Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Cool Research Link: Customizing MEPS

One of the frustrations of demographic research is the lack of demographic segmentation detailed enough to allow for meaningful analysis. This is especially true with health statistics, which too often combine age groups into categories so broad it is almost impossible to tease out the trends. My pet peeve with health statistics is the use of the 45-to-64 age group. Just at the ages when chronic conditions become increasingly common if not the norm, those trends are obscured by the use of the overly-broad age group. Someone must have read my mind. The federal government's Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) now allows users to customize its tables. Specifically, you can customize age breaks down to the single-year-of-age level for a much closer examination of how health care consumption and spending change as people age. Check out this welcome innovation here.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Bet You Didn't Know

Twenty-five percent of men aged 65 or older will be in the labor force by 2014, according to new projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, up from 20 percent in 2005.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Teens on the phone

Ithaca college recently hosted the first cellular phone film festival, receiving 178 entries from high school and college students across the country. Each submitted a 30-second film produced entirely with a cell phone camera. Dianne Lynch, dean of the Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College, told the Ithaca Journal that the film festival was about "acknowledging a sea change in the way this generation processes information."

To teens, the cell phone is a watch, a camera, a television, and a computer. But its most important function remains connecting them to people (not places). The changing and expanding function of the telephone is profound and largely ignored by anyone over the age of 30. Interestingly, teenagers themselves are oblivious to it, having grown up with a cell phone cupped in their hand. And adults without teen contacts also are clueless. But the parents of teens know it by the ring tones--at home, in the car, on the street, at Grandma's house--wherever and whenever. The continuous buzz of communication is (I admit) exhilarating. This is not the way it was when we were kids, when mom and dad controlled the family's single landline phone. Compared to today's teens, we were in solitary confinement.

Cell phones offer teenagers the kind of instant communication not experienced since our ancestors huddled together in a cave. They erase the miles and break down the walls we humans have spent tens of thousands of years putting between ourselves. The 56 percent majority of teens aged 12 to 19 own a cell phone, up from 25 percent in 2000 according to Teenage Research Unlimited, which tracks teen attitudes and behavior in a twice-yearly survey. Half of all teens own a cell phone by age 14. Here are the numbers:

Cell phone ownership by age, fall 2005
(Teenage Research Unlimited)
Age 12 36%
Age 13 39%
Age 14 50%
Age 15 58%
Age 16 66%
Age 17 61%
Age 18 69%
Age 19 71%

According to an ethnographic study of teen cell phone use by Context-based Research Group, teens without cell phones are out of the all-important social loop. They may miss out on more than that since cell phones are becoming the Grand Central Station of high-tech, with most teens are flocking to the platform. Where will it take them? It will be fun to find out.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Talking about demographics

Everyone likes a good story. That's why there are bestseller lists, top-rated television shows, and box office hits. This blog will tell stories about the fast-changing American population, using the demographics to reveal what lies ahead.

Anyone can collect statistics, but shaping them into a compelling story, one that explains the world around us, is a harder task. It requires connecting the dots, sticking your neck out, and learning from mistakes. I’ve been telling the stories revealed by the demographics for almost three decades in various guises--as editor-in-chief of American Demographics magazine, as editor of The Boomer Report, as author of 100 Predictions for the Baby Boom and other books, and now as editorial director for New Strategist Publications.

Stories about demographic trends may not make the bestseller list, but they can be just as compelling for people who love the demographics like I do. And I'm not alone. From the mail and email I've received over the years, I know there are a lot of you who love to compare, contrast, criticize, and converse about the latest turn of a trend. This blog is for you. It is for those who miss the forum provided by American Demographics magazine, for those who look forward to the Census Bureau's release of the latest income and poverty statistics each year, and for those who want to keep up with labor force trends, spending patterns, and time use statistics.

Let's talk.