Capturing America, Fact by Fact
- By SAM ROBERTS - The New York Times - December 19, 2012
College graduates have less leisure time than high school dropouts. More people are injured on toilets than by skiing or snowboarding. More households have dogs as pets than cats, but cat lovers are more likely to have multiple pets. And more foreigners visited New York (9.3 million) than any other American city (Los Angeles was a distant second with 3.7 million).
Those facts are among the thousands gleaned from the 2013 edition of the Statistical Abstract of the United States, a compendium of figures that itself may go into the record books after being published by the government since 1878.
The latest version, to be released Thursday online by ProQuest and in print by Bernan Publishing, is the first to be made available privately since the Census Bureau ceased publication with the 2012 edition to save money.
“One of the things people value is the continuity,” said Daniel Coyle, manager of ProQuest Statistical Products. He said that the abstract included 1,420 tables, 14 more than last year, and that only three private sources declined to cooperate. The latest abstract will be updated monthly and will be searchable more specifically than previous versions.
“As data gets bigger and data sites proliferate, we believe that the value of high-level aggregations like the statistical abstract increases rather than diminishes,” he said.
Susan Bokern, the company’s vice president for information solutions, said the price would range from several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the size of the institution subscribing.
The annual portrait by numbers reveals sharp contrasts within any given year (most of the latest figures are for 2010 or 2011) as well as a moving picture of how the nation has been changing.
More than 41 percent of births were to unwed mothers, for instance, compared with 33 percent a decade earlier. Student loan debt in households headed by a college graduate soared to $36,809 from $12,373 three decades earlier. Since 1982, the number of federal civilian employees rose by 160,000 while the number of state and local government workers swelled by 6.6 million.
Traffic congestion wasted more time for drivers in Los Angeles than in any other city. Americans are also eating more peanuts and drinking less coffee. The number of federal prison inmates hit a record of nearly 210,000. Utah recorded the highest share of residents with Internet access at home (82 percent) and Missouri the lowest (57 percent).
Fully 27 percent of households had wireless telephone service only. Airport security agents seized 11,908 box cutters from prospective passengers in 2007. About 30 percent of the nation’s veterans served only during peacetime. Hispanic Americans make up a disproportionate share of carwash workers, as do Asian employees of nail salons and blacks in security services.
Liquor stores outnumber bookstores by three to one (the average household spent $100 annually on reading materials and $2,504 on other forms of entertainment). More Americans belong to a fantasy sports league (10.6 million) than to book clubs (5.7 million). Book club members are outnumbered by avid bird-watchers (5.8 million).