due to modern society becoming less conservative.
On top of this, it is estimated that amongst older generations some 6-8% of right handed people are actually natural left handers, but were forced into writing right handed due to social pressures.
Considering the results based on age, it would seem very likely that the overall percentage of people identifying as being a lefty will continue to increase over time.
What Countries Have The Most Left Handed People?
- The Netherlands (13.2% Left Handed)
- United States (13.1% Left Handed)
- Belgium (13.1% Left Handed)
- Canada (12.8% Left Handed)
- United Kingdom (12.24% Left Handed)
- Ireland (11.65%)
- Switzerland (11.61%)
- France (11.15%)
- Denmark (11%)
- Italy (10.51%)
Data for European countries was taken from a large internet study by McManus and Peters (Handedness in Europe: analysis of data from the BBC internet study). Information on other countries was sourced from various other bodies of research.
What Countries Have The Least Left Handed People?
- Korea (2.0%)
- Mexico (2.5%)
- China (3.5%)
- Japan (4.7%)
- Taiwan (5.0%)
It’s clear that in countries with a more formal culture, the rate of left-handedness is much lower. It has been suggested that the more complex writing style in many Asian countries is a major reason why the numbers are so much lower.
Is Left Handedness More Common In Males Or Females?
Lefties are not created equally! According to a 2008 study (Sex Differences in Left-Handedness: A Meta-Analysis of 144 Studies), a left handed person is 23% more likely to be male than female. This means that for every 4 left handed women, there should be roughly 5 left handed men.
One possible explanation for this uneven split is that girls are more likely to conform to social norms. It has also been suggested that there may be genetic factors, which you can read about below.
What Are The Chances of Having a Left Handed Child?
According to a 2009 study by Llaurens, Raymond and Faurie (Why are some people left-handed? An evolutionary perspective), the chances of having a left handed child are as follows:
- Both parents Left Handed – 27% Male / 21.4% Female
- Righty Father & Lefty Mother – 22.1% Male / 21.7% Female
- Lefty Father & Righty Mother – 18.2% Male / 15.3% Female
- Both Parents Right Handed – 10.4% Male / 8.5% Female
I’ve averaged these results out for simplicity and displayed them in the graphic below.
Another interesting factoid I stumbled across was that two left handed parents are twice as likely to produce twins!
Check out the infographic below (click to enlarge!) where you’ll find all of this information compiled into one handy graphic.
Is There A Place Where 100% of People Are Lefties?
Yes! Well, kinda… In the small town of Left Hand, West Virginia, USA, technically… everyone is a left hander!