Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Top 10 Trends of 2013, Part 2

We live in interesting times, and these are the trends that make our times so interesting. Here are the remaining five of the Top 10 Trends of 2013. To see the first five, click here.

6. Household spending is growing. Despite stagnant incomes, the average household spent 1.4 percent more in 2012 than in 2011, after adjusting for inflation. The $51,442 spent by the average household in 2012 was still 6.7 percent below the 2006 spending peak, when the average household spent $55,119 (in 2012 dollars). But the trend is in the right direction. See Household Spending Rises

7. First-time homebuyers are aging. Before the collapse of the housing market in the wake of the Great Recession, the nation's first-time homebuyers were aged 30 to 34. The homeownership rate typically surpassed 50 percent in that age group. No longer. Only 47.5 percent of householders aged 30 to 34 were homeowners as of the third quarter of 2013. Now the typical first-time homebuyer is aged 35 to 39, almost in middle age. See First-Time Homebuyer Watch: 3rd Quarter 2013

8. College enrollment is declining. After years of rising enrollment, the number of college students plunged between 2011 and 2012. The 467,000 decline (from 20.4 million in 2011 to 19.9 million in 2012) occurred primarily among students at four-year schools. Colleges are scrambling to adjust to the lower numbers. See College Enrollment Plunges

9. Household wealth is below peak. You might have seen news reports about how the nation's net worth is at a new peak, based on Fed data. Those reports are about the aggregate and do not account for inflation or population growth. After adjusting for inflation and population growth, net worth per household is still 45 percent below its 2007 peak, according to the St. Louis Fed. See Wealth: Crawling Out of the Hole

10. The Internet is changing time use. Millions of Americans are spending a lot of leisure time online, according to an NBER study by Scott Wallsten. On an average day in 2012, 13 percent of people aged 15 or older spent leisure time online. Those who did devoted about one-third of their leisure time to online activities—and that doesn't include time spent gaming. See "What Are We Not Doing When We're Online" and More about Computer Use for Leisure

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Top 10 Trends of 2013, Part 1

We live in interesting times, and these are the trends that make our times so interesting. Here are five of the Top 10 Trends of 2013 (see tomorrow's post for the next five)...

1. Cities are growing. Between 2010 and 2012, the nation's largest cities (with populations of 50,000 or more) grew 2.1 percent. This was nearly double the 1.1 percent growth elsewhere. During the same time, the USDA reports that nonmetropolitan areas lost population—their first recorded population loss. See City Growth by SizeWhy Metros Are Growing, and Population Change along the Rural-Urban Continuum

2. Minorities now have power. In 2012, Asians, blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities accounted for 37 percent of the nation's population. Rising above the one-third threshold is an important milestone for minorities because of the One-Third Rule: when a segment of the population surpasses one-third of the total, it wields enough economic and political power to change the status quo. See Race and Hispanic Origin, 2012

3. Nuclear families are declining. As young adults postpone marriage and childbearing, the number of married couples with children under age 18 fell from 27 million (24 percent of households) to 25 million (21 percent of households) between 2007 and 2013. Nuclear families are the only household type that is declining. See 2 Million Fewer Nuclear Families

4. Fertility rate is at a record low. The fertility rate continues to set a new record low each time the National Center for Health Statistics issues an updated report. For the 12-month period ending in June 2013, the fertility rate—which is the number of births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44—fell to 62.7, yet another record low. See Births Stable, Fertility Rate Fell through June 2013

5. Women's earnings are no longer growing. Over the years, the increase in women's earnings has kept families afloat as men's earnings stalled. Since 2010, however, the growth in women's earnings has come to a halt. Consequently, household incomes are stagnant. The $51,017 median household income of 2012 was lower than the $51,892 of 2010 and well below the $55,627 of 2007, after adjusting for inflation. See The End of the Rise in Women's Earnings and Median Household Income in 2012

Friday, December 27, 2013

Belief in God by Education

The 54 percent majority of Americans are "absolutely certain" there is a God. Absolute belief in God varies by generation, ranging from a low of 47 percent among Millennials to a high of 62 percent among people aged 68 or older. It varies by region from a low of 46 percent in the West to a high of 61 percent in the South. The biggest differences in belief are by educational attainment…

Percent who are "absolutely certain" there is a God
60% high school or less
55% some college
48% college graduate
37% post graduate

Source: Harris Interactive, Americans' Belief in God, Miracles, and Heaven Declines

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Overweight: Fantasy vs. Fact

36% of Americans think they are overweight.
63% of Americans are overweight based on self-reported height and weight.

Source Gallup and National Health Interview Survey

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Religious Belief vs. Evolution

Americans are more likely to believe in God, miracles, heaven, angels, hell, the Devil, and the Virgin birth than in Darwin's theory of evolution, according to a Harris Interactive poll.

Only 47 percent of adults aged 18 or older believe in evolution compared with a much larger 74 percent who believe in God, 72 percent who believe in miracles, 68 percent who believe in heaven and angels, 58 percent who believe in hell and the Devil, and 57 percent who believe in the Virgin birth. This pattern does not vary by generation with one exception: Millennials are slightly more likely to believe in evolution than in the Virgin birth (49 versus 48 percent), but the difference is not statistically significant.

Source: Harris Interactive, Americans' Belief in God, Miracles, and Heaven Declines

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Favorite Leisure Activities

Watching television is the favorite leisure activity of the largest share of Americans, with 42 percent citing it as one of their two or three favorites. The list of favorite activities varies surprisingly little by generation or gender. Here are the leisure activities mentioned as favorites by at least 10 percent of adults...

42% watching TV
37% reading
19% spending time on computer/Internet
18% spending time with family/friends
11% watching/going to the movies
10% exercising/working out
10% playing video/computer games

Source: Harris Interactive, We Work Before We Play

Monday, December 23, 2013

Good Fathers

Among men aged 15 to 44, 38 percent live with one or more of their children under age 18 and 12 percent live apart from one or more children. This is the percentage of fathers who say they do a "good" or "very good" job as a father by living arrangement...

Lives with one or more children: 88%
Lives apart from one or more children: 54%

Souce: National Center for Health Statistics, National Survey of Family Growth, Fathers' Involvement with Their Children: United States, 2006-2010

Friday, December 20, 2013

Health Care Expenses in 2011

Most of us had a health care expense in 2011, with Americans paying a total of $1.3 trillion for medical care (including payments made by private health insurance companies, Medicare, Medicaid, and out-of-pocket). Here is the percentage of the population with a health care expense in 2011 (and median expense per person with expense) by type of service...

85% any expense ($1,312)
72% doctor visit ($458)
63% prescription drugs ($275)
40% dental visit ($243)
14% hospital outpatient services ($739)
12% emergency room services ($681)
7% hospital inpatient services ($9,869)
2% home health care ($3,396)

Source: Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, National Health Care Expenses in the U.S. Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population, 2011

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Identity Theft in 2012

Seventeen million Americans aged 16 or older were victims of identity theft in 2012, but only 14 percent of victims experienced out-of-pocket losses of $1 or more. Most were able to resolve the problem in a day or less. Despite the relatively minor inconvenience identity theft poses to most of its victims, a substantial 36 percent of identity theft victims reported moderate to severe emotional distress because of the incident.

Victims of identity theft are more likely than nonvictims to take measures to reduce the future risk of theft. Here is the percentage of identity theft victims (and the percentage of nonvictims) who took selected actions in the past 12 months…

Checked bank or credit statements: 92% (74%)
Shredded/destroyed documents with personal information: 80% (67%)
Changed passwords on financial accounts: 56% (27%)
Checked credit report: 53% (37%)
Used identity theft security program on computer: 25% (16%)
Purchased identity theft insurance/credit monitoring service: 12% (5%)

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Victims of Identity Theft, 2012

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Children in Wireless-Only Households

In 12 states, at least half the children under age 18 live in wireless-only households—meaning their household has a cell phone but no landline phone, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The 12 states are Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

Nationally, 45 percent of children live in wireless-only households. Among adults, a smaller 38 percent are wireless-only. Children are more likely to be wireless-only because parents of children under age 18 are younger than the average adult and more likely to own a cell phone.

Another reason children are more likely than adults to be wireless-only is the low incomes of many of today's parents. Among the poor, the 55 percent majority are wireless-only. Among those who are not poor, the figure is just 33 percent. The poverty factor explains why Mississippi, the poorest state, has the largest share of children living in a wireless-only household—63 percent in 2012.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey, Wireless Substitution: State-level Estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, 2012; and Wireless Substitution: Early Release of Estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, January-June, 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Employment-Based Retirement Plans: 2012 Update

If Americans need to save more for retirement, then we have a problem. Most of the nation's private-sector workers are shut out of employer-sponsored retirement plans. No wonder participation in these plans is so low.

Among the nation's 110 million private-sector wage and salary workers aged 21 to 64, only 39 percent participated in an employment-based retirement plan in 2012. Behind the low participation rate is the fact that many employers do not offer a retirement plan. Only 48 percent of private-sector workers had  an employer who sponsored a retirement plan, the lowest figure in the past 25 years and down from a high of 59 percent in 2000.

Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute, Employment-Based Retirement Plan Participation: Geographic Differences and Trends, 2012

Monday, December 16, 2013

Debt Delays Retirement

Older Americans with debt are more likely to delay retirement, according to a study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. The study finds a growing share of older Americans in debt and their debt load rising.

The percentage of 62-to-69-year-olds with debt grew from 48 to 62 percent between 1998 and 2010, according to the study, which analyzed the financial and labor force status of a nationally representative sample of older Americans from the Health and Retirement Study. Among those with debt, the median amount owed grew from $19,020 to $32,130 per person during those years, after adjusting for inflation. Mortgages account for the largest share of debt, and the percentage of 62-to-69-year-olds with mortgage debt grew from 29 to 39 percent between 1998 and 2010.

The study found "striking differences" in the labor force participation of older adults with and without debt. Those with debt were much more likely than those without debt to work (46 versus 33 percent), and the debtors were less likely to receive Social Security benefits (71 versus 78 percent).

"It is encouraging to find that older adults with debt are delaying both retirement and Social Security benefits," conclude the authors. But they add: "At some point, however, age and health prevent most people from working. When that time comes, how will those with debt manage their monthly mortgage and credit card payments? Possibilities include selling their homes, buying reverse mortgages, or declaring bankruptcy."

Source: Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Does Household Debt Influence the Labor Supply and Benefit Claiming Decisions of Older Americans?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Counties with Growing Incomes, 2007 to 2012

Between 2007 and 2012, only 111 of the nation's 3,142 counties experienced a statistically significant increase in median household income. Half of those counties were in North and South Dakota. Here is the number of counties that saw their median household income grow during those years…

55 of 119 counties in North and South Dakota
56 of 3,023 counties in all other states

Source: Census Bureau, Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Generation Status Varies by Race and Hispanic Origin

Among all Americans, 13 percent were born in another country (defined as first generation). Another 12 percent were born in the United States, but at least one of their parents was born elsewhere (defined as second generation). The 76 percent majority of Americans were born in the United States as were both their parents (defined as third generation or higher). By race and Hispanic origin, the generation status of the population differs considerably…

First generation
Asians: 56%
Blacks: 10%
Hispanics: 36%
Non-Hispanic whites: 4%

Second generation
Asians: 32%
Blacks: 7%
Hispanics: 31%
Non-Hispanic whites: 6%

Third or higher generation
Asians: 12%
Blacks: 83%
Hispanics: 33%
Non-Hispanic whites: 90%

Note: Asians and blacks are those who identify themselves as the race alone or the race in combination with other races. Hispanics may be of any race.
Source: Census Bureau, Race and Hispanic Origin Table Packages: 2012

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Medicaid Pays for almost Half of Deliveries

In the United States...
41 percent of babies are born to unmarried women, up from 11 percent in 1970
28 percent of children live in a single-parent family, up from 12 percent in 1970
22 percent of children are poor, up from 15 percent in 1970

What if these problems have the same root cause—the dysfunctional American health insurance system? New data being collected from birth certificates suggest that, in fact, this might be the case.

Among babies born in 2011, Medicaid paid for fully 45 percent of deliveries. This figure almost equals the 46 percent of deliveries paid for by private health insurance. Medicaid is the government's health insurance program for the poor. With a normal hospital delivery averaging $9,000, the many young adults who do not have employer-provided health insurance (48 percent of the nation's 18-to-34-year-olds) are making a rational economic choice to stay single as they become parents. If they married, the combined income of husband and wife—even if they earned no more than minimum wage—would boost their household income above the Medicaid threshold. For many young adults, marriage would result in financial ruin because of the lack of health insurance.

As the Affordable Care Act unfolds, it may have the unforeseen benefit of reducing out-of-wedlock births, single-parent families, and childhood poverty. By mandating maternity coverage in health insurance plans, and by subsidizing health insurance for low-income workers, getting married before having a baby may begin to make sense again.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Newly Released Data from the Revised U.S. Birth Certificate, 2011

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Why Metros Are Growing

Metropolitan areas, particularly urban cores, are the powerhouses of the post-Great Recession era. In the past year, 77 percent of the nation's metros gained jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In contrast, employment growth in nonmetro areas has been zero, says the USDA's Economic Research Service.

The lack of economic opportunity in nonmetro areas explains why they lost population between 2010 and 2012—the first loss ever recorded. The greater opportunity in metropolitan areas, and in particular central cities, explains why their populations are growing. Now a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland shows that metropolitan populations are not only growing but changing in unexpected ways. Urban cores are attracting and retaining highly skilled residents (defined as those with a four-year college degree), a reversal of the pattern in past decades. "As a result of these trends," says economist Kyle Fee, "in many metro areas the residents of neighborhoods close to the central business district are now more educated than those in farther-away suburbs."

What explains the rising educational level of urban cores? Central cities have been able to attract and retain college graduates for a number of reasons, says Fee. One of those reasons is the growing preference for an urban lifestyle.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Population Distribution and Educational Attainment within MSAs, 1980-2010

Monday, December 09, 2013

Household Income Stable in October 2013

Median annual household income was stable in October 2013, according to the latest monthly update from Sentier Research. The October median of $52,299 was not statistically different from the September median, after adjusting for inflation.  

Sentier has detected "an uneven but upward trend" in income since August 2011, when median household income fell to its low point of $50,910 (in 2013 dollars). The October median was 2.7 percent higher than the August 2011 median, after adjusting for inflation. "We still have a significant amount of ground to make up to get back to where we were before," cautions Sentier's Gordon Green, "but at least we have shown some improvement since the low point." 

Median household income in October 2013 was 4.4 percent below the median of June 2009, the end of the Great Recession. It was 6.1 percent lower than the median in December 2007, the start of the Great Recession. It was 7.2 percent lower than the January 2000 median.

Source: Sentier Research, Household Income Trends Series: October 2013

Friday, December 06, 2013

Births Stable, Fertility Rate Falls through June 2013

The downward slide in births may have come to a halt, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. During the 12-month period ending in June 2013, 3,941,000 babies were born in the United States. This was not statistically different from the number of births during the 12-month period ending in June 2012. Since the 2007 peak, when 4,316,233 babies were born, births have fallen by 9 percent. During the baby bust of the 1970s, which created Generation X, births fell by a much larger 37 percent from peak (1957) to trough (1973).

Although births are stable, the fertility rate is not. The fertility rate—which is the number of births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44—fell to 62.7 during the 12-month period ending in June 2013. This is a new record low.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Recent Trends in Births and Fertility Rates through June 2013

Thursday, December 05, 2013

The Persistence of Books

Most Americans aged 18 or older are book readers. The 54.5 percent who read a book in 2012 was almost identical to the 54.3 percent who read a book in 2008, according to surveys of arts participation by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Age of book readers: The percentage of adults who read a book in 2012 varied little by age and exceeded 50 percent in every age group.

Gender of book readers: Books are more popular among women (64%) than men (45%).

Educational attainment of book readers: The biggest variation in book reading occurs by education, with the percentage who read a book in 2012 rising from 41 percent among high school graduates to 74 percent among college graduates and peaking at 82 percent among those who went to graduate school.

Source: National Endowment for the Arts, How a Nation Engages with Art

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Attrition Rates among College Students by Major

Fully 28 percent of college students choose to major in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) field, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In an analysis of 2003-04 beginning bachelor's degree students, the NCES finds more students opting for a STEM field than business (26 percent), social sciences (21 percent), humanities (13 percent), or education (13 percent).

Besides math and engineering, STEM fields include biology and life sciences, physical sciences, and computer and information sciences. Many students who choose a STEM field ultimately abandon it—48 percent of 2003-04 beginning bachelor's degree students eventually switched to a non-STEM major or dropped out of school entirely. The STEM attrition rate ranges from a low of 38 percent for those majoring in math to a high of 59 percent for those majoring in computer/information sciences.

While those attrition rates are high enough to raise eyebrows, the analysis shows STEM rates are no higher than rates in non-STEM fields. Among students majoring in education, for example, 62 percent switched majors or dropped out of school. The attrition rate was 45 percent for social science majors, 50 percent for business majors, and 56 percent for those majoring in the humanities.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, STEM Attrition: College Students' Paths Into and Out of STEM Fields

Tuesday, December 03, 2013


That's no typo in the title of this blog post. Dwellr is a new Census Bureau app that shows you the characteristics of your current location based on GPS coordinates and searches for the best places for you to live based on your profile and preferences.

Tap on Dwellr's compass to pull up the American Community Survey's demographic, socioeconomic, and housing statistics for thousands of locations. Do it when you're on the road and discover the facts about the community receding in your rearview mirror. Search for places you want to know more about. Create your own profile and specify your preferences, then let the Census Bureau find the 25 Best Places for you to live.

Dwellr can be downloaded from the Apple app and Google Play stores and is available for iPhones and iPads, Androids, and 10-inch tablets. Dwellr is the second app created by the Census Bureau. It joins America's Economy, which provides mobile access to 19 key economic indicators. These apps are not just useful tools, they're also a lot of fun.

Monday, December 02, 2013

The American Demand for Credit

In the past 12 months…

41% of households applied for credit and were accepted
12% of households applied for credit and were rejected
7% of households wanted credit but did not apply because they believed they would be rejected

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Liberty Street Economics, (Unmet) Credit Demand of American Households

Friday, November 29, 2013

Christmas Spending

On average, Americans say they will personally spend $704 on Christmas gifts this year, according to a Gallup survey, down from the $770 they spent in 2012.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Frequency of Family Dinners

Among Americans who live with at least one other family member, 86 percent say they sit down together for a family dinner at least once a week. The 58 percent majority do so at least four nights a week. By generation, the proportion of families who have dinner together at least four times a week looks like this…

Millennials: 52%
Gen Xers: 50%
Boomers: 62%
Older: 81%

Most Americans believe their family today has fewer family dinners than they did when they were growing up, with 55 to 60 percent of each generation feeling that way.

Source: Harris Interactive, Are Americans Still Serving Up Family Dinners?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Popular Vegetables

The five most popular vegetables in the United States are…

1. Tomatoes
2. Potatoes
3. Sweet corn
4. Onions
5. Head lettuce

French fries and pizza elevate tomatoes and potatoes to the top of the list, reports the USDA's Economic Research Service

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Old Would Be Poor without Social Security

Only 9.1 percent of Americans aged 65 or older are poor—a lower poverty rate than in any other age group. Without Social Security, however, the poverty rate of people aged 65 or older would rise to 54.7 percent, according to the Census Bureau's 2012 supplemental poverty measure research.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Live Arts Attendance Falls—Maybe

Are the live arts in decline, or is the latest survey by the National Endowment for the Arts simply picking up on changes in arts preferences? The 2012 survey of arts participation reveals what may be a worrisome decline in attendance at live arts events, or it may reveal nothing more than shifting tastes.

Only 33 percent of adults attended at least one live arts performance in 2012, reports the NEA. This figure—the lowest ever recorded—was down from 35 percent in 2008 and a high of 41 percent in 1992. But the NEA counts only attendance at performances of classical music, opera, jazz, ballet, musical and non-musical plays, and visits to art museums and galleries. Rock concerts do not count, for example, and as musical tastes have shifted over the decades this omission may be wrongly skewing participation rates downward. Newly added to the survey in 2012 is a question about attendance at any live music performance. Over time, the answer to that question will help determine whether the live arts are in decline or preferences are simply shifting. Thirty-two percent of adults reported attending any live music event in 2012, with the percentage peaking at 41 percent among 18-to-24-year-olds.

Not all arts audiences are small or shrinking. The percentage of adults who went out to a movie grew from 53 to 59 percent between 2008 and 2012. The percentage who read at least one book for personal interest held steady at about 54 percent. Fully 71 percent of adults consumed art through electronic media such as television, radio, or the Internet.

Source: National Endowment for the Arts, How a Nation Engages with Art

Friday, November 22, 2013

Remembering Kennedy

Percentage of Americans who are too young to remember the Kennedy assassination: 75%.

Source: Calculation based on estimated number of Americans under age 56 in 2013

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Another Stupid Survey

So Gallup reports that the 56 percent majority of Americans think it is not the responsibility of the federal government to ensure that all Americans have health care coverage. What a meaningless number. To understand attitudes toward health insurance, responses must be broken down by age because age—in particular the age of 65—separates the haves from the have-nots.

It's a good bet that most Americans under age 65 think the federal government should ensure health care coverage for all Americans. And it's a good bet that Americans aged 65 or older, comfortably covered by the federal government's Medicare program, are the ones so dead set against it. Let's see the numbers.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Economic Security Improves in 2012

The latest Economic Security Index shows household economic security making gains in 2012. The percentage of households that lost at least one-quarter of their income in 2012 fell slightly, to 17.8 percent. This figure is down from 18.9 percent in 2011 and the record high of 20.5 percent in 2009.

On the Economic Security Index web site, you can compare states, examine trends over the past quarter century, and download reports for individual states.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Homeowner Mobility Rises

For the first time since the Great Recession, the mobility rate of homeowners increased, according to the latest data from the Census Bureau. Between March 2012 and March 2013, an estimated 5.2 percent of people who live in owner-occuped homes moved, up from the record low of 4.7 percent in 2011-12. The number of homeowners who moved grew by 759,000 between 2011-12 and 2012-13. Although the mobility rate of homeowners is rising, it remains well below the 8 to 9 percent that was typical in the 1980s and 1990s.

Renters accounted for the 71 percent majority of movers between March 2012 and March 2013. In contrast to the rise in the homeowner mobility rate, the renter mobility rate fell to 24.9 percent in 2012-13, down from the 26.7 percent of 2011-12. Before the Great Recession, the renter mobility rate typically exceeded 30 percent.

Mobility rate by housing tenure, 2012-13
In owner-occupied housing: 5.2%
In renter-occupied housing: 24.9%

Source: Census Bureau, Geographical Mobility: 2012 to 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013

Mobility Rate Falls Again

Fewer Americans moved in 2012-13 than in 2011-12, and the mobility rate also fell. With the housing market awaiting the return of the mobile American, the numbers released by the Census Bureau today are not good news.

Only 11.7 percent of people aged 1 or older moved between March 2012 and March 2013, a mobility rate that is close to the all-time low of 11.6 percent recorded in 2010-11 and below the 12.0 percent of 2011-12. The number of people who moved fell by 430,000 between 2011-12 and 2012-13. Here are geographical mobility rates since 2006-07, before the start of the Great Recession…

2012-13: 11.7%
2011-12: 12.0%
2010-11: 11.6%
2009-10: 12.5%
2008-09: 12.5%
2007-08: 11.9%
2006-07: 13.2%

Source: Census Bureau, Geographical Mobility: 2012 to 2013

Friday, November 15, 2013

Retirement Plan Participation, 2012

Among all wage and salary workers aged 21 to 64, only 53 percent work for an employer who sponsors a retirement plan and just 44 percent participate in the plan.

Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute, Employment-Based Retirement Plan Participation: Geographic Differences and Trends, 2012

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Housing: Before and After the Great Recession

It's hard to summarize the contradictory trends contained in the Census Bureau's report, Home Value and Homeownership Rates: Recession and Post-Recession Comparisons from 2007-2009 to 2010-2012. The report is one of the first with three-year estimates and comparisons from the American Community Survey, which replaced the census "long form" and provides demographic and socioeconomic data for small geographic areas.

At first glance, the report seems to show that the Great Recession and the collapse of the housing market passed millions of Americans by without creating so much as a statistical ripple. For example, in the great majority of the nation's smaller counties (the 1,038 counties with populations of 20,000 to 65,000), the bureau found no statistically significant change in median home value or homeownership rate between 2007-2009 and 2010-2012. Only 12 percent of American live in those smaller counties, however, making their stability a minority perspective.

In the 50 most populous counties, the story is different—median home values fell in most areas and the homeownership rate took a hit in all of them, the bureau reports. A larger 30 percent of Americans live in these counties, and their struggles are well known. The collapse of the housing bubble is readily apparent in the steep decline in median housing value in Contra Costa County, California (San Francisco), where median value fell by a stunning $141,500. Declines topping $100,000 also occurred in Los Angeles County and Clark County, Nevada (Las Vegas), among others. Even so, among the 50 largest counties a few saw home values rise even during the darkest days of the Great Recession. Median home value grew in Bexar and Travis counties in Texas (San Antonio and Austin) and Allegheny County in Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh).

Perhaps the report's ultimate meaning can be summed up by the old real estate axiom: location, location, location.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Changes in Household Energy Consumption

Heating and cooling account for a shrinking share of household energy consumption, according to an analysis of the most recent Residential Energy Consumption Survey data by the Energy Information Administration. Only 48 percent of the energy consumed by the average American household in 2009 was used for heating and cooling, down from 58 percent in 1993. Behind the decline is more efficient heating and cooling equipment, as well as better insulated homes, more efficient windows, and migration to the Sunbelt.

Water heating accounts for 18 percent of home energy consumption, a share that has not changed over the decades. The big increase in household energy consumption has occurred in the category appliances, electronics, and lighting. Thirty-five percent of household energy consumption is devoted to keeping computers, televisions, refrigerators and the like up and running. This figure was just 24 percent in 1993.

Source: Energy Information Administration, Heating and Cooling No Longer Majority of U.S. Home Energy Use

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Low Wage Workers Look Back at Better Days

A survey of low-wage workers reveals that the 52 percent majority made more money at their previous job. Low-wage workers are defined as those employed and making $14/hour or less, or the unemployed who made $14/hour or less at their last job.

Among low-wage workers, older men are most likely to report having made more at their previous job. Fully 60 percent of men aged 50 or older earning low wages say they used to make more money.

Source: Oxfam America, Hard Work, Hard Lives: America's Low-Wage Workers

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Future of the Rental Market

The inventory of rental housing is expanding, according to an annual status report on the nation's housing market, but not because developers are jumping on the bandwagon. New construction of rental units remains well below the annual averages of the past two decades.

Rental inventory is expanding because single-family homes are being converted from owner- to renter-occupied, according to The State of the Nation's Housing 2013. Between 2009 and 2011, this type of conversion added more than 1 million single-family homes to the rental stock. "Small investors and local property owners continue to own the vast majority of the nearly 14 million single-family rentals nationwide," notes the report. "But since 2011, large investment pools have acquired single-family homes on an unprecedented scale with the intention of managing the properties as rentals."

The outsized growth of the rental market over the past few years won't last forever, and the report describes a possible future scenario: "As the homeownership market recovers, renter household growth will very likely slow and rental markets will have to adjust accordingly. Since much of the increased demand for rental housing has been satisfied by the expanded supply of single-family rentals, future market adjustments may come from a return of these units to owner-occupancy."

Source: Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, The State of the Nation's Housing 2013

Sunday, November 10, 2013

South Opposes Gay Marriage

The 52 percent majority of Americans support gay marriage, according to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute. But support varies by region…

Percent who favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally
62% in the Northeast
58% in the West
53% in the Midwest
43% in the South

Friday, November 08, 2013

Household Income Stable in September 2013

Median annual household income was stable in September 2013, according to the latest monthly update from Sentier Research. The September median of $52,529 was not statistically different from the August median, after adjusting for inflation.  

Sentier has detected "an uneven but upward trend" in income since August 2011, when median household income fell to its low point of $50,940 (in 2013 dollars). The September median was 3.1 percent higher than the August 2011 median, after adjusting for inflation. "We still have a significant amount of ground to make up to get back to where we were before," cautions Sentier's Gordon Green, "but at least we now appear to be heading in the right direction." 

Median household income in September 2013 was 4.0 percent below the median of June 2009, the end of the Great Recession. It was 5.7 percent lower than the median in December 2007, the start of the Great Recession. It was 6.8 percent lower than the median in January 2000. The Household Income Index for September 2013 was 93.2 (January 2000 = 100.0). The index compares median annual household income in a given month as a percent of its value in January 2000, after adjusting for inflation. An Excel spreadsheet of the entire household income time series is available from Sentier's web site for $25.00.

Source: Sentier Research, Household Income Trends Series: September 2013

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Homeownership Falls among Retiring Boomers

It's time for another look at changes in homeownership by birth cohort. By comparing homeownership rates for five-year age groups in the third quarter of 2013 with those in the third quarter of 2008, cohort decisions regarding homeownership can be teased out of Census Bureau data.

Such a comparison reveals the expected rise in homeownership among young adults as they age into their thirties and early forties. Cohort homeownership rates decline slightly (by 0.4 to 0.9 percentage points) as householders age into their late forties and fifties. The largest and most surprising decline in homeownership rate by cohort is among householders aged 60 to 64—retiring baby boomers.  

In the third quarter of 2013, only 76.8 percent of householders aged 60 to 64 owned their home. Five years earlier when this cohort was aged 55 to 59, their homeownership rate was a larger 79.3 percent. Between 2008 and 2013, the homeownership rate of the cohort (boomers born between 1949 and 1953) fell by a substantial 2.5 percentage points.

Homeownership rates by five-year age group have been calculated by the Census Bureau since 1982. In 2012, for the first time, the 78.6 percent homeownership rate of 60-to-64-year olds fell below what would round to 80 percent. The 2013 data show the downward trend picking up speed as boomers make decisions about their retirement years. In a MacArthur Foundation study released earlier this year, a substantial 49 percent of homeowners aged 50 to 64 said they would be willing to consider renting in the future. Maybe that explains the homeownership decline.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Why Don't Hispanics Vote?

The large and rapidly growing Hispanic population has the potential to upend the nation's politics. But so far Hispanics have failed to live up to the potential. In the 2012 presidential election, only 48 percent of Hispanic citizens went to the polls, according to Census Bureau voter data. This compares with a voting rate of 66 percent for blacks and 64 percent for non-Hispanic whites.

Why don't Hispanics vote? That question has an answer. After every presidential and congressional election the Census Bureau surveys registered voters and asks why those who did not vote failed to show up at the polls. A look at the answers provided by Hispanics reveals why they are less likely to vote.
  • It's not for lack of interest. Only 15 percent of Hispanic non-voters said they did not vote because they weren't interested versus 16 percent of all non-voters.  
  • It's not because they don't care about the candidates or issues. Only 9 percent of Hispanic non-voters said they did not vote for this reason versus 13 percent of all non-voters. 
  • It might be their jobs. Nearly one in four Hispanic non-voters (23 percent) said they could not get to the polls because they were too busy or had a schedule conflict versus a smaller 19 percent of all non-voters.
A look at the data reveals that adults aged 25 to 44 are most likely say they are too busy to vote. A large share of Hispanics are in that age group and many toil long hours in low-wage jobs, making work schedules a bigger obstacle for the potential Hispanic voter.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

First-Time Homebuyer Watch: 3rd Quarter 2013

Homeownership rate of householders aged 30 to 34, third quarter 2013: 47.5%

The homeownership rate of householders aged 30 to 34 fell by 0.9 percentage points between the second and third quarters of 2013, to 47.5 percent. Although the homeownership rate of the age group has recovered from the all-time low of 46.9 percent recorded in the third quarter of 2012, it is well below the 50 percent mark that defines first-time homebuyers, and the trend for the age group is downward.

In the new normal, the typical first-time homebuyer is a middle-aged 35-to-39-year-old rather than a young adult. In the third quarter of 2013, the homeownership rate of 35-to-39-year-olds was 56.0 percent. This was 1.2 percentage points lower than one year ago but the highest rate recorded this year. Prior to the Great Recession, the homeownership rate of 35-to-39-year-olds exceeded 66 percent.

Nationally, the homeownership rate was 65.3 percent in the third quarter of 2013, slightly higher than the 65.0 percent in the first and second quarters of 2013 but 0.2 percentage points below the 65.5 percent of one year ago.

Source: Census Bureau, Housing Vacancy Survey

Monday, November 04, 2013

The Flaw in Labor Force Data

There's a flaw in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' new report, Labor Force Characteristics by Race and Ethnicity, 2012 (PDF). The same flaw occurs in most labor force statistics produced by the BLS—the failure to distinguish "non-Hispanic whites" from the "white" racial category. By not making this distinction, a serious analysis of labor force characteristics by race and Hispanic origin is impossible.

Because Hispanics may be of any race and most (89 percent) are white, lumping Hispanic and non-Hispanic whites together distorts the picture. This wouldn't matter so much if white Hispanics were a tiny fraction of all whites in the labor force, but they are a substantial 18 percent. The BLS report states, for example, that "whites make up the majority of the labor force in 2012 (80 percent)." But if you subtract Hispanic whites from total whites, you discover that non-Hispanic whites are a much smaller 66 percent of the labor force—a more interesting and useful perspective on the American labor force.

Lumping Hispanic and non-Hispanic whites together also would not matter if workers were similar, but they are polar opposites. Non-Hispanic whites are one of the best-educated segments of the labor force while Hispanics are the least educated. Non-Hispanic whites are some of the workers most likely to be managers or professionals while Hispanics are least likely. Non-Hispanic whites have some of the highest wages while Hispanics have the lowest wages. By lumping them into one category, what could have been an interesting comparison of workers becomes a muddled mess.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Most Know They Have High Blood Pressure

How many Americans have high blood pressure but don't know it? Not that many, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. By actually measuring the blood pressure of a representative sample of Americans and asking them whether they have high blood pressure, the CDC was able to determine not only the prevalence of hypertension but also awareness of the problem among those with the condition.

The 2011-12 survey results show that 29 percent of Americans aged 18 or older have high blood pressure. Among those with high blood pressure, 83 percent are aware of it, 76 percent take medication to lower it, and 52 percent have it under control.

Friday, November 01, 2013

The Curse of the First Born

If you are a first born, you probably think your younger brothers and sisters got away with everything. They did. That's the finding of a National Bureau of Economic Research study that examines why first-born children, on average, do better in school than their younger siblings.

Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, the NBER researchers find "robust empirical evidence" that school performance declines with birth order—and so does parental discipline. First borns tend to do better in school because their parents demand it, say the researchers. Later-born children don't do as well because parents slack off, hoping their effort with the first born rubs off on younger siblings. Apparently it doesn't.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, Strategic Parenting, Birth Order and School Performance, NBER Working Paper 19542 ($5)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The End of the Rise in Women's Earnings

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, the decades-long increase in the earnings of women who work full-time came to an end. In 2012, the median of $691 per week earned by women who work full-time in wage and salary employment was less than the $704 they earned in 2010, after adjusting for inflation. Women are joining men in the struggle to stay even. In 2012, their male counterparts earned a median of $854 per week, less than the $867 they earned in 2010 and the $861 they earned all the way back in 1979.

Over the years, the rise in women's earnings has kept American families afloat. With women and men now experiencing earnings stagnation or outright decline, household incomes have fallen. The $51,017 median household income of 2012 was more than $5,000 below the 1999 peak of $56,080, after adjusting for inflation.

For more about women's earnings, see the Bureau of Labor Statistics report Highlights of Women's Earnings in 2012 (PDF)

Warm Feelings for Christians

Just how warmly do Americans feel toward religious groups? A survey by the Public Religion Research Institute asked respondents to rate religious groups using a "feeling thermometer" with a scale ranging from 1 (coldest) to 100 (warmest). A temperature of 51 or higher means the respondent feels warmer toward a group. A temperature of 1 to 49 means the respondent feels colder toward a group. If the feeling is neither warm nor cold, the rating would be 50. Here are the temperatures...

74.6 degrees for Christians
67.8 degrees for Jews
64.8 degrees for Catholics
43.0 degrees for atheists
42.4 degrees for Muslims

Interestingly, Americans on the whole feel cold toward atheists (43.0) but more warmly toward "non-religious people," whose temperature was a higher 56.1.

Source: Public Religion Research Institute, American Values Survey 2013

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

E-Book Reader Ownership: 2013

Twenty-four percent of Americans aged 16 or older owned an e-book reader as of September 2013, according to Pew Internet and American Life Project. A larger 35 percent own a tablet computer. Ownership trends show tablet computers are being adopted more readily than e-book readers.

  • In December 2011, 10 percent of Americans owned each type of device. 
  • By November 2012, e-book reader ownership had climbed 9 percentage points to 19 percent. Tablet computer ownership had grown by a larger 15 percentage points to 25 percent. 
  • By September 2013, e-book ownership had increased by another 5 percentage points to 24 percent. Tablet computer ownership had grown twice as fast, rising by 10 percentage points to the current 35 percent.  

Source: Pew Internet and American Life Project, Tablet and E-Reader Ownership Update

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

How to Stay Married

Go to college. Education, and in particular a college degree, appears to be the key to a long-lasting marriage, according to a study of marriage and divorce by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Based on data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, which is tracking a cohort of Americans born between 1957 and 1964, the BLS found striking differences by educational attainment in the probability of a long-lasting marriage.

Among the ever-married in 2010-11 (when the cohort was aged 45 to 52), only 49 percent of those who went no further than high school were still in their first marriage. The figure was a much larger 69 percent among their counterparts with a bachelor's degree.

What accounts for these differences? Age at first marriage is one factor. The older the age at first marriage, the lower the probability of divorce. Young adults who spend time earning a degree marry at an older age than those who do not devote years to their education. Consequently, college graduates are more mature when they marry and less likely to divorce. Another factor is money. The less educated often have low earnings, leading to marital stress and a higher likelihood of divorce.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Marriage and Divorce: Patterns by Gender, Race, and Educational Attainment

Monday, October 28, 2013

More about Computer Use for Leisure

Inspired by Scott Wallsten's excellent NBER study of how many hours per day people participate in the time use category "computer use for leisure," I took a look at the 2012 numbers from the American Time Use Survey. He's right: millions of Americans spend much of their leisure time online.

Keep in mind that the "computer use for leisure" category does not include gaming, emailing, watching television or videos, reading for personal interest, or work—all of which are coded separately. In fact, the "computer use for leisure" category is a remainder and most of it is social networking, web surfing, and search, according to Wallsten's analysis.

On an average day in 2012, fully 13 percent of people aged 15 or older spent leisure time online. By age, the figure ranges from a low of 9 percent (people aged 65-plus) to a high of 21 percent (15-to-19-year-olds). As Wallsten points out, those who go online spend a considerable amount of their leisure time on the computer. Here are the numbers for 2012...

Hours (and percent) of leisure time spent online by participants
Total, 15-plus: 1.61 (32%)
Aged 15 to 19: 1.39 (29%)
Aged 20 to 24: 2.29 (45%)
Aged 25 to 34: 1.38 (33%)
Aged 35 to 44: 1.34 (33%)
Aged 45 to 54: 1.56 (34%)
Aged 55 to 64: 1.65 (31%)
Aged 65-plus: 1.85 (27%)

Remember these figures do not include gaming. On an average day in 2012, a substantial 21 percent of 15-to-19-year-olds played games (a separate time use category that includes online gaming as well as  board and card games). Those in the age group who played games devoted an astonishing 2.66 hours to gaming (55 percent of their leisure time!).

See my earlier post about Wallsten's study here, in which he determines the activities most likely to lose out because of all the time we spend online.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Median Monthly Earnings by Age

The earnings of Americans are modest. Among those with earnings (wages, salaries, and self-employment), median monthly personal earnings range from a low of just over $1,000 per month for 15-to-24-year-olds to a high of $3,211 per month for 45-to-54-year-olds.

Median monthly personal earnings by age
Total, 15-plus: $2,598
Aged 15 to 24: $1,073
Aged 25 to 34: $2,531
Aged 35 to 44: $3,189
Aged 45 to 54: $3,211
Aged 55 to 64: $3,155
Aged 65-plus: $1,738

Source: Census Bureau, Income and Earnings Estimates, First Quarter 2012

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Crowding Effect

"Birth-year cohort effects" explain why Americans born in the 1930s and 1940s have done better economically than those born in the 1950s and later, according to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. In other words, size matters.

Turns out, being a member of a small generation can be good for the pocketbook. The baby bust of the Great Depression and World War II resulted in a small birth cohort that, because of its scarcity, enjoyed a lifetime of relatively higher earnings, lower house prices, and strong growth in asset prices compared to the bigger birth cohorts that came before and after. That explains why the large baby-boom generation doesn't measure up—it's the crowding effect. "It is plausible that Baby Boomers may have suffered from crowding in labor, housing, and financial markets," say the Fed researchers. "This may have resulted in unfavorable developments in income and wealth accumulation."

Unfortunately for boomers, the crowding effect is a life sentence: "It appears unlikely to us that Baby Boomers—who are just now entering retirement in large numbers—will enjoy incomes and wealth for given demographic characteristics as favorable as that enjoyed by pre-boomers," conclude the researchers.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Center for Household Financial Stability Working Paper, The Economic and Financial Status of Older Americans: Trends and Prospects

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pew Probes Hispanic Identity

A Pew survey of the nation's Hispanics finds that the 54 percent majority usually identify themselves by their family's country of origin such as Mexican, Salvadoran, etc., rather than "Hispanic." Only 20 percent usually identify themselves as Hispanic, less than the 23 percent who usually identify themselves as simply "American."

When asked whether they prefer the term "Hispanic" or "Latino," half have no preference, 33 percent prefer Hispanic, and just 15 percent prefer Latino.

When asked whether they think of themselves as a typical American, the 49 percent plurality of Hispanics say yes. But a substantial 44 percent say they are very different from the typical American, a figure that climbs to 67 percent among those who immigrated to the United States in the past five years.

Source: Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project, Three-Fourths of Hispanics Say their Community Needs a Leader

"What Are We Not Doing When We're Online"

That is the provocative title of a study by Scott Wallsten of the Technology Policy Institute, which examines how much time Americans spend in "computer use for leisure" and what they're not doing because they're online. He has answers.

Using the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), which collects data on how a representative sample of Americans aged 15 or older spent their time, minute-by-minute, in the previous 24 hours, Wallsten calculates how online time correlates with time spent in other activities. He does this using the ATUS category "computer use for leisure," which excludes activities such as emailing, gaming, watching television and videos, reading, and working—all of which are coded under separate categories. What that leaves, then, is social networking, web surfing, and search. Americans are spending a growing amount of time in those activities. In 2011, the average person spent 13 minutes a day engaged in "computer use for leisure," or 4 percent of leisure time. That doesn't sound like much because it's an average. In fact, those who spend any amount of leisure time online devote roughly 100 minutes a day to the activity, says Wallsten, which is about one-third of their leisure time. And that means they aren't doing something else.

So what aren't they doing while online? They aren't watching television, for one. Online time has the biggest negative impact on time spent watching television and videos. The second largest negative impact is on socializing in traditional ways. Online leisure time also reduces time spent working, participating in educational activities, and sleeping.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, What Are We Not Doing When We're Online, Scott Wallsten, NBER Working Paper 19549, ($5)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Emergency Department Visits by People Aged 65+

Older Americans are frequent visitors to hospital emergency departments. In a year's time, the emergency department visit rate is 511 for every 1,000 people aged 65 or older. On average, then, about half the elderly go to an emergency room in a year's time. But some are more likely to have an emergency than others, with the visit rate increasing with age...

Annual number of emergency department visits per 1,000 people
Aged 65 to 74: 398
Aged 75 to 84: 573
Aged 85-plus: 832

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Emergency Department Visits by Persons Aged 65 and Over: United States, 2009-2010

Hype and Reality

Percent of all Americans who think the health insurance
exchange websites are working "fairly/very" well: 29%

Percent of health insurance exchange visitors who thought the
online exchange website was "fairly/very" easy to use: 56%

Source: Pew Research Center, Public Registers Bumpy Launch of Health Care Exchange Websites

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Four Types of Retirees

Most Americans plan to work after they retire, according to an Associated Press-NORC survey of people aged 50 or older. When asked how likely it is that they will work for pay in retirement, the 59 percent majority say it is at least somewhat likely. 

It's not surprising that a growing share of older workers plan to retire but keep working. A lengthy work life goes hand in hand with higher levels of education. A recent study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College finds higher levels of education accounting for most of the increase in the labor force participation of men aged 60 to 74. 

With many older Americans struggling to afford any kind of retirement and others unwilling to give up a stimulating career, boomers are splitting apart. The split was uncovered by AARP in a probe of the attitudes of a nationally representative sample of workers aged 50 to 65 without a traditional pension. AARP's Retirement Attitudes Segmentation Survey found four types of retirees emerging:
  • Cautious clockwatchers are what you might call "traditional" retirees, accounting for 33 percent of the total. They are confident about their finances and plan to stop working completely in retirement and enjoy their leisure time.
  • Day-to-day life embracers are what you might call "pragmatic" retirees and 27 percent of the total. They see retirement as a time to be creative but envision a gradual transition to ending their career because of ongoing financial needs.
  • Proactive self-actualizers are what you might call "emeritus" retirees and 24 percent of the total. Highly educated and confident, they want to work in retirement because they love what they do.
  • Doubters are what you might call "troubled" retirees and 17 percent of the total. They are least confident about their finances and do not envision retirement as a time of leisure.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Tablet Computer Ownership in 2013

Thirty-five percent of Americans aged 16 or older owned a tablet computer in September 2013, according to a Pew survey. This figure is up from 25 percent in November 2012. Here are ownership rates by age, race, and Hispanic origin...

Ownership of a tablet computer by age
Aged 16 to 17: 46%
Aged 18 to 29: 37%
Aged 30 to 49: 44%
Aged 50 to 64: 31%
Aged 65-plus: 18%

Ownership of a tablet computer by race and Hispanic origin
Asian: 50%
Black: 29%
Hispanic: 37%
Non-Hispanic white: 35%

Source: Pew Internet and American Life Project, Tablet and E-reader Ownership Update

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Cola or Coffee?

Cola it is! Cola is more popular than coffee in the average American household. When grocery shopping during an average week, 29 percent of households buy cola and a smaller 17 percent buy coffee, according to an analysis of the 2012 Consumer Expenditure Survey. In every age group, cola buyers outnumber coffee buyers.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Average Household Size Hits New Low in 2013

The average household was home to just 2.54 people in 2013, the smallest on record. The economic turmoil of the Great Recession barely disturbed the long-term decline in average household size. From 2.56 people in the average household in 2007, the figure inched up to 2.59 by 2010 and has fallen in every year since.

The powerful force shrinking the nation's households is the aging of the population. Millions of boomers are becoming empty nesters and others are becoming widowed. Among the 122 million households in the United States today, 61 percent are home to only one or two people.

Source: Census Bureau, Current Population Surveys

Thursday, October 17, 2013

35% Are Obese

The good news is that obesity has not increased in the past few years. The bad news is that more than one-third of American adults are not just overweight, but obese. These are the latest findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which measures the height and weight of a representative sample of Americans to determine weight status.

In all, 79 million adults were obese in 2011-12, defined as having a Body Mass Index of 30 or higher. Obesity peaks among 40-to-59-year-olds at 39.5 percent. It is a slightly lower 30.3 percent among 20-to-39-year-olds. Among people aged 60 or older, 35.4 percent are obese.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Prevalence of Obesity among Adults: United States, 2011-2012

Welcome Back!


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Americans Rate Online Education Poorly

A substantial 5 percent of Americans aged 18 or older, and 8 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds, are currently taking online courses, according to a Gallup survey. Despite the popularity of online education, most Americans disparage the results.

The 52 percent majority of the public rates the quality of online education as only fair or poor. In contrast, 68 percent say the quality of education offered by four-year colleges is good to excellent, and 64 percent feel positively about community colleges. When it comes to "providing a degree that will be viewed positively by employers," only 33 percent think an online degree is equivalent to a traditional degree and 49 percent think it is worse.

Source: Gallup, In U.S., Online Education Rated Best for Value and Options; Viewed as Weakest in Terms of Trusted Grading and Acceptance by Employers

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Before and After ACA: State by State

The number of Americans without health insurance will drop sharply in all but one state after the Affordable Care Act goes into effect in 2014. The Urban Institute calculates the numbers, and its analysis shows that the decline in the number of uninsured will range from 25 percent in Vermont to more than 50 percent in eight states The only state in which the uninsured are not expected to decline is Massachusetts, where a version of the ACA has been available to state residents for years. Only 4 percent of Massachusetts residents do not have health insurance.

The decline in the number of uninsured would be much greater if every state had adopted the Medicaid eligibility expansion as was intended by the ACA. Mississippi, one of 26 states to reject the expansion, will see only a 29 percent reduction in its 544,000 uninsured versus what would have been a 54 percent reduction if the state had expanded Medicaid. In fact, 28 states rather than just 8 would see at least a 50 percent reduction in their uninsured if every state had adopted the Medicaid expansion.

Source: Urban Institute, Eligibility for Assistance and Projected Changes in Coverage Under the ACA: Variation across States

Monday, October 14, 2013

2 Million Fewer Nuclear Families

The Great Recession and its aftermath changed the lives of young adults, and the nation is experiencing the consequences. The number of nuclear families (married couples with children under age 18) is shrinking because young adults are postponing marriage and childbearing, creating a new baby bust and driving the median age at first marriage to a record high.

In 2013, there were 25 million nuclear families, down from 27 million in 2007. Today, only 21 percent of the nation's households are headed by married couples with children under age 18. A larger 27 percent are headed by people who live alone.

Source: Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (currently unavailable due to government shutdown)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Default Rate Rises on Student Loans

More borrowers are defaulting on their student loans, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The three-year cohort default rate on student loans climbed from 13.4 to 14.7 percent between FY 2009 and FY 2010. The rate is calculated based on the cohort of borrowers whose loans entered repayment between October 1, 2009 and September 30, 2010 (FY 2010). During that time, more than 4 million borrowers entered repayment and 600,000 defaulted before September 30, 2012.

Among borrowers who attended for-profit institutions, the three-year cohort default rate was a hefty 21.8 percent. Public institutions had a lower default rate of 13.0 percent. Private nonprofit institutions had the lowest default rate—a still substantial 8.2 percent.

Source: Department of Education, Default Rate Continues to Rise for Federal Student Loans

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Health Status Decline: 2000 to 2012

The self-reported health status of Americans is continuing to decline. Among people aged 18 or older in 2012, only 52 percent say they are in "very good" or "excellent" health. The figure was 56 percent in 2000.

The overall decline in health status is not surprising given the aging of the population. The percentage who report being in very good or excellent health falls with age from a high of 63 percent among 18-to-24-year-olds to a low of 41 percent among people aged 65 or older. But there's more to it than that, because younger adults are experiencing the greatest decline. The share of 25-to-44-year-olds who are in very good or excellent health fell by 8 to 9 percentage points between 2000 and 2012. Meanwhile, the share of people aged 65 or older who are in very good or excellent health grew by 4.5 percentage points during those years.

Percent who report "very good" or "excellent" health in 2012 
(and percentage point change since 2000)
Aged 18 to 24: 63.1% (-0.7)
Aged 25 to 34: 58.2% (-8.9)
Aged 35 to 44: 54.8% (-8.4)
Aged 45 to 54: 51.5% (-4.9)
Aged 55 to 64: 47.5% (-1.6)
Aged 65-plus: 40.7% (4.5)

Source: CDC, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, Prevalence and Trends Data

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Estimating the Size of the LGBT Population

"Do you consider yourself to be heterosexual?"

If you ask that question directly on a survey, you get one answer. If you ask it indirectly in a way that veils an individual's response to the specific question, you get another answer. This is the experiment described in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper. Using the veiled survey method, in which respondents simply note the number of statements that apply to them (one of them being the statement about heterosexuality), the researchers found much greater LGBT identity than with the direct approach. "The veiled method increased self-reports of non-heterosexual identity by 65%," the authors report.

Because their sample was not representative of Americans as a whole, the researchers did not attempt to ascertain the LGBT share of the population. Instead, the study sought to show how survey methodology affects self-reports of LGBT identity. Interestingly, the veiled methodology also revealed greater anti-gay sentiment than is found in surveys that ask about anti-gay feelings directly. "Our finding that there is stigma attached to reporting anti-gay sentiments is perhaps even more surprising," conclude the authors.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, The Size of the LGBT Population and the Magnitude of Anti-gay Sentiment Are Substantially Underestimated, NBER Working Paper 19508 ($5)

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Women Are Not the Majority of the American Labor Force

How can so many people get this so wrong? The latest example is in a recent New York Times op-ed, where Stephen D. King (chief economist at HSCB!) writes: "Women now make up the majority of the American labor force."

No they do not. In 2012, women accounted for 46.9 percent of the American labor force. Of the 155 million in the labor force, there were 73 million women and 82 million men. Men account for the 53.1 percent majority of the American labor force.

Less Time with the News

Younger generations spend less time than older adults following the news, and over the years the differential has not diminished. Since 2004, Pew Research Center has been tracking the number of minutes per day each generation spends watching, reading, or listening to the news. Here are the averages in 2012...

Average minutes per day following the news
Millennials: 46
Generation X: 66
Baby Boomers: 77
Older Americans: 84

Interestingly, these numbers have barely changed since 2004. "Today's younger and middle-aged audience seems unlikely to ever match the avid news interest of the generation they will replace, even as they enthusiastically transition to the Internet as their principal source of news," concludes Pew.

Source: Pew Research Center, Pew Research Surveys of Audience Habits Suggest Perilous Future for News

Monday, October 07, 2013

The Public Library

Percentage of Americans aged 18 or older who visited a public library in the past year: 60%.

Source: 2012 General Social Survey

How to Access Census Data During Shutdown

Received this email over the weekend...

The current shutdown in Washington is limiting the access that scholars and researchers have to vital materials, including the US Census website.  To that end, Oxford University Press and the Social Explorer team will open up access to Social Explorer – the premier US Census demographics website – for the next two weeks.  Social Explorer provides access to the US Census data from 1790 to 2010 and to the American Community Survey from 2005 through 2012.

For access to Social Explorer, simply email onlinereference@oup.com to request a username and password.

Social Explorer provides quick and easy access to current and historical census data and demographic information. The easy-to-use web interface lets users create maps and reports to illustrate, analyze, and understand demography and social change. In addition to its comprehensive data resources, Social Explorer offers features and tools to meet the needs of demography experts and novices alike. From research libraries to classrooms to government agencies to corporations to the front page of the New York Times, Social Explorer helps the public engage with society and science.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Dental Emergencies

Number of emergency room visits for dental problems among people under age 65...

1999-2000: 1.0 million
2009-2010: 2.3 million

Among all emergency room visits in 2009-10 by people under age 65, a substantial 2.1 percent were for dental problems. Among 18-to-44-year-olds, the figure was a larger 3.2 percent.

Source: CDC, QuikStats: Percentage of Emergency Department (ED) Visits that were Dental-Related among Persons Aged under 65 Years, by Age Group—National Hospital Ambulatory Care Survey, 1999-2000 to 2009-2010

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Boomer Retirements Are Boosting Job Openings

Myth: Boomers are delaying retirement and preventing young adults from finding jobs.
Reality: Job openings created by boomer retirees are greater than in the past.

Although boomers are delaying retirement, the large size of the generation means those who do retire are creating more job openings than the previous generation of retirees, according to a study by Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Between 1994 and 2003, retirements created 8 million job openings—or 18 job openings per 100 young adults (aged 18 to 29). During the 2012 to 2021 decade, boomer retirements will create a larger 14 million job openings—or 28 job openings per 100 young adults.

"By the end of the baby boom retirement phase over the next 15 years, the problem won't be lack of job openings, but not enough workers with the necessary skills to fill those openings," concludes the study.

Source: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, Failure to Launch: Structural Shift and the New Lost Generation

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Why Are More Older Men Working?

The labor force participation rate of men aged 60 to 74 climbed from 33 percent in 1993 (a post-World-War-II low) to 44 percent in 2010. What accounts for this 11 percentage point increase? Are older men more likely to work because they haven't saved enough for retirement, or is it something else?

Most of the rise is accounted for by something else, according to a study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. That something else is their higher educational attainment. The greater educational attainment of men aged 60 to 74 accounts for most of the increase in their labor force participation over the past few decades.

Source: Center for Retirement Research, Can Educational Attainment Explain the Rise in Labor Force Participation at Older Ages?

More on the Government Shutdown

For a list of government statistical agencies that have been shut down, their web sites no longer accessible, see Pew's Federal Government Shutdown: The Data Casualties. For social scientists, not having access to these important data collections is a throwback to the pre-Internet 1980s, when we depended on paper documents. But this time, there's no paper trail.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Tracking the Uninsured Before and After ACA

Today is the first day of a new relationship between Americans and their health insurance. From now on, every American will be able to obtain health insurance and will be required to have it. How will the uninsured react to the Affordable Care Act, whose open enrollment period begins today? Thanks to the efforts of the Kaiser Family Foundation, we will know the answer.

Last summer, Kaiser fielded a baseline survey of a representative sample of uninsured 19-to-64-year-olds in the nation's most populous state, California. Kaiser plans to field three subsequent waves of the survey in 2014 and 2015, tracking the attitudes and behavior of the uninsured as they make their choices (or not) regarding health insurance.

So what were California's uninsured thinking in the summer of 2013, before health insurance became available to them? Eight out of ten believed they needed health insurance, and most also believed health insurance was worth the money. Most knew the Affordable Care Act would require them to obtain health insurance, and the 52 percent majority said they would get health insurance in 2014 as required. Of those who said they would not get health insurance, most thought it would be too expensive.

Stay tuned. In subsequent surveys we will find out how many of the uninsured bought health insurance, how they feel about the health insurance exchanges and the cost of insurance, and whether having health insurance has provided them with a greater sense of financial security.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, California's Uninsured on the Eve of ACA Open Enrollment

Correction: This is Worse than a Sad Day

It's a nightmare. This is what happens when you go to census.gov:

Due to the lapse in government funding, census.gov sites, services, and all online survey collection requests will be unavailable until further notice.

No income statistics. No housing statistics. No population statistics. No state or local area statistics. Nada. Nothing.

This is a Sad Day for Demographers

From the CDC:
Due to the lapse in government funding, only web sites supporting excepted functions will be updated unless otherwise funded. As a result, the information on this website may not be up to date, the transactions submitted via the website may not be processed, and the agency may not be able to respond to inquiries until appropriations are enacted.

From childstats.gov:
Due to a lapse of appropriations and the partial shutdown of the Federal Government, the systems that host childstats.gov have been shut down. Services will be restored as soon as a continuing resolution to provide funding has been enacted.

From the USDA Economic Research Service:
Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available.
We sincerely regret this inconvenience.
After funding has been restored, please allow some time for this website to
become available again.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Problem with Households, as Currently Defined

The Census Bureau is tying itself in knots trying to categorize our living arrangements based on the old-fashioned concept of a marriage license. Since 1950, the percentage of households headed by married couples has fallen from 78 to 48 percent, yet a marriage license is still central to the Census Bureau's definition of household types. Here is the distribution of households by type in 2013...

Married couples: 48%
People living alone: 27%
Female-headed families, no spouse present: 13%
Male-headed families, no spouse present: 5%
Male-headed nonfamilies: 4%
Female-headed nonfamilies: 3%

The last four household types on the list (female- and male-headed families/nonfamilies) account for a substantial 25 percent of total households. But here's the problem: many of the households that fall into those four categories are interchangeable and would be recognized as the same type of household, except for the lack of a marriage license.

This is how it works. Let's say two unmarried people, Joe and Ellen, live in an apartment leased in both their names. Depending on who responds to the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, their household will be categorized as either a male-headed nonfamily household (Joe responds) or a female-headed nonfamily household (Ellen responds). Let's say Joe and Ellen have a biological child. Depending on who responds to the survey, their household will be categorized as either a male-headed family household (Joe responds) or a female-headed family household (Ellen responds). Let's say the child is Ellen's from a previous relationship. If Ellen responds to the survey, then they live in a female-headed family household. If Joe responds, they live in a male-headed nonfamily household.

If Joe and Ellen had a marriage license, all these permutations of their household type would disappear. They would be a married-couple household regardless of who responded to the survey or the paternity of the child. Perhaps it's time to rethink household definitions, remove marriage from the equation, and recognize "couple" households instead.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fewer Are Moving

Those waiting for an uptick in the nation's geographic mobility rate will have to wait awhile longer. Fewer Americans are moving, according to American Community Survey results. The ongoing decline in mobility casts doubt on rumors of recovery in the housing market.

Between 2007 and 2012, the number of people aged 1 or older who moved from one house to another in the United States fell by nearly 1 million—from 45.7 million to 44.8 million. The percentage who move has declined in every year, falling from from 15.4 percent in 2007 to 14.4 percent in 2012.

Friday, September 27, 2013

To Spank or Not to Spank

The 81 percent majority of Americans believe it is sometimes appropriate for parents to spank their children, according to a Harris survey. An even larger 86 percent say they were spanked by their parents when they were children. Here is the percentage who were spanked as children, by generation...

Millennials: 77%
Generation X: 87%
Baby Boomers: 92%
Older Americans: 88%

Source: Harris Interactive, Four in Five Americans Believe Parents Spanking their Children Is Sometimes Appropriate

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Household Income Stable in August 2013

Median annual household income was stable in August 2013, according to the latest monthly update from Sentier Research. The August median of $52,236 was not statistically different from the July median, after adjusting for inflation.  

Sentier extracts its income data from the Current Population Survey, just as the Census Bureau does. From Sentier, we get monthly updates of median household income. From the Census Bureau, we get an annual update—usually released in September of the following year. By tracking Sentier's monthly updates, you pretty much know in advance what the Census Bureau will report in its annual update. Sentier has already revealed trends in median household income through August 2013 (finding no trend at all). With only four months left in the year, it's likely that the Census Bureau's annual update next September will report little to no change in median household income for 2013. 

In fact, according to Sentier, there has been no change in household income since December 2011. "Since December 2011, we have been in a period of income stagnation without any clear trend of direction," says Sentier's Gordon Green. Median household income in August 2013 was 4.4 percent below the median of June 2009, the end of the Great Recession. It was 6.1 percent lower than the median in December 2007, the start of the Great Recession. It was 7.2 percent lower than the median in January 2000. 

The Household Income Index for August 2013 was 92.8 (January 2000 = 100.0). The index compares median annual household income in a given month as a percent of its value in January 2000, after adjusting for inflation. An Excel spreadsheet of the entire household income time series is available from Sentier's web site for $25.00.

Source: Sentier Research, Trends in Household Income: August 2013

Offline Demographics

Fifteen percent of Americans aged 18 or older do not go online or use email, according to a study by Pew Internet and American Life Project. Among adults under age 50, only 2 to 8 percent are offline. The figure rises to a substantial 17 percent among people aged 50 to 64 and peaks at 44 percent among Americans aged 65 or older. The single biggest reason for not being online, say those who are offline, is that the Internet is irrelevant.

These facts and figures are not surprising since the offline lifestyle is a luxury afforded only to those who do not need to earn a living—aka retirees. The offline faction sometimes cheats, however. According to Pew, 44 percent of the offline have asked a friend or family member to complete a task for them on the Internet.

Source: Pew Internet and American Life Project, Who's Not Online and Why