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The Average American Lives 18 Miles From Their Mom

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Older parents might suffer from the effects of empty nest syndrome, but according to data from the University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Study, when kids in America fly the coop, they don’t go very far.

The New York Times analyzed the survey of older Americans and found that on average, adults live just 18 miles from mom (researchers tend to focus on mothers because they are often the caregivers, and generally live longer than their male counterpart). The analysis also found that only 20 percent of Americans live more than a few hours from their parents by car.

It’s worth reading the full analysis over at the Times, but generally speaking, the close proximities are a result of families who rely on each other for support, both financially and practically. Americans have become less and less mobile over the course of the last few decades, in particular those with less education and lower incomes.

Economist Robert A. Pollak told the Times: “It speaks to a class divide in the population. Particularly as you go further down the socioeconomic scale, people are living pretty close to their parents, and this means they're able to provide help.”

The median distance from mom is farthest on the West Coast and in the Mountain States, and closest in the Northeast (Pennsylvania and New York) and South. Similarly, a 2010 Pew Research Center survey found that 37 percent of Americans have never lived outside their hometown, while 57 percent have never left their home state.

The overall trend is expected to continue as baby boomers are increasingly in need of caretaking and as more and more double-income families look for help with child care.

See how your state measures up and read more about the findings over at The Upshot.

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geography
This State Was Just Ranked the Best in the U.S.
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Every year, U.S. News and World Report assembles its list of the Best States across a variety of metrics. Categories like health care, education, economy, and quality of life are measured statistically—education, for example, looks at the graduation rate in high schools, while the unemployment rate correlates with job opportunities—and assessed against areas where states may be lacking, like disparities in income between genders or unfavorable crime statistics.

After considerable crunching of numbers, the U.S. News data analysis has crowned a new "best" state: Iowa.

The Hawkeye state finished in the top 10 or top five in key areas like health care, job opportunities, and overall infrastructure. Farming, a longtime identifying trait, has taken second place to manufacturing plants. And while plenty of Iowa is rural, its technological innovations are advanced: the state actually leads the nation in building high-speed internet access into the fabric of its communities.

There are other factors that paved the way for Iowa's placement—affordable housing, for example, where it ranks second overall in the country, and health care affordability. U.S. News points to a sluggish population growth for younger residents and less-hospitable resources for entrepreneurs as drawbacks.

In the full list, Minnesota grabbed the second-place spot; New York, the 25th. Louisiana appears at the bottom. 

[h/t U.S. News]

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Big Questions
Why Do Honeycrisp Apples Cost So Much?
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Apples to apples is no longer a valid comparison. As gastronomic writer Sarah Jampel at Food52 has observed, shoppers who prefer a premium fruit experience by opting for Honeycrisp apples can pay up to four times as much as they would for other varieties. When did Granny Smiths become the RC Cola to Honeycrisp’s Coke?

According to Jampel, the answer invokes the old law of supply and demand. There’s plenty of demand for the apple, but prices get engorged when there isn't enough to go around.

The scarcity is a result of the Honeycrisp’s eccentric nature. Introduced commercially in 1991 after being invented by University of Minnesota scientist David Bedford, who cross-pollinated seeds to create a more durable and winter-resistant apple, the Honeycrisp tree demands very specific soil and maintenance requirements. The fruit can ripen at various times, necessitating more frequent harvests; the skin is thin and delicate, so they must be trimmed off by hand. Many of the trees are so delicate they require a trellis [PDF] to support their branches.

All the extra labor means more time and money—the latter of which is passed along to the consumer.

Growers who didn’t anticipate the surging popularity of Honeycrisps were also caught off-guard. As trees can take up to six years to bear enough fruit for commercial purposes, the number of trees currently producing isn’t really proportionate to the level of demand.

That will change as more are planted, although it might be a little while before the Honeycrisp proves to be on the same economic footing as its Red Delicious counterpart. Before you celebrate a cheaper version, remember that growers looking to feed the market might opt to grow the apple in less-than-perfect conditions that could affect its famously crunchy taste. Enjoy it while you can.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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