High-Fidelity Spouses, OK With Unreality, Etc.

Despite the enshrinement of desperate housewives as pop-culture icons, a new report indicates that sexual fidelity remains the norm among married women and men. Analyzing survey data collected in 2002 on Americans age 15-44, the National Center for Health Statistics found that 93.4 percent of married women had just one sexual partner in the 12 months before being questioned. For married men, the figure was 91.6 percent. A mere 2.0 percent of married women and 2.5 percent of married men reported having three or more sexual partners during that period. Another part of the report confirmed the supposition that people in their early 20s are sowers of wild oats. Among men age 20-24, 33.3 percent reported having at least two sexual partners (of either sex) in the past 12 months; among women in this age group, 25.9 reported at least two sexual partners in the same period.

If plenty of recent homebuyers feel overextended, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to them. According to a new Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive Personal Finance Poll, 19 percent of those who bought a home as a primary residence in the past three years went over the price range they’d set for themselves. They may envy the fiscal discipline of the 12 percent of recent buyers who bought a house that was below the price range they’d planned on. Buyers in the West were especially likely to have exceeded their anticipated range, with 29 percent having done so. Eight percent of buyers in the Northeast did so, as did 12 percent in the Midwest and 22 percent in the South.

Displeased with the health coverage your employer offers? Here’s a solution of sorts: You could shift to a company that doesn’t provide any coverage at all. And you wouldn’t have trouble finding one. A new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust documents a steady rise in the number of companies that don’t provide their workers with health coverage. Sixty percent now offer it, down from 66 percent in 2003 and 69 percent in 2000. “The drop stems almost entirely from fewer small businesses offering health benefits, as nearly all businesses (98 percent) with 200 or more workers offer such benefits.” The underlying problem, of course, is that the cost of coverage keeps rising. Premiums rose by an average of 9.2 percent this year, putting the annual price tag for family coverage at $10,880. “The average worker paid $2,713 toward premiums for family coverage in 2005, or 26 percent of the total health premium.” As you can infer from the chart at lower left, the rising costs prompt lots of employers to shop around often for new plans and new insurance carriers. We can surmise that the resulting churn adds its own upward pressure on the costs insurers face—and, as such, on the rates they charge their clients.

There once was a union maid, but that was quite a while ago. As if the fissuring of the AFL-CIO weren’t enough bad news for organized labor, polling by Zogby International finds a majority of workers averse to unionization of their own workplaces. Among those who aren’t currently unionized, 56 percent said they’d vote against a union where they work, including 38 percent who said they’d definitely vote this way. Sixteen percent said they’d definitely vote in favor of unionizing. (The poll was commissioned by the Public Service Research Foundation, an organization that looks askance at the influence of public-sector unions.) While the South is generally regarded as union-hostile territory, the poll found larger anti-unionization majorities in the East (61 percent) and Central/Great Lakes region (60 percent, vs. 50 percent in the South). Men were more likely than women to say they’d vote against a union (61 percent vs. 50 percent); marrieds were more likely than singles to say so (61 percent vs. 51 percent).

Whatever else college-bound kids do in high school, many don’t study enough. So we infer, anyhow, from a poll of college and university faculty by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute. Just 36 percent said “most” undergrads are well-prepared academically; 41 percent think most of their students “lack the basic skills for college-level work.”

Car-dealer advertising is nothing if not enthusiastic. Alas, the enthusiasm is not always matched by strict fidelity to fact, which means dealer commercials can pump out a remarkable amount of misinformation in 30 seconds. Tony Divino Toyota, a Salt Lake City dealership that makes candor its unique selling proposition, takes aim at the competition with a parody of the category’s advertising. A supposed sale is recast as a “scamabration” in which customers are lured in by low prices that prove to be non-existent once they try to buy a car. A nice neologism, eh? Richter7 of Salt Lake City created the campaign.

Critics harp on the all-too-obvious fact that reality TV isn’t realistic. Viewers don’t think it’s realistic, either, but lots of them don’t care. In an Ipsos Public Affairs poll of adults, just 2 percent said reality shows are “as true as real life,” with 14 percent saying they’re “mostly true, but they take some liberties.” A sterner 57 percent said the programs “show some truth but are mostly distorted,” and 25 percent said they’re “totally made up.” When asked how much it matters whether such shows are truthful, a plurality of respondents (44 percent) said “not at all”; 30 percent said “a lot” and 24 percent said “a little.”