American farmers of today lead vastly different lives from those of their grandparents. Machines have eliminated much backbreaking farm work. Farmers use machines to help them plow, plant seeds, harvest crops, and deliver their products to market. Many farms have conveyor systems so that the farmer no longer has to shovel feed to farm animals. Milking machines make morning and evening chores easier. In the home, farm families may have all the comforts and conveniences of city people. In the 1900's, the automobile, telephone, radio, and television have brought U.S. farm families into close contact with the rest of the world.
The steady decline in the percentage of the country's rural population has slowed since 1970. Although many people continued to move awayfrom rural areas, others chose to move into rural towns and farm communities. Many of the newcomers wanted to escape the overcrowding, pollution, crime, and other problems that are part of life in urban areas and to take advantage of benefits of country living. Rural areas have lower crime rates and less pollution than urban areas. They are also far less noisy and crowded.
Because of their small populations, rural communities collect less tax revenues than urban communities do, and they generally cannot provide the variety of services that urban areas can. For example, rural communities have cultural and recreational facilities that are more limited than those available in urban areas. For many rural Americans, social life centers around family gath-erings, church and school activities, special interest clubs, and such events as state and county fairs.
Rural areas generally have less diversified economies than urban areas. Because there are fewer and a smaller variety of jobs to choose from, rural communities may experience more widespread economic hardships than urban communities. A single economic downturn-a drop in farm prices, for example, or the closing of a mine-can cause economic hardship for an entire rural area.
The nation's rural areas, like its urban areas, have wealthy, middle class, and poor people. For the most part, however, the gaps between economic classes are not as large in rural areas as in urban areas. Most rural Americans live in single-family houses. The majority of the houses are comfortable and in good condition. But some people, including many who live in parts of Appalachia-in the eastern United States-and other pockets of rural poverty, have run-down houses and enjoy few luxuries.
Language. The United States has never had an official language, but English has always been the chief language spoken in the country. Immigrants from the British Isles-who included the nation's founders-spoke English. Many immigrants from other lands who spoke little or no English also came to the United States. They learned at least enough English to be able to communi-cate with other Americans. Their children learned English in school. The immigrants' children generally spoke both English and their ethnic language, and in many families the immigrants' grandchildren spoke only English.
Today, Spanish is the second most common language in the United States. The region that is now the Southwestern United States was colonized by Spain in the 1500's. As a result, many people from that region speak Spanish. Since the 1950s, many Spanish-speaking people have immigrated to the United States from Mexico, Cuba, and other places. Many of these people learned English. But others speak only Spanish. This is especially true in Spanish-speaking neighborhoods that developed in cities. Some people feel that special efforts should be made to provide education and other services in Spanish for people who speak only Spanish.
Many people believe every American should know English. They point out that it is difficult to get a job outside Spanish-speaking neighborhoods without a knowledge of English. They also argue that a language shared by everyone is an important unifying force for a country. In the i1980's, a number of states passed laws declaring English to be their only official language. These laws provide that the government must offer its services in English, and need not do so in any other language. But in some places, public documents and signs in public places are written in both English and Spanish.
1.5.Religion if Americans
Religion plays an important role in the lives of millions of Americans. The country's churches provide people with moral guidance and places for worship. Many churches also serve as centers for social gatherings, such as a church picnic, above.
Religion. About 60 per cent of all the American people are members of an organized religious group. Among them, about 52 per cent are Protestants, 38 per cent Roman Catholics, 4 per cent jews, 3 per cent Mormons, and 3 per cent are members of Eastern Orthodox Churches. Relatively small numbers of Americans belong to other faiths, such as Islam and Buddhism. Roman Catholics make up the largest single religious denomination in the United States. About 56 million Americans are Roman Catholics. The country's largest Protestant groups are, in order of size, Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, Lutherans, and Presbyterians.
Religion has played an important role in the history of the United States. Many people came to the American Colonies to escape religious persecution in other lands. The early colonists included Puritans in New England, Roman Catholics in Maryland, and Quakers in Pennsylvania. The early Americans made religious freedom one of the country's basic laws. The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which was adopted in 1791, guarantees every American freedom of religion. It also provides that no religious group be given official recognition as a state church. These provisions were intended to prevent persecution of religious minorities and the favoring of one church over another. Religious freedom was one of the reasons immigrants continued to flock to the United States through the years.
Although all religious groups in the United States enjoy freedom, Christian traditions have had a stronger influence on American life than those of any other faith. For example, most offices, factories, and other places of employment are closed on Sunday, the Sabbath of most Christians. The influence of Christianity results