A century of social, economic change

It probably comes as no surprise that more has changed in America during the 1900s than in any previous 100-year span. Today, the US Census Bureau releases the 1999 Statistical Abstract showing just how dramatic that transformation has been.

For example, the nation's population has nearly quadrupled in the past 100 years; the number of married women in the workforce has grown more than 40 times; and the air we breathe has become nearly 10 times more polluted.

Where people live has also changed dramatically. In 1900, 60 percent of Americans lived in rural areas; by 1990, only 25 percent did. And they've moved south and west. Florida now has a population 28 times larger than in 1900; California, 22 times larger.

A century also puts today's education problems in perspective. In 1900, only 11 percent of all 14- to 17-year-olds were enrolled in high school; by 1997, 93 percent were. During the same period, the number of people earning bachelor's degrees jumped from28,700 to 1.2 million - a 40-fold rise in college graduation.

Government has also ballooned. Federal authorities willtake in an estimated $1.7 trillion this year (or 3,000 times what it collected in 1900). Of course, that doesn't account for inflation.

Today's dollar buys only about 1/17th of what it could in 1913.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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