Thursday, December 30, 2010
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
The Nevada state demographer, Jeff Hardcastle, has estimated that Nevada lost 100,000 people in the past two years, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Yet the 2010 census results show Nevada's population growing 35 percent over the decade (to 2,700,551) and gaining 84,779 people in the last two years (a calculation made by comparing the 2010 census count with the Census Bureau’s estimate of Nevada’s population in 2008).Who’s right? My guess is the state demographer. Nevada has been devastated by the Great Recession. It has the highest unemployment rate and the highest foreclosure rate in the country. Behind Nevada’s “growth” over the past few years is the Census Bureau’s probable underestimate of Nevada’s population in the intercensal years from 2001 through 2009. During those years, the state demographer’s estimates of Nevada’s population have consistently exceeded the Census Bureau’s. In 2008, the excess was 139,000. Given the hard times the state has experienced, the Census Bureau is likely to revise its estimate of Nevada’s intercensal population upward, revealing the recent loss.
Monday, December 20, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Twenty years ago, when I was the editor of American Demographics magazine, we published an article entitled "The Fifth Medium," the purpose of which was to describe and name the Big Thing that was about to happen. Everyone who followed the trends could feel something coming, but no one knew quite what it would be.
"A new medium is emerging that may be more powerful than newspapers, magazines, and television put together," the American Demographics article announced. For want of a better word, we called it the "fifth medium" (the others were radio, television, newspapers, and magazines). We struggled to identify the fifth medium: "People call this new medium electronic publishing, on-line information, telecomputing, multimedia, or videotex. They are all evolutionary names for a beast that hasn't yet shown its full form."
Doesn't it make you want to scream, "It's the Internet, stupid!"
The identity of the beast is painfully obvious now, but it wasn't so back then. For proof, try a search of the New York Times archives by year for the number of articles that contain the word "Internet." Here's what you get:
- 1988: 3
- 1989: 7
- 1990: 17
- 1991: 9
- 1992: 12
- 1993: 89
- 1994: 375
- 1995: 1,241
- 1996: 2,218
- 1997: 2,779
- 1998: 4,057
- 1999: 7,737
- 2000: 10,134
On November 5, 1988, the word "Internet" appeared for the first time in the New York Times. The article was about Robert T. Morris, Jr., a Cornell University graduate student who unleashed a computer worm on what the Times calls "an international group of communication networks, the Internet." The other two articles of 1988 in which the word Internet appeared were also about the Morris worm, one of them noting that "many teenagers are treating Mr. Morris as a folk hero and are busy designing their own virus programs." (Mr. Morris is now Dr. Morris and a professor at MIT.)
For years, even as late as 1996, the Times felt the need to add explanatory descriptors whenever using the term Internet. In a 1990 article: "An international computer network known as Internet..." In a 1992 article: "a worldwide network called the Internet." In 1996: "the linkage of computers known as the Internet." By 1996, the word 'Internet' had become common public currency, says Wordiq.com. After that year the New York Times no longer felt the need to explain the Internet to its readers.
Although the public was familiar with the term Internet by the mid-1990s, most were not Internet users until more recently. In the early months of 2000, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, only 46 percent of Americans were online. The figure topped 50 percent later that year. Today, 79 percent are online.
With that kind of penetration, you might think the Internet revolution is behind us, but you would be wrong. The Internet revolution has been slow to unfold and is only now--right now, this year--fully on top of us. What took so long? The demographics. The effect of technological change on human history unfolds at the pace of generational replacement (henceforth known as the Russell Rule). The Internet has been part of the fabric of our daily lives for only one generation, which is why the full force of the Internet is only now being unleashed. Among today's young adults (18 to 29), 95 percent are online, according to Pew. The figure is 87 percent among 30-to-49-year-olds, 78 percent among 50-to-64-year-olds, and just 42 percent among people aged 65 or older. The older generations have resisted the Internet, but they are being replaced by younger generations who live in "the cloud." A growing percentage of the world's population has never known a world without the Internet.
Future generations will see clearly how the Internet revolution led to the dislocations that are causing our current economic woes. In contrast, most of the generations alive today--including all historians, pundits, politicians, and most business leaders--are not in a position to comprehend this cause and effect. Here is their position: They are standing barefoot on a shore, gazing out at the ocean, and seeing for the first time strange white clouds on the horizon. What could be coming their way? It's the Internet, stupid!
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
For just $5 you can download the best study to date of the effects of the Great Recession on the average American. This National Bureau of Economic Research study (Effects of the Financial Crisis and Great Recession on American Households, by Michael D. Hurd and Susann Rohwedder) is based on the smart, new American Life Panel, an Internet survey run by RAND. With findings as recent as spring 2010, the analysis shows that 39 percent of households have been severely hurt by the recession--meaning they have experienced unemployment, have negative equity in their home, are arrears in their house payments, or have had a foreclosure. Monthly household spending is also analyzed, revealing deep cuts in restaurant meals and health care.
Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 16407
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Forty-four million Americans live in poverty, according to the latest Census Bureau statistics, a substantial 14 percent of the population. Who are the poor? They are people whose incomes fall below the level needed to buy what was deemed to be a nutritionally adequate diet in 1955 multiplied by three and adjusted for inflation. Sounds crazy, no?
Crazy, but all too true. Mollie Orshansky, an employee of the Social Security Administration, was charged in the early 1960s with creating a poverty measure. She and her colleagues never meant for the methodology they devised to become permanently enshrined in American economic policy. But politics being what it is, that's what happened. Orshansky believed her calculations would be updated every few years to account for rising living standards and changing spending patterns. No update has ever occurred. The poverty measure she created, based on a 1955 food consumption survey, is simply adjusted for inflation each year. Today, a family of four, is deemed to be poor if their income falls below $21,954.
Officially, poverty in the United States is defined by this income measure alone. The poor may or may not receive benefits such as food stamps, subsidized housing, or Medicaid. In fact, most of the poor do not receive these government benefits. The poor may or may not own a house, a car, a television, a microwave, or even a cell phone. In fact, 97 percent of the poor have a television, 79 percent have air conditioning, and most own a cell phone. As Adam Smith once cautioned, poverty is relative. Begrudging the poor the necessities of the 21st century makes no more sense than begrudging them 20th century basics like running water and indoor plumbing.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Friday, December 03, 2010
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
No more white pages. In the past few months, state regulators in New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania have ended the requirement that telecommunications companies publish residential phone books. Many older Americans will be dismayed. A doctoral student who is writing her dissertation on phone books described it, according to the Associated Press, as “sort of heartbreaking.”
"Sort of" is an understatement. Just ask the baby-boom generation. Boomers are caught between two worlds in a new kind of generational sandwich. The bottom slice is their children, who access the world through the Internet. The top slice is their parents, who access the world through print—newspapers, magazines, letters, and phone books. It is heartbreaking to see the bewilderment of the older generation as familiar icons disappear, one after the other.
Right now—literally right now—it is all coming together (or falling apart, depending on your point of view). The transition from the old world of print to the new world of the Internet is almost complete. In 2010, 79 percent of American households used the Internet, up from fewer than half of households in 2000, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. The massive brick and mortar businesses built on the profits generated from putting ink on paper are collapsing.
Boomers are stuck in the middle. Among people aged 65 or older, only 42 percent are online. The older generation is increasingly dependent on boomers—their children—to help them navigate a strange new world.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Almost 15 million Americans are unemployed, and 31 percent have been out of work for at least one year. Never before have so many people been out of work for so long. Among the unemployed aged 55 or older, an even larger 41 percent have been out of work for a year or longer.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Household spending peaked in 2006 at $51,688. In 2008, the average household spent $50,486, or $1,200 less after adjusting for inflation. On many categories of products and services, the average household reversed the direction of its spending in the 2006-08 time period compared with the 2000-06 time period. Here are the 10 most telling U-turns in consumer spending:
1. RESTAURANTS: +8 percent to -6 percent Average household spending on restaurants U-turned from an 8 percent gain in the 2000-06 time period to a 6 percent loss between 2006 and 2008, after adjusting for inflation. Because of the Great Recession, Americans are spending more on groceries. Even basic ingredients such as eggs, flour and milk are staging a comeback after years of decline. Don't write restaurants off, however. They still attract the 72 percent majority of households into the marketplace on a weekly basis.
2. MORTGAGE INTEREST: +21 percent to -5 percent Every age group has been hammered by the housing bubble. But no age group has been hit as hard as 35-to-44-year-olds. Because they were in the home buying lifestage when housing prices peaked, they paid top dollar for houses and are--by far--the biggest spenders on mortgage interest. With many losing their homes, average household spending on mortgage interest is declining.
3. STATIONERY AND GIFT WRAP: +15 percent to -11 percent Is there anything more discretionary than gift wrap? Spending on this item climbed significantly during the easy money years of the housing bubble. Since 2006, not so much.
4. DAY CARE: +16 percent to -8 percent As the unemployment rate climbed, spending on day care fell.
5. FURNITURE: +1 percent to -22 percent Houses were selling furiously during the housing boom, but spending on furniture was surprisingly lackluster. Since 2006, average household spending on furniture (and appliances) has collapsed.
6. HOUSEHOLD TEXTILES: +24 percent to -23 percent Towels, sheets, blankets, curtains--nothing is feeling the whiplash more than the household textile category.
7. BABY CLOTHES: 0 percent to -9 percent This category had been defying the long-term decline in apparel spending as births climbed to a record high of 4.3 million in 2007. When the recession set in, the number of births began to fall, and so did spending on baby clothes.
8. DRUGS: +6 percent to -12 percent Out-of-pocket spending by the average household on drugs is down despite the barrage of advertising, the growing proportion of pill poppers in the population, and the penny-pinching of insurance companies. Behind the decline is the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, which went into effect in 2006.
9. ADMISSIONS TO ENTERTAINMENT EVENTS: +1 percent to -5 percent During the downturn, households continued to spend on high-definition television sets. But they cut back on other entertainment categories. One loser was this category, which includes movie and amusement park tickets.
10. CASH CONTRIBUTIONS: +34 percent to -13 percent Donations to charities are plummeting, says the Chronicle of Philanthropy. The household numbers bear this out. Average household spending on contributions climbed strongly when Americans felt flush, then fell sharply as they tightened their belts.