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U.S. Weight, Lifestyle and Diet Trends, 1970- 2007

For this post, I compiled statistics on U.S. weight, health and lifestyle trends, and graphed them as consistently as possible. They span the period from 1970 to 2007, during which the obesity rate doubled. The data come from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Some of the graphs are incomplete, either because the data don’t exist, or because I wasn’t able to find them.

Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30+; overweight is a BMI of 25+. Yes, it’s frightening. It has affected adults and children (NHANES).

The percentage of Americans who report exercising in their spare time has actually increased since 1988 (BRFSS).


The chicken market is so hot right now. Why can’t I trade on it?

By Lydia DePillis January 10, 2014
You might not have noticed yet, but there’s a calamity underway in the beef market: Cattle futures have reached record highs, driven by smaller herds that have been winnowed by years of drought.

That’s some pricey beef! (Barchart.com)

Over time, that will make beef more expensive on the shelf. But at least in the shorter term, the retailers that sell a lot of it — big fast-food companies, for example — are able to hedge their risk by buying futures contracts, which lock in the price for a certain amount of time. That at least allows them to plan for the supply problem by factoring price increases into their menus.

The same isn’t true, however, of poultry. Americans have been eating more and more of the birds in recent decades, but there is no futures market for this increasingly valuable commodity — which saddens commodity traders who see consumers opting for chicken as beef prices rise.

“If I could be ‘long’ chickens right now, that would be the trade of a lifetime,” trader Dan Norcini of Coeur D’Alene, Idaho told The Wall Street Journal.

That’s a lot of fried chicken. (Pew Environment)

Too bad for him! But so wait: Why is there a futures market for beef, but not for chicken?

Well, there used to be. Different commodities exchanges have tried three times to cash in on the growing demand for poultry, first with the Chicago Board of Trade in the 1960s, again in the 1980s and 1990s with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Each attempt has failed, for reasons that tell us a lot about how agribusiness works.


Food Stamps




Statistics Don’t Lie, People Do!

Pay Equity & Discrimination 

Women are almost half of the workforce. They are the equal, if not main, breadwinner in four out of ten families. They receive more college and graduate degrees than men. Yet, on average, women continue to earn considerably less than men. In 2013, female full-time workers made only 78 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 22 percent. Women, on average, earn less than men in virtually every single occupation for which there is sufficient earnings data for both men and women to calculate an earnings ratio.

In 2013, female full-time workers made only 78 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 22 percent.

IWPR tracks the gender wage gap over time in a series of fact sheets updated twice per year. According to our research, if change continues at the same slow pace as it has done for the past fifty years, it will take 44 years—or until 2058—for women to finally reach pay parity. IWPR’s annual fact sheet on the gender wage gap by occupation shows that women earn less than men in almost any occupation. IWPR’s Status of Women in the States project tracks the gender wage gap across states. IWPR’s report on sex and race discrimination in the workplace shows that outright discrimination in pay, hiring, or promotions continues to be a significant feature of working life.


Statistics Don’t Lie, People Do!



Scholastic Assessment or g?

The relationship between the Scholastic Assessment Test and general cognitive ability.


There is little evidence showing the relationship between the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) and g (general intelligence). This research established the relationship between SAT and g, as well as the appropriateness of the SAT as a measure of g, and examined the SAT as a premorbid measure of intelligence. In Study 1, we used the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979. Measures of g were extracted from the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery and correlated with SAT scores of 917 participants. The resulting correlation was.82 (.86 corrected for nonlinearity). Study 2 investigated the correlation between revised and recentered SAT scores and scores on the Raven’s Advanced Progressive Matrices among 104 undergraduates. The resulting correlation was.483 (.72 corrected for restricted range). These studies indicate that the SAT is mainly a test of g. We provide equations for converting SAT scores to estimated IQs; such conversion could be useful for estimating premorbid IQ or conducting individual difference research with college students. 

To continue reading the full text, please click on the link  The Relationship Between the Scholastic Assessment Test and General Cognitive Ability

Source: SAGE Journal 

Schooling, Intelligence, and Income


In this article, the authors examined the evidence for linkages among 3 variables: schooling, intelligence, and income. They concluded that intelligence and schooling have a bidirectional relationship, with each variable influencing variations in the other. Moreover, changes in both schooling and intelligence influence variations in economic outcomes. Although any single study of the interdependency of these 3 variables can be criticized on the grounds that the data are correlational–and consequently are open to alternative interpretations—when viewed together, the evidence for their linked causality is quite convincing: Each increment in school attendance appears to convey significant increases not only in economic and social returns but also in psychometric intelligence. Thus, the value of schooling appears to extend beyond simply schooling’s direct effect on income.

To continue to read the full text, please click on the link  Schooling, Intelligence, and Income

Source: American Psychologist, Vol 52(10), Oct, 1997. Special Issue: Intelligence and Lifelong Learning. pp. 1051-1058.


A Good Night’s Sleep is the Secret to Success

Tossing and turning the night before a big presentation at work, or going without sleep for reasons you just can’t explain — there’s little doubt that failure to get a good night’s sleep leaves you groggy and dazed, at best. But the cognitive effects of sleep deprivation, whether you miss an entire night or just an hour each evening, could cost you in ways you never imagined.

Evidence from University of California–San Diego researchers suggests sleep times are directly linked to earnings. Their findings, currently under review, found that sleeping one extra hour each night increased average earnings by 16 percent. For their average study participant, this meant an extra $6,000 per year.

“The worst bout of insomnia I’ve had in my life, I went five nights without sleeping,” recalls 36-year-old Amanda McCauley of Omaha, Nebraska. “I was on a business trip, so I had to work the entire time. I had to be up, moving around, engaging and productive pretty early in the morning, and pull a few late nights.”

McCauley, who works in IT, says she hasn’t seen the long-term effects of her sleepless nights, but knows her insomnia has definite mental effects, which, in turn, affect her at work.

“I have to try and keep busy [on those days], because if I don’t keep busy, that’s when I start to suffer,” she says.

Sleep and Your Mind

The cognitive skills we depend on in our professional lives are affected when we fail to get good sleep. Our abilities to focus and concentrate, reason, remember and make good judgment calls all suffer. Emerging research suggests our brains depend on a nightly bath of sorts to keep them functioning at their best.

“It’s been coined the glymphatic system,” says A. Thomas Perkins, a sleep expert and director of the Sleep Medicine Program at Raleigh Neurology in Raleigh, North Carolina. “This system sort of flushes the brain of all metabolic waste, and it does this every night, getting in between the cells and neurons, purging the brain of the metabolic byproducts of the day.”

In 2013, a team of researchers at the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York found that the brain actually makes room for this nightly flushing of cerebrospinal fluid. Space between brain cells increases during sleep, letting it essentially wash the brain of “toxic molecules.”


Gently does it

Prepare for a modest rise in interest rates

A stormier time ahead

Volatility returns to financial markets

The consensus is often caught out. If 2013 was a year when the pace of the stockmarket rally caught investors by surprise, 2014 was a year in which bond-market bears were dumbfounded. Yields fell, with those in Europe even becoming negative for bonds with two-year maturities. People were willing to make a loss to lend money to the French and Irish governments.

So what will be the surprise of 2015? Out of a wide range of candidates, the most intriguing would be the return of volatility. The most popular measure of volatility is the Vix, which focuses on the stockmarket (it measures the cost of options: in effect, the price investors are willing to pay to insure against sharp market moves). As the chart above shows, the 2008 economic crisis looks a bit like a sudden storm sweeping across a pond; there were two smaller subsequent squalls but all eventually became calm again. By the end of September 2014, the Vix was very low by historical standards.


The World in Transition

A whistlestop tour of a year of eye-catching statistical landmarks

The way people think about the world will undergo a radical change in 2015, as assumptions that have held steady for years are overturned. In the economy and technology, especially, the year will bring a series of statistical landmarks.

The most remarkable shifts are geo-economic. America will overtake Saudi Arabia to become the world’s largest producer of oil, thanks to the shale-gas revolution (chart 1). Many aspects of international relations are built around American access to oil, and these will be viewed in a new light. The International Energy Agency forecasts that America’s oil pre-eminence will last until 2050 and beyond.


Using 3-D printing to make jet engines

Ben Geie


    Source: FORTUNE

A worker ensures the dimensional conformity of a prototype pattern. Today Alcoa can 3-D print the dies used to manufacture turbine parts.Courtesy: AlcoaAlcoa’s embrace of additive manufacturing allows it to turn ideas into reality faster.

Company Snapshot

Name: Alcoa
Ranking: 130
Headquarters: New York City
Employees: 60,000
Revenue: $23 billion (2013)

If you’ve spent any amount of time in an aircraft about to take off—gazing out the window at the tarmac, thinking about the cold beverage you’ll have at altitude—you’ve probably spent at least a passing moment wondering how exactly manufacturers make sure the iron birds don’t break. The answer is materials science, of course. But that’s not the whole story.

There’s a great deal of testing that goes into airplane parts to be sure they can handle the temperatures and stresses of aviation. Alcoa would know. The metals producer, more than 125 years old, makes parts for gas turbines, the engines that plane manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus install to give planes the power to get you to your next meeting. The problem? All that testing takes time. Between tooling, development, and casting, it used to take Alcoa upwards of a year to manufacture one of the nickel-alloy parts that go into an engine, where it must withstand temperatures of up to 2,000˚F. Then the company caught wind of something called additive manufacturing—better known as 3-D printing.


Can Money Buy You Happiness?

It’s True to Some Extent. But Chances Are You’re not Getting the Most Bang for Your Buck.

New research is suggesting that happiness is determined not by how much money one earns, but rather, how one spends it. University of British Columbia associate professor Elizabeth Dunn explains why. Photo: Getty.

It’s an age-old question: Can money buy happiness?

Over the past few years, new research has given us a much deeper understanding of the relationship between what we earn and how we feel. Economists have been scrutinizing the links between income and happiness across nations, and psychologists have probed individuals to find out what really makes us tick when it comes to cash.

The results, at first glance, may seem a bit obvious: Yes, people with higher incomes are, broadly speaking, happier than those who struggle to get by.

But dig a little deeper into the findings, and they get a lot more surprising—and a lot more useful.

In short, this latest research suggests, wealth alone doesn’t provide any guarantee of a good life. What matters a lot more than a big income is howpeople spend it. For instance, giving money away makes people a lot happier than lavishing it on themselves. And when they do spend money on themselves, people are a lot happier when they use it for experiences like travel than for material goods.

With that in mind, here’s what the latest research says about how people can make smarter use of their dollars and maximize their happiness.

Experiences Are Worth More Than You Think

Ryan Howell was bothered by a conundrum. Numerous studies conducted over the past 10 years have shown that life experiences give us more lasting pleasure than material things, and yet people still often deny themselves experiences and prioritize buying material goods.


Younger Generation Faces a Savings Deficit

Postrecession Thrifty Ways Fade Amid Weak Jobs Market, Hefty Student Debt


After a flirtation with thrift after the recession, young Americans have stopped saving.

Adults under age 35—the so-called millennial generation—currently have a savings rate of negative 2%, meaning they are burning through their assets or going into debt, according to Moody’s Analytics. That compares with a positive savings rate of about 3% for those age 35 to 44, 6% for those 45 to 54, and 13% for those 55 and older.

The turnabout in savings tendencies shows how the personal finances of millennials have become increasingly precarious despite five years of economic growth and sustained job creation. A lack of savings increases the vulnerability of young workers in the postrecession economy, leaving many without a financial cushion for unexpected expenses, raising the difficulty of job transitions and leaving them further away from goals like eventual homeownership—let alone retirement.


World’s first 3-D printed cars go on sale next year

Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY8:05 p.m. EST November 7, 2014

LAS VEGAS — For those frustrated at having to search dealers’ showrooms for just the right set of wheels, along comes an innovation that could make creating a custom-made car as easy as a few keystrokes.

A Phoenix company said this week that it plans to produce what it’s calling the world’s first 3-D printed car. Local Motors says it plans to make them available for sale in about a year at prices ranging from $18,000 to $30,000.

The basic idea is simple: Buyers would be able to select their ideal car on a computer screen, then hit the print button. A giant machine would then start making the car out of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic, weaving it out of thin lines of paste that harden to form the chassis, body and even the dashboard. The process takes about 40 hours.

Some of the car’s major components are then attached to complete the car, such as the wheels, controls and powertrain.

Instead of about 25,000 parts in some modern cars, Local Motors says the prototype that it’s showing off last week in Las Vegas at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) trade show has about 50.

Because the car is easily changed on a computer screen, it can be shaped to however the buyer would like it, says CEO John “Jay” Rogers.

“If I want this car to be 10% bigger, I just click a button,” he says.

Don’t like the model called the Strati after all? Hang on to it for a few months, then go and choose another model. The 3-D-printed car will be recyclable as long as it has not been painted, Rogers says. Buyers quick to change fashions can grind up their existing car into fine particles again and use the materials to make a new model.

Rogers says the car will pass safety tests. And unlike other cars that can take months for improvements, Local Motors can change any part of its cars with a few keystrokes, allowing changes within hours of a crash test.

The notion of a 3-D-printed car “sounds feasible at some point,” says John O’Dell, an editor for Edmunds.com who specializes in eco-friendly cars.

He noted that handcrafters have made one-of-a-kind cars for generations, so the notion of a car made just for a particular person isn’t entirely new. Those cars, however, were generally not the for the masses. Rather, they appealed to the whims of the super-rich in the past century.

So O’Dell says he’ll watch with interest to see if Local Motors can pull off the idea of 3-D printed cars for the masses.

Investing: Can you retire on $1 million?

 John Waggoner, USA TODAY9:31 p.m. EDT October 23, 2014


f you read any financial advertising, you know that your savings are inadequate, and you’re likely to freeze to death in the dark a few weeks after retirement. For this reason, most Americans’ retirement planning involves keeling over at their desks, or, failing that, starting a bomb-disposal unit as a retirement business.

But how much is enough? How about $1 million?

If results from the past decade are any indication, the answer is a moderately qualified “yes.” The qualification depends on how much you withdraw each month, and how you invest it.

Financial planners have long said that if you want your retirement savings to outlast you, you should start with an initial withdrawal of 4% to 5% of your savings. Because the median family income — half are higher, half are lower — is about $50,000, let’s use a 5% initial withdrawal rate. (Five percent of $1 million is $50,000.)


Middle-class adults have $20K saved for retirement


Washington Scrutiny of ‘Supersize’ IRAs

The U.S. is Asking About Hard-to-Value Holdings, and Some Proposals Would Speed Withdrawals by an Heir

Updated Oct. 10, 2014 12:08 p.m. ET
Source: The Wall Street Journal 

Washington is taking a hard look at tax-sheltered retirement accounts, especially “supersize” ones worth millions of dollars. Savers should consider what it could mean for them.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office, an arm of Congress, recently released areport on individual retirement accounts, requested by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D., Ore.). Its publication coincided with Senate hearings on retirement savings held last month.

The GAO study addressed questions many people asked after disclosures that former presidential candidate Mitt Romney had a traditional IRA worth as much as $101 million and technology entrepreneur Max Levchin put more than 13.3 million shares ofYelp YELP -5.11% stock in a Roth IRA before the firm went public in 2012.

How many supersize IRAs are there? The GAO estimates more than 300 individuals or families have IRAs with balances greater than $25 million, while more than 9,000 have IRAs worth more than $5 million. The GAO wasn’t able to distinguish between regular and Roth IRAs, given the data.