Thursday, May 29, 2008

How Green Are We?

Are you kidding? Americans have a long way to go before they show the slightest hint of green. The first results from the federal government's Residential Energy Consumption Survey released a few weeks ago reveal how much energy households use--and waste. The survey, taken every five years, asks households about their heating and cooling practices, electronics ownership, and appliance use. The latest results are from the 2005 survey--admittedly a bit dated, but the U.S. housing stock is so massive that these numbers change slowly. Here is the bad news.

  • Only 16 percent of American households are not air-conditioned. Fifty-nine percent have central air conditioning, and another 26 percent have window or wall units.
  • Sixty-one percent of households with central air-conditioning run the system all summer.
  • Only 48 percent of homes with central air-conditioning have large trees that shade their house.

  • Twenty-four percent of homes have high ceilings, which require more energy to heat.
  • Only 19 percent of all homes use a programmable thermostat to reduce temperature settings at night.
  • Forty percent say their home is drafty in the winter.

  • Fifty-eight percent of households have a dishwasher, 79 percent have a clothes dryer, 83 percent have a clothes washer, and everyone has a refrigerator.
  • Twenty-two percent of homes have two or more refrigerators.

  • Virtually every household (99 percent) has at least one color television set. Seventy-eight percent have at least two sets, and 43 percent have three or more.
  • Half of households have their television turned on most or all of the time.

Ten All-American Traits

In the run-up to the November election, we are engaged--once again--in ritual self-analysis. Who are the American people? What do we believe? How will our national identity play out in the election?

For the answers, let's peer into the statistical mirror--the General Social Survey. The GSS has been reflecting the American identity for more than 30 years. The most recent results from the 2006 survey reveal the good, the bad, and the ugly of the American identity. Take a look.

1. We are tough. Among the world's nations, the United States ranks number one in prisoners per capita, yet

68 percent of Americans still think the courts
are not harsh enough on criminals.

And our toughness extends well beyond law enforcement.

72 percent agree that it is sometimes necessary
to discipline a child with a "good, hard spanking."

2. We want it both ways. Fully 63 percent of the public wants to cut the government's purse strings. Only 13 percent oppose spending cuts. But when asked what we should cut, our enthusiasm wanes. These are the percentages of Americans who want to cut spending by specific program area:

education: 4
health care: 6
retirement benefits: 7
law enforcement: 8
environment: 13
natural disasters: 14
military: 26
arts: 30

3. We are careless. Americans are forever thumping their chests with pride, and the one thing we boast about the most is our freedom. Yet the majority of Americans are willing to give up that freedom without much of a fight:

56 percent think the government probably or definitely
should have the right to jail people without a trial.

4. We are religious. Among the world's developed countries, the United States stands alone in its religiosity.

59 percent pray at least once a day.
Only 50 percent believe in evolution.

5. We are hard working. In fact, we are workaholics. This may explain why American workers have so little vacation time compared to their European counterparts and why we do not demand more time off:

70 percent would continue to work even if rich.

6. We are diverse. The Census Bureau continually tells us how diverse we are, but does it matter much anymore? GSS results suggest that the racial divide is not so big after all:

74 percent of blacks have trusted white friends.
52 percent of whites have trusted black friends.

54 percent of blacks have white family members.
20 percent of whites have black family members.

7. We are alienated. Americans do not have warm and fuzzy feelings toward public officials or their fellow citizens:

Only 35 percent say politicians are interested
in the problems of the average person.

Only 32 percent believe most people can be trusted.

80 percent believe others will take advantage of you
if you are not careful.

8. We are uptight. Americans have a well-deserved reputation for being prudish about sex:

Only 46 percent believe premarital sex is not wrong at all.
Only 32 percent believe homosexuality is not wrong at all.

But we are also practical:

89 percent support sex education in the public schools.
54 percent think teens should have access to birth control.

9. We like to stay put. Americans live in the third largest country in the world, but they restrict themselves to a very small portion of it.

38 percent still live in the same city they lived in at age 16.
62 percent live in the same state they lived in at age 16.

10. We still dream. Perhaps the single defining characteristic of Americans in both good times and bad is our steadfast belief in the American Dream:

69 percent say hard work, rather than luck or connections,
determines success.

70 percent say the United States gives people like them
the opportunity to improve their standard of living.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Census Bureau Eliminates Income Table

If you want to know how family income affects college enrollment, the Census Bureau no longer has the answers. The bureau eliminated table 14, showing the college enrollment status of 18-to-24-year-olds by family income, from its school enrollment tabulations.

Year after year, this table has tracked the disparities in college enrollment by family income. Now we just have to guess.

Source: Bureau of the Census, School Enrollment

Monday, May 19, 2008

Only 16 Percent Exercise

Here is the latest nugget from the American Time Use Survey: only 16 percent of Americans exercise on an average day.

The time use survey, which started in 2003, records the minute-by-minute activities of a representative sample of Americans on an average day. Now that the survey has collected four years worth of data, analysts at the Bureau of Labor Statistics are combining years and coming up with a large enough sample size to reliably examine activities in which few Americans engage. Unfortunately, exercise is one of those infrequent activities. Here are a few of the highlights from the Sports and Exercise study, which examines data from 2003 through 2006.

• Among the 25 activities included in the time use survey, walking is most popular among exercisers (30 percent), followed by weightlifting (13 percent), using cardiovascular equipment (13 percent), swimming (8 percent), and running (7 percent).

• Women account for 57 percent of walkers, 42 percent of runners.

• People under age 25 account for 7 percent of walkers and 31 percent of runners.

• More than half of those exercising (52 percent) did so alone.

Source: Spotlight on Statistics: Sports and Exercise