Life In America - InformationWeek

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Life In America

Census Bureau report tells us how we're spending our time.

U.S. adults and teens will spend almost five months next year watching TV, surfing the Web, listening to personal music devices and reading newspapers, investing nearly $937 per person on media, the U.S. Census Bureau says.

The agency that tracks our lives released Friday the 999-page Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2007, a cornucopia of facts and figures that are sure to please trivia enthusiasts. Among the findings are Americans are wired, and the young are smarter and less idealistic than when baby boomers were teenagers.

On average, Americans will spend 65 days in front of the TV, 41 days listening to radio and a little over a week on the Internet in 2007. Adults will invest about a week reading a daily newspaper, and join teens in spending about an equal amount of time listening to recorded music.

In 2005, 97 million Internet users looked for news online; 92 million bought a product and 91 million made a travel reservation. About 16 million used a social or professional networking site and 13 million created a blog.

But, despite our love of electronics and the Internet, the old-fashioned book will still interest many U.S. consumers, who will spend $55.5 billion on 3.17 billion books in 2007.

Nearly half of college freshmen enrolled in 2005 had earned an average grade of A in high school, compared to 20 percent in 1970. But their primary personal objectives have flipped. In 1970, 79 percent of freshmen felt "developing a meaningful philosophy of life" was most important. In 2005, "being very well off financially" was the No. 1 priority.

Other interesting tidbits show that the U.S. endangered species list in 2006 included 62 clams, 24 snails and 19 crustaceans, while in other countries, only two clams, one snail and no crustaceans were in danger of becoming extinct.

U.S. airports in 2005 screened 738.6 million passengers, confiscating 9.4 million lighters. China would have made good use of the lighters, since it produced nearly 1.8 trillion cigarettes in 2004.

Americans are drinking much more bottled water, gulping 23.2 gallons per capita in 2004, compared with only 2.7 gallons in 1980. We also appear to be demanding healthier foods. In 2003, there were 8,035 certified organic growers in the United States, tending 2.2 million acres of land. Three years before, there 6,592 growers working 1.8 million acres.

And some of us have had problems with smelly neighborhoods. In 2005, 3.7 million residents in the nation's 109 million housing units were bothered by odors in their neighborhood, with 1.4 million saying it was so bad they wanted to move.

The Statistical Abstract features more than 1,400 tables and charts on social, political and economic facts about the United States, and the latest available international statistics. The book is a collaborative effort that showcases U.S. government statistics and the work of researchers in the international community, private industry and nonprofit agencies. It's available in a hardbound edition for $39, and a softbound edition for $35; and can be ordered online.

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