Tuesday, November 30, 2010

More Prescriptions

Percent of people aged 65 or older who have taken three or more prescription drugs in the past month...

1988: 35%
2008: 65%

Source: Health United States 2009, Web Update

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Doctor Will See You...Later

Percentage of adults who did not go to a doctor in 2009:

Under age 65, with private health insurance, 16%
Under age 65, with no health insurance, 47%

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bye Bye White Pages

No more white pages. In the past few months, state regulators in New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania have ended the requirement that telecommunications companies publish residential phone books. Many older Americans will be dismayed. A doctoral student who is writing her dissertation on phone books described it, according to the Associated Press, as “sort of heartbreaking.”

"Sort of" is an understatement. Just ask the baby-boom generation. Boomers are caught between two worlds in a new kind of generational sandwich. The bottom slice is their children, who access the world through the Internet. The top slice is their parents, who access the world through print—newspapers, magazines, letters, and phone books. It is heartbreaking to see the bewilderment of the older generation as familiar icons disappear, one after the other.

Right now—literally right now—it is all coming together (or falling apart, depending on your point of view). The transition from the old world of print to the new world of the Internet is almost complete. In 2010, 79 percent of American households used the Internet, up from fewer than half of households in 2000, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. The massive brick and mortar businesses built on the profits generated from putting ink on paper are collapsing.

Boomers are stuck in the middle. Among people aged 65 or older, only 42 percent are online. The older generation is increasingly dependent on boomers—their children—to help them navigate a strange new world.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Long-Term Unemployed at Record High

Almost 15 million Americans are unemployed, and 31 percent have been out of work for at least one year. Never before have so many people been out of work for so long. Among the unemployed aged 55 or older, an even larger 41 percent have been out of work for a year or longer.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Young Men: Bad Marriage Risks?

As men's earnings have fallen over the decades, women are thinking twice about getting married. The median age at first marriage reached a new record high in 2010 for both women (26.1 years) and men (28.2 years). Simply put, in the eyes of young women, today's young men are poor marriage risks. Why commit yourself to one man with iffy financial prospects?

For many young men, the future looks dreary. One reason for the dismal outlook is that young men are far less educated than young women. Only 29 percent of men aged 25 to 34 have a bachelor's degree compared with 37 percent of women in the age group.

Because of their lower educational attainment, young men are bringing less and less to the table. The median income of men aged 25 to 34 fell 15 percent between 2000 and 2009, after adjusting for inflation. Their female counterparts experienced a smaller 4 percent income loss during those years. Among full-time workers, women in the age group earn almost as much as men ($35,608 versus $41,240). And in the 25-to-34 age group, women are less likely to be unemployed—9.2 percent of women versus 10.4 percent of men in October 2010.

Sociologists have long known about women's aversion to marriage in low-income communities. When men are in trouble, it makes more sense for women to play the field. This aversion to marriage may be emerging in the broader society as the middle class struggles to stay afloat.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Households in the West Decline

Between 2009 and 2010, the number of households in the West fell by 108,000. Most of the decline occurred in the Mountain states (down 77,000). This geographical division includes Nevada and Arizona, two states that rank among those hardest hit by the collapse of the housing bubble.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ten U-Turns in Consumer Spending

Household spending peaked in 2006 at $51,688. In 2008, the average household spent $50,486, or $1,200 less after adjusting for inflation. On many categories of products and services, the average household reversed the direction of its spending in the 2006-08 time period compared with the 2000-06 time period. Here are the 10 most telling U-turns in consumer spending:

1. RESTAURANTS: +8 percent to -6 percent Average household spending on restaurants U-turned from an 8 percent gain in the 2000-06 time period to a 6 percent loss between 2006 and 2008, after adjusting for inflation. Because of the Great Recession, Americans are spending more on groceries. Even basic ingredients such as eggs, flour and milk are staging a comeback after years of decline. Don't write restaurants off, however. They still attract the 72 percent majority of households into the marketplace on a weekly basis.

2. MORTGAGE INTEREST: +21 percent to -5 percent Every age group has been hammered by the housing bubble. But no age group has been hit as hard as 35-to-44-year-olds. Because they were in the home buying lifestage when housing prices peaked, they paid top dollar for houses and are--by far--the biggest spenders on mortgage interest. With many losing their homes, average household spending on mortgage interest is declining.

3. STATIONERY AND GIFT WRAP: +15 percent to -11 percent Is there anything more discretionary than gift wrap? Spending on this item climbed significantly during the easy money years of the housing bubble. Since 2006, not so much.

4. DAY CARE: +16 percent to -8 percent As the unemployment rate climbed, spending on day care fell.

5. FURNITURE: +1 percent to -22 percent Houses were selling furiously during the housing boom, but spending on furniture was surprisingly lackluster. Since 2006, average household spending on furniture (and appliances) has collapsed.

6. HOUSEHOLD TEXTILES: +24 percent to -23 percent Towels, sheets, blankets, curtains--nothing is feeling the whiplash more than the household textile category.

7. BABY CLOTHES: 0 percent to -9 percent This category had been defying the long-term decline in apparel spending as births climbed to a record high of 4.3 million in 2007. When the recession set in, the number of births began to fall, and so did spending on baby clothes.

8. DRUGS: +6 percent to -12 percent Out-of-pocket spending by the average household on drugs is down despite the barrage of advertising, the growing proportion of pill poppers in the population, and the penny-pinching of insurance companies. Behind the decline is the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, which went into effect in 2006.

9. ADMISSIONS TO ENTERTAINMENT EVENTS: +1 percent to -5 percent During the downturn, households continued to spend on high-definition television sets. But they cut back on other entertainment categories. One loser was this category, which includes movie and amusement park tickets.

10. CASH CONTRIBUTIONS: +34 percent to -13 percent Donations to charities are plummeting, says the Chronicle of Philanthropy. The household numbers bear this out. Average household spending on contributions climbed strongly when Americans felt flush, then fell sharply as they tightened their belts.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Living with Mom and Dad

Percentage of 25-to-34-year-olds who live with their parents, 2000 and 2010...

2010: 16.4%
2000: 12.9

2010: 10.5%
2000: 8.3

Who Lives the Longest?

Well, this is a surprise. Hispanics live longer than other U.S. residents despite the fact that they are the least educated, have the lowest incomes, and are most likely to be without health insurance. The National Center for Health Statistics recently estimated, for the first time, the life expectancy of the Hispanic population. To their astonishment, the calculations showed that Hispanics live longer than blacks or non-Hispanic whites. In 2006 (the latest data available), Hispanics had a life expectancy at birth of 80.6 years. This compares with a life expectancy of 78.1 years for non-Hispanic whites and 72.9 years for non-Hispanic blacks. The actuaries are mystified.

Why the surprise? For one, because education has a strong positive correlation with life expectancy. The more educated you are, the longer you live. Studies have shown that a high school diploma adds five or six years to life expectancy. But only 63 percent of Hispanic adults have a high school diploma, far below the 83 percent of blacks and 91 percent of non-Hispanic whites. Yet Hispanics live longer.

The second reason for the surprise: Hispanics have lower incomes than blacks or non-Hispanic whites, and higher incomes are strongly correlated with a longer life expectancy. Studies show that people in the highest income groups live 4 to 10 years longer than people in the lowest income groups. Yet Hispanics live longer.

The third reason for the shock waves reverberating in the nation's vital statistics corridors is that Hispanics are least likely to have health insurance coverage. Only 68 percent of Hispanics are insured compared with 79 percent of blacks and 88 percent of non-Hispanic whites. Yet Hispanics live longer.

Source: United State Life Tables by Hispanic Origin

Thursday, November 11, 2010

More People, Fewer Households

Although the Hispanic population is growing, the number of households headed by Hispanics is shrinking, falling by 127,000 between 2009 and 2010 as the recession forced more to live under one roof. The average Hispanic household now has 3.54 people, up from 3.41 people in 2009.

Source: Census Bureau, Current Population Survey

Fewer "Rooms Used for Business"

Have millions of very small businesses disappeared during the Great Recession? According to the Census Bureau's American Housing Survey, the number of households that report having a "room used for business" fell by 4 million between 2007 and 2009, from 40 million to 36 million. The percentage of households that have a room used for businesses fell from 36 to 32 percent.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Age of Marrying at Record High

The median age at first marriage is at a record high for both men and women, according to the Census Bureau's 2010 statistics:

First-time brides: 26.1 years old
First-time grooms: 28.2 years old

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Blame it on the Internet

Will historians look back on the Great Recession and explain its depth and length by pointing to the Internet revolution? Two indicators suggest this may be the case.

One, the widespread adoption of the Internet has coincided with the recession. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, the percentage of households that use the Internet climbed from 42 percent in 2000 to 79 percent in 2010. In other words, only during the past few years has the average household had access to the Internet, and Internet access changes the rules of the game. When rules change, economic turmoil results as everyone scrambles to understand the game.

Two, never before have we had so many long-term unemployed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Among the unemployed, people aged 55 or older are most likely to have been without a job for a year or more—a stunning 41 percent. Is the labor force ridding itself of the generation of workers who were most reluctant to go online?