Saturday, June 30, 2012

Telephone Status of Households

Every six months the National Center for Health Statistics (surprisingly) examines the telephone status of households. The latest numbers are out, providing a look at the telephone status of households in the last half of 2011...

53% landline and cell phone
34% cell phone only
10% landline only
  2% no telephone

The percentage of adults who live in a cell-phone-only household is in the majority for the following segments: 25-to-29-year-olds (59.6%), 30-to-34-year-olds (50.9%), unrelated adults living together (77.5%), people in households below poverty level (51.4%), and renters (56.0%).

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Wireless Substitution: Early Release of Estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, July-December, 2011

Friday, June 29, 2012

So Much for Deleveraging

Yes, households have been paying off their credit cards, but there's another IOU they don't have under control: nonrevolving (or installment) debt, says the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

The percentage of households with a balance on their credit cards fell from 46 to 39 percent between 2007 and 2010, according to the Survey of Consumer Finances. In contrast, there has been little change in the percentage of households with installment loans--46.9 percent in 2007 and 46.3 percent in 2010. The two major components of installment debt are auto and education loans. Frustratingly, the Fed's analysis of the 2010 Survey of Consumer Finances did not examine these individual components.

For the average household with debt, installment loans are much more serious than credit card debt because they are nearly five times larger (a median of $12,600 versus $2,600 in 2010). The Cleveland Fed notes that total household borrowing as a share of disposable income has been rising since the second quarter of 2009. That's because installment debt as a share of disposable income is now at a record high.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Consumer Deleveraging May be Over

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Big Cities Growing Faster

The population of the nation's cities grew 1.0 percent between 2010 and 2011, according to estimates by the Census Bureau. Interestingly, with a growth rate of 1.3 percent, large cities (with populations of 100,000 or more) grew faster than smaller cities. Among the nation's 285 large cities, only 22 lost population between 2010 and 2011.

Source: Census Bureau, City and Town Totals: Vintage 2011

The Obamacare Workforce

"Increasingly, the American economy is being defined by its healthcare sector," according to a new report, Healthcare, by Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

With or without Obamacare, notes the report, there will be 5.6 million more health care jobs in 2020 than today. Health care employment is projected to grow twice as fast as the national economy during this decade. The report looks at the demographics of the health care workforce and examines job growth by health care field, occupation, and wage.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Two Facts and a Theory that Might Explain Them

1. Fastest growing state, 2010-2011: District of Columbia (up 2.7 percent).
2. Metro with the highest median household income, 2010: Washington, D.C. ($84,523).

"Historically in nations where city economies are city remains vivacious longest: the capital city. This is because capital cities thrive on transactions of decline...transfer payments, subsidies, grants, military contracts and promotion of international advanced-backward trade...Behind its busyness at ruling, a capital city of a nation or an empire, vivacious to the last, at length reveals itself as being a surprisingly inert, backward and pitiable place."

Facts are from the Census Bureau.
Theory is from Cities and the Wealth of Nations: Principles of Economic Life, Jane Jacobs.

No More Easy Access to Crime Statistics

Get ready to say goodbye to another jewel in the demographic reference genre. The Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics Online is soon to join the Statistical Abstract in the potter's field of indigent projects, victims of the defunding of American civic life.

Budget cuts at the Bureau of Justice Statistics are likely the death knell for the Sourcebook, which was compiled for the past four decades by the School of Criminal Justice at the State University of New York at Albany. The loss of easy access to statistics on crime and imprisonment is unfortunate, since the U.S. has the highest imprisonment rate in the world (743 people in prison per 100,000 population--well ahead of second place Rwanda with a rate of 595); 7 million American adults are on probation, in prison, or on parole; and federal, state, and local government spending on our bloated justice system now surpasses $200 billion a year.

Maybe eliminating easy access to these horrific statistics is the point.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Cell Phone Internet Use

88% of American adults own a cell phone.
55% of cell phone owners use their phone to go online.

Among the 55 percent of people who access the Internet using their cell phone, a substantial 31 percent use their cell phone for most of their Internet browsing. Among 18-to-29-year-olds, 45 percent use their phone for most of their browsing. Among blacks, the proportion is an even larger 51 percent. The single biggest reason for using a cell phone for most Internet browsing is convenience and availability, cited by 64 percent. Only 10 percent say it is because they have no other Internet access.

Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, Cell Internet Use 2012

Notable Changes in Time Use

If you compare the results of the 2011 American Time Use Survey with those from 2007, before the Great Recession, you can glean the many ways in which life has changed...
  • Fewer men at work: Only 50 percent of men aged 15 or older worked on an average day in 2011, down from 54 percent in 2007.
  • More sleep: With more people out of work, average sleep time increased from 8.57 to 8.71 hours per night.
  • More home cooking: The percentage of people who participated in food preparation and cleanup on an average day grew from 51 to 53 percent.
  • More schooling: The percentage of people aged 15 or older who attended classes or did homework on an average day climbed from 7.9 to 8.4 percent.
  • Fewer watching TV: The percentage of people who watch TV on an average day fell by more than 1 percentage point between 2007 and 2011--from 79.5 to 78.3 percent. Among those who watched TV on an average day, however, viewing time grew from 3.30 to 3.51 hours.
  • Fewer caring for kids: As births fell from their 2007 peak, the share who care for household children on an average day fell by a full percentage point--from 21.8 to 20.8 percent.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, American Time Use Survey

Monday, June 25, 2012

Fewer Shoppers

Newly released statistics from the 2011 American Time Use Survey provide a glimpse of how the Great Recession has changed daily life. Those changes, in turn, have taken a toll on the economy. The decline in shopping is a good example.

Women are the primary shoppers, and fewer women shopped in 2011 than in 2007. On an average day in 2011, 46.6 percent of women aged 15 or older shopped in a store, by telephone, or online. This compares with a larger 48.2 percent of women who shopped for goods and services on an average day in 2007. Do the math and that's 2 million fewer shoppers per day than would have been in the marketplace if the percentage who shopped had remained the same.

To add insult to injury, the women who shopped on an average day in 2011 spent less time doing so--only 1.77 hours in 2011 versus 1.92 hours in 2007.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, American Time Use Survey

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Support for an Atheist

Only 54 percent of the Americans would be willing to vote for an atheist for president of the United States. The percentage varies considerably by age...

18 to 29: 70%
30 to 49: 56%
50 to 64: 48%
65-plus: 40%

Source: Gallup, Atheists, Muslims See Most Bias as Presidential Candidates

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Mexican Dream

Most Mexicans do not want to live in the United States. When asked whether they would like to move to the U.S., the 61 percent majority of Mexicans say no, according to a  Pew Survey. Eighteen percent say they would move to the United States if they could do it legally, and another 19 percent say they would like to move to the U.S. even if they have to do it illegally.

Source: Pew Research Center, Mexicans Back Military Campaign against Cartels

Friday, June 22, 2012

Economic Insecurity State by State

What is the single most important ingredient needed to maintain a middle-class lifestyle? Economic security: the ability to withstand economic shocks caused by a sudden loss of income. Unfortunately, the shocks are increasingly common and the security is increasingly elusive, which explains why the middle class is shrinking. In 2010, a substantial 20.5 percent of Americans were economically insecure--up from 14.3 percent in 1986, according to the Economic Security Index (ESI)--a research initiative led by Yale political scientist Jacob S. Hacker. The economic insecurity of Americans varies greatly by state, however, and those state numbers are now available in a new ESI report.

ESI 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 savings to cope with the decline.

Economic insecurity has been rising in every state without exception. But some states are worse than others. Insecurity is greatest in Mississippi, where 24.5 percent of the population experienced at least a 25 percent drop in income in 2010 and lacked savings to make it through the hard times. Insecurity is lowest in New Hampshire, where a smaller (but still substantial) 17.0 percent of the population found themselves in financial free fall in 2010. Reports for individual states can be downloaded from the site.

Source: Economic Security Index, Economic Insecurity Across the American States

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Immigration = Good

Percentage of Americans who think immigration is a good thing for the country: 66%.

Source: Gallup, Americans More Positive about Immigration

Asian American Identity

Only 19 percent of Asian Americans identify themselves as Asian American. The 62 percent majority describe themselves by their country of origin rather than Asian or Asian American.

Source: Pew Research Center, The Rise of Asian Americans

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sharing a Household

A new Census Bureau report examines the widely reported phenomena of what the bureau calls "shared households." These are defined as households that include adults who are neither the householder, the spouse, a cohabiting partner, or in school.

The bureau estimates that there were 22 million shared households in 2010, accounting for a substantial 19 percent of total households and up from 17 percent in 2007. Sixty-nine million adults (30 percent of the population aged 18 or older) live in a shared household.

To understand the shared household, take a look at the characteristics of the additional adults who live there. Eighty-two percent are relatives of the householder. Forty-six percent are a child of the householder, 13 percent are a parent of the householder, 8 percent are a brother or sister of the householder, and 14 percent are some other relative. The 56 percent majority of additional adults in shared households are aged 18 to 34.

Source: Census Bureau, Sharing a Household: Household Composition and Economic Well-Being: 2007-2010

Net Worth Minus Home Equity

Take away the house, and Americans have little wealth. Median household net worth was $66,740 in 2010, according to the Census Bureau, but falls to just $15,000 if home equity is excluded. Here is median household net worth excluding home equity by age of householder...

Under age 35: $3,528
Aged 35 to 44: $11,945
Aged 45 to 54: $23,738
Aged 55 to 64: $40,990
Aged 65-plus: $28,518

Source: Census Bureau, Wealth and Asset Ownership

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Nursing Home Costs

A growing percentage of people aged 65 or older are experiencing nursing home stays. According to a report by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 8.5 percent of Americans aged 65 or older had a nursing home stay in 2010, up from 6.0 percent in 2000.

Because only 14 percent of older Americans who enter a nursing home are covered by long-term care insurance, a stay in a nursing home depletes household wealth. The median household net worth of people aged 65 or older who experienced a stay in a nursing home was $102,073 before entry. After six months in a nursing home, median net worth was just $5,518.

Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute, Effects of Nursing Home Stays on Household Portfolios

How Big a Rainy Day Fund?

When families are asked how much money they need to set aside for emergencies, the median amount they report is $5,000. But the figure rises with income from a low of $2,000 for households with the lowest incomes to a high of $30,000 for households in the top 10 percent of household income. As a percentage, however, households believe they need pretty much the same amount--10.8 percent of income socked away for a rainy day.

Source: Federal Reserve Board, Federal Reserve Bulletin, Changes in U.S. Family Finances from 2007 to 2010: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances

Monday, June 18, 2012

Senior Pranks

Percentage of high school seniors who did the following during the past month...

Texted while driving: 58%
Drank alcohol: 48%
Used marijuana: 28%
Smoked cigarettes: 25%

Source: CDC, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance--2011

It's The House, Stupid!

Today the Census Bureau released its own survey findings on household wealth, confirming the bad news reported last week by the Federal Reserve Board. Median household net worth in 2010 was $66,740, says the bureau, even lower than the $77,300 reported by the Fed, and down 35 percent since 2005 after adjusting for inflation.

Anyone tempted to dismiss the decline in household wealth as "just" a consequence of the collapse of the housing market, keep in mind that housing is the single most important asset owned by the average household. Excluding home equity, median household net worth is only $15,000, according to the Census Bureau. It might be possible to dismiss the loss of housing wealth as a temporary aberration, soon to be corrected, if the demographic headwinds (downsizing boomers and struggling younger adults) were not so formidable. A rebound is unlikely for years to come.

Source: Census Bureau, Wealth and Asset Ownership

Most Do Not Own Stock

Only 49.9 percent of households own stock either directly or indirectly through mutual funds and retirement accounts, according to the 2010 Survey of Consumer Finances. This is down from the 53 percent majority in 2007. Between 2007 and 2010, the median value of stock owned by households fell from $35,500 to $29,000--an 18 percent decline, after adjusting for inflation.

Transactions accounts and retirement accounts are the only two financial assets owned by most households. The median value of transaction accounts (owned by 92.5 percent of households) in 2010 was just $3,500. The median value of retirement accounts (owned by 50.4 percent of households) was $44,000. Both declined in value between 2007 and 2010.

Source: Federal Reserve Board, Federal Reserve Bulletin, Changes in U.S. Family Finances from 2007 to 2010: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Problem with High-Deductible Health Plans

The problem is, people won't go to the doctor or take their medicine. That's what research shows, according to a study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. It compared access to health care among people in traditional health insurance plans versus those in high-deductible plans--with an individual deductible of more than $1,000 a year and a family deductible of more than $2,000 a year.

The study examined whether individuals had done any of the following during the past year: not filling a prescription due to cost, skipping doses to make a medication last longer, or delaying or avoiding getting health care due to cost. The results show that 42 percent of those in high-deductible plans had delayed or avoided getting health care versus a smaller (but still substantial) 31 percent of those in traditional plans.

Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute, Use of Health Care Services and Access Issues by Type of Health Plan: Findings from the EBRI/MGA Consumer Engagement in Health Care Survey

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Stressed by the Great Recession

Who has been most stressed out by the Great Recession? White, middle-aged men with a college education and a full-time job, say Carnegie Mellon researchers in a study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Little Change in Household Debt

Although the pundits suggest that Americans aren't shopping because they are paying down debt, this notion may be more fiction than fact. The 2010 Survey of Consumer Finances found only a small decline in the percentage of households with debt, with the figure falling from 77 to 75 percent between 2007 and 2010. The median amount owed by households with debt was essentially unchanged at $70,700 (including mortgage debt).

The age group shedding debt the most: householders under age 35. The percentage of indebted householders in this age group fell 5.8 percentage points between 2007 and 2010, to 77.8 percent, as homeownership declined. The age group with the biggest increase in debt: householders aged 75 or older. More than one-third (38.5 percent) were in debt in 2010, up from 31.4 percent in 2007. The median amount owed by these householders more than doubled during those years to $30,000.

Source: Federal Reserve Board, Federal Reserve Bulletin, Changes in U.S. Family Finances from 2007 to 2010: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Housing Units by State and County, 2011

2011 estimates of housing units by state and county are now available from the Census Bureau.

Northeast Leads in Wealth

Regional differences in household net worth broadened between 2007 and 2010 as households in the West lost most of their wealth. The declines were smaller in the other regions and smallest (although still substantial) in the Northeast, which is now the only region in which median household net worth remains above $100,000. Here is median household net worth by region in 2010, and the percent change in net worth since 2007 after adjusting for inflation...

Total households: $77,300 (-39%)
Northeast: $119,900 (-28%)
Midwest: $68,400 (-39%)
South: $68,300 (-33%)
West: $73,400 (-55%)

Source: Federal Reserve Board, Federal Reserve Bulletin, Changes in U.S. Family Finances from 2007 to 2010: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances

Who's Your Daddy?

The Chinese are more likely than Americans to think the United States is the world's leading economic power. Forty-eight percent of Chinese feel that way versus 40 percent of Americans.

Conversely, Americans are more likely to think China is the world's leading economic power. Forty-one percent of Americans feel that way versus only 29 percent of Chinese.

Source: Pew Research Center, Global Opinion of Obama Slips, International Policies Faulted

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Elvis Has Left the Building

That's a metaphor, of course. By Elvis, I mean the wealth of the middle class.

I don't think it's possible to overstate the bad news in the household wealth numbers released by the Federal Reserve Board. Sure, we knew things were bad. But until the data were in our hands, we could at least hope that Elvis would return to the stage. That hope is gone. Median household net worth fell 39 percent between 2007 and 2010, after adjusting for inflation. The $77,300 median of 2010 was at the level of 1992. See my discussion of household net worth trends by age here, by income here.

The loss of family wealth is a problem that will be passed down (or, rather, not passed down) from one generation to the next. The loss of wealth destabilizes the middle class because it removes the safety net required to remain there. That safety net is the ability of families to lend (or give) a helping hand to family members when they encounter inevitable (and, according to research, increasingly frequent) economic shocks--medical bills, car repairs, unemployment, etc. The 2010 wealth data show gaping holes in the safety net ...
  • The oldest Americans are now the wealthiest householders. Median net worth in 2010 peaks among householders aged 75 or older, at $216,800. This is a change from 2007, when median net worth peaked in the younger 55-to-64 age group. By rights, 55-to-64-year-olds should have the greatest net worth, spending it down in retirement. But the net worth of householders aged 55 to 64 was just $179,400 in 2010, much lower than their $266,200 net worth in 2007--a 33 percent decline after adjusting for inflation.
  • It's a bad sign that median household net worth has fallen to the level of 1992. In that year, the large baby-boom generation was aged 28 to 46, with the oldest entering their peak-earning years. The small Depression-era cohort was then at the age of peak wealth accumulation prior to retirement. At that time, the demographic structure of the population was suppressing median net worth. In 2010 in contrast, the baby-boom generation is at the supposed age of peak wealth accumulation. The demographic structure of today's population should be boosting net worth. With net worth at the 1992 level despite the demographics suggests worse is to come as boomers age.
  • The devastating loss of wealth experienced by younger householders means there's no rescue in sight. Householders aged 35 to 44 lost most of their wealth between 2007 and 2010, their median net worth falling by 54 percent after adjusting for inflation, to just $42,100. Householders under age 35 saw their already small nest egg fall by 25 percent during those years, to $9,300. Home equity is the foundation of middle class wealth, which is why the drop in home values is the single biggest factor behind the decline in net worth. The dire financial straits of householders under age 45, coupled with the desire of millions of boomers to downsize, will depress housing prices for years to come. 
Source: Federal Reserve Board, Federal Reserve Bulletin, Changes in U.S. Family Finances from 2007 to 2010: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Rich Really Are Getting Richer

The latest data on household wealth is bad news for everyone except the rich. The net worth of households with the highest incomes grew 2 percent between 2007 and 2010 while everyone else lost their shirts, according to the Federal Reserve Board's Survey of Consumer Finances. Overall, median household net worth fell 39 percent between 2007 and 2010--to $77,300, after adjusting for inflation.

Take a look at median household net worth in 2010 by household income percentile, and the percent change since 2007 after adjusting for inflation...

Percentile of household income
Less than 20: $6,200 (-27%)
20 to 39.9: $25,600 (-35%)
40 to 59.9: $65,900 (-29%)
60 to 79.9: $128,600 (-40%)
80 to 89.9: $286,600 (-23%)
90 to 100: $1,194,300 (+2%)

Reports of the death of the middle class have not been greatly exaggerated. Households with incomes in the middle of the distribution (ranging from the 60th to the 80th percentile) lost the most--a 40 percent decline in net worth between 2007 and 2010. 

Source: Federal Reserve Board, Federal Reserve Bulletin, Changes in U.S. Family Finances from 2007 to 2010: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances

Monday, June 11, 2012

American Wealth Plunges

The latest update on the wealth of American households was released this afternoon, and the numbers are shockingly bad. Median household net worth was just $77,300 in 2010, according to the Federal Reserve Board, which fields the Survey of Consumer Finances every three years. Between 2007 and 2010, median household net worth fell 39 percent, after adjusting for inflation.

The net worth of American households has fallen to a level not seen since 1992. This is especially troubling because, as the large baby-boom generation approaches retirement, the demographics alone should have boosted median net worth to a record high. Here is net worth by age of householder in 2010, and percent change since 2007 after adjusting for inflation...

Total households: $77,300 (-39%)
Under age 35: $9,300 (-25%)
Aged 35 to 44: $42,100 (-54%)
Aged 45 to 54: $117,900 (-39%)
Aged 55 to 64: $179,400 (-33%)
Aged 65 to 74: $206,700 (-18%)
Aged 75 or older: $216,800 (-3%)

Source: Federal Reserve Board, Federal Reserve Bulletin, Changes in U.S. Family Finances from 2007 to 2010: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances

The Hunt for Credentials

One of the keys to making money is having credentials. Getting a certificate rather than a degree may be a short-cut to credentials and higher earnings, says a new study. Twelve percent of adults report a certificate as their highest level of education, up from 2 percent in 1984. Those with certificates and a job in their field earn almost as much as workers with an associate's degree. Otherwise, those with certificates earn little more than high school graduates.

Source: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, Certificates: Gateway to Gainful Employment and College Degrees

Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance 2011

It's that time again. Every two years the federal government surveys thousands of students in 9th through 12th grade in public and private schools across the nation. Students are asked all sorts of questions about drugs, drinking, sex, and violence--risky behavior that contributes to the majority of deaths of teens and young adults. The CDC publishes the results in a lengthy report, with details by grade, sex, race, Hispanic origin, and with data for states and 21 large urban school districts.

The 2011 results are now available, and they show plenty of reasons for parents to worry. In the past month, for example, 33 percent of high school students texted while driving, 38 percent drank, and 23 percent used marijuana. Thirty-one percent played video games for three or more hours a day. On a more positive note, only 6 percent did not eat their vegetables.

Source: CDC, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance--2011

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Changing Attitudes: Gay & Lesbian Teachers

Percent who agree: "School boards ought to have the right to fire homosexual teachers."

2012: 21%
1987: 51%

Source: Pew Research Center, 2012 American Values Survey

Saturday, June 09, 2012

The Energy Pit

How much energy does the average house require to stay warm (or cool), well-lit, and functioning? According to the Energy Information Administration, the average home consumes 89.6 million BTUs per year. The average household spends $2,024 for this energy--$787 per household member, or $1.03 per square foot of house.

Source: Energy Information Administration, Residential Energy Consumption Survey

Friday, June 08, 2012

Household Income Stable in April

Median household income was about the same in April 2012 as in the previous month, according to the latest monthly update from Sentier Research. The April median of $50,486 was 0.5 percent lower than the March 2012 median ($50,765), after adjusting for inflation. The change  was not statistically significant.  

The April median was 5.9 percent lower than median household income in June 2009--the end of the Great Recession. It was 8.3 percent lower than the median in December 2007, the start of the Great Recession. It was 9.2 percent lower than the median in January 2000. 

"These comparisons demonstrate how significantly real median annual household income has fallen over the past decade, and how much ground needs to be recovered to return to income levels that existed in earlier years," notes Sentier.

The Household Income Index for April 2012 was 90.8 (January 2000 = 100.0).

Source: Sentier Research, Household Income Trends: April 2012 

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Hard Times for High School Graduates

High school graduates are having a hard time. You've probably seen the media reports over the past few days. The information comes from the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, which regularly surveys American workers to determine their status. This time around, Heldrich surveyed a representative sample of young adults who graduated from high school between 2006 and 2011 and do not have a college degree nor are enrolled in college full-time. The findings are so abysmal they deserve a look (see link to report below).

In a nutshell, 60 percent of recent high school graduates are living with their parents or other relatives. Only 27 percent have a full-time job. Those with jobs earn a median of $9.25 an hour. The 56 percent majority thinks their generation will have less financial success than the generation before them.

The broader implication: Americans are in trouble, and the trouble is spreading from the bottom up. The middle-class comfort enjoyed by older generations is a relic of a more prosperous past and will not last.

Source: Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, Left Out. Forgotten? Recent High School Graduates and the Great Recession (PDF)

An Average Day: Social Networking

Nearly half (48 percent) of Internet users are on a social networking site (such as Facebook) on an average day. Here are the percentages  by age...

18 to 29: 70%
30 to 49: 52%
50 to 64: 31%
65-plus: 18%

Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, Older Adults and Internet Use

Internet Use Now the Norm among 65-plus

This was predictable: Internet use among Americans aged 65 or older has finally passed 50 percent, according to a survey by Pew Internet & American Life Project. That's because boomers are filling the age group.

Fifty-three percent of people aged 65 or older are now Internet users, says Pew, up from 41 percent in the fall of 2011--a level that had barely budged for years. The needle is finally moving because the oldest boomers (who turn 66 this year) are bringing their enthusiasm for technology into an older market that has been inexplicably resistant to the magic.

Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, Older Adults and Internet Use

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Who's Happy?

When AARP asked Americans aged 35 to 80 how happy they are, 68 percent said they were happy (pretty happy or very happy), and 30 percent said they were not too happy.

Your happiness depends on what's happening in your life--but not exactly in the way you might imagine. As suspected, the least happy people are those who have had financial trouble in the past year--only 47 percent say they're happy. In contrast, among those who have had a child or grandchild in the past year, a much larger 70 percent say they're happy. But the happiest people of all are those with no change in their life either good or bad. Among those with no big life events, 78 percent are happy.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

This is Not a Rhetorical Question

Do older Americans know their health insurance is provided by the federal government? Apparently many do not know this, because the 61 percent majority of people aged 65 or older (93 percent of whom are enrolled in the federal government's Medicare program) say they are "concerned about the government becoming too involved in health care."

Source: Pew Research Center, 2012 American Values Survey

Support for Labor Unions

Overall, 64 percent of the American public agrees with the statement, "Labor unions are necessary to protect the working person." Here are the percentages in agreement by political party affiliation...

Democrat: 82%
Independent: 61%
Republican: 43%

Source: Pew Research Center, 2012 American Values Survey

Monday, June 04, 2012

Student Loan Debt Still Rising

After mortgages, student loans are the single largest component of household debt, reports the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Every other type of debt has been declining since the 2008 peak. But student loan debt just keeps growing. As of March 31, 2012, Americans owed a collective $904 billion in education loans, $64 billion more than a year earlier. To put the number in perspective, that's $2,888 for every man, woman, and child in the United States.

More Bathrooms in Rentals

Builders are beginning to adapt to an increasingly upscale rental market by adding bathrooms. Among the 138,000 new multifamily rental units completed in 2011, the 53 percent majority had at least two complete bathrooms, reports the Census Bureau. Only 46 percent of units completed in 2010 had two or more bathrooms.

Source: Census Bureau, Characteristics of New Housing

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Twitter Demographics

College graduates, young adults, and blacks are the biggest users of Twitter, according to a Pew Survey. Overall, 13 percent of online adults use Twitter. The figure is a larger 16 percent among college graduates, 18 percent among 18-to-29-year-olds, and peaks at 25 percent among blacks. Those least likely to use Twitter are people aged 65 or older (6 percent), whites (9 percent), and rural residents (7 percent).

Source: Pew Internet and American Life Project, Twitter Update 2011

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Marijuana (Plant) Deaths

Cultivated marijuana plants eradicated in 2011 by the DEA: 6,735,519.

Source: Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics Online

Friday, June 01, 2012

IRA Balances by Age

When left to their own devices, Americans are not very good at saving for retirement. The Employee Benefit Research Institute keeps track of their meager efforts. The latest report, detailing IRA account balances in 2010, reveals that the median balance per account was $17,863, and the median balance per IRA owner was a larger but still modest $25,296 (some individuals own more than one IRA account). By age, the numbers are even more worrisome because they show that even as retirement approaches, IRA balances barely exceed one year's worth of median household income ($49,445 in 2010).

Median IRA balance per owner by age, 2010
Under age 25: $5,782
Aged 25 to 29: $4,769
Aged 30 to 34: $7,229
Aged 35 to 39: $10,819
Aged 40 to 44: $14,745
Aged 45 to 49: $19,329
Aged 50 to 54: $24,505
Aged 55 to 59: $31,762
Aged 60 to 64: $42,998
Aged 65 to 69: $58,965
Aged 70-plus: $56,198

Keep in mind that few Americans even own an IRA. In 2009, only 21 percent of workers aged 21 to 64 had an IRA in their own name, according to EBRI. Among the owners, just 12 percent contributed to their IRA in 2010.

Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute, Individual Retirement Account Balances, Contributions, and Rollovers, 2010: The EBRI IRA Database