Parking The Toddlers, Misjudging A Risk, Etc.

It keeps them off the streets, anyhow. A report by the Census Bureau (analyzing data collected in 2003) says some 5 million kids age 3 and 4 are in nursery school—roughly 60 percent of that age cohort. This represents a vast change since 1964, when just 6 percent of kids that age were in nursery school. The report also notes a rise in the proportion of 5-year-olds who attend all-day kindergarten—”from 1-in-5 in 1973 to more than 3-in-5 in 2003.” In short, little kids are now in the hands of the professionals much more than was the case in the fairly recent past—which, other things being equal, ought to mean that stay-at-home mothers of small kids now have more free time than they once did. (But I’m not saying they have enough, so don’t hurt me!) Whether these changes will yield a generation of sterling adults remains to be seen.

It’s not quite a groundswell of amity, but Americans are less anti-French than they were last fall. In a Rasmussen Reports poll of adults, 24 percent said they have a favorable opinion of France, while 42 percent said they have an unfavorable view. In a similar poll fielded last November, an outright majority of respondents (57 percent) took a dim view of France. In another part of the current poll, 25 percent said they regard France as an ally of the U.S., while 13 percent said they view it as an enemy. That latter number represents an improvement over last November’s poll, when 31 percent said France is an enemy.

People wouldn’t watch some TV shows if you paid them. As a new report from The NPD Group makes clear, though, consumers will gladly pay to watch old programs they especially like. DVDs of television shows “have become an important revenue category for studios and retailers alike,” says the report. Unit sales rose 24 percent in the six months ending in March 2005, vs. the same period a year earlier. TV-on-DVD is also emerging as a popular gift category: During the past six months, one-third of units purchased were bought to be given as gifts.

No wonder consumers must contend with mail from a dozen different financial institutions. They no longer deal with just the local bank for their money matters. The chart below, drawing on a survey by Vertis, gives an indication of how few people rely on a single institution for all their major financial-service needs. While deregulation has made one-stop shopping more possible, apparently the proliferation of choices for consumers has made it less attractive. Indeed, 37 percent of all respondents said they have no other financial products at the institution that houses their primary checking account.

Is breast-cancer awareness a threat to women’s health? It’s a good thing, clearly, that women are alert to the peril this cancer poses. But if people have a finite amount of attention to give to matters of personal health, one might argue that breast cancer claims an undue share—leaving women less attentive (and, hence, more vulnerable) to other diseases. A study by University of Michigan Health System researchers finds that women greatly overestimate the actual incidence of breast cancer. And well they might, as it has become a favorite cause of marketers and women’s magazines. “When asked to estimate the lifetime risk of breast cancer, 89 percent of women overestimated their risk,” says the university’s summary of the findings. On average, the respondents guessed that 46 percent of women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives, “more than three times the actual risk of 13 percent.” Meanwhile, some other research in recent years has found a tendency among women (and even among their doctors) to pay insufficient attention to female heart disease.

Why do fancy beers eschew twist-off caps? A Colorado-based microbrew divulges the answer to this perplexing question: It’s a way to build character—or, as a new ad for Breckenridge Brewery’s Trademark Pale Ale puts it, “In keeping with the spirit that hard work is the price of success, the cap doesn’t twist off.” A line of the ad’s copy boasts that this beer is “worth carrying a church key for.” As some drinkers will know, “church key” is an old slang phrase for bottle openers and (in the years before pop-tops) beer-can openers. It refers to the resemblance such tools have to the oversized keys used to open church doors. A British Web site that deals with idiomatic speech ( more ingeniously links the phrase to brewing’s clerical past. “In medieval Europe, monks and nobility were the only brewers. Lagering cellars in monasteries were locked, as the monks guarded the secrets of their craft. The monks carried keys to these lagering cellars on their cinch, or belts. It was this key from which the ‘church key’ opener gets its name.” So now you know. Cultivator Advertising & Design of Denver created the ad.

The ranks of ex-smokers continue to grow. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says ex-smokers outnumbered current smokers (46 million to 45 million) in 2003, for the second straight year. This is good news for smokers who quit, and bad news for the tobacco companies. But it’s ambiguous news for the anti-tobacco cause. While it’s certainly not easy to kick the tobacco habit, the proliferation of ex-smokers makes it difficult to sustain the claim that you embark on a lifelong addiction when you take your first puff. Too many people can testify now to the contrary.