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).