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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, January 3, 2010

A factual look at the American family in '09

By Doreen Nagle
Gannett News Service

Here are some of the latest facts and figures about who the American family was in 2009:

• A silver lining: Due to a poor economy, 52 percent of families say they are forming stronger bonds because they are spending more time together. One way families are doing that is by treating themselves to a night out for ice cream: Sales of the creamy cold stuff are up more than 20 percent over last year.

• The number of American households with a net worth of more than $1 million fell by 27 percent to 6.7 million from 9.2 million.

• The American family bought less in 2009: landfills report a drop in trash by as much as 30 percent over the year before. The Washington Post extrapolates that this means less items were purchased, thereby cutting the amount of packaging debris needed to be thrown away. Manufacturers are also cutting down on superfluous packaging.

• American 10th grade students do about half the amount of homework per week (10 hours) vs. peers in China (20 hours). China's literacy has soared to 90 percent while the U.S. literacy rate remains at 86 percent.

• More than 425 new U.S. charter schools opened in 2009; today more than 1.25 million children attend charter schools in the U.S.

• The National Institute of Medicine discovered that too many U.S. pregnant women are confused about how much weight to gain during their pregnancies, so new guidelines have been issued: women with a BMI of less than 18.5 should gain 28 to 40 pounds; women with a BMI of more than 25 should gain not more than 25 pounds.

• A study by Dr. John J. McGrath published in the New York Times has found that while children of older moms fare well on the intellect scale, children with biological fathers over 50 do not fare as well, suggesting there may be some "mutations" in the father's sperm.

• If you had a baby in 2009 (congratulations!) there's a good chance you named a boy Jacob and a girl Emma. These were the country's most popular baby names this past year.

• A new study by the University of Washington found that children who are exposed to a lot of television before the age of 2 miss out on interaction with adults, likely leading to delays in brain and language development.

• According to Consumer Reports, 39 percent of Americans admit to secretly eating raw cookie dough.

• A study between Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that girls who start menstruation by age 9 or 10 will probably be shorter and heavier than peers who do not develop menses until their teen years; those girls will probably be taller and thinner.

Doreen Nagle is author of "But I Don't Feel Too Old to Be a Mommy" (HCI).