Much-Improved Home, Organic Growth, Etc.

Were Americans’ homes an ungodly mess a few years ago? So one might infer from the immense amount of home improvement people have undertaken in recent times. A new study by Scarborough Research finds that 65 percent of homeowners invested in some sort of home-improvement project during the past 12 months, up 18 percent from a 2001 survey. The main focus these days is the interior of the house, with painting/wallpapering the most popular type of work. “Thirty-five percent of homeowners cite this as an enhancement they have made during the past year.” The poll also notes sharp rises in kitchen remodeling, bathroom remodeling and carpeting/floor-covering. And, as we learn from a survey commissioned by Ace Hardware, people are doing much of the work themselves. Homeowners now have an average of eight do-it-yourself tasks on their to-do lists, up from five items in 2002, says the Ace study. “Projects that top these lists most frequently involve painting, lawn and garden, and remodeling work.” What leads people to paint a room? For 51 percent, it’s a desire to “change the look and feel” of the room. Twenty-five percent said they paint when the the walls have gotten dingy; 14 percent said they do it “to keep up with the latest decorating trends.” When asked which room of the house was painted most recently, 22 percent of respondents cited the bedroom, with the living room (14 percent), kitchen (13 percent) and bathroom (12 percent) closely bunched in the standings. As you can see from the chart, money is a leading factor in the do-it-yourself boom, but the sense of personal satisfaction is also a key element. In fact, 68 percent of respondents said they’d do such work themselves “even if they didn’t save money.”

Organic food continues to migrate from America’s dietary fringe and into the mainstream. A report by ACNielsen says U.S. sales of organic foods were up 14.4 percent in the four-week period ending March 19, vs. the same period of 2004. Also on the upswing were no-sugar/low-sugar foods (11.3 percent) and whole-grain foods (7 percent). Despite much attention to the rising incidence of high blood pressure, sales of no-sodium/low-sodium foods have been basically flat. The report adds to the pile of evidence indicating that America’s anti-carb mania has peaked. For the week ending March 19, sales of what Nielsen classifies as “Carb Conscious” foods declined 2.5 percent, compared to the same period last year. “It was the first one-week sales loss for the segment since ACNielsen began tracking Carb Conscious products in 2000.” You can’t keep a good nutrient down!

Surely a savvy underwear company can capitalize on an odd fact gleaned by a survey of North American men who own and use a barbecue grill at least once a month: Among those age 21-34, 48.5 percent confessed that they’ve “gone outside in just their underwear to check on the grill”—presumably while something was cooking on it. Among other tidbits from the survey, commissioned by Blue Rhino (which provides propane tanks) and conducted by the Quixote Group: While 69.5 percent of “Grilling Men” will share the grill with a spouse or girlfriend, just 49 percent will share it with a man. And 35 percent regard the grill “as the one thing they can call their own.” One further indication of the Grilling Man mind: 29 percent have an expired license plate “lurking” somewhere in the garage.

Here’s a curious instance of religious discrimination. A study by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute quizzed college freshmen nationwide about their religious and spiritual attitudes. Among respondents with “high levels of religious engagement,” three-quarters said they never drink beer. But somewhat fewer (66 percent) never drink wine or liquor. Perhaps brewers suffer from the fact that beer lacks a well-known history as a sacramental beverage. In any case, religious students aren’t the only teetotalers on campus. Even among respondents with low levels of religious engagement, 44 percent said they never drink beer and 39 percent said they abstain from wine and liquor.

Yankee fans must be so morose now (in light of their team’s dismal start this season) that they wouldn’t give chase to someone clad in a Red Sox shirt as he jogs in the environs of Yankee Stadium. Still, sports fans will enjoy the allusion to such a pursuit, courtesy of an energy drink called Go Fast. TDA Advertising & Design of Boulder, Colo., created the ad.

Received wisdom says obesity is mainly an affliction of the poor. But received wisdom has been overtaken by events, according to a new study summarized on the HealthScout Web site. Researchers led by a University of Iowa professor found that the incidence of obesity among people with household income of $60,000 and up rose from 9.7 percent in 1971-74 to 26.8 percent in 2001-02. Among those with household income of $25,000 or less, the rate rose from 22.5 percent in the early 1970s to 32.5 percent in 2001-02. Thus, while obesity is still more common among lower-income Americans, the relative rates of increase mean their upper-income compatriots are on course to catch up before long. Who would have thought fat could become a force for social solidarity?

They don’t hope their kids grow up to be ad executives? Actually, that wasn’t one of the choices in a Gallup poll that asked adults to say what sort of career they would recommend to a young person. “Doctor” was the top choice, with 17 percent saying they’d recommend that profession to a young man and 20 percent saying they’d commend it to a young woman. The other fields most often recommended for young men were “computers” (11 percent), “trades/industrial/blue collar” (8 percent), “business/self-employed/ sales” (8 percent) and “technology/electronics” (8 percent). The other career fields most often recommended for young women were “nursing” (13 percent), “teaching” (9 percent), “computers” (8 percent) and “business/self-employed/sales” (6 percent). One historical footnote: In a survey Gallup conducted on the same topic in 1950, respondents were twice as likely to recommend that young women become airline stewardesses (4 percent) as they were to recommend that the women become doctors (2 percent).

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