10 Unusual Statistics About Life in Modern America

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You’ve all heard the quote about lies, damned lies and statistics. We’re not making any sweeping judgements based on the following stats, but it is mighty interesting to see just how much the United States has evolved over the decades.

10. Over 145 Million Americans are Poor

BESTPIX Homelessness Reaches All-Time Record In New York City

Based on 2011 estimates, nearly half of the American population is currently either considered to be low income or simply living in poverty. If you have $10 in your pocket right now and no debts, you’re wealthier than 78 million Americans.

In 1950, only two in 10 men in the United States were without jobs. It’s since gone up to about four in 10 men. Two out of 10 adults work at jobs that pay poverty level wages, and more than five in 10 Americans can’t afford the house that they’re living in right now. One in four kids live on food stamps. About 25 million adult Americans live with their parents, and some other 20 million live in mobile homes.

We’re not talking about poorly educated Americans only. There are 320,000 restaurant servers, 115,000 janitors, and 80,000 bartenders with Bachelor degrees. And over 33,000 PhD graduates are receiving public aid.

9. 32 Million American Adults Can’t Read this Line

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An April 2013 study by the US Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy revealed that 32 million adults in the United States can’t read. That’s about three Americans in any room of 20. It’s a figure that hasn’t changed much since the 1980s.

This means you can’t read the hazard warnings on a bottle of pesticide. You can’t write your sweetheart a love letter, an email or even a text message. You can’t use the Internet or social media. You can’t read street signs, and if you got lost you can’t use a map. You find yourself living in a society that runs on facts and figures and unable to participate.

Most problems in the United States directly correlate with illiteracy levels. More than six in 10 prison inmates, and nearly nine in 10 juveniles who show up in the courts, can’t read. Interestingly, there are actually more public libraries in the US than McDonald’s. But then there are also more prisons in US than degree granting colleges. Speaking of literacy, 27% of US Army enlistees can’t read training manuals written at the seventh grade level.

8. Religious Beliefs Are Eroding

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The 21st Century seems to be ushering in the fall of religion in the USA. Studies from Berkeley and Duke University, as well as a Pew Research survey, reveal that more and more people are leaving religion behind. In 1972, about five in 100 people said they had no religion. In 1990 that number was up to eight in 100. And then the numbers start rising a lot faster — in 2010 it was 18 in 100, and in 2010 it became 20. Surprisingly, half of those born in non-religious homes eventually turned religious, although that’s just four in 100. But many more people are leaving religion alone. Men tend to hold the lead in having the No Religion status, as for every three non-religious men you have two non-religious women.

New England — Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont – was founded by devout Puritans. Today, these same states now hold some of the largest non-religious populations in the USA.

7. Apple Is Making More Than the US Government

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Apple has twice as much money as the US Government, and Microsoft is also wealthier than Uncle Sam. It helps that some of America’s big corporations know their way around Uncle Sam’s laws — in 2010, General Electric made over $14 billion in profits but paid no taxes in the US.

As for what the US is raking in, America held the world’s number one GDP per capita in the 1950s, but now ranks 13th. The 2011 fiscal year saw the US trade deficit with China at more than 49,000 times what it was in 1985!

6. America’s Food Craze

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Mozzarella and soda. On average, an American drinks about 600 sodas a year. While soda guzzling managed to fall by nearly 25% between 1998 and 2013, mozzarella consumption in 2013 had tripled the 1970s volume!

Americans consume about 100 pounds of chocolate every second. 100 acres of pizza are consumed daily. Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages in the US, but only Hawaii farms coffee in the US on a commercial scale. Another surprise came with the discovery that there are more cows in Montana than humans, at a three to one ratio. Little wonder that 50 billion hamburgers are sold every year in the US alone. As for those chicken nuggets and all that chicken noodle soup? Eight billion chickens lose their lives in the US yearly.

An average supermarket in the US wastes about 3000 pounds of food per year. The government is taking notice, as it’s now a crime to waste food in Seattle. While that law might sound absurd, it’s helpful when you consider the fact that a binge-eating and food-wasting lifestyle isn’t sustainable.

5. Changes in How Americans Die

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Back in 1900, the biggest cause of death was pneumonia and influenza. Heart disease now leads the gang of killers, followed by cancer. Smoking still causes one in every five deaths in the US, and medical errors are the sixth leading cause. Car crashes are big too, and every hour at least one person is killed by a drunk driver in the US. However, that number is trending down, with a 36% decline since 1991.

Suicide, meanwhile, is up, making the list of the 10 largest causes of death in the country. In the US you’re twice as likely to commit suicide than be murdered. In 2010 alone almost 40,000 persons killed themselves. That’s more than the entire population of Liechtenstein. More US soldiers committed suicide than died in combat in 2012, and one in 25 American teenagers has attempted suicide.

Something to celebrate, however, is America’s increased life expectancy. It was 55 years in 1900, and is now nearly 80. The United States is still far behind other countries though, ranking 42 in the world. Number one? Monaco.

4. Washington D.C.’s Educational Paradox

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Washington D.C. posts the lowest high school graduation rates in the United States, yet also ranks as one of the cities with the highest literacy levels. In 2011, D.C. spent the most money of any school system per pupil, approximately $18,600. However, the city produced the worst results of any system. SAT reading scores have never been as low since the 1970s, and four out of 10 pupils don’t graduate.

On the other hand, D.C. has been one of America’s most literate cities for about a decade now, ranking just behind Minneapolis and Seattle. This means that D.C. has better used libraries, more people read online newspapers, and there’s a greater use of bookstores. D.C. is actually home to the most circulated magazine in the country.

3. 5000 Hours Of TV Time Before Kindergarten

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5000 hours is more than enough time to earn a college degree. It’s also the estimated amount of time a five year old spends in front of the TV. How does this reflect on American adults? Well, there are more televisions in the United States than people in the United Kingdom. More Americans are killed by falling televisions than by terrorists, although that probably speaks more to an exaggerated threat of terrorism than a constant threat of plummeting TVs.

2. Sick America

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7% of Americans claim they never bathe. Based on 2014 population estimates, that’s some 22 million Americans! Then you have medical reports saying that the lifetime risk of developing cancer as an adult is 40.4%, and one in three Americans are obese. The United States ranks number one for mental disorder diagnosis worldwide, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there are 19 million new cases of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia in the country every year. Finally, and in spite of the high mortality numbers associated with smoking, 4000 teens smoke their first cigarette every day, while 1000 of them go on to make smoking a daily habit.

1. A Nation of Singles

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It costs about $245,000 to raise a child in the US. This cost might be partly responsible for the new dynamics in the marital lives of American residents, as there’s been a 26% drop in married 20 to 34 year-olds from 1940 to 2010. In short, a lot more people prefer to remain unmarried. During that same 50 year period there was a 28% increase in 20 to 34 year-olds who’ve never been married.

There are 45 major cities that are above the 50% mark of unmarried adults. That number keeps increasing, with the divorce rate at 100 divorces every hour. More children are born out of wedlock these days as well — four in every 10 births come from unmarried women. The US teen pregnancy rate is at 22%, the highest in the world. Shotgun weddings are presumably way down.

Nicholas Godwin is a research-driven freelance writer and web content professional. You can visit his website here, and you may also follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Want to read about more strange statistics?
We’ve looked at some odd facts about American cities, and we’ve also complied a list of 10 weird ways women are statistically superior to men.

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