NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Portrait Of An American Century

December 8, 2000

Ben Wattenberg, the American Enterprise Institute scholar and demographer, has completed a 10-year project to create a statistical picture of the U.S. from 1900 to 2000. He is presenting the data in a book and TV documentary, both titled "The First Measured Century." The documentary will be broadcast on PBS channels on December 20.

Television producers usually shun statistics because they believe numbers put viewers to sleep. But those who have seen the production say that it does the very opposite and is quite fascinating.

Here are some nuggets:

  • Over the century, life expectancy for American white males rose 26 years -- 29 years for white females.
  • Fifty-two percent of Americans now live in suburbs, compared to just 12 percent in 1910.
  • Six percent of married women worked outside the home in 1900, versus 61 percent today.
  • Extramarital sex is down by half since 1940 -- but premarital sex among young women is up from 6 percent in 1900 to 74 percent now.

Sociologists Louis Hicks and Theodore Caplow collaborated with Wattenberg on the projects.

Source: Larry Witham, "Statistics Create a Picture of an Era," Washington Times, December 8, 2000.


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