Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Bet You Didn't Know

Percent change in U.S. population since 1960: 62
Percent change in U.S. licensed drivers since 1960: 125
Percent change in U.S. passenger vehicles since 1960: 212

Source: Federal Highway Administration

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Are We Eating Ourselves into Disability?

A look at the latest disability statistics reveals a disturbing figure: nearly one in ten Americans has trouble walking or using stairs, according to the new report on disability released by the Census Bureau. A substantial 11 percent of people aged 15 or older have difficulty with these basic physical tasks. Among people aged 25 to 64, who cannot claim age as an excuse for their disability, a still substantial 8 percent—or nearly one in 12—has trouble walking or using stairs.

Difficulties walking and climbing stairs are the most common disabilities, and Americans' growing girth certainly plays a role in turning these basic functions into daily challenges. With apparently no end in sight to the American weight gain, these difficulties are likely to have a growing impact on shopping malls, theme parks, museums, public transportation, and disaster preparedness.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The End of Retirement

"The years 1965–1999 were the closest thing to economic 'golden years' ever seen by this nation for those moving into retirement, and they will likely never be matched again for the bulk of the population unless savings behavior changes radically."

Those chilling words were issued last month by Dallas Salisbury, president of the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute, in support of the PBS Frontline documentary "Can You Afford to Retire?" The documentary examined how prepared baby boomers are for retirement (answer: NOT) as defined benefit pension plans become scarce and savings remain shockingly low for the minority who participate in defined contribution plans such as 401(k)s. If you haven't seen the Frontline show yet, you can watch it online through the PBS website.

The documentary concludes with the ominous warning that the retirement of the baby-boom generation is, in fact, the end of retirement because most boomers will find they cannot retire and maintain any semblance of their middle-class standard of living. Consequently, most will be forced to work to make ends meet. What are the political implications of the impending downward spiral of today's comfortable middle class? What will happen when disability overtakes working boomers in old age? How will younger generations respond to the growing destitution of their aging parents?

Stay tuned, because that appears to be the next installment in the boomer narrative.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Friday, June 09, 2006

New Orleans Before and After

Most of the time, demographic change occurs at a plodding pace. Some even say demography is dull. But a look at the before and after demographics of the New Orleans metropolitan area is anything but dull. To witness demographic upheaval on this magnitude in the United States is a once in a lifetime opportunity—or at least we hope so.

Following Hurricane Katrina, FEMA designated 117 counties as disaster areas. In a special effort to determine just what happened to the population in those areas, the Census Bureau took its 2005 American Community Survey, fielded each year throughout the U.S., and broke it into two pieces in the 117 disaster counties—the eight months before Katrina (January through August 2005) and the four months following Katrina (September through December 2005). The results of the analysis are available in detail here. Below are some of the more astonishing changes in the New Orleans metropolitan area during 2005.

Population (in the 8 months) before Katrina: 1,190,615
Population (in the 4 months) after Katrina: 723,830
New Orleans lost a stunning 466,785 people, or 39 percent of its population.

Civilian labor force before Katrina: 599,172
Civilian labor force after Katrina: 342,625
New Orleans lost more than a quarter million workers, or 43 percent of its labor force.

People enrolled in school before Katrina: 312,899
People enrolled in school after Katrina: 170,269
The number of students in metropolitan New Orleans plunged 46 percent.

Blacks as a share of the metropolitan area before Katrina: 37 percent
Blacks as a share of the metropolitan area after Katrina: 22 percent
The white share of the population grew from 59 to 73 percent.

Percentage of people living in poverty before Katrina: 16.9 percent
Percentage of people living in poverty after Katrina: 12.7 percent
Median household income climbed from $39,793 to $43,447.

Households with no vehicles available to them before Katrina: 13.6 percent
Households with no vehicles available to them after Katrina: 5.8 percent

P.S. It is impressive that the Census Bureau is collecting this type of information at all. It is remarkable that the bureau is flexible enough to change procedures in midstream and provide us with a database of such historic importance.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Bet You Didn't Know

Percentage of women aged 15 to 44 who were married
before the first time they had sexual intercourse: 11.

Source: National Survey of Family Growth

Thursday, June 01, 2006

What Men Want

Now we know. The latest National Survey of Family Growth asked men, for the first time, about their fertility, contraceptive use, and fatherhood status. The survey, fielded every few years by the National Center for Health Statistics, typically examines in minute detail the sexual behavior and fertility status of American women aged 15 to 44. Now men in the age group are included too, with findings like this:

—Men aged 40 to 44 have fathered 1.9 biological children and 2.4 pregnancies.

—Percentage of men who have had their paternity established for at least one child: 14.

—Percentage of men with children under age 19 who say they are doing a "very good" job as a father: 46.

—On a scale of 1 (very dissatisfied) to 10 (very satisfied), rating fathers who do not live with their children give to visits with their children: 4.6.

—Percentage of fathers who strongly agree that the rewards of being a parent are worth it, despite the cost and the work it takes: 68.

—Among childless men, percentage saying it would bother them at least at little if they never had children: 88.

The complete report can be downloaded here.

Ten Million Need Help, Most Get It

Ten million Americans aged 15 or older not living in nursing homes or other institutions need help from others to live independently, according to a new report on disability from the Census Bureau. Getting around inside the house, eating, dressing, preparing meals, going outside alone, and walking are some of the tasks they cannot do themselves.

Among those needing help, the 63 percent majority get help only from relatives, 20 percent receive help from both relatives and nonrelatives, 15 percent from nonrelatives only, and 2 percent have no helpers. Fully 89 percent of those receiving help pay nothing for the service.