Understanding IPV4 private address subnetting

        I think I have a decent understanding of subnetting however I'm confused with one little portion pertaining to the private address range 172.16/12 
I see a lot of places say that this private address range from 172.16.x.x - 172.31.x.x allows for 16 networks and 2^16-2 hosts. However this is from the point of view of a /16 mask, rather than a /12 mask which is where I'm getting a little confused. Wouldn't the network be the upper 12 bits, with the remaining 20 bits for hosts? It seems as though the places saying that it can have 16 networks are automatically subnetting by taking an extra 4 bits from the host portion of the private address range. Why are they doing this? What am I missing?

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