Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fractures in the Middle Class

We all know that Americans are economically stressed. What we don't know is where the stresses are causing fractures. There are clues in the household statistics collected by the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, however. Take a look:

1. The number of households headed by people under age 65 declined between 2008 and 2009 for the first time ever.

2. Unexpected household declines (unexpected because the age groups are growing) occurred in two age groups: 15 to 24 and 55 to 64.

3. In both age groups, single-person households registered the steepest decline. The number of single-person households headed by women under age 25 fell by a stunning 17 percent between 2008 and 2009. The number of single-person households headed by men aged 55 to 64 fell by 8 percent.

Since young women are more likely than young men to be in college, could it be that student debt is causing many to reconsider living by themselves as an unaffordable luxury?

Men aged 55 to 64 are the ones most likely to divorce. Could it be that the economy is forcing men with marital problems to stay married or encouraging divorced men to get married? Interestingly, the number of married couples in the 55-to-64 age group increased by 273,000 between 2008 and 2009--up 2.4 percent.

Friday, September 18, 2009

How Much Did You Spend Yesterday?

The average American spent $57 yesterday, according to a Gallup survey. This figure excludes normal household bills and major purchases such as homes and cars.

A year ago, the average American spent $78 yesterday. Ouch.

Why They Are Afraid

The median income of non-Hispanic white men aged 45 to 54 fell by 10 percent between 2000 and 2008, after adjusting for inflation--a loss of $5,666.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Even Stranger

Ok, this is weird--and unprecedented. Between 2008 and 2009, the number of households headed by people under age 65 DECLINED. This has never happened before.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Another Surprise

Looking again at the latest household numbers released by the Census Bureau last week, it is surprising--perhaps shocking--that the number of households headed by 55-to-64-year-olds fell between March 2008 and March 2009, even though the age group was expanding with baby boomers.

The number of people aged 55 to 64 climbed by nearly 1 million between 2008 and 2009 (up by 987,000). At the same time, the number of households headed by 55-to-64-year-olds fell by 26,000.

Not a good sign.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Household Incomes Fell in 2008

It is no surprise that median household income fell between 2007 and 2008, but the size of the decline is surprising. The big news in the Census Bureau's release of 2008 income data today is the statistically significant decline in median household income in all but the oldest age group (65 plus). Overall, median household income fell by a substantial 3.6 percent between 2007 and 2008, to $50,300 after adjusting for inflation. That is down from $52,163 in 2007 (in 2008 dollars), a loss of nearly $2,000 per household. Householders aged 45 to 54 experienced the greatest decline, with their median income falling by 5.4 percent in the past year (a loss of more than $3,600).

Other interesting findings:

Average household size INCREASED between 2007 and 2008 (rising from 2.56 to 2.57 persons per household), despite the aging of the population. Behind the increase was a DECLINE in the number of people living alone as the recession forced people to double up in homes and apartments.

The number of households headed by people under age 25 FELL between 2007 and 2008 as young adults found it increasingly difficult to strike out on their own. This decline occurred despite the large Millennial generation in the age group.

The number of 45-to-64-year-olds without health insurance climbed by 571,000. The percentage who are uninsured in this most vulnerable age group rose to 14.4 percent.

There is no doubt that these numbers are just a preview of what is to come as the Great Recession unfolds.