Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Measuring the Internet-of-Things

The Internet of Things is a growing category of technology that allows consumers to control household appliances and devices through the internet. The federal government's National Telecommunications and Information Administration is studying the Internet of Things and has solicited advice on how best to go about measuring and tracking the growing industry.

"Consumer uses of connected devices are still nascent," says the NTIA after examining the July 2015 Computer and Internet Supplement to the Current Population Survey. But it won't be long before the use of internet-connected devices is commonplace. Among the nation's internet users aged 15 or older in 2015, only 7 percent controlled household equipment—such as thermostats, light bulbs, or security systems—via the internet, says the NTIA. But among the 1 percent of Americans who used wearable devices (such as fitness bands or watches), a much larger 27 percent used the internet to control household equipment. This "highlights how wearable device users tend to be early adopters of new technology," says NTIA.

A link to more than 130 (fascinating) comments received by the NTIA is attached to the article.

Source: National Telecommunications and Information Administration, New Insights into the Emerging Internet of Things

Monday, June 27, 2016

Decline of White, Married Christians

Percentage of American adults who are white, married, and Christian...

2015: 28%
2010: 31%
2000: 35%
1990: 46%
1980: 56%

Source: Public Religion Research Institute, White, Married Christians Decline in U.S.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Household Income Falls in May 2016

We're backtracking. Median household income in May 2016 fell below the median of December 2007 (the start of the Great Recession) after having surpassed it since November 2015, according to Sentier Research. The May 2016 median of $56,853 was slightly below the $57,024 median of December 2007, after adjusting for inflation. We've fallen behind again. 

There is some good news in Sentier's latest monthly update, however. The May 2016 median was 1.8 percent higher than the May 2015 median, and 8.9 percent above the $52,229 median of August 2011—the low point in Sentier's household income series. Sentier's household income estimates are derived from the Census Bureau's monthly Current Population Survey.

Median household income in May 2016 was 1.6 percent higher than the median of June 2009, which marked the end of the Great Recession. But it was 0.3 percent below the median of December 2007, the start of the Great Recession. It was 1.5 percent below the median of January 2000. The Household Income Index for May 2016 was 98.5 (January 2000 = 100.0).

Source: Sentier ResearchHousehold Income Trends: May 2016

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Population by Race and Hispanic Origin, 2015

The U.S. population grew by 12.1 million between 2010 and 2015, according to the Census Bureau. Non-Hispanic Whites accounted for just 5 percent of the gain, and the nation's minorities accounted for the other 95 percent. In 2015, the minority share of the population climbed to 38.4 percent, up from 36.2 percent in 2010. Here are the 2015 estimates by race and Hispanic origin...

Total population: 321,418,820
The U.S. population grew by 3.9 percent between 2010 and 2015, a gain of 12.1 million.

Non-Hispanic Whites: 197,970,812 (61.6%)
The non-Hispanic White population grew by a minuscule 0.3 percent between 2010 and 2015, a gain of only 583,195. The non-Hispanic White share of the population fell from 63.8 to 61.6 percent during those years.

Hispanics: 56,592,793 (17.6%)
The Hispanic population grew by 11.5 percent between 2010 and 2015, a gain of 5.8 million. Hispanics accounted for 48 percent of the nation's population growth between 2010 and 2015.

Blacks (alone or in combination): 46,282,080 (14.4%)
The Black population grew by 7.1 percent between 2010 and 2015, a gain of 3.1 million.

Asians (alone or in combination): 20,994,374 (6.5%)
The Asian population grew by 18.8 percent between 2010 and 2015, a gain of 3.3 million.

Source: Census Bureau, Population Estimates 2015

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Big Business of Alternative Medicine

Alternative medicine is big business. Americans spend $30 billion annually out-of-pocket on what the federal government calls "complementary health" practitioners and products, according to the 2012 National Health Interview Survey. Complementary health practitioners are those who provide acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic services, massage, energy healing therapy, yoga, and tai chi, among other services. Complementary health products include fish oil, co-enzyme Q10, ginseng, melatonin, probiotics, and many other herbs or nonvitamin supplements.

How much is $30 billion? It's 1.1 percent of total health care expenditures in the United States. It's 9.2 percent of total out-of-pocket health care expenditures. The $12 billion portion devoted to natural products is 24 percent of the amount Americans spend out-of-pocket on prescription drugs. The $15 billion portion devoted to complementary health practitioners is 30 percent of the amount Americans spend out-of-pocket on physician visits.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey, Expenditures on Complementary Health Approaches: United States, 2012

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Vehicle Purchases in Past 12 Months

How much do Americans love cars? They love them so much that one in four adults (or their spouse or partner) bought a car or truck in the past 12 months, according to a Federal Reserve Board survey. Among car/truck buyers...

  • 38% bought a new vehicle. Nearly half of high-income buyers, with household incomes above $100,000, bought a new vehicle (47 percent). Among low-income buyers, with household incomes below $40,000, only 27 percent bought new. 
  • 35% bought a used vehicle from a car dealer, with little variation by household income.
  • 17% bought a used vehicle from a private seller. Only 6 percent of high-income buyers bought a used car from a private seller versus a substantial 31 percent of low-income buyers.
  • 9% leased a vehicle, with little variation by household income.

Source: Federal Reserve Board, Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2015

Monday, June 20, 2016

Even The Best Surveys Have Problems

Just how accurate are even the best surveys—the federal government's Current Population Survey, for example. The CPS is the source of vital economic indicators such as labor force participation and unemployment. Do the rates it measures reflect reality?

A National Bureau of Economic Research analysis examines this question, analyzing some of the basic indicators measured by the CPS, the Consumer Expenditure Survey, and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. The goal of the analysis was to determine how much certain indicators vary depending on the number of times survey interviewers attempt to contact respondents. Disturbingly, the indicators vary quite a bit. The labor force participation rate is lower, for example, among participants who respond on the first attempt and higher for those who require three or four attempts before participating in the survey—even after controlling for demographic characteristics. The labor force participation rate was just 63.0 percent among respondents reached on the first attempt and climbed to 72.3 percent among respondents who could be reached only after three or four attempts. The unemployment rate was higher among those reached on the first attempt (8.1 percent) than among harder-to-reach respondents (6.7 percent). The researchers found similar troubling variations in measures produced by the other two surveys: household spending (Consumer Expenditure Survey), and obesity (Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System).

How much do our important socioeconomic indicators reflect reality and how much are they a function of who is easiest to reach? What about those who can't be reached after multiple attempts? The authors of the study are concerned.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, Difficulty to Reach Respondents and Nonresponse Bias: Evidence from Large Government Surveys, Working Paper 22333 ($5)

Friday, June 17, 2016

ACA Boosts Financial Security

Better physical health is not the only potential benefit of the Affordable Care Act, according to a Liberty Street Economics analysis. Financial health also appears to improve when more Americans have health insurance. Using data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's Consumer Credit Panel, fed researchers analyzed credit card balances and credit scores by county in states that did and did not expand Medicaid. Their conclusion: the expansion of Medicaid has a led to "average per capita credit card balances declining in the counties most affected by the Medicaid expansion." Credit scores increased the most in those areas as well.

"We offer suggestive early evidence that the Medicaid expansion is fulfilling the goal of health insurance: providing 'peace of mind' by protecting against financial hardship," conclude the researchers, who will continue to investigate these dynamics as more data become available.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Liberty Street Economics, Is Health Insurance Good for Your Financial Health?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Decline in Daily Newspaper Readers: Thanks Internet!

Newspaper employment has plummeted over the past two decades, according to a Demo Memo analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics' data, with most of the decline occurring since 2007—when the smartphone transformed the internet into something personal and portable. Behind the decline in newspaper employment is the shrinking newspaper audience, a trend starkly documented in Pew Research Center's State of the News Media 2016. The percentage of Americans who read a daily newspaper (print or digital) has plummeted since 2007...

Percent reading a daily newspaper in 2015 (and in 2007)
Aged 18 to 24: 16% (33%)
Aged 25 to 34: 17% (34%)
Aged 35 to 44: 21% (43%)
Aged 45 to 54: 28% (53%)
Aged 55 to 64: 38% (59%)
Aged 65-plus: 50% (66%)

Source: Pew Research Center, State of the News Media 2016

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Finances Getting Better or Worse?

Every year for the past three, the Federal Reserve Board has surveyed the nation's households to determine their economic well-being. Among many other questions, the survey asks respondents how they're doing financially. In 2015, this is what they said:

Economic well-being in 2015
28% living comfortably
41% doing okay
22% just getting by
9% finding it difficult to get by

The 69 percent of Americans who were doing okay or living comfortably in 2015 was 4 percentage points greater than in 2014—a statistically significant increase, according to the report. But some are doing better than others. The 2015 survey included a panel of 2014 respondents, which was asked whether their finances had gotten better or worse over the past year. Among those living comfortably in 2014, a substantial 35 percent were doing even better in 2015 and 7 percent were worse. Among those finding it difficult to get by in 2014, only 18 percent were doing better in 2015 and fully 49 percent said their finances were even worse.

Source: Federal Reserve Board, Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2015

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How Many Teenagers Take Risks?

Risky behavior ranked by percentage of 9th to 12th graders engaging in the activity...

41.5% texted or emailed while driving in past 30 days
32.8% drank alcohol in past 30 days
30.1% sexually active in past 3 months
24.1% currently use vaping products
22.6% were in a physical fight in past 12 months
21.7% currently use marijuana
20.0% rode with a driver who had been drinking in past 30 days
16.2% carried a weapon in past 30 days
10.8% currently smoke cigarettes
7.8% drove after drinking in past 30 days
5.3% carried a gun in past 30 days

Source: CDC, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2015

Monday, June 13, 2016

What Would Help Low-Income Households the Most?

What is the most effective way to improve the economic wellbeing of the nation's low-income households? A study by the Brookings Institution answers the question by simulating different labor market interventions and determining which one would boost income the most.

The study focused on the poorest one-third of households headed by able-bodied 25-to-54-year-olds. These households are struggling to get by on average annual earnings of just $12,415. By simulating the effect of different labor market interventions on these households—such as raising the minimum wage, helping single mothers, boosting high school graduation rates, and so on—the researchers identify the one intervention that would make the biggest difference: full-time work.

Only 46 percent of low-income householders have a full-time job versus 87 percent of their higher-income counterparts. If all low-income household heads worked full-time at the wage expected for their education, race, and gender, their earnings would rise substantially. No other labor market intervention comes close to making this big a difference. Boosting the high school graduation rate to 90 percent, for example, adds only $370 to the $12,415 annual earnings of low-income households. Raising the minimum wage to $12/hour increases earnings to $14,722. But finding every low-income household head a full-time job makes the biggest difference, lifting earnings to $19,163, a 54 percent increase.

Source: The Brookings Institution, Isabel Sawhill, Edward Rodrigue, and Nathan Joo, One Third of a Nation: Strategies For Helping Working Families

Friday, June 10, 2016

Disability Free Life Expectancy is Rising

The life expectancy of Americans at age 65 has been rising. Between 1992 and 2008, life expectancy at age 65 climbed from 17.5 to 18.8 years—a gain of 1.3 years. Even better, all of the gain was in disability-free years, according to a National Bureau of Economic Research analysis of data from the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey.

In 1991-94, the 17.5 years of life remaining to a 65-year-old was about equally split between disability-free years (8.9) and years of disability (8.6). By 2006-2009, disability-free years of life remaining had expanded to 10.7, and disabled years had fallen to 8.1.

What accounts for this longer, healthier life? Fully 63 percent of the increase is due to fewer deaths and less disability from two health conditions, say the researchers: cardiovascular disease and vision problems. The improvement in these conditions is due in part to changing social factors, such as rising educational attainment, and due in part to better medical treatment. The researchers calculate that 15 percent of the overall increase in disability-free life expectancy is due to better medical treatment of cardiovascular disease. Five percent of the overall increase is due to cataract surgery.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, Understanding the Improvement in Disability Free Life Expectancy in the U.S. Elderly Population, NBER Working Paper 22306

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Births by Race and Hispanic Origin, 2015

The ongoing baby bust is delaying the inevitable—the day when Hispanics, Blacks, and Asians will account for the majority of Americans, projected to occur in 2043. The racial and ethnic composition of the population is not changing as fast as foreseen by the Census Bureau because minorities are having fewer babies than was assumed in the projections and non-Hispanic Whites are having more.

Among the 3,977,745 babies born in 2015, fully 53.5 percent were non-Hispanic White. The Census Bureau's projections had the share at 50.4 percent. Only 23.2 percent of babies born in 2015 were Hispanic, while the Census Bureau projected the share at 24.9 percent. Black and Asian births are also below projections.

Percent distribution of births by race and Hispanic origin in 2015
Asian: 7.1%
Black: 14.8%
Hispanic: 23.2%
Non-Hispanic White: 53.5%

Overall, the Census Bureau was almost on target regarding the total number of births in 2015. The  projected total was only 21,000 more than the actual number. But the Census Bureau underestimated non-Hispanic White births by 5.3 percent (113,000 too low) and overestimated Hispanic births by 7.8 percent (72,000 too high).

Source: Demo Memo analysis of the Census Bureau's 2014 National Population Projections and National Center for Health Statistics, Births: Preliminary Data for 2015