Harvey H. Jackson: Alabama at end of the year
Dec 29, 2011 | 4260 views |  0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Actually, this is about Alabama at the end of last year, 2010, but since it took almost a year to compile what I am about to reveal, you will understand why I am a year late.

Besides, given how little things change from year to year in Alabama, the latest year-end assessment is about as good as the one before it, so what difference does it make, really?

These tidbits come from a report released by the Alabama Center for Health Statistics; you can get them online if you like.

Or you can just take my word that in 2010, an 84-year-old Alabamian fathered a child, a fact that should be accompanied by a word of caution to us all. There was no mention as to whether it was a wanted or unwanted pregnancy (statistics generally leave the “whys” and “why nots” to our imagination). But since more than 40 percent of the births in the state were to unmarried women, there is the same chance that the old guy was one of the fathers. You would think that at his age …

On the other hand, his partner might have been the oldest woman to give birth who, at 53, was only 21 years younger. A little more reasonable, but still …

If the child was male, they probably named him William, which was by far the most popular name for boy babies in Alabama last year. If it was a girl, they likely went with Emma, though Isabella ran a close second.

And in all probability, the baby was white, for white babies outnumbered black babies 2 to 1.

Of course, he could have married someone a lot younger — 31 years, to be exact — for the biggest gap between bride and groom in 2010 was 53 years.

Like Mickey and Sylvia sang in the ’50s, “Love is strange.”

At the other end of the age range, the youngest father was 14 and the youngest mother was 12 and, since the youngest bride in the state was 13, the youngest mother was unwed.

Will these marriages last?

Despite all the family values fol-de-rol you hear around this state, there were 21,238 divorces to compare with 39,382 marriages, proving that the tie that binds is not as tight as all that talk would lead you to believe.

And while teenage weddings continue to be risky (the youngest male to divorce was 17, the youngest female was 16), old folks were capable of breaking the bonds, as well. Just ask the 104-year-old man who got divorced, or the 90-year-old woman.

It would be interesting to know if they were married to each other.

Maybe they were the couple who divorced after 58 years — couldn’t take it anymore, I guess.

Probably the same reason would be given for the couple who split after 13 days. They just realized it sooner.

Timing is everything.

In Alabama, the most popular day to get married in 2010 was May 22. The least popular was Jan. 15 — only five couples picked that day.

More births occurred on Sept. 9, which suggests that some people did something other than get drunk to celebrate the New Year — or maybe not. On the other hand, the fewest births were on Sept. 4, which seems to shoot down that theory.

On and on it goes, but if you put them all together, shape the numbers into a snapshot of what a typical Alabama day would be, in that 24 hours there would be 108 marriages and 58 divorces. There would be 164 births and 131 deaths — so we would come out ahead. Of those births, 20 would be to teenagers, 68 would be to unwed mothers and 17 of the babies would have low birth weights. On that typical day, there would be 25 abortions.

Of the 131 deaths, heart disease would claim 33, and cancer would get 28 — two causes that could be reduced if people would stop smoking, eat right and exercise.

On that typical day, three would die in automobile accidents, one would be the victim of a homicide and two would commit suicide.

Those are the facts.

In those facts are human stories, stories of love, risk, disappointment, triumph, despair, hopes and dreams realized and lost.

They say there are lies, damn lies and statistics.

But that’s not true.

Statistics don’t lie.

We lie when we try to make statistics something they are not.

Taken together, these statistics point to things we are doing well, things we could do better, things we should be proud of, and things we should try to correct.

They are our statistics. We can improve them if we try. Or we can let them be what we really are.

Happy New Year.

Harvey H. (Hardy) Jackson is Eminent Scholar in History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist and editorial writer for The Star. E-mail: hjackson@jsu.edu.
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