Eccentric. Arcane. Kooky, even. It’s the 2010 Census.
The big count takes place every ten years.
It’s a snapshot of us at a point in time, and when we compare it to the baby pictures of past census-taking, it says a lot about where we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re heading.
Since the census is only held once each decade, it leaves us with plenty of time to sift through the data; and there’s tons of the stuff. Naturally, it’s full of demographics: it tells us who lives where and how they voted. We know how wealthy the neighbors are and what the kids are majoring in at college. We can see who’s getting married, having babies, and moving to the suburbs; who needs public assistance; and where the hot retirement communities are located (Sarasota, Florida; Fort Collins, Colorado).
The census is also full of curiously chosen data: we can see that people in their 20’s vastly prefer bowling to bicycling; white and black adults attend jazz concerts at nearly the same rates; more men get a good night’s sleep than women; and in the decade since the last census, what we lost in bookstores we gained in pharmacies (500).
The census data contain plenty of fascinating, food-related factoids:
We’re eating less red meat (but drinking more red wine), less fruit (down by 36 pounds per person since the 2000 census), and fewer vegetables (down by 33 pounds), and most of the vegetables we do eat are canned, frozen, pickled, or otherwise processed.
We’re eating way more cheese and yogurt; we’re drinking less milk, but are six times more likely to demand that it be organic.
We’re drinking twice as much alcohol as we did back in 1990, and for the first time, it’s most likely a woman serving us our alcoholic beverages.
Texas has the most farms; Alaska and Rhode Island the fewest. We’ve added more than 3 million acres of organic farmland since the 2000 census— but also 244% more genetically engineered varieties of corn, and 72% more soybeans.
The honeybees really are disappearing—they were counted too.
And yes, there are five states—Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, and South Dakota— that have more pigs than people.
It’s like a family photo album crossed with the Guinness Book of Records. The Statistical Abstract of the United States, published annually since 1878, takes piles of government data from the Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bureau of Economic Analysis, and other federal agencies. The numbers are crunched to give an authoritative and comprehensive summary of social, political, and economic status. You can download earlier editions (dating back to 1878) from the Census Bureau’s website, or order your own copy of the current edition (it’s the government’s perennial top-seller) from the U.S. Government Bookstore.