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Counting layoffs, bowlers and other bits of American life


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POSTED: Sunday, December 20, 2009

More adults play video games than take education courses. Americans drink more bottled water than alcohol. One in 10 male students said they carried a weapon to school within the previous month. And while abortion rates keep declining, one in three births is to an unmarried woman.

Those and 1,400 other tables add up to a profile by numbers of the United States, as defined by the Census Bureau and other government agencies in the 2010 Statistical Abstract of the United States. They quantify everything from the impact of the technological revolution to the effects of the latest recession.

An estimated 110 billion text messages were sent on cell phones in December 2008, more than double the 48 billion in the previous December. The value of retail sales online soared from $24 billion when the decade began to $128 billion in 2007.

Meanwhile, the number of pieces of mail delivered by the Postal Service, which began declining in 2007, dipped in 2008 to the lowest in a decade. The number of daily newspapers dropped to 1,408 in 2008 from 1,480 in 2000; circulation plunged to 48.6 million copies from 55.8 million.

Women, already a majority among new recipients of bachelor's and master's degrees, pulled even with men among new recipients of doctoral degrees in 2007 for the first time.

About three in 10 people who married in the early 1990s did not stay married long enough to celebrate their 10th anniversary.

Last year, employers ordered 8,263 mass layoffs (defined as when an employer has at least 50 unemployment insurance claims pending at least 31 days) compared with 5,363 the year before. For the first time since 2000, retail sales declined; spending on lottery tickets increased.

More Americans spent their leisure time hunting with firearms than playing baseball. Twice as many bowl as play golf.

Americans are consuming more fish, wine and watermelon, more Italian cheese than American cheese, and they are drinking less milk but raising more milk cows.

If you are thinking of moving to Harare, Zimbabwe, it has the highest cost of living for Americans working for private companies abroad—143 percent higher than Washington, D.C.

La Paz, Bolivia, and Tegucigalpa, Honduras, are bargains at 16 percent of Washington's living costs.

The statistical abstract is available from the federal government Printing Office and the National Technical Information Service and online from the Census Bureau: census.gov/prod/www/abs/statab2006(USCORE)2010.html.