Saturday, December 31, 2011

After All, Tomorrow is Another Day

Percentage of Americans who think 2011 was a good year for the country: 13%.
Percentage who are optimistic about what 2012 will bring for the country: 62%.

Source: AP-GfK Poll, Americans Look Back at 2011 with a Shudder, Greet 2012 with Open Arms

Friday, December 30, 2011

Private Property

Percentage of the 2.3 billion acres of land in the United States that is privately owned: 60%.

Source: USDA, Economic Research Service, Major Uses of Land in the United States, 2007, Economic Information Bulletin, December 2011

It's a Big Country

Percentage of the 2.3 billion acres of land in the United States that is forestland, cropland, rangeland, swamps, marshes, deserts, bare rock, national and state parks, wilderness areas, and rural residential: 97%.

Source: USDA, Economic Research Service, Major Uses of Land in the United States, 2007, Economic Information Bulletin, December 2011

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Rise and Fall of the Male Breadwinner

Median income of men aged 45 to 54 (in 2010 dollars)...

2010: $45,420
2000: $51,960
1990: $50,144
1980: $50,320
1970: $45,965
1960: $33,373
1950: $24,438

Source: Census Bureau, Historical Income Statistics

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How To Ruin a City

Want to ruin your city? It's easy. Just get rid of all those pesky houses and apartment buildings in the central business district and replace them with highways, skyscrapers, stadiums, and conference centers, forcing residents to flee to the suburbs. Bake for a decade and voila—you have one destroyed city. That's the finding of a new study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, which links population density at the urban core of metropolitan areas to their growth and prosperity. The researchers analyze population change in 180 metropolitan areas from 1980 through 2010 and find that the denser the population of the central business district, the more prosperous the metro. "We look at four decades of census data and show that growing cities have maintained dense urban centers, while shrinking cities have not," say the study's authors. They conclude:
"There are reasons to think that loss of population density at the core of the city could be particularly damaging to productivity. If this is the case, there could be productivity gains from policies aimed at reversing that trend."
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Urban Growth and Decline: The Role of Population Density at the City Core

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

401(k) Account Balance

Median account balance of those who have a 401(k) retirement plan: $17,686.

Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute, 401(k) Plan Asset Allocation, Account Balances, and Loan Activity in 2010, Issue Brief 366, December 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Mystery of the Higher Death Rates

Here's something unexpected: Mortality rates rise when the economy is good and fall when the economy is bad. What accounts for this counterintuitive correlation?

A National Bureau of Economic Research study took a look and found that most of the additional deaths during good times are among elderly women, particularly those in nursing homes. Another piece of the puzzle: staffing in nursing facilities moves counter-cyclically. In other words, during boom times nursing homes have a harder time competing with other businesses for the best workers. Consequently, when times are good they tend to be staffed by less competent workers.

"These findings suggest that cyclical fluctuations in the mortality rate may be largely driven by fluctuations in the quality of health care," the researchers conclude.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, The Best of Times, the Worst of Times: Understanding Pro=cyclical Mortality, Working Paper No. 17657

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Baby Names Then and Now

During the past 100 years, Mary has been the single most popular name for girls, ranking number one 45 times between 1911 and 2010. Lately, however, Mary has fallen out of favor. The last time the name made it to the top of the popularity list was in 1961. Michael has been the single most popular name for boys over the past century, ranking as the number-one name 44 times. Michael last topped the list in 1998. Here are the five most popular names for girls and boys 100 years ago, 50 years ago, and today...

2010 1960 1911
Isabella Mary Mary
Sophia Susan Helen
Emma Linda Margaret
Olivia Karen Dorothy
Ava Donna Ruth
2010 1960 1911
Jacob David John
Ethan Michael William
Michael James James
Jayden John George

Source: Social Security Online, Popular Baby Names

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Belief in Santa Claus

Percentage of Americans who, as a child, believed in Santa Claus: 84%
Average age at which they stopped believing in Santa Claus: 8.8 years

Source: AP-GfK poll, December 2011 Santa Topline

Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Happiness

What do people like most about the holidays? Hint: it's not the presents. Spending time with family and friends is the holiday activity that the largest percentage of people look forward to the most. The majority of Americans in every generation say holiday get-togethers are their most eagerly anticipated activity. Only 2 percent admit that they most look forward to getting presents.

Source: Harris Interactive, Three in Five Americans Most Look Forward to Spending Time with Friends and Family in the Holiday Season

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Big Increase in Cell-Phone-Only Households

In the past year, the percentage of adults who live in cell-phone-only households increased 5 percentage points to 30 percent. This group is still much smaller than the 59 percent of adults who live in households with both landline and wireless phones. Only 9 percent of adults live in a household without a cell phone.

Here are the January-June 2011 figures on the percentage of adults by age who live in wireless-only households...

18-24:  46.8%
25-29:  58.1%
30-34:  46.2%
35-44:  34.3%
45-64:  21.6%
65+:  7.9%

Have Taxpayers Had Enough Punishment?

For the first time since 1972, the number of prisoners in the United States actually declined. In 2010, there were 1,605,127 million men and women being held in state and federal correctional facilities--9,228 fewer than in 2009. Overall, 1 in every 201 residents of the United States is behind bars--the highest imprisonment rate of any country in the world.

The decline in the prison population, which occurred because fewer were admitted to state prisons (the number of federal prisoners increased slightly), may indicate that financially strapped taxpayers just can't take it anymore. Between 2009 and 2010, The prison population in 25 states declined. And, for the first time since the Bureau of Justice Statistics has been collecting the statistics, the number of people released from prison (708,677) exceeded the number put behind bars (703,798).

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prisoners in 2010

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Five Noteworthy State Population Trends

Between July 1, 2010, and July 1, 2011, the U.S. population grew by just 0.7 percent, the slowest rate of growth since the 1940s despite the fact that every state gained immigrants from abroad. Here are five noteworthy trends in state populations during the past year...
  • Texas grew the most during the year (up by 421,215), followed by California (353,714), Florida (218,929), Georgia (103,053), and North Carolina (96,167). Those five states accounted for 53 percent of the nation's population growth.
  • Michigan and Rhode Island were the only states that lost population between 2010 and 2011. Behind the loss was the migration of their residents to other states. Michigan saw 40,331 people move away, and Rhode Island lost 5,089.
  • West Virginia was the only state in which deaths surpassed births. Nevertheless, the state's population grew because of a net gain of 715 immigrants from abroad and 1,333 migrants from other states. 
  • Nevada--once the fastest growing state--continues to grow, but slowly. More than 90 percent of the state's population gain between 2010 and 2011 was due to the excess of births over deaths, with the remainder due to a net gain of international migrants. The state's own residents are fleeing, with a net of 8,008 leaving the state during the past 12 months.
  • The rapid growth of the District of Columbia (it was the fastest growing "state" between 2010 and 2011) was fueled mostly by domestic migration. DC's gain of 6,907 residents from other states places it 13th among states in the number of U.S. residents it attracted.
Source: Census Bureau, Population Estimates

State Population Estimates Reveal the Rise of the City

Nevada was once the fastest growing state. No longer: Nevada has fallen to 27th place, according to 2011 population estimates released this morning by the Census Bureau. Between April 1, 2010 and July 1, 2011, Nevada's population grew by just 0.8 percent. This is well below the 1.7 percent growth rate of North Dakota, which ranks a much higher 6th because of its booming economy.

Interestingly, the fastest growing "state" is the District of Columbia, something that has not occurred since the 1940s according to the Census Bureau. Between April 1, 2010, and July 1, 2011, the District of Columbia's population expanded by 2.7 percent--well above second place Texas (2.1 percent). Behind the growth of DC is the magnetic pull of the wired (and wireless) urban lifestyle with its social connections and employment opportunities. Other metropolitan centers throughout the nation are, no doubt, similarly growing as isolated and increasingly desolate rural America hollows out.

Source: Census Bureau, Population Estimates

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

High School Gamers

Percentage of high school students in 9th to 12th grade who play video/computer games for at least an hour a day...

Boys: 64%
Girls: 54%

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, America's Youth: Transitions to Adulthood

Changing Times

Percentage of Americans who live in a racially integrated neighborhood...

2010: 70%
1975: 34%

Source: General Social Surveys

Monday, December 19, 2011

College Football and Men's Grades

Does college football have an impact on students who are watching rather than playing the game? Yes, says a National Bureau of Economic Research study--and not in a good way. The study examined the grades of men and women at schools with college football programs. The researchers discovered that a team's success significantly reduced male grades in the fall semester. The reason: "We find that males are more likely than females to increase alcohol consumption, decrease studying, and increase partying in response to the success of the team."

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, Are Big-Time Sports a Threat to Student Achievement? Working Paper 17677 ($5)

The Return of Home Cooking?

The Great Recession has forced more of us to eat at home, sometimes even cooking from scratch. Perhaps nothing reveals this more than trends in average household spending on flour--arguably the most basic of ingredients.

Average household spending on flour plunged between 2000 and 2006 (the year overall household spending peaked) as the easy money of the bubble years turned home cooking into little more than a hobby. Then the Great Recession hit, and home cooking made sense again. Average household spending on flour grew by an impressive 47 percent between 2006 and 2010, after adjusting for inflation. Flour was not the only basic ingredient that made gains. Spending on eggs climbed 15 percent, and spending on fats and oils was up 11 percent during those years.

For most grocery store shoppers, however, convenience still trumps price. Only 4 percent of households buy flour during an average week, while 37 percent buy prepared food from the supermarket deli.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, unpublished data from the Consumer Expenditure Surveys

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Women in the Labor Force: A Databook (2011 Edition)

The latest edition of the government's Databook on working women is now available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as a PDF download (free). With 37 tables that show current (2010) statistics and some that include trends back to the 1970s, the Databook provides a comprehensive overview of women's growing participation in the labor force. My favorites are the tables that document the rising labor force participation of mothers over the decades. Here you can see ambition, determination, desperation, and a social revolution...

Labor force participation rate of mothers by age of youngest child, 1975 and 2010...

2010 1975
age 6-17 77.2 54.9
Under 6 64.2 39.0
Under 3 61.1 34.3

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Saturday, December 17, 2011

At Least We Can All Agree about Something

Percent of Americans who agree that there is too much power in the hands of a few rich people and large corporations, by political party identification...

Democrat: 91%
Independent: 80%
Republican: 53%

Source: Pew Research Center, Frustration with Congress Could Hurt Republican Incumbents

Friday, December 16, 2011

How Many Study Abroad?

Does it seem like every college student you know has just returned from some exotic locale or is about to embark on the trip of a lifetime? That's because surging numbers of students are studying abroad. In the 2007-08 academic year (the latest data available), 262,416 American college students spent from one month to a year earning academic credit from a higher education institution outside the United States--four times greater than the 62,341 who studied abroad in 1987-88. The latest statistics show that 15 out of every 100 students in a bachelor's degree program studies abroad, up from 5 out of every 100 in 1987-88.

The United Kingdom is the most popular destination for students studying abroad (13 percent of study abroad participants do so in the United Kingdom), followed by Italy (12 percent), Spain (10 percent), France (7 percent), and China (5 percent). Social science majors account for the largest share of students studying abroad (22 percent), followed by business (20 percent), and humanities (13 percent).

Despite the growing popularity of studying abroad, the number of Americans who do so pales in comparison to the number of foreign students who attend college in the United States: 624,000 in the 2007-08 academic year. International students account for 3 percent of enrollment in American postsecondary institutions.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Students Studying Abroad, Indicator 40-2010, The Condition of Education 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Angry Words

Percent of Americans who say the following words describe their own personal feelings about politics today...

Angry: 58%
Proud: 18%
Hopeful: 49%
Disappointed: 84%
Frustrated: 84%
Inspired: 16%

Source: The AP-GfK Poll: Most Americans Want Payroll Tax Extension, Remain Furious wiht Congress, Politics, December 2011

Nuts about Race

Are we nuts or what? Today the Census Bureau released the first two (Nevada and New Mexico) of what will be 50 state-level files providing 2010 census data down to the census tract level for 331 racial and ethnic groups.

Source: Census Bureau, 2010 Census Summary File 2

More Young Adults Are Insured

Young adults are more likely to have health insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act, which allows them to remain on their parents' health insurance plan through age 25. The percentage of 19-to-25-year-olds without health insurance fell from 33.9 percent in 2010 (the year the provision went into effect) to 28.8 percent in the first six months of 2011, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

The expansion of health insurance for the age group is important protection during a vulnerable time of life. Young adults are in a No Man's Land between school and job, many are unemployed, and millions are in part-time or entry-level work without health care coverage. It is also important for another reason: it protects their parents from medical bankruptcy. What parent would not come to the rescue of an uninsured child faced with a costly disease or injury?

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Health Insurance Coverage: Early Release of Estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, January-June 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Fewer Long-Distance Moves

Mobility rates are down across the board, but they have fallen the most for long-distance moves. The number of people who moved to a different state fell from a peak of 8.4 million in 1999-00 to just 4.8 million in 2010-11--a 43 percent decline. In contrast the number of people who moved to a different house in the same county fell by just 4 percent during those years (from 24.4 million to 23.3 million).

Source: Census Bureau, Geographical Mobility

Generation Recession: Fewer Babies

The fertility rate of women aged 20 to 24 hit an all-time low in 2010. Consequently, for the first time ever, the number of babies born to women aged 30 to 34 (962,000) surpassed the number born to women aged 20 to 24 (952,000) as young women put their lives on hold while they wait out the Great Recession.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Births: Preliminary Data for 2010

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Income of the Long-Term Unemployed

How do the long-term unemployed make ends meet? A survey by NPR and the Kaiser Family Foundation asked this group (defined as people aged 18 to 64 who have been out of work for at least a year and want a job) to name their main source of income. Here is their answer...

Income from an employed person in the household: 25%
Money from family and friends: 21%
Savings: 15%
Unemployment benefits: 12%
Social Security/disability (self or someone else in household): 9%
Odd jobs: 3%
No income: 3%
Government assistance: 2%
Retirement/pension (self or someone else in household): 1%
Something else: 5%
Don't know/refused: 3%

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation/NPR Long-Term Unemployed Survey

Economic Standing of American Families

Below average: The percentage of Americans who think their family's income is below average relative to others climbed to a record high of 36 percent in 2010, according to the General Social Survey. The figure had been as low as 21 percent in 1973.

Above average: The percentage of Americans who think their family's income is above average relative to others has been above 20 percent since 1986. In 2010, the figure was 21 percent, down from the all-time high of 24 percent in 2000.

Average: The percentage of Americans who think their family's income is average was 50 percent or higher from 1972 through 1994. It briefly revisited the 50 percent mark in 2006 when many were awash in the easy money of the housing bubble years. Today, the percentage of Americans who think their income is average is at a record low of 43 percent.

Source: General Social Survey

Monday, December 12, 2011

What Will Save Us from the Great Depression?

World War II pulled us out of the Great Depression. What will save us from the Great Recession? Maybe the baby-boom generation. If that giant bulge of humanity retired en masse, it would clear the decks for the younger generation--much like the Black Death cleared the way for the Renaissance by greatly reducing the supply of labor in the Middle Ages and driving up wages. Unfortunately, boomers do not seem to have retirement in mind. According to a new analysis of the retirement intentions of workers aged 50 or older, the Employee Benefit Research Institute finds most regard retirement as a distant dream. The largest share of workers (31 percent) say they will never retire or do not know when they will retire. Another 27 percent say they will stay in the labor force until age 70 at least. Overall, the age at which at least 50 percent of boomers expect to retire lies somewhere between 70 and 75. That's a long time to wait.

Even before the Great Recession clobbered us, the Bureau of Labor Statistics employment projections showed that two out of three job openings for the coming decade would be due to replacement (i.e. retirement of existing workers) rather than economic growth (new jobs). The economic slowdown of the Great Recession means an even larger share of job openings now depend on the retirement decisions of the baby-boom generation.

Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute, Retirement Age Expectations of Older Americans between 2006 and 2010, Notes, December 2011

Hate Crime Demographics

Among the 6,628 hate crimes reported to police in 2010, here is a breakdown of the number by the "bias motivation" for the crime...

Anti-black: 2,201 (33%)
Anti-homosexual: 1,230 (19%)
Anti-Jewish: 887 (13%)
Anti-white: 575 (9%)
Anti-Hispanic: 534 (8%)

The remaining 1,201 hate crimes include anti-Asian (150 incidents), anti-Islamic (160), anti-disability (43), anti-heterosexual (21), and 4 incidents involving more than one bias.

Source: FBI statistics cited in Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics Online

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Marijuana Use among Older Americans

Number of Americans aged 55 or older who have used marijuana...

In the past month: 1.1 million
In the past year: 2.2 million
In lifetime: 20.4 million

Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Demographics of the Electorate

Voter demographics will play a big role in determining who wins the presidential election next year. According to Pew Research Center's 2011 Political Typology poll, the demographics of the nation's political types are wildly divergent. Here are the types, a Pew description of each, and the percentage who are non-Hispanic white (nhw) and aged 50 or older.

Staunch Conservatives (highly engaged Tea Party supporters): 92% nhw, 61% aged 50+
Main Street Republicans (conservative on most issues): 88% nhw, 43% aged 50+
Libertarians (free market, small government seculars): 85% nhw, 46% aged 50+
Disaffecteds (downscale and cynical): 77% nhw, 50% aged 50+
Solid Liberals (across-the-board liberal positions): 72% nhw, 42% aged 50+
Post-Moderns (moderates, but liberal on social issues): 70% nhw, 33% aged 50+
Hard-Pressed Democrats (religious, financially struggling): 53% nhw, 52% aged 50+
New Coalition Democrats (upbeat, majority-minority): 34% nhw, 40% aged 50+

For more about these groups and their politics, see Pew Research Center's Beyond Red vs. Blue: The Political Typology

Friday, December 09, 2011

College Enrollment Rate by Income

Percentage of 2009 high school graduates who enrolled in a two- or four-year college within 12 months of graduating from high school, by family income...

Low Income: 55%
Middle Income: 67%
High Income: 84%

Note: Low income is defined as a family income in the bottom 20 percent; high income is defined as a family income in the top 20 percent; middle income is the remaining 60 percent.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics, The Condition of Education 2011, Immediate Transition to College (Indicator 21-2011)

Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Surprisingly Long Life of Hispanics

For the first time ever, the National Center for Health Statistics has included life expectancy estimates for Hispanics in its annual mortality report (Deaths: Final Data for 2008). This inclusion might not be all that noteworthy except for the surprising fact that Hispanics have a higher than average (78.1 years is average) life expectancy--higher, in fact, than any other race or Hispanic origin group. Here are the 2008 estimates of life expectancy at birth (in years):

Hispanics: 81.0
Non-Hispanic whites: 78.4
Non-Hispanic blacks: 73.7

Hispanics males (78.4) and females (83.3) have a longer life expectancy than any other males or females, and at every age Hispanics can expect to live more years than non-Hispanic whites or blacks. At age 65, for example, Hispanics have another 20.7 years of life, on average, versus 18.8 years for non-Hispanic whites and 17.3 years for non-Hispanic blacks.

Demo Memo reported on the Hispanic advantage last year when the NCHS published the first official analysis, based on 2006 death rates (see post). The 2008 data, released yesterday, confirm the finding. The experts cannot explain the numbers, since the relatively low socioeconomic status of Hispanics should result in greater mortality and lower life expectancy. Some of the theories posited to explain the higher life expectancy of Hispanics are: the underreporting of Hispanic deaths, the "healthy migrant effect"--in which only the healthiest Hispanics migrate to the United States, and the "salmon bias effect"--in which Hispanics return to their country of origin to die.

Who Spends More on Entertainment?

Average amount spent by households on entertainment, by age of householder...

Under age 30: $1,723
Aged 65-plus: $1,891

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010 Consumer Expenditure Survey

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The New Psychology of the American Consumer

The average American household had $13,179 in discretionary income in 2009. That might sound like a lot of "fun" money, but do the math and it amounts to only $36 a day for everything from movie tickets to dog food, vacations, and sit-down restaurants.

Discretionary income is the money that remains for spending (or saving or reducing debt) after a household has paid all the necessary costs of living a middle-class lifestyle. Many businesses depend on discretionary dollars for sales and profits.     

The $13,179 in discretionary income available to the average household in 2009 was 2 percent less than in 2007, after adjusting for inflation. The decline is not surprising. What is surprising is that the decline was not greater or more widespread. In fact, many households saw their discretionary income rise between 2007 and 2009. The households with growing discretionary incomes include those headed by people aged 25 to 44, households with incomes between $40,000 and $150,000, blacks and Hispanics, households in the Midwest, and householders with no more than a high school degree. How could discretionary income increase for these typically struggling households in the midst of the Great Recession?  
The households with growing discretionary incomes are the ones that have succeeded in cutting their spending on necessities the most. 
To understand why discretionary income increased for some households requires familiarity with two terms: disposable income or take-home pay, and nondiscretionary--or necessary--spending. Disposable income is the income households bring home after taxes and mandatory payroll deductions for retirement plans. Disposable income fell pretty much across the board between 2007 and 2009, after adjusting for inflation. But--and this is the important point--many households cut their spending on necessities even more than their incomes fell. The households that succeeded in cutting their necessary spending the most were the ones that saw their discretionary income rise, since discretionary income is what's left over after subtracting necessary spending from disposable income.

Let's look at an example. Households headed by 35-to-44-year-olds cut their annual spending on necessities by $2,696 between 2007 and 2009, after adjusting for inflation. This cut was far greater than the $1,657 decline in their disposable income during those years. Consequently, their discretionary income grew by $1,038 to $16,811. How did these households succeed in cutting their spending on necessities so sharply? One of the most important factors was the decline in homeownership. The homeownership rate of 35-to-44-year-olds fell from 68 to 65 percent between 2007 and 2009. Consequently, the age group managed to cut its annual spending on housing by 4 percent during those years, after adjusting for inflation. Most of the households that experienced an increase in discretionary income between 2007 and 2009 saw their homeownership rate fall. By becoming or remaining renters rather than homeowners, they succeeded in cutting their spending on the single biggest item in the household budget--housing.

An increase in discretionary income is not necessarily good news for businesses that sell discretionary items. Just because some households had more discretionary income in 2009 than in 2007 does not mean they spent those extra dollars. That's the point: they did not spend the money. Regardless of the demographics, most households slashed their discretionary spending and their necessary spending between 2007 and 2009, after adjusting for inflation. Householders aged 35 to 44 cut their discretionary spending by 8 percent during those years--a $982 cut. Many households are using their  "fun" money to pay down debt, which explains why the economic recovery is no fun at all. 

Source: American Incomes: Demographics of Who Has Money, available as a PDF download with links to Excel spreadsheets for each data table

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Social Security State by State

If you want to know how important Social Security income is to your state, you can find out by examining AARP's Social Security State Quick Fact Sheets. Let's take a look at the importance of Social Security to the economies of the poorest and richest states based on 2010 household income...

Maryland, the richest state: One in seven residents receives Social Security, which adds $10.9 billion to the state's economy each year. Social Security is the only source of income for 24 percent of Maryland's residents aged 65 or older.

Mississippi, the poorest state: One in five residents receives Social Security, which adds $6.9 billion to the state's economy each year. Social Security is the only source of income for 40 percent of Mississippi's residents aged 65 or older.

No matter which state you pick, the numbers are sobering.

Grandma's Day Care

Grandma (and/or grandpa) is the single most common primary day care provider for the nation's preschoolers with working mothers.

Among children under age 5 with an employed mother, 21 percent were cared for primarily by a grandparent. In second place was the father (20 percent). Day care centers were third, at 19 percent.

Source: Census Bureau, Who's Minding the Kids, Child Care Arrangements: Spring 2010

Monday, December 05, 2011

Economic Insecurity at Record High

One in five Americans is economically insecure, according to the latest findings from the Economic Security Index (ESI). The ESI is a measure of the fragility of Americans' financial wellbeing, an initiative started last year by a group of researchers led by Yale political scientist Jacob Hacker and supported by the Rockefeller Foundation. The goal of the ESI is to measure and publicize the financial fragility of Americans with the goal of educating decision makers and improving public policy.

Hacker defines the economically insecure as Americans who have experienced a one-year drop of at least 25 percent in their disposable household income--the income that remains after paying for medical care and servicing debt--and who lack the financial resources (i.e. savings) to cope with the decline.

Economic insecurity has been rising for decades. Hacker and his colleagues have measured it as far back as 1986. In that year, only 14.3 percent of Americans were economically insecure. The figure rose to 18.8 percent by the early 2000s, then the Great Recession pushed it to today's record level of 20.5 percent. Fully 62 million Americans were economically insecure in 2010, up from 34 million in 1986.

Source: Economic Security IndexEconomic Insecurity and the Great Recession--Findings from the Economic Security Index, November 2011


Among the 50 largest metropolitan areas, only six had more people at work in October 2011 than in December 2007--the start of the Great Recession. Among those six (relatively) thriving metropolitan areas, only one is outside the South: Pittsburgh. (The others are Austin, Houston, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, and San Antonio).

What's so special about Pittsburgh? According to an analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, some of the success is accounted for by the types of industries in Pittsburgh. But most of the success (more than 80 percent) is due to the better performance of Pittsburgh's industries compared to their counterparts elsewhere.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Pittsburgh's Labor Market in the Recession and Recovery

Vet Bills

Eighty percent of the nation's pet owners took their pet to the veterinarian in the past year. Those who did spent a median of $250 on vet bills.

Source: AP-GfK, The Poll

Sunday, December 04, 2011

More Trying to Lose Weight

Percentage of Americans aged 18 or older who are seriously trying to lose weight...

2011: 29%
1991: 18%

Source: Gallup, To Lose Weight, Americans Rely More on Dieting than Exercise

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Most Asian Americans Have a Bachelor's Degree

Among Asians aged 25 or older in the United States, 52 percent have a bachelor's degree or more education. Within the Asian population, educational attainment is far above average for most Asian ethnic groups. Take a look...

(percentage of Asians aged 25 or older with at least a bachelor's degree, by ethnicity, 2008-10)
Asian Indians: 75%
Koreans: 56%
Chinese: 53%
Filipinos: 52%
Japanese: 47%
Vietnamese: 28%
Other Asian: 39%

Among non-Asians, 29 percent have a bachelor's degree.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Monthly Labor Review, Asians in the U.S. Labor Force: Profile of a Diverse Population, November 2011

Friday, December 02, 2011

What Happens to the Financially Illiterate?

Now that Americans are in charge of their own retirement security, they need the ability to add, subtract, and multiply and an understanding of financial concepts such as inflation, compound interest, and risk diversification. The trouble is, many Americans have only limited skills in these areas according to an analysis of survey data by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Does do-it-yourself retirement make sense, then, or is it throwing people to the wolves?

EBRI analyzed data from the National Financial Capability Study, which asked a representative sample of Americans in each state a series of questions to determine their financial literacy. The results are disturbing. New Hampshire was the top scorer, with 69 percent of adults in the state understanding basic financial concepts. The bottom scorer was Louisiana, where 58 percent were financially literate.

The 11 percentage point gap in financial literacy between New Hampshire and Louisiana is not the problem. The problem is the 31 to 42 percent of Americans in each state who lack the knowledge and skills to properly manage retirement savings. Do-it-yourself retirement might work for some. But what does it mean for the financially illiterate?

Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute, How Do Financial Literacy and Financial Behavior Vary by State? Notes, November 2011

Thursday, December 01, 2011

1% or 99%?

Are you wondering (quietly) whether you might in fact be a member of the 1 percent rather than the 99 percent? Here is your answer: the net worth of the wealthiest 1 percent of households is $6,917,000.

That number comes from an analysis of the 2009 Survey of Consumer Finances by Arthur B. Kennickell, assistant director of the Federal Reserve Board's Division of Research and Statistics. Kennickell is the maestro of the Survey of Consumer Finances. His latest study examines changes in the distribution of household wealth between 2007 and 2009 (when, in an unprecedented effort, the Federal Reserve Board reinterviewed the triennial SCF panel of 2007 to determine the impact of the Great Recession on wealth). The Survey of Consumer Finances is the only source of nationally representative data on household wealth. By oversampling wealthy households, the survey also provides the best estimate of how much it takes to be rich.

Apparently, it takes a lot more than once did. The net worth of the rich (in 2009 dollars) has been growing steadily since 1962, when it required only $1.6 million to be in the 1 percent. The figure peaked at $9.0 million in 2007 before falling to the $6.9 million of 2009. As for the other 99 percent, median household net worth climbed from $46,100 in 1962 to a peak of $125,400 in 2007, then fell to $96,000 in 2009.

Source: Federal Reserve Board, Tossed and Turned: Wealth Dynamics of U.S. Households 2007-2009, Arthur B. Kennickell, Finance and Economics Discussion Series, 2011-51

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Diversity Diminishes Donations

In an interesting study of how ethnic and religious diversity affects charitable giving, researchers from the National Bureau of Economic Research report that the more diverse the neighborhood, the less money households there give to charity. "A 10 percentage point increase in ethnic diversity reduces donations by 14 percent, and a 10 percentage point increase in religious diversity reduces donations by 10 percent," the authors report. Diversity reduces the dollars individual households give to charity, not the share of household that give.

Who is closing their wallets? As ethnic diversity increases in a neighborhood, non-minority households give less. As religious diversity increases in a neighborhood, Catholic households give less. The authors suggest that as North America (the study was undertaken in Canada) becomes increasingly diverse, charities may get less.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, Diversity and Donations: The Effect of Religious and Ethnic Diversity on Charitable Giving, NBER Working Paper 17618, $5

The War between the Generations

Thirty-four percent of Americans aged 18 or older are Tea Party supporters, and a slightly larger 39 percent support the Occupy Wall Street protests, according to a Harris Interactive poll. By generation, here are the percentages who support each movement...

Tea Party
Millennials (18 to 34): 27%
Generation X (35-46): 30%
Baby Boomers (47-65): 36%
Older Americans (66+): 50%

Occupy Wall Street
Millennials (18 to 34): 41%
Generation X (35-46): 36%
Baby Boomers (47-65): 43%
Older Americans (66+): 33%

Source: Harris Interactive, One-third of Americans Support the Tea Party and Two in Five Support Occupy Wall Street

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Poorest County: Ziebach, South Dakota

This morning the Census Bureau released 2010 poverty rates by county, with rankings of counties with the highest and lowest poverty rates. Ziebach County, South Dakota, has the highest poverty rate. More than half (50.1 percent) of its 2,817 residents are poor. Most of the county lies in the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. Falls Church city, Virginia, has the lowest poverty rate. Only 3.1 percent of its 12,520 residents are poor. The independent city lies within the Washington, DC, metropolitan area.

Source: Census Bureau, 2010 Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates

Men Who Live with their Parents

Percentage of men aged 25 to 34 who live with their parents, 1960 to 2011...

2011: 18.6%
2010: 16.4%
2000: 12.9%
1990: 15.0%
1980: 10.5%
1970:   9.5%
1960: 10.9%

Source: Census Bureau, America's Families and Living Arrangements

Monday, November 28, 2011

How Many People Go To the Zoo?

Percent of Americans who have visited or attended in the past year...

Museum 14.5%
Live theater 13.4%
Zoo 12.3%
Rock concert 11.0%
Art gallery 9.2%
Car show 8.5%
Country  concert 4.9%
Classical concert 4.3%

Source: Census Bureau, (the now discontinued) Statistical Abstract, 2010 data from GfK MediaMark Research

Older Men in the Labor Force, 1955 and 2010

As the age of retirement increases, the labor force participation rates of older men may begin to resemble those of their grandfathers in the mid-1950s. We have a long way to go before we get there. The labor force participation rate of men aged 60 to 64 is 22.6 percentage points lower today than it was in 1955. Here are the labor force participation rates of men aged 55 or older in 1955 and 2010, and the percentage point change in the rate during those decades...

   % point

2010 1955     change
55-59 78.5% 92.5% -14.0
60-64 60.0% 82.6% -22.6
65-69 36.5% 57.0% -20.5
70-74 22.0% 37.1% -15.1
75+ 10.4% 19.4% -9.0

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Older Workers: Increasing their Labor Force Participation and Hours of Work, Monthly Labor Review, January 2008 and Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Morality and Belief in God

Percentage who think it is necessary to believe in God in order to be moral, by country...

United States: 54%
Germany: 33%
Britain: 20%
Spain: 19%
France: 15%

Source: Pew Research Center, The American-Western European Values Gap

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Cultural Superiority

"Our people are not perfect but our culture is superior"
Percentage of Americans who agree by age...
18-29: 37%
30-49: 44%
50-plus: 60%

Source: Pew Research Center, The American-Western European Values Gap

Friday, November 25, 2011

Some Did Well During the Great Depression

More historical perspective from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland...
"If you could hold onto your job, you actually did reasonably well during the Depression because of the tremendous deflation. The price level dropped 30 percent between 1929 and 1933. People could buy a great deal more with a dollar in 1933 than in 1929. But the problem was holding onto your job."
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, interview with economist and National Bureau of Economic Research research associate Price Fishback, Forefront, Fall 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

They Didn't Know It Was the Great Depression

Some historical perspective from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland...
"During the Great Depression, people did not know it was the Great Depression. The Great Depression evolved and was characterized by episodes of expansion and subsequent relapse."
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, "How the Recession May Change America," by Mark S. Sniderman, Forefront, Fall 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hold the Pie (Not!)

How much do Americans weigh? More than they did twenty years ago, according to a Gallup survey. The average American woman says she weighs 160 pounds, up from a self-reported weight of 142 pounds in 1991. The average American man says he weighs 196 pounds, up from 180 pounds twenty years earlier. Both men and women weigh much more than what they say is their ideal, 138 pounds for women and 181 pounds for men.

Occupation: Artist

Is there any money in art? A new report from the National Endowment for the Arts provides the answer, and it is a resounding yes. Artists and Arts Workers in the United States, based on data from the 2005-2009 American Community Surveys and the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, examines the characteristics of artists and estimates their number by state and large metropolitan area. Some highlights...

Number of working artists in the United States: 2.1 million
Most common art occupation: designer (39% of artists)
Percent of artists with a bachelor's degree: 59%
Female share of artists: 46%
Median age of artists: 40
Percent of artists who are self-employed: 34%
Median earnings of full-time artists: $43,230

The median earnings of artists who work full-time range from a high of $63,111 for architects to a low of $26,875 for photographers. Fine artists earn a median of $33,982; writers and authors, $44,792; actors, $30,254; and musicians, $27,558. The report notes that New York and California have the most artists, but the per capita concentration is highest in Oregon and Vermont.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Not in a Hurry to Marry

Percentage of women who have not yet married by age, 1960 and 2011...

2011 1960
20-24 80.7 28.4
25-29 50.1 10.5

Source: Census Bureau, Families and Living Arrangements

The Huddled Masses

The number of Americans who are struggling to make ends meet with incomes between 100 and 150 percent of poverty level is huge. We know this because the New York Times asked the Census Bureau to run a special tabulation and apply the criteria of its new Supplemental Poverty Measure (see my post about the measure) to determine how many people were near poor under the SPM criteria. The criteria measure disposable income--adding food stamps and other government benefits to income, and subtracting taxes, health insurance, child care, and other costs from income. The Times published the results last week (see Older, Suburban, and Struggling, 'Near Poor' Startle the Census), and the Census Bureau has released a tabulation of the findings (see Special Tabulation of Supplemental Poverty Measure Estimates).

So just how big are the huddled masses? The number of people with incomes between 100 and 150 percent of poverty level jumps from the official 29 million (before benefits are added and costs deducted) to the SPM-adjusted figure of 51 million--a 76 percent increase. Even worse, as the Times reports, adding this number to the SPM estimate of 49 million people below poverty level, means that nearly one in three Americans is either in poverty or only a car breakdown or medical emergency away from being poor.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Household Income Down in Third Quarter 2011

Median household income fell to $49,865 in the third quarter of 2011, according to the latest estimates released today by Sentier Research. The 2011 figure was 2.7 percent below the $51,246 median in the third quarter of 2010, after adjusting for inflation. The third-quarter household income decline was particularly sharp for householders under age 25 (down 5.8 percent) and householders aged 25 to 34 (down 7.1 percent). There was no change in the median household income of householders aged 35 to 54.

Sentier estimates that real median annual household income in September 2011 was $50,257. This was 6.6 percent below the median of June 2009--the first month of the "economic recovery" (air quotes added by Sentier). The September 2011 median was 9.6 percent below the median of December 2007, the first month of the Great Recession. Sentier's Household Income Index for September 2011 was 89.5, well below the 100.0 base level of January 2000.

For more about Sentier's Household Income Index, see this earlier post.
Source: Sentier Research, The September 2011 Household Income Index (HII) and Third Quarter 2011 Household Income

Top States for Food Stamps

The five states with the largest percentage of households receiving food stamps...

Oregon, 17.9%
Michigan, 16.9%
Kentucky, 16.6%
Mississippi, 16.4%
Maine, 16.2%

Source: Census Bureau, Food Stamp/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Receipt in the Past 12 Months for Households by State: 2009 and 2010

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Education = Longer Life

Last week the Census Bureau released the first analysis of the nation's very old--the 1.9 million Americans aged 90 or older. "An increasingly important feature of population aging in the United States is that the older population itself is getting older," the Census Bureau explains in 90+ in the United States: 2006-2008. The growing percentage of the very old among the elderly makes it increasingly important to understand their characteristics, one of which is particularly striking: Among people aged 90 or older, 61 percent have a high school diploma. That may not sound like a big deal, since a much larger percentage of Americans have a high school diploma today. But for teenagers in the 1930s and earlier decades, graduating from high school was a big deal. The Census Bureau notes that only 39 percent of 20-to-30-year-olds had a high school diploma in 1940. The far higher level of education among those who survived into their 90s is more proof that educational attainment plays a decisive role in determining how long you live.

So what else is new? Most of us would wager, correctly, that high school dropouts are not as healthy as those with more education. We can see with our own eyes what the research shows: The less educated fare poorly on almost every measure of health, including self-reported health status, disability, obesity, and chronic conditions such as arthritis, heart conditions, and asthma. That's what you get when you behave badly. The less educated are more likely to smoke, drink, use illegal drugs, and forego seat belts. It all seems so obvious, except for one thing: bad behavior does not explain the gap. Even after controlling for risky behavior, differences in health by education persist. They persist even when controlling for income, health insurance status, age, race, and gender. There seems to be some mystery factor--call it the X factor--linking education to better health and higher life expectancy. 

When social scientists David M. Cutler and Adriana Lleras-Muney pursued the X factor with a one-two punch of data analysis and a massive literature review, (see NBER Working Paper 12352), they came up with no definitive answer but an intriguing possibility--the educated think differently. "Education might matter for health not just because of the specific knowledge one obtains in school," they said, "but rather because education improves general skills, including critical thinking skills and decision-making abilities." 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

11% Decline in Hispanic Births

The number of births in the United States fell 7 percent between 2007 (the peak year) and 2010. By race and Hispanic origin, Hispanics experienced the greatest decline during those years, with the number of babies born to Hispanic mothers falling 11 percent. Nevertheless, Hispanics still account for a substantial 24 percent of births in the United States, down only slightly from the 25 percent of 2007.

The number of babies born to non-Hispanic white mothers fell 6.4 percent between 2007 and 2010, and black births were down 6.1 percent. Asians births fell the least, a 3 percent decline. These are the birth numbers by race and Hispanic origin in 2010...
Total  4,000,279
Asian  246,915
Black  589,129
Hispanic  946,000
White  2,161,669

Note: Blacks and whites are non-Hispanic.
Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Births: Preliminary Data for 2010 and Births: Final Data for 2007

Friday, November 18, 2011

Birth Report Confirms Baby Bust

The number of births in 2010 fell to 4,000,279, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, 7 percent below the all-time high of 4,316,233 in 2007. So far, this baby bust is far smaller than the one that created Generation X. Between 1957 (the peak year of the baby boom) and 1973 (the low point of the baby bust), the number of births fell 27 percent.

Perhaps the most striking finding in the report is the sharp drop in the birth rate of young women. The rate for women aged 20 to 24 fell 6 percent between 2009 and 2010--to 90 births per 1,000 women. This is the lowest level ever recorded for the age group. The birth rate for women aged 25 to 29 fell 3 percent. The birth rate for women aged 30 to 39 declined slightly, and the birth rate for women aged 40 or older increased.

Older women cannot afford to wait. But young adults, under financial stress, are deciding to postpone having children until the economy improves.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Births: Preliminary Data for 2010

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mobility Rate Fell the Most among Young Adults

You would think that young adults would be the last bastion of mobility in the United States. Because most are renters, they are free to pick up and go where they like. The latest mobility statistics show, in fact, that young adults are still the ones most like to move. Between March 2010 and March 2011, a substantial 21.1 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds moved--much higher than the 11.6 percent rate for the population as a whole and the highest of any age group.

But the mobility rate of 18-to-24-year-olds has fallen more steeply than that of any other age group over the past five years. In 2005-06, fully 26.1 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds moved. The 5 percentage point (19 percent) decline in their mobility rate was greater than the mobility rate decline of any other age group during the time period.

This article in the New York Times might explain it: As New Graduates Return to Nest, Economy Also Feels the Pain. Rather than moving into their own apartment, many young adults are moving from college back home to mom and dad. If they had been living in college housing at school, then the Census Bureau's mobility statistics would record them as not having moved, because students in college housing are counted as living in their parents' home.

Get Real about Retirement

"Eighty is the new 65," says Joseph Ready, executive vice president of Wells Fargo Institutional Retirement & Trust to Bloomberg Businessweek about his company's survey results that show the majority of respondents planning to work well into old age. One in four expects to work until age 80 (at least!) because of insufficient savings.

If working to age 80 and beyond is in your retirement plan, then you should also plan to live on dog food, because that's what you will have to eat if you think you can support yourself by holding down a job at 80. Just imagine how much your employer and co-workers will appreciate you when you are...
  • incapable of stooping, bending, or kneeling (28 percent)
  • incapable of standing for two hours (33 percent)
  • incapable of climbing 10 steps without resting (21 percent)
  • incapable of walking even a quarter of a mile (28 percent)
  • incontinent (30 percent)
  • coping with arthritis (54 percent)
  • coping with diabetes (19 percent)
  • hard of hearing (45 percent) 
  • having trouble seeing (17 percent)
  • going to the doctor 10 or more times a year (22 percent)
These numbers, all from the National Health Interview Survey or the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey, are not trivial. They explain why only 7 percent of people aged 75 or older were in the labor force in 2010. Way back in 1955--before older Americans started to get all those cushy benefits like Medicare and Social Security indexed to inflation--only 19 percent of of men and 4 percent of women aged 75 or older were in the labor force. I have said it before and I will say it again: Planning not to retire is not a retirement plan.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What Dual-Income Couples Make: $103,704

That's the median income of dual-income couples in which both husband and wife work full-time. The median income of those couples increased 5 percent between 2000 and 2010, after adjusting for inflation. In contrast, the median income of the average household fell 7 percent during those years.

Source: Census Bureau, Historical Income Tables: Families

Renter Mobility also at Record Low

Between March 2010 and March 2011, the percentage of renters who moved fell to an all-time low of 26.2 percent. Renters are now a larger share of movers than they have been at any time in the two decades in which the Census Bureau has been collecting mobility data by homeownership status. In 2010-11, renters accounted for 72 percent of the nation's movers--fully 25 million of the 35 million who moved.

For the latest on the record-low homeowner mobility rate, see this post.

Source: Census Bureau, Geographical Mobility: 2010 to 2011

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Foreclosure Write-ins

There's an interesting footnote on the Census Bureau's 2010-11 geographic mobility tables 23 and 24--tables that detail the reasons people moved between March 2010 and March 2011.

For the first time, these tables show foreclosure/eviction as one of the reasons for moving even though the Census Bureau's survey questionnaire (surprisingly) did not offer foreclosure/eviction as an option. Here's what happened: So many survey respondents wrote in foreclosure/eviction on the survey form that the Census Bureau decided to include it in the tables, with the following footnote:
"The foreclosure/eviction reason for move category was not an option for respondents in 2011. The category was created from write-in responses that explicitly gave "foreclosure" or "eviction" as their primary reason for move."
Based on those write-ins, the Census Bureau estimates that 412,000 people moved because of foreclosure/eviction in 2010-11. This is a tiny fraction of the 35 million who moved overall, but there's no doubt the number would have been much larger if foreclosure/eviction had been an option on the survey form.

Mobility Rate Plunges

The nation's mobility rate has plunged to a new low, the Census Bureau reports. Only 11.6 percent of Americans moved between March 2010 and March 2011, down from 12.5 percent in 2009-10. Overall, 35 million people moved to a different house in 2010-11, down from an all-time high of 46 million in 1984-85. This is the smallest number of people who moved since 1959-60, despite the nation's population growth.

Even more dramatic was the decline in the mobility rate of homeowners as the paralyzed housing market prevents people from selling--and buying--homes. Only 4.7 percent of homeowners moved between 2010 and 2011, down from 5.2 percent in 2009-10. Not only is the homeowner mobility rate at an all-time low, but the 9.7 million homeowners who moved is the smallest number on record.

Source: Census Bureau, Geographical Mobility: 2010-2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

Age of Marrying Continues to Climb

Already at a record high, the age of marrying climbed even higher in 2011. The median age at first marriage is now age 28.4 for men and 26.4 for women.

Source: Census Bureau, Families and Living Arrangements

Presents for Pets

Among American pet owners, 51 percent plan to buy their pet a present for the holidays. They estimate they will spend an average of $46 on gifts for their pet.

Source: Poll

Sunday, November 13, 2011

How Many Have Student Loans?

Percent of young adults (aged 18 to 34) with student loan debt...
By age
18-24: 30%
25-34: 34%
By race and Hispanic origin
Blacks: 45%
Hispanics: 25%
Non-Hispanic whites: 33%

Source: The Institute for College Access & Success, Young Adults Say Higher Education More Important but Less Affordable, Debt is Too High

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Can't Wait to Eat

The more impatient you are, the higher your body mass index, according to new research from the National Bureau of Economic Research. An analysis of data from the 2006 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth finds that the more impatient the individual, the greater their weight after controlling for all relevant socioeconomic characteristics. Another interesting finding: The cheaper the available food in the environment, the larger the weight gain among the impatient.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, Impatience, Incentives, and Obesity, Working Paper 17483, $5.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Who Makes Dinner?

Typically her but frequently him, according to an analysis of data from the American Time Use Survey. Among people aged 18 or older, 32 percent of men say they typically do the grocery shopping for their household, and 30 percent say they usually prepare the household's meals.

Source: USDA, Economic Research Service, How Much Time Do Americans Spend on Food?

Most Smokers Want to Quit

Percentage of smokers who are interested in quitting: 69%.
Percentage who attempted to quit in the past year: 52%.

Source: CDC, Quitting Smoking among Adults--United States, 2001-2010

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Working Mothers and the Chicken-or-Egg Debate

Which comes first, a change in attitudes or a change in behavior? This chicken-or-egg debate has long raged in social science circles. Nowhere is it better showcased than in the Census Bureau's new report, Maternity Leave and Employment Patterns of First-Time Mothers: 1961-2008. The report documents the rise of working women and mothers over the past five decades--a time when work became the norm for women not only before and during pregnancy, but after having children as well. The percentage of women who worked during their first pregnancy climbed from 44 percent in 1961-65 to 66 percent in 2006-08--a gain of 22 percentage points, according to the report. The even bigger change was this: the percentage of women who were working within a year after having their first child leaped from just 17 percent in 1961-65 to the 64 percent majority by 2005-07--a 47 percentage point change.

This behavior change was accompanied by changing attitudes toward working mothers. For the past thirty years, the General Social Survey has been asking the American public the question, "A working mother can establish just as warm and secure a relationship with her children as a mother who does not work. Do you agree or disagree?" In 1977 (the first year the question was asked), only 49 percent of the public agreed. By 2010, the 76 percent majority of the public agreed that a working mother could have just as good a relationship with her children as a mother who did not work. So which came first--the chicken or the egg? Did the growing necessity for women to work change attitudes toward working mothers? Or did changing attitudes toward working mothers free more women to go to work after having children?

Where Americans Wish they Lived

"If you could live in or near any city in the country except the one you live in or nearest to now, which city would you choose?"
1. New York
2. San Diego
3. Seattle
4. Dallas
5. Las Vegas

"And, which city would you least like to live in?"
1. New York
2. Detroit
3. Los Angeles
4. Washington, DC
5. Chicago

Source: Harris Interactive, 3 Sunny States, Remain Top Choices for Where Americans Would Like to Live

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Always Fascinating

Percentage of households using the Internet, from a new report...
1997: 19%
1998: 26%
2000: 42%
2001: 50%
2003: 55%
2007: 62%
2009: 69%
2010: 71%

Source: Economics and Statistics Administration and National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Exploring the Digital Nation—Computer and Internet Use at Home, November 2011

Nuclear Families Continue to Decline

The number of married couples with children under age 18 (a.k.a. nuclear families) continues its downward trajectory. There are now only 23.9 million nuclear families in the United States, according to the 2011 Current Population Survey, accounting for 20 percent of households. This is down from 26.4 million nuclear families in 2000, when they accounted for 25 percent of households.

Source: Census Bureau, Families and Living Arrangements: 2011

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The New Poverty Measure

The poverty rate has long needed an update. The way the United States officially defines poverty has not changed since the methodology was developed in the early 1960s. At that time, the average household devoted one-third of its budget to food. The poverty threshold was set at three times the food spending required for a minimum diet and has remained unchanged since then except for annual cost-of-living adjustments.

The world has changed, however. The average household devotes a much smaller share of its budget to food and much more to housing, transportation, health care, and child care. The poverty population is still officially defined by its cash income, although many of the poor receive food stamps, housing subsidies, tax credits, and other benefits.

For years the National Academy of Sciences, the Census Bureau, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics have been working to create an updated measure of poverty. Now they have, and the result is called the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). How much does the modernized measure change the count of the poor? Actually, not much--which is somewhat reassuring. The percentage of people in poverty in 2010 climbs from the official 15.2 percent to a slightly higher 16.0 percent. The number of poor climbs from 46.6 million to 49.1 million. The 2010 poverty threshold for a four-person family with two adults and two children increases from $22,113 to $24,343.

Perhaps the most interesting change is this: blacks are no longer the poorest Americans. Their poverty rate in 2010 falls from the official 27.5 percent to 25.4 percent--a decline of more than 2 percentage points. Meanwhile, the Hispanic poverty rate climbs from the official 26.7 percent to 28.2 percent, making Hispanics the poorest Americans.

Because defining poverty is fraught with political drama, the SPM is not now and for the foreseeable future will not be the official poverty measure. According to the Census Bureau, "the SPM will be an additional macroeconomic statistic providing further understanding of economic conditions and trends."

Source: Census Bureau, The Research Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2010

Who Gets A Flu Shot?

The old have been far more likely than the young to get a flu shot each year, largely because Medicare picks up the tab for the elderly. Most everyone else has had to pony up to receive the vaccine, limiting the number of children and younger adults who get a flu shot despite the fact that those age groups are most likely to catch and spread the flu. Take a look at who got a flu shot in the past 12 months...

Under age 5: 62%
Aged 5-11: 46%
Aged 12-17: 38%
Aged 18-49: 26%
Aged 50-64: 43%
Aged 65-plus: 69%

These numbers might be about to change. The Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to cover preventive care such as flu vaccination for free. This could significantly boost the percentage of children and younger adults who get the flu vaccine.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Early Release of Selected Estimates Based on Data from the January-March 2011 National Health Interview Survey, Receipt of Influenza Vaccination

Monday, November 07, 2011

The Paradox of Thrift

In the past 12 months, three out of four Americans have started to save more or spend less, according to an AARP survey of a nationally representative sample of people aged 18 or older. This financial about-face is occurring in every age group.

What is the driving force behind the penny-pinching? To have money for emergencies, according to the survey's findings. The 65 percent majority of respondents said that having more money for emergencies was the major reason for saving more or spending less.

Social scientists have long known that economic uncertainty leads to more savings. In fact, the primary reason for the decline in the nation's savings rate over the past few decades has been the greater security felt by older Americans (typically the nation's biggest savers) after the introduction of the Medicare program in the 1960s and the indexing of Social Security to inflation in 1973. With economic insecurity sky high and rising, it's no wonder Americans are trying to save more. Unfortunately, more savings means less spending, hurting businesses and creating more economic uncertainty.

Source: AARP Bulletin Survey on Consumer Saving and Debt


Percent who think the United States is the greatest country in the world, by generation...

Millennial: 32%
Gen Xer: 48%
Boomer: 50%
Age 66+: 64%

Source: Pew Research Center, The Generation Gap and the 2012 Election

Sunday, November 06, 2011

A Year from Today

The 2012 presidential election is one year from today. Politicians and the media, take note: Although Hispanics outnumber blacks by a growing margin in the United States, black voters far outnumber Hispanic voters and will for years to come. Take a look at the numbers...

2010 congressional election
Blacks: 11.5 million voted
Hispanics: 6.6 million voted

2008 presidential election
Blacks: 16.7 million voted
Hispanics: 9.7 million voted

Source: Census Bureau, Voting and Registration

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Going to the Farmers' Market?

If so, then this may be a good time to ponder those hardworking people who sit on the far side of the vegetable pile. The USDA did more than ponder. It surveyed the nation's farms in 2008 and estimated the number and characteristics of farms that sell their food locally--through roadside stands, farmers' markets, or to local groceries and restaurants. The recently released findings show that more than 100,000 farms across the country sell locally, generating $4.8 billion annually in sales (1.9 percent of gross agricultural sales).

Unlike the average farmer, the 58 percent majority of local food sale farms depend on farming as their primary occupation. And how much does that devotion earn them? According to the survey, the average farm that sells locally makes $56,240 per year in food sales. Farmers who sell at farmers' markets travel 31 miles to get to the market site, most of them bypassing smaller towns on the way. "Small towns may not generate enough consumer demand to support farmers' markets," notes the report. That may explain why most farms that sell food locally are in metropolitan areas.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Attitudes toward the Internet

Percent who say the invention of the Internet has been a change for the better, by generation...

79% of Millennials
70% of Gen Xers
65% of Boomers
45% of older Americans

Source: Pew Research Center, The Generation Gap and the 2012 Election

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Read It and Weep, Gen Xers

Gen Xers stuck in mid-career will have to wait longer for boomers to retire. Fully 66 percent of workers aged 50 to 61 say they might have to delay their retirement because of current economic conditions, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

Source: Pew Research Center, The Generation Gap and the 2012 Election

A Stunning Statistic

Percentage of men aged 25 to 34 who live with their parents: 19%.

Source: Census Bureau, America's Families and Living Arrangements 2011

Decline in Giving

The average household gave $661 to churches and other religious organizations in 2010, down 19 percent from the peak of $814 given in 2006 (in 2010 dollars).

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Expenditure Survey

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Supporting the Kids

How many married couples have financially dependent adult children living with them? According to the 2010 Consumer Expenditure Survey (CEX), 8.7 million. We know this because the CEX counts "consumer units" rather than households. The two concepts are similar, except for one important difference. A consumer unit is a group of people who live together and (here's the important part) share at least two of three major expenses--housing, food, or other living costs. The CEX count of married couples with adult children at home, then, identifies households in which parents are supporting grown children. (In a few cases, the child could be supporting the parents, but that's not common).

The 8.7 million couples with dependent adult children in 2010 is 655,000 more than the 8.1 million of 2000, but 597,000 fewer than the peak of 9.3 million in 2009. That may be good news, signifying that young adults, at least, are beginning to gain traction in the sluggish economy. One other point: It is interesting to note that the number of couples living with and supporting adult children far surpasses the number with preschoolers, 8.7 million to 5.2 million in 2010.

First-Time Homebuyer Watch: 3rd Quarter 2011

Homeownership rate of householders aged 30 to 34, third quarter 2011: 49.9%

The homeownership rate of householders aged 30 to 34 remains below 50 percent. It fell below the 50 percent threshold in the second quarter of 2011 (to 49.5 percent), and the third quarter rate is only sightly above that all-time low. Typically, the majority of householders become homeowners in their early thirties. That may no longer be the case as young adults either can't afford or do not want to buy a home until the housing market bottoms out and job security improves.

Before the 2011 decline, the quarterly homeownership rate of 30-to-34-year-olds had fallen below 50 percent only one other time--the 2nd quarter of 1994, when 49.6 percent of 30-to-34-year-olds owned a home. The figure peaked at 58.0 percent in the 4th quarter of 2004.

Source: Bureau of the Census, Housing Vacancy Survey

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Is Something Happening Here?

First Netflix, which had to issue an apology for splitting its business into two and effectively raising prices. It lost hundreds of thousands of customers. Then Bank of America, which backed down on its plan to charge for debit card use after angry customers threatened to close their accounts. The American consumer--cornered by unemployment, falling incomes, and rising prices--is not so docile anymore.

New York City's Pay Premium

Typically, workers in New York City get paid more than the average worker in the United States because the cost of living in New York is so much higher. That pay premium has grown over the past two decades, according to an analysis in the Monthly Labor Review. In 1990, workers in the five counties of New York City made 46 percent more than the average worker. In 2009, the pay premium had climbed to 62 percent.

What accounts for this increase? Two words: Financial activities. The pay premium for workers in financial activities soared between 1990 and 2009, rising from 83 to 163 percent, according to BLS economist Lisa Bolly. Excluding financial activities from the analysis, the pay premium for all other New York City workers fell from 35 to 34 percent between 1990 and 2009.

Although workers in New York City's financial activities took a hit during the Great Recession, they are back on the fast track. Preliminary data show their pay premium climbing to 178 percent in 2010 and their average wage reaching $205,889.

Source: Pay Premiums among major industry groups in New York City, Monthly Labor Review, October 2011

Great Recession = Less Exercise

Does unemployment have a beneficial side effect, giving those who have lost their job more time to exercise? Short answer: no. A National Bureau of Economic Research analysis of American Time Use Survey results shows that, although recreational exercise increased among the unemployed, the increase did not compensate for the decline in work-related exertion. The decline in overall physical exertion among the unemployed was greatest for men with low levels of education, many of whom had worked in physically demanding jobs.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, "Exercise, Physical Activity, and Exertion over the Business Cycle, Working Paper 17406 ($5).

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Second Generation

Nearly one-fourth of the American population is first- or second-generation, according to the Census Bureau's latest detailed tables on the foreign born. Among all U.S. residents, 12 percent (38 million) are first-generation, meaning they were born in another country. Another 11 percent (34 million) are second-generation. They were born in the United States, but one or both of their parents is foreign-born.

Source: Census Bureau, Foreign Born

A Real Horror Story

Every year, many thousands of people are murdered in the United States--12,996 in 2010, according to the FBI. The murder weapons, ranked by frequency of use...

Firearm: 8,775
Knife: 1,704
Hands, feet: 745
Blunt object: 540
Strangulation: 122
Asphyxiation: 98
Fire: 74
Narcotics: 39
Poison: 11
Explosives: 4
Other: 884

Source: Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Neighborhood

Percent of parents with children under age 18 who describe their neighborhood as a place where...

People help each other: 71%
People watch each other's children: 73%
There are people I can count on: 76%
Adults nearby would help children outside the house if needed: 78%
There are safe places for children to play: 81%
There are people who might be a bad influence: 45%
Children are kept inside the house because of danger: 20%

Source: Census Bureau, A Child's Day: 2009

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Nation of Adjuncts

Percentage of instructional faculty in degree-granting post-secondary institutions (i.e. college professors) who are employed full-time...

2009: 51%
1971: 77%

Source: College Board, Trends in College Pricing 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Story Unfolds

Slowly, very slowly, the story of the Great Recession is beginning to unfold. It is happening slowly because it takes years for demographic statistics to reflect economic trauma. Think about it. First there is the event, then the demographic reaction, which is followed by data collection, and finally the analysis. We have served our time now, and the stories are beginning to be told. Today's New York Times reports (see Economy Alters How Americans Are Moving) on an analysis of migration data by the Carsey Institute of the University of New Hampshire. The research shows "drastic" change in Americans' migration patterns since the Great Recession, with sharply fewer people moving to the Sunbelt. Many more stories about the profound changes wrought by the Great Recession will follow in the years ahead.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Will Spending Cuts Create Jobs?

Percent who think cutting government spending will significantly increase jobs in the United States, by generation...

Millennials (18-34): 37%
Gen X (35-46): 43%
Boomers (47-65): 46%
Matures (66-plus): 52%

Source: Harris Interactive, Two-thirds of Americans Rate Job Market in Their Region as Bad

Gun Ownership

Among all adults, 47 percent report having a gun in their home or on their property, up from 41 percent a year earlier. Here are the numbers by political party identification...

Republicans: 55%
Democrats: 40%

Source: Gallup, Self-Reported Gun Ownership in U.S. Is Highest Since 1993

Get County Data

The Census Bureau's USA Counties web site has been updated with information from the 2010 census, the 2007 Survey of Business Owners, and County Business Patterns. For county-level data, this is as good as it gets. Select a state, select a county, choose your table--anything from a general population profile to building permits (for many counties, by single year from 1980 through 2010) to adjusted gross income, dividends, and interest on tax returns. This is an amazing resource for those who need local area economic and demographic statistics.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Report on Income Inequality

For an analysis of household income inequality in the United States, see the Census Bureau's new report U.S. Neighborhood Income Inequality in the 2005-2009 Period. Based on American Community Survey data, the analysis drills down from the national and state level to metropolitan areas, places, and even census tracts (essentially, neighborhoods) to determine the location and characteristics of areas where household incomes are least and most equal.

By state, income inequality is greatest in the District of Columbia, New York, and Connecticut. By large metropolitan area, it is greatest in New York, Miami, and Los Angeles. For large places (i.e. cities), it is greatest in Atlanta, New Orleans, and the city of Washington in the District of Columbia. By census tract, it is greatest in tract 17, Hamilton County, Ohio--which is downtown Cincinnati.

Long-Term Care: How Much Does It Cost?

Many baby boomers are deciding now whether to buy long-term care insurance. For those trying to make a decision, it might help to know the cost of different types of long-term care. To that end, the MetLife Mature Market Institute collects information on the cost of long-term care and updates the information annually for the nation, states, and large metropolitan areas. In 2011, the annual average cost of long-term care nationally looks like this...

Nursing home, private room: $87,235
Nursing home, semi-private room: $78,110
Assisted living community: $41,724
Home care, home health aide: $21,840
Home care, homemaker: $19,760
Adult day services: $18,200

Source: MetLife Mature Market Institute, 2011 Market Survey of Long-Term Care Costs

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Trick or Treat?

Rank of Halloween among Americans' favorite holidays: 3.

Source: Harris Interactive

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Percent of Americans who participated in the 10 most popular leisure activities in the past 12 months...

Dining out: 49%
Entertaining at home: 38%
Reading books: 38%
Barbecuing: 35%
Going to the beach: 26%
Baking: 25%
Cooking for fun: 22%
Playing cards: 20%
Going to bars/nightclubs: 19%
Playing board games: 17%

Source: Census Bureau, (the now discontinued) Statistical Abstract, 2010 data from GfK MediaMark Research

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Great Restructuring

In 2010, the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond published a report entitled, "The Rise in Long-Term Unemployment: Potential Causes and Implications." Nowhere in the report did the words computer, hardware, software, or technology appear, say Eric Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee in their new ebook, The Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy.

The authors, MIT researchers, find this omission shocking because they argue that computers, hardware, software, and technology are the explanation for our current economic woes. The pace of technological change, they say, is "so rapid and so surprising that many present-day organizations, institutions, policies, and mindsets are not keeping up."

This book is a must read for anyone attempting to decipher socioeconomic trends. "We wrote this book because we believe that digital technologies are one of the most important driving forces in the economy today...The root of our problems is not that we're in a Great Recession, or a Great Stagnation, but rather that we are in the early throes of a Great Restructuring."