Our Unpromising Kids, Red-Meat Revival, Etc.

It’d be nice to think the nation’s kids are being prepared suitably for adulthood. But it’s not what a majority of current adults think, as we learn from a new survey by The Barna Group. Adults were asked to judge how well kids under age 13 are being prepared for life in five respects: intellectually, physically, emotionally, spiritually and morally. The poll’s respondents were most upbeat about kids’ intellectual preparation. Even in this area, though, just 18 percent said the youngsters are being prepared “superbly” or “pretty well,” vs. 50 percent answering “not well enough” or “poorly.” As for “physically,” the negative votes exceeded the positive by 54 percent to 16 percent. Adults were gloomier still about whether kids are being prepared emotionally (62 percent negative, 12 percent positive) or spiritually (71 percent negative, 8 percent positive). The tally was worst of all on the question of whether kids are being prepared morally for life: 75 percent negative vs. 8 percent positive. There was scant difference in the opinions of respondents who have young children at home and those who don’t. Evidently the non-parents imagine the worst while the parents see it first-hand.

Men and women alike have done their part to push the average American weight upwards. But there’s a gender gap when one correlates weight gain with age, as we learn from a report issued last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Between 1960 and 2002, the average weight for men age 20-74 rose from 166.3 pounds to 191 pounds; for women, the average weight rose from 140.2 pounds to 164.3 pounds. So far, so similar. The difference is that the increase in men’s weight was steepest for the old guys, while the rise for women was most marked in the youngest age bracket. Men age 60-74 were 32.6 pounds heavier on average in 2002 than in 1960. By comparison, the increase was 27.7 pounds for the 50-59s, 26.9 pounds for the 40-49s, 19.2 pounds for the 30-39s and 19.5 pounds for the 20-29s. Among women, the average gains were 17.4 pounds for the 60-74s, 22.7 pounds for the 50-59s, 25.4 pounds for the 40-49s, 24.2 pounds for the 30-39s and 28.8 pounds for the 20-29s. It’s not that today’s old women are slimmer than today’s young women. (In the 2002 data, average weight was 164.7 for the 60-74 cohort and 156.5 for the 20-29s.) Rather, the report’s numbers reflect the fact that 20something women were slim in the past, averaging 127.7 pounds in 1960. Perhaps that’s why those days seem so distant.

If nothing else, you’d expect Americans to be united in saying the nation is divided. No such luck, though. In a Time magazine poll, registered voters were asked whether they think the country “has become more united or more divided during the past four years.” Forty-one percent answered “more united,” while 47 percent said “more divided.”

All direct mail is not created equal. A survey by Vertis asked adults to say which sorts of direct mail they read. Among those who read any at all, 73 percent said they read mailings from retail stores. Categories scoring less well were “entertainment, such as Blockbuster” (46 percent), book/music clubs (40 percent), financial services/credit cards (34 percent), automotive (34 percent), insurance (22 percent) and telecommunications (16 percent). Meanwhile, the findings offer some cheery news for our annual Lives of Quiet Desperation Index. In last year’s poll, 17 percent of respondents said they read all of the direct mail that’s available to them(!). This year, that number was a less alarming (though still alarming enough) 8 percent.

We may or may not have lost our yen for carbohydrates, but one legacy of the low-carb craze could be durable: Its relative permissiveness about fat (plus its encouragement of protein) has helped Americans regain their taste for red meat. Research by Mintel says the red-meat industry has posted an 18 percent rise in sales since 2002 and a 39 percent gain since 1999. Nearly one-fourth of adults said they’ve boosted their intake of meat and fish in recent years. Don’t put all of your 401(k) into cattle futures, though. Mintel predicts that rates of red-meat consumption won’t change much in the next few years. It does, however, foresee rising sales of organic meats (red or otherwise). Forty percent of those polled said they worry about hormones and additives in red meat and poultry.

Do teenagers get swept along by fads? They claim not to, at least when it comes to spending their money. In an online poll by Seventeen and CosmoGirl!, 86 percent of girls age 13-17 said they “do not buy something just because it is considered ‘hot’ “; 83 percent said they “do not buy brands just because they are popular.” Needless to say, we’re not obliged to believe the girls’ self-assessment, but it’s noteworthy that they regard themselves as indifferent to these forms of peer pressure.

It’s said America is a mobile society, and that’s true as far as it goes: i.e., not terribly far. While people do plenty of moving, many of them do it within a relatively small area. Polling by Opinion Research Corp., excerpted in the chart below, confirms this. As you can see, a majority of adults live within 50 miles of where they mainly grew up. The venturesome souls who live at least 500 miles from their childhood home are outnumbered by those who live within 10 miles of it. As you’d expect, people with a college degree are less likely to have stayed close to where they grew up. Even in this cohort, though, 43 percent said they live within 50 miles of the place where they spent the most time growing up.