FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Census Data Reveals American Trends

Last week, the US Census Bureau released its 2007 Statistical Abstract of the United States, a cornucopia of statistical and demographic data that attempts to paint a picture of America. Among the more interesting (if not always surprising) trends noted in the Abstract are:

  • Americans, as a nation, are the heaviest people in the world, but also taller than ever.
  • We consume more media -- TV, radio, movies and Internet -- than ever before.
  • Consumption of bottled water has increased ten-fold since 1980.
  • The size of the average new single-family home has grown to 2,227 square feet in 2005 from 1,905 square feet in 1990.
  • Manufacturing jobs decreased by 18% between 2000 and 2005.
  • The number of female doctors more than doubled between 1980 and 2004. Women earning professional degrees increased from 2,000 in 1970 to 41,000 in 2004.
  • More than half of US households owned some form of stock of mutual fund in 2005.

Althe Census Bureau doesn't attempt to interpret the implications of these trends, noted sociologist Robert Putnam says of them:

The large master trend here is that over the last hundred years, technology has privatized our leisure time... The distinctive effect of technology has been to enable us to get entertainment and information while remaining entirely alone. That is from many points of view very efficient. I also think it’s fundamentally bad because the lack of social contact, the social isolation means that we don’t share information and values and outlook that we should.

Source: New York Times