Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Long Wait for Marriage

If today's young adults postpone sexual intimacy until marriage, they have a long wait. The median age at first marriage among women reached 25.8 years in 2005, according to the latest family and living arrangement data released today by the Census Bureau. That's five years longer than the virtuous women of 1970 had to wait, when the median age at first marriage was just 20.8 years. For men, the median age at first marriage climbed from 23.2 to 27.1 years between 1970 and 2005.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Who Doesn't Speak English?

Fifty million Americans (19 percent of the population aged 5 or older) speak a language other than English at home. While this is a substantial percentage of the population, it is no cause for alarm. Most also speak English "very well," according to the Census Bureau's American Community Survey. Only 8 percent of U.S. residents do not speak English very well.

Among the nation's 31 million residents who speak Spanish at home, the 52 percent majority speak English very well. Among children aged 5 to 17 who speak Spanish at home, fully 71 percent speak English very well.

Least likely to speak English are people aged 65 or older who speak an Asian language at home. Only 26 percent speak English very well.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Bet You Didn't Know

Among U.S. workers, average travel time to work: 24.7 minutes.

Source: American Community Survey

Friday, May 19, 2006

Q & A: Why the Hysteria over Immigration?

The increasingly shrill discussion about immigration is nothing new. Every decade or so, the public and the politicians engage in a heated debate over immigration and what to do about it. This time around, however, the debate has been joined to an unprecedented degree by immigrants themselves. This is the first flexing of the Hispanic muscle that will increasingly define the United States.

Just in time to inform the immigration debate, the Census Bureau has released mid-decade population estimates, showing the contribution of immigrants to our population growth. Immigration accounted for 42 percent of the increase in the U.S. population between 2000 and 2005 (the other 58 percent was due to natural increase—or births minus deaths). Hispanics are the 51 percent majority of those immigrants. The engine of Hispanic growth is not just immigration, but natural increase as well. All told, Hispanics account for half of the entire increase in the U.S. population since 2000.

As of July 1, 2005, the nation's 43 million Hispanics accounted for 14 percent of the population—not a particularly large figure, but in combination with blacks, Asians, and other minorities the share climbs to a more impressive and potentially powerful 33 percent. This is an important number. When I was in graduate school, I read an essay (by a demographer whose name I no longer recall—if any readers know who this was, please remind me) theorizing that when a group reaches the one-third level in a society, it becomes a political force. At the one-third level, it needs only a relatively small slice of the rest of the population to create its own majority, allowing it to win elections.

Of course the nation's minorities are a long way from adding up to one-third of voters, since many are not citizens and cannot vote. But they can march in the streets, stir up the opposition, and shape public policy.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Boomers Are Losers

The shift from defined-benefit pension plans to defined-contribution retirement accounts over the past few decades has stripped tens of thousands of dollars in pension wealth from baby-boom workers. An article in the March 2006 Monthly Labor Review reveals just how much boomers will lose.

In the article, James H. Moore, Jr., an economist in the Department of Labor, projects how many baby boomers will be covered by pensions and how much pension income they will receive at age 62. The purpose of the article is to explore differences in pension benefits among boomers by demographic characteristic. But reading between the lines, it becomes apparent that the shift over the past two decades from defined-benefit plans (in which employees receive a guaranteed monthly benefit for life) to defined-contribution accounts (in which employees contribute to their own individual account, receiving a lump sum at retirement) will leave boomers with less in retirement.

Among older boomers (born between 1946 and 1950), 31 percent will be covered by a defined-benefit pension plan at age 62, according to the Moore's projections. They will be the lucky ones, receiving an average of $816 per month for life. Twenty-eight percent of the oldest boomers will be covered by a defined-contribution pension plan. Projections show they will have saved an average of $122,753 by age 62. At a 5 percent withdrawal rate, which is often recommended by financial planners, that lump sum will generate only $511 in monthly income. Bottom line: the pension wealth of older boomers with a defined-contribution plan will be 37 percent less than their peers with a defined-benefit plan.

Among younger boomers (born between 1956 and 1960), 29 percent will be covered by a defined-benefit pension plan at age 62. They will receive an average of $732 in monthly pension income for the rest of their lives. A larger 37 percent of younger boomers will have a defined-contribution retirement plan, having saved an average of $131,198 by age 62. That sum will generate only $547 in monthly income for them, or 25 percent less pension wealth than their counterparts with a defined-benefit plan.

The loss of pension wealth will be even greater for less educated boomers, minorities, and women.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Trend Cop: What's Behind the Surprising Growth of the Traditional American Family?

That is the question posed by the cover story in the May 12 issue of Life magazine, now a newspaper insert. Depicted on the cover is a family of three, the Fergusons, just one of a growing number of families, according to the article, with three and even four children.

"There are many theories about why this is happening, all waiting for firm statistical support," says the article. 

But the explanation for the increase in third-and-higher order births is not a mystery. One word explains it: Hispanics. The Garcias, rather than the Fergusons, should have been on the cover of Life magazine.

Now for the statistical support. Between 2000 and 2004, the number of third-order births to Hispanics grew by 32,000. At the same time, the number of third-order births to non-Hispanic whites FELL by 8,000. Between 2000 and 2004, the number of fourth-or-higher order births to Hispanics climbed by 22,000. The number to non-Hispanic whites grew by just 1,000.

"Three is the new two" is the rallying cry for the "new mini-baby boom" says Life magazine. But the evidence shows two is still the norm. The average number of children an American woman will have in her lifetime, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, stands at an even 2.0. Among the Fergusons and other non-Hispanic whites, it is a smaller 1.9. But for the Garcias and other Hispanics, it is a larger 2.8 and an even 3.0 for Hispanics of Mexican origin. Three is the norm for Hispanics, and Hispanics are driving trends in U.S. births. Mystery solved.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Bet You Didn't Know

Percentage of full-time college students who
do not receive any type of financial aid: 24

Source: Education Statistics Quarterly