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I have some question about the usage of the prepositions "among" and "in".
I have two contexts here. The first context concerns virus infection.

1a. The infection rate among elderly patients remains high.
1b. The infection rate in elderly patients remains high.

The second context concerns graduation rates:

2a. The graduation rate among recent immigrants remains low.
2b. The graduation rate in recent immigrants remains low.

Google searches suggest that, for the first context, both sentences 1a and 1b using prepositions "among" and "in" are standard English. But for the second context, Google searches suggest only sentence 2a using "among" is standard English. What do native speakers think?

  • In 2b, "in" isn't an applicable word; "of" would make more sense. To supplement Mia's answer, 2a would refer to those graduating immigrants within a group of all immigrant. Using "of" instead of "in" for 2b would refer to the average of the group of all immigrants. – fixer1234 Mar 5 '17 at 1:09
  • So "the infection rate of elderly patient" doesn't work? 1b sounds also is in compliance with the preposition "of". – Kentaro Nov 26 '18 at 7:28
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Whether or not these prepositions work in these contexts has much to do with the root meanings of the verbs "infect" and "graduate" and how prepositions are typically used with them.

Either way, in my opinion, the best preposition in both of these is actually "of" to indicate the population that owns the rate.

But the reason the "graduation rate in immigrant populations" doesn't work is because you might talk about "the graduation rate of immigrants in a subject area from a college. All of those prepositions are tied to "graduate" in specific ways. Infections can happen in people or among demographics of people, and either one works.

It's also possibly worth pointing out that, in the case of the "infection rate," the elderly population is who is being infected (the object of infect). In the case of the "graduation rate," the immigrant population is who is doing the graduating (the subject of graduate). You can't take a subject-verb relationship like "I graduated" and turn it into "the graduation in me." On the other hand you can take a verb-object relationship like "the disease infected me" and turn it into "the infection in me."

  • The words are in noun form, not verb. Furthermore, the subject of the sentences is the rate. – Acccumulation Dec 7 '17 at 2:48
  • I know what form they are in. The root verb meaning still affects the choice of preposition. I also mentioned that choosing "of" because the subject is "rate" would be best. See the second paragraph. – joiedevivre Dec 7 '17 at 2:53
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1a. The infection rate among elderly patients remains high.

1b. The infection rate in elderly patients remains high.

In the first context concerning virus infection, the use of "among" implies that the infection rate is (remains) high amongst collectively multiple elderly patients as a group. In the same context the use of "in" indicates that the infection rate remains high in each individual elderly patient.As a result depending on which meaning is intended both "in" and "among" can be used.

2a. The graduation rate among recent immigrants remains low.

2b. The graduation rate in recent immigrants remains low.

Whereas, in the second context regarding graduation rates, the word "recent" shows that only those who have recently immigrated have low graduation rates. Therefore "among" is more appropriate than "in" in this context.

  • If I removed "recent", would this: "The graduation rate in immigrants remains low" be better? – meatie Aug 2 '16 at 23:41
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    @meatie No, that doesn't address the issue (which is the same for 1 and 2), and I disagree with Mia's answer on 2a and 2b (though I agree with her on 1a and 1b). The problem is that immigrants is a plural noun but not a collective one, and the preposition in then applies to each individual described with the plural noun. If the sentence were changed to include a collective noun "...graduation rate in recent immigrant populations", or something similar, that would work. The word recent is totally irrelevant to the grammar question. – Upper_Case-Stop Harming Monica Jul 20 '17 at 15:45
  • I don't think "in" works in the first case. If you're distributing "infection rate" over individual patients, then it should be "infection rates of". – Acccumulation Dec 7 '17 at 2:52
  • I don't notice any big difference between the "collectively multiple patient as a group" and "each individual elderly patient." The former is composited of the latter. – Kentaro Nov 26 '18 at 7:25

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