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OH MY, HOW WE'VE CHANGED SINCE 1900; TYPICAL AMERICAN OLDER, RICHER, SMARTER.

Byline: Bill Dedman The New York Times

In 1900, the typical American was a boy, not yet a teen-ager, named John. He lived with his parents and his sisters, Mary and Helen, on a farm in New York or Pennsylvania.

As the 20th century closes, the typical American is a young woman between 25 and 34 named Lisa. She lives in a California suburb with her daughter, Emily. These days, odds are no better than 50-50 that mother and father live together with the children. She is thinking of having another child, who will be called Samantha or Michael.

These portraits are drawn by the Statistical Abstract, which is being released today. The annual compendium from the U.S. Census Bureau is a changing snapshot emphasizing America's transition over the past 100 years.

The information, available in a book, on CD-ROM and on the Internet, includes 1,447 tables of statistics, enough to help children with their end-of-the-century homework assignments.

John, the prototypical lad of 1900, did not have the Web, of course. With an annual income of about $3,000 a year in today's dollars, his family also had no indoor plumbing, no phone and no car. His odds of finishing high school were poor.

Lisa and little Emily end 1999 with a household income of $45,000, enough for two cars and cable TV. Lisa has been to college, of course.

John's newest neighbors were from Austria-Hungary and Italy. Lisa's children attend school with newcomers from Mexico.

John could expect to live to age 46. He was likely to die from measles, diphtheria, tuberculosis or the flu. Lisa can expect to live into her 70s. She and Emily are inoculated against most preventable diseases, except AIDS.

Many of the changes highlighted in the Statistical Abstract have moved steadily through the century.

The nation's population has nearly quadrupled: from 76 million to an estimated 274 million. More than 10 times as many Americans are 65 or older.

The population has moved from rural areas, where 60 percent lived, to urban areas, where 75 percent reside. The nation that was 88 percent white is now about 62 percent so and rapidly changing.

Two cities that were in the top 10 in population in 1900 are barely in the top 60. St. Louis was fourth and is now 47th, while Buffalo was eighth and is now 54th.

Life expectancy increased for men from 46 to 74 and even more for women, from 48 to 79. The average household size fell from 4.8 people to 2.6. The number of bachelor's degrees rose from 29,000 in 1900 to a projected 1.2 million in 2000.

Although the total number of foreign-born residents has increased from 10.3 million in 1900 to 25.8 million in 1997) the proportion has dropped. A higher percentage of residents was born in the United States: 90 percent vs. 85 percent.

``To date, the 20th century has to be the most dynamic in our history, and these statistics paint a picture of rapid and massive change,'' said Kenneth Prewitt, director of the Census Bureau.

The Statistical Abstract is on the Web at www.census.gov/prod/www/statistical-abstract-us.html. It is available from the National Technical Information Service at $34 softbound and $41 hardbound by calling toll free, (800) 553-6847.

The data allow some changes that are taken for granted to be studied in more detail. Everyone knows, for example, that people get married older than they used to do in the nation.

The median age of first marriage is now about 25 years for women, while it was 22 in 1900. For men, the change has been less: 26 in 1900, nearly 27 now.

But the change did come in a straight line. The age of first marriage went down from 1900 until about 1956, when it bottomed out at 22.5 for men and 20.1 for women. It has leveled off in the past five years.

The biggest winners of the century may have been buy-and-hold investors. The Standard & Poor's 500 composite stock index has risen from 6.2 in 1900 to 1,417.04 today.

The biggest losers were Florence and Bertha. They were among the most popular names given to girls in the year 1900, but no longer make the top 10,000.

The top 10 names for boys in 1900, according to the Social Security Administration, were: 1. John, 2. William, 3. James, 4. George, 5. Charles, 6. Joseph, 7. Frank, 8. Henry, 9. Robert and 10. Harry. The top 10 for girls were 1. Mary, 2. Helen, 3. Anna, 4. Margaret, 5. Ruth, 6. Elizabeth, 7. Marie, 8. Rose, 9. Florence and 10. Bertha.

Meet your high school graduating class of 2017, based on Social Security applications in the first eight months of 1999:

Boys: Michael, Jacob, Matthew, Christopher, Joshua, Austin, Nicholas, Tyler and Joseph. Girls: Emily, Samantha, Madison, Ashley, Sarah, Hannah, Jessica, Alyssa, Alexis and Kayla.
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Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Dec 13, 1999
Words:829
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