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Does the following quote mean the native population dropped to 90% of the original numbers or by 90%, that is to 10% of the original value?

[...] the native population of New Spain fell as much as 90% from its original numbers in the 16th century.

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    It's not very clear. I would take it to mean that at its lowest point, the population of New Spain was only 10% of its original population in the 16th c. – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 4 '17 at 13:53
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This phrase means that the native population fell to 10% of its original numbers in the 16th century. It fell by 90%. Hope this helps. Also see: http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/fall+by

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"Fell as much as 90%" means that afterward, only 10% of the population may have remained. For example, if a population of 100 fell by 85%, the population is now 15.

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  • The question is about the phrase in the quote, not OP's interpretation – M.A.R. May 4 '17 at 14:31
  • @M.A.R. Perhaps the confusion came from me using "dropped by" instead of "fell as much as." I've edited the answer to correct that. – Quartekoen May 21 '17 at 0:29

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