Web sites worth the click

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www.quickfacts.census.gov State and County QuickFacts from the U.S. Census Bureau offers a wealth of basic information at the national, state, and county level. Navigate the site with either a pull-down menu or interactive map to view tables with facts about the population, geography, and businesses for each state, compared with the U.S. as a whole. There's also a pull-down menu that offers this information on the county level compared with the state. And if you're still hankering for more, you'll find a link on each page to the Census Bureau for more detailed data, including income and poverty estimates, government finances, and county business profiles.

www.hirr.hartsem.edu To learn the latest in sociological research on religion, pull up the Hartford Seminary's "Hartford Institute for Religion Research" Web site. This site is replete with resources: A listing of academic associations and societies related to the sociology of religion, links to Web sites of, and articles written by, sociologists of religion, as well as links to census data and surveys of religious beliefs and attitudes. The section on research contains articles, survey data, studies, and reports on diverse topics such as the rapid growth of Pentecostalism, the impact of the Internet on religion, the role of religion in families, and the role of women in religion. The quick question section, features archived factoids that have appeared on the site's home page.

www.countrywatch.com If you're looking for a one-stop site that can provide up-to-date information and news on the world's 191 nations, CountryWatch.com is the site for you. Navigate the site with a colorful interactive map or pull-down menu that links you to pages for each individual country. On each page, you'll find a map of a country's location, as well as at-a-glance statistics on its population, topography, languages, ethnic divisions, climate, currency, and religion. In-depth articles offer detailed data and statistics on topics including the history of the country, the economy, industry, and the environment. News briefs - which are continuously updated on the site - provide insight into the latest developments in each country.

Although Chinese consumers are immersed in their culture, retailers don't have to speak their language to gain market share, according to a new study by KTSF-TV, a San Francisco television station. For each of the last 13 years, the television station has studied the habits of Chinese consumers in the 10-county San Francisco area. This year, researchers polled 500 Bay Area Chinese Americans, aged 18 or older.

Although most of those surveyed (nearly three-quarters) have lived in the United States for at least six years, these consumers still maintain a strong preference to communicate in their native tongue. KTSF-TV discovered that nearly 40 percent of Bay Area Chinese speak the language at home all the time, while 49 percent speak Chinese most of the time. The preference to communicate in their own language is growing: 91 percent chose to conduct their survey interview in Chinese rather than English - an increase of 6 percent from last year.

These consumers may be talking the talk at home, but they don't mind if their native language is missing at the food store, the study reveals. In fact, the percentage of San Franciscan Chinese consumers who prefer to buy their food in Chinese groceries has declined over the last five years. In 1995, 26 percent preferred to buy their food at Chinese groceries. By 2000, that number plunged 20 percentage points. More than two-thirds of these consumers shop at supermarket chains, such as Ranch 99, Safeway, or Albertson's. It's a matter of quality, convenience, value, and service, says Michael J. Sherman, general manager of KTSF-TV. The international language of brands may be more important to ethnic consumers than communicating with retail clerks in their native tongue.

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