Monday, February 28, 2011

Is Art in Decline?

The popularity of Glee and Dancing with the Stars has the folks over at the National Endowment for the Arts scratching their heads. Their five surveys of arts participation, taken over the past 30-some years, show a decline in arts participation. The surveys ask a representative sample of Americans whether they have attended any of the following events in the past year: a jazz or classical music concert, an opera, a musical, a play, a ballet, another dance performance, or an art museum. The latest survey, taken in 2008, found declines in attendance at every type of venue. The percentage who attended a classical music concert, for example, fell from 13 percent in the 1980s to 9 percent in 2008.

Rather than tsk-tsking over the failure of Americans to engage with the arts, the NEA concludes in a new report (Age and Arts Participation: A Case against Demographic Destiny) that times may be "a changing." Bravely, it even suggests that perhaps its own measures of arts participation are too narrow. As evidence, the NEA references the findings of another arts survey (see Philadelphia Cultural Engagement Index), one that defines arts participation much more broadly. The Philadelphia Cultural Engagement Index, fielded in 2009, found much higher participation in a variety of what may be viewed as "nontraditional" art experiences. According to the Philadelphia study, 81 percent of respondents listen to music on the radio at least weekly, 39 percent sing at least weekly, 28 percent watch television shows about dance at least weekly, 11 percent write in a journal or blog at least weekly, 50 percent read books for pleasure at least weekly, 38 percent watch programs about science or history on TV at least weekly, and 19 percent dance socially at night clubs or parties at least monthly.

These differing findings reveal an important truth about survey research: the answers you get are always determined by the questions you ask.

Things that Cost Less

These are some of the items that cost less in 2009 than they did almost three decades ago in 1982-84: living room, kitchen, and dining room furniture; appliances; clocks, lamps, and other household decorative items; children's clothes; and landline and wireless telephone services.

Source: Bureau of the Census, 2011 Statistical Abstract

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Black and White

Mississippi is the most politically conservative state in the nation, according to a Gallup survey. It is also the state in which blacks account for the largest share of the population. Just over half (50.5%) of adults in Mississippi identify themselves as political conservatives. More than one-third (37.1%) of Mississippi's population is black.

Is Mississippi's number one rank in both measures a coincidence, or is it a consequence of the growing political polarization of whites and blacks? Alabama, Louisiana, and South Carolina also rank among the top ten in both measures.


Percentage of adults in the United States who are underweight: 1.6%.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Heath E-Stats

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Table FG10

For those tracking the "doubling up" trend during the Great Recession, the Census Bureau has a table for you. First introduced in 2008, table FG10 shows the number of households that include adult children or other relatives of the householder. Between 2008 and 2010, these extended-family households grew by more than 800,000 to 9.8 million--or about 8 percent of all households and 12 percent of all families.

The number of householders whose adult children live with them grew 11 percent between 2008 and 2010 (to 5.3 million). The number with a parent in their home expanded by a larger 13 percent (to 2.3 million). By race and Hispanic origin, blacks are most likely to have adult children in their home, and Asians are most likely to have a parent living with them.

Source: Bureau of the Census, America's Families and Living Arrangements, table FG10

Kids These Days

Percentage of children who live with their married, biological, mother and father: 59.

Friday, February 25, 2011

An Average Day: Groceries

Fourteen percent of Americans shop for groceries on an average day.

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Minus 805,000

The number of homeowners in the United States fell from a peak of 75.6 million in 2006 to 74.8 million in 2010, a decline of 805,000 (1 percent).

Source: Bureau of the Census, Housing Vacancy Survey

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Homeownership by Household Type

Homeownership rates by household type in 2010 and when the homeownership rate peaked (in 2004):

2010 2004
Total 66.9 69.0 -2.1
Married couple 82.1 84.0 -1.9
Female family 48.6 50.9 -2.3
Male family 56.9 59.6 -2.7
Women alone 58.6 59.9 -1.3
Men alone 51.3 50.5 0.8

Source: Bureau of the Census, Housing Vacancy Survey

Homeownership by Race

Here are the homeownership rates by race and Hispanic origin in 2010 and in the year when homeownership peaked (2004):

2010 2004
Total 66.9 69.0 -2.1
American Indian 52.3 55.6 -3.3
Asian 58.9 59.8 -0.9
Black 45.4 49.1 -3.7
Hispanic 47.5 48.1 -0.6
Non-Hisp white 74.4 76.0 -1.6

Source: Bureau of the Census, Housing Vacancy Survey

2010 Homeownership Data

This morning the Census Bureau released the 2010 annual homeownership statistics. Here's a look at homeownership rates by age in 2010 and in the year when the overall homeownership rate peaked (2004):

2010 2004
Total 66.9 69.0 -2.1
under 2539.1 43.1 -4.0
35 to 44 65.0 69.2 -4.2
45 to 54 73.5 77.2 -3.7
55 to 64 79.0 81.7 -2.7
65+ 80.5 81.1 -0.6

Source: Bureau of the Census, Housing Vacancy Survey

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Detroit's Decline

The median value of owner-occupied homes in the Detroit metropolitan area was just $120,000 in 2009, down from $159,993 in 2003.

One in five homeowners in Detroit is underwater on their mortgage, meaning they owe more than their home is worth. In 2003, only 1 in 63 homeowners was underwater.

Source: American Housing Survey, Metropolitan Data

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

No Heat

Of the nation's 114 million households, 1 million do not use heating fuel of any kind. Seventy-two percent are in three states: California (34 percent), Hawaii (27 percent), and Florida (10 percent).

Monday, February 21, 2011

An Average Day: College Students

On an average weekday, college students spend 3.6 hours in class or studying and 3.5 hours socializing and playing sports.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Spotlight on Statistics

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bet You Didn't Know

Rank of Alzheimer's disease as a cause of death in the United States: 6.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

How Do You Define Reading?

The American Time Use Survey, which is taken annually by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, asks Americans what they did minute by minute during the previous 24 hours. Their activities are classified into categories such as "reading for personal interest" and "computer use for leisure." Here's the question: How does the Time Use Survey classify reading a book on an iPad? Is it computer use or reading?

Not a problem, according to the time use experts at the BLS. Computers, they say, are tools for accomplishing other tasks. When respondents report using a computer, the interviewer then asks what they were doing on the computer. If they were reading a newspaper or book on their iPad, the activity is classified as reading, not computer use. Similarly, if they were using their computer to manage their money, the activity is classified as financial management rather than computer use. In fact, the category "computer use for leisure" is nothing more than a residual--what little remains after assigning all possible computer use to other activities.

This is good news because it means the time use survey category "reading for personal interest" is positioned to capture any changes in time spent reading due to e-readers. An increase in reading might be on the way, according to an analysis posted by Read It Later, an app that allows users to save articles on their computers and phones for later reading. The company's data show a spike in iPad reading between 8 and 10 pm--typically television time. Could e-reading compete with television as a prime-time activity? Maybe, but it is not happening yet. Between 2005 and 2009, the average person spent a lot more time watching TV and slightly less time reading. There is one exception, however. Teenagers aged 15 to 19 spent a bit more time reading and a bit less time watching TV. Is this a blip or a sign of things to come?

Friday, February 18, 2011

One Pill Makes You Larger

Yesterday the National Center for Health Statistics released the 2010 edition of Health, United States. This annual report is mostly a compilation of survey results available elsewhere on the NCHS web site, but its 148 trend tables offer an historical perspective that can be insightful. In table 138, for example, you can see at a glance that the percentage of 25-to-34-year-olds without health insurance climbed from 16 percent in 1984 to 28 percent in 2009--the biggest increase among age groups.

Table 94, Prescription Drug Use in the Past Month, is my favorite. This table shows that 48 percent of Americans took at least one prescription drug in the past month, up from 38 percent roughly two decades ago. Twenty-one percent took three or more prescription drugs in the past month, up from 12 percent. Among people aged 65 or older, 65 percent have taken three or more prescription drugs in the past month, up from 35 percent in the earlier time period.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

We Love the Dawgs

Among items on which the average household spends the most, rank of...

Veterinary services: 51
Physician's services: 54

Source: Best Customers, 7th edition

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Score One for the Great Recession

How do you measure bad times? Specifically, how does the Great Recession compare with the Great Depression? Economists typically use GDP as the measuring stick. During the Great Depression, GDP fell by a stunning 27 percent. During the Great Recession, GDP fell only 4 percent. Using the GDP measure, then, the Great Recession was only 15 percent as severe as the Great Depression (4/27 x 100 = 15).

Something is missing from the GDP comparison, however: a human face. GDP and other macro-level economic statistics fail to capture the human experience of hard times. We need something that measures the personal dimension of economic downturns. One way to measure the personal is with the yardstick of demographic change. We can use demographic statistics--unemployment, homeownership, living arrangements, births, marriages, migration, and even death--to compare the Great Recession with the Great Depression. And we will keep score.

When comparing the Great Recession with the Great Depression, the unemployment rate is the Holy Grail. Unfortunately, it is not possible to directly compare the unemployment rates of the two time periods. Today, the federal government surveys an enormous sample of the population every month to determine unemployment. Not so during the Great Depression. Historians have made educated guesses about unemployment during the 1930s by subtracting estimates of the employed from estimates of the civilian labor force. The remainder is the unemployed. According to these calculations, unemployment during the Great Depression peaked at 25.2 percent in 1933.

The official unemployment rate during the Great Recession peaked at a much lower 10.1 percent in October 2009. Some say this figure does not tell the whole story because it counts as unemployed only those who have been looking for work recently. Even using the most expansive definition of unemployment, however, the rate peaked at 18.0 percent in January 2010 and now stands at 16.1 percent (See U-6 in table A-15 of the Employment Situation report).

We will keep score using this formula: Great Recession statistic/Great Depression statistic times 100. Using the official unemployment figure from the Great Recession, the formula is: (10.1/25.2) x 100 = 40. Using the larger Great Recession unemployment figure, the formula is (18.0/25.2) x 100 = 71. The average of 40 and 71 is 56. Score = 56.

During the Great Depression, the homeownership rate fell from 47.8 percent in 1930 to 43.6 percent in 1940--a 4.2 percentage point decline. So far during the Great Recession, the homeownership rate has fallen from the 69.0 percent peak in 2004 to 66.9 percent in 2010--a 2.1 percentage point decline. Score: (2.1/4.2) x 100 = 50.

Living arrangements
Despite the economic hardships of the Great Depression, household size continued its long-term historical decline, falling from 4.1 to 3.8 persons per household between 1930 and 1940 as people moved from farms to cities. During the Great Recession, average household size crept up slightly (and not at all after rounding), rising from 2.56 in 2007 to 2.59 in 2010. Because of ongoing urbanization during the 1930s, this indicator is not comparable between the two time periods.

During the Great Depression, the number of people legally immigrating to the United States plummeted by 91.8 percent in just a few years, falling from 279,678 in 1929 to just 23,068 in 1933. So far during the Great Recession, the number of people legally immigrating to the United States fell from a decade high of 1,266,129 in 2006 to 1,130,818 in 2009--a 10.7 percent decline. Score: (10.7/91.8) x 100 = 12.

During the Great Depression, the number of births fell from 2,582,000 in 1929 to a low of 2,307,000 in 1933--a 10.7 percent decline. So far during the Great Recession, the number of births has fallen from a peak of 4,316,233 in 2007 to an estimated 4,055,000 in 2010--a 6.4 percent decline. Score: (6.4/10.7) x 100 = 60.

During the Great Depression, the number of marriages fell from 1,233,000 in 1929 to a low of 982,000 in 1932--a 20.4 percent decline. So far during the Great Recession, the number of marriages fell from 2,205,000 in 2007 to 2,077,000 in 2009--a 5.8 percent decline. Score: (5.8/20.4) x 100 = 28.

Life expectancy
During the Great Depression, life expectancy climbed to 63.3 years in 1933, then fell to 58.5 years by 1936--a decline of 4.8 years. So far during the Great Recession, life expectancy has fallen a miniscule 0.1 years--from 77.9 in 2007 to 77.8 in 2008 (the latest data available). Score: (0.1/4.8) x 100 = 2.

The Score
Average the six scores, and the result is 35. In other words, the Great Recession has been about one-third as severe as the Great Depression and more than twice as bad as the GDP comparison suggests.

Of course, the demographic impact of the Great Recession is still unfolding. Homeownership rates, births, marriages, immigration--even life expectancy--could decline further as households adjust to reduced circumstances. Any continuing declines will drive the score higher, but probably not by much. There is reason to believe we are through the worst of the Great Recession. As financial analyst and blogger Barry Ritholtz notes, most of the economy is people getting up in the morning and sending their kids off to school. As long as we are still doing that, we will muddle through.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bet You Didn't Know

Market share controlled by householders aged 55 or older...

Newspaper and magazine subscriptions: 61%
Newspapers and magazines, single copy: 39%

Source: Household Spending, 15th edition

Monday, February 14, 2011

Big Increase in Part-Timers

Twenty-six percent of employed Americans have part-time jobs, up from 18 percent in 2008. The number of part-time workers expanded by nearly 10 million during the past two years.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Unemployed One or More Years

Percentage of unemployed full-time workers who have been out of work for one or more years...

2010: 31%
2009: 17%
2008: 11%

2010 Labor Force Participation

Over the weekend, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released 2010 labor force statistics. The numbers reveal plummeting labor force participation rates in most age groups. The biggest decline was among teenagers aged 16 to 19. Their labor force participation rate fell from 52 percent in 2000 to just 35 percent in 2010.

Among men aged 16 or older, labor force participation fell 3.6 percentage points between 2000 and 2010, to 71.2 percent--the lowest level on record. (Remember, labor force participation rates include the employed AND the unemployed.)

Among women aged 16 or older, labor force participation fell 1.3 percentage points to 58.6 percent.

Labor force participation increased only among people aged 55 or older. The biggest gain was among men and women aged 65 or older, a 4.4 percentage point rise in participation to 22.1 percent among men and 13.8 percent among women.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

How Many Dogs?

Number of pets in the United States...

Dogs: 72 million (in 37% of households)
Cats: 82 million (in 32% of households)
Birds: 11 million (in 4% of households)
Horses: 7 million (in 2% of households)

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Mystery of the Missing Data

This week the Census Bureau released 2009 data on school enrollment. Once again I have to lament the loss of Table 14, which the bureau "eliminated" (yes, that's how the Census Bureau describes it) from its school enrollment tables beginning in 2006.

Table 14 gave us this: "Enrollment Status of Dependent Primary Family Members 18 to 24 Years Old by Family Income." This table revealed the yawning gap in college enrollment by family income. The last time the bureau published the table, with data for 2005, the numbers showed that 80 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds from families with incomes of $100,000 or more were enrolled in college. Among those from families with incomes below $50,000, the figure was just 33 percent. We no longer can get this information from the Census Bureau. Why?

Source: Bureau of the Census, School Enrollment

Gender Gap: Video Games

Percentage of college freshmen who played video/computer games during an average week while seniors in high school...

Men: 82%
Women: 37%

Source: HERI, The American Freshman--National Norms Fall 2010

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bet You Didn't Know

Percentage of 23-year-olds who have a bachelor's degree...

Men: 14%
Women: 23%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, America's Young Adults at 23

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Does Butter Cost Too Much?

OK, so some food prices are rising. (Have you checked the price of butter lately?) Still, we have nothing to complain about. In the early 1900s, feeding the family required 43 percent of every dollar spent by the average household. Today the figure is just 13 percent, close to the record low of 12 percent reached in 2007--and it includes restaurant spending. If we devoted the same share of our expenditures to food as families did in 1901, then the average household would be spending $21,000 a year on food instead of $6,400.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 100 Years of U.S. Consumer Spending

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Losing Counties

So far the Census Bureau has released 2010 census redistricting data for four states: Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia. This week data for Arkansas, Iowa, Indiana, Maryland, and Vermont will be released. All 50 states will be available by April 1. At this link, the Census Bureau provides a neat interactive graphic by state that allows you to see county-level 2010 population counts and bar charts depicting population change by county since 1960.

It is interesting to note how many counties are losing population. Typically, the losers are rural pockets with poor to nonexistent Internet and cell phone service, a fatal condition in the modern economy.

Monday, February 07, 2011

College Enrollment Decline

This morning the Census Bureau released 2009 school enrollment statistics, and the numbers confirm that full-time undergraduate enrollment at private colleges and universities is still below the peak of 2005.

Although overall college enrollment is at an all-time high of nearly 20 million, the number of undergraduates enrolled full-time in four-year private schools is 9 percent below peak. Because the private numbers include some of the rapidly expanding for-profits (excluded are those with online courses only), traditional non-profit private colleges may be hurting more than these numbers suggest.

Meanwhile, the number of undergraduates enrolled full-time in four-year public colleges and universities grew 14 percent between 2005 and 2009. The number enrolled full-time in two-year public colleges expanded by 38 percent.

Source: Census Bureau, School Enrollment--Social and Economic Characteristics of Students: October 2009

True Love

Percentage of men aged 30 or older who have married only once and are still married: 53%

Saturday, February 05, 2011

What, Me Worry?

Percentage of freshmen at four-year colleges who are not sure they will have enough funds to complete college...

2010: 11.1%
1970: 11.2%

Source: HERI, The American Freshman--National Norms Fall 2010, and The American Freshman: Forty Year Trends

Friday, February 04, 2011

How Many Workers are Illegal?

Unauthorized immigrants accounted for 5.2 percent of the labor force in 2010, according to a new report from the Pew Hispanic Center.

Explaining the Jobs Report

What explains the strange employment report released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics? Employers added only 36,000 jobs in January, yet the unemployment rate fell from 9.4. to 9.0 percent. Could this be the reason: the baby-boom generation is grabbing hold of the lifeline of early Social Security benefits (available at age 62) and leaving the labor force behind.

Most older boomers (aged 55 or older) do not plan to retire until age 66 or older, according to the Retirement Confidence Survey. Only 19 percent say they will retire before age 65. But unemployed boomers may be changing their minds as they cope with an unyielding labor market. The fact is, many workers end up retiring before they planned--a substantial 41 percent, according to the RCI.

There are some indications that this is happening. The labor force participation rate (which includes both the employed and the unemployed) fell to 64.2 percent in January 2011, the lowest level since 1983. Even more telling, between 2009 and 2010, the number of people aged 55 or older in the labor force fell by 1 million despite the fact that the age group is still expanding with boomers.

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Thursday, February 03, 2011


Frustration with the 2010 Current Population Survey's America's Families and Living Arrangements tables...

Apparently, the Census Bureau thinks it is of the utmost importance to provide race and Hispanic origin detail for the few children who live with their grandparents, but does not think it important to provide race and Hispanic origin detail on homeownership by household type.

Still Want to Own

Even in the grip of the biggest housing crisis since the Great Depression, Americans remain optimistic about homeownership. Sixty-seven percent still believe housing is a safe investment, according to the latest Fannie Mae National Housing Survey fielded last summer. Eighty-four percent believe owning a home makes more sense than renting.

Of course, most Americans--and most survey respondents--own their home. Naturally, homeowners will think they made the right choice. So how do renters feel about homeownership? According to the survey results, they are less positive than the average person but still upbeat. Fifty-four percent of renters think buying a home is a safe investment. Sixty-nine percent think owning a home makes more sense than renting. Fifty-nine percent of renters think it is a good time to buy a home. But only 38 percent say they are likely to buy a home in the next three years.

Source: Fannie Mae National Housing Survey, June-July 2010

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The Thing about Jobs

51 million. That's how many job openings the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects for the 2008-18 decade. Two-thirds of those jobs will result from what the BLS calls "replacement needs" (retirement) rather than economic growth. Of the 51 million projected job openings, 34 million will come from replacement and only 15 million from economic growth.

The retirement decisions of aging baby boomers will determine the job prospects of the nation's younger adults.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Out of Date

For the past few months the Census Bureau has been releasing "new" data about women-owned businesses, Hispanic-owned businesses, and next week we will find out about black-owned businesses. Unfortunately these data are from the 2007 Survey of Business Owners. The data may provide some insight into the way things were just before the country plunged into the Great Recession, but they shed little light on how things are now.