In Favor Of Children, Down On Agencies, Etc.

For reasons best know to themselves, Americans continue to believe that children are a good idea. A new Gallup poll asked adults to pick “the ideal number of children for a family to have.” Just 1 percent had the nerve to say the ideal is zero. But nearly as few (3 percent) said one child is ideal. Twelve percent said four or more is best; 26 percent opted for three. Nearly half the respondents (49 percent) said two kids is the ideal. The average answer was 2.6—the same as in 1977’s Gallup poll on the topic. For all the supposed flux in attitudes on domesticity, “Americans’ notion of the ideal number of children for a family to have has been quite stable over the past quarter century.” Will people produce enough offspring to fulfill their ideal? Not if history is any indication. Apart from the years when baby boomers were babies, the ideal cited by survey respondents has exceeded the actual fertility rate (now 2.1 kids per woman). Gallup does note one intriguing wrinkle in the new poll: Respondents in the prime child-bearing years of 18-29 were far more likely than their elders to say three or more kids is the ideal. Time will tell whether these young adults are more talk than reproductive action.

Let’s say advertisers get the crazy idea that they should stop ignoring consumers who are over age 50. They might wish to learn more about the employment patterns of that cohort. An AARP report, analyzing federal data that runs through 2002, finds rates of self-employment are “consistently higher among older workers compared with the workforce as a whole.” In all, 16.4 percent of workers 50-plus were self-employed in 2002, vs. 10.2 percent of the total workforce. In the 51-58 age range, about 14 percent of women and 22 percent of men were self-employed. While 50-and-ups composed 25 percent of the workforce, they accounted for 40 percent of the self-employed. Many have been self-employed for much or all of their working lives, but 32 percent assumed that status at 50 or older. Those who’ve made this transition (especially men) display an above-average incidence of “work-limiting” health conditions, which suggests the flexibility of self-employment lets them work around their physical limitations.

What’s death and destruction when gas prices are at stake? In a poll fielded early this month for the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, adults were asked how closely they’ve followed various news stories. Just 29 percent had “very closely” followed coverage of the 9/11 commission’s hearings; 36 percent had paid such attention to the recent attacks in Falluja and elsewhere in Iraq. But an outright majority—58 percent— had very closely followed news of gasoline prices.

Agency people may know plenty about their own business. But do they know enough about their clients’ business? Not according to senior-level client people. In a survey by Citigate and GfK Custom Research, “C-suite” executives were asked to judge the agencies that handle their advertising, public relations and marketing services. The biggest gripe (voiced by 42 percent of respondents) was that the agencies “fail to demonstrate an understanding of their business.” Nearly as many (36 percent) said the agencies make them feel “like just another number,” without giving them enough attention. Other common complaints: agencies are too expensive (33 percent), lack creativity (32 percent) and don’t provide the right staff (25 percent).

The term “immigrant” evokes a picture of teeming multitudes on city streets. It’s a sign of how suburbanized the country has become that this image is now out of date. It’s true that most immigrants (94 percent) reside in metropolitan areas, according to data cited in a new report by The Brookings Institution. But a narrow majority of these metro-area immigrants live in the suburbs, not the cities. “The suburbs gained 1 million more immigrant residents than the cities in the 1990s, and by 2000, more than 3 million more immigrants lived in suburban areas than in cities,” says the report. Brookings notes that immigrants increasingly come into the U.S. via “gateway” metro areas that are less urban than older entry points like New York and Chicago. “Contemporary data, in this regard, suggest that many immigrants are moving directly to the suburbs. The classic pattern of city to suburban migration no longer predominates.” Metro areas that had few immigrants as recently as 1980 now have many in their suburbs. Atlanta is a prominent example. In 1980, immigrants accounted for 2.3 percent of the population in the metro area as a whole. As of the 2000 Census, the figure had risen to 10.3 percent. And for the metro area’s suburbs, it had climbed from 2.3 percent in 1980 to 10.7 percent by 2000.

Here’s a reason to have a dog instead of a child. A report by The NPD Group says parents of kids ages 13-17 spend an average of $24 per week on items for them. The teens spend $24 per week of “their own money” on themselves. Of course, “their own money” consists largely of cash given to them by their indulgent parents, since 48 percent of the teens report getting an allowance. Thus, many parents are actually forking out close to $50 per week to buy stuff for their teen offspring.

Healthcare is someone else’s crisis. Ask about the state of health insurance and healthcare in the U.S., and Americans routinely say it’s dreadful. Ask about their own coverage, though, and they’re mainly cheery. A new Harris Poll finds a majority of insured adults well-satisfied with their coverage, while few are highly displeased. The figures get a positive skew from one crucial fact: Most people aren’t deathly ill, and many make little demand on their health plan in a given year. The poll detects a latent wariness when it asks people whether they’d recommend their health plan to a friend or relative. Eighteen percent said they wouldn’t recommend it to someone who is “basically healthy.” But 24 percent wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or relative “who has a serious or chronic illness.”

What grade would you give your health plan?
among insured adults

A 28%
B 39%
C 18%
D 8%
F 2%
Don’t Know 4%