Jayson Lusk’s Thanksgiving tradition, if you could call it that, is to talk with reporters about the prices of Americans’ holiday groceries. The media requests “seemed to start even earlier this year than usual,” Lusk, an agricultural economist at Purdue University, told me recently. “But it’s a more interesting story this year.”That’s because the ingredients for Thanksgiving dinner are significantly more expensive than they were 12 months ago.
Today's Liberal News
Days, months, and years all make sense as units of time—they match up, at least roughly, with the revolutions of Earth, the moon, and the sun.Weeks, however, are much weirder and clunkier. A duration of seven days doesn’t align with any natural cycles or fit cleanly into months or years.
American exceptionalism can sometimes be quite bleak: The United States is the only wealthy country in the world without a national program for paid parental leave.The U.S.’s best chance yet of giving up this dismal distinction might be slipping away. The $1.
Several years ago, I went on a somewhat fanatical quest to find a satisfying version of what I called a “metacookbook”—a book that doesn’t just list out recipe instructions, but also explains the thinking behind them.The food journalist Priya Krishna and David Chang, the founder of the Momofuku family of restaurants, have together written a charming new entry in this subgenre, Cooking at Home: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Recipes (And Love My Microwave).
If you were to look under the roofs of American homes at random, it wouldn’t take long to find someone who lives alone. By the Census Bureau’s latest count, there are about 36 million solo dwellers, and together they make up 28 percent of U.S. households.Even though this percentage has been climbing steadily for decades, these people are still living in a society that is tilted against them.
Throughout the pandemic, media outlets and online dashboards have provided constant updates on the number of people who have died from COVID-19. Far less prominent—but just as striking—are the tallies of those left behind.
You know there’s drama in research circles—or at least what qualifies as drama in research circles—when someone writes an open letter.Earlier this year, that someone was Philip Cohen, a sociologist at the University of Maryland at College Park. His request: that Pew Research Center, the nonpartisan “fact tank,” “do the right thing” and stop using generational labels such as Gen Z and Baby Boomers in its reports.
Over the years, as I’ve interviewed many sociologists about gender divisions in how couples handle chores and child care, I’ve often wondered what happened after we got off the phone. When these researchers returned to their life, how were they splitting up the tasks in their own home? Because gender scholars—they’re just like us: They too have floors to sweep, kids to feed, toilets to clean.But, I learned, they are also decidedly not like us.
Zac Eash had originally planned to be home for two weeks when he became a father. But his daughter was born in early March 2020, and, well, you know. “We both got to spend a lot of time with her the first four months of her life,” Eash, a middle-school teacher living in Ames, Iowa, who finished out the school year remotely, told me.When in-person classes resumed late last summer, Eash was acutely aware of how much less time he had with his wife and baby daughter, and he missed it.
Alexa used to be a name primarily given to human babies. Now it’s mainly for robots.Seven years ago, Amazon released Alexa, its voice assistant, and as the number of devices answering to that name has skyrocketed, its popularity with American parents has plummeted. In fact, it has suffered one of the sharpest declines of any popular name in recent years.
Several years ago, the journalist and author Oliver Burkeman asked some of his friends to guess, off the top of their head, how many weeks make up a typical human lifetime. One threw out an estimate in the six figures, but as Burkeman notes in his new book, “a fairly modest six-figure number of weeks—310,000—is the approximate duration of all human civilization since the ancient Sumerians of Mesopotamia.
The appeal of the Olympics is that they decide who can claim the title of best in the world. They also, less gloriously, decide who can claim the title of second best in the world.Despite beating out every competitor on Earth but one, silver medalists can feel a special type of disappointment. In a study that analyzed footage from the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, they were consistently judged to look less happy than bronze medalists, both right after competition and atop the medal podium.
Americans aren’t making as many babies as they used to. Last year, 3.6 million were born—the lowest count since 1979. The pandemic “baby bust” could push 2021’s tally down even further; researchers have estimated that the coronavirus and its economic impact could lead to about 300,000 fewer births in the United States this year.News of declining birth rates is not always a bad thing.
Since 2012, most of the humans on Earth have been given a nearly annual reminder that there are entire nations of people who are measurably happier than they are. This uplifting yearly notification is known as the World Happiness Report.With the release of each report, which is published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the question is not which country will appear at the top of the rankings, but rather which Northern European country will.
A post-pandemic discussion question: You get home from work on a Friday night and change into sweatpants. It’s been an exhausting week. A text message comes in. Your good friend wants to know if you’d like to meet up last minute for a drink, which is something that’s safe to do again. You’d love to catch up, but you’re pretty tired.
At one point in her new book, the NPR journalist Michaeleen Doucleff suggests that parents consider throwing out most of the toys they’ve bought for their kids. It’s an extreme piece of advice, but the way Doucleff frames it, it seems entirely sensible: “Kids spent two hundred thousand years without these items,” she writes.
Editor’s Note: The Atlantic is making vital coverage of the coronavirus available to all readers. Find the collection here. The end of the coronavirus pandemic is on the horizon at last, but the timeline for actually getting there feels like it shifts daily, with updates about viral variants, vaccine logistics, and other important variables seeming to push back the finish line or scoot it forward.
“Birds at Home,” 2006 (Julie Blackmon)When you think of messiness, you might think of the unsavory ways it manifests: sweaty socks left on the floor, food-encrusted dishes piled in the sink, crumbs on the counter. Messes themselves are easy to identify, but the patterns of behavior that produce them are a bit more nuanced. Really, messiness has two ingredients: making messes, and then not cleaning them up.
Alex Trebek at a book signing in New York City in 1990 (Ron Galella / Getty)When Alex Trebek began hosting Jeopardy, Ronald Reagan was in his first term, Ghostbusters was a recent box-office hit, and most Millennials hadn’t been born yet. Now, after nearly four decades, his time behind the podium is done. Trebek, a TV icon, died over the weekend from pancreatic cancer that he was diagnosed with a year and a half ago.
Editor’s Note: The Atlantic is making vital coverage of the coronavirus available to all readers. Find the collection here. One of American culture’s most cherished traditions is for a mix of young and old people from different households to sit close together and share food in a poorly ventilated space without masks on for an extended period of time. It’s called Thanksgiving.This year, the holiday season is laced with danger.
Donald Trump announced early this morning that he had tested positive for the coronavirus. Details are still emerging about his condition—so far, he has reportedly exhibited only minor symptoms of COVID-19—but his diagnosis illustrates the dangers of disregarding the virus’s threat: The president has routinely downplayed it, which has inspired many of his supporters to do the same.
Last night’s presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden started off placidly enough, with each candidate delivering a measured, coherent answer to a question about the current Supreme Court vacancy. That sense of coherence lasted about five minutes.What followed was shambolic—a disorienting, exasperating medley of half-thoughts, interjections, raised voices, and simultaneous monologues broken up occasionally by brief periods of uninterrupted speech.
In her 87 and a half years, Ruth Bader Ginsburg left a significant mark on law, on feminism, and, late in her life, on pop culture. She also left a significant mark on everyday life in America, helping broaden the sorts of families people are able to make and the sorts of jobs they’re able to take. Her legacy is, in a way, the lives that countless Americans are able to live today.
The writer Anne Helen Petersen’s new book is primarily about “burnout,” a condition endemic to the Millennial generation that she describes as a persistent “sensation of dull exhaustion” and “the feeling that you’ve optimized yourself into a work robot.” Expanding on a widely read BuzzFeed News article from two years ago, Petersen follows lines of cultural and economic inquiry in an effort to identify the root causes of this generational malaise.
(Gueorgui Pinkhassov / Magnum)The pandemic has rendered many activities unsafe, but thankfully it can’t stop us from fantasizing about them. A common balm that people reach for is the sentence construction “When this is over, I’m going to ____.” It seems to help, if only in a fleeting way, for them to imagine all of the vacations they’ll go on, all of the concerts they’ll attend, and all of the hugs they’ll give, as soon as they’re able to.
Americans are five months deep in a historic economic crisis. From February to April, the country’s unemployment rate shot up from , “That extra $600 is what’s been keeping us alive.”But then the support stopped. The additional $600 of weekly assistance expired in late July, and the one-off stimulus payments are at this point “a relic of history” for many families, Mattingly told me.
During the past five months, many prognosticators have prognosticated about how the coronavirus pandemic will transform politics, work, travel, education, and other domains. Less sweepingly, but just as powerfully, it will also transform the people who are living through it, rearranging the furniture of their inner life. When this is all over—and perhaps even long after that—how will we be different?For one thing, we’ll better understand the importance of washing our hands.
Editor’s Note: The Atlantic is making vital coverage of the coronavirus available to all readers. Find the collection here. Throughout the pandemic, one lodestar of public-health advice has come down to three words: Do things outside. For nearly five months now, the outdoors has served as a vital social release valve—a space where people can still eat, drink, relax, exercise, and worship together in relative safety.
Across the country, schools have outlined the precautions they’ll take as they reopen their campuses this fall. If and when kids return, schools are planning outdoor “mask breaks” in Denver, one-way hallways in Northern Virginia, and shortened in-person school weeks in New York City, among many, many other safeguards against coronavirus outbreaks.Included in these reopening plans are a number of measures whose implementation will fall to students themselves.
Three variables determine the fluctuations of a country’s population: births, deaths, and migration flows. The coronavirus pandemic is disrupting all three.The forces that have begun acting on America’s population are dramatic departures from the norm. Every year for the past 100 years, the population of the United States has grown. During that time, though, its growth rate has slowed as birth rates have fallen.