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Stat Abstract: A Walk on the Wild Side

by Borgna Brunner

Since 1878 the U.S. government has published The Statistical Abstract of the United States, an annual compendium of facts and figures covering demographics, vital statistics, economic figures, and so on. But should you be under the erroneous impression that this august book of record is merely useful and edifying, read on — this exposé is meant to forever shatter that humdrum reputation.


For those used to the Statistical Abstract as a reliable source for looking up railroad freight traffic or national park acreage, it may be hard to believe that feverishly waiting between its sober and staid covers is a demimonde of seamy statistics, a Babylon of bizarre, incendiary, and defiantly frivolous charts and tables. To convince the skeptics, let's plunge right into a selection of shockers ranging from sex and money to dental hygiene and asparagus. Be warned: this is not for the squeamish.


In a table published for the first time this year, the Statistical Abstract reveals that in 1995 15.5% of American women between the ages of 15 and 44 have had 10 or more male sexual partners and 10.5% have had zero.

Why the government only surveyed women and left men alone is a matter for speculation. Not yet convinced that the Statistical Abstract isn't as straight-laced as you thought?

SEX, SEX, AND MORE SEX (possibly)

In 1995 there were 395,623 injuries involving beds in the United States —and another 115,037 involving "sofas, couches, davenports, etc."

Did you know?  The Nile, Amazon, Mississippi, Yangtze, and Ob (Russia) are the world's five longest rivers.

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