Saturday, April 30, 2011

Jobs Lost During the Great Recession

The April issue of the Monthly Labor Review, released yesterday, describes job losses during the Great Recession industry by industry. As the overview states, "The downturn in employment accompanying the 2007-09 recession was notable for its prolonged length, for affecting an especially wide range of industries, and for being deeper than any other downturn since World War II."

Change in employment by industry, December 2007 — June 2009
Construction: -1,500,000
Financial activities: -785,000
Health care: +428,000
Leisure & hospitality: -454,000
Manufacturing: -2,000,000
Mining: -44,000
Professional & business services: -1,600,000
Retail trade: -1,000,000

The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that although the recession officially ended in June 2009, another 1.2 million jobs were lost in the following months until employment bottomed out in February 2010. The total number of jobs lost from the pre-recession peak until the February 2010 bottom: 8.8 million.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Fewer Journalists

The number of journalists is shrinking. An annual census of newsroom journalists in the United States, taken by the American Society of News Editors, finds many fewer journalists working at online and traditional newspapers today than a few years ago. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of journalists fell 26 percent--from the all-time high of 56,400 to just 41,600. The good news: between 2009 and 2010, the number of professional journalists grew by 100.

Born in the USA

Percentage of Hispanics who were born in the United States: 63%.

Source: Bureau of the Census, 2009 American Community Survey

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Median Weekly Earnings

Median weekly earnings of full-time workers: $747.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010 Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey, Table 39

Fewer Have Employment-Based Health Insurance

Only 52 percent of workers aged 18 to 64 had employment-based health insurance benefits in their own name in 2009, down from 57 percent in 2000. Here is the percentage of workers who have employment-based health insurance in their own name, by size of firm...

Fewer than 10 employees: 25%
10 to 24 employees: 36%
25 to 99 employees: 59%
100 or more employees: 63%

Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute, The Impact of the 2007-2009 Recession on Worker's Health Coverage

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

First-Time Home Buyer Watch

Homeownership rate of householders aged 30 to 34, first quarter 2011: 50.3%

One way to see what lies ahead for the housing market is to track the percentage of 30-to-34-year-olds who own a home. This is the age group in which the majority of households typically become homeowners. The homeownership rate of the age group is the best indicator of trends in the housing market because these young adults are the nation's first-time home buyers. The annual homeownership rate of the age group has been greater than 50 percent since the Census Bureau first began to collect the information in 1982.

The quarterly homeownership rate of 30-to-34-year-olds has been above 50 percent in all but one quarter for the past 17 years. The last time it slipped below 50 percent was in the second quarter of 1994, when only 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. The quarterly number released today is uncomfortably close to falling below the 50 percent threshold.

Source: Bureau of the Census, Housing Vacancy Survey

Middle Class Is a Feeling

In today's New York Times, an Economix blog post notes that regardless of their actual income level, most Americans think they are middle class. This has long been true because "middle class" is not a statistical point on the income distribution but an attitude, a feeling, a sense of belonging to a fair system that works.

That's why it is alarming to see the latest numbers from the 2010 General Social Survey. When Americans are asked how their family income compares with other families, only 43 percent now feel that their income is average. This is the smallest percentage ever recorded by the General Social Survey and down from a peak of 59 percent in 1973.

Bet You Didn't Know

Percentage of doctor visits in which drugs are prescribed: 77%

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Ambulatory Medical Care Utilization Estimates for 2007

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Median Age of Workers

The oldest and youngest workers (median age)...

Farmers and ranchers: 57.7
Food service counter attendants: 21.5

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, unpublished table, 2010 Current Population Survey

Medicare: Thumbs Up

Percentage of adults who think the quality of the health care they receive rates a 9 or 10 on a scale of 0 (worst) to 10 (best)...

Medicare recipients: 61%
Everyone else:  45%

Source: Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, Medical Expenditure Panel Survey

Monday, April 25, 2011

Why the Nuclear Meltdown?

As noted in the post below, only 22 percent of households in the United States today are headed by married couples with children under age 18. This figure is down from a high of 45 percent in 1957--the peak year of the baby boom. Nuclear families now rank third in importance among household types, behind married couples without children at home (27 percent of households, most of them empty nesters) and people who live alone (also 27 percent).

A whole lot of demographic change has eroded the nuclear family. Once the stalwart of the American marketplace, nuclear families are now outnumbered and outspent by married couples without children at home. This is what happened to them:  

  • Aging population As the large baby-boom generation aged into its fifties and sixties, empty nesters became more numerous than nuclear families.
  • Higher education As more young adults went to college, they postponed marriage. The average age at first marriage has never been higher. 
  • Smaller families As women have fewer children, they are spending fewer years raising them.
  • Out-of-wedlock childbearing More than 40 percent of babies are born out-of-wedlock and--by definition--out of a nuclear family. 
  • Divorce Once rare, divorce is now commonplace, breaking nuclear families into single-parent and single-person households.

Nuclear Meltdown

Percentage of American households headed by...

Nuclear families: 22%
People living alone: 27%

Note: Nuclear families are married couples with children under age 18.
Source: Bureau of the Census

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tick Tock

Today, the population of the United States will increase by 6,171 people.

Source: Census Bureau, U.S. Population Clock

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Who Votes?

Percentage of citizens who voted in the 2008 presidential election, by race and Hispanic origin...

Non-Hispanic whites: 66.1%
Blacks: 64.7%
Hispanics: 49.9%
Asians: 48.0%

Source: Census Bureau, Voting and Registration in the Election of November 2008

Friday, April 22, 2011

Religious or Not

Percentage of Americans who say they are...

Very religious: 17%
Not religious: 18%

Source: General Social Survey

Finances Getting Worse

The percentage of Americans who say their financial situation is getting worse is at a record high, according to an analysis of 2010 results from the General Social Survey. Thirty-seven percent say their financial situation is getting worse, 38 percent say it is stable, and 24 percent (a record low) say their finances are getting better.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

How Much Cash is in Your Pocket?

You have only $34 in your pocket, purse, or wallet right now--if you are typical. That is the median amount of cash carried by the average American, according to a recently published Federal Reserve Bank of Boston paper analyzing results of the 2009 Survey of Consumer Payment Choice (yes, there really is such a thing).

You make 64.5 payments during a typical month (including everything from buying groceries to paying your credit card bill). You make 29 percent of those payments with a debit card, 28 percent with cash, 17 percent with a credit card, 13 percent with a check, and 5 percent with online bill payments. Money orders and bank account number payments account for most of the remainder.

During a year's time, 77 percent of Americans access their bank account by going into a bank, 69 percent use an ATM, 61 percent use online banking, 32 percent use telephone banking, and 9 percent use mobile banking services on their cell phone.

About those Landline Phones

Here is the AP headline in today's newspaper: "Landlines Falling by the Wayside." The story behind the headline describes the results of a new survey by the National Center for Health Statistics, released yesterday, that measured the presence of wireless and landline telephones in households by state. According to the results, 27 percent of households use wireless telephones only. This figure surpasses the 13 percent with landlines only. Thus the headline.

It is always a good idea to turn numbers around in your head and look at them from the opposite direction. If 27 percent of households are wireless only, then 73 percent of households still have a landline phone (minus a percentage point or two to account for households without any telephone whatsoever). Affluent households are most likely to have landlines, since they can afford both types of phones. In New Hampshire, the most affluent state, 83 percent of adults live in households with a landline phone. In Connecticut, the second most affluent state, the figure is an even higher 86 percent (the highest in the nation). In Mississippi and Arkansas, the two poorest states, 63 percent of adults are in homes with landline phones--the lowest in the nation but still a big number. The majority, in fact.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Wireless Substitution: State-level Estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, January 2007-June 2010

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bet You Didn't Know

Average number of years required to complete a bachelor's degree: 5.6.

Source: Bureau of the Census

Medical Visits Top 1 Billion

Americans visited a doctor, hospital outpatient department, or emergency room 1.2 billion times in 2007. That's four visits per person per year. Between 1997 and 2007, the annual number of medical visits grew by 25 percent.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Ambulatory Medical Care Utilization Estimates for 2007

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Who Is the Most Stressed Out?

People aged 45 to 54 are most likely to be feeling stressed out and depressed, according to a government survey. When people aged 18 or older are asked how often during the past 30 days they have been feeling mental distress, fully 12.3 percent of 45-to-54-year-olds say they have felt mentally fragile on at least 14 of the past 30 days. Among all adults, the percentage is 10.6 percent. Least stressed are people aged 65 or older, with 6.6 percent feeling frequent mental distress.

Source: CDC, Health-Related Quality of Life

No More Social Security Statements

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has suspended issuing Social Security Statements--those annual summaries of your earnings history that arrive in the mail and tell you how much you can expect to receive from Social Security in retirement. "In light of the current budget situation, we have suspended issuing Social Security Statements," the SSA reports on its web site. Ironically, the termination of Social Security Statements is occurring simultaneously with the release of a study that shows how effective the statements are in educating the public about their Social Security benefits.

In a study of Social Security Statements, researchers at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College analyzed whether receiving a Social Security Statement boosted knowledge of future benefits. It does. Before Statements were introduced in 1995, workers had to apply online for information about their benefits and wait a month or more for an answer. Those who went through this time consuming process were much more knowledgable about their benefits than those who did not. But only about half of households made the effort before age 62. Enter the Social Security Statement, which provided benefit information to every worker every year without requiring them to contact the SSA. The Center for Retirement Research study found that receiving the Statement boosted the percentage of workers who could estimate their future benefits by up to 20 percentage points.

Alas, the Statement is no more. For those who want to know what their future retirement benefit will be, the Social Security Administration has some advice: "You may be able to estimate your retirement benefit using our online Retirement Estimator." In other words, goodbye and good luck.

Monday, April 18, 2011

1 Million Metros: Asians

These metropolitan areas are home to more than 1 million Asians...

   # Asians
Los Angeles:  1,884,669
New York:  1,878,261
San Francisco:  1,005,823

Source: 2010 census

1 Million Metros: Blacks

These metropolitan areas are home to more than 1 million blacks...

    # blacks
New York:  3,362,616
Atlanta:  1,707,913
Chicago:  1,645,993
Washington, DC:  1,438,436
Philadelphia:  1,241,780
Miami:  1,169,185
Houston:  1,025,775

Source: 2010 census

1 Million Metros: Hispanics

These metropolitan areas are home to more than 1 million Hispanics...

# Hispanics
Los Angeles:  5,700,862
New York:  4,327,560
Miami:  2,312,929
Houston:  2,099,412
Riverside:  1,996,402
Chicago:  1,957,080
Dallas:  1,752,166
Phoenix:  1,235,718
San Antonio:  1,158,148

Source: 2010 census

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Least Diverse Metro

Parkersburg-Marietta-Vienna, West Virginia-Ohio: 96% non-Hispanic white.

Source: 2010 Census

Congress Not Honest, says Public

Percent rating the honesty and ethical standards of Congress as low/very low: 57%.

Source: Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics Online, Table 2.15.2010

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The College Bubble

In a recent article in the Washington Examiner, Glen Reynolds suggests that the higher education market is in a bubble of rising costs, driven by the perception among parents and children that a college education leads to higher earnings. The statistics do show a strong link between having a bachelor's degree and earning more. But does a bachelor's degree cause higher earnings or is there another reason for the association?

Reynolds notes that a college education can help people make more money in three ways: by giving them skills that pay well, by providing them with valuable social networks, and--here's the kicker--by providing "a credential that employers want, not because it represents actual skills but because it's a weeding tool that doesn't produce civil-rights suits as, say, IQ tests might."

Take a look at the job postings of any corporation, government, or university, and you soon discover that those without a bachelor's degree need not apply unless the job is janitor or parking lot attendant. Most employers have erected the barrier of a bachelor's degree as the minimum qualification for any job that pays a middle class wage. It could be that having a bachelor's degree does not cause higher earnings. Instead, the causal relationship flows in the other direction. Higher earnings are caused by the requirement that anyone who wants a well-paying job must have a bachelor's degree. For many jobs, the bachelor's degree barrier has no practical purpose. It is simply a hiring convenience for employers.

How do you untie this knot and free young adults and their parents from the frenzy to get a college degree at any cost? Good question.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Bad Math

Between 1999 and 2009 (after adjusting for inflation)...

Percent change in the cost of one year of college at a four-year school: +34%
Percent change in the median income of families with children: –7%

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, 2010 Digest of Education Statistics, Table 345; and Bureau of the Census, Historical Income Tables—Families, Table F9

White Attitudes

Percentage of whites who say they feel close to blacks, by age...

aged 18 to 29: 54%
aged 65 or older: 35%

Source: 2010 General Social Survey

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Minority Majorities in Large Metros

According to 2010 census results released this morning, among the nation's 51 metropolitan areas with populations of at least 1 million, minorities (primarily Asians, blacks, and Hispanics) are the majority in these 12...

METRO: % minority
Los Angeles 68.4
Miami 65.2
San Jose 64.7
San Antonio 63.9
Riverside 63.4
Houston 60.3
San Francisco 57.6
Memphis 53.8
Las Vegas 52.0
San Diego 51.5
Washington 51.4
New York 51.1

Source: 2010 Census

In Denial

Percentage of homeowners who think the value of their house has increased or stayed the same since the start of the Great Recession: 48%

Source: Pew Research Center, Home Sweet Home. Still. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

More Spending, Please

When presented with a list of problems and asked whether the United States spends too little on them, about the right amount, or too much, the majority of the public says we should spend more on...

Improving the nation's education system: 73.9%
Assistance to the poor: 67.5%
Improving and protecting the nation's health: 60.3%
Improving and protecting the environment: 60.2%
Halting the rising crime rate: 59.5%
Social Security: 57.3%
Dealing with drug addiction: 56.4%
Assistance for child care: 51.7%
Drug rehabilitation: 51.6%

Source: Trends in National Spending Priorities, Tom W. Smith, National Opinion Research Center

Employer-Based Health Insurance Discourages Entrepreneurship

That is the finding of a new study by the Rand Corporation. By examining business ownership among workers with and without a spouse's health insurance coverage and with and without Medicare coverage, researchers at Rand discovered what they call an "entrepreneurship lock." Business starts are suppressed by workers' dependence on employer-based health insurance.

People with access to a spouse's health insurance plan are more likely to become self-employed than those who do not have this health insurance alternative, according to the results of the study. Self-employment also rises when people turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare and no longer need employer-based health insurance. In fact, self-employment rates jump up in the very month people turn 65.

The researchers conclude that "the bundling of health insurance and employment may create an inefficient level of business creation."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Marijuana Use

Number (and percent) of Americans aged 12 or older who have used marijuana in...

Lifetime: 104 million (42%)
Past year: 29 million (11%)
Past month: 17 million (7%)

Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health

Young Homeowners by Region

The 30-to-34 age group is important for the housing market. This is the age group in which the homeownership rate typically rises above the 50 percent threshold, making homeownership the norm. A look at the homeownership rate of households headed by 30-to-34-year-olds by region shows that rates have already fallen below this threshold in two regions. More declines could be in store if growing numbers of young adults find homeownership unaffordable (because of unemployment, students loans, and tougher mortgage requirements) or undesirable (fear of losing their job, fear of being tied down).

Percent of householders aged 30 to 34 who own their home by region in 2004 (the year the overall homeownership rate peaked nationally) and 2010...

2010 2004
U.S. total 51.6 57.4
Northeast 49.7 51.9
Midwest 58.2 65.0
South 53.1 58.8
West 44.6 52.1

Source: Bureau of the Census, Housing Vacancies and Homeownership

Monday, April 11, 2011

Don't Expect Your Income to be Stable

A Census Bureau study of household income levels from 2004 through 2007 found that change--big change--is practically the norm. In a longitudinal analysis, the Census Bureau found 50 percent of households experiencing an income gain or loss of at least 25 percent between 2004 and 2007. Twenty-seven percent of households saw their income rise by at least 25 percent, and 22 percent of households saw their incomes fall by at least 25 percent. Note that the study years preceded the Great Recession.

Source: Bureau of the Census, Dynamics of Economic Well-Being: Fluctuations in the U.S. Income Distribution, 2004-2007

Back to the Witch Doctor

Percentage of households whose members have done the following in the past 12 months because of cost...

Skipped dental care or checkups: 33%
Relied on home remedies instead of going to the doctor: 32%
Put off or postponed getting needed health care: 28%
Not filled a prescription for a medicine: 21%
Skipped a recommended medical test or treatment: 21%
Cut pills in half or skipped doses: 15%

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, Health Security Watch: April 2011

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Who Needs Medicare?

A history lesson: Before Medicare came to the rescue in 1965, the poverty rate of Americans aged 65 or older was as high as 35.2 percent. Today, the poverty rate of the elderly is just 8.9 percent thanks to Medicare.

Before Medicare, few older Americans had health insurance because it was unaffordable. When they inevitably became ill, they spent down their savings to pay their medical bills, driving many into poverty--and that was before health care costs went through the roof. Research shows that net worth falls among adults whose parents do not have health insurance. Why is that? Because those children are not going to stand idly by while their parents get sick and die without medical care. So they spend down their savings to save mom and dad. And so on, and so on.

Who needs Medicare? Asked and answered.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Who Supports Gay Marriage?

Americans are much more supportive of gay marriage today than they used to be. There are two reasons for this. One, some people are changing their minds about the issue. Two, a generation gap has emerged in attitudes toward gay marriage, with younger, more accepting generations replacing older generations that frown on same-sex relationships.  

In 2010, 46 percent of the public agreed that gays and lesbians should have the right to marry, according to the General Social Survey. In 1988, the first time the GSS asked this question, only 12 percent of the public supported gay marriage.

In 1988, there was little support for gay marriage in any cohort. Among boomers (then aged 24 to 42), only 14 percent agreed that gay/lesbian marriage should be legal. Among young adults (18 to 29), the figure was an almost identical 13 percent, which is not surprising since boomers accounted for most young adults at the time. Among people aged 65 or older in 1988, only 9 percent agreed that gays and lesbians should have the right to marry.

In 2010, the landscape is different. Boomers and older Americans have become more accepting of gay marriage over the years, but the majority is still opposed. Among boomers (aged 46 to 64), 41 percent now support gay marriage. Among people aged 65 or older, 34 percent are now in support. These numbers are significantly higher than they were in 1988, but they still represent a minority view. In contrast, among 18-to-29-year-olds in 2010, fully 65 percent think gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry.

In 1988, there was a tiny 4 percentage point difference in the proportion of young and old adults who thought gay marriage should be legal (13 and 9 percent, respectively). In 2010, the gap is an enormous 31 percentage points (65 and 34 percent, respectively).

As young adults age and replace older generations, gay marriage will become legal and will no longer be controversial. But because older Americans are much more likely to vote than younger adults, gay marriage will be an issue in the voting booth for years to come.

Friday, April 08, 2011

College Enrollment Rates

As of October, 68.1 percent of students who graduated from high school in 2010 were enrolled in college, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This figure was down from the record high of 70.1 percent in October 2009.

Women are far more likely than men to enroll in college. Among 2010 high school graduates, 74.0 percent of women and 62.8 percent of men were enrolled in college in October 2010.

The percentage also varied greatly by race and Hispanic origin. Asian high school graduates were most likely to be in college (84.0 percent), followed by whites (68.6 percent), and blacks (61.4 percent). Hispanic high school graduates were least likely to be enrolled in college (59.6 percent).

Teens Not at Work

Labor force participation rate of teenagers aged 16 to 19...

2000: 52%
2010: 35%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Legal Immigrants Top 1 Million, Again

The number of people obtaining legal permanent resident status in the United States (i.e., legal immigrants) exceeded 1 million in 2010, according to the newly released update of the Yearbook of Immigration Statistics. The annual number of legal immigrants has surpassed 1 million each year since 2005.

The Average Man

The average man with a full-time job earned a median of $49,164 in 2009, according to the Current Population Survey—$321 less than he earned in 1973, after adjusting for inflation.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

What are They Thinking?

Another miss for the media, according to the latest weekly survey by the Pew Research Center.

During the past week, the American public continued to be most interested in news about the Japanese disaster (50 percent said they were following this story most closely), but only 12 percent of news stories were about Japan.

The economy ranked a distant second in the public's news interest (14 percent were following stories about the economy most closely), and 10 percent of news stories were about the economy.

Libya is a different—and apparently the only—story. Only 13 percent of the public is following the news about Libya most closely, yet Libya dominated the news and accounted for 34 percent of coverage.

No wonder Americans have so little confidence in the press.

Planning Never to Retire is Not a Retirement Plan

According to the 2011 Retirement Confidence Survey, 74 percent of the nation's workers plan to work for pay in retirement. But among the nation's retirees, only 23 percent are working. Although many boomers think they will work in retirement, it is likely that most will not.

A number of things conspire to prevent the elderly from working well into their sixties and seventies, not the least of which is deteriorating health. The life expectancy of people aged 65 in 2006 was 18.5 years, but only 12.2 of those years are free of activity-limiting disabilities, according to an analysis by the National Center for Health Statistics. For married couples, the shared years of health remaining at age 65 are even less. Caregiving responsibilities multiply. Those who think they will work in retirement need a Plan B.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Millions Fewer Non-Hispanic Whites

Size of non-Hispanic white population...

2010 census:   196,817,552
2009 estimate: 199,851,240

Difference:        –3,033,688

Dear Social Scientist

You do important research. You connect the dots for the rest of us. But if you want the rest of us to marvel at your findings, please explain your research in a way that the average journalist or armchair pundit can understand. Otherwise, your work will fall into the black hole of good intentions, never to be seen again.

Case in point: The Federal Reserve Board's new update of household wealth. Important stuff. But the written analysis is so complex that the findings were virtually ignored by the media. Journalists could not make sense of it. The supplemental tables contained calculations that could not be replicated using the numbers shown, causing the average armchair pundit to throw up his hands in disgust. (See my analysis of the wealth update herehere, and here.)

Another example: A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research on the effect of health crises on household wealth. That sounds interesting, and it is timely. But the analysis is written for statistics geeks, making the findings (yes, health crises do affect wealth, even across generations)  inaccessible to journalists who might have reported on the results.

Please summarize your findings. Write in plain English. Make the results notable and quotable. In doing so, your social science research may escape the black hole and become a shining star, helping us navigate into the future.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Big Numbers

More than 111 million Americans are Asian, black, Hispanic, or some other minority—36 percent of the total population, according to the 2010 census. That's enough to sit up and take notice, especially because so many states (20, plus the District of Columbia) have large minority populations.

The states in which minorities account for at least one-third of the population: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.

The states in which fewer than 10 percent of the population is minority: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and West Virginia.

Source: Bureau of the Census, An Overview: Race and Hispanic Origin and the 2010 Census

The Aging of Housing

The average household lives in a housing unit with a median age of 35 years. In other words, half the nation's occupied housing units were built in 1974 or earlier and half were built after that year, according to the 2009 American Housing Survey.

The nation's housing stock renews slowly. Very slowly. And the rate of renewal is slowing, too. In 1999, the median age of the nation's occupied housing units was 30 years, with half built in 1969 or before and half after that year. In 1989, the median age of occupied housing units was 26 years, with 1963 the median year of construction. Despite the housing bubble and overbuilding in many parts of the country, the occupied housing stock is older today than it was ten or twenty years ago.

At the current rate of renewal, it will take more than 60 years before the houses being built in 2011 or later account for half the occupied housing units in the United States. Bottom line: If we want to see widespread housing innovation in our lifetimes--such as greater energy efficiency, digital home integration, and improved access to public services--then it must occur through rehabilitation of existing structures and communities rather than through new construction and developments.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Who Goes to the Movies?

Among Americans aged 18 or older, 53 percent have been to a movie in the past year. Here is the percentage by age...

18-24:  74%
25-34:  65%
35-44:  60%
45-54:  53%
55-64:  46%
65-74:  32%
75+:  19%

Source: National Endowment for the Arts, 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts

The Mystery of Travel Statistics

Ever wonder what would happen if we privatized our demographic and economic data collection systems? To find out, take a look at the sorry state of travel statistics. You would think an industry of such importance to the U.S. economy would have a readily accessible trove of numbers, trends, and insights available to reporters, researchers, entrepreneurs, and armchair pundits. Instead, the statistics are locked up in organizations run by lobbyists for the travel industry, which charge hundreds of dollars for research publications on top of hefty membership fees. Google the government agency in charge of travel information, and you will click upon the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, self-described as "an official U.S. Government site produced and maintained by the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries." Except for summary statistics, the annual reports go for $1,000 and up. Chilling.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Couch Potatoes

Percentage of American adults who are physically inactive: 33%.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2009

Friday, April 01, 2011

The Housing Market's Problem

Yes, the unemployment rate is falling. Slowly. This morning the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate declined to 8.8 percent in March, down from 8.9 percent in February. We may be on the road to recovery, but our progress is blocked by what has been destroyed: confidence. The average American worker feels much less secure in his job than he did a few years ago. The percentage who think there is no chance they could lose their job in the next year, as shown in the post below, fell from 71 to 52 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to the General Social Survey.

This insecurity might be good news for businesses that want to hold down wages. But it is a disaster for the housing market. With the threat of unemployment looming over them, how many will be brave enough to buy a house? Apparently, not many.

Fear of Job Loss

Percentage of American workers who think it is "not likely" that they will lose their job in the next 12 months...

2010:  52%
2008:  59%
2006:  64%
2004:  64%
2002:  63%
2000:  71%

Source: General Social Surveys