Once in a Leap Year: Who does what - or so they say - and how often?

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This month marks another leap year, the first time since 1600 that a new century has kicked off with 366 days. (Blame the creators of the Gregorian calendar for snubbing 1700, 1800, and 1900: A leap year occurs every four years, unless the year ends in 00. In that case, leaps only happen in years divisible by 400). The milestone got us wondering how often Americans engage in certain activities - regularly, or about as seldom as a centismal leap? According to an exclusive survey conducted for American Demographics by Maritz Marketing Research, it turns out to be a little of both.

Luddites may lament the end of letter writing, but it seems that many people still put pen to paper. Roughly 56 percent of Maritz Poll respondents say they composed a personal letter three or more times in the past year. And no, e-mail and greeting cards sent for special occasions were not considered personal letters. Two-thirds of women drop a note in the snail mail three or more times a year, while guys are more likely than the average American to forget to write (36 percent, versus 28 percent).

We may be writing letters, but we're not sending out invitations. About 46 percent of Americans haven't hosted a dinner party in the past year. Perhaps they're waiting for an invite from that neighbor who throws a dinner party three or more times a year (27 percent of all households). Households earning more than $65,000 are even more likely to break out the china for guests at least a few times a year (43 percent).

No one may be coming for dinner, but few Americans want to be caught with dust bunnies lurking in the corners of their homes, or so they say. Thirty percent claim they've dusted five or more times in the past month, and another 32 percent whipped out the dust rag two to four times. Still, there are those who will probably procrastinate until the next leap year to clean: 26 percent say they haven't dusted at all in the past month. Men are even more likely to skip the household chore (40 percent).

Balancing the checkbook is another task guys can do without: 35 percent say they haven't bothered with it at all in the past year, compared to an overall national average of 26 percent. Some of them might be relying on their spouses to keep track. Nearly 77 percent of women say they've balanced their checkbooks three or more times in the past year, 9 percentage points higher than the national average. Northeasterners are the least likely to know exactly how much cash is in the kitty: 32 percent haven't balanced their accounts in at least a year, versus 25 percent of Southerners.

One out of three Americans say they haven't attended a religious service in the past month (the survey was conducted before the holiday season, when church pews often fill up). Nearly the same amount - 29 percent - say they went five or more times, with women being more likely to go that often than men (33 percent vs. 25 percent). Religious worship is strongest in the South, where 36 percent say they attended services five or more times, and weakest in the West, where 41 percent admit to not going at all.

Finally, we're happy to report that most Americans don't wait for a leap year to call their parents. Almost 50 percent phone home five or more times a month and another 20 percent check in two to four times. Not surprisingly, a higher number of young adults call mom and dad frequently - 66 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds dial in five or more times a month, as do 64 percent of 25-to-34-year-olds.

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