Thursday, August 06, 2020

One-Third of Renters Unsure about Ability to Pay Rent

One-third of the nation's renters told the Census Bureau that they had no or only slight confidence in their ability to pay next month's rent. The Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey has been measuring the impact of the coronavirus on American households each week since early May. The latest results (collected during the week of July 16-21) show many of the nation's renters risking eviction as Covid relief benefits run out. Here are the demographics of those who may not be able to make their next rent payment...

Percent of renters with no/only slight confidence in ability to pay next month's rent (July 16-21)
33% of all renters

29% of those aged 18 to 24
36% of those aged 25 to 39
39% of those aged 40 to 54
28% of those aged 55 to 64
13% of those aged 65-plus

22% of non-Hispanic whites
27% of Asians
42% of Blacks
49% of Hispanics

43% of households with children under age 18

Source: Census Bureau, Week 12 Household Pulse Survey: July 16-21

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

What Parents Want

Only 36 percent of parents want full-time in-person schooling to resume in the upcoming school year, according to a Gallup survey. As school start dates approach and Covid-19 infections surge, the percentage of parents who support full-time in-person instruction has dropped precipitously since June, when the 56 percent majority of parents supported traditional instruction.

Parents' preferences for the resumption of school (July 13-27)
Full-time in person school: 36%
Part-time in-person/part-time remote: 36%
Full-time remote instruction: 28%

Behind the 20 percentage-point drop in support of full-time in-person instruction are parents' growing fears that their children will become infected with Covid-19. Between June and July, the percentage of parents who are somewhat/very worried about their child becoming infected climbed from 46 to 64 percent. This growing fear explains the 21 percentage-point increase in parents' preference for full-time remote instruction, which rose from just 7 percent in June to the 28 percent of July. There was almost no change in the percentage of parents who favor a mix of in-person and remote schooling.

Republicans are far less concerned than Democrats about their children going back to school. Among parents who are Democrats, only 13 percent favor full-time in-person schooling. Among parents who are Republicans, 68 percent favor traditional instruction.

Source: Gallup, Fewer U.S. Parents Want Full-Time In-Person Fall Schooling

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Why Nursing Homes Are Covid Hot Spots

Nursing homes account for a disproportionate share of Covid-19 cases and deaths. Covid outbreaks continue to plague nursing homes despite visitor restrictions that began in mid-March. Why are nursing homes such hot spots? A National Bureau of Economic Research study may have the answer: staff linkages.

In a unique study, NBER researchers analyzed the geolocation data of more than 500,000 smartphones observed in at least one of 15,000 nursing homes during the six weeks following the nationwide nursing home visitor restrictions that went into effect March 13. Since visitors were no longer allowed into nursing homes, most of these smartphones belonged to staff. The goal of the study was to discover how interconnected nursing homes are through their staff. Very connected: "We find that 7 percent of individuals entering a nursing home also entered at least one other nursing home in the six-week period," the researchers report. The average nursing home, in fact, has connections with 15 other nursing homes. There are a number of reasons for this high level of connectivity. One, most nursing homes rely on staffing agencies to fill some of their staffing needs, which can vary from day to day. Two, nursing home workers may work at multiple facilities and many do. Three, hospice workers and other specialists travel to multiple nursing homes.

"Eliminating staff linkages between nursing homes could reduce Covid-19 infections in nursing homes by 44 percent," the researchers estimate. "These results provide evidence of the magnitude of the benefits that would derive from compensating nursing home workers to work at only one home and limiting cross-traffic across homes," they conclude.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, Nursing Home Staff Networks and Covid-19, Working Paper #27608

Monday, August 03, 2020

Teleworking During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Nearly one-third of the nation's employed workers told the Bureau of Labor Statistics in June that they had teleworked or worked at home for pay at any time during the past four weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic. This hefty figure does not include those who usually work from home or those who teleworked for a reason unrelated to the pandemic.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has added five questions to the monthly Current Population Survey, which collects the government's official employment data. The BLS first added the questions in May and plans to continue asking them each month for the foreseeable future. Besides teleworking, respondents are also being asked whether they are unable to work because their employer has closed or lost business, whether they are being paid if they are missing work, and whether the pandemic has prevented them from looking for a job.

The 31 percent who reported teleworking in June was little different from the 35 percent who said they had done so in May. The characteristics of those who are teleworking because of the pandemic are not surprising, but nevertheless striking. Teleworking rises steeply as education increases...

Percent of the employed who teleworked for pay in the past 4 weeks due to the coronavirus, by education, June 2020
  4.8% of those without a high school diploma
12.6% of high school graduates only
22.3% of those with some college
48.0% of those with a bachelor's degree
63.3% of those with a graduate degree

By race and Hispanic origin, Asians are far more likely to telework than other race and Hispanic origin groups. This is because Asians are the most educated workers and also the ones most likely to work in management and professional occupations. Hispanics are least likely to telework because they are the least-educated workers and also least likely to be managers or professionals...

Percent of the employed who teleworked for pay in the past 4 weeks due to the coronavirus, by race and Hispanic origin, June 2020
48.5% of Asians
30.8% of non-Hispanic whites
25.7% of Blacks
21.1% of Hispanics

By age, there are few differences in teleworking with one exception. Workers under age 25 are far less likely to telework (15 percent) than those aged 25 to 54 (35 percent) or  aged 55 or older (30 percent).

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Supplemental Data Measuring the Effects of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) Pandemic on the Labor Market

Thursday, July 30, 2020

When Should Children Have Their Own Smartphone?

Today's parents are concerned about their children's screen time. Fully 71 percent of parents with children under age 12 are worried about their child spending too much time in front of a screen, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Two out of three parents say parenting is harder today than it used to be, with many citing technology as the reason. Despite these concerns, the great majority of parents with a child aged 5 to 11 say their child uses tablet computers and smartphones, as do nearly half of parents with a child under age 5...

Parents with a child aged 5 to 11
80% say their child uses/interacts with a tablet computer
63% say their child uses/interacts with a smartphone

Parents with a child under age 5
48% say their child uses/interacts with a tablet computer
55% say their child uses/interacts with a smartphone

What is the appropriate age for children to have their own device? When it comes to smartphones, 73 percent of parents think a child should be 12 or older, with 45 percent giving the nod to children aged 12 to 14 and another 28 percent wanting to wait until a child is aged 15 to 17. Parents are more lax when it comes to tablet computers. Fully 65 percent think children can have their own tablet computer before the age of 12, while 31 percent say the child should be 12 or older.

Source: Pew Research Center, Parenting Children in the Age of Screens

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Covid Stress Is Making Us Sick

The coronavirus is having a negative impact on the mental health of Americans, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll. In July, the 53 percent majority of adults said their mental health was being negatively impacted by the pandemic—the highest share recorded in Kaiser's tracking poll and 14 percentage points higher than in May.

Those most likely to say their mental health is suffering are women (57 percent), young adults aged 18 to 29 (62 percent), Blacks (68 percent), and those who are having financial difficulties because of the pandemic (71 percent).

The worry and stress due to the coronavirus pandemic is also affecting our physical wellbeing. Most Americans have experienced at least one of of these ailments because of the stress...

In the past two months, have you experienced any of the following due to worry or stress related to the coronavirus outbreak?
36% have had trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much
32% have experienced a poor appetite or overeating
18% have had difficulty controlling their temper
18% have had frequent headaches or stomachaches
12% have increased their alcohol or drug use
12% have had their chronic conditions worsen

Overall, the 52 percent majority of the public has experienced at least one of these health problems in the past two months.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, KFF Health Tracking Poll—July 2020

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

First-Time Homebuyer Watch: 2nd Quarter 2020

Homeownership rate of householders aged 35 to 39, second quarter 2020: 61.7%*

The coronavirus is wreaking havoc on the nation's data collection efforts. Not only has the pandemic disrupted 2020 Census operations, but it is also affecting the many surveys undertaken by the Census Bureau and other government agencies. The result can be wacky data. With the release of second quarter homeownership statistics from the Housing Vacancy Survey, we have the first installment of wacky data. 

Taken at face value, the second quarter numbers suggest that homeownership in the United States has surged in the midst of the pandemic. Nationally, the homeownership rate climbed to 67.9 percent in the second quarter of 2020, a stunning 3.8 percentage points higher than the rate in the second quarter of 2019. The homeownership rate of 35-to-39-year-olds appears to have increased by a whopping 5.6 percentage points over the past year. Every age group saw its homeownership rate rise substantially, as did households in every region, every income group, and every race and Hispanic origin group. The homeownership rate of households with incomes below the all-household median climbed 5.2 percentage points between second quarter of 2019 and second quarter 2020. Those with incomes above the median saw their rate rise by 2.3 percentage points. Black homeownership grew by 6.4 percentage points, Hispanic by 4.8 percentage points, and non-Hispanic white by 2.9 percentage points. These outsized increases in homeownership are most likely a statistical artifact of the pandemic. 

The Census Bureau's press release accompanying the second quarter data notes the impact of the pandemic on the survey. In-person interviews were suspended in March, and the bureau attempted to collect data by telephone from the households scheduled for in-person interviews. Perhaps as a consequence, the survey's response rates were well below normal. The second quarter response rates were 69.9 percent in April, 67.4 percent in May, and 64.9 percent in June—sharply lower than the response rate of 82.7 percent in the same time period a year earlier.

* Data users should exercise caution, the bureau warns. That's why there's a giant asterisk hovering over the homeownership rate of 35-to-39-year-olds.

Source: Census Bureau, Housing Vacancy Survey

Monday, July 27, 2020

Covid-19 Is Getting A LOT Worse

Most Americans think the Covid-19 crisis is getting worse, a lot worse. During the week ending July 19, the 55 percent majority of the public said the coronavirus situation in the U.S. is getting a lot worse, according to a Gallup survey. Not only is this a record high, but it is 46 percentage points (!) higher than the percentage who felt this way on June 7.

Behind the worsening outlook is a tripling of daily coronavirus cases. "On June 7, the seven-day average of new cases was less than 22,000 per day," reports Gallup. "By July 19, it had exceeded 66,000 cases per day."

Partisan differences have never been greater. Among Democrats, 86 percent think the situation is getting a lot worse, an astonishing 72 percentage points higher than on June 7. Among Republicans, only 15 percent think the situation is getting a lot worse, up 13 percentage points.

Source: Gallup, U.S. Covid-19 Outlook Deteriorates as Infections Spike

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Many Museums Are in Danger of Closing

The coronavirus pandemic is threatening the nation's museums. A June survey of 750 museum directors by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) finds many unsure about their ability to survive the pandemic. When asked whether there is a significant risk of their museum closing permanently in the next 16 months if they did not receive financial relief, 16 percent of directors said yes and another 17 percent said they didn't know.

The 56 percent majority of museums have 6 months or less of operating reserves remaining. Only half expect to reopen with 100 percent of their workforce. All expect to lose operating revenue in 2020, with most expecting substantial declines...

Operating income museums expect to lose in 2020
30% expect to lose up to 20 percent
37% expect to lose 21-40 percent
22% expect to lose 41-60 percent
11% expect to lose 81 percent or more

"The survey results document extreme financial distress in the museum field," reports the AAM.

Source: American Alliance of Museums, National Survey of Covid-19 Impact on United States Museums

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Most Men 65-Plus Are Current or Former Smokers

Smoking was once the norm for men in the United States. Only 41 percent of men aged 65 or older say they never smoked cigarettes, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The 59 percent majority are current or former smokers.

Cigarette smoking status of men aged 65-plus
Current smoker: 10%
Former smoker: 49%
Never smoker: 41%

Cigarette smoking status of women aged 65-plus
Current smoker: 7%
Former smoker: 31%
Never smoker: 62%

Not surprisingly, health problems are more common among smokers than nonsmokers. A substantial 28 percent of current smokers aged 65 or older report having chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), for example. The figure is a smaller 19 percent among former smokers, and 7 percent for never smokers.

The prevalence of health problems among former smokers depends on how long they smoked. Among former smokers who smoked for 10 or fewer years, only 9 percent have COPD. Among those who smoked for 10 to 25 years, 12 percent have the disease. The share rises to 20 percent among those who smoked for 25 to 40 years and peaks at 33 percent among those who smoked for 40 or more years. Most former smokers had smoked for 25 or more years, NCHS reports, and one in four had smoked for 40 or more years.

"Smoking cessation has been shown to be beneficial at any age," the NCHS concludes. "However, even after quitting smoking, the length of time a person smoked is reflected in current health measures among people aged 65 and over."

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Health of Former Cigarette Smokers Aged 65 and Over: United States, 2018 (PDF)

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Nearly Half the 75-Plus Population Has a Disability

Forty-one million Americans have a disability, according to the Census Bureau's 2018 American Community Survey—12.6 percent of the total population. The percentage of people with a disability rises with age, from less than 1 percent of children under age 5 to nearly half the population aged 75 or older.

Percent of Americans with a disability by type and age, 2018

all ages    75-plus
Any disability  12.6%      47.5%
  Hearing difficulty    3.6      21.7
  Vision difficulty    2.4        9.0
  Cognitive difficulty    5.1      13.1
  Ambulatory difficulty    6.8      31.0
  Self care difficulty    2.6      12.8
  Independent living difficulty    5.8      23.4
Note: Ambulatory difficulty is serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs. Self care difficulty is difficulty dressing or bathing. Independent living difficulty is difficulty doing errands such as visiting a doctor or shopping.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Employment-Population Ratio below 50% in 10 States

In normal times, the employed outnumber those who are not employed among the population aged 16 or older. Nationally, that's still the case. But in 10 states, the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic has driven the employment-population ratio below 50 percent.

Nationally, the employment-population ratio was 52.8 percent in May 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, meaning 52.8 percent of the population aged 16 or older was currently employed. This figure is well below the 60.6 percent employment-population ratio one year earlier in May 2019. The 7.8 percentage point drop in the national ratio between May 2019 and May 2020 pales in comparison to the decline in some states. In Nevada, for example, the employment-population ratio fell by 19 percentage points...

May 2020 employment-population ratio in the 10 states with a ratio below 50 percent

percentage point change,
May 2019-May 2020
California                49.6%             -10.1
Florida                47.1             -10.1
Hawaii                45.0             -14.0
Louisiana                49.6               -6.1
Michigan                46.8             -12.3
Mississippi                47.2               -5.5
Nevada                41.9             -19.2
New Mexico                49.9               -5.3
New York                49.8               -8.4
West Viriginia                47.2               -5.0

Overall, 8 states experienced a double-digit decline in their employment-population ratio between May 2019 and May 2020. Five of the states are shown above. The three additional states are Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment-Population Ratio Less than 50.0 Percent for 10 States in May 2020

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Only 38% of Small Businesses May be Left Standing

The nation's small businesses are reeling from the coronavirus pandemic. What was once thought to be a few weeks of lockdown has turned into months of disruption. A National Bureau of Economic Research study examined how big the impact of the pandemic is likely to be, querying small businesses on their ability to survive.

At the end of March/early April, NBER researchers asked a sample of small businesses whether they would still be in operation in December 2020 if the Covid crisis lasted one month, four months, or six months. The 72 percent majority of small businesses said they likely would be in operation in December if the Covid crisis lasted just one month. At four months, only 47 percent thought they would still be around in December. At six months, just 38 percent said it's likely they would survive. Here are the percentages of small businesses that think they could survive a 6-month Covid crisis by industry...

Percent of businesses likely to be in operation in December 2020 if Covid crisis lasts 6 months
Banking/finance: 59%
Real estate: 56%
Professional services: 54%
Construction: 45%
Arts/entertainment: 35%
Health care: 35%
Tourism/lodging: 27%
Personal services: 22%
Restaurant/bar: 15%

"The Covid-19 crisis represents a once-in-a-generaton crisis for America's small businesses," the NBER researchers conclude, "especially those that specialize in face-to-face service."

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, How Are Small Businesses Adjusting to Covid-19? Early Evidence from a Survey, Working Paper 26989

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Back to School Jitters

The nation's parents are not happy. Most of them (51 percent) are very/extremely worried about sending their children back to school in the fall, according to the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index fielded July 10-13.

An even larger 71 percent of parents think their family's health and wellbeing will be at moderate/large risk if they send their children to school in the fall, with the 43 percent plurality of parents calling the risk large. Do the calculation, and that's 31 million parents—or 1 in 8 voters—who are freaking out, not to mention millions more teachers and grandparents. This wave of worries should keep even the most callous school board member, school superintendent, mayor, governor, congressional representative, and senator up at night, concerned about their careers if not their constituents.

Coronavirus worries are not limited to parents. The 59 percent majority of the public is now very/extremely concerned about the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Axios/Ipsos poll. This figure is 11 percentage points higher than it was a month ago and approaching the 66 percent peak level of concern recorded in early April.

Source: Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index, Despite Seeing Great Risk, Americans Slow to Make Major Changes to Deal with Covid