Friday, February 28, 2014

Childhood Obesity and the Demographics of New Mothers

A new study has found a big drop in obesity among the nation's 2-to-5-year-olds, according to a New York Times article. The percentage of children in the age group who are obese fell from 14 percent in 2004 to 8 percent in 2012. This is good news, but no one can explain the decline. Some say it's due to more breastfeeding. Others say children are consuming fewer calories from sugar. First Lady Michelle Obama's efforts to improve children's nutrition are also cited as a reason. Here's a more likely explanation: the higher educational attainment of new mothers.

Between 2000 (when some of those 2-to-5-year-olds of 2004 were born) and 2010 (when some of those 2-to-5-year-olds of 2012 were born), the annual number of births in the United States declined as the Great Recession triggered a baby bust. Fewer women gave birth, and their demographics changed. New mothers in 2010 were much more educated than new mothers in 2000, according to the Census Bureau. The percentage of babies born to high school dropouts fell from 23 to 17 percent between 2000 and 2010. The percentage of babies born to women with college experience grew from 46 to 56 percent during those years.

It's a well known fact that educated people have better health. It should come as no surprise, then, that educated mothers have healthier children.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Homeownership in 2013

The nation's homeownership rate fell to 65.1 percent in 2013, according to annual statistics released by the Census Bureau. The 2013 homeownership rate was down from 65.4 percent in 2012 and the all-time high of 69.0 in 2004. By age, 2013 homeownership rates (and the percentage point change since 2004) look like this...

Under age 25: 22.2% (-3.0)
Aged 25 to 29: 34.1% (-6.1)
Aged 30 to 34: 48.1% (-9.3)
Aged 35 to 39: 55.8% (-10.4)
Aged 40 to 44: 65.0% (-6.9)
Aged 45 to 54: 71.2% (-6.0)
Aged 55 to 64: 76.6% (-5.1)
Aged 65-plus: 80.8% (-0.3)

If homeownership rates by age were the same in 2013 as in 2004, then the overall rate would be a much higher 70.3 percent rather than 65.1. The United States would have nearly 6 million more homeowners—81 million rather than the 75 million of 2013. Among households headed by 30-to-39-year-olds, there would be 2 million more homeowners than there are today.

Source: Census Bureau, Housing Vacancies and Homeownership

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Bloat in Higher Education

Is "administrative bloat" a reason for the rising cost of college? According to an analysis of labor force trends at institutions of higher education, the bloat is real and it could be a factor in rising costs. Administrative positions are growing as a share of total institutional employment, while full-time faculty is shrinking as a share of employment at most types of schools. The analysis defines administrative positions as those that provide student, academic, or professional support such as vice presidents, provosts, financial analysts, human resources staff, computer administrators, lawyers, health care workers, and so on.

The number of full-time faculty per administrator declined at every type of school between 1990 and 2012, according to the analysis. At public four-year schools, the number of full-time faculty per administrator fell from 1.9 in 1990 to 1.1 in 2012. At public community colleges the ratio fell from 2.2 to 1.5. At private four-year colleges the figure fell from 1.3 to 0.8.

In an attempt to cut costs over the years, institutions of higher education have replaced full-time faculty with part-time instructors. Most college teachers today are part-timers. But much of the savings from faculty cuts have been spent on administrators, the report concludes.

Source: American Institutes for Research, Delta Cost Project, Labor Intensive or Labor Expensive?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Most Farmers Are Part-Timers

Among the nation's 2.1 million principal farm operators (the person primarily responsible for the day-to-day operation of the farm), most do not identify farming as their primary occupation. The 52 percent majority of principal farm operators say their primary occupation is something other than farming, according to the USDA's 2012 Census of Agriculture.

Economics explain the part-time nature of today's farmer. Seventy percent of farms have agricultural sales of less than $50,000 annually. The average age of farmers is 58.3.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Mobility Rate by Generation

Only 5.9 percent of baby boomers moved between March 2012 and March 2013, according to a Demo Memo analysis of the Census Bureau's geographic mobility data. Mobility rates peak among young adults and fall with age. Here are the 2012-13 mobility rates by generation...

iGeneration (aged 1 to 18): 13.1%
Millennials (aged 19 to 36): 20.4%
Generation X (aged 37 to 48): 10.6%
Baby Boomers (aged 49 to 67): 5.9%
Older Americans (aged 68-plus): 3.5%

Among the nation's 74 million boomers, only 4 million moved between 2012 and 2013. Among the movers, 61 percent remained in the same county. Only 15 percent crossed a state line.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Wives Are Better Educated than Husbands

Among the nation's married couples, wives are more educated than husbands in 20.7 percent. This figure exceeds, for the first time, the 19.9 percent in which husbands are more educated than wives, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of census data.

Among newlyweds, the trend is even more pronounced, with 27 percent of wives more educated than husbands and only 15 percent of husbands more educated than wives. Despite their greater educational attainment, says Pew, only 39 percent of better-educated newlywed wives earned more than their husbands. The 58 percent majority earned less.

Source: Pew Research Center, Record Share of Wives Are More Educated than their Husbands

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Retirement: Does Health Matter?

Poor health leads to an earlier retirement, and a National Bureau of Economic Research paper documents just how much health matters. In a simulation of the effect of health on retirement based on data from the Health and Retirement Study, the analysis computes the percentage of men aged 54 or older who work full-time, part-time, or not at all by self-reported health status.

The differences are striking. Among men aged 62, the percentage who work full-time is 44 percent for those in good health, 39 percent for those in fair health, 18 percent for those in poor health, and 4 percent for those in terrible health. Conversely, the percentage of men aged 62 who are fully retired rises from 41 percent for those in good health to 46 percent for those in fair health, 68 percent for those in poor health, and 87 percent for those in terrible health.

The study also examines various types of health problems and behaviors to determine their impact on retirement. Smoking, for example, reduces the average age at retirement by four to five months.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, The Role of Health in Retirement, NBER Working Paper 19902

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Boomer Effect on the Labor Force

Between December 2007 and December 2013, the labor force participation rate of people aged 16 or older fell from 66.0 to 62.8 percent. How much of that decline is due to the Great Recession and how much is due to the aging of the large baby-boom generation?

A substantial 40 percent of the decline is due to the aging of the baby-boom generation, according to an analysis of the data by Alicia H. Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Although boomers are staying in the workforce longer, the labor force participation rate of older workers is still less than half the rate of prime-age individuals, notes Munnell. The growing presence of Americans aged 55 or older in the population is reducing the overall labor force participation rate. "Regardless of general economic factors, we should expect to see labor force participation continue to decline for the remainder of this decade due to the retiring of baby boomers," she concludes.

Source: Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, The Impact of Aging Baby Boomers on Labor Force Participation

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sick in Bed

Average number of days per year Americans spend more than half of the day in bed because of illness or injury, by age...

Total adults: 4.0
Aged 18 to 44: 2.9
Aged 45 to 64: 5.1
Aged 65 to 74: 4.2
Aged 75-plus: 6.0

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey, Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2012

Monday, February 17, 2014

Eating Out: Meals per Week

Question: "During the past 7 days, how many meals did you get that were prepared away from home such as restaurants, fast food places, food stands, grocery stores, or from vending machines?" Among Americans aged 20 or older, these are their answers...

None: 19.3%
One: 17.0%
Two: 17.1%
Three: 13.1%
Four: 8.5%
Five: 7.3%
Six: 3.0%
Seven: 5.1%
Eight or more: 9.5%

Since the last time this question was asked in 2007-08, a statistically significant change occurred in only one category: the percentage who got eight or more meals away from home fell by 3 percentage points, from 12.5 to 9.5 percent.

Source: USDA, Economic Research Service, Flexible Consumer Behavior Survey, 2009-10

Friday, February 14, 2014

Changing Attitudes toward Racial Discrimination

This is a rare: 45 years of survey results on the attitudes of blacks and whites toward racial discrimination. Harris has accomplished this rare achievement. By pulling 1969, 1972, and 2008 attitudinal data from its archives and updating them with a 2014 survey, we can see how much or how little things have changed.

Not surprisingly, on every issue—from how they are treated by police to the quality of the education they receive in public schools and the wages they are paid—blacks are more likely than whites to think blacks are discriminated against. The black-white attitudes gap existed in 1969 and it still exists today. When the 2014 survey asked whether blacks are discriminated against in getting full equality, 78 percent of blacks and only 41 percent of whites said yes. In 1969 the figures were 84 and 43 percent, respectively. When the 2014 survey asked whether blacks are discriminated against in the wages they are paid, 63 percent of blacks and only 25 percent of whites said yes. In 1969 the figures were 73 and 22 percent, respectively.

Clearly, blacks and whites do not see eye to eye on issues of racial discrimination. But when comparing results from 1969 with those from 2014 a bit of good news emerges: the attitudes gap is shrinking. In 1969, black and white attitudes were separated by an average of 44 percentage points. In 2014, black and white attitudes are separated by an average gap of 34 points. That's progress of a sort.

Here is an example of how attitudes have converged over the past 45 years. When asked whether blacks are discriminated against in the way they are treated as human beings, this is the percentage of blacks and whites who said "yes" in 2014 and 1969...

Blacks: 71%
Whites: 39%
Difference: 32 percentage points

Blacks: 77%
Whites: 35%
Difference: 42 percentage points

Source: Harris Interactive, Racial Discrimination: How Far Have We Come?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Health Insurance Trends: ACA Reducing the Uninsured

A January 2014 Gallup survey has documented a downward tick in the percentage of Americans without health insurance. On January 1st, health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act took effect for millions of Americans—enough to put a dent in the statistics.

The percentage of all Americans who do not have health insurance fell from 17.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013 to 16.0 percent in January 2014. The biggest drop in the uninsured occurred among 26-to-34-year-olds. In the age group, 25.7 percent were uninsured in January, down from 30.2 percent in the third quarter of 2013.

Source: Gallup, U.S. Uninsured Rate Drops so Far in First Quarter of 2014

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Young Adults Are Splitting into Haves and Have-Nots

Young adults are splitting into Haves and Have-Nots based on their education, according to a Pew Research Center report. While this is a long-term trend, Pew's analysis of Census Bureau income data for people aged 25 to 32 shows just how much more important a bachelor's degree is to millennials than it was for generation Xers or boomers.

First, the good news. Today's 25-to-32-year-olds with a bachelor's degree have a higher median household income than did their generation X or baby-boom counterparts at the same age. For college-educated millennials, median household income in 2012 was $89,079. This compares with a median of $86,237 for gen Xers when they were 25-to-32-years-old, $81,686 for younger boomers at that age, and $71,916 for older boomers as young adults. (Note: household income is in 2012 dollars and adjusted for changes in household size.) In other words, the standard of living of college-educated young adults has improved over the decades.

Now the bad news. Today's 25-to-32-year-olds with no more than a high school diploma are decidedly worse off than their generation X or baby-boom counterparts at the same age. Millennials with no more than a high school diploma had a median household income of $39,842 in 2012. This compares with a larger $45,164 for gen Xers when they were 25-to-32-years-old, $47,986 for younger boomers at that age, and $50,097 for older boomers as young adults. In other words, the standard of living of young adults who do not go to college has dropped, their median household income now 20 percent below what it was a few decades ago.

The household income gap between young adults with a bachelor's degree and those with no more than a high school diploma has more than doubled, growing from $22,000 in 1979 to $49,000 in 2012. That growing gap explains why 22 percent of today's 25-to-32-year-olds with no more than a high school diploma are living in poverty (up from 7 percent in 1979) and 18 percent are living with their parents (up from 9 percent in 1979).

For more on the growing importance of a college education for young adults, see Pew Research Center's report The Rising Cost of Not Going to College.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Antidepressant Boom

Maybe it was the Great Recession, or pharmaceutical advertising, or the advice of doctors. Whatever the reason, the result is clear: a booming market for antidepressants. The number of Americans who purchased an antidepressant grew by an enormous 65 percent in ten years—rising from 18.5 million in 2000 to 30.6 million in 2010. Overall, nearly 10 percent of Americans purchased a prescribed antidepressant in 2010, up from 7 percent in 2000. Here are the 2010 percentages by age...

Percent purchasing a prescribed antidepressant in 2010
Total people: 9.9%
Under age 18: 1.3%
Aged 18 to 44: 8.8%
Aged 45 to 64: 16.2%
Aged 65-plus: 16.2%

Source: Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, Statistical Brief 430, Trends in Antidepressant Utilization and Expenditures in the U.S. Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population by Age, 2000 and 2010

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Aging of Genius

Geniuses are getting older. That's the conclusion of a National Bureau of Economic Research literature review and analysis. During the 20th century, the average age of great achievement (defined as winning a Nobel Prize or inventing a new technology) increased by six years according to a study, cited in the NBER paper, of 544 Nobel winners and 286 technological innovators.

One theory posited for the rising age of scientific genius is the growing length of time required for training. "To the extent that expertise over some range of existing knowledge is an essential input to the creative process in science, the expansion of extant theories, facts, methods, et cetera, can create a rising 'burden of knowledge' on successive generations of scientists," say the authors.

The aging of genius can mean less genius overall and may even change the direction of scientific progress, according to the authors' analysis. "There is, in effect, less time for genius to act like one," they explain. In addition, "if early life-cycle innovative capacity is increasingly truncated by training demands, then it is possible that the nature of achievements would shift from conceptual toward experimental reasoning. Thus contributions may become increasingly biased against deep, conceptual novelty."

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, Age and Scientific Genius, NBER Working Paper 19866

Friday, February 07, 2014

Under Adult Supervision

One in every 35 adults in the United States is in prison, jail, on probation or parole.

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Correctional Populations in the United States, 2012

Thursday, February 06, 2014

The Demographic Engine of City Growth

Is the recent growth of cities a consequence of the economic shock experienced by America's young adults? The Great Recession idled millions of millennials, causing them to postpone marriage and childbearing. Without the nuclear family motive for moving to the suburbs, young adults are staying put in urban centers and boosting city populations. Between 2010 and 2012, the nation's largest cities (with populations of 50,000 or more) grew 2.1 percent, nearly double the 1.1 percent growth everywhere else. Cities may be growing not so much because they are attracting young adults, but because they are no longer losing young families to the suburbs. Take a look at the facts:
  • The  median age at first marriage is at a record high (29 for men; 27 for women). 
  • The fertility rate is at a record low (62.7 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44).
  • The number of nuclear families (married couples with children under age 18) headed by young adults fell by more than 1 million between 2007 and 2013. Nuclear families now account for only 24 percent of households headed by people under age 35.
Will cities lose their luster as the economy recovers and young adults revert to a more typical pattern of marriage and childbearing? Maybe, but there are reasons to doubt a return to the good old days. The biggest problem is student loan debt, shifting the age of first-time home buying from the early thirties to the late thirties. Only 37 percent of householders under age 35 are homeowners, the lowest homeownership rate on record for the age group. By the time they can afford to buy a home, younger generations will be accustomed to city life and may not be willing to trade urban amenities for suburban sprawl.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

The Graduate School Rush

Now that a bachelor's degree is as common as a high school diploma used to be, Americans are in a mad rush to get even more education.

That explains why the number of people with at least some graduate level education grew by an astounding 52 percent between 2000 and 2013, rising from 23 million to 36 million. Today, 32 percent of Americans aged 25 or older have at least a bachelor's degree, 17 percent have graduate school experience, and 12 percent have a graduate degree.

Source: Census Bureau, Educational Attainment in the United States: 2013

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Coming Soon: The Geography of Internet Use

We're soon going to know a whole lot more about the geography of smartphone and Internet use. Beginning in the fall of 2014, the Census Bureau's American Community Survey will provide information on computer ownership by type of computer (desktop, laptop, smartphone, etc.) and Internet subscription by type of connection (DSL, cable, fiber-optic, mobile broadband, etc.) for the nation, states, and smaller geographies such as cities and counties.

While other organizations track computer and smartphone ownership (such as Pew Internet and American Life Project), only the massive American Community Survey can nail the local geography of Internet access. The Census Bureau's Current Population Survey has long asked about computers and the Internet, but the information collected is limited and provided only for the nation and states. According to the latest Current Population Survey report (with data for 2012), 79 percent of households have a computer at home, 75 percent use the Internet at home, and 45 percent of adults have a smartphone. The 2012 data release includes several data tables and an interesting infographic (pdf) showing trends in computer ownership, Internet access, and individual smartphone use.

The Current Population Survey first asked Americans about computer ownership in 1984, when 8 percent of households owned a computer. A question about Internet access was first included in the Current Population Survey in 1997, when 37 percent of households owned a computer and 18 percent had Internet access at home. The much larger American Community Survey will better track not only device ownership, but also the local geography of Internet access.

Source: Census Bureau, Computer and Internet Access in the United States: 2012

Monday, February 03, 2014

The Cost of College is Not Rising

Everyone knows that the cost of college has gone through the roof. But everyone might be wrong. An analysis of the net cost of college by Scott A. Wolla of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis finds that the net cost of college has not changed over the past decade—after adjusting for inflation and financial aid.

Although average college tuition and fees climbed from $24,070 in 2003-04 to $30,090 in 2013-14, the net cost (minus financial aid) fell from $13,600 to $12,460 during those years (in 2013 dollars), reports Wolla. The reason for the difference between the sticker price and the net price is price discrimination.

"Price discrimination allows colleges to charge many different prices for essentially the same service. This practice benefits students from low-income families," explains Wolla. In other words, middle and upper-income families are subsidizing the cost for low-income families. But there is no free lunch, he says. "The cost burden has become increasingly progressive as wealthier families are paying more for education and subsiding needier students."

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Page One Economics Newsletter, "The Rising Cost of College: Tuition, Financial Aid, and Price Discrimination"