How Many People are Left Handed?

What percentage of people are left handed?

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, I do it myself. All the time…

Last week at work the purchasing team ordered a bunch of Fender merchandise, including (for some reason!) this ridiculous anime lunchbox. Rather than asking why in the hell we were stocking a Fender lunchbox (like everyone else in the office), I proudly pointed out that the girl on the front was playing a left handed guitar.

So apparently it’s still a novelty even to me. A guy who is left handed, plays guitar lefty, and runs a lefty guitar website

What makes for the fascination? Just how many people are left handed exactly?

Check out the handy, dandy infographic below (click to enlarge!), or keep reading to find out.

Left Handed Facts and Statistics Infographic

What Percentage of People are Left Handed?

Roughly 12% of the world is left handed.

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, such as this well publicised example in the USA in 2015.

What Percentage of People Are Left Handed Worldwide

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.

Ambivelous (<1%). An ambivelous (or ambisinister) person is the exact opposite of an ambidextrous person, finding it generally awkward to use either hand to undertake tasks.

Age is a Factor

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.

Graph Left Handed People by Year

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.

How Many People Are Left Handed In Other Parts of the World?

The figures above are taken from a select few countries, but what about the rest of the world? Check out the graphic below to find out!

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.

Left Handed Percentage by Country

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.

Men Versus Women

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.

Left Handed Women vs 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.

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.

Chances of Having a Left Handed Child

Another interesting factoid I stumbled across was that two left handed parents are twice as likely to produce twins!

Is There A Place Where 100% of People Are Lefties?

Yes! Well, kinda… In the small town of Left Hand, West Virginia, USA, technicallyeveryone is a left hander!

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