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January 7, 2009

Dude, Where's My Town?

With the holiday gift-giving season behind us, there are a lot of new World Almanacs floating around out there. For the most part, feedback on the 2009 edition has been positive -- especially from those readers who have begged us for years to hold the book open for U.S. election results, World Series stats and summaries, and expanded coverage of the year's news events.

Of course, you can't please everyone: a few die-hard, long-time readers of the World Almanac are up in arms over the disappearance of the chapter on "Places of 5,000 or More Population." It's not a printing error, and it's not an editorial oversight: we made a conscious (and difficult) decision to remove that chapter from the 2009 World Almanac. Even if you don't particularly miss that chapter, the factors driving our decision may still give you some insight into how the book comes together and changes each year:

The Elephant (and Donkey) In the Room: We knew at the start of 2008 that it would be an historic election year -- the first in more than 50 years without a sitting president or vice-president in the race; the largest slate of "Super Tuesday" primary states in history; and to many observers, strong odds that we could end the year with either the first woman or first African American elected to the presidency. We also knew that long-time World Almanac readers wouldn't tolerate a 2009 edition that came up short in election coverage, so we blocked out room for summaries of the campaign; candidate biographies; detailed preliminary results for presidential, congressional, and gubernatorial races; and information on key ballot initiatives across the country. The grand total? Approximately 40 pages. Total length of the "5,000 or more" chapter? 34 pages -- one of the longest chapters, and the largest single data set in the book, and thus the best candidate for elimination, since one deletion could give us almost all the room we needed for election coverage.

Death by a Thousand Cuts: So why single out that chapter, when we have more than 1,000 pages and dozens of chapters to choose from? If we had to open up a few dozen pages, why couldn't we use (to borrow some campaign lingo) a scalpel instead of a hatchet? In short, the "scalpel" approach isn't quite as clean as it sounds. We can't make room by cutting a few lines from World History, and a half-page from Sports, and a handful of entries from Tall Buildings, without throwing the book's layout and pagination into disarray; individual chapters have to grow or shrink in full-page increments. And within any individual chapter, it's a tall order to identify full pages that could be deleted as they stand -- and even harder to free up a full page by making minor cuts to many different parts of that chapter. We use both techniques on a limited basis each year: close observers may note that several pages of sun and moonrise data were cut from Astronomy a few editions ago, or that selected tables in Aerospace and other statistical chapters have been condensed to fit in less space. But when we need to free up 40 pages in a single edition, those piecemeal deletions simply won't do the trick.

Free and (Slightly Less) Easy: Another reason to remove the "5,000 or more" chapter this year: 20 years ago, or even ten years ago, the presence of this information in the World Almanac represented a substantial service to most readers. Detailed information about local populations, area codes, and zip codes was harder to come by, even for the smaller percentage of U.S. residents who had internet access in those decades. And while some people persist in thinking of our book as an alternative to the Internet, we believe that the future of the World Almanac hinges on our ability to serve as a valuable companion to the Internet, and to the vast majority of people in the U.S. who have regular Internet access at home, work, or school. This means occasionally cutting long-standing content that can now be found online freely and easily, and in a more useful form than we could possibly provide. In this case, you can now find detailed information about even the smallest U.S. cities from dozens of independent websites, if not the official sites of the towns themselves... and free, comprehensive, and authoritative information about each element of our chapter is available from the Census Bureau (population), the U.S. Postal Service (ZIP codes), and the North American Numbering Plan Administration (Area codes).

No doubt this is small consolation to the few souls for whom that chapter remains a valuable and vital resource. If the outcry is strong enough, we can certainly restore it to the 2010 World Almanac, but in the meantime, we have to be content with the fact that we've made the news, politics, and sports junkies a little bit happier with this edition... and we invite all our readers to let us know what parts of the World Almanac are most valuable to them, and what parts they wouldn't miss in future editions.

Photo: Nolly (Creative Commons, some rights reserved)

May 16, 2008

Top Baby Names of 2007

0805Baby.jpg

The Social Security Administration released its list of most popular baby names for 2007 earlier this week. Jacob and Emily remained the top choices for boys and girls. Michael stayed the second most popular boy's name, while Isabella overtook Emma at the number two position for girls.
You can find the Top 10 First Names of Americans by Decade of Birth in The World Almanac 2008 on page 726.

Boys Top 10 2007: Jacob, Michael, Ethan, Joshua, Daniel, Christopher, Anthony, William, Matthew, Andrew

Boys Top 10 2006: Jacob, Michael, Joshua, Ethan, Matthew, Daniel, Christopher, Andrew, Anthony, William

Girls Top 10 2007: Emily, Isabella, Emma, Ava, Madison, Sophia, Olivia, Abigail, Hannah, Elizabeth

Girls Top 10 2006: Emily, Emma, Madison, Isabella, Ava, Abigail, Olivia, Hannah, Sophia, Samantha


Popular Baby Names [Social Security Administration]

CuTe BaBy from the Flickr page of 44444 U.A.E.

October 23, 2007

"A Patchwork of Jurisdictions and Rights"

The Territory of the United States...is the best way to describe the "territory" of the United States, according to mapmaker Bill Rankin, proprietor of the marvelous Radical Cartography.
As the subtitle suggests, what I think emerges isn't a unified system of territoriality, but a hodgepodge of different attitudes toward the land and its inhabitants. Different areas under U.S. control have very different relationships to government, both in terms of democratic representation and in terms of land control. (I also show all the areas of the world -- land and water -- that are, or were, influenced by the U.S. government using equal-area projections.)
This is a unique and fascinating way of visualizing a lot of different information, from the big North American territorial acquisitions of the 19th century to modern-day military installations around the world. My only complaint? There's no option to purchase a big, glossy, full-size printout to hang on the wall at World Almanac HQ. Kinko's, here I come!

Link: U.S. Territory (Radical Cartography)

June 11, 2007

New Tools: Swivel Geography

swivel_map.jpg New from our friends at Swivel: the ability to overlay data on maps of the world. The implementation is still a little wonky at times (Swivel's "brain" didn't seem to recognize the abbreviation for the state of Louisiana) but overall, a step in the right direction. Click on the image at right to explore some state population data from the 2000 Census, or check out the Swivel Geography announcement for more details and examples.

April 17, 2007

Internally Displaced Persons, 2006

IDP_2006.jpgJust out from The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) of the Norwegian Refugee Council: Internal Displacement: Global Overview of Trends and Developments in 2006.
By publishing this report, the IDMC hopes to raise awareness of the still often-overlooked plight of some 25 million people internally displaced by conflict and persecution and to draw attention to existing gaps in response at both the national and international level.

[. . .] The year 2006 saw a sharp increase in the number of people newly uprooted by conflict, with the Middle East particularly hard hit by new internal displacement. As the global internal displacement crisis worsened considerably, the international community continued its efforts to set up a functioning system capable of responding to the needs of internally displaced persons in a timely, predictable and comprehensive manner when national governments are not able or willing to do so. Although progress was made during the year to establish an improved response mechanism – the so-called cluster approach – in a few of the worst humanitarian emergencies, implementation of the new approach remains a challenge.

Internal Displacement: Global Overview of Trends and Developments in 2006 (Full report, 3.8MB PDF)
Internally Displaced People Worldwide 2006 (Map, 534k PDF)

February 2, 2007

The World at a Glance: Changing Times

314854035_5617436462_m.jpgWe're all going full steam ahead on The World Almanac for Kids 2008, so apologies for the late (and light) posting today. To tide you over, here's another "World at a Glance" installment, this time a quick look at some notable changes in agriculture, health, population, and other areas in recent decades. Any other noteworthy trends we missed? Let us know in the comments.

1900-2000: The top country of origin for foreign-born U.S. residents shifted from Germany (26% of the foreign-born population in 1900) to Italy (13% in 1960) to Mexico (30% in 2000).

1940-2005: The total number of U.S. farms fell more than 66%, from 6.4 million to 2.10 million.

1960-2005: Americans’ average savings, as a percent of their disposable income, fell from 7.3% to –0.4%.

1960-2002: The percentage of U.S. adults who were clinically overweight climbed from 45% to 65%, and the number of all U.S. adults considered clinically obese rose from 13% to 31%.

1980-2005: Average annual tuition and fees for a 4-year private college or university were 10 times higher in 2005 than in 1980, rising from $1,809 to $18,838.

1980-2005: The percentage of high school seniors who had at least one heavy drinking episode in the previous two weeks fell from 41% to 28%.

1990-2005: The median price for an existing single family home in the U.S. climbed 138%, from $92,000 to $219,000.

1990-2004: The rate of increase of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. slowed dramatically: emissions increased by an annual average of 1.7% from 1990 to 2000, but only 0.4% annually from 2000 to 2004.

2006-2050: The population of China, the most populous nation in 2006, will climb from 1.3 billion to 1.4 billion in 2050, but India will surpass China by 2030, and is projected to top the list in 2050 with 1.8 billion people.

February 1, 2007

"The World as You've Never Seen it Before"

That's the tag line for Worldmapper, a novel approach to visualizing global data, and a collaborative project of a group of cartographers, social scientists, and other experts at the University of Michigan and the University of Sheffield. From a recent article on The Daily Telegraph website:
"You can say it, you can prove it, you can tabulate it, but it is only when you show it that it hits home," said Prof Danny Dorling, of the University of Sheffield, one of the developers of Worldmapper, a collection of maps — cartograms — that rescale the size of territories in proportion to the value being represented.

On the maps of public health spending, research expenditure and wealth, Africa appears tiny. But in those that show global malaria cases and the deaths due to drought, Africa appears enormous.

You'll find a year's worth of maps on the site, spanning categories from income and housing to pollution and "destruction." Each map is also accompanied by a brief summary of the topic, plus links to labeled territory and population maps, data sheets in Excel or Opendoc formats, and even a downloadable PDF poster showcasing the map and some of its key data points.

Choose a topic, and you're bound to find something interesting. I was struck by two maps, which are as good a place to start as any:

map_childlabor.jpgChild Labor (at left): "Nine of the ten territories with the highest proportions of child labourers are in Africa. . . . The map shows that most child labour occurs in African and Southern Asian territories. India has the highest number of child labourers, twice as many as China where the second highest population of child labourers lives."

map_toyimports.jpgToy Imports (at right): "Most imports of toys (US$ net) are to the United States, followed by the United Kingdom. Toys are fun but not necessities. Thus toy imports give an indication of disposable incomes. The lowest imports of toys (US$ net) per person are to territories in Africa and also Tajikistan (in the Middle East)."

Link: Worldmapper

January 10, 2007

Who's In School?

schoolroom_nightowlcity.jpg One can learn a lot about a place by looking at its schools. The National Center for Education Statistics (a World Almanac favorite) has an online search page where you can look up any U.S. public or private school in any district and get, among other bits of information, a small demographic breakdown by race and sex of the students who go there.

After rediscovering this search, of course I had to go look up every school I had either gone to, wanted to go to, or otherwise had heard of for one reason or another (such as California's Torrance High School, where they shot the exteriors for Beverly Hills, 90210). It was fun trying to remember what I could about the different kids in my classes and if the current data shows any change since then. In my case, it looks like there is a good deal more diversity today in the schools I went to as compared to when I was a wee tot. That says quite a bit about the changes in population where I grew up, which I'm sure are minor compared to other school districts.

National Center for Education Statistics links:
Search for Public Schools
Search for Private Schools

Photo from Night Owl City's Flickr stream (CC)

December 28, 2006

The World at a Glance: Number Ones

1_3.jpgEven though The World Almanac is the best-selling American reference book of all time, there are still people out there who don't quite know what, exactly, you can find in it. So in the 2007 edition, we added a new feature page that summarizes some of the diverse, interesting facts you can find throughout the book, including some surprising facts, milestone birthdays for 2007, and important trends in the U.S. and around the world. For today, however, we'll keep the focus on our "Number Ones" — the biggest, the best, the worst, and the most popular in just a few of the dozens of different subject areas contained in the book.

Most popular car color in the U.S. .......... silver, more than 20% of new cars
Highest-rated U.S. television show, 2005-06 .......... American Idol, Tuesday night
Top-spending U.S. advertiser in 2005 .......... Procter & Gamble, $4.61 bil
Most prescribed class of drug in the U.S. .......... antidepressants, prescribed 81.2 mil times in 2004
Most popular dog breed in U.S. .......... Labrador retriever, 137,867 new dogs registered in 2005
Leading cause of death in U.S. .......... heart disease, 685,089 deaths (28%) in 2003
Nation with the most vacation days per year .......... Italy, average of 42 days per person
Largest world city .......... Tokyo, 2005 population 35.2 mil
Largest army, by active-duty troop strength .......... China, 2.3 million
Nation hosting the most refugees .......... Pakistan, with 1.1 mil in 2005
Most densely populated U.S. state .......... New Jersey, 1,135 persons per sq. mi.
Most sparsely populated nation .......... Mongolia, 4.7 persons per sq. mi.
Nation with most water per capita .......... Iceland, 582,191.8 cubic meters (U.S. has 10,333)
Developed nations with highest federal tax rate .......... Belgium and Germany, 42%
Nation with highest per capita GDP .......... Luxembourg, $55,600
Highest temperature recorded on Earth .......... 136° F in El Azizia, Libya, 9/13/22
Deadliest natural disaster in U.S. .......... Galveston Hurricane, Sept. 8, 1900; up to 12,000 killed
Most career saves (baseball) .......... Trevor Hoffman, 482 through 2006

[P.S.: Know a trivia buff who might love this list? Want to share it with the world? This would be a perfect time to try some of our sharing and social-networking tools. Click "Email this" to send this entry on to a friend, or "Add this" to bookmark or share it with dozens of different online services.]

Related: "Unbreakable" Sports Records

Photo from Leo Reynolds' Flickr stream (CC)

December 18, 2006

Statistical Abstract of the U.S.

Last week, the U.S. Census released its 2007 Statistical Abstract of the United States. A press release offers some highlights, including:
Our armed forces are smaller: Active-duty strength in 2005 included 493,000 in the Army, 354,000 in the Air Force, 363,000 in the Navy and 180,000 Marines. The nearly 1.4 million men and women in uniform compares to 3 million-plus members in 1970.
Federal employees are fewer as well: There was an overall 13.4% drop in civilian employees of the federal government from 1990 to 2005.
We drink more bottled water: Americans drank 23.2 gallons of bottled water per capita in 2004, compared to 2.7 gallons per capita in 1980.
An increasing number of students are "straight-A": Nearly half (47 percent) of college freshmen enrolled in 2005 had earned an average grade of A in high school, compared to only 20 percent in 1970.

December 8, 2006

New Orleans Recovery

superdome.jpgThe New Orleans Saints played their 2006 season opener at the Superdome, and for many the game represented a city on the road to recovery from Hurricane Katrina. However, the city’s recovery has been slower than an outsider might think. Public policy think tank The Brookings Institution has been researching Katrina recovery since the day the storm landed, and publishes a monthly index of progress on its website, in addition to suggestions for ways to improve the recovery effort. One year after the storm, in August 2006, about 35% of the city’s pre-Katrina population lived in New Orleans and only about 66% of New Orleans Metropolitan area public schools reopened.

The full August 2006 Katrina Index can be found here and the Brookings Institution’s Katrina research home page, with indexes updated to November, can be found here.

November 18, 2006

Dow 12,000... Population 300 Million

Year in and year out, we dutifully track every little change in the size and composition of the U.S. population — so forgive us if we get a little more excited than most about a major numerical milestone: the Census Bureau estimates that on October 17, 2006, the nation’s population hit 300 million for the first time, up from 200 million in 1967 and 100 million in 1915... and fewer than 40 million in 1868, when the first World Almanac was published. For a little perspective on how the rest of the nation has changed, the Census Bureau offers some fascinating comparisons of key statistics (the price of milk, the median age of the population, and more) at the 100, 200, and 300 million markers.

–C. Alan Joyce

About Population

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The World Almanac in the Population category. They are listed from newest to oldest.

Podcast is the previous category.

Religion is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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