Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fractures in the Middle Class

We all know that Americans are economically stressed. What we don't know is where the stresses are causing fractures. There are clues in the household statistics collected by the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, however. Take a look:

1. The number of households headed by people under age 65 declined between 2008 and 2009 for the first time ever.

2. Unexpected household declines (unexpected because the age groups are growing) occurred in two age groups: 15 to 24 and 55 to 64.

3. In both age groups, single-person households registered the steepest decline. The number of single-person households headed by women under age 25 fell by a stunning 17 percent between 2008 and 2009. The number of single-person households headed by men aged 55 to 64 fell by 8 percent.

Since young women are more likely than young men to be in college, could it be that student debt is causing many to reconsider living by themselves as an unaffordable luxury?

Men aged 55 to 64 are the ones most likely to divorce. Could it be that the economy is forcing men with marital problems to stay married or encouraging divorced men to get married? Interestingly, the number of married couples in the 55-to-64 age group increased by 273,000 between 2008 and 2009--up 2.4 percent.

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