Sunday, July 31, 2011

Wealth Estimates: Pew vs Feds

Last week Pew Research Center released an important study of household wealth, based on the Census Bureau's Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). The study examined and compared the wealth of blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and whites. These race and Hispanic origin breakdowns are especially valuable, since the Federal Reserve Board's Survey of Consumer Finances--the only other survey that produces estimates of household wealth--lumps blacks, Hispanics, and Asians into the single group "nonwhites or Hispanics."

There are big differences in the median wealth estimates produced by the two surveys, and these differences demand explanation. Take a look at each survey's median household net worth estimates for 2009...

Asians: $78,066
Blacks: $5,677
Hispanics: $6,325
Whites: $113,149

Non-Hispanic whites: $149,900
Nonwhites or Hispanics: $23,300

Note that median household net worth is higher in the Fed survey regardless of race or Hispanic origin. One factor that makes a difference between the two surveys are the race and Hispanic origin groupings. In the Pew study, Hispanics are also counted in the "white" racial group, lowering its net worth. In the Fed survey, Asians are included in the "nonwhite or Hispanic" group, raising its net worth.

Another reason for the differences is methodological. The Fed survey includes several items that are not included in SIPP, according to Pew's researchers, such as the value of personal property, equity in defined-benefit pension plans, and cash value life insurance policies.

Source: Pew Research Center, Wealth Gaps Rise to Record Highs Between Whites, Blacks and Hispanics; Federal Reserve Board, Surveying the Aftermath of the Storm: Changes in Family Finances from 2007 to 2009

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Other Side of Peak Homeownership

Homeownership rates are falling in every age group, and they are falling the fastest among 30-to-34-year-olds. This is because young adults are choosing not to buy (or can't afford to buy) as they age through their twenties and into their thirties, lowering the homeownership rate of age groups as they fill them. Between 2004 (the year the homeownership rate peaked) and the second quarter of 2011, the homeownership rate of households headed by 30-to-34-year-olds fell by 7.9 percentage points.

     2011      2004
  2nd qtr    annual   change
Total  65.9  69.0 -3.1
<25  21.9  25.2 -3.3
25-29  34.7  40.2 -5.5
30-34  49.5  57.4 -7.9
35-39  60.5  66.2 -5.7
40-44  66.9  71.9 -5.0
45-49  70.2  76.3 -6.1
50-54  74.3  78.3 -4.0
55-59  76.8  81.2 -4.4
60-64  79.0  82.4 -3.4
65+  80.8  81.1 -0.3

You can see home buying taking place among young adults by comparing the homeownership rate of an age group in 2004 with the rate of the next succeeding age group in 2011. Among the 25-to-29-year-old cohort in 2004, for example, 40.2 percent owned a home. In 2011, when those 25-to-29-year-olds of 2004 were in the 30-to-34 age group, a larger 49.5 percent owned a home. So some young adults are buying, but many fewer than during the housing bubble.

Source: Census Bureau, Housing Vacancy Survey

Friday, July 29, 2011

First-Time Homebuyer Watch: 2nd Quarter 2011

Homeownership rate of householders aged 30 to 34, second quarter 2011: 49.5%

It happened. The homeownership rate of the all-important 30-to-34 age group fell below 50 percent in the 2nd quarter of 2011, according to the Census Bureau's Housing Vacancy Survey. Typically, the majority of householders become homeowners in their early thirties. That may no longer be the case as young adults decide homeownership is not for them--at least not until the housing market bottoms out and job security improves. 

The quarterly homeownership rate of 30-to-34-year-olds has fallen below 50 percent only one other time--the 2nd quarter of 1994, when only 49.6 percent of 30-to-34-year-olds owned a home. The figure peaked at 58.0 percent in the 4th quarter of 2004. The quarterly number released today is a record low for the age group. Bottom line: Young adults are reluctant to buy. Some cannot afford the downpayment, others cannot get a mortgage, and many do not want to be stuck with a white elephant.  

To see the First-Time Homebuyer Watch for 1st Quarter 2011, click here.
Source: Bureau of the Census, Housing Vacancy Survey

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Heart Attacks

Each year 300,000 Americans experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital, according to the CDC. Most of them--92 percent--die from the heart attack. Among those experiencing a heart attack:

61% are men
51% are aged 65 or older
66% are at home
53% are alone
26% survive to hospital admission
10% survive to hospital discharge

Source: CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest Surveillance

Crime Reporting

Percentage of crimes reported to the police: 42%.

Source: Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics , Table 3.33

65 Million Grandparents

One in every four American adults is a grandparent, according to a new study. The number of grandparents is projected to grow rapidly over the next decade--from 65 million in 2010 to 80 million in 2020--as  growing numbers of baby boomers become grandparents.

Most of today's grandparents are aged 45 to 64. As the baby-boom generation ages, however, so will the nation's grandparents. And when do people become grandparents? The median age of new grandmothers is 50. The median age of new grandfathers is 54.

Source: MetLife Mature Market Institute, The MetLife Report on American Grandparents

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Broad Support for Consumer Protection

Percentage of likely voters in the November 2012 presidential election who support having a single government agency with the mission of protecting consumers from financial companies...

All voters: 74%
Democrats: 83%
Independents: 73%
Republicans: 68%

Source: AARP, Wall Street Reform: One Year Anniversary: Findings from a Survey of Likely November 2012 Voters

Health Care Benefits for Same Sex Partners

Thirty percent of same-sex unmarried domestic partners have access to health care benefits for their partner through their employer, according to the 2011 Employee Benefits Survey. In the 2011 survey, for the first time, questions were included about access to benefits for unmarried domestic partners--same sex and opposite sex. The 30 percent of same-sex partners who have access to health care benefits exceeds the 25 percent of opposite-sex partners with access to benefits.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employee Benefits in the United States--March 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Home Equity Plunges, especially for Hispanics

The home equity of Hispanic homeowners fell by a gut-wrenching 51 percent between 2005 and 2009, according to a study of household wealth released by the Pew Research Center today. In 2009, the median home equity of Hispanic homeowners was just $49,145, down from $99,983 in 2005, after adjusting for inflation. This was by far the biggest decline among racial or ethnic groups. Behind the decline is the fact that many Hispanics live in the states hardest hit by the collapse of the housing bubble, such as California.

The home equity of Asian homeowners fell 32 percent between 2005 and 2009 (from $219,742 to $150,000). Black homeowners saw their home equity fall 23 percent during those years (from $76,910 to $59,000). White homeowners experienced an 18 percent decline (from $115,364 to $95,000).

Source: Pew Research Center, Wealth Gaps Rise to Record High Between Whites, Blacks and Hispanics

Two-Income Couples by State

Dual-earners are the majority of married couples in 45 states. They are less than the majority only in Alabama, Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, and West Virginia.

Source: Census Bureau, American Community Survey

Monday, July 25, 2011

Summer School

Percentage of 16-to-19-year-olds who were enrolled in school in July...

1990: 16%
2010: 46%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, School's Out

Who Owns Art?

Twenty percent of adults own an original piece of art--such as a painting, drawing, sculpture, or print, according to the National Endowment for the Arts. Among those who own original art, about one-third bought a piece of art in the past year.

Ownership of original art is highest in the 55-to-64 age group (27 percent), among people with post-graduate education (45 percent), and among those with household incomes of $150,000 or more (also 45 percent).

Source: National Endowment for the Arts, Research Report #49, 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Music Preferences

Type of music American adults like best...

Classic rock: 26.6%
Country: 17.1%
Contemporary rock: 10.4%
Hymns/gospel: 8.4%
Classical: 8.0%
Jazz: 6.0%
Rap/hip-hop: 5.7%
Blues: 4.5%
Latin/Spanish salsa: 3.6%
Show tunes: 2.7%
Folk: 1.1%
Bluegrass: 1.0%
Opera: 0.7%

Source: National Endowment for the Arts, Research Report #49, 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Money Woes

Americans say these are the biggest financial problems facing their family...

Lack of money/low wages
Health care costs
Too much debt/not enough money to pay debts

Source: Gallup

Friday, July 22, 2011

2010 Income Data to be Released in September

Household, family, and personal income data for 2010--collected by the Current Population Survey fielded in March 2011--will be released in September, says the Census Bureau.

Let's hope the figures show some improvement for the nation's peak earners and spenders, 45-to-54-year-olds. Between 1999 (the year household incomes peaked) and 2009, households headed by people aged 45 to 54 saw their median income fall 12 percent, after adjusting for inflation--from $73,248 in 1999 (in 2009 dollars) to just $64,235 in 2009, a decline of more than $9,000.

Did this beleaguered cohort--the backbone of the American economy--begin to recover in 2010? Stay tuned.

Source: Census Bureau

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Social Security, Medicare Well Liked

Percentage of baby boomers (aged 46 to 64) not yet retired who have a very/somewhat favorable view of...

Social Security: 69%
Medicare: 69%

Source: AARP, Baby Boomers Envision What's Next?

Health Insurance: What it Costs

Average annual total cost of health insurance for private sector employees (and average annual amount paid by employee)...

Single coverage: $4,940 ($1,021)
Family coverage: $13,871 ($3,721)

Source: Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, Statistical Brief #328, Employer-Sponsored Single, Employee-Plus-One, and Family Health Insurance Coverage: Selection and Cost, 2010

Boomer Housing Turnover

"As baby boomers relocate or downsize in retirement, or simply die off, they will release a very large amount of housing onto the market. Older homeowners (aged 55+) accounted for about one third of housing turnover in the U.S. between 1997 and 2007, and this share will increase as the large baby boom generation continues to age into their retirement years."  
Source: Joint Center for Housing Studies, Housing Turnover by Older Owners: Implications for Home Improvement Spending as Baby Boomers Age into Retirement

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Recent College Grads: How Are They Doing?

One day historians will be ever so grateful that the National Center for Education Statistics initiated a longitudinal survey of college graduates just as the Great Recession set in. The Baccalaureate and Beyond survey will be checking in every few years with a national sample of young adults who earned their bachelor's degree in the 2007–08 academic year. The first follow-up was released today, with a look at the status of those 2007–08 graduates in 2009.

When the National Center for Education Statistics designed the survey, its intent was not to measure the impact of the Great Recession on the nation's most promising young adults. But that is what the survey is doing. The findings are not reassuring:
  • The 66 percent majority of 2007–08 college graduates borrowed money to pay for their education. 
  • The average cumulative amount borrowed was $24,700. 
  • One year after graduation, 84 percent were employed, but only 57 percent had one full-time job. 
  • Among those employed full-time in 2009, their median income was only $36,000.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics, 2008-09 Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study (B&B:08/09): A First Look at Recent College Graduates

Contraceptive Status of Women

Percent distribution of women aged 15 to 44 by contraceptive status...

Currently using contraception: 62%
Not using, not sexually active: 19%
Not using, seeking pregnancy or pregnant: 10%
Not using, no reason: 7%
Not using, infertile: 2%

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Use of Contraception in the United States, 1982-2008

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

10 Facts about the Average American

1. The average American has a job (58%).
2. The average American makes $735/week.
3. The average American has employer-provided health insurance (56%).
4. The average American has been to college (56%), but does not have a degree.
5. The average American used the Internet today (59%).
6. The average American lives in one of the top 50 metropolitan areas (54%).
7. The average American was born in-state (52%).
8. The average American believes in God without a doubt (59%).
9. The average American believes in evolution (56%).
10. The average American often or always recycles (64%).

Source: American Consumers Newsletter, 50 Facts about the Average American
To subscribe to American Consumers newsletter, click here.

Update: The Tchotchke Index

"We're Spent," was the title of an article in last Sunday's New York Times. In the article, David Leonhardt describes the prolonged fizzling of the great consumer bubble. "We are feeling the deferred pain from 25 years of excess," he says, concluding: "The old consumer economy is gone, and it's not coming back."  

Two years ago, I created the Tchotchke Index to track excess consumer spending (see article), a measure of the economic wellbeing of American households. The Tchotchke Index is the amount of money spent by the average household on "decorative items for the home," one of the detailed categories of household expenditures examined by the government's Consumer Expenditure Survey. Decorative items for the home are all the trinkets Americans buy when they are feeling flush.

The Tchotchke index peaked in 2000, when the average household spent $221 (in 2009 dollars) on decorative items for the home. Spending plunged during the recession of the early 2000s, falling to $148 by 2003. Tchotchke spending then bobbled, rising above the $200 level in 2005, falling to $146 in 2006, and rising to $160 in 2007 as households tried to figure out whether they were in the money or not. Turns out they were not. The Tchotchke Index fell to a modern-day low of $126 in 2008, and in 2009 (the latest data available) was little changed, with the average household spending just $129 on decorative items for the home. Since 2000, the Tchotchke Index has fallen by 42 percent.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Politics of Race

Percentage of people aged 18 or older who identify themselves as a Democrat, by race and Hispanic origin...

Asian: 53%
Black: 72%
Hispanic: 56%
White: 40%

Source: General Social Survey

Political Questions Lower Self-Reports of Wellbeing

In a study of how the Great Recession affected self-reported wellbeing (finding: badly), researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research discovered that the placement in surveys of political questions before questions about feelings of wellbeing greatly reduced reports of wellbeing--much more so than actual financial difficulties occurring at the time.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, The Financial Crisis and Well-Being, Working Paper 17128, $5

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Do You Really Want to Work in Retirement?

My guess is that you don't--but you might not want to admit those slacker ambitions if you were asked in a survey about your work plans in retirement. That explains why, in survey after survey, most workers say they plan to work in retirement. In the 2011 Retirement Confidence Survey, for example, 74 percent of workers say they expect to work in retirement. Yet only 23 percent of retirees are actually working.

When done right, surveys can be wonderful social science instruments, providing insight into American attitudes and lifestyles. But even the best surveys can't escape the fact that people lie. All the time. And they are more likely to lie about some things than others. They lie about drinking alcohol (only 6 percent of men say they have more than two drinks a day, according to the CDC), they lie about how much time they spend doing housework (women say 32 hours a week but it's only 17, according to a study in the Monthly Labor Review), and they lie about their feelings toward their children (nearly half--46 percent--of parents say they never feel angry at their children, according to the Survey of Income and Program Participation). People fudge the facts when they feel pressure to provide socially desirable answers.

Work is one of those socially desirable things. In our culture, the more the better. We admire those who would rather work than sleep, go on vacation, or retire. So when you read yet another survey finding that most boomers plan to work in retirement, be skeptical. Chances are, they won't.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Happy Weekends

"We find that there is...significantly more happiness, enjoyment, and laughter, and significantly less worry, sadness, and anger on weekends (including public holidays) than on weekdays."
Why? Because people spend more time socializing with friends and family on weekends (7.1 hours) than on weekdays (5.4 hours).

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, Weekends and Subjective Well-Being, Working Paper 17180, $5.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Less Smoking in Movies

Among the 137 top grossing movies in 2010, the 55 percent majority had no tobacco "incidents," according to the National Cancer Institute. A tobacco incident is defined as the use or implied use of a tobacco product by an actor. In 2005, only 33 percent of movies did not have a tobacco incident.

Source: CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Smoking in Top-Grossing Movies--United States, 2010

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Social Security Panic

Percentage of people aged 55 to 66 not yet receiving Social Security benefits who agree with the statement, "If I wait too long before collecting Social Security benefits, Social Security may run out of funds": 66%.

Percentage of people aged 55 to 66 not yet receiving Social Security benefits who agree with the statement, "I will not be able to support myself in retirement without my Social Security benefits": 72%.

Source: AARP, Assessing Current and Future Beneficiaries' Knowledge of Social Security Benefits

Mortality Rate Hits Record Low

Evidently our substandard health insurance system--in which 51 million Americans lack health insurance--has not yet had an impact on the nation's death rate. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that the mortality rate fell to a record low of 741 deaths per 100,000 population in 2009.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Death in the United States, 2009

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Price of Junk Food

The higher the price of junk food, the lower the BMI (body mass index--or weight) of children. That is what the USDA found in a study comparing food prices and children's weight over time.

Source: USDA, Economic Research Service, The Effect of Food and Beverage Prices on Children's Weights

Health Care: What Costs So Much?

People aged 65 or older account for almost one-third of the nation's total health care spending. The top five most expensive conditions among the elderly are heart problems, cancer, osteoarthritis, hypertension, and trauma-related disorders.

Source: Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, Top Five Most Costly Conditions among the Elderly, Age 65 and Older, 2008: Estimates for the U.S Civilian Noninstitutionalized Adult Population

Child Care Arrangements, 2010

Percent distribution of children under age 5 with an employed mother by primary child care arrangement during mother's work hours...

Day care center: 23.7
Grandparents: 19.4
Father: 18.6
Other nonrelative: 13.5
Other relative: 5.8
Mother: 4.4
Other: 14.1

Note: "Other nonrelative" includes family day care providers and babysitters. "Other relative care" includes siblings and other relatives except parents or grandparents. "Other" includes children already in kindergarten, self-care, and children with no regular arrangement.
Source: America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Are You a Tightwad?

Percent distribution of Americans aged 18 or older by their (self-described) spending habits...

Somewhat or definitely a tightwad: 24%
Both a tightwad and a spendthrift: 10%
Somewhat or definitely a spendthrift: 15%
Neither a tightwad nor a spendthrift: 48%

Source: AARP, AARP Bulletin Survey on Spending

The Decline in Summer Jobs

Number of teenagers (aged 16 to 19) employed in June...

2000: 8,163,000
2011: 4,891,000

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, custom table

Monday, July 11, 2011

House Prices and Economic Mobility

Rising house prices allow homeowners to invest more in their teenage children. A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston examined whether children who turn 17 when house prices are rising, and whose parents are homeowners, do better than other children--such as the children of renters or children who turn 17 when house prices are flat or falling. They do. That's because their homeowner parents can--and do--use their growing home equity to help pay for college. Children who turn 17 during a time of rising house prices are more likely to graduate from college, take on less student debt, and earn more as adults.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, House Price Growth When Kids are Teenagers: A Path to Higher Intergenerational Achievement?

Note to Building Code Officials

Calling all building code officials--in what century do you live?

On a recent road trip, I stepped into an elevator and glanced at the Maximum Occupancy Load sign: 2,500 pounds or 15 people. Do the calculation and that's 167 pounds per person, on average. Let's hope all 15 passengers are women, because the average woman today weighs 165 pounds.

Since the average man weighs 195 pounds (up from 166 pounds in 1960--which is probably when the maximum occupancy code was written), a mixed group of 15 men and women would exceed the elevator's capacity by 200 pounds. Maybe building code officials are counting on the fact that 15 men and women of today's girth could not possibly fit on one elevator at the same time.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Green Weenies

Percentage of Americans who think environmental threats are exaggerated: 36%.

Source: General Social Survey

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Dental Visits by Children

Percentage of children who have had a dental checkup in the past year: 49%.

Source: Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, Children's Dental Care: Advice and Checkups Ages 2-17, 2008

Friday, July 08, 2011

Who Has Trouble Sleeping? Gen Xers

Not surprisingly, the generation hardest hit by the Great Recession is having the most trouble getting a good night's sleep. The 61 percent majority of Gen Xers often (24 percent) or sometimes (36 percent) has a problem falling or staying asleep. In contrast, people aged 65 or older are least likely to have trouble sleeping. Only 11 percent often have trouble, and the 58 percent majority rarely or never has a problem with sleep.

Source: General Social Survey

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Watch Your Back

Percentage of the victims of violent crime who knew their attacker: 50.1%.

Source: Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics

The Limited

Percentage of adults who are limited in their activities because of physical, mental, or emotional problems, by age...

18 to 24: 10.3%
25 to 34: 12.7%
35 to 44: 15.2%
45 to 54: 23.1%
55 to 64: 28.8%
65-plus:  33.1%

Source: CDC, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2010 data

What Cooks Make

The average household in the United States spends $6,372 annually on food, and 41 percent of those dollars are spent in restaurants. To prepare all those restaurant concoctions, more than 2 million workers are employed as cooks, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The nation's full-time cooks earn $11.29 an hour, on average. The figure ranges from a low of $7.49 an hour in Hickory, North Carolina, to a high of $14.72 an hour in Honolulu.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wages of Full-time and Part-time Cooks: A Multicity Tour

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Working at Home

Percentage of workers who did some or all of their work at home on an average workday, by education...

Not a high school graduate: 10%
High school graduate, no college: 17%
Some college or associate's degree: 23%
Bachelor's degree or higher: 36%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010 American Time Use Survey

What High School Students Drink

Percentage of high school students who drink at least one serving per day of the following beverages...

Water: 72.4
Milk: 42.0
Fruit juice (100%): 30.2
Soda (not diet): 24.3
Other sugar-sweetened drink: 16.9
Sports drink: 16.1
Coffee or tea: 14.8
Diet soda: 7.1
Energy drink: 5.0

Source: CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Beverage Consumption among High School Students--United States, 2010

Is the Education Gap Disappearing?

Since the baby-boom generation went to college en masse beginning in the late 1960s, there has been a yawning generation gap in educational attainment. Older generations--especially women--were far less likely than boomers and younger generations to have a bachelor's degree. Now that boomers are turning 65, has the education gap disappeared?

For men, it has mostly disappeared. For women, the gap remains. In fact, the gap has grown since 2000 as younger women pursue college in record numbers. In 2010, only 18.0 percent of women aged 65 or older had a bachelor's degree versus 36.9 percent of women aged 25 to 34. The percentage point gap between the women least and most likely to have a bachelor's degree was an enormous 18.9 percentage points, even larger than the 18.5 percentage point gap in 2000.

The pattern among men is different. In 2010, a substantial 28.4 percent of men aged 65 or older had a bachelor's degree. Although still the smallest proportion among age groups, it is not far from the high of 33.9 percent among men aged 55 to 64. The percentage point gap between the men least and most likely to have a bachelor's degree was just 5.5 percentage points in 2010, down from 10.9 in 2000.

For men, the generation gap in educational attainment pretty much disappeared. For women, it will disappear over the next decade or so. But a gender gap is growing. Young women are far more likely than young men to have a bachelor's degree. In the 25-to-34 age group, the gap was 8.1 percentage points in 2010 (36.9 percent of women versus 28.8 percent of men), up from just 1.3 percentage points in 2000.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Online Language Preferences

Another fascinating study from Eurobarometer, the survey arm of the European Commission. This one explores the languages Europeans use and prefer to use when online. The survey queried people aged 15 or older in the 27 countries of the European Union who use the Internet--a group that encompasses more than 90 percent of the populations of the Netherlands and Sweden, but fewer than half of Greeks, Romanians, and Bulgarians.

The 55 percent majority of EU Internet users had used a language other than their own while online during the past four weeks, and 35 percent had used another language when writing emails or sending messages online. English is the most frequently used "other" language. Forty-eight percent said they had used English while reading or watching online content, and 29 percent had used English for writing online.

When given a choice, nine out of ten Internet users say they would prefer to visit a website in their own language, but the 53 percent majority would accept an English version of a website if the site was not available in their language.

Source: Eurobarometer, User Language Preferences Online

Who Does the Government Help?

Percentage of Americans who think the government helps the following people "a great deal"...

The rich: 54%
People like you: 6%

Source: Economic Mobility Project, Poll 2011

Monday, July 04, 2011


Percentage of Americans who think they are more patriotic than others: 33%.

Source: Pew Research Center

Sunday, July 03, 2011

How Many Used a Pawn Shop?

Percentage of Americans who have done the following in the past five years...

Used a pawn shop: 8%
Gotten an advance on a tax refund: 8%
Taken out an auto title loan: 7%
Taken out a "payday" loan: 5%
Used a rent-to-own store: 5%
Used one of the above methods: 23%

Source: Americans' Financial Capability, NBER Working Paper 17103, $5

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Elusive American Dream

Percentage of Americans who say they now earn enough money to lead the kind of life they want: 37%.

Source: Economic Mobility Project, Poll 2011

Friday, July 01, 2011

Why So Few Americans Are Self-Employed

Only 7 percent of American workers are self-employed, a figure that has been trending downward for decades. The new Federal Reserve Bank of Boston study, Self-Employment in the Global Economy, might explain why. According to the study's findings, the greater the exposure to foreign competition the lower the level of self-employment. This holds true across different countries and even in different industries within the United States.

The Truth about Housework

Do people lie about how much time they spend doing housework? Apparently, yes. When researchers ask how many hours per week people spend doing housework, men and women report devoting many more hours to cooking, cleaning, and other chores than time use diaries measure.

Men report doing 23 hours of housework a week. Time use diaries show they actually perform only 10 hours of housework a week. Women say they spend 32 hours a week doing housework, while time use diaries show it is only 17 hours.

The mismatch between recalled time and actual time also occurs when estimating hours of paid work, although the gap is smaller. Employed men estimate that they worked 43 hours last week, while time use diaries show they worked 41 hours. Employed women estimate they worked 36 hours, when in fact they worked 32 hours.

What accounts for these differences? According to time use researchers, one factor may be social desirability. "Respondents may believe that low estimates of time spent on paid work or housework estimates could be taken as a sign of being lazy or irresponsible."

Socially desirable activities tend to be overestimated, such as time spent attending religious services or volunteering. Socially undesirable activities tend to be underestimated, such as sleep time and free time. People say they have only 20 hours of free time each week, but time use diaries show that their free time is in fact a much larger 35 hours.

Source: "The overestimated workweek revisited," by John P. Robinson, Steven Martin, Ignace Glorieux, and Joeri Minnen, Monthly Labor Review, June 2011