Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Trends in Homeownership: 2011

The 4th quarter results are in and, not surprisingly, the trend in homeownership is down. Here are the numbers for the four quarters of 2011...

1st quarter: 66.4
2nd quarter: 65.9
3rd quarter: 66.3
4th quarter: 66.0

The all-time quarterly peak in the homeownership rate was 69.2 in the 4th quarter of 2004.

As commented on extensively in Calculated Risk, homeownership rates from this survey are disturbingly different--much higher--than the homeownership rate recorded by the 2010 census. The Housing Vacancy Survey estimated an overall homeownership rate in 2010 of 66.8 percent, well above the 65.1 percent rate found by the 2010 census. The Census Bureau is investigating the reasons for the discrepancy and will be issuing a report.

Source: Bureau of the Census, Housing Vacancy Survey

First-Time Homebuyer Watch: 4th Quarter 2011

Homeownership rate of householders aged 30 to 34, fourth quarter 2011: 49.6%

The 4th quarter homeownership rate of householders aged 30 to 34 disappointed again, coming in below the 50 percent threshold. With rates of 50.3, 49.5 (the record low), and 49.9 in the previous three quarters of 2011, the annual rate for this age group (to be released in a few weeks) will be less than 50 percent for the first time since the Census Bureau began to collect these data in 1982.

This matters because the homeownership rate of the 30-to-34 age group is the bellwether for the housing industry. Typically, the majority of householders become homeowners in their early thirties. That may no longer be the case as young adults either can't afford or do not want to buy a home until housing prices bottom out and job security improves.

Before the 2011 decline, the quarterly homeownership rate of 30-to-34-year-olds had fallen below 50 percent only one other time--during the 2nd quarter of 1994, when 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. 

Source: Bureau of the Census, Housing Vacancy Survey

Monday, January 30, 2012

Fighting for Customers

Getting them into your store is only half the battle. Once there, you still have a lot of work to do. Pew's latest research shows just how much--especially if the customer is under age 50. In the past month, 48 percent of cell phone owners used their phone while in a store to call a friend and ask for advice about a purchase or used their phone to look up product reviews online. Here are the percentages by age...

18-49: 63%
30-49: 59%
50-64: 36%
65-plus: 24%

One in four cell phone owners used their phone while in a store to check prices elsewhere. Among those who did, only 35 percent ultimately bought the product from the store. Thirty-seven percent decided not to purchase the product at all, 19 percent bought it online instead, and 8 percent bought the product from another physical store.

Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, How American Used Their Phones to Assist with Purchasing Decisions this Holiday Season

Slippage or Semantics?

Percentage of Americans who call themselves middle class, by generation...

Older (65+): 60%
Boomers: 41%
Gen Xers: 40%
Millennials: 36%

Source: General Social Survey

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Football Fans

When asked which one sport is their favorite, 36 percent of Americans say pro-football. Those most likely to say pro-football are African Americans (48 percent), people aged 30 to 39 (46 percent), and those with some college education (42 percent).

Source: Harris Interactive, Football is America's Favorite Sport as Lead Over Baseball Continues to Grow

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Fall of Print

Americans under age 45 are more likely to get their news from radio than printed newspapers. When asked from which source they get most of their information about current events, people under age 45 are more likely to say radio (10 percent) than newspapers (8 percent). Television is number one (48 percent), following by the Internet (31 percent).

Source: General Social Survey

Friday, January 27, 2012

You Know It's Bad When...

The public thinks more highly of real estate agents and lawyers than members of Congress.

Percent rating honesty/ethical standards high or very high
Real estate agents: 20%
Lawyers: 19%
Congress: 7%

Source: Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics Online

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Non-Hispanic Whites Decline in 15 States

In the nation as a whole, the non-Hispanic white population grew by only 1.2 percent between 2000 and 2010. Behind the tiny increase is the fact that non-Hispanic whites declined in 15 states during those years. Here are the states with shrinking numbers of non-Hispanic whites, along with the size of the decline...

California: -5.4%
Connecticut: -3.5%
Illinois: -3.0%
Iowa: -0.3%
Kansas: -0.2%
Louisiana: -2.1%
Maryland: -3.9%
Massachusetts: -4.1%
Michigan: -3.0%
Mississippi: -0.3%
New Jersey: -6.2%
New York: -3.9%
Ohio: -1.9%
Pennsylvania: -2.2%
Rhode Island: -6.3%

Source: Bureau of the Census, American Factfinder

Nonmetros Are Losing People

Nonmetropolitan areas of the United States lost population between 2000 and 2010, their first loss in 30 years. In 2010, only 50 million people remained in the nation's nonmetro areas--down from 55 million in 2000. The last time the nonmetro population declined was in the 1970s.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Great Recession Spending Decline

The average household spent $48,109 in 2010. After adjusting for inflation, this was 8 percent less than in 2006 when overall household spending peaked. How does this spending decline compare with those in the past?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has been collecting annual household spending data since 1984, a time period that includes several recessions. Nothing compares with the Great Recession. During 28 years of household spending data collection, there have been year-over-year declines 12 times, which is a substantial proportion. Downturns in household spending are not exceptional. But three things are exceptional about the Great Recession spending decline.
  • The Great Recession spending decline is four years old, the longest spending decline on record. No previous decline lasted more than two years. 
  • The Great Recession spending decline includes the largest single-year decline ever recorded (a -3.5 percent drop between 2009 and 2010, after adjusting for inflation). Previously, the largest single-year decline occurred between 1989 and 1990 (-3.2 percent).  
  • The Great Recession spending decline is getting increasingly worse, starting with a small 0.3 percent slip between 2006 and 2007, followed successively by declines of 2.1, then 2.5, then the record-setting 3.5 percent.  
The good news is that, statistically speaking, we are due for an uptick in household spending. The bad news is that, realistically speaking, we may not get one.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Our Declining Standard of Living

The average American is in the grip of mass amnesia, as urban activist and philosopher Jane Jacobs has called it (see her book Dark Age Ahead). Mass amnesia occurs when a population loses its cultural memory for one reason or another (such as war, natural disaster, technological change, or economic dislocation) and no longer remembers how life was lived by its parents or grandparents.

Case in point: When we claim our standard of living is better than our parents' was at the same age--as most of us invariably do on survey after survey--we don't know what we're talking about. There are few studies that compare standards of living then and now, so we are left guessing--and we guess wrong.

One way to compare standards of living is to look at expenditures. So let's take a look at the spending of two generations of peak spenders--45-to-54-year-olds in 1990 and the same age group twenty years later in 2010. In 1990, households headed by 45-to-54-year-olds spent $61,750, after adjusting for inflation. In 2010, households headed by 45-to-54-year-olds spent a smaller $57,788--nearly $4,000 less.

Today's 45-to-54-year-olds spend less than their counterparts in 1990 on most things, including restaurant meals, alcoholic beverages, other lodging (a category that includes hotels and motels), furniture, clothing, new cars and trucks, entertainment, and gifts. Today's 45-to-54-years-olds spend more than their counterparts in 1990 on mortgage interest, property tax, telephone service, daycare, gasoline, vehicle insurance, health insurance, drugs, and education.

Now comes the test: In which year was our standard of living better?

Housing Bust Equalizes Prices

Everyone knows housing is a bargain in Ohio, where real estate prices are often well below $100 per square foot. Thanks to the housing bust, prices in many other areas of the country are an even bigger bargain.

A new analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland shows that housing prices in Atlanta and Charlotte are now on a par with prices in Ohio's metropolitan areas. In Phoenix, Orlando, and Tampa, median sales price per square foot is even lower than in Cleveland or Akron.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Trends in Housing Prices per Square Foot

Monday, January 23, 2012

Your Taxes at Work: Prescription Drugs

Thanks to Medicare Part D, the prescription drug plan that took effect in 2006, the out-of-pocket spending of elderly Americans on prescription drugs has plummeted.

In 2009 (the latest data available and recently released), a nearly universal 91 percent of Americans aged 65 or older bought prescription drugs. Those drugs cost a median of $1,290, slightly less than their $1,336 cost in 2005 (not adjusted for inflation). But in 2009, older Americans had to pay only 23 percent of that cost out-of-pocket, just half of the 46 percent they had to pay out-of-pocket in 2005. They have you, the taxpayers, to thank.

Source: Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, Household Component Summary Data Tables, 2009 Expenditures Per Person by Health Care Service

Electronic Reading Devices Surge

The percentage of Americans who own an e-reader or tablet computer surged over the holidays, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. As the dust settled, e-readers and tablets appear to be equally popular, each owned by 19 percent of the public. Overall, the percentage of Americans who own at least one of the devices climbed from 18 percent in December to 29 percent in January. Here is the percentage who own each device by age as of January 2012...

ereader     tablet
Total 19 19
18-29 18 24
30-49 24 27
50-64 19 15
65+ 12 7

Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, Tablet and E-book Reader Ownership Surge in the Holiday Gift-giving Period

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Department of the Obvious

"Younger adults in the U.S. remain less likely than those aged 30 and older to report high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart attacks, and cancer," reports Gallup.

No kidding.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

High Expectations, Low Pay

Median salary in 2009 of students who enrolled in a certificate or two-year post-secondary program in 2003-04, completed the program, and got a job: $26,000.

Dismal. All that effort for just $500 a week. Almost as dismal as the pay is the way these data are presented in the National Center for Education Statistics report, Beginning Subbaccalaureate Students' Labor Market Experiences: Six Years Later in 2009. Let's start with the title: Subbaccalaureate? Who came up with that gem? And as usual in its reports, the NCES likes to throw standard error tables in your face on every other page, rather than consigning them to an appendix. Presentation skills, people!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Why They Didn't Use Birth Control

Percent distribution of teenagers aged 15 to 19 who had an unintended pregnancy by reason for not using birth control...

31% thought they could not get pregnant at the time
24% had a partner who did not want to use birth control
22% did not mind getting pregnant
13% had trouble getting birth control
9% did not like the side effects of birth control
8% thought they or their partner was sterile

Note: Numbers add to more than 100% because more than one reason could be reported.
Source: CDC, Pre-pregnancy Contraceptive Use among Teens with Unintended Pregnancies Resulting in Live Births--Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS), 2004-2008

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Facts about Food Stamps

You would think, after all these years, that the South would have gotten over its hang ups about race. The Jim Crow generations are almost gone, replaced by younger generations educated in integrated schools and living in mixed-race neighborhoods. But if you think the South is over it, you would be wrong. Racism lives on in too many of the smiling faces and beautiful places, crawling out from under its rock every four years when the politicians come to town.

There's always something that coaxes it out. This time, it's food stamps. White crowds cheer as politicians link blacks to food stamps, implying that blacks are wrongly getting something for nothing. (I'm no psychologist, but this is so a projection of whites' own feelings of guilt about getting something for nothing from blacks for hundreds of years.)

Facts don't matter to jeering crowds, but they do matter to the rest of us. So let's take a look at who gets food stamps. A lot of people, in fact, depend on them to feed their family. Thirteen percent of Americans (or 39 million people) live in households that receive food stamps, according to the Census Bureau. Because of the Great Recession, that number grew by 71 percent between 2007 and 2010.

Non-Hispanic whites, not blacks, account for the largest share of people receiving food stamps--42 percent in 2010. Blacks account for 28 percent of food stamp recipients. The number of non-Hispanic whites on food stamps grew by a faster-than-average 83 percent between 2007 and 2010. In contrast, the number of blacks on food stamps grew by a below-average 43 percent. The state with the largest percentage of households on food stamps--Oregon--is one of the whitest states in the country.

People of the South, it is time to move on. Talk about real issues like unemployment. In South Carolina, one in ten workers is looking for a job.

What Makes Schools Effective?

It's not class size, spending, testing or teacher certification, according to a National Bureau of Economic Research study of New York City charter schools (Getting Beneath the Veil of Effective Schools: Evidence from New York City, NBER Working Paper 17632, $5).

Five policies do work, however, explaining more than half the variation in school effectiveness, according to the researchers: frequent teacher feedback, using data to guide instruction, intensive tutoring, increased instructional time, and high expectations.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Why Are Economists in Charge?

Good question, and one that a lot of demographers are asking themselves these days. After watching budget surplus turn into deficit, the housing bubble inflate and explode, and the Great Recession unfold and persist, one has to wonder why anyone listens to economists anymore.

This was the last straw: the release of the 2006 transcript of a Federal Reserve Board meeting, where a roomful of clueless economists dismissed the looming housing crisis and chortled over the excesses in the mortgage market, all while fawning over former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan. It was just so high school. Yes, it really makes you wonder why demographers are relegated to the bowels of the Census Bureau while economists are high-fiving it with the rich and powerful. 

Here's the problem: Economists are not very good at assessing the present or predicting the future with any kind of accuracy. Their profession is flawed because it ignores the elephant in the room--us, society, a group of people with complex relationships and common interests. Society is the economy's engine. Like an auto mechanic mesmerized by the paint job on a car, economists never bother to pop the hood. Demographers, on the other hand, are elbow deep in engine grease. They are experts on society and how it works. Trouble is, most of them are mired in the minutia of academia or trapped in the bureaucratic basements of government, high school nerds all grown up and still ignored.

Demographers could have predicted that budget surplus would turn to deficit as the massive baby-boom generation retired. Demographers could have predicted that the housing bubble would burst because housing prices were out of whack with household incomes. Demographers could have predicted that the housing market--and thus the economy--would be slow to recover as high rates of unemployment, stagnant wages, and the burden of student loans prevented young adults from establishing independent households. But if any demographer poked his head out of his cubicle to make these predictions, no one paid any attention because demographers are not the cool kids. Economists are.

Mandate or No Mandate: You Decide

Here's how the Affordable Care Act and a health insurance mandate (the tax on those who refuse to buy health insurance) would affect the number of uninsured Americans under age 65. The Reform with no mandate scenario assumes robust enrollment in health insurance exchanges...

Number (and percent) of people under age 65 without health insurance
No health care reform: 50.3 million (18.7%)
Reform with no mandate: 39.8 million (14.8%)
Reform with mandate: 26.4 million (9.8%)

Source: Urban Institute, Eliminating the Individual Mandate: Effects on Premiums, Coverage, and Uncompensated Care

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How Wrong We Are

An article in the January 2012 issue of Discover compares the real minority share of the U.S. population with the average American's distorted view of minorities. The data are from 2000, but it is unlikely that Americans are any more attuned to reality now than they were back then.

Non-Hispanic whites
Reality = 69%
What we think = 59%
Reality = 12%
What we think = 31%
Reality = 13%
What we think = 25%
Reality = 4%
What we think = 18%
Reality = 3%
What we think = 18%

Source: Discover Magazine, January 2012, How Many Minorities Are There in the USA?

Life Expectancy Ticks Up Again

Life expectancy in 2010 continued its climb into record territory, rising to 78.7 years at birth. The government recently began to collect data on life expectancy by race and Hispanic origin (see my post about this), and the 2010 statistics still show Hispanics living the longest. Hispanic life expectancy at birth is 81.3 years versus 78.8 years for non-Hispanic whites.

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

Monday, January 16, 2012

What Happens After High School

Activity of high school graduates in October following their high school graduation...

Enrolled in two-year college
Men: 25%
Women: 30%

Enrolled in four-year college
Men: 41%
Women: 44%

Not enrolled in college
Men: 34%
Women: 26%

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, The Condition of Education

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Age of Social Security

The average age at which men claim Social Security is 63.8, with 44 percent taking Social Security at 62--the earliest possible age. The average age at which women collect Social Security is an almost identical 63.7, with a larger 49 percent starting at age 62.

Source: Social Security Administration, Annual Statistical Supplement, 2011, Table 6.B5.1

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Why Don't The Elderly Spend More?

Older Americans are slow to spend down their accumulated assets, and the more assets they have the more slowly they spend them. What accounts for this behavior? According to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, their spending and saving behavior is determined by how long they expect to live (How Do the Risks of Living Long and Facing High Medical Expenses affect the Elderly's Saving Behavior?).

The richer older people are, the longer they expect to live--and the longer they actually live. Consequently, the elderly--especially the affluent elderly--have an incentive to save to pay for the rising medical costs associated with a longer life. A 70-year-old poor man expects to live only 6 more years, according to the research. A 70-year-old rich woman expects to live 17 more years. These differences in expected length of life lead to differences in spending and saving behavior, with the more affluent elderly the slowest to disperse their assets.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Trouble Ahead for Cable?

Cable and satellite television services are the single biggest entertainment expense for American households. And that spells trouble for the industry.

In 2010, the average household spent $621 on cable/satellite television services--53 percent more than in 2000, after adjusting for inflation. Average household spending on this category increased 2 percent between 2009 and 2010 alone, despite an 8.5 percent decline in overall spending on entertainment. Cable/satellite services now rank 18th among the categories on which the average household spends the most, up from 33 in 2000.

The cable/satellite industry has gotten too big to get away with this much longer, turning itself into a target for budget-cutting consumers and lower-priced competitors. A recent Harris poll shows a large share of households looking for ways to cut their cable bill. Twenty-one percent have cancelled or cut back on cable spending in the past six months, and another 22 percent considered cuts. With alternatives to cable/satellite services now emerging, the industry is headed for a haircut.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Spending on Entertainment Is Down

Between 2009 and 2010, the average household cut its overall spending by 2 percent, to $48,109. By major product and service category, households reduced their entertainment spending the most—down 7 percent to $2,504, according to an analysis of 2009-10 spending trends by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These numbers are not adjusted for inflation, and once adjusted the cuts are even larger.

Why the Housing Market is Stuck

Percent of Americans who say it's a good time to buy a house: 71%
Percent of Americans who say it's a good time to sell a house: 11%

Source: Fannie Mae, Monthly National Housing Survey

Hard Times Change Minds

A few years ago, only 43 percent of non-Hispanic whites saw a conflict between rich and poor in the United States. That was before the ranks of the poor and almost-poor expanded to encompass nearly half the American population--including many non-Hispanic whites who once thought unemployment, loss of health insurance, foreclosure, bankruptcy, and homelessness happened only to other people.

My, how times have changed. As the Great Recession evolved from a temporary setback to a permanent condition, the attitudes of non-Hispanic whites have been transformed. Fully 65 percent now say there is a "strong" or "very strong" conflict between rich and poor in the United States--up 22 percentage points in just two years. Non-Hispanic whites are more likely to see a conflict than Hispanics (61 percent), but still less likely to see one than blacks (74 percent).

Source: Pew Research Center, Rising Share of Americans See Conflict between Rich and Poor

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Household Income Rises

Median household income climbed to $50,876 in November 2011, according to estimates released this week by Sentier Research. The November increase is the third consecutive month in which median household income has grown. While good news, "this large increase in median household income over a brief time period may be difficult to sustain over the long haul," says Sentier, because "labor market conditions continue to be very weak." The November median is still well below the $55,962 median of January 2000, after adjusting for inflation. The Household Income Index stood at 90.9 in November 2011(January 2000 = 100.0).

For more on Sentier's Household Income Index, see Household Income Trends: November 2011 

Fifty Years of School Enrollment

The percentage of 20- and 21-year-olds who are enrolled in school is at a record high of 52 percent. The figure first topped 50 percent in 2008...

2010: 52%
2000: 44%
1990: 40%
1980: 31%
1970: 32%
1960: 19%

Source: Census Bureau, Historical Time Series Tables on School Enrollment

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bad News for Colleges

Today the Census Bureau released 2010 school enrollment statistics with the latest data on the number of people enrolled in college. You're likely to hear the media report that college enrollment hit an all-time high of 20 million in 2010. Sounds great, no?

No. Look more closely at the numbers and you find that enrollment in four-year colleges fell between 2009 and 2010, to 10,450,000--down by 11,000 students. Ok, that's a very small decline in the overall scheme of things, but there's more. The number of students enrolled full-time in four-year schools fell by a larger 199,000 to 8,486,000.

And that's not all. The number of full-time students attending private four-year schools continued its downward trajectory, falling to 1,805,000--13 percent below the all-time high of 2,077,000 in 2005. Perhaps more ominous, the number of full-time students at public four-year schools also fell between 2009 and 2010, down by 121,000 to 6,680,000.

Bottom line: the growth in college enrollment is occurring only at two-year colleges and at graduate schools. The traditional college market is shrinking.

Source: Census Bureau, School Enrollment

Who Should Pay for College?

Percent of Americans who believe it is the responsibility of parents to provide financial support for their children's higher education, by generation...

Boomers: 44%
Gen Xers: 50%
Millennials: 54%

Source: MetLife Mature Market Institute, Multi-Generational Views on Family Financial Obligations

Monday, January 09, 2012

Maybe We Pay Them Too Much

An increase in the salary of politicians lowers their quality, according to a National Bureau of Economic Research study using data on Members of the European Parliament. Maybe if we paid our politicians less--in salary and benefits--we would get better leaders.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, Labor Supply of Politicians, Working Paper 17726 ($5)

The Decline in Homeownership: It Could Have Been Worse

Between 2000 and 2010, the nation's homeownership rate fell from 66.2 to 65.1 percent—a 1.1 percentage point decline. The decline could have been worse, say Fannie Mae researchers who analyzed census numbers to determine how much of the drop in homeownership during the decade was due to the changing age structure of the population and how much was due to declining homeownership rates within age groups. 

The researchers show that the aging of the population actually boosted the nation's homeownership rate by 1.7 percentage points during the decade, since older Americans are more likely to own a home. At the same time, the decline in homeownership rates within age groups subtracted 2.8 percentage points from the overall rate. Their conclusion:
"Had it not been for shifts in the distribution of the population toward older age groups, the overall homeownership rate would have declined by 2.9 percentage points betwen 2000 and 2010 rather than the 1.1 point decline actually observed."
Source: Fannie Mae, A Bad Decade for the American Dream 

Sunday, January 08, 2012

What You Need to Know about For-Profit Schools

For an analysis of the good, the bad, and the ugly in for-profit postsecondary schools, see the new National Bureau of Economic Research paper, The For-Profit Postsecondary School Sector: Nimble Critters or Agile Predators? ($5). Although for-profits are able to get more students to complete certificate or associate's degree programs, their graduates earn dubious rewards: higher unemployment rates, lower earnings, and more debt compared to students who attended public or non-profit schools.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Homeownership Rates Around the World

Percentage of households that own their home...

Italy: 84%
Ireland: 83%
Brazil: 74%
United Kingdom: 69%
Australia: 69%
Canada: 67%
United States: 65%
Japan: 60%
Sweden: 60%
France: 55%
Germany: 42%

Source: Wikipedia, List of Countries by Homeownership Rate

Friday, January 06, 2012

Can Internet Search Predict What's Next?

Apparently, yes. A study posted on the Liberty Street Economics blog (Forecasting with Internet Search Data) finds that "Internet search data can forecast the content of some economic data releases."

Because most Americans (nearly 80 percent) are on the Internet, their search behavior (16 billion Internet searches per month) can be used as a predictor of their behavior, say the researchers. This is a nascent field of study, but the preliminary results bode well for the development of new ways to spot trends. The researchers cite the example of more people searching for information about automobiles, which may precede an increase in car sales.

A number of studies cited in the Liberty Street blog post show that search analysis can accurately predict financial trends. One cited study found that "searches for a firm's most popular products are better than analyst forecasts at predicting earnings surprises and the subsequent market reaction."

While the blog post focuses primarily on spotting economic trends, Internet search analysis is likely to be an even better predictor of more slowly evolving demographic trends. Home buying, marrying, moving, having children--all are likely to be preceded by billions of Internet searches, and the trends in those searches are likely to become a crystal ball that can tell us what's next.

Unemployment by College Major

A new study takes a look at unemployment rates and earnings in 2009-10 by college major for recent graduates (aged 22 to 26), and experienced workers (aged 30 to 54). Overall, 8.9 percent of recent college graduates were unemployed, but unemployment rates--and earnings--varied widely by college major.

Among recent graduates, unemployment rates were highest for those who majored in architecture (13.9%); film, video, and photographic arts (12.9%); or fine arts (12.6%). They were lowest for those who majored in nursing (4.0%) or elementary education (4.8%). The earnings of recent graduates ranged from a low of $28,000 for those who majored in anthropology/archeology (unemployment rate = 10.5%) to a high of $50,000 for computer science majors (7.8%).

Source: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, Hard Times: Not All College Degrees Are Created Equal

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Financial Insecurity by Political Affiliation

Percentage of Americans who feel less secure about their financial situation this year than last year, by political affiliation...

Democrat: 28%
Independent: 42%
Republican: 55%

Source: Harris Interactive, Two in Five Americans Feel Less Secure Financially Compared to Last Year

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Convenience Store Clerks

Sixty-three percent of all homicides in retail trade occur in food and beverage stores or gasoline stations. Convenience stores account for the single largest share (23 percent), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.

Walking is Easy

There's a reason why walking is the favorite exercise of Americans aged 45 or older--it's easy. Fully 50 percent of people aged 45 or older who are physically active on a regular basis name walking as their favorite type of exercise. No other physical activity even makes it into the double digits. In second place is bicycling, the favorite of just 6 percent.

Source: AARP Bulletin Survey on Exercise

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

"The Epidemic of Multiple Pregnancies"

The rise in twin, triplet, and higher order births in the United States has been called an epidemic, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Until 1980, the incidence of multiple births was stable at about 2 percent of births--or 1 in every 53 babies. Then things began to change. By 2009, 1 in every 30 babies born was a twin. The rise in the twin birth rate resulted in an additional 865,000 more twins being born over the three decades than would have been born if the rate had remained stable.

Behind the increase in twinning is the use of fertility treatments and the older age of women at childbirth. Among women aged 40 or older, the twin birth rate climbed by more than 200 percent between 1980 and 2009, with twins now accounting for fully 7 percent of births in the age group. Most of the rise in twinning--two-thirds--is the result of the use of fertility treatments, according to the government's analysis. The remainder of the increase is due to the older age of women at childbirth.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Three Decades of Twin Births in the United States, 1980-2009

Creating Jobs: It's Not Rocket Science

Want to boost employment for young and middle-aged adults? Then encourage boomers to retire earlier rather than later by letting them buy in to Medicare before age 65. A new study by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that the availability of retiree health insurance leads to earlier retirement—especially among workers aged 62 and 63. Workers who are offered retiree health insurance are 21 percent more likely than those without insurance to retire at age 62, and they are 32 percent more likely to retire at age 63.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, Does Retiree Health Insurance Encourage Early Retirement?, NBER Working Paper 17703 ($5)

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Health Insurance by Citizenship Status

Percentage of U.S. residents without health insurance by citizenship status...

Native born: 14%
Naturalized citizen: 20%
Not a citizen: 45%

Source: Census Bureau, Health Insurance

The Liberal Gap

Percentage of people who have a positive view of the term "liberal," by age...

18-29: 61%
65-plus: 34%

Source: Pew Research Center, Little Change in Public's Response to 'Capitalism,' 'Socialism'

Monday, January 02, 2012

The End of the World as We Know It

It has already happened, guys. No need to count down the days until December 21, 2012--when some say the Mayan calendar predicts the end of the world as we know it. The Mayans were right, but they were off by about 20 years. The Internet made primitives not only of older generations, but of all time before, say, 1993. That's when instantaneous mass communication lit up the earth like a light bulb and ended the world as we knew it. Those of us older than say, 30, have been adjusting to the consequences ever since. The younger ones don't know what all the fuss is about.

For those in doubt, here is just one example: In the oh-so-hip series of Whole Earth Catalogs (published from 1968 to 1972), each entry was accompanied, quaintly, by the mailing address of the manufacturer. Like something you see in the catalog? Write a letter and mail a check.

The end of the world has not been pretty. It has not been easy. And it is not over.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

If Today Is Your Birthday

You share your birthday with 856,940 others in the United States. Every day of the year, in fact, that's the average number of Americans who are celebrating their birthday.