TIME Economy

The (Recent) History of Black Friday Shopping

Christmas Shopping Season Kicks Off In New York City
Shoppers at Macy's on Nov. 28, 2003, in New York City. Stephen Chernin—Getty Images

The holiday season has long been considered shopping primetime — but the Black Friday rush is a more recent phenomenon

In 1938, a TIME reporter marveled at the artificial snow falling in the display window of Lord & Taylor’s on New York City’s Fifth Avenue. Major retailers were just beginning to invest in their displays to entice potential customers ahead of the Christmas shopping spree, and the reporter was impressed.

“All this not only added melody to Christmas shopping but made the Avenue’s 80,000 daily pedestrians acutely aware of an artistic rivalry which has begun to show signs of lustiness,” the reporter wrote in the December 1938 issue.

As that TIME story attests, the competition for consumer dollars over the holidays is nothing new. As far back as the 19th century, the window between Thanksgiving and Christmas has been considered primetime for shopping. In fact, the retail industry was so intent on squeezing the most sales out of that period that they convinced President Franklin D. Roosevelt to push the Thanksgiving Holiday forward to the third Thursday in November; the new date failed to catch on or spur shoppers, so President Roosevelt reversed the change in 1941. (Read more about that decision here.)

But that doesn’t mean that Black Friday, the shopping bonanza the day after Thanksgiving, has an equally deep past.

Until recently, the largest shopping day of the year was not Black Friday but the Saturday before Christmas, says Jesse Tron, the director of communications for the International Council of Shopping Centers. According to one TIME article from 1968, the seasonal shopping rush didn’t even really begin until the Saturday after Thanksgiving. In fact, TIME didn’t use the term to refer to the Friday after Thanksgiving until 1998. (Black Friday had traditionally referred to the financial crisis of 1869.)

So how did the pseudo-holiday take root? The term itself is traced back to Philadelphia in the 1960s, where police used it to label the crowds of shoppers and ensuing traffic jams. It would later be explained apocryphally as the day that retailers begin to make a profit–or go into the black–after months in the red.

Indeed, the term was eventually reappropriated by the retail industry, which had begun in the 1950s and 1960s to offer sales that Friday in order to woo shoppers, who often had the day after Thanksgiving off from work (to shop, so the retailers hoped). The day-long shopping spree gained traction in the Internet age, when sales and coupons could be more widely publicized. By 2002, Black Friday had indeed become the biggest shopping day of the year.

Read TIME’s 1961 cover story about how Christmas became a gift-giving holiday: But Once a Year

TIME Economy

FDR Moved Thanksgiving to Give People More Time to Shop

Franklin D. Roosevelt Thanksgiving
President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his family, during Thanksgiving dinner in 1937 Thomas D. McAvoy—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

In 1939, the President got a pretty wacky idea about post-turkey shopping

Thanksgiving had been an official national holiday for decades when, in 1939, Franklin Roosevelt decided to mix things up.

The November calendar that year was an odd one: the month had started on a Wednesday, so there were five Thursdays rather than four Thursdays. Though Thanksgiving had been celebrated on the last Thursday of the month since the time of Lincoln, that August Roosevelt “broke his umptieth [sic] precedent,” in the words of TIME, and declared that he was moving the national Thanksgiving day up a week, the the second-to-last Thursday in the month.

Many people were not happy about the change, as TIME reported the week after it was announced:

Only since 1863 has Thanksgiving had a consistent year-to-year day, but football coaches were furious: 30% of them had games scheduled Nov. 30 which would now play to ordinary weekday crowds. Calendar-makers took the blow quietly except for Elliott-Greer Stationery Co. of Amarillo, Tex., which happily discovered it had designated Nov. 23 as Thanksgiving Day by mistake. Alf Landon sounded off in Colorado as follows: “. . . Another illustration of the confusion which his impulsiveness has caused so frequently during his administration. If the change has any merit at all, more time should have been taken in working it out . . . instead of springing it upon an unprepared country with the omnipotence of a Hitler.”

Yes, Roosevelt’s Republican rival did just compare FDR to Hitler because of this.

But FDR had a Black Friday-friendly explanation: merchants wanted a holiday that was farther from Christmas, allowing more time to shop. By that fall, 22 states had decided to play along with the change in their official calendars, 23 were sticking with tradition and Mississippi hadn’t decided. (Two states, Texas and Colorado, decided to observe both holidays.) The President stuck with the change the following year, declaring Nov. 21 to be the official Thanksgiving Day for 1940.

The following year, however, TIME’s headline on the topic was “President Admits Mistake”:

Midway in his press conference, with no change of voice or expression, the President picked up a memorandum and said there was one thing more. The reporters, expecting an announcement of the occupation of Martinique, or the declaration of a national emergency, sucked in their breath. They let it out again when they heard the President say that in 1942 Thanksgiving would be changed back to the traditional date, the last Thursday in November.

Nobody rushed for the telephone. But seasoned old Pundit Mark Sullivan grasped the full historic significance of the change: though some New Deal experiments had been killed by Congress, and a few had been invalidated by the courts, this was the first one to be formally renounced. The President made it clear that he had not been responsible for the mistake in the first place. Retail merchants had wanted the date of Thanksgiving set a week ahead to lengthen the shopping season before Christmas; the expected boon to trade had not materialized; the changed date had been an experiment and the experiment had not worked.

It was, by then, too late to change 1941’s calendars, on which the old-new Thanksgiving date (the third Thursday) had already been printed. And in Maine, things were even more extreme: “Now that President Roosevelt has gone back to the old Thanksgiving,” TIME reported, “Republican Governor Sumner Sewall has proclaimed the new Thanksgiving for the first time.”

By the end of 1941, Roosevelt had signed a bill officially sticking Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November, whether or not it was the last Thursday of the month. His attempt to give Americans a longer holiday season had proved futile — but, as anyone at a mall this Friday could attest, his instinct about the nation’s desire to get shopping wasn’t entirely misguided.

TIME Small Business

Growers Grateful for Higher Christmas Tree Prices

Christmas Tree Cost
Jenny Howell stands among snow-covered Christmas trees on her family-run Howell Tree Farm, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014, in Cumming, Iowa Charlie Neibergall—AP

"There are more options and choices out there"

(DES MOINES, Iowa) — Christmas tree likely will cost a little more this year, and growers like John Tillman say it’s about time.

Six years of decreased demand and low prices put many growers out of business. Those who withstood the downturn are relieved they survived.

“I’m awful proud to still be in the Christmas tree business,” said Tillman, who ships up to 20,000 trees each fall from nine fields south of Olympia, Washington. “We lost a lot of farmers who didn’t make it through.”

Prices vary according to the variety of tree, but growers this year will see about $20 per tree, $2 more than the last several years, according to Bryan Ostlund, executive director of the Salem, Oregon-based Pacific Northwest Tree Association. Prices will likely rise as the holidays near and supply decreases.

Consumers looking to deck their home could pay a little more than last year, but costs vary widely depending on factors such as transportation, tree-lot rental space and big-box retailers’ demand that prices remain stable. For example, a 6-foot Douglas fir in Oregon, which grows about one-third of the nation’s Christmas trees, could sell for $25 while a similar tree hauled to Southern California might go for $80.

Tara Deering-Hansen, a spokeswoman for Midwestern supermarket chain Hy-Vee, said wholesale tree prices have climbed slightly but prices are set at each store and customers might not see any increase.

Heavy snow last week slowed the shipment of trees from Michigan, which ranks third in production and supplies much of the Midwest and parts of the South. In some loading yards, stacks of trees awaiting shipment were covered with up to 2 feet of snow.

“Getting the snow off was more work than loading the trees,” said Dan Wahmhoff, co-owner of a nursery in southwestern Michigan. “It was definitely a challenge — wind and snow and cold, trucks were getting stuck — but we made it through.”

In the coming years, growers expect the supply of trees to remain stable with prices gradually increasing, in part because it takes six to seven years for a seedling to grow large enough to sell.

Even with the increase, most growers are being paid less now than in the mid-2000s, when trees from new and expanded farms hit the market as demand fell. And the industry still faces challenges, as competition from artificial tree manufacturers and other factors have led to a drop in trees harvested, from 20.8 million in 2002 to 17.3 million in 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The National Christmas Tree Association, based in Missouri, has encouraged growers to offer more options that meet the needs of younger people who live in urban areas and don’t have space for a towering tree, says executive director Rick Dungey. More growers are realizing that if they offer different looks — such as a tree that could fit on a coffee table or one thin enough to squeeze into a narrow room — people will buy them, Dungey said.

“There are more options and choices out there,” he said.

Small tree-farm owners who sell straight to customers aren’t as affected by the factors increasing prices to consumers nationally.

Jenny Howell, whose family runs Howell Tree Farm southwest of Des Moines, said they’ll raise prices a bit because of high fuel prices for mowers and other equipment over the summer and drought that caused some seedlings to die. But their customers typically return each winter and don’t spend time comparing her farm’s prices to those in city lots.

It can be cold, hard work traipsing through the snowy tree farm in December, but Howell said her family still enjoys it.

“It’s a happy business,” she said.

___

Associated Press writer John Flesher in Traverse City, Mich., contributed to this story.

TIME Companies

Apple’s Market Cap Just Hit $700 Billion for the First Time

Apple Unveils iPhone 6
People attend the Apple keynote at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts at De Anza College on Sept. 9, 2014 in Cupertino, Calif. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

The number has doubled since Tim Cook took over as CEO from Steve Jobs three years ago

Apple hit a major symbolic milestone Tuesday morning as its market capitalization topped $700 billion for the first time.

The tech giant’s market cap has doubled since Tim Cook took over as CEO three years ago when Steve Jobs stepped down from the role. The company’s stock has hit several new record highs lately on the heels of September’s wildly successful launch of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Apple shares have jumped by 21% since the company unveiled the new smartphones at a product event that also heralded the arrival of the much-hyped Apple Watch and the new Apple Pay mobile payments system.

The Apple Pay service became available last month, while the Apple Watch will go on sale in 2015.

But, the latest iterations of the iPhone have been driving up the company’s value since they went on sale in September and posted a record opening weekend by selling more than 10 million units. Apple is expected to keep selling those phones at a swift pace over the holiday season, with at least one analyst forecasting 71.5 million iPhone shipments in the fourth quarter.

At this point, Apple’s market cap is higher than the gross domestic product of all but 19 of the world’s countries, coming just behind Saudi Arabia (GDP of $745 billion) and ahead of Switzerland ($650 billion), according to data compiled by the World Bank.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME russia

Russia’s Lackluster Economy Means Putin Simply Can’t Afford a New Cold War

Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin prepares to toast with ambassadors in the Alexander Hall after a ceremony of presentation of credentials by foreign ambassadors in the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. Alexander Zemlianichenko—AP

Moscow needs the West

One of the axioms of global geopolitics is that a country can project power only as far as its economic might allows. There is good reason why the United States, by far the world’s largest economy, has been the dominant force in all things political and military for the past 60 years. And we can see China now rising to superpower status on the back of its spectacular economic ascent.

Vladimir Putin should take note. As Russia’s president attempts to reassert his nation’s clout in Europe, he is doing so on an ever shakier economic foundation. The question for Putin going forward is whether his stumbling economy can support his geopolitical ambitions. The answer is anything but clear.

Russia’s economy was struggling even before Putin’s adventurous foray into Ukraine. The country had been one of the high-fliers of the developing world, so much so that Goldman Sachs included Russia in its BRICs — the emerging economies that would shape the economic future — along with Brazil, India and China. But a feeble investment climate, endemic corruption and excessive dependence on natural resource exports eventually laid Russia low. Growth last year sunk to only 1.3%, down from the 7% to 8% rates experienced a decade ago.

Since Putin’s intervention in Ukraine, Russia’s economic situation has worsened severely. GDP inched upwards only 0.7% in the third quarter from a year earlier, and the International Monetary Fund is forecasting mere 0.2% growth for all of 2014. Sanctions imposed by the U.S. and European Union in the wake of Putin’s intervention in Ukraine have blocked some major Russian banks and companies from accessing financing in the West, starving them of much-needed foreign capital. As a result, the value of the Russian currency, the ruble, has deteriorated by 30% against the dollar so far this year, routinely hitting new record lows along the way.

In a recently released study, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development predicted that Western sanctions would help push Russia into a mild recession in 2015. Sanctions, the bank noted, “negatively affected business confidence, limited the ability of companies and banks to access international debt markets and contributed to an increase in private capital outflow.”

Meanwhile, Putin’s countermeasures have made matters worse. His decision to ban the import of some foodstuffs from the West has caused prices for fresh produce and other necessities to rise. Combined with the weakening ruble, that’s pushing up inflation, which bites into the pocketbook of the average Russian family. Moscow’s economy minister recently said that he expects inflation to exceed 9% by early 2015. The nasty mixture of a depreciating currency and escalating prices have forced the central bank to hike interest rates, which will act as a further drag on growth.

Headwinds from the global economy are making matters even worse. Tumbling oil prices spell bad news, both for overall growth and the financial position of the government, which is reliant on tax revenues from its energy industry to fund the budget. In 2013, oil and gas accounted for 68% of Russia’s total exports, while duties on those exports, combined with taxes on mining, accounted for 50% of the federal government’s revenue.

Putin so far hasn’t flinched. Instead, he has been scrambling to evade Western sanctions and find new sources of exports and investment in Asia. On the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, held in Beijing this month, Russia agreed to a deal to supply even more natural gas to China, on top of a $400 billion pact inked earlier this year.

That “pivot” to Asia will take time to bear fruit, however. Right now, none of the negative factors damaging Russia’s economic prospects look likely to turn positive any time soon. “We expect the stagnation trend to continue and potentially accelerate next year, exacerbated by lower oil prices, tighter monetary policy and continued uncertainty on the geopolitical front,” noted Barclays economist Eldar Vakhitov in a recent report.

Still, Putin’s economic woes haven’t yet translated into political problems. The Russian public appears to be patriotically rallying around Putin’s aggressive foreign policy and setting aside concerns about the economic fallout. In the latest poll conducted by the Levada Center, a Moscow-based independent research organization, an amazing 60% of the respondents said they believed that Russia was heading in the right direction, up significantly from 40% a year earlier. Putin’s approval rating stands at an even more astronomical 88%.

What the future may hold is another issue. A good part of Putin’s political success has been based on his record of improving people’s welfare, but with no relief in sight for Russia’s economic troubles, it may only be a matter a time before the general populace begins to feel the pinch more sharply. Nor can Putin ignore his economy’s need for foreign investment and technology to upgrade industry and create jobs. He may eventually find himself facing a critical choice — maintaining his foreign policy goals or softening his stance towards the West out of economic necessity.

Recall that the Soviet Union collapsed, after all, because its economy could not sustain its international policies. Putin has to watch that history doesn’t repeat itself.

MONEY Economy

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TIME Health Care

How Prioritizing Women’s Health Can Lift Countries Out of Poverty

Countries can tap the potential of the world's historic number of youth and adolescents

There are currently 1.8 billion young people between ages 10 and 14, and about 600 million are adolescent girls. Their needs, if addressed, could help countries achieve rapid economic growth, according to a new report from the UN Population Fund.

The global community has never before been home to so many youth, and therefore so much untapped potential, the study says.

It’s possible to turn all that womanpower into prosperity. When it comes to international development, a country can experience accelerated growth during a period if its working-age population grows larger than its non-working age population, typically because fertility and mortality rates have dropped. This allows the country to become a more profitable society, a benefit called the “demographic dividend.” Given the high number of youth and adolescents today, the UN report says several countries are poised for this transition if they can ensure that their young people actually make it into the workforce.

Several factors can contribute to this transition, like increasing living standards and creating transparent regulatory environments, but one of the greatest factors cited by the UN report is if a country significantly prioritizes and invests in women’s health, including sexual health.

MORE: Why It Takes Teens Equipped With Condoms to Encourage Family Planning in Africa

As the report points out, about one in every three girls will be married by the time she turns 18—every day, 39,000 girls become child brides—and an estimated 33 million young women between ages 15 and 24 say they would use contraceptives if they had access to them. Unfortunately, contraceptive use among adolescent females is only 22%, due to limited availability. In many developing countries, once a woman is married off and starts having children, it’s often too difficult for her to enter the workforce, especially if she was married at a very young age and did not finish school. Getting pregnant at a young age also increases the risk of a dangerous pregnancy, once again raising the mortality rates for mothers and children.

“Child marriage, because it usually results in early pregnancy, is linked to deaths from complications of pregnancy and childbirth, and married girls are more likely than married women to suffer violence and other abuse at the hands of their husbands,” says the report.

The UN says that some of the most successful ways to make sure women are safe and can enter the workforce are to enforce their reproductive rights via family planning initiatives, to stop child marriage, prevent adolescent pregnancies, stop sexual and gender-based violence and expand access to education. If women can enter the workforce, they can contribute to their local economies.

Family planning programs not only empower women to determine their life’s trajectory, but they mean big payoffs for a country’s workforce and economy—something many countries still need to embrace.

TIME russia

Putin’s Loss of German Trust Seals the West’s Isolation of Russia

President Putin gives press conference following G20 Summit
Russia's President Vladimir Putin looks on at a press conference following the G20 Leaders' Summit in Brisbane, Australia. Klimentyev Mikhail—EPA

After a night spent debating the Ukraine crisis with the Russian President, German Chancellor Angela Merkel came out more determined than ever to push the Kremlin out of Eastern Europe

Vladimir Putin has long had a soft spot for Germany. As an officer of the KGB in the late 1980s, he was stationed in the East German city of Dresden, where he developed a love of the language and, according to his memoirs, for the enormous steins of pilsner he drank at a beer hall in the town of Radeberg with friends.

As President, Putin’s foreign and economic policies have always looked to Germany as a pivotal ally, a vital partner in trade and a sympathetic ear for Russian interests. He seemed to feel that no matter what political headwinds came his way, the German sense of pragmatism would prevail in keeping Berlin on his side. That illusion has just been shattered.

During a speech on Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel predicted a drawn-out confrontation with Moscow. Breaking from her normally subdued political style, she even invoked the worst years of the 20th century in describing the West’s conflict with Russia over Ukraine. “After the horrors of two world wars and the end of the Cold War, this challenges the peaceful order in Europe,” she said, referring to what she called Putin’s “old-thinking” view of Eastern Europe as Russia’s stomping ground. “I am convinced this won’t succeed,” she said. In the end, the West would win out against the challenge emanating from Russia, “even if the path will be long and hard and full of setbacks,” Merkel told a conference in Brisbane, Australia.

It was in many ways the low point for Putin’s deepening estrangement from the West. During the G20 summit of world leaders held in Brisbane over the weekend, the Russian leader was broadly ostracized by the most powerful figures at the table, and some of them were far less diplomatic toward Putin than Merkel has been. In greeting Putin on Saturday, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper reportedly said, “I guess I’ll shake your hand, but I have only one thing to say to you: you need to get out of Ukraine.”

Later that day, Merkel came to the Hilton Hotel in central Brisbane for an unscheduled meeting with Putin that reportedly lasted almost six hours, running well into Sunday morning. The subject was the conflict in Ukraine, and according to the Kremlin, Putin did his best to “clarify in detail the Russian approach to this situation.” But his efforts to win Merkel’s sympathy – or at least her understanding – appear to have done the opposite. He emerged from their encounter apparently so exhausted that he decided to leave the summit early, saying he needed to get some sleep.

The letdown seemed all the more painful considering his recent attempt to reach out to the German public. A few days before the G20 summit began, Putin decided to give a rare one-on-one interview to the national German television network ARD, whose correspondent grilled him on Russia’s support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. Putin tried to sound conciliatory. “Of course we expect the situation to change for the better,” he said. “Of course we expect the Ukrainian crisis to end. Of course we want to have normal relations with our partners, including in the United States and Europe.”

Particularly for Germany, he argued, it is important to work things out with Russia, because their economies are so closely intertwined. Trade with Russia accounts for as many as 300,000 German jobs, Putin said, and by going along with the sanctions that the West has imposed on Russia, Berlin risks hurting its own economic growth. “Sooner or later,” he said, “it will begin to affect you as much as us.”

The warning, more plaintive than defiant in its tone, was aimed as much at the political elites in Germany as its powerful business interests, which rely on Russia for natural resources and a huge consumer market. Last year the trade between the two countries was worth more than $100 billion, compared to less than $40 billion between the U.S. and Russia. To fuel its energy-intensive industrial base, Germany also gets a third of its oil and gas from Russia, and 14% of everything that Russia imports is made in Germany.

But Putin, for all his appeals to German pragmatism, was wrong to hope that Russia’s isolation could boomerang back on the German economy, or on Merkel’s popularity. Even as the sanctions war choked off trade between Russia and the West, Germany’s total exports reached an all-time high in September. At the same time, Russia’s reputation among the German public has been scraping bottom. In a nationwide survey conducted in August, a German pollster reportedly found that 82% of Germans do not believe that Russia can be trusted, while 70% called for tougher sanctions against the Russian economy.

“So it seems clear that Putin has miscalculated,” says Joerg Forbrig, an expert on Eastern Europe at the German Marshall Fund in Berlin. “Certainly when it comes to Germany.”

This is a costly mistake. In trying to sway Berlin, Putin pursued his best, and perhaps only, chance of breaking the West’s resolve against him. The business lobby in Germany is both more powerful and more sympathetic toward Russia than any major European state, and the German electorate has generally favored a neutral stance on foreign policy.

Just a few weeks after Russia invaded and annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea in March, nearly half of Germans said that their government should not take sides in the conflict, while 35% urged their leaders to seek an understanding with Moscow. This core of German Russophiles now looks to have evaporated, and with it Putin loses the only Western partner that could have stopped the isolation of his country.

Many in Moscow have watched that turn in German feelings with surprise. “Even during the Cold War, we were laying [oil and gas] pipelines to Germany,” says Leonid Kalashnikov, vice chairman of the foreign affairs committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament. “Back then nobody seemed to mind.”

Under Putin, those energy links have been vastly expanded. In 2011, he launched the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline to pump fuel from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea. (In a sign of just how well-connected Putin was in Berlin at the time, Merkel’s predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, took a job as chairman of that pipeline project after his term as chancellor ran out in 2005.) But at the end of September, Merkel said the European Union may need to break its addiction to Russian fuel in the long term, especially if the Kremlin’s expansionist policies continue to violate “basic principles.”

But even the threat of losing the European market – disastrous as that would be for the Russian economy – is not likely to make the Kremlin yield. “There’s one thing the West just doesn’t understand,” says Kalashnikov. “They can use sanctions to coerce a small country. But Russia is not one of them. We will not get on our knees and do as we’re told.”

Thanks largely to his own anti-Western bluster, Putin’s support in Russia now relies more than ever on his defiance toward the West, and he will sooner accept the role of a pariah abroad than weakling at home. “We’re just not going to chastise him into changing his tune,” says Matthew Rojansky, a Russia expert at the Wilson Center in Washington.

Much more likely, the West’s ostracism will “foreclose” any remaining channels for swaying Putin through dialogue, adds Rojansky. But if Putin was searching for such a channel during his night of debating with Merkel, he has come up empty-handed. It’s not clear if he has anywhere else in the West to turn.

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TIME poverty

Study: 1 in 30 U.S. Kids Were Homeless During 2013

Study authors say nearly 2.5 million American children experienced homelessness last year

The number of homeless children in the United States surged by 8% in 2013 to nearly 2.5 million, according to a new study that attributes the record-breaking figure to a shortage of affordable housing and the lingering effects of a jobless economic recovery.

The report published Monday by the National Center on Family Homelessness combined the U.S. Department of Education’s existing estimate of homelessness among school-age children, 1.5 million, with independent tallies for younger children not yet at school. The revised total suggests that one in every 30 children in the U.S. experienced homelessness in 2013.

The study authors attribute the elevated rates of homelessness to a sluggish economic recovery, compounded by a housing market that has priced out unemployed and low income families. California, in particular, was hard hit with 527,000 homeless children, accounting for one-fifth of the national total.

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