Friday, October 30, 2015

Smartphones: Portal to the Internet

When deciding how important mobile is to e-commerce efforts, companies might think it's about as important as desktop sites. After all, 68 percent of Americans own a smartphone and a larger 73 percent own a desktop or laptop computer, according to a survey by Pew Research Center. But this way of thinking ignores two important facts: 1) Mobile Internet usage exceeds PC Internet usage; and 2) Mobile devices (smartphones) are the primary portal to the Internet for many important segments of the population...

Blacks (percent owning)
Smartphone: 68%
Desktop/laptop: 45%

Aged 18 to 29 (percent owning)
Smartphone: 86%
Desktop/laptop: 78%

Urban residents (percent owning)
Smartphone: 72%
Desktop/laptop: 67%

Source: Pew Research Center, The Demographics of Device Ownership

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Tech Has Gotten A Whole Lot Cheaper

If you're frustrated over the rising cost of necessities, these numbers should cheer you up. Some of the items we value most highly are a whole lot cheaper than they used to be. For every $100 you spent on these items in 1997, an item of similar quality today would cost...

Television: $5.50
Computer: $4.20
Computer software: $36.80
Internet service: $76.00
Audio equipment: $40.40
Photographic equipment: $41.50

Some tech is getting more expensive. For every $100 you devoted to cable service in 1997, you're now paying a larger $180.50.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Long-term Price Trends for Computers, TVs, and Related Items

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How Many Renters Want to Buy?

The number of renter-occupied homes grew by more than 1.3 million in the past year, according to the Census Bureau's Housing Vacancy Survey, while the number of owner-occupied homes inched up by just 123,000. From the third quarter of 2014 to the third quarter of 2015, the nation's homeownership rate fell from 64.4 to 63.7 percent.

Clearly the number of renters is surging, which begs the question: how many of those renters are wannabe homeowners who could potentially energize the housing market? Shedding some light on that question is the Federal Reserve Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking, fielded in 2013 and 2014. The survey asked renters why they rent. In 2013, 10 percent of renters identified themselves as wannabe homeowners, looking to buy a house. When the Feds surveyed the same respondents in 2014, one-third of the renters who wanted to buy had become homeowners. Among renters who had not expressed a desire to buy, only 3 percent had bought a home.

Source: Federal Reserve Board, Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2014

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

First-Time Homebuyer Watch: 3rd Quarter 2015

Homeownership rate of householders aged 30 to 34, third quarter 2015: 46.8%

The homeownership rate of households headed by people aged 30 to 34 climbed in the third quarter of 2015 to 46.8 percent, up from 45.2 percent in the second quarter of 2015. While this is encouraging news for the housing industry, a similar uptick occurred in the last half of 2014, followed by a plunge to record lows in the first two quarters of 2015. The rise in homeownership could be nothing more than a bobble at the bottom, or it could signal emerging vitality in the housing market. 

Historically, homeownership became the norm in the 30-to-34 age group—rising above 50 percent. But beginning in 2007, the homeownership rate of 30-to-34-year-olds went into a tailspin. In the second quarter of 2011, the rate fell below 50 percent for the first time. It's been stuck there ever since. The new age of first-time home buying is 35 to 39, but even this age group has been slipping toward the 50-percent threshold. The homeownership rate of 35-to-39-year-olds stood at 54.6 percent in the third quarter of 2015—a new record low for the age group. Since peaking in the first quarter of 2007, the homeownership rate of 35-to-39-year-olds has fallen by more than 10 percentage points.

Nationally, the homeownership rate was 63.7 percent in the third quarter of 2015, down from 64.4 percent a year earlier.

Source: Census Bureau, Housing Vacancy Survey

Monday, October 26, 2015

Individually Purchased Health Insurance, 2014

A substantial 13 percent of Americans under age 65 now have health insurance purchased directly from private health insurance companies, thanks in large part to the marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act. The Employee Benefit Research Institute has produced a detailed analysis of 2014 health insurance stats, and this is who has insurance through their own individual plan by age and family income...

Percent with individually purchased health insurance by age
Under age 18: 9.9%
Aged 18 to 25: 13.3%
Aged 26 to 34: 11.8%
Aged 35 to 44: 11.3%
Aged 45 to 54: 14.8%
Aged 55 to 64: 16.1%

Percent with individually purchased health insurance by family income
Under $10,000: 12.4%
$10,000 to $19,999: 11.8%
$20,000 to $29,999: 13.1%
$30,000 to $39,999: 13.4%
$40,000 to $49,999: 13.5%
$50,000 to $74,999: 13.6%
$75,000 or more: 11.9%

Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute, Sources of Health Insurance Coverage: A Look at Changes Between 2013 and 2014 from the March 2014 and 2015 Current Population Survey

Friday, October 23, 2015

Household Income Stable in September 2015

Median household income in September 2015 stood at $56,279, according to Sentier Research—not significantly different from the August median, after adjusting for inflation. The September 2015 median was 4.3 percent higher than the September 2014 median and 8.7 percent above the $51,756 median of August 2011, the low point in Sentier's household income series. 

"Even though median annual household income did not increase in September 2015, we continue to see an upward trend in income that has been evident since the low point in August 2011," says Sentier's Gordon Green. "We have now recaptured all of the income losses that have occurred since June 2009." Sentier's median household income estimates are derived from the Census Bureau's monthly Current Population Survey. 

Median household income in September 2015 was 1.3 percent higher than the median of June 2009, the end of the Great Recession. It was only 0.5 percent below the median of December 2007, the start of the Great Recession. It was 1.7 percent below the median of January 2000. The Household Income Index for September 2015 was 98.3 (January 2000 = 100.0).

Source: Sentier ResearchHousehold Income Trends: September 2015

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Changes in Attitudes Toward Marijuana by Birth Year

Fully 58 percent of Americans support the legalization of marijuana, according to a Gallup survey. This is up from just 33 percent who favored it in 2000-01. Although younger adults are most supportive, the majority in every age group except the oldest are now in favor...

Support legalizing the use of marijuana
Aged 18 to 29: 71%
Aged 35 to 49: 64%
Aged 50 to 64: 58%
Aged 65-plus: 35%

Attitudes toward the legalization of marijuana are changing because older Americans are being replaced by younger, more tolerant (and experienced) generations. Support is growing also because people are changing their minds about marijuana. Gallup analyzes the ongoing attitude shift by year of birth, finding growing support for legalization over the past 15 years in all but the oldest birth cohort...

                                 Support legalization
                                  2000-01         2015
Born 1966 to 1980:       43%            64%
Born 1951 to 1965:       35%            58%
Born 1936 to 1950:       29%            40%
Born 1935 or before:     18%            19%

Source: Gallup, In U.S., 58% Back Legal Marijuana Use

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Where Did All the Construction Workers Go?

That's the question asked by Census Bureau researchers in a Research Matters blog post. With the economy picking up steam, builders and contractors are reporting (anecdotally) some difficulty in finding construction workers, according to the researchers. What happened to all those housing bubble workers after the bubble burst?

Unfortunately, this story does not have a happy ending. After analyzing Job-to-Job Flows public-use data and zeroing in on those workers who stopped working for more than three months between 2006 and 2009, the researchers found that most of those workers had either abandoned the industry entirely or were still jobless long after the end of the Great Recession...
  • about 40% eventually found another construction job
  • about 33% eventually found work in another industry, but typically after more than a year without a job
  • about 25% were still not employed as of the end of 2013
Source: Census Bureau, Research Matters Blog, Where Did All The Construction Workers Go?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

College Enrollment Declines in 2014

College enrollment fell for the third year in a row in 2014, according to the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. Only 19.2 million students were enrolled in college in 2014, down from the 20.4 million peak of 2011. But there's more to the story: most of the enrollment decline since 2012 has occurred at two-year schools. Behind the decline is the improving economy, allowing many who were cooling their heels at two-year schools to go back to work.

College enrollment in 2014 (and numerical change since 2012)
All colleges: 19.2 million (-755,000)
Two-year schools: 4.8 million (-988,000)
Four-year schools: 10.7 million (+316,000)
Graduate schools: 3.7 million (-83,000)

Source: Census Bureau, School Enrollment

Monday, October 19, 2015

Fewer Are Reading Print Books

Book reading is down slightly from what it used to be, reports Pew Research Center, with print books accounting for all of the decline. Seventy-two percent of adults say they read at least one book in the past 12 months, according to Pew's 2015 survey, down from 79 percent in 2011. The percentage who read a book in print fell from 71 to 63 percent during those years. The percentage who read an e-book climbed from 17 to 27 percent, and audio book reading was about the same in both years at 11 to 12 percent.

Young adults are most likely to have read any book in the past 12 months. In the 2015 survey, fully 80 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds say they read a book in the past year compared with 71 percent of 30-to-49-year-olds and 68 to 69 percent of people aged 50 or older. Young adults are ahead of the other age groups in reading both print and e-books...

Read a print book (or e-book) in the past 12 months
Total adults: 63% (27%)
Aged 18 to 29: 69% (34%)
Aged 30 to 49: 63% (33%)
Aged 50 to 64: 59% (23%)
Aged 65-plus: 61% (15%)

Source: Pew Research Center, Slightly Fewer Americans Are Reading Print Books, New Survey Finds

Friday, October 16, 2015

Most Smokers Are Trying to Quit

Most smokers have tried to quit smoking in the past year, according to the CDC. Among current and former smokers in 2013, fully 66 percent had attempted to quit, which is defined as going one or more days without smoking in the past 12 months because they were trying to quit. By age, younger adults are most likely to have attempted to quit...

Percent of current/former smokers who attempted to quit smoking in past year
Aged 18 to 24: 73.2%
Aged 24 to 44: 68.7%
Aged 45 to 64: 60.9%
Aged 65-plus: 56.4%

Source: CDC, Trends in Quit Attempts among Adult Cigarette Smokers—United States, 2001-2013

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Where Americans Grew Up

There's a reason why Americans are nostalgic for small-town life. The largest share of Americans (one in three) say that's where they grew up...

"Which comes the closest to the type of place you were living in when you were 16-years-old?"
16% in a city with a population of 250,000 or more
15% in the suburb of a city with a population of 250,000 or more
17% in a city with a population of 50,000 to 250,000
33% in a town with a population of less than 50,000
10% in the country but not on a farm
8% on a farm

Source: Demo Memo Analysis of the 2014 General Social Survey

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Long-Term Care Policy Lapses and Cognitive Decline

Among men and women aged 65 who have purchased long-term care insurance, more than one in three will let their policy lapse before they die. Why do so many policies lapse? That's what researchers at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wanted to know. Their analysis shows that cognitive impairment is one important reason for lapsing. With age, some policy holders—the ones who will need long-term care the most—forget to pay the premium or no longer understand why they need a policy.

A higher cognitive score is associated with lower lapse rates, report the researchers. Interestingly, so is having a daughter—someone who can remind the policyholder of the importance of paying the premium. "Having a daughter is associated with a 14.3-percentage-point decrease in the probability of lapsing," the researchers report.

Source: Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Why Do People Lapse Their Long-Term Care Insurance?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Cable Still Rules, But Trouble Looms

The average household spent an astonishing $723 on cable and satellite television service in 2014, according to the Consumer Expenditure Survey. That's 5 percent more than in 2013 ($691), 7 percent more than in 2010 ($675), 14 percent more than in 2006 ($633), and a whopping 64 percent more than in 2000 ($442), after adjusting for inflation. Cable ranks among the top 15 items on which the average household spends the most.

Although many have predicted the demise of cable as more Americans adopt video streaming, average household spending on cable and satellite service continues to grow. But another statistic reveals a troubling trend—a decline in the customer base. Only 70 percent of households purchased cable/satellite service during an average quarter of 2014, down from 74 percent in 2010. The decline is biggest among younger householders...

Percentage spending on cable/satellite service by age of householder, average quarter 2014
(and percentage point change since 2010)
Under age 25: 39% (-10.2)
Aged 25 to 34: 59%  (-9.1)
Aged 35 to 44: 70%  (-5.0)
Aged 45 to 54: 73% (-3.5)
Aged 55 to 64: 76% (-2.0)
Aged 65-plus: 78% (-0.1)

Average household spending on cable and satellite television service continues to rise, but only because a shrinking customer base is spending more.

Source: Demo Memo analysis of the Consumer Expenditure Survey

Monday, October 12, 2015

Professional Degrees Earned by Women

Women's share of selected professional degrees awarded in 2012-13...

Veterinary: 77.3%
Optometry: 63.4%
Pharmacy: 61.6%
Dentistry: 48.1%
Medicine: 48.0%
Law: 46.4%
Theology: 31.1%

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics

Friday, October 09, 2015

7% Victims of Identity Theft in 2014

Nearly 18 million Americans aged 16 or older were victims of identity theft in 2014, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics—7.0 percent of the population aged 16 or older and similar to the 6.7 percent who reported being victimized in 2012. Sixty-five percent of identity theft victims in 2014 experienced a financial loss, with a median loss of $300.

Identity theft is defined as the misuse of an existing account such as a credit card or online account (86 percent of incidents in 2014), the unauthorized use of personal information to open a new account (4 percent), or the misuse of personal information for fraudulent purposes such as getting medical care, housing, a job, or other benefits (3 percent). The remaining incidents involved multiple types of theft.

Only 8 percent of identity theft victims reported the incident to the police, but 87 percent reported the incident to a credit card company or bank.

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Victims of Identity Theft, 2014

Thursday, October 08, 2015

What Do Women Want?

Among women with children under age 18, the majority would prefer to stay at home and take care of house and family instead of having a job outside the home...

Women with children under age 18
Prefer to work outside home: 39%
Prefer homemaker role: 56%

Among women without children under age 18 at home, however, preferences are reversed...

Women without children under age 18
Prefer to work outside home: 58%
Prefer homemaker role: 39%

Source: Gallup, Children a Key Factor in Women's Desire to Work Outside the Home

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

The Marriage Market for 25-to-34-Year-Olds

Is there a shortage of marriageable men in the 25-to-34 age group? That's the question posed by Isabel Sawhill and Joanna Venator of the Brookings Institution, and their answer is yes, sort of, depending on how "marriageable" is defined.

At first glance, there doesn't seem to be a problem. There are 126 single men for every 100 single women in the 25-to-34 age group. But there are only 91 employed men per 100 women. Among college graduates, the number drops to just 85 employed men per 100 women because women in the age group are better educated than men. The researchers conclude: "Among the college educated, there is a shortage that is likely to discourage marriage unless women are more willing to 'marry down' or men catch up to women in terms of education."

Source: Brookings Institution, Is There a Shortage of Marriageable Men?

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

White Population Is Growing in Big Cities

In a reversal of past trends, the white population is growing in the nation's largest cities, according to an analysis of the American Community Survey by William H. Frey of the Brookings Institution. Between 2010 and 2014, reports Frey, the white population in the 50 largest cities grew by 491,494. Between 2000 and 2010, whites declined by 592,228.

White gains were greatest in two age groups: 25-to-34-year-olds and 55-to-74-year-olds. "Some of these gains are certainly related to the recent uptick in the attractiveness of cities to young adults and retirees," says Frey. But, he cautions, "city revival could be short-lived and related to the plight of struggling millennials."

Source: Brookings Institution, More Big Cities Are Gaining White Population, Census Data Show

Monday, October 05, 2015

Mining Big Data for Transgender Information

It's not easy to uncover information about the nation's transgender population. The Census Bureau does not include questions about sexual orientation or gender identity in the decennial census or American Community Survey. But there are other ways to shed light on the transgender segment—such as mining big data.

An economist at the Census Bureau, Benjamin Cerf Harris, has done just that. Harris mined the Social Security Administration's big data to determine whether transgender information could be gleaned from SSA records. By sifting through millions of Social Security files from 1936 to 2010, Harris located those in which a first name had been legally changed from male to female or female to male and also located those in which the sex-coding had changed. He found tens of thousands of transgender-consistent changes: 106,550 cases (at a 95 percent confidence threshold) in which a person aged 16 or older had legally changed his or her first name from one gender to another, and 28,234 cases in which there had been a first-name change and a sex-coding change. Overall, about 0.2 percent of files are what Harris calls "transgender consistent." The average age of identity change was mid-thirties.

The mining effort didn't stop there. For the transgender-consistent individuals who were still alive in 2010, Harris matched them to their census record and examined their response to the 2010 census question, "What is your sex?" He finds the transgender-consistents were more likely than non-transgender respondents to report being male and female (0.13 percent vs. 0.02 percent) or to report no sex at all (1.85 percent versus 1.13 percent). Harris also used 2010 census records to determine the geographical distribution of the likely transgender population.

Harris cautions that his research is not an attempt to estimate the size of the transgender population. Rather, it is an effort to show how big data can be mined to reveal something about the transgender population.

Source: Census Bureau, Likely Transgender Individuals in U.S. Federal Administrative Records and the 2010 Census

Friday, October 02, 2015

Household Income Rises in August 2015

Good news: Median household income in August 2015 reached a post-Great Recession high. August's median stood at $55,794, according to Sentier Research—1.1 percent higher than in July 2015, after adjusting for inflation. The August 2015 median was 5.0 percent higher than the August 2014 median and 7.6 percent above the $51,835 median of August 2011, the low point in Sentier's household income series. 

"The 1.1 percent increase in median household income between July and August 2015 is one of the largest month-to-month increases in income during the post-recessionary period," says Sentier's Gordon Green. We have now recaptured all of the income losses that have occurred since June 2009, when the Great Recession ended." Sentier's median household income estimates are derived from the Census Bureau's monthly Current Population Survey. 

Median household income in August 2015 was not significantly different (finally!) from the median of June 2009, the end of the Great Recession. It was still 1.5 percent below the median of December 2007, the start of the Great Recession. It was 2.7 percent below the median of January 2000. The Household Income Index for August 2015 was 97.3 (January 2000 = 100.0).

Source: Sentier ResearchHousehold Income Trends: August 2015

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Was College Worth the Cost?

Percentage of college graduates who "strongly agree" that their college education was worth the cost, by type of institution...

Total graduates: 50%
Public universities: 52%
Private, nonprofit universities: 47%
Private, for-profit universities: 26%

Source: Gallup, Recent Grads Less Likely to Agree College Was Worth the Cost