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