Friday, November 30, 2012

Single-Person Households by Race and Hispanic Origin

Percentage of households headed by people who live alone, by race and Hispanic origin...

Total: 27%
Asian: 18%
Black: 33%
Hispanic: 17%
Non-Hispanic white: 29%

Source: Census Bureau, 2012 Current Population Survey

Thursday, November 29, 2012

HIV Testing

Percentage of 18-to-24-year-olds who have ever been tested for HIV...
Males: 24%
Females: 45%

Source: CDC, Vital Signs: HIV Infection, Testing, and Risk Behaviors among Youths--United States

Cell Phone Activities by Race and Hispanic Origin

Fully 85 percent of Americans own a cell phone, and they use their phones for much more than making calls. Among cell phone owners, there are big differences in cell phone activities by age, but few by race and Hispanic origin, according to Pew...

Percent who use their phone to take pictures
Black: 79%
Hispanic: 85%
Non-Hispanic white: 80%

Percent who use their phone for texting
Black: 80%
Hispanic: 85%
Non-Hispanic white: 79%

Percent who use their phone to access the Internet
Black: 60%
Hispanic: 66%
Non-Hispanic white: 52%

Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, Cell Phone Activities 2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Additional Adults

In 2011, nearly one in five households in the United States (19.2 percent) was a shared household--meaning additional adults live in the household besides the householder and the householder's spouse or partner. The 19.2 percent is a substantial figure, but it has not grown all that much since 2007, when 17.6 percent of households were shared. In other words, households with additional adults are not only common today, but they were common before the Great Recession as well. (Additional adults do not include 18-to-24-year-olds if they are enrolled in school, according to the Census Bureau's definition.)

Overall, 17.9 percent of Americans aged 18 or older are additional adults in a shared household. Here are the percentages by age...

Aged 18 to 24: 35.3%
Aged 25 to 34: 30.5%
Aged 35 to 64: 11.9%
Aged 65-plus: 10.9%

Source: Census Bureau, Poverty and Shared Households by State: 2011

Cell Phone Activities by Age

What do people do with their cell phone besides making phone calls? Taking pictures is the most popular cell phone activity, according to Pew Internet & American Life Project. Among the 85 percent of Americans who own a cell phone, 82 percent have used their phone to take a picture. Eighty percent have sent or received text messages, and 56 percent have accessed the Internet. There are big differences by age in the percentage of cell phone owners who do these activities, primarily because of the greater ownership of smartphones among younger Americans.

  • 94% of 18-to-29-year-olds have used their phone to take pictures versus only 44% of cell phone owners aged 65 or older.
  • 97% of 18-to-29-year-olds have used their phone to send or receive text messages versus only 34% of cell phone owners aged 65 or older.
  • 77% of 18-to-29-year-olds have used their phone to access the Internet versus only 13% of cell phone owners aged 65 or older.

Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, Cell Phone Activities 2012

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Household Income Stable in October 2012

Median household income held steady between September and October 2012, according to the latest monthly update from Sentier Research. The October median of $51,378 was $40 less than the September median, a change that was not statistically significant.

Median household income in October 2012 was 4.7 percent lower than the median in June 2009, the end of the Great Recession. It was 7.2 percent lower than the median in December 2007, the start of the Great Recession. It was 8.1 percent lower than the median in January 2000. The Household Income Index for September 2012 was 91.9 (January 2000 = 100.0). 

For details on monthly changes in household income since January 2000, a spreadsheet is available from Sentier's web site for $25.00.

Source: Sentier Research, Trends in Household Income: October 2012

Children in the ER

Percentage of children under age 18 who visited an emergency room in the past year: 18%.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Children: National Health Interview Survey, 2011

Monday, November 26, 2012

Median Age of Movers

Median age of Americans who moved in the past year: 27
Median age of Americans who did not move in the past year: 41

Source: Census Bureau, 2011 American Community Survey

Saturday, November 24, 2012

No Vehicles

Nine million households in the United States do not own a vehicle, or 8 percent of the nation's 115 million households. Here are the percentages of households without a vehicle, by selected characteristics of the householder...

Homeowner: 2.8%
Renter: 18.8%
Black: 18.9%
Hispanic: 11.3%
Poor: 23.8%
Northeast: 16.0%
Midwest: 7.0%
South: 6.4%
West: 6.0%
Central city: 15.8%
Suburb: 5.0%
Nonmetropolitan: 5.2%

Source: Census Bureau, 2011 American Housing Survey

Friday, November 23, 2012

Arrest in the United States: 2010

State and local law enforcement made 13,122,110 arrests in 2010. Of the 28 offense categories, 10 categories account for the 61 percent majority of arrests...

1. Driving under the influence: 1,412,220
2. Drug possession: 1,336,530. Arrests for this offense have increased 80 percent since 1990.
3. Simple assault: 1,292,450. Defined as an assault without a weapon in which no serious bodily injury to the victim occurs. Stalking and hazing are included in this category.
4. Larceny-theft: 1,271,410. Defined as stealing without force or fraud. It includes pickpocketing, shoplifting, stealing from cars, and bicycle theft.
5. Disorderly conduct: 615,170
6. Drunkenness: 560,720
7. Liquor law violation: 512,790
8. Aggravated assault: 408,490. Defined as an attack on another person for the purpose of inflicting severe bodily injury, usually with a weapon.
9. Drug sale/manufacture: 302,310
10. Burglary: 289,770. Defined as the unlawful entry into a home or other structure to commit a felony or theft.

Not appearing in the top ten list are murder, rape, and robbery. Only 11,200 people were arrested for murder or manslaughter in 2010--half as many as in 1990. There were 20,090 arrests for rape in 2010, and 112,300 arrests for robbery.

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Arrest in the United States, 1990-2010

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Sick Days

Number of school days missed in the past year by children aged 5 to 17 because of illness...

None: 29%
One to two: 30%
Three to five: 26%
Six to ten: 10%
Eleven or more: 5%

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Children: National Health Interview Survey, 2011

Ideal Weight and Real Weight

All that turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, pumpkin pie and whipped cream on dinner tables today will only add to this problem: as Americans gain weight, they are adjusting their ideal weight upward, according to Gallup. Men say their ideal weight is 185 pounds, up from an ideal of 171 pounds two decades ago. Women say their ideal weight is 140 pounds, up from an ideal of 129 pounds two decades ago. How much do they really weigh? Take a look...

Men's weight, in pounds
Gallup, self-reported: 196
Government, measured: 195.5

Women's weight, in pounds
Gallup, self-reported: 156
Government, measured: 166.2

Source: Gallup and National Center for Health Statistics

Number of Times Married

Among the nation's 169 million ever-married men and women, 75 percent have been married once, 20 percent have been married twice, and 5 percent have been married three or more times.

Source: Census Bureau, 2011 American Community Survey

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Raising the Next Generation of Internet Consumers

The overwhelming majority of parents with teenagers are concerned about their child's online activities, according to a Pew study (Parents, Teens, and Online Privacy). The handwringing extends from worry over how much advertisers are learning about their child to fear that their child's online activities will impact their future employment opportunities. Strangely absent from their concerns is fear that their children aren't learning enough about the Internet and are growing up to be yet another generation of Internet consumers rather than producers.

Another Stab at Defining the Middle Class

"There is no official government definition of who belongs to the middle class," notes the Congressional Research Service report, The Distribution of Household Income and the Middle Class (PDF)Because Congress frequently legislates for the middle class, however, defining the middle class becomes important.

According to the report, the middle class can be defined either absolutely (a specific income level) or relatively (compared to others). In absolute terms, studies show the middle class to be broad indeed. Americans identify themselves as middle class at household income levels ranging from about the middle of the third income quintile (or between $38,521 and $62,434) well into the top income quintile ($101,583 or more).

Relative income--or how people feel about their income--may be the more important determinant of middle class well-being. "Having incomes far above those at the lower end of the income distribution is a source of satisfaction to the middle class," notes the report. "But when those at the upper end of the distribution fare much better than they do, it can be a source of consternation to the middle class." As the rich have gotten richer, the middle class has been feeling poorer--a recipe for political turmoil and social unrest.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Two Markets: Day Care and College

Which is the bigger market--day care or college? The day care market used to be bigger, but that's no longer the case as rising unemployment during the Great Recession reduced day care spending.

In 2000, 6.20 percent of the nation's households spent on day care centers during an average quarter versus 4.85 percent who spent on college tuition, according to a Demo Memo Blog analysis of the Consumer Expenditure Survey. In 2007, before the official start of the Great Recession, day care spending had shrunk to 5.39 percent of households but it still surpassed the 4.97 percent who spent on college tuition. In 2008 the day care market fell below the college market and has been there ever since.

Interestingly, the percentage of households spending on college tuition peaked in 2009 at 5.62 percent. By 2011, the percentage had fallen to 4.98 percent--barely surpassing the 4.71 percent who spent on day care.

Boomer Attitudes Toward Marijuana

Most Americans under age 65 now support the legalization of marijuana, according to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll. The baby-boom generation (born 1946 through 1964) popularized marijuana use, but until 2010 most boomers were against legalization. Take a look at how boomer attitudes toward legalization have changed over the years...

Percent of baby boomers who favored legalizing the use of marijuana
1980: 39%
1990: 18%
2000: 32%
2010: 54%

Sources: General Social Surveys

Monday, November 19, 2012

No Health Insurance, Ever

In 2011, 45 million Americans under age 65 did not have health insurance--or 17 percent of the age group, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Among the uninsured, 9 million have never had health insurance. Among those who have never had health insurance, 63 percent are Hispanic.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Summary Health Statistics for the U.S. Population: National Health Interview Survey, 2011

The Year the House Was Built

Although the housing bubble resulted in the construction of many new homes, half the housing stock in the United States is nearly 40 years old--built in 1974 or earlier, according to the 2011 American Housing Survey.

The housing stock is older in some regions than others. The oldest is in the Northeast. In the Middle Atlantic states of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, half the homes were built in 1958 or earlier. The newest housing is in the East South Central states of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee, where half of occupied housing units were built in 1980 or later.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Religiously Unaffiliated

Nearly one in five Americans (19 percent) is religiously unaffiliated--a figure that has more than doubled since 1990, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. The religiously unaffiliated have become one of the largest segments of the American population. They are almost as numerous as Catholics (22 percent) and evangelical Protestants (20 percent). They outnumber white mainline Protestants (15 percent).

Interestingly, most of the religiously unaffiliated believe in God. The largest share (34 percent) believe God is an impersonal force. Another 31 percent believe God is a person. Just 30 percent do not believe in God.

Source: Public Religion Research Institute, The 2012 American Values Survey

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Watching Live TV

Only 56 percent of Americans usually watch television programs at the time they are broadcast. The rest usually watch programs recorded on their DVRs or from on-demand services or digital streaming. Here are the percentages who usually watch live TV by generation...

Millennials (18-35): 44%
Gen Xers (36-47): 54%
Boomers (48-66): 66%
Matures (67+): 63%

Source: Harris Interactive, Over Half of Americans Have Watched TV Shows Via "Streaming"

Friday, November 16, 2012

What's Behind Shrinking Household Size?

Curiously, despite the economic turmoil in the aftermath of the Great Recession, average household size fell to a record low in 2012. The Census Bureau's release of 2012 household statistics shows why: the changing age distribution of the population. A look at household size by age of householder reveals an increase in household size in all but one age group between 2007 and 2012. Nevertheless, the average fell because of the aging of the population and the entry of generation X into the crowded-nest lifestage.

In 2012, the average household was home to 2.55 people, slightly smaller than the 2.56 of 2007. By age, however, average household size fell in only one age group during those years. The average size of households headed by 30-to-34-year-olds fell from 3.09 to 3.06 people. Every other age group experienced a slight increase in household size, with one of the largest gains occurring in the 40-to-44 age group (rising from 3.22 to 3.44 people).

Average household size declined between 2007 and 2012 because of the shifting age distribution of the nation's householders. In the 65-plus age group, average household size is less than two. Between 2007 and 2012, householders aged 65-plus expanded from 20 to 22 percent of total households. Meanwhile, the share of households headed by 35-to-44-year-olds (when household size peaks) fell from 20 to 18 percent of the total as generation X moved in. Yes, some young adults are living with their parents, but not enough to move the dial on average household size.

Source: Census Bureau, America's Families and Living Arrangements: 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Median Age of Marriage Hits New Highs

The median age at which men and women marry for the first time continued to climb in 2012.
  • Men now marry for the first time at a median age of 28.6, up from 26.8 in 2000 and a low of 22.5 years in the 1950s. 
  • Women now marry for the first time at a median age of 26.6, up from 25.1 in 2000 and a low of 20.1 years in the 1950s.
Source: Census Bureau, Families and Living Arrangements, Marital Status

16% of Calories from Alcohol

Beer, wine, and liquor provide 16 percent of the daily calories of the average American, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. On an average day, 33 percent of men and 18 percent of women aged 20 or older drink alcohol. The average man consumes 150 calories a day from alcohol, and the average woman consumes 53. These figures come from 24-hour dietary recall interviews in the 2007-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

On a given day, 20 percent of men and 5 percent of women drink beer. Wine is consumed by 7 percent of women and 4 percent of men on a given day. Among men, 19 percent consume over 300 calories a day from alcohol--or more than two drinks a day. Twelve percent of women consume over 150 calories a day from alcohol--or more than one drink a day. If these figures seem low, keep in mind that alcohol consumption is widely underreported.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Calories Consumed from Alcoholic Beverages by U.S. Adults, 2007-2010

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The AARP Voter

Immediately after the election, AARP was in the field surveying 50-plus voters about the future of Social Security and Medicare. Forty-eight percent had voted for Romney and 43 percent for Obama, according to the survey's results.

Although their vote was split, Americans aged 50-plus are united in their attitude toward Social Security and Medicare, and that attitude is: Don't Mess With Our Benefits! Fully 70 percent of 50-plus voters do not want Social Security or Medicare changes to be crammed into an end-of-year budget agreement. In fact, they don't want Social Security or Medicare to change at all. Seventy-six percent oppose any reduction in Medicare benefits and 78 percent oppose any reduction in Social Security benefits for current recipients.

Source: AARP, 50+ Americans and the Future of Medicare and Social Security

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What's In Your Shopping Cart?

How healthy is the food Americans put in their shopping cart at the grocery store? There is a very specific answer to that question. On a scale of 1 (least healthy) to 100 (most healthy), our Healthy Eating Index is 56.4, according to a USDA study.

This information comes from Nielsen Homescan data collected from 1998 through 2006. To collect the data, Nielsen asked a sample of U.S. households to scan the UPC codes of their grocery purchases. The data show that Americans are not buying enough of the recommended foods such as dark green vegetables, whole fruits, and fish. Meanwhile, they're buying too much unhealthy food such as refined grains, red meat, beverages, and sugar. No surprises there.

Here is the surprise: there are few differences in the healthfulness of our shopping carts by income or race. Everyone is doing poorly when it comes to buying the right food. There are differences by region, however. On average, households in the Northeast and West buy healthier food than those in the Midwest and South.

Source: USDA, Assessing the Healthfulness of Consumers' Grocery Purchases

From Owning to Renting

Among the 16 million Americans who moved in the past year, this many...

Owners became renters: 3,051,000
Renters became owners: 1,695,000

The homeownership status of the remaining 11 million movers did not change when they moved (owners continued to be owners, and renters continued to be renters).

Source: Census Bureau, 2011 American Housing Survey

Monday, November 12, 2012

Support for Gay Marriage by Region

Nationally, support for allowing gays and lesbians to marry grew from 33 to 48 percent of the public between 2003 and 2012, according to Pew Research Center. Support grew in every region during those years, but big differences remain. Here is the percentage in support of gay marriage by region in 2012...

New England: 62%
Middle Atlantic: 57%
Pacific Coast: 54%
Mountain West: 51%
Great Lakes: 49%
Midwest: 46%
South Atlantic: 42%
South Central: 35%

Note: For regional definitions, see source.
Source: Pew Research Center, Behind Gay Marriage Momentum, Regional Gaps Persist

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Keeping Secrets

Do you keep secrets from your spouse? Many Americans do, according to an AARP survey. Seventeen percent say they have not told their spouse/partner about a purchase they made in the past 12 months. Younger adults are most likely to keep secrets, with 23 percent hiding a purchase from a spouse/partner. Among adults aged 50 or older, a smaller 12 percent have hidden a purchase.

Source: AARP, AARP Bulletin Survey on Financial Honesty

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Stolen Guns

Guns stolen annually during household burglaries or other property crimes: 232,400.

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Firearms Stolen during Household Burglaries and Other Property Crimes, 2005-2010

Friday, November 09, 2012

Workers Face Growing Retirement Risk

Most of today's working households could see a decline in their standard of living in retirement. That's the finding of a new analysis by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, which created the National Retirement Risk Index (NRRI) to measure the adequacy of retirement savings. The NRRI is defined as the percentage of working households without sufficient retirement savings or other assets to replace their pre-retirement income--even if they work to age 65 and annuitize all their financial holdings.

Between 2007 and 2010, the NRRI climbed from 44 to 53 percent--meaning more than half of working households are at risk of experiencing a lower standard of living in retirement. What accounts for the 9 percentage point increase in the NRRI between 2007 and 2010? Half of the increase is due to the decline in housing values, since home equity accounts for the largest share of household wealth. Other factors are the decline in interest rates, the rise in Social Security's full retirement age (from 65 to 67), and low stock prices.

Source: Center for Retirement Research, The National Retirement Risk Index: An Update

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Asset Poverty Is Rising

One in five American households is asset poor, according to the Urban Institute. Asset poverty is defined as not having enough net worth (wealth) to survive for three months at the federal poverty level--or $5,580 in net worth for a family of four.

The percentage of households in asset poverty grew from 16.1 to 19.6 percent between 2007 and 2010. The asset poverty rate is highest among the youngest householders...

Asset poverty rate by age of householder, 2010
Under age 30: 43.2%
Aged 30 to 49: 29.3%
Aged 40 to 49: 19.9%
Aged 50 to 61: 13.4%
Aged 62 to 69: 8.7%
Aged 70-plus: 7.9%

Source: Urban Institute, U.S. Asset Poverty and the Great Recession

Health Care Expenses: 2010

Eighty-five percent of Americans had a health care expense in 2010, according to the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. The median total expense per person was $1,239, with the largest share (40 percent) paid for by private insurance. Only 14 percent of health care expenses are paid out-of-pocket. Here is the percentage of the population with health care expenses in 2010 by age (and median expenses per person)...

Under age 5: 89.2% ($469)
Aged 5 to 17: 84.6% ($517)
Aged 18 to 24: 71.9% ($557)
Aged 25 to 34: 75.3% ($817)
Aged 35 to 44: 79.9% ($1,233)
Aged 45 to 54: 86.6% ($1,670)
Aged 55 to 64: 92.3% ($2,594)
Aged 65-plus: 96.3% ($4,513)

Source: Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, 2010 Summary Data Tables

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

It's the Demographics, Stupid!

Only 72 percent of voters in the 2012 election were non-Hispanic white--the smallest percentage ever recorded by exit polls.

The detailed demographics of 2012 voters (such as the non-Hispanic white share of voters by age) will have to await Current Population Survey results. Following presidential and congressional elections, the Current Population Survey asks Americans whether they voted, producing detailed profiles of voters by demographic characteristic--including age-by-race-and-Hispanic-origin crosstabs. It will take until next year before we get those results.

We don't have to wait until next year to conclude that this election was all about the demographics. NBC News summed it up: "What happened last night was a demographic time bomb."

Wages in 2011

American workers earned $6 trillion in 2011, according to W-2 data reported by employers to the Social Security Administration. The median wage (meaning half of workers earned more and half earned less) was $26,965. Of the nation's 151 million workers, 102,694 earned $1 million or more. At the very top of the scale, 93 workers earned $50 million or more in 2011.

Source: Social Security Administration, Wage Statistics for 2011

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The Older White Vote

Anyone who expects the 2012 election to be like the 2010 election doesn't know their demographics. Take a look at the percentage of voters in each of the past two elections who were non-Hispanic whites aged 45 or older...

2010 2008
Total voters 100% 100%
NHW 45+ 54 47
Everyone else 46 53

In the 2010 election, non-Hispanic whites aged 45 or older accounted for the 54 percent majority of voters because they are much more likely than everyone else to vote in a congressional election. In the 2008 presidential election, in contrast, older whites were only 47 percent of voters. In the 2012 election, expect older whites to be an even smaller share of the vote.

Source: Census Bureau, Voting and Registration

Monday, November 05, 2012

What Are Young Adults Saving For?

If you're waiting for the housing market to rebound, you might have to wait a long time. The results of a recent Harris survey show that buying a home is way down on the list of priorities for young adults who are saving money. Most (59 percent) of 18-to-35-year-olds are currently saving money, but the percentage who are saving to buy a home is smaller than the percentage who are saving for a rainy day, college, retirement, a car, or a vacation. Here is what young adults are saving for (more than one goal could be cited)...

Rainy day fund: 55%
College costs for myself: 32%
Retirement: 29%
Car purchase: 26%
Vacation: 23%
Home purchase: 22%
College costs for my kids: 11%
Marriage: 8%
Birth of a child: 5%

Source: Harris Interactive, Retirement and Health Care Costs Weighing Heavy on Americans' Minds

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Spending a $100,000 Windfall

If someone handed you $100,000--say you won the lottery or received an inheritance--what would you do with the money? That was the question Americans aged 18 or older were asked in a recent Harris Interactive survey. Here are the answers...

Pay off debt: 59%
Save for a rainy day: 42%
Invest for my retirement: 33%
Go on vacation: 19%
Donate to charity: 18%
Buy a car: 17%
Treat myself: 15%
Buy a house: 13%
Pay for my kids' college: 10%
Go back to school: 6%

Paying off debt was the number-one response of Millennials (55 percent), Gen Xers (73 percent), and Baby Boomers (60 percent). Among people aged 67 or older, saving for a rainy day was the number-one response (51 percent), and paying off debt was number two (44 percent).

Saturday, November 03, 2012

South Sees Biggest Year-Over-Year Decline in Homeownership

Is the South falling behind other regions in the economic recovery? Trends in the region's homeownership rate suggest this might be the case. During the past year--between the third quarters of 2011 and 2012--the homeownership rate in the South fell by 1.5 percentage points. This drop was more than double the declines in the Midwest and West and in contrast to the 0.2 percentage point increase in homeownership in the Northeast.

Source: Census Bureau, Housing Vacancy Survey

Friday, November 02, 2012

Test Tube Babies

How many of the nation's newborns would not be here without, as the CDC calls it, assisted reproductive technology? The answer is 1.4 percent. As a result of the 146,244 assisted reproductive technology procedures performed in 2009 (the latest data available), 60,190 babies were born--or just over 1 percent of births. Assisted reproductive technology is defined by the CDC to include only fertility treatments in which both egg and sperm are handled in a laboratory. It does not include artificial insemination or drug-induced egg production unless the drug treatment is for egg retrieval.

Multiple births are a common outcome of assisted reproductive technology. That's because most parents choose to transfer more than one embryo during these procedures, according to the CDC--primarily because of cost. In 2009, almost half (47 percent) of babies born through assisted reproductive technology were multiple births compared with only 3 percent of all births.

The introduction of assisted reproductive technology explains why 1 in every 30 babies born in the United States in 2009 was a twin, up from 1 in every 53 babies in 1980. Overall, 19 percent of twin births and 34 percent of triplet births are the result of assisted reproductive technology.

Source: CDC, Assisted Reproductive Technology Surveillance—United States, 2009

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Americans Are More Secure

Fewer households are experiencing economic insecurity, according to the Economic Security Index, a project that measures the share of households that have experienced at least a 25 percent drop in their economic resources in the past year. In 2011, 18.9 percent of households experienced that kind of plunge in their household resources, down from 20.2 percent in 2010. This is "the largest year-over-year decline in the last quarter century," according to ESI. The 18.9 percent of households that were insecure in 2011 was the smallest since 2005.

The Economic Security Index tracks the percentage of households that experience a decline of 25 percent or more in their household income after paying for medical care and servicing their debt and who lack the savings to replace their lost income. 

What explains the 2011 decline in the ESI--or, in other words, the increase in the percentage of households that are financially secure? One factor is that we may have hit bottom. Once a household has lost much of its income, it doesn't have much farther to fall. Another reason is that household income has stabilized and household debt has fallen.   

Despite the 2011 decline in insecure households, the level of insecurity remains far above what it was in 1986--the first year included in ESI's analysis. In 1986, only 14.3 percent of households were economically insecure. The figure peaked at 20.5 percent in 2009.

Source: Economic Security Index, ESI Update: Economic Security Improves in 2011

Women Are Catching Up

Among full-time wage-and-salary workers in 1980, women earned only 64 percent as much as men. By 2011 the figure had climbed to 82 percent. Drilling down into the data, the trend gets even better. Among full-time workers aged 25 to 34, women earned 92 percent as much as men in 2011. That's up from just 69 percent in 1980.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Highlights of Women's Earnings in 2011