SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


More than you want to know
An editorial / By Dale McFeatters
Scripps Howard News Service


December 15, 2006
Friday AM

The best book ever written about the United States came out Friday. It comes out every year - this is the 126th - and goes by the deceptively bland title "Statistical Abstract of the United States."

The prose is lean and spare - in fact, there is almost no prose - but the 1,400 tables and charts compiled by the Census Bureau is jammed with information about who we are, what we do, where we live, what languages we speak and whether we eat our broccoli. (We do: 5.7 pounds per person per year.)

Like the blurbs on a book jacket, the Census teases us with a few facts.

We watch too much television (our judgment, not the government's) - 65 days' worth a year.

In 2005, Internet users made 92 million purchases online and created 13 million blogs.

Yes, there is grade inflation. Almost half of incoming college freshmen had an A average in high school compared to 20 percent in 1970. In 1970, an overwhelming percentage of kids went to college to develop a "philosophy of life." Now, the same percentage wants to be "very well off financially."

A naughty 24 percent of credit-card holders "hardly ever" pay off the balance.

The Postal Service has more people than the Army and Marines combined. Maybe it should take over Iraq.

Forget oil. We are addicted to foreign shoes; 98 percent of our footwear is imported. However, we lead the world in endangered clams, snails and crustaceans.

We are a well-hydrated people. Consumption of bottled water rose from 2.7 gallons per person in 1980 to 23.2 gallons in 2004.

Residents of 3.7 million houses thought their neighborhood smelled bad.

One-third of U.S. households own an average of 1.6 dogs. Roughly the same percentage owned 2.1 cats.

Airport screeners confiscated 9.4 million lighters in 2005. The Census suggested sending them to China to light the 1.8 trillion cigarettes it produces annually.

The abstract is available for $39 hardback and $35 paperback at www/

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