Saturday, December 31, 2011

After All, Tomorrow is Another Day

Percentage of Americans who think 2011 was a good year for the country: 13%.
Percentage who are optimistic about what 2012 will bring for the country: 62%.

Source: AP-GfK Poll, Americans Look Back at 2011 with a Shudder, Greet 2012 with Open Arms

Friday, December 30, 2011

Private Property

Percentage of the 2.3 billion acres of land in the United States that is privately owned: 60%.

Source: USDA, Economic Research Service, Major Uses of Land in the United States, 2007, Economic Information Bulletin, December 2011

It's a Big Country

Percentage of the 2.3 billion acres of land in the United States that is forestland, cropland, rangeland, swamps, marshes, deserts, bare rock, national and state parks, wilderness areas, and rural residential: 97%.

Source: USDA, Economic Research Service, Major Uses of Land in the United States, 2007, Economic Information Bulletin, December 2011

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Rise and Fall of the Male Breadwinner

Median income of men aged 45 to 54 (in 2010 dollars)...

2010: $45,420
2000: $51,960
1990: $50,144
1980: $50,320
1970: $45,965
1960: $33,373
1950: $24,438

Source: Census Bureau, Historical Income Statistics

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How To Ruin a City

Want to ruin your city? It's easy. Just get rid of all those pesky houses and apartment buildings in the central business district and replace them with highways, skyscrapers, stadiums, and conference centers, forcing residents to flee to the suburbs. Bake for a decade and voila—you have one destroyed city. That's the finding of a new study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, which links population density at the urban core of metropolitan areas to their growth and prosperity. The researchers analyze population change in 180 metropolitan areas from 1980 through 2010 and find that the denser the population of the central business district, the more prosperous the metro. "We look at four decades of census data and show that growing cities have maintained dense urban centers, while shrinking cities have not," say the study's authors. They conclude:
"There are reasons to think that loss of population density at the core of the city could be particularly damaging to productivity. If this is the case, there could be productivity gains from policies aimed at reversing that trend."
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Urban Growth and Decline: The Role of Population Density at the City Core

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

401(k) Account Balance

Median account balance of those who have a 401(k) retirement plan: $17,686.

Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute, 401(k) Plan Asset Allocation, Account Balances, and Loan Activity in 2010, Issue Brief 366, December 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Mystery of the Higher Death Rates

Here's something unexpected: Mortality rates rise when the economy is good and fall when the economy is bad. What accounts for this counterintuitive correlation?

A National Bureau of Economic Research study took a look and found that most of the additional deaths during good times are among elderly women, particularly those in nursing homes. Another piece of the puzzle: staffing in nursing facilities moves counter-cyclically. In other words, during boom times nursing homes have a harder time competing with other businesses for the best workers. Consequently, when times are good they tend to be staffed by less competent workers.

"These findings suggest that cyclical fluctuations in the mortality rate may be largely driven by fluctuations in the quality of health care," the researchers conclude.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, The Best of Times, the Worst of Times: Understanding Pro=cyclical Mortality, Working Paper No. 17657

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Baby Names Then and Now

During the past 100 years, Mary has been the single most popular name for girls, ranking number one 45 times between 1911 and 2010. Lately, however, Mary has fallen out of favor. The last time the name made it to the top of the popularity list was in 1961. Michael has been the single most popular name for boys over the past century, ranking as the number-one name 44 times. Michael last topped the list in 1998. Here are the five most popular names for girls and boys 100 years ago, 50 years ago, and today...

2010 1960 1911
Isabella Mary Mary
Sophia Susan Helen
Emma Linda Margaret
Olivia Karen Dorothy
Ava Donna Ruth
2010 1960 1911
Jacob David John
Ethan Michael William
Michael James James
Jayden John George

Source: Social Security Online, Popular Baby Names

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Belief in Santa Claus

Percentage of Americans who, as a child, believed in Santa Claus: 84%
Average age at which they stopped believing in Santa Claus: 8.8 years

Source: AP-GfK poll, December 2011 Santa Topline

Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Happiness

What do people like most about the holidays? Hint: it's not the presents. Spending time with family and friends is the holiday activity that the largest percentage of people look forward to the most. The majority of Americans in every generation say holiday get-togethers are their most eagerly anticipated activity. Only 2 percent admit that they most look forward to getting presents.

Source: Harris Interactive, Three in Five Americans Most Look Forward to Spending Time with Friends and Family in the Holiday Season

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Big Increase in Cell-Phone-Only Households

In the past year, the percentage of adults who live in cell-phone-only households increased 5 percentage points to 30 percent. This group is still much smaller than the 59 percent of adults who live in households with both landline and wireless phones. Only 9 percent of adults live in a household without a cell phone.

Here are the January-June 2011 figures on the percentage of adults by age who live in wireless-only households...

18-24:  46.8%
25-29:  58.1%
30-34:  46.2%
35-44:  34.3%
45-64:  21.6%
65+:  7.9%

Have Taxpayers Had Enough Punishment?

For the first time since 1972, the number of prisoners in the United States actually declined. In 2010, there were 1,605,127 million men and women being held in state and federal correctional facilities--9,228 fewer than in 2009. Overall, 1 in every 201 residents of the United States is behind bars--the highest imprisonment rate of any country in the world.

The decline in the prison population, which occurred because fewer were admitted to state prisons (the number of federal prisoners increased slightly), may indicate that financially strapped taxpayers just can't take it anymore. Between 2009 and 2010, The prison population in 25 states declined. And, for the first time since the Bureau of Justice Statistics has been collecting the statistics, the number of people released from prison (708,677) exceeded the number put behind bars (703,798).

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prisoners in 2010

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Five Noteworthy State Population Trends

Between July 1, 2010, and July 1, 2011, the U.S. population grew by just 0.7 percent, the slowest rate of growth since the 1940s despite the fact that every state gained immigrants from abroad. Here are five noteworthy trends in state populations during the past year...
  • Texas grew the most during the year (up by 421,215), followed by California (353,714), Florida (218,929), Georgia (103,053), and North Carolina (96,167). Those five states accounted for 53 percent of the nation's population growth.
  • Michigan and Rhode Island were the only states that lost population between 2010 and 2011. Behind the loss was the migration of their residents to other states. Michigan saw 40,331 people move away, and Rhode Island lost 5,089.
  • West Virginia was the only state in which deaths surpassed births. Nevertheless, the state's population grew because of a net gain of 715 immigrants from abroad and 1,333 migrants from other states. 
  • Nevada--once the fastest growing state--continues to grow, but slowly. More than 90 percent of the state's population gain between 2010 and 2011 was due to the excess of births over deaths, with the remainder due to a net gain of international migrants. The state's own residents are fleeing, with a net of 8,008 leaving the state during the past 12 months.
  • The rapid growth of the District of Columbia (it was the fastest growing "state" between 2010 and 2011) was fueled mostly by domestic migration. DC's gain of 6,907 residents from other states places it 13th among states in the number of U.S. residents it attracted.
Source: Census Bureau, Population Estimates

State Population Estimates Reveal the Rise of the City

Nevada was once the fastest growing state. No longer: Nevada has fallen to 27th place, according to 2011 population estimates released this morning by the Census Bureau. Between April 1, 2010 and July 1, 2011, Nevada's population grew by just 0.8 percent. This is well below the 1.7 percent growth rate of North Dakota, which ranks a much higher 6th because of its booming economy.

Interestingly, the fastest growing "state" is the District of Columbia, something that has not occurred since the 1940s according to the Census Bureau. Between April 1, 2010, and July 1, 2011, the District of Columbia's population expanded by 2.7 percent--well above second place Texas (2.1 percent). Behind the growth of DC is the magnetic pull of the wired (and wireless) urban lifestyle with its social connections and employment opportunities. Other metropolitan centers throughout the nation are, no doubt, similarly growing as isolated and increasingly desolate rural America hollows out.

Source: Census Bureau, Population Estimates

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

High School Gamers

Percentage of high school students in 9th to 12th grade who play video/computer games for at least an hour a day...

Boys: 64%
Girls: 54%

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, America's Youth: Transitions to Adulthood

Changing Times

Percentage of Americans who live in a racially integrated neighborhood...

2010: 70%
1975: 34%

Source: General Social Surveys

Monday, December 19, 2011

College Football and Men's Grades

Does college football have an impact on students who are watching rather than playing the game? Yes, says a National Bureau of Economic Research study--and not in a good way. The study examined the grades of men and women at schools with college football programs. The researchers discovered that a team's success significantly reduced male grades in the fall semester. The reason: "We find that males are more likely than females to increase alcohol consumption, decrease studying, and increase partying in response to the success of the team."

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, Are Big-Time Sports a Threat to Student Achievement? Working Paper 17677 ($5)

The Return of Home Cooking?

The Great Recession has forced more of us to eat at home, sometimes even cooking from scratch. Perhaps nothing reveals this more than trends in average household spending on flour--arguably the most basic of ingredients.

Average household spending on flour plunged between 2000 and 2006 (the year overall household spending peaked) as the easy money of the bubble years turned home cooking into little more than a hobby. Then the Great Recession hit, and home cooking made sense again. Average household spending on flour grew by an impressive 47 percent between 2006 and 2010, after adjusting for inflation. Flour was not the only basic ingredient that made gains. Spending on eggs climbed 15 percent, and spending on fats and oils was up 11 percent during those years.

For most grocery store shoppers, however, convenience still trumps price. Only 4 percent of households buy flour during an average week, while 37 percent buy prepared food from the supermarket deli.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, unpublished data from the Consumer Expenditure Surveys

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Women in the Labor Force: A Databook (2011 Edition)

The latest edition of the government's Databook on working women is now available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as a PDF download (free). With 37 tables that show current (2010) statistics and some that include trends back to the 1970s, the Databook provides a comprehensive overview of women's growing participation in the labor force. My favorites are the tables that document the rising labor force participation of mothers over the decades. Here you can see ambition, determination, desperation, and a social revolution...

Labor force participation rate of mothers by age of youngest child, 1975 and 2010...

2010 1975
age 6-17 77.2 54.9
Under 6 64.2 39.0
Under 3 61.1 34.3

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Saturday, December 17, 2011

At Least We Can All Agree about Something

Percent of Americans who agree that there is too much power in the hands of a few rich people and large corporations, by political party identification...

Democrat: 91%
Independent: 80%
Republican: 53%

Source: Pew Research Center, Frustration with Congress Could Hurt Republican Incumbents

Friday, December 16, 2011

How Many Study Abroad?

Does it seem like every college student you know has just returned from some exotic locale or is about to embark on the trip of a lifetime? That's because surging numbers of students are studying abroad. In the 2007-08 academic year (the latest data available), 262,416 American college students spent from one month to a year earning academic credit from a higher education institution outside the United States--four times greater than the 62,341 who studied abroad in 1987-88. The latest statistics show that 15 out of every 100 students in a bachelor's degree program studies abroad, up from 5 out of every 100 in 1987-88.

The United Kingdom is the most popular destination for students studying abroad (13 percent of study abroad participants do so in the United Kingdom), followed by Italy (12 percent), Spain (10 percent), France (7 percent), and China (5 percent). Social science majors account for the largest share of students studying abroad (22 percent), followed by business (20 percent), and humanities (13 percent).

Despite the growing popularity of studying abroad, the number of Americans who do so pales in comparison to the number of foreign students who attend college in the United States: 624,000 in the 2007-08 academic year. International students account for 3 percent of enrollment in American postsecondary institutions.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Students Studying Abroad, Indicator 40-2010, The Condition of Education 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Angry Words

Percent of Americans who say the following words describe their own personal feelings about politics today...

Angry: 58%
Proud: 18%
Hopeful: 49%
Disappointed: 84%
Frustrated: 84%
Inspired: 16%

Source: The AP-GfK Poll: Most Americans Want Payroll Tax Extension, Remain Furious wiht Congress, Politics, December 2011

Nuts about Race

Are we nuts or what? Today the Census Bureau released the first two (Nevada and New Mexico) of what will be 50 state-level files providing 2010 census data down to the census tract level for 331 racial and ethnic groups.

Source: Census Bureau, 2010 Census Summary File 2

More Young Adults Are Insured

Young adults are more likely to have health insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act, which allows them to remain on their parents' health insurance plan through age 25. The percentage of 19-to-25-year-olds without health insurance fell from 33.9 percent in 2010 (the year the provision went into effect) to 28.8 percent in the first six months of 2011, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

The expansion of health insurance for the age group is important protection during a vulnerable time of life. Young adults are in a No Man's Land between school and job, many are unemployed, and millions are in part-time or entry-level work without health care coverage. It is also important for another reason: it protects their parents from medical bankruptcy. What parent would not come to the rescue of an uninsured child faced with a costly disease or injury?

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Health Insurance Coverage: Early Release of Estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, January-June 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Fewer Long-Distance Moves

Mobility rates are down across the board, but they have fallen the most for long-distance moves. The number of people who moved to a different state fell from a peak of 8.4 million in 1999-00 to just 4.8 million in 2010-11--a 43 percent decline. In contrast the number of people who moved to a different house in the same county fell by just 4 percent during those years (from 24.4 million to 23.3 million).

Source: Census Bureau, Geographical Mobility

Generation Recession: Fewer Babies

The fertility rate of women aged 20 to 24 hit an all-time low in 2010. Consequently, for the first time ever, the number of babies born to women aged 30 to 34 (962,000) surpassed the number born to women aged 20 to 24 (952,000) as young women put their lives on hold while they wait out the Great Recession.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Births: Preliminary Data for 2010

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Income of the Long-Term Unemployed

How do the long-term unemployed make ends meet? A survey by NPR and the Kaiser Family Foundation asked this group (defined as people aged 18 to 64 who have been out of work for at least a year and want a job) to name their main source of income. Here is their answer...

Income from an employed person in the household: 25%
Money from family and friends: 21%
Savings: 15%
Unemployment benefits: 12%
Social Security/disability (self or someone else in household): 9%
Odd jobs: 3%
No income: 3%
Government assistance: 2%
Retirement/pension (self or someone else in household): 1%
Something else: 5%
Don't know/refused: 3%

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation/NPR Long-Term Unemployed Survey

Economic Standing of American Families

Below average: The percentage of Americans who think their family's income is below average relative to others climbed to a record high of 36 percent in 2010, according to the General Social Survey. The figure had been as low as 21 percent in 1973.

Above average: The percentage of Americans who think their family's income is above average relative to others has been above 20 percent since 1986. In 2010, the figure was 21 percent, down from the all-time high of 24 percent in 2000.

Average: The percentage of Americans who think their family's income is average was 50 percent or higher from 1972 through 1994. It briefly revisited the 50 percent mark in 2006 when many were awash in the easy money of the housing bubble years. Today, the percentage of Americans who think their income is average is at a record low of 43 percent.

Source: General Social Survey

Monday, December 12, 2011

What Will Save Us from the Great Depression?

World War II pulled us out of the Great Depression. What will save us from the Great Recession? Maybe the baby-boom generation. If that giant bulge of humanity retired en masse, it would clear the decks for the younger generation--much like the Black Death cleared the way for the Renaissance by greatly reducing the supply of labor in the Middle Ages and driving up wages. Unfortunately, boomers do not seem to have retirement in mind. According to a new analysis of the retirement intentions of workers aged 50 or older, the Employee Benefit Research Institute finds most regard retirement as a distant dream. The largest share of workers (31 percent) say they will never retire or do not know when they will retire. Another 27 percent say they will stay in the labor force until age 70 at least. Overall, the age at which at least 50 percent of boomers expect to retire lies somewhere between 70 and 75. That's a long time to wait.

Even before the Great Recession clobbered us, the Bureau of Labor Statistics employment projections showed that two out of three job openings for the coming decade would be due to replacement (i.e. retirement of existing workers) rather than economic growth (new jobs). The economic slowdown of the Great Recession means an even larger share of job openings now depend on the retirement decisions of the baby-boom generation.

Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute, Retirement Age Expectations of Older Americans between 2006 and 2010, Notes, December 2011

Hate Crime Demographics

Among the 6,628 hate crimes reported to police in 2010, here is a breakdown of the number by the "bias motivation" for the crime...

Anti-black: 2,201 (33%)
Anti-homosexual: 1,230 (19%)
Anti-Jewish: 887 (13%)
Anti-white: 575 (9%)
Anti-Hispanic: 534 (8%)

The remaining 1,201 hate crimes include anti-Asian (150 incidents), anti-Islamic (160), anti-disability (43), anti-heterosexual (21), and 4 incidents involving more than one bias.

Source: FBI statistics cited in Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics Online

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Marijuana Use among Older Americans

Number of Americans aged 55 or older who have used marijuana...

In the past month: 1.1 million
In the past year: 2.2 million
In lifetime: 20.4 million

Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Demographics of the Electorate

Voter demographics will play a big role in determining who wins the presidential election next year. According to Pew Research Center's 2011 Political Typology poll, the demographics of the nation's political types are wildly divergent. Here are the types, a Pew description of each, and the percentage who are non-Hispanic white (nhw) and aged 50 or older.

Staunch Conservatives (highly engaged Tea Party supporters): 92% nhw, 61% aged 50+
Main Street Republicans (conservative on most issues): 88% nhw, 43% aged 50+
Libertarians (free market, small government seculars): 85% nhw, 46% aged 50+
Disaffecteds (downscale and cynical): 77% nhw, 50% aged 50+
Solid Liberals (across-the-board liberal positions): 72% nhw, 42% aged 50+
Post-Moderns (moderates, but liberal on social issues): 70% nhw, 33% aged 50+
Hard-Pressed Democrats (religious, financially struggling): 53% nhw, 52% aged 50+
New Coalition Democrats (upbeat, majority-minority): 34% nhw, 40% aged 50+

For more about these groups and their politics, see Pew Research Center's Beyond Red vs. Blue: The Political Typology

Friday, December 09, 2011

College Enrollment Rate by Income

Percentage of 2009 high school graduates who enrolled in a two- or four-year college within 12 months of graduating from high school, by family income...

Low Income: 55%
Middle Income: 67%
High Income: 84%

Note: Low income is defined as a family income in the bottom 20 percent; high income is defined as a family income in the top 20 percent; middle income is the remaining 60 percent.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics, The Condition of Education 2011, Immediate Transition to College (Indicator 21-2011)

Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Surprisingly Long Life of Hispanics

For the first time ever, the National Center for Health Statistics has included life expectancy estimates for Hispanics in its annual mortality report (Deaths: Final Data for 2008). This inclusion might not be all that noteworthy except for the surprising fact that Hispanics have a higher than average (78.1 years is average) life expectancy--higher, in fact, than any other race or Hispanic origin group. Here are the 2008 estimates of life expectancy at birth (in years):

Hispanics: 81.0
Non-Hispanic whites: 78.4
Non-Hispanic blacks: 73.7

Hispanics males (78.4) and females (83.3) have a longer life expectancy than any other males or females, and at every age Hispanics can expect to live more years than non-Hispanic whites or blacks. At age 65, for example, Hispanics have another 20.7 years of life, on average, versus 18.8 years for non-Hispanic whites and 17.3 years for non-Hispanic blacks.

Demo Memo reported on the Hispanic advantage last year when the NCHS published the first official analysis, based on 2006 death rates (see post). The 2008 data, released yesterday, confirm the finding. The experts cannot explain the numbers, since the relatively low socioeconomic status of Hispanics should result in greater mortality and lower life expectancy. Some of the theories posited to explain the higher life expectancy of Hispanics are: the underreporting of Hispanic deaths, the "healthy migrant effect"--in which only the healthiest Hispanics migrate to the United States, and the "salmon bias effect"--in which Hispanics return to their country of origin to die.

Who Spends More on Entertainment?

Average amount spent by households on entertainment, by age of householder...

Under age 30: $1,723
Aged 65-plus: $1,891

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010 Consumer Expenditure Survey

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The New Psychology of the American Consumer

The average American household had $13,179 in discretionary income in 2009. That might sound like a lot of "fun" money, but do the math and it amounts to only $36 a day for everything from movie tickets to dog food, vacations, and sit-down restaurants.

Discretionary income is the money that remains for spending (or saving or reducing debt) after a household has paid all the necessary costs of living a middle-class lifestyle. Many businesses depend on discretionary dollars for sales and profits.     

The $13,179 in discretionary income available to the average household in 2009 was 2 percent less than in 2007, after adjusting for inflation. The decline is not surprising. What is surprising is that the decline was not greater or more widespread. In fact, many households saw their discretionary income rise between 2007 and 2009. The households with growing discretionary incomes include those headed by people aged 25 to 44, households with incomes between $40,000 and $150,000, blacks and Hispanics, households in the Midwest, and householders with no more than a high school degree. How could discretionary income increase for these typically struggling households in the midst of the Great Recession?  
The households with growing discretionary incomes are the ones that have succeeded in cutting their spending on necessities the most. 
To understand why discretionary income increased for some households requires familiarity with two terms: disposable income or take-home pay, and nondiscretionary--or necessary--spending. Disposable income is the income households bring home after taxes and mandatory payroll deductions for retirement plans. Disposable income fell pretty much across the board between 2007 and 2009, after adjusting for inflation. But--and this is the important point--many households cut their spending on necessities even more than their incomes fell. The households that succeeded in cutting their necessary spending the most were the ones that saw their discretionary income rise, since discretionary income is what's left over after subtracting necessary spending from disposable income.

Let's look at an example. Households headed by 35-to-44-year-olds cut their annual spending on necessities by $2,696 between 2007 and 2009, after adjusting for inflation. This cut was far greater than the $1,657 decline in their disposable income during those years. Consequently, their discretionary income grew by $1,038 to $16,811. How did these households succeed in cutting their spending on necessities so sharply? One of the most important factors was the decline in homeownership. The homeownership rate of 35-to-44-year-olds fell from 68 to 65 percent between 2007 and 2009. Consequently, the age group managed to cut its annual spending on housing by 4 percent during those years, after adjusting for inflation. Most of the households that experienced an increase in discretionary income between 2007 and 2009 saw their homeownership rate fall. By becoming or remaining renters rather than homeowners, they succeeded in cutting their spending on the single biggest item in the household budget--housing.

An increase in discretionary income is not necessarily good news for businesses that sell discretionary items. Just because some households had more discretionary income in 2009 than in 2007 does not mean they spent those extra dollars. That's the point: they did not spend the money. Regardless of the demographics, most households slashed their discretionary spending and their necessary spending between 2007 and 2009, after adjusting for inflation. Householders aged 35 to 44 cut their discretionary spending by 8 percent during those years--a $982 cut. Many households are using their  "fun" money to pay down debt, which explains why the economic recovery is no fun at all. 

Source: American Incomes: Demographics of Who Has Money, available as a PDF download with links to Excel spreadsheets for each data table

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Social Security State by State

If you want to know how important Social Security income is to your state, you can find out by examining AARP's Social Security State Quick Fact Sheets. Let's take a look at the importance of Social Security to the economies of the poorest and richest states based on 2010 household income...

Maryland, the richest state: One in seven residents receives Social Security, which adds $10.9 billion to the state's economy each year. Social Security is the only source of income for 24 percent of Maryland's residents aged 65 or older.

Mississippi, the poorest state: One in five residents receives Social Security, which adds $6.9 billion to the state's economy each year. Social Security is the only source of income for 40 percent of Mississippi's residents aged 65 or older.

No matter which state you pick, the numbers are sobering.

Grandma's Day Care

Grandma (and/or grandpa) is the single most common primary day care provider for the nation's preschoolers with working mothers.

Among children under age 5 with an employed mother, 21 percent were cared for primarily by a grandparent. In second place was the father (20 percent). Day care centers were third, at 19 percent.

Source: Census Bureau, Who's Minding the Kids, Child Care Arrangements: Spring 2010

Monday, December 05, 2011

Economic Insecurity at Record High

One in five Americans is economically insecure, according to the latest findings from the Economic Security Index (ESI). The ESI is a measure of the fragility of Americans' financial wellbeing, an initiative started last year by a group of researchers led by Yale political scientist Jacob Hacker and supported by the Rockefeller Foundation. The goal of the ESI is to measure and publicize the financial fragility of Americans with the goal of educating decision makers and improving public policy.

Hacker defines the economically insecure as Americans who have experienced a one-year drop of at least 25 percent in their disposable household income--the income that remains after paying for medical care and servicing debt--and who lack the financial resources (i.e. savings) to cope with the decline.

Economic insecurity has been rising for decades. Hacker and his colleagues have measured it as far back as 1986. In that year, only 14.3 percent of Americans were economically insecure. The figure rose to 18.8 percent by the early 2000s, then the Great Recession pushed it to today's record level of 20.5 percent. Fully 62 million Americans were economically insecure in 2010, up from 34 million in 1986.

Source: Economic Security IndexEconomic Insecurity and the Great Recession--Findings from the Economic Security Index, November 2011


Among the 50 largest metropolitan areas, only six had more people at work in October 2011 than in December 2007--the start of the Great Recession. Among those six (relatively) thriving metropolitan areas, only one is outside the South: Pittsburgh. (The others are Austin, Houston, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, and San Antonio).

What's so special about Pittsburgh? According to an analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, some of the success is accounted for by the types of industries in Pittsburgh. But most of the success (more than 80 percent) is due to the better performance of Pittsburgh's industries compared to their counterparts elsewhere.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Pittsburgh's Labor Market in the Recession and Recovery

Vet Bills

Eighty percent of the nation's pet owners took their pet to the veterinarian in the past year. Those who did spent a median of $250 on vet bills.

Source: AP-GfK, The Poll

Sunday, December 04, 2011

More Trying to Lose Weight

Percentage of Americans aged 18 or older who are seriously trying to lose weight...

2011: 29%
1991: 18%

Source: Gallup, To Lose Weight, Americans Rely More on Dieting than Exercise

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Most Asian Americans Have a Bachelor's Degree

Among Asians aged 25 or older in the United States, 52 percent have a bachelor's degree or more education. Within the Asian population, educational attainment is far above average for most Asian ethnic groups. Take a look...

(percentage of Asians aged 25 or older with at least a bachelor's degree, by ethnicity, 2008-10)
Asian Indians: 75%
Koreans: 56%
Chinese: 53%
Filipinos: 52%
Japanese: 47%
Vietnamese: 28%
Other Asian: 39%

Among non-Asians, 29 percent have a bachelor's degree.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Monthly Labor Review, Asians in the U.S. Labor Force: Profile of a Diverse Population, November 2011

Friday, December 02, 2011

What Happens to the Financially Illiterate?

Now that Americans are in charge of their own retirement security, they need the ability to add, subtract, and multiply and an understanding of financial concepts such as inflation, compound interest, and risk diversification. The trouble is, many Americans have only limited skills in these areas according to an analysis of survey data by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Does do-it-yourself retirement make sense, then, or is it throwing people to the wolves?

EBRI analyzed data from the National Financial Capability Study, which asked a representative sample of Americans in each state a series of questions to determine their financial literacy. The results are disturbing. New Hampshire was the top scorer, with 69 percent of adults in the state understanding basic financial concepts. The bottom scorer was Louisiana, where 58 percent were financially literate.

The 11 percentage point gap in financial literacy between New Hampshire and Louisiana is not the problem. The problem is the 31 to 42 percent of Americans in each state who lack the knowledge and skills to properly manage retirement savings. Do-it-yourself retirement might work for some. But what does it mean for the financially illiterate?

Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute, How Do Financial Literacy and Financial Behavior Vary by State? Notes, November 2011

Thursday, December 01, 2011

1% or 99%?

Are you wondering (quietly) whether you might in fact be a member of the 1 percent rather than the 99 percent? Here is your answer: the net worth of the wealthiest 1 percent of households is $6,917,000.

That number comes from an analysis of the 2009 Survey of Consumer Finances by Arthur B. Kennickell, assistant director of the Federal Reserve Board's Division of Research and Statistics. Kennickell is the maestro of the Survey of Consumer Finances. His latest study examines changes in the distribution of household wealth between 2007 and 2009 (when, in an unprecedented effort, the Federal Reserve Board reinterviewed the triennial SCF panel of 2007 to determine the impact of the Great Recession on wealth). The Survey of Consumer Finances is the only source of nationally representative data on household wealth. By oversampling wealthy households, the survey also provides the best estimate of how much it takes to be rich.

Apparently, it takes a lot more than once did. The net worth of the rich (in 2009 dollars) has been growing steadily since 1962, when it required only $1.6 million to be in the 1 percent. The figure peaked at $9.0 million in 2007 before falling to the $6.9 million of 2009. As for the other 99 percent, median household net worth climbed from $46,100 in 1962 to a peak of $125,400 in 2007, then fell to $96,000 in 2009.

Source: Federal Reserve Board, Tossed and Turned: Wealth Dynamics of U.S. Households 2007-2009, Arthur B. Kennickell, Finance and Economics Discussion Series, 2011-51