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Q&A: American family size steadily shrinking

Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr now is studying in hopes of becoming an ayatollah.

Associated Press (2006)

Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr now is studying in hopes of becoming an ayatollah.

Family size steadily shrinking

Population question here. How big is the average family in the United States these days, compared with previous years?

According to data from the Census Bureau, the average number of people per household in this country is now less than half what it was almost 160 years ago.

In 1850, the average American household numbered 5.55. It has steadily declined to 5.04 by 1880, 4.60 in 1900, 4.01 in 1930, 3.68 in 1940, 3.38 in 1950, 3.29 in 1960, 3.11 in 1970, 2.75 in 1980, 2.63 in 1990 to 2.59 in 2000.

Why the steady change? Experts say the slowdown in the birth rate, increased wealth, fewer families with three generations under one roof, an increased desire for individuality and the improvement of transportation have been major factors in spreading Americans out.

Radical Shiite cleric still around

Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr used to be in the news a lot because of his powerful and brutal Mahdi Army militia. What is Sadr doing now? Is he no longer a threat to U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq, or Sunni civilians?

Muqtada al-Sadr left Iraq in early 2007 and moved to the Iranian holy city of Qom, where he began theological studies to improve his religious credentials in the Iraqi Shiite community. Aides say his goal is to become an ayatollah like his late father, a rank that would place him in a powerful position in cleric-dominated Shiite politics.

Clearly, he also feared for his safety during one of the most violent periods of the Iraq war.

When he went to Iran, he kept control over his Mahdi Army militia. But after it suffered military setbacks in fighting with U.S. and Iraqi troops, he effectively disbanded the force, transforming it into a group focused on social, religious and community work.

But al-Sadr has not given up his political ambitions. On May 1 he paid a surprise visit to Turkey, where he met with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He asked Turkey to play a greater role in Middle East affairs. The visit was seen as an attempt by al-Sadr to reach out to Sunni Muslim groups, his sworn enemies during the sectarian fighting of 2006 and 2007, and to play a role in regional politics.

Andrew Stevens shifts focus

What happened to Andrew Stevens (The Fury, etc.)? He seemed very promising back in "the day."

Stevens, 54, the son of actor Stella Stevens and ex-husband of actor Kate Jackson, acts occasionally but has focused in recent years on his production company, Andrew Stevens Entertainment, which has produced more than 170 films, including Missionary Man, with Dolph Lundgren, and Walking Tall: Lone Justice, with Kevin Sorbo. You can find out more www.astevensent.com.

Q&A: American family size steadily shrinking 06/14/09 [Last modified: Sunday, June 14, 2009 5:30am]

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