Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Pessimism on the Rise among Small Businesses

The 51 percent majority of the nation's small businesses are pessimistic about when, if ever, their operations will recover from the coronavirus pandemic—the highest level in nearly a year, according to the Census Bureau's Small Business Pulse Survey fielded January 10-16, 2022. The last time so many small businesses were this pessimistic about their future was nearly a year ago in late February/early March of 2021.

Among the 51 percent of small businesses with a gloomy outlook, 38 percent say it will be at least 6 months before their operations return to what they were before the pandemic. Another 12 percent say their operations will never return to normal, and 1 percent say they have closed down. Omicron seems to have convinced a record share of small businesses that the pre-pandemic normal is gone forever. The percentage of small businesses that say their operations will never return to pre-pandemic levels had been in the single digits during most of the pandemic. The share climbed to 12 percent in early December 2021 and has been at that level ever since. 

The Census Bureau has been asking small businesses about their expectations nearly every week since April 26-May 2, 2020. Small business pessimism peaked at 56.6 percent in August 2020. Pessimism began to recede as Covid vaccines became widely available in the spring of 2021, falling to a low of 40.0 percent in June 2021. But the delta and then the omicron variants have driven pessimism back up above the 50 percent mark. 

Small Business Pessimism
(percent of small businesses expecting a return to normal operations in more than 6 months, never, or the business has closed, for selected dates)
51.3% (latest data) January 10-16, 2022
40.0% (2021 low) June 14-20, 2021        
56.6% (all time high) August 9-15, 2020
51.8% (first time above 50 percent) May 17-23, 2020       
37.6% (first time asked) April 26-May 2, 2020 

Source: Census Bureau, Small Business Pulse Survey

Thursday, January 20, 2022

The Covid Situation as 2022 Begins

It should be over by now, right? Unfortunately, we're still in the thick of the coronavirus pandemic. The first batch of 2022 results from the Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey, fielded December 29-January 10, reveal just how deeply we are mired in Covid troubles...

  • The number of Americans aged 18 or older who have been diagnosed with Covid climbed to 57 million in January, up from 45 million in early December. As of January 10, nearly one in four adults (23 percent) say they have been diagnosed with Covid.
  • Fully 85 percent of adults have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine. Fewer than half (43 percent) have received three or more doses (booster), but this is up from 33 percent in early December. 
  • 17 million say they "will definitely not" get a Covid vaccine, 2 million fewer than in early December. That's progress, right?
  • Among the nation's parents with school-aged children, just 57 percent say their children have gotten a Covid vaccine. 
  • More than one-third (38 percent) of parents with children under age 5 report that their child has been unable to attend day care or another childcare arrangement in the past four weeks because of Covid safety concerns.
  • Among adults who had planned to take classes from a post-secondary institution this term, nearly one in five (18 percent) canceled those plans.  
  • The number of Americans who ate indoors at a restaurant in the past seven days fell to the lowest level since the Census Bureau first asked this question last summer. 
  • As of January 18, 2022, Covid has killed 853,230 people in the United States, according to the CDC's Covid Data Tracker.

Source: Census Bureau, Week 41 Household Pulse Survey: December 29, 2021—January 10, 2022

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Prepare to be Shocked

How common is it for young people to be pulled into the criminal justice system by the time they are adults? This is the question posed by a study published in the journal, Demographic Research. The authors of the study analyzed data from the Transition to Adulthood Supplement of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to determine the cumulative risk of arrest from childhood to age 26 by race and Hispanic origin, gender, and parental education. The findings are shocking...

Cumulative risk of arrest by age 26 by highest level of parental education
high school   some college   college or more
Black          60%           65%              39%
Non-Hispanic white          39%           38%              24%
Black          28%           31%              10%
Non-Hispanic white          24%           19%              12%

The numbers are astounding regardless of gender or race. But for young Black males with parents who do not have a college degree, the findings are devastating. The great majority have been arrested by age 26.

The researchers also examined the risk of incarceration by age 26. Among Black males with parents who have no more than a high school diploma, more than one-third (38 percent) had been incarcerated by age 26. The figures are 30 percent among Black males whose parents have some college and 14 percent among those whose parents are college graduates. The comparable figures for non-Hispanic white males are 20, 15, and 8 percent. 

"This study provides evidence of the prominent but highly unequal role of the criminal legal system in the lives of young people," conclude the researchers. The evidence provides "much needed context for understanding the role of the criminal legal system in shaping inequalities in young people's trajectories of health, development, and life chances."

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

How Much Did Inflation Affect You?

The consumer price index climbed 7.0 percent in 2021, the largest annual increase since 1981, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. But for many items, the increase was much lower. Here is the percent change in consumer prices for selected categories of goods and services...

Percent change in the consumer price index, December 2020 to December 2021 
49.6%: gasoline
37.3%: used cars and trucks
24.1%: meats, poultry, fish, and eggs
11.8%: new vehicles
  9.0%: tobacco and smoking products
  7.4%: household furnishings
  7.0%: all items
  6.5%: food at home
  6.0%: food away from home
  5.0%: fruits and vegetables
  4.1%: shelter
  3.3%: recreation
  2.3%: alcoholic beverages
  2.2%: medical care
  2.0%: education
  1.4%: airline fares
  0.0%: prescription drugs

So, if you're a vegetarian who drives an electric car you've had for years, inflation is not so bad. If you're a meat-eater who drives a used Ram pickup truck purchased in 2021, ouch.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Price Index: 2021 in Review

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Tech Spending Surged during the Pandemic

The pandemic has been good to Apple. As the coronavirus swept through the country in the early months of 2020, Apple's market cap climbed to $2 trillion by August of that year—the first company to ever hit the $2 trillion mark. As the coronavirus made itself at home in 2021, Apple's market cap continued to soar, briefly hitting $3 trillion on January 3, 2022.

If you're wondering how Apple turned the pandemic into profits, wonder no more. Americans have been in a tech-buying frenzy during the past two years, according to an AARP survey. Among adults under age 50, fully 83 percent purchased at least one new tech item in 2021. Among those aged 50 or older, the figure was 70 percent—down slightly from the 72 percent who purchased new tech in 2020, but still far above the 51 percent who did so before the pandemic in 2019. 

Overall, Americans aged 50 or older spent an average of $821 on new tech items in 2021. Adults under age 50 spent an average of $1,234. What did they buy? Take a look...

Percent buying selected tech items in the past year, by age
   18 to 49   50-plus
Smartphone       37%      30%
Headset/ear buds       34      23
Smart TV       25      20
Laptop computer       21      16
Tablet computer       17      15
Wearable device       17      12
Gaming system       15        5
Home assistant       10        9
Smart home cleaning device         5        5

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

How Many Books Have You Read?

Two different surveys of book reading trends show conflicting results. Recently, both Pew Research Center and Gallup asked Americans aged 18 or older how many books they had read in the past 12 months.

Pew's results showed no change in the number of books read: "Americans read an average (mean) of roughly 14 books during the previous 12 months...identical to 2011." 

Gallup's results showed a decline in the number of books read: "Americans say they read an average of 12.6 books during the past year, a smaller number than Gallup has measured in any prior survey."

What explains the discrepancy? The difference may be due to the way each organization posed the question...

  • Gallup respondents were asked the following: "During the past year, about how many books did you read, either all or part of the way through?" 
  • Pew respondents were asked, "During the past 12 months, about how many books did you read either all or part of the way through? Please include any print, electronic, or audiobooks you may have read or listened to."

The difference in the survey results is likely due to Pew's inclusion of audiobooks in the wording of its question, reminding respondents to count books they had listened as well as those they had read. According to Pew's survey, 31 percent of adults listened to an audiobook in the past 12 months, up from 27 percent in 2019. Some of this reading may have been missed by Gallup's question, which perhaps explains the decline in Gallup's number. 

Source: Demo Memo analysis of Pew Research Center's Three-in-Ten Americans Now Read E-Books and Gallup's Americans Reading Fewer Books than in Past

Thursday, January 06, 2022

January 6: Insurrection, Protest, or Unfortunate Event?

Was it an insurrection, a protest, or an unfortunate event? That's the question asked by NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll in a recent survey. 

"When it comes to the events on January 6th, when a crowd entered the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, and disrupted the election certification process, which of the following best reflects your thoughts?" Overall, the 49 percent plurality of Americans call it an insurrection. A smaller 25 percent believe "it was a political protest protected under the first amendment." A wishy washy 19 percent say "it was an unfortunate event but in the past, so no need to worry about it anymore." Here are the percentages who believe it was an insurrection by demographic characteristic... 

"It was an insurrection and a threat to democracy" (percent agreeing)
95% of Biden supporters
89% of Democrats
66% of college graduates
61% of people who live in the Northeast
61% of big city residents
59% of Gen Z/Millennials
56% of suburban residents
53% of women
52% of nonwhites
51% of small city residents
50% of people who live in the West
49% of whites
49% of older Americans (75-plus)
48% of Boomers
47% of people who live in the South
45% of men
44% of people who live in the Midwest
43% of small town residents
42% of Latinos
39% of those without a college degree
39% of Gen Xers
31% of rural residents
10% of Republicans
  8% of Trump supporters

When asked about the Select Congressional Committee's hearings to investigate the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, the 62 percent majority of Americans believe the investigation is appropriate. Thirty-five percent call it a witch hunt. 

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

A Forgettable Year

The final mortality statistics for 2020 were recently released by the National Center for Health Statistics. They document what we already know—2020 was a very bad year...

  • Life expectancy fell 1.8 years between 2019 and 2020, to 77.0 years. 
  • The overall age-adjusted death rate climbed 16.8 percent, to 835.4 deaths per 100,000 population (up from 715.2 in 2019).
  • The age-adjusted death rate increased for both males and females. 
  • The age-adjusted death rate increased for Blacks, Hispanics, and non-Hispanic whites. 
  • The death rate increased in every age group 15 and older between 2019 and 2020. The biggest increase in the death rate occurred in the 25-to-44 age group (up 24 percent).
  • The age-adjusted death rate increased for 6 of the 10 leading causes of death: heart disease, unintentional injuries, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and influenza/pneumonia. 
  • Between 2019 and 2020, the death rate increased the most for unintentional injuries. 
  • Many unintentional injury deaths are drug overdoses. 
  • The age-adjusted death rate from drug overdoses increased 31 percent between 2019 and 2020. 
  • The death rate from drug overdoses increased in every age group between 2019 and 2020. 
  • The drug overdose death rate is highest for people aged 25 to 44, which is also the age group whose death rate increased the most in 2020. 

It wasn't just Covid creating all the misery in 2020, but Covid may be why so many other things got worse. When all the numbers are in for 2021, it is likely to have been just as bad a year as 2020. Let's hope 2022 is better.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Mortality in the United States, 2020 and Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 1999–2020

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Suspicious and Misinformed

When it comes to Covid, suspicious and misinformed are words that describe millions of Americans—especially those who live in rural areas. Rural residents are much more likely than urban residents to say they "definitely won't" get a Covid vaccine, according to a KFF survey fielded in November. More than one in five (21 percent) adults in rural areas say they definitely won't get a vaccine versus 16 percent of suburban residents and 8 percent of adults in urban areas. 

Among parents with children under age 18, the rural-urban gap is even larger...

Parents with children aged 12 to 17 who say they definitely won't get their child vaccinated
Rural: 53%
Suburban: 29%
Urban: 20%

Parents with children aged 5 to 11 who say they definitely won't get their child vaccinated
Rural: 49%
Suburban: 27%
Urban: 22%

One reason for the heightened resistance among rural parents is their belief that the vaccine is not safe. Among parents in rural areas, 65 percent of those with children aged 12 to 17 and an even larger 71 percent of those with children aged 5 to 11 are "not too/not at all confident" in the safety of Covid vaccines. Most rural parents, in fact, think the bigger risk to their child's health is the vaccine itself rather than Covid.

Parents with children aged 12 to 17 who say the bigger risk to their child's health is the vaccine 
Rural: 60% 
Suburban: 40% 
Urban: 25% 

Parents with children aged 5 to 11 who say the bigger risk to their child's health is the vaccine
Rural: 53% 
Suburban: 44% 
Urban: 28% 

Thursday, December 23, 2021

45 Million Have Had Covid

Nearly one in five Americans aged 18 or older (19 percent) say they have been diagnosed with Covid-19, according to the Census Bureau's latest Household Pulse Survey fielded during the first two weeks of December. This includes 12 percent of people aged 65 or older, 16 percent of those aged 55 to 64, and 22 percent of adults under age 55. 

Many more may be reporting a Covid diagnosis in the weeks ahead as the Omicron variant hits at the worst possible time—the holiday season. While 84 percent of people aged 18 or older report being vaccinated against Covid, as of the first two weeks of December only 33 percent of all adults had received a booster shot. Here are the vaccination stats for people aged 18 or older as of December 1-13, 2021...

84% have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine
33% have received at least three doses of a Covid vaccine (booster)
16% have not received any Covid vaccine

Among the 16 percent of adults (39 million) who have not yet received a Covid vaccine, the 51 percent majority say they "will definitely not get a vaccine." Among all those who have not yet received a jab and are not planning on getting one, the biggest reasons remain the same as in earlier iterations of the Household Pulse Survey—concern about possible side effects, don't trust the vaccine, and don't trust the government. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Slowest Population Growth in U.S. History

The nation's population has never grown more slowly. Between July 1, 2020 and July 1, 2021, the U.S. population grew by just 0.1 percent—a gain of 392,665 people. This is the first time since 1937 that the annual numerical population increase has been below 1 million people, the Census Bureau reports. 

With births falling and deaths rising during the pandemic, it's little wonder population growth has slowed to a crawl. International migration is below normal as well, dragging the numbers down. 

Deaths outnumbered births in 25 states between July 2020 and July 2021. The excess of deaths was greatest in Florida, which had 45,248 more deaths than births during the year. In three other states, deaths outnumbered births by more than 10,000: Michigan (-14,353), Ohio (-15,811), and Pennsylvania (-30,878).

Overall, a stunning 17 states and the District of Columbia lost population in the past year...

States losing population between July 1, 2020, and July 1, 2021 (alphabetical listing)
District of Columbia
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Dakota
Rhode Island
West Virginia

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

How Americans Feel about America

Every year for the past 12, the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) has fielded the American Values Survey. One purpose of the survey is to examine beliefs about the American identity. Here are some insights from the 2021 survey...

"Since the 1950s, do you think American culture and way of life has mostly changed for the better, or has it mostly changed for the worse?"
Better: 47%
Worse: 52% 

"Things have changed so much that I often feel like a stranger in my own country."
Agree: 41%
Disagree: 57%

"Today, America is in danger of losing its culture and identity."
Agree: 52%
Disagree: 45%

"The idea of America where most people are not white bothers me."
Agree: 15%
Disagree: 83%

"In general, the growing number of newcomers from other countries..."
Strengthens American society: 56%
Threatens traditional American customs and values: 40%

"Which of the following statements about the Republican Party comes closest to your view?"
It is trying to protect the American way of life against outside threats: 45%
It has been taken over by racists: 51%

"Which of the following statements about the Democratic Party comes closest to your view?"
It is trying to make capitalism work for average Americans: 51%
It has been taken over by socialists: 44%

Thursday, December 16, 2021

This Does Not Compute

What kind of housing do most older Americans want to live in as they age? They want to live in their own house, of course. According to an AARP survey conducted by NORC, fully 74 percent of Americans aged 50 or older "want to stay in my own residence and live on my own" in their future years. At the same time, the great majority (81 percent) of Americans aged 50 or older say they would prefer to spend their old age in a small town (35 percent), a rural area (17 percent), or in the suburbs (29 percent). To repeat...

74% of older Americans want to stay in their own residence and live on their own, but 
84% prefer to live in suburbs, small towns, or rural areas 

Here's the problem: It will be very difficult for most older Americans to remain in their current home for the rest of their lives AND live in small towns, rural areas, or suburbs—most of which lack the services that would allow them to maintain their independence. 

Fully 90 percent of people aged 50 or older say they currently get around their community by driving themselves, according to the AARP survey. As driving becomes more difficult with age, millions of older Americans could be stranded at home, dependent on the goodwill of friends and relatives to help them meet their basic needs.

Source: AARP, 2021 Home and Community Preferences Survey: A National Survey of Adults Age 18-Plus

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Why the Decline in Dual-Income Couples?

According to the 2021 Current Population Survey, just 50 percent of the nation's married couples are dual-income—meaning both husband and wife are in the labor force. This figure is significantly below the 56 percent who were dual-income nearly a generation ago in 2000. Without further analysis, this decline could be interpreted as wives withdrawing from the labor force. Nothing could be further from the truth. The decline is entirely due to the retirement of the aging Baby-Boom generation.

  • As dual-income couples declined from 56 to 50 percent of total couples between 2000 and 2021, the percentage of couples in which neither spouse was in the labor force grew from 16 to 22 percent as Boomers retired.
  • The percentage of couples in which only the wife was in the labor force also increased, rising from 6 to 8 percent between 2000 and 2021. This increase, too, is largely due to Boomer retirements, with typically older husbands retiring a bit before their wives.
  • The percentage of married couples in which only the husband was in the labor force fell slightly during those years, from 21.4 to 20.9 percent.
  • Among married couples with children under age 18 (husbands and wives of prime working age), the 66 percent dual-income share of 2021 has barely changed over the decades. 
The decline in two-income couples as a share of all married couples is yet another example of how the increasingly top-heavy age structure of the population is affecting the nation's statistics.

Source: Demo Memo analysis of the Census Bureau's Historical Families Tables