Friday, August 31, 2012

Driving Customers Out of State

When will states catch up to the Internet age? Maybe it will take generational replacement before state and local politicians get it.

Case in point: Many online purchases are free of state sales tax if the seller is physically located outside the state. A National Bureau of Economic Research study measured how much this tax-free incentive affects buying decisions, and it's considerable. Every 1-percentage point increase in a state's sales tax boosts online purchases by 2 percent and shifts 3 to 4 percent of online purchases from in-state to out-of-state retailers.

So much for small-business boosterism by state and local politicians. Until they address this issue, they are driving customers out of state.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, "Sales Taxes and Internet Commerce," NBER Working Paper 18018 ($5)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Citrix Cloud Survey

Most Americans only pretend to understand "the cloud," according to a nationally representative survey of people aged 18 or older sponsored by Citrix, a cloud-based business productivity company. In fact, 51 percent believe stormy weather will interfere with cloud computing! Only 16 percent rightly identify the cloud as a computer network that allows people to store, access, and share data from Internet-connected devices, says Citrix.

Twenty-two percent of survey respondents say they have pretended to understand the cloud in conversation or at the office, with millennials most likely to fake it (36 percent). Regardless of generation, the 56 percent majority thinks others are faking an understanding of the cloud.  

Source: Citrix, Most Americans Confused by Cloud Computing According to National Survey

Student Debt: 2nd Quarter 2012

Households are paying down their debt, according to the New York Fed. In the second quarter of 2012, overall household debt fell by $53 billion to $11.38 trillion. Overall household debt has been falling since the third quarter of 2008. Behind the decline is lower mortgage balances.

Student loan debt, however, keeps rising. During the 2nd quarter of 2012, student loan debt grew by another $10 billion to $914 billion. Student loan debt now accounts for 8 percent of total household debt.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Health Insurance Estimates by County

The Census Bureau has released 2010 health insurance coverage estimates for people under age 65 in the nation's 3,140 counties. For the first time, the bureau has estimated coverage of 50-to-64-year-olds specifically, an age group too young for Medicare and too old to risk going without insurance.

What Determines College Success?

Many high school graduates who start college do not earn a degree. Among the cohort who entered a postsecondary institution in 2003-2004, according to a new NCES study, fewer than half (49 percent) had earned a degree six years later in 2009. Of that cohort, 31 percent had a bachelor's degree, 9 percent had an associate's degree, 9 percent had a certificate, 15 percent did not yet have a degree but were still in school, and 36 percent--the largest share--were neither in school nor had any degree.

Some of the factors that contribute to the completion of a postsecondary degree...
  • Students whose parents were in the highest-income quartile were twice as likely to earn a degree as those in the lowest-income quartile.
  • Students whose parents had a bachelor's degree were 38 percent more likely to complete a degree than students whose parents went no further than high school.
  • Students who started at a for-profit school were 59 percent less likely to finish a degree than those who started at a public institution.
  • Students who met with a college advisor during their first year were 30 percent more likely to finish a degree than those who did not meet with an advisor.
  • Students who worked more than 20 hours per week were 19 percent less likely to complete a degree than those who did not work.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics, Higher Education: Gaps in Access and Persistence Study

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Old Mothers

In 2010, number of babies born to women aged 50 or older: 571.

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

Trends in the College Wage Premium

A shout-out to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, whose prolific research department produces the most demographically insightful work of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks.

One of Fed Cleveland's latest undertakings is an examination of the college wage premium. The premium is the difference between the median earnings of college and high school graduates, and it has has been growing for decades. Not so fast says Fed Cleveland researcher Jonathan James. He points out that the bachelor's degree group includes people with advanced degrees. After separating them from the mix, he finds all of the past decade's growth in the college wage premium accruing to people with advanced degrees.

"It is the growth in the value of advanced degrees that has accounted for all of the growth in the classical measure of the college wage premium since the 2000s," concludes James.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, The College Wage Premium

Monday, August 27, 2012

What is Wealth?

How much money would it take for a family of four to be considered wealthy? A median annual income of $150,000, according to a recent survey by Pew Research Center. In the Northeast, the figure is a higher $200,000.

Source: Pew Research Center, Yes, the Rich Are Different

Bad News about Wealth-to-Income Ratios

"People often ask how baby boomers compare with their parents in terms of being prepared for retirement," writes Alicia H. Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. The answer is, not well.

In a new report, Munnell looks at wealth-to-income ratios over time using data from the Survey of Consumer Finances. The wealth-to-income ratio was stable between 1983 and 2007, but this was not good news. The ratio should have been growing, says Munnell, because of the increase in life expectancy, the shift to 401(k)s, the rise in health care costs, and the decline in interest rates. The stability in the wealth-to-income ratio, she writes, "suggested that people were increasingly unprepared for retirement."

Then, in 2010, the wealth-to-income ratio fell sharply. The decline in the ratio in 2010 is "truly alarming," she concludes.

Source: Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, 2010 SCF Suggest Even Greater Retirement Risks

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Little Disease Vectors

60,842. That's the number of kindergarteners roaming the nation's schools without required vaccinations because of their parents' objections.

When kindergarteners start school in the fall, state laws require them to be vaccinated against a variety of potentially deadly and highly contagious diseases such as polio, measles, mumps, chickenpox, and whooping cough. Most get those vaccinations. Nationally, 94.8 percent of kindergarteners in the 2011-12 school year met the vaccination requirements. But 89,133 children were given exemptions. Some children receive medical exemptions, but most receive exemptions due to the religious or philosophical objections of their parents.

Source: CDC, Vaccination Coverage among Children in Kindergarten--United States, 2011-12 School Year

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Men Help Out (a little)

Do men with working wives help out at home? Yes, according to a new study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The study examined the time use of married men and women with children under age 18 to determine how much men do around the house. The study compared the time use of men, all with full-time jobs, in three types of families: wife works full-time, wife works part-time, and wife not employed. Men with wives who work full-time do more around the house than other men, but only a little more--and far less than their wives. Take a look...
  • During an average weekday, 19 percent of men with wives who work full-time participated in housework (as did 45 percent of their wives) compared with 12 percent of men whose wives were not employed. 
  • During an average weekday, 59 percent of men with wives who work full-time took care of children (as did 81 percent of their wives) compared with 51 percent of men whose wives were not employed. 
To be fair, men with wives who work full-time have a longer workday than their wives--8.86 hours for the husbands versus 7.83 hours for the wives. Also, regardless of a wife's labor force status, husbands are more likely than wives to do home repairs.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, How Parents Use Time and Money

Friday, August 24, 2012

Time Use and Spending of Parents

No household type is more important to our economy than the nuclear family--married couples with children under age 18. How these couples spend their time determines the shape of our economy. How they spend their money determines its vitality.

A new Bureau of Labor Statistics study, the first of its kind, looks at three types of nuclear families in which the husband is employed full-time and compares their time use and spending patterns. The three types are: 1) wife works full-time; 2) wife works part-time; 3) wife is not employed. Here are a few of the findings...
  • Wives who work full-time are less likely to cook. On an average weekday, only 79 percent of wives who work full-time participate in food preparation and cleanup compared with a larger 90 percent of wives who are not employed.
  • Husbands with wives who work full-time are more likely to cook. On an average weekday, 50 percent of husbands with wives who work full-time are involved with food preparation and cleanup compared with only 36 percent of husbands whose wives are not employed.
  • Dual-income couples spend more money on restaurant meals. Couples with a wife who works full-time spend 19 percent more on restaurant and take-out food than couples with a wife who is not employed--$3,092 versus $2,606 in 2009. 
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, How Parents Use Time and Money

Thursday, August 23, 2012

2.6 Million Missing Households

Many things have gone missing thanks to the Great Recession: money that should have been spent; children who should have been born; households that should have been formed.

About those missing households--a Cleveland Fed study estimates their number at 2.6 million. That is, without the Great Recession, there would have been 2.6 million more households in the U.S. in 2011. Fully 1.9 million (or 73 percent) of the missing households would have been headed by adults under age 35. Instead of establishing their own households, many young adults are living with their parents because of unemployment and student loan debt.

When the under-35 age group finally does move out on its own, notes the Cleveland Fed study, they may be more likely to rent than to buy. This is not only because of the economy but also the psychology. According to Zillow research, nearly half--48 percent--of homeowners under age 40 with a mortgage are underwater. The young adults who have yet to move out of their parents' home may be thinking they are the lucky ones.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Household Formation and the Great Recession

What is the Middle Class?

A shrinking share of Americans call themselves middle class, according to a Pew survey. In 2012, only 49 percent of people aged 18 or older identified themselves as middle class, down from 53 percent in 2008.

And just what is the middle class, dollar wise? Among those who identify themselves as middle class, it is a median income of $70,000 for a family of four. Interestingly, that figure is not far below the $77,749 median income of married couples with children, according to Current Population Survey data.

Source: Pew Research Center, The Lost Decade of the Middle Class

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Public Schools: Fantasy vs. Reality

Once again we get a chance to see that, in fact, America's public schools are not so bad after all. Every year the PDK/Gallup poll of attitudes toward public schools reveals the big disconnect between fantasy (public schools are bad) and reality (public schools are good).

If you ask Americans what grade they would give the nation's public schools in general, 77 percent say they would give them a C, D, or F. But if you ask Americans what grade they would give public schools in their community, a much smaller 48 percent would give them a mediocre or failing grade. And if you ask people who really know what public schools are like--parents with children in public school--the percentage who would give their local school a grade of C, D, or F falls to just 22 percent.

Bottom line: the 77 percent majority of the people who actually know what they're talking about would give the public school their oldest child attends a grade of A or B. This figure is not only impressively high, but is up from 64 percent two decades ago. The next time you hear someone carrying on about the poor quality of the nation's public schools, keep this in mind.

Source: PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes toward the Public Schools 

Caffeine Consumption

We get about one-third of our daily caffeine hit away from home, according to dietary data collected by the federal government--from coffee shops, Coke machines, fast-food restaurants, and so on.

Men aged 20 to 29 get a larger share of their caffeine away from home (55 percent) than any other segment of the population. In contrast, only 38 percent of the caffeine consumption of their female counterparts occurs away from home.

Source: USDA, What We Eat in America, 2009-10

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Look Ma, Cavities!

Percentage of children aged 6 to 9 with untreated dental caries, by race and Hispanic origin...

Total: 17%
Black: 19%
Hispanic: 26%
Non-Hispanic white: 14%

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Oral Health Disparities as Determined by Selected Healthy People 2020 Oral Health Objectives for the United States, 2009-2010

Food Stamp Recipients Spend More Time Cooking

For all those grumbling in line at the grocery store about the shopping habits of food stamp recipients, listen up. Life is not a bowl of cherries for those who depend on food stamps. An analysis of their time use by the USDA reveals the harsh reality of living hand to mouth: food stamp recipients spend more time shopping for food on an average day and much more time preparing it, probably because they can't afford to buy the prepared items and restaurant meals so desirable to the rest of us.

  • Among people aged 18 or older who grocery shop on an average day, food stamp recipients spend 54 minutes in the store versus a smaller 43 minutes for those not on food stamps and with incomes greater than 130 percent of poverty level. 
  • Food stamp recipients spend 75 minutes per day preparing and cleaning up meals compared to just 58 minutes for the higher income group. 
  • Because they spend so much time shopping for groceries and preparing meals--on top of their hours at work--food stamp recipients have less time to enjoy their efforts. They spend only 54 minutes a day eating compared to the 70 minutes a day for those with higher incomes.

Source: USDA Economic Research Service

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Missing Million

There are 1 million missing children in the United States, but you won't find their faces on milk cartons. One million is the difference between the number of people under age 18 projected by the Census Bureau for 2010 and the number counted by the 2010 census.

The Census Bureau's projections were produced in 2008--not all that long ago. Yet they missed the sharp drop in fertility and the decline in births that accompanied the Great Recession. The Census Bureau projected in 2008 that 75.2 million people under age 18 would live in the U.S. as of July 1, 2010. But the bureau's estimates for July 1, 2010--based on 2010 census population counts--show that, in fact, there were only 74.1 million children. Most of the difference (907,000) occurs in the under-5 age group.

And the number of children in the U.S. just keeps on shrinking. The bureau's July 1, 2011, estimate of the population under age 18 is 73.9 million--190,000 less than in 2010.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Happy to be Pregnant

The National Survey of Family Growth asks women who have recently given birth (in the past three years) how happy they were about becoming pregnant. Most of them were pretty darn happy. On a scale of 1 (very unhappy) to 10 (very happy), they rated their happiness at being pregnant an 8.0.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Intended and Unintended Births in the United States: 1982-2010

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Beer vs. Wine

Most Americans drink alcohol and they say they don't drink much. Sixty-six percent of adults aged 18 or older drink, but they say they consume an average of only 4.2 drinks a week. If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.

Among drinkers, beer is the alcoholic beverage of choice for men and wine is most popular among women. The 55 percent of majority of men usually drink beer, and the 52 percent majority of women usually drink wine.

Source: Gallup, Majority in U.S. Drink Alcohol, Average Four Drinks a Week

Friday, August 17, 2012

How Weather Affects Buying

We just can't help ourselves. Whatever we are thinking, doing, and feeling at the moment holds great power over our decisions. That's the finding from a National Bureau of Economic Research study of how the weather at the time of purchase influences which car or house we buy.

It's hard to argue with the analysis, which is based on data from more than 40 million vehicle sales and 4 million house sales, comparing the type of car or features of the house purchased to the weather at the time of purchase. The researchers find that "the choice to purchase a convertible, a 4-wheel drive, or a vehicle that is black in color is highly dependent on the weather at the time of purchase." Similarly buyers are more likely to choose a house with a swimming pool in the summer than in the winter.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, Projection Bias in the Car and Housing Markets, NBER Working Paper No. 18212 ($)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Fitting Life into Work

The 53 percent majority of the nation's wage-and-salary workers can adjust their work schedule rather than take leave time from work when they need to go to a doctor, care for a sick child, attend a parent-teacher meeting, or run another type of errand. Seven percent do so during an average week, including 12 percent of managers, 11 percent of the highest-paid workers, and 10 percent of workers with a bachelor's degree.

The percentage of workers who have the freedom to adjust their schedule varies greatly by demographic characteristic. Only 44 percent of Hispanic workers can adjust their schedule compared with 58 percent of Asians. The figures are identical by pay scale: 44 percent of the lowest-paid workers can make scheduling adjustments compared with 58 percent of the highest-paid workers.

The biggest difference is by education. Only 32 percent of workers without a high school diploma can adjust their schedule versus 58 percent of those with a bachelor's degree.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Access to and Use of Leave--2011 Data from the American Time Use Survey

Where We Eat

Percentage of eating and drinking time people aged 15 or older spend at...

Home: 59%
Restaurant or bar: 20%
Workplace: 11%
Someone else's home: 5%
Some other place: 5%

Source: USDA Economic Research Service

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Your Income in Retirement

Your income will decline after you retire. It's not a question of whether but how much, according to studies of the economic status of older Americans before and after retirement. Research published in Social Security Bulletin quantifies the how much.

Using data from the nationally representative Health and Retirement Income Study, which tracks cohorts of older Americans for decades, SSA analyst Patrick J. Purcell compared pre- and post-retirement income for 10 years among retirees born between 1931 and 1941. The results show a median replacement ratio in the first two years of retirement of 73 percent. In other words, the income of these retirees was 27 percent below their pre-retirement income. That doesn't sound too bad. But there's a catch: Purcell's study shows the replacement ratio sinking as retirement lengthens. In the third or fourth year of retirement, the median replacement ratio falls to 63.5 percent. It continues to fall, and by the 9th or 10th year of retirement the median ratio is just 54 percent--or 46 percent below pre-retirement income.

Can you live comfortably on about half of what you make today? You may be about to find out.

Source: Social Security Administration, "Income Replacement Ratios in the Health and Retirement Study," Patrick J. Purcell, Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 72, No. 3, 2012

Breakfast with the Kids

Percentage of parents who have breakfast with their child(ren) every day during a typical week, by age of child...

Under age 6: 57%
Aged 6 to 11: 38%
Aged 12 to 17: 25%

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

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Very Funny

At 2.29 p.m. today the U.S. population reached 314,159,265--or 100 million times pi, the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. "So go out and celebrate this American pi," quipped Census Bureau chief demographer Howard Hogan.

Dinner with the Kids

Percentage of parents who have dinner with their child(ren) every day during a typical week, by age of child...

Under age 6: 81%
Aged 6 to 11: 75%
Aged 12 to 17: 58%

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

The 10 Biggest Losers

Landline phone service has been the single biggest loser of the past decade. In 2010, only 62.5 percent of households paid a landline phone bill during the average quarter, down from 94.4 percent during the average quarter of 2000--a whopping 32 percentage point decline in the percentage of households buying the service. At the other extreme, cell phone service was the biggest gainer during the decade, with the percentage of households spending on cell service during the average quarter climbing by 44 percentage points between 2000 and 2010, to 64.8 percent.

The other top-10 losers of the 2000-to-2010 time period experienced declines ranging from 23 percentage points for film to 10 percentage points for newspaper subscriptions. Here is the list of the 10 products and services with the largest decade-long decline in the percentage of households buying them...

1. Landline phone service
2. Film
3. Photo processing
4. Personal care services
5. Video rentals
6. Women's hosiery
7. Professional dry cleaning
8. CDs, records, and audiotapes
9. Life insurance
10. Newspaper subscriptions

Source: 2000 and 2010 Consumer Expenditure Surveys, unpublished data

Monday, August 13, 2012

CPS Not Counting Most IRA/401(k) Withdrawals

There's something fishy in the Current Population Survey's income data for older Americans, and now we know what it is. The percentage of people aged 65 or older who report receiving income from an IRA or 401(k) is way too low--just 1 percent in 2010! An article in Social Security Bulletin explains why: the CPS does not count IRA/401(k) withdrawals as income unless they occur regularly--such as with an annuity. But most IRA/401(k) withdrawals are irregular and thus not counted. You don't have to be a data junkie to find this omission astounding--especially from the survey that generates the nation's official income statistics.

The Social Security Bulletin article provides a glimpse of the magnitude of the omission by comparing IRA income recorded by the CPS to IRA income reported to the IRS. The difference is eye popping: $6.4 billion (CPS) versus $124.7 billion (IRS). The CPS is missing, from IRAs alone, an average of $2,333 per person aged 60 or older in the United States.

Because a growing share of retirement income is in the form of irregular withdrawals from IRAs and 401(k)s, the researchers conclude: "The major nationally representative surveys of household income must accurately measure annual distributions from retirement accounts in order to provide a complete picture of the economic well-being of the aged and the general US population."

Source: Social Security Administration, Shifting Income Sources of the Aged, Chris E. Anguelov, Howard M. Iams, and Patrick J. Purcell, Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 72, No. 3, 2012

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Flying Demographics

Percentage of Americans who have flown on a commercial airliner in the past year by age...
18-29: 60%
30-49: 56%
50-64: 53%
65-plus: 33%

Source: Gallup, Americans' Views of TSA More Positive than Negative

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Only 62 Percent?

To say Americans are not active is an understatement. Only 62 percent of adults reported "recent walking" in a 2010 survey, according to the CDC. It defines recent walking as a bout of walking for at least 10 minutes in the past seven days for transportation (to get somewhere) or for leisure (for fun, exercise, or to walk the dog).

As bad this is, it's higher than the 56 percent who reported recent walking in a 2005 survey.

Source: CDC, Vital Signs: Walking among Adults -- United States, 2005 and 2010

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Lost Generation of Journalists?

Percentage of 2011 college graduates with a degree in journalism who...

Read a printed newspaper yesterday: 42%
Read news on a mobile device yesterday: 56%
Think they have the ability to produce content for mobile devices: 11%

Source: University of Georgia, 2011 Annual Survey of Journalism & Mass Communication Graduates

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Credit Card Trends

The average American now has only one or no credit cards, according to an analysis of Equifax data by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. The percentage of the population without a credit card grew from 16 to 24 percent between 2009 and 2011, a trend that occurred in every age group.

Are banks closing these credit card accounts or are consumers shutting them down? To determine the direction of causality, the Fed analysts looked at whether applications for credit had fallen between 2007 and 2011. Answer: yes, especially among consumers with high levels of debt (down 33 percent). But even those with low levels of debt had reduced their credit applications (down 20 percent). "Our analysis shows that consumers have likely played a larger role in the credit decline than banks have," the researchers conclude.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Americans Cut Their Debt

Watching the Olympics

Seventy-three percent of Americans aged 18 or older are watching the Olympics on television, according to Pew Research Center. There is little variation in television viewing by age, with the proportion watching the Olympics on TV ranging from 66 to 73 percent. Younger adults are much more likely to be watching some of the Olympics online (21 to 22 percent of those under age 50) and on social network sites such as Twitter or Facebook (31 percent of those under age 30).

Source: Pew Research Center, Eight-in-Ten Following Olympics on TV or Digitally

Other Race

"Other race" is the third largest racial group in the United States (behind only white and black), according to 2010 census results. Meant to be a small residual category, the public's confusion over the difference between race (Asian, black, white) and ethnicity (Hispanic) has turned it into one of the biggest racial categories. Who are these people of other race? The vast majority are Hispanics who check "other" in the census race question (because they do not see a Hispanic/Latino category) before moving on to the separate Hispanic origin question.

In taking the 2010 census, the Census Bureau fielded an alternative questionnaire to test a combined race and Hispanic origin question. The results are in, showing that the combined question works much better than separate race and Hispanic origin questions, reducing the other-race category to just 0.2 percent of the population--the residual it was meant to be. In contrast, with separate questions, fully 7.1 percent of the population checked other race. Expect a combined race and Hispanic origin question on the 2020 census.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Pet Ownership is Down

Pet ownership fell slightly over the past five years, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association's 2012 U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook, to be released this fall. A smaller percentage of households owned dogs or cats in 2011 than in 2006, due in part to belt-tightening during the Great Recession.

The latest survey results show 36.5 percent of households owning dogs (1.6 on average) and 30.4 percent owning cats (2.1 on average) in 2011. The AVMA reports that spending on veterinary care for dogs increased 19 percent between 2006 and 2011, while remaining flat for cats. My analysis of spending trends from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Expenditure Survey shows average household spending on veterinary care rising sharply between 2006 and 2009, after adjusting for inflation, then plunging 32 percent between 2009 and 2010.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Polling and Telephone Demographics

Pollsters are struggling to capture the opinions of the cell-phone-only population in their polling for the 2012 presidential election, reports the New York Times. Some are making a valiant attempt to include a representative sample of these potential voters in their survey results--and with good reason. Nearly one-third of the nation's adults now live in a wireless-only household, twice as many as in 2008, according to the federal government.

The demographics of the wireless-only group are strikingly different from the demographics of those with both cell and landline phones. No doubt, their political attitudes are strikingly different too. The wireless-only population has expanded to encompass the majority of adults under age 35, the majority of renters, the majority of the poor, 37 percent of blacks, 43 percent of Hispanics, and 41 percent of students.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Is It Something in Our Water?

A CDC examination of hypertension among Mexican-Americans living in the United States shows the foreign-born are much less likely to have hypertension than those born in the United States. Not only that, but the age-adjusted rate of hypertension has remained steady over the past three decades among foreign-born Mexican-Americans, while it has increased among those born in the United States.

Source: CDC, QuickStats: Prevalence of Hypertension among Mexican-American Adulst Aged 20-74 Years, by Country of Birth -- United States, 1982-84 to 2007-2010

The Leisure Time Paradox

Most Americans would scoff at the notion that they have more leisure time than their parents or grandparents did 40 years ago. But that's what time use studies show. Since 1965, men have gained 5.26 additional hours of leisure time per week. Women have an extra 3.56 hours compared to their counterparts in 1965. How come we don't feel more relaxed?

An elegant examination of trends in leisure time, published in Demography (unfortunately behind a paywall), answers the question: because the quality of leisure time has declined. Simply put, we aren't having as much fun as we once did. (See "Leisure Inequality in the United States: 1965-2003, by Almudena Sevilla, Jose I. Gimenez-Nadal, and Jonathan Gershuny, Demography, August 2012).

The analysis measures the quality of leisure time in three ways: pure leisure--or the amount of leisure time spent only in leisure activities with no accompanying non-leisure secondary activities (such as taking calls from your boss); co-present leisure (a better term might be social leisure)--or the amount of leisure time spent with a spouse or other adults but not children (who have a way of turning leisure into work); and leisure fragmentation--or the number of leisure intervals and their length.

This is what the researchers discovered, in their own words: "In stark contrast with the changing amount of leisure, most of our quality indicators show declines in the quality of leisure time over this period for both men and women." Specifically, the amount of time we spend in pure leisure has declined, as has the time we spend in social leisure.

"Despite general increases in leisure time, Americans report feeling increasingly harried now compared with 40 years ago," say the authors. "Our findings may help explain this paradox."

Sunday, August 05, 2012

What's Wrong with the South?

The South is trapped in a vicious cycle of low-wage, low-skill jobs, says a report on the region by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce (A Decade Behind: Breaking Out of the Low-Skill Trap in the Southern Economy). That's because the South lags in educational attainment, preventing the region from attracting high-skill, high-wage industries. The number-one job provider in the South is government. Number two is retail trade. Walmart is one of the top ten employers in 12 of the 15 states.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

How Many Are Uninsured?

Figuring out how many Americans are not covered by health insurance is harder than you might think. The answer depends on the time frame. The most commonly used estimate of the nation's uninsured, for example, comes from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. Every March, the CPS fields the Annual Social and Economic Supplement, which asks respondents for their health insurance status in the previous year. The CPS counts as uninsured only those who did not have health insurance for the entire previous calendar year. By that definition, 18.4 percent of Americans under age 65 were uninsured in 2010.

Other surveys measure the uninsured in different time frames. The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, for example, estimates the number who were uninsured at any time during the previous calendar year. Naturally, that estimate is higher: 26.0 percent of people under age 65 were uninsured at some point in 2010.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Internships and Jobs

Percentage of 2012 college graduates who received a job offer by internship experience...

Paid internship: 60%
Unpaid internship: 37%
No internship: 36%

Source: NACE, 2012 Student Survey

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Who Claimed Social Security Early?

Once upon a time, the majority of older Americans claimed their Social Security benefits at the earliest possible age of 62. In 1995, fully 50.7 percent of 62-year-olds filed for Social Security. The percentage fell steeply in the ensuing years to just 37.6 percent in 2007, reports the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Then the Great Recession hit, and the percentage claiming Social Security benefits at age 62 spiked to 42.4 percent in 2009.

The CRR's examination of these Great Recession early claimers reveals that they came from all socioeconomic backgrounds as households rich and poor attempted to make up for the loss of income caused by the economic downturn. The early claimers received their benefits 10 months sooner than they would have if there had been no recession, forfeiting $94 per month in benefits--or 7.6 percent of what they would have received.

Since the spike in 2009, the percentage claiming Social Security at age 62 has fallen, reverting to the long-term downward trend. Boomers have gotten the message--the longer they wait, the bigger their benefits.

Source: Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Who Claimed Social Security Early Due to the Great Recession?

Gamer Demographics

Everyone is having a hard time keeping up with new technology--even the Entertainment Software Association, the trade group for the video game industry.

According to an article in Ars Technica, a change in question wording in ESA's 2012 survey of gaming activity resulted in a younger age profile for the nation's gamers (average age = 30, down from 37 in 2011). Previous surveys had suggested that gamers were getting older, but the 2012 results revealed that earlier surveys--because they included only video game consoles or PCs and not tablet or phone games in the screening question--had been monitoring "more of a generational platform shift, where the traditional PC and console market continues to age while younger players gravitate towards smartphones, tablets, and portable systems," says Ars Technica's gaming editor Kyle Orland.

For more about the demographics of gamers, see Orland's article, "How Gaming's Demographics Reverted to 2005."

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Why Do Educated People Live Longer?

Because education slows biological aging, according to an analysis in the August 2012 issue of Demography ("The Significance of Education for Mortality Compression in the United States").

The study examined mortality rates in the United States by age and education, finding that "highly educated persons are able to use their considerable resources to maximize their life chances under current conditions and, ultimately, delay the biological aging process."

Unemployed Young Adults by Country

The unemployment rate of 20-to-24-year-olds in the United States, at 14.6 percent in 2011, is well below the rate in Spain, Italy, France, and Sweden, but well above the rate in Japan, Germany, Australia, and Canada.

2011 unemployment rate of 20-24-year-olds
43.2% in Spain
26.5% in Italy
20.6% in France
18.3% in Sweden
16.5% in United Kingdom
14.6% in United States
12.1% in New Zealand
10.1% in Canada
8.4% in Australia
8.1% in Germany
7.7% in Japan

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, International Comparisons of Annual Labor Force Statistics, Adjusted to U.S. Concepts, 16 Countries, 1970-2011