Monday, January 31, 2011

Update on a Mystery

The homeownership rate of the youngest householders, under age 25, remained elevated in the fourth quarter of 2010, according to statistics released by the Census Bureau this morning. In fact, the homeownership rate of the age group actually increased slightly--rising from 22.3 percent in the third quarter to 22.9 percent in the fourth quarter. The stability in the homeownership rate of the youngest adults has yet to be explained.

Meanwhile, the homeownership rate of householders aged 35 to 39 plummeted to 60.5 percent in the fourth quarter--close to the record low for the age group and down more than 6 percentage points since their homeownership rate peaked at 66.6 percent in 2005. Among age groups, householders aged 35 to 39 have seen their homeownership rate decline the most since the collapse of the housing bubble. Is this because they are losing their homes to foreclosure or because younger people aging into the 35-to-39 group are unable or unwilling to buy homes?

Source: Census Bureau, Housing Vacancies and Homeownership, Fourth Quarter 2010

Friday, January 28, 2011

Few Egyptians in U.S.

Only 197,160 U.S. residents identify their ancestry as Egyptian, or fewer than 1 percent of the population according to the 2009 American Community Survey. Among the 1.7 million people in the United States who claim Arab ancestry, the largest number (504,499) identify themselves as Lebanese.

Overall, German is the largest ancestry group in the United States (51 million), followed by Irish (37 million).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Deeper in Debt

Percentage of homeowners aged 65 or older with a mortgage...

2009: 27
1999: 18
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Bet You Didn't Know

Percentage of households that include adult children or other relatives, by race and Hispanic origin...

Total households: 21
Black households: 29
Hispanic households: 34

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Retiring Too Soon

Among retirees, percentage who say they had to retire sooner than they planned: 41%

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An Average Day: Thinking

On an average day, Americans spend 15 minutes "relaxing and thinking" as a primary activity (meaning it is their main activity at the time), according to the American Time Use Survey.

What is "relaxing and thinking"? According to the Time Use Survey lexicon, it includes sitting around doing nothing (alone), soaking in a hot tub (alone), daydreaming, crying, grieving, sunbathing, watching your wife cook dinner or your husband fix the lawnmower, and fantasizing, reflecting, and wondering.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Mystery of the Young Homeowner

Twenty-two percent of young adults (under age 25) were homeowners as of the third quarter of 2010, a percentage far higher than the norm for the past quarter century. What is keeping the homeownership rate of young adults afloat in the midst of the housing collapse?

For most of the 1980s and 1990s, the homeownership rate of young adults was well below 20 percent, bottoming out at 14.8 percent in 1993. Then the rate began to climb, peaking at 25.7 percent in 2005. It is easy to figure out why the rate ballooned--parents were using their own inflated home equity to help their children buy homes in the expectation that their children could cash in on rising housing prices.

Since 2005, the homeownership rate of householders under age 25 has fallen, but not as much as you would expect. Think about it. Most homeowners under age 25 in 2010 had to have bought their home since 2005. With home equity greatly diminished, credit tight, unemployment sky high, and many young adults moving back home with their parents, what continues to elevate the homeownership rate of young adults?

Tearing my Hair Out

Using the American Community Survey to track trends is like trying to blaze a trail through a jungle of pick-up sticks.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Clinging to their Jobs

The percentage of employed men aged 65 or older who have been with their current employer for 10 or more years climbed from 49 to 52 percent between 2000 and 2010.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employee Tenure
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How Many Can't Shop at Walmart?

How many Americans can't shop at Walmart because they are incapable of walking the distance from the parking lot, through the store, and back to their car? The lengthy "walk to shop" demanded by most big-box stores and shopping malls is not possible for 16 million Americans, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

The oldest Americans have the biggest problem. Twenty-eight percent of people aged 75 or older cannot walk a quarter mile. Among 65-to-74-year-olds, the figure is 13 percent. With the baby-boom generation now entering the 65+ age group, the number of Americans who cannot walk to shop will rise.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Married Couples Below 50 Percent

The number of households headed by married couples fell 1 percent between 2009 and 2010, according to the Current Population Survey. Married couples now account for less than half (49.7 percent) of all households in the United States, down from 78 percent in 1950.

Source: Census Bureau, Historical Time Series Table HH-1
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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Why the Stability in Household Spending?

Between 2006 (the year household spending peaked) and 2009 (the latest available data), average household spending fell 5 percent, after adjusting for inflation--from $51,504 to $49,067. This is a relatively modest decline considering the severity of the Great Recession. Why has household spending been so stable?

1. Some households are spending more. Householders aged 65 or older boosted their spending between 2006 and 2009--up 0.7 percent after adjusting for inflation, according to my analysis of Consumer Expenditure Survey data. Every other age group cut back, with householders under age 45 cutting back the most.

2. Most workers have jobs. The unemployment rate stood at 9.4 percent in December 2010, an unacceptably high level. Nevertheless, 90 percent of workers had a job in December. An NBER survey found that 19 percent of workers had experienced unemployment between November 2008 and October 2009, a painfully high number. Nevertheless, 81 percent of workers had a job during the darkest days of the Great Recession. This fact has stabilized household spending.

3. The unemployed are minding the gap. When household income declines, many families attempt to bridge the (hopefully temporary) gap by draining their savings or borrowing. The same NBER survey found that, among those who became unemployed, average household spending fell by a modest 3.5 percent. One-third of the unemployed had taken money out of savings, and 27 percent had received financial help from friends and family. A Pew Research poll confirms that many of the unemployed are receiving a helping hand. Forty-nine percent of Pew respondents reported loaning money to someone during the recession.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Who Wants Gun Control?

Here's the million dollar question: Do you think it is more important to protect the rights of Americans to own guns or to control gun ownership?

When Pew Research Center asked Americans to answer that question, here is what they found: 50 percent of the public believes gun control is most important, and 46 percent believe gun rights are most important.

Gun control is most important to the majority of 18-to-29-year-olds, women, blacks, Hispanics, college graduates, and people who are not registered to vote. Among registered voters, gun rights are more important than gun control, 51 to 45 percent.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

An Average Day: Work

On an average day, men are working less. The amount of time men aged 15 or older spent working fell 5 percent between 2005 and 2009, according to the American Time Use Survey. Men aged 45 to 54--the backbone of the American economy--spent 12 percent less time working in 2009 than in 2005. Behind the decline is unemployment.

Interestingly, men aged 65 to 74 spent 31 percent more time working in 2009 than in 2005. Behind the increase: men returning to or remaining in the labor force to make up for lost retirement savings.

Source: Unpublished tables from the American Time Use Survey, 2009 and 2005

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

It's the Internet Stupid, Part II

They keep trying to paste a smiley face on the numbers. "They" are the pundits, politicians, realtors, retailers, bankers, and everyone else whose livelihood depends on pretending that the Great Recession is just like all the others since World War II--a blip, a momentary pause, a temporary departure from the norm.

SMILEY FACE: New home sales were up 5.5 percent in November! REALITY: New home sales were 21 percent below their November 2009 level.

SMILEY FACE: The unemployment rate fell in December! REALITY: The job increase was well below expectations.

SMILEY FACE: Retail sales climbed 0.6 percent in December! REALITY: The biggest gains were in energy and food, and department store sales fell.

This is not a run of the mill recession, a blip, or temporary. This is a massive economic dislocation caused by the Internet. It is not over, it may get worse before it gets better, and it is not likely to get better for a generation. These numbers tell the story.

More than 1 million homes were foreclosed in 2010, a record. ( The story begins with business. It is the nature of private enterprise to seek out and exploit every advantage in the marketplace. That is what business is supposed to do, and that is what it is doing. Those who were first to understand the Internet have used it to their advantage by globalizing their business, finding cheaper sources of labor and materials, and setting up systems that profit from instantaneous communication. Because of the Internet, the average stock is owned for only 22 seconds, according to economists. The speed of transactions creates an opportunity for entrepreneurs, but also opens the door to Internet savvy con men and crooks who can buy low and sell high in ways that our regulatory system has yet to comprehend. The Internet, and its crooks and con men, brought us the housing bubble and the foreclosure mess.

4.5 million Americans have been unemployed for a year or longer, a record. (Bureau of Labor Statistics) Never before have so many American workers been unemployed for so long. Labor markets are in turmoil because the Internet has eliminated time and distance as barriers to business. Those with digital skills are making a living. But most of us--our livelihoods dependent on pre-Internet business models--are only muddling through. A large segment of workers faces economic catastrophe. With unemployment above 9 percent and no sign that it will fall much for years, this is a structural realignment. Companies with pre-Internet profit models are either collapsing entirely or ridding themselves of workers who are not Internet savvy--usually the older workers. Among the unemployed, those aged 55 or older are having the hardest time finding a job. Forty-one percent have been unemployed for a year or longer.

Median household net worth fell 30 percent between 2007 and 2009. (Federal Reserve Board) Now on to the politicians, most of whom are standing idly by as the Internet's crooks and con men destroy the middle class. This is not a right versus left thing. This is not a Republican Party versus Democratic Party thing. This is an old versus young thing. The 111th Congress was one of the oldest in U.S. history. The 112th Congress is not much younger. The median age of the current House of Representatives is 57. The median age of the Senate is an even older 61. Few of our elected representatives are fluent in digital. The problem is not that many of our politicians must depend on their younger staff to help them turn on a computer, use a keyboard, surf the web, text, or twitter. The problem is that they cannot comprehend how the Internet is transforming our world. They are intellectually incapable of crafting policies that will help us cope with our new problems or take advantage of our new opportunities. It will take a generation of elections before politicians fluent in digital replace the elderly statesmen from the paper and ink era.

Meanwhile, we are sitting ducks.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Television Time Up 15 Minutes

We are watching more TV. Americans aged 15 or older watched television for 2.82 hours a day on average in 2009, according to the American Time Use Survey. This is 15 minutes more than we spent watching television in 2005. Television time has increased in all but one age group: 15-19-year-olds are the only ones who spent less time watching TV in 2009 than in 2005.

Behind the rise in television viewing are bigger screens, more channels, and HD and DVR technology.

Source: American Time Use Survey, 2009 and 2005

Monday, January 17, 2011

Out of Work the Longest

Job seekers in Michigan have been looking for work the longest, according to a state-level analysis of unemployment. In 2009, the unemployed in Michigan had been looking for work a median of 19.7 weeks. South Carolina ranked second (19.6 weeks).

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Slow Recovery

Only 60 percent of the 1.7 million jobs lost in residential construction will be recovered by 2018, according to projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In that year, residential-construction related employment will account for 3.8 percent of the labor force--above the 3.0 level of 2008, but well below the 5.1 percent level of 2005.

Source: Monthly Labor Review, The U.S. Housing Bubble and Bust: Impacts on Employment

Monday, January 10, 2011

An Average Day: Shopping

On an average day, 40 percent of Americans aged 15 or older spend time shopping, either going to a store and/or using the Internet or telephone. Women are more likely than men to shop on an average day (44 versus 36 percent).

Friday, January 07, 2011

Big Spenders on Health Care

Health care costs are highly concentrated among those experiencing a health care crisis. Just 1 percent of the U.S. population accounted for 20 percent of health care spending in 2008. Five percent accounted for nearly half of the nation's health care spending.

Source: Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, Statistical Brief 309, The Concentration and Persistence in the Level of Health Expenditures Over Time: Estimates for the U.S. Population, 2007-2008

On an Average Day: Grooming

On an average day, 75 percent of men aged 15 or older spend time grooming as a primary activity (meaning it is their main focus of activity). Among women, the figure is a somewhat higher 82 percent.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

We Knew That

Every three years the Federal Reserve fields the Survey of Consumer Finances, asking American households about their assets, debts, and net worth. The last survey was taken in 2007, just before the economic downturn. Results from the 2010 survey will not be released until 2012.

Presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the Federal Reserve took an unprecedented move and reinterviewed the 2007 SCF households two years later--in 2009--to measure the impact of the Great Recession on household wealth. The results of the 2009 follow-up survey will be released in a few months, but a comment in a methodological paper hints at the findings: "Changes for many people were dramatic over the period between the two surveys."

Source: Federal Reserve Board, Try, Try Again: Response and Nonresponse in the 2009 SCF Panel

An Average Day: Pets

On an average day, 15 percent of Americans aged 15 or older care for animals and pets as a primary activity (meaning it is their main focus of activity). Walking your dog counts. Sitting on the couch with your dog while you watch TV doesn't count. Women are more likely than men to care for pets on an average day (17 versus 12 percent).

Monday, January 03, 2011

An Average Day: Reading

On an average day, 24 percent of Americans aged 15 or older read for personal interest. The readers spend 1.42 hours (1 hour, 25 minutes) reading. Women are more likely than men to read on an average day (27 versus 21 percent).