Friday, May 30, 2014

Household Income Stable in April 2014

Median household income was $52,959 in April 2014, according to Sentier Research, about the same as the March median after adjusting for inflation. The April 2014 median was 0.8 percent higher than the April 2013 figure, however, and 2.9 percent higher than the $51,482 of August 2011—the low point in Sentier's household income series. 

"The period since August 2011 has been marked by an uneven, but generally upward trend in the level of real median annual household income," reports Sentier. "Many of the month-to-month changes in median income during this period have not been statistically significant. However, the cumulative effect of the various month-to-month changes since August 2011 resulted in the income improvement." Sentier's median household income estimates are derived from the Census Bureau's monthly Current Population Survey.

Median household income in April 2014 was 4.2 percent below the median of June 2009, the end of the Great Recession. It was 5.9 percent below the median of December 2007, the start of the Great Recession. It was 7.0 percent below the median of January 2000. For more information on household income trends for the nation, states, and metropolitan areas, visit the Sentier Research web site.

Source: Sentier ResearchHousehold Income Trends: April 2014

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Births in 2013

At first glance, the 2013 estimate of the number of births in the United States might seem ho-hum. The number changed little: the 3,957,577 estimate of 2013 was only 4,736 greater than the 3,952,841 of 2012 and still 8 percent below the all-time high of 4,316,233 in 2007.

On second glance, the estimate is startling. Although the overall number of births held steady, the fertility rate fell to a new all-time low of 62.9 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44. This is 9 percent below the rate of 69.3 in 2007. Even more startling is the plummeting fertility of young women. In 2013, the fertility rates of women aged 15 to 19, 20 to 24, and 25 to 29 all fell to new record lows. In other words, never before have young women had so few children.

That may explain this finding: the first-birth rate also hit an all-time low in 2013, with the rate dropping for women in every age group under age 30. Clearly, young women are reluctant to have children, and the number of births is essentially unchanged only because older women are playing catch up before time runs out. The seeming stability in births belies the havoc wreaked by the Great Recession on the lives of young adults.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Births: Preliminary Data for 2013

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

1 Million Fewer Families with Preschoolers

The number of families with preschoolers has dropped by more than 1 million over the past six years, according to Census Bureau data on families. Blame the ongoing baby bust for the disappearance of infants and toddlers.

The number of births peaked in 2007 and has been falling since then. The number of families with children under age 6 fell from 16.3 million in 2007 to 15.0 million in 2013.

Source: Census Bureau, Families and Living Arrangements

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

In Real Estate, Locals Know Best

Who is the better house flipper—locals or out-of-town investors? The locals are, according to a National Bureau of Economic Research study (NBER Working Paper 19817, $5). In a large-scale study of single-family home purchases in 21 cities from 2000 through 2007, NBER researchers discovered that local buyers of second homes made a bigger profit on their investment—in part because they picked a better time to sell.

Among second home buyers in Las Vegas, for example, out-of-towners who purchased a house in March 2004 and sold during the study time period made an 8 percent per year capital gain on the property. The locals made a much larger 17 percent per year capital gain. "Out-of-town second home buyers were notably less successful than local buyers in timing their exit from the market," the researchers conclude.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Median IRA Balance: $27,987

Among all IRA owners in 2012, the median balance of their IRA account(s) was $27,987. The balance rises slowly with age: $3,360 for IRA owners under age 25, $4,721 for those aged 25 to 29, $7,036 for those aged 30 to 34, and surpasses $10,000 ($11,003) for IRA owners aged 35 to 39. It continues to rise with age, peaking at $66,852 for owners aged 65 to 69.

Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute, Individual Retirement Account Balances, Contributions, and Rollovers, 2012; with Longitudinal Results 2010-2012: The EBRI IRA Database

Friday, May 23, 2014

Only 13% Made an IRA Contribution

Only 13 percent of the nation's IRA owners contributed to their IRA in 2012. Here is the percentage who contributed by age...

Under age 25: 37%
Aged 25 to 29: 28%
Aged 30 to 34: 20%
Aged 35 to 39: 15%
Aged 40 to 44: 13%
Aged 45 to 49: 12%
Aged 50 to 54: 11%
Aged 55 to 59: 11%
Aged 60 to 64: 10%
Aged 65 to 69: 7%
Aged 70-plus: 2%

Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute, Individual Retirement Account Balances, Contributions, and Rollovers, 2012; with Longitudinal Results 2010-2012: The EBRI IRA Database

Thursday, May 22, 2014

City Growth Continues in 2013

Between 2010 and 2013, the population of the nation's 743 largest cities (incorporated places with populations of 50,000 or more in 2013) climbed 3.3 percent while the remainder of the United States grew by a smaller 1.8 percent. Of the 743 largest cities, only 67 lost population between 2010 and 2013. City growth between 2010 and 2013 varies little by city size, and large cities of all sizes are growing faster than elsewhere.

City population growth 2010-2013 by city size
1 million or more: 3.1%
500,000 to 999,999: 4.0%
250,000 to 499,999: 3.3%
200,000 to 249,999: 3.5%
150,000 to 199,999: 2.9%
100,000 to 149,999: 3.5%
50,000 to 99,999: 3.1%

A year-over-year analysis of population trends shows the same pattern, with large cities growing faster than the remainder of the United States every year since 2010.

2010-11 population growth
Large cities: 1.0%
Outside large cities: 0.6%

2011-12 population growth
Large cities: 1.1%
Outside large cities: 0.5%

2012-13 population growth
Large cities: 1.0%
Outside large cities: 0.6%

Source: Census Bureau, City and Town Totals: Vintage 2013

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Same-Sex Marriage Battles Will Shift South

A battle lies ahead to legalize same-sex marriage in the southern states, says Gallup. Every state in the South has a constitutional ban on same sex marriage.

A solid 55 percent majority of Americans nationwide agree that marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized by the law as valid, according to a recent Gallup poll. By region, support is greatest in the eastern states at 67 percent. Every state in the Northeast now allows same-sex marriage. Pennsylvania was the last to give way when a federal judge yesterday ruled unconstitutional the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

In the West, 58 percent of the public supports same-sex marriage, and in the Midwest the figure is 53 percent. Only in the South is support for same-sex marriage below the majority, at 48 percent. "Public opinion in southern states will be a barometer to observe," says Gallup, "as the bulk of future legal battles will play out there in the months and years to come."

Source: Gallup, Same-Sex Marriage Support Reaches New High at 55%

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Appliances and Electronic Goods Owned by Renters

Percentage of the nation's renters who have...

Television: 97%
Cell phone: 87%
Air conditioning: 84%
Computer: 69%
Clothes washer: 63%
Dishwasher: 52%
Landline phone: 51%

Source: Census Bureau, Well-Being

Monday, May 19, 2014

Attitudes toward Birth Control Coverage

Overall, the 55 percent majority of Americans think private companies "should be required to cover birth control in their workers' health plans, even if it violates their owners' personal religious beliefs," according to a Kaiser Poll. Fully 61 percent of women say birth control should be covered versus a smaller 50 percent of men. By age, here is the percentage who say birth control coverage should be required...

Aged 18 to 29: 64%
Aged 30 to 49: 58%
Aged 50 to 64: 55%
Aged 65-plus: 41%

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, Kaiser Health Tracking Poll: April 2014

Friday, May 16, 2014

My Kids vs. All Kids

Americans are much more optimistic about prospects for their own children than all children, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Only 34 percent of the public thinks the "next generation" will be the same or better off than its parents. But a much larger 61 percent of the public thinks "my kids" will be the same or better off. The more pessimistic response to general questions about the state of things (from children's prospects to crime to the quality of public schools) is a pattern that emerges repeatedly in attitudinal surveys.  

Every age group is pessimistic about the prospects for the "next generation." Among adults under age 50, only 38 to 40 percent think the next generation will be at least as well off as its parents. The figure is an even smaller 26 to 27 percent among people aged 50 or older.

Every age group feels much more optimistic about the prospects for "my kids." The youngest adults are most optimistic, but the majority of the older age groups share that optimism. Here are the percentages by age...

My kids will be same/better off
Aged 18 to 29: 77%
Aged 30 to 49: 61%
Aged 50 to 64: 53%
Aged 65-plus: 54%

Source: Pew Research Center, What Will Become of America's Kids?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Autos Are Aging

The nation's automobiles are rapidly aging, according to an analysis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2012, the average age of the nation's cars, vans, and SUVs was 11.3 years. This is up from 10.2 years in 2007. But the small uptick in average age masks the marked change in the age distribution of the nation's vehicles.
  • In 2012, only 15 percent of the automobiles owned by American households were new-to-five-years-old, down from 23 percent in the 2000-to-2007 time period.
  • In 2012, the 52 percent majority of vehicles owned by American households were at least 11-years-old, up from 44 percent in the 2000-to-2007 time period.
Interestingly, annual vehicle maintenance costs do not vary all that much by age of vehicle. Americans spend an average of $437 a year maintaining new-to-5-year-old automobiles. Spending peaks at $588 a year on 6-to-10-year-old vehicles. The oldest vehicles, at least 26-years-old, cost an average of $502 in annual maintenance.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans' Aging Autos

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Student Loans Slam Home Buying

Student debt is preventing young adults from becoming homeowners. Thirty-year-olds with student debt are less likely to own a home than their peers without debt, reports the Federal Reserve Bank of New York on its Liberty Street Economics Blog. An analysis of 2013 data from the Fed's Consumer Credit Panel shows not only an ongoing decline in the percentage of 30-year-olds with home-secured debt, but a steeper decline for those with student loans.

It didn't used to be this way. Until the Great Recession, young adults with student loans were more likely to have home-secured debt than those without loans. That's because the debtors were more likely to be college graduates and earn higher incomes. But student debt has become so onerous and the earnings of college graduates so meager that the American Dream of homeownership has become The Impossible Dream.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Liberty Street Economics Blog, Just Released: Young Student Loan Borrowers Remained on the Sidelines of the Housing Market in 2013

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Divorce Rate Higher than Ever

How can that be? Everyone knows the divorce rate is down. Once boomers dumped spouse number one and settled down with spouse number two, divorce moved off their bucket list.

Not so, according to demographers Sheela Kennedy and Steven Ruggles. In their research paper, "Breaking Up Is Hard to Count: The Rise of Divorce in the United States, 1980-2010" (Demography, April 2014, $39.95), the researchers blame a "deterioration of the statistical system" for the "uncertainty about trends in union instability over the past three decades." Their analysis shows that rather than declining, the divorce rate in 2011 was at a record high.

When the National Center for Health Statistics ceased to collect data on marriage and divorce in the 1990s, there was little to go on except the Survey of Income and Program Participation, which has high nonresponse rates. Beginning in 2008, however, the American Community Survey began to ask respondents whether they had married or divorced in the past 12 months and the number of times they had married. What a difference data make. After analyzing the ACS data, Kennedy and Ruggles report a phenomenon missed by most observers—a 40 percent increase in the age-standardized divorce rate between 1980 and 2008. After a slight dip in 2009, the rate began to rise again and "2011 has the highest divorce rate of any year to date."

Divorce has been declining among adults under age 35, say Kennedy and Ruggles, largely because fewer are marrying and those who do marry are the most compatible. But among adults aged 35 or older, it's a different story—about half have experienced divorce or separation by their late fifties. "The Baby Boom generation was responsible for the extraordinary rise in marital instability after 1970," they explain. "They are now middle-aged, but their pattern of high marital instability continues."

Monday, May 12, 2014

Who Walks to Work?

Only 2.8 percent of workers walk to work, according to the Census Bureau. Decade after decade, walking to work has become less common, with the share falling from 5.6 percent in 1980 to 3.9 percent in 1990 and 2.9 percent in 2000. Although the 2.8 percent in the latest data (from the 2008-2012 American Community Survey) is slightly smaller than the 2.9 percent of 2000, the difference is not statistically significant, according to the bureau. This newfound stability in walking to work could be additional evidence of the growing preference for walkable communities, or it could be nothing more than a pause due to the impact of the Great Recession. What explains it? The Census Bureau report examines the demographics of walkers and offers some clues...
  • Not surprisingly, walking to work is much more common in cities than in suburbs or nonmetropolitan areas. In cities, 4.3 percent of workers walk to work. In the suburbs, the figure is 2.4 percent. In nonmetropolitan areas, only 1.9 percent of workers commute by walking.
  • Walking to work is most common among workers under age 25 (6.8 percent) and bottoms out in middle age (1.9 percent).
  • Walking to work is far more common in households with incomes below $25,000 (more than 5 percent of workers walk) and lowest in households with incomes between $100,000 and $149,999 (1.5 percent of workers walk). A larger 2.1 percent of workers walk in households with incomes of $200,000 or more.
  • By educational attainment, walking to work is highest among the least educated. Among workers without a high school diploma, 3.7 percent walk to work. Walking is least common among workers with some college (1.7 percent), then rises to 2.7 percent among workers with a graduate degree.
The demographics reveal two types of workers who commute by walking—those who can't afford a car (young adults, low-income households, the least educated) and those who can afford to live in the nation's increasingly popular and pricey walkable communities.

Source: Census Bureau, Modes Less Traveled—Bicycling and Walking to Work in the United States: 2008-2012

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Social Security: What's Fair?

If Americans are living longer, then it makes sense to raise the age at which retirees can collect their full Social Security benefit. Right?

Maybe. If gains in life expectancy are evenly distributed to rich and poor alike, then it might make sense. But if gains are skewed, favoring the affluent and educated, then it might not be fair at all. "If gains in life span are increasingly concentrated among the well-to-do, it seems unfair to ask the less affluent to bear the main burden of an aging society," say the authors of a Center for Retirement Research study of the issue.

Concentration among the well-to-do is, in fact, what's happening. In an analysis of decades of data from the Health and Retirement Study, the CRR researchers found great disparities in life expectancy gains by socioeconomic status. Overall life expectancy for men aged 55 climbed five years between the 1920 and 1940 birth cohorts, but the gain was only two years for the poorest men and six years for the richest men. Among women aged 55, life expectancy actually fell for the poorest and grew by two to three years for the richest. "The current policy of raising the retirement age for everyone seems unfair to lower-income workers whose life expectancy may be constant or falling," concludes the report.

Source: Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Differential Mortality and Retirement Benefits in the Health and Retirement Study

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

American Consumers Newsletter: May 2014

The May 2014 American Consumers Newsletter is now available here.
Sign up for a free subscription here.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

The World Is Changing Boomers

In their youth, boomers believed they were going to change the world. They managed to shake things up a bit, but now the tables have turned. A grim Census Bureau report shows how the world is changing boomers.

The baby-boom generation numbered 76 million in 2012. Only 60 million will remain by 2030. A minuscule 2 million boomers will still be around in 2060 to recall the good old days of Woodstock and Watergate. In 2012, boomers accounted for a substantial 24 percent of the American population. By 2060 they will have been reduced to a blip—just 0.6 percent of the population. No one will know what a "baby boomer" is anymore.

But before they exit the scene, boomers will shake things up one more time. Because boomers are overwhelmingly non-Hispanic white, says the Census Bureau, "their projected declines due to mortality will contribute to projected decreases in the percentage of the population in the non-Hispanic white alone category. This pattern, coupled with increases in immigration and births to minority populations, is projected to produce an increasingly diverse population in years to come." In other words, the passing of each boomer will make the United States a bit more multicultural. Boomers are changing the world after all.

Source: Census Bureau, The Baby Boom Cohort in the United States: 2012 to 2060

Monday, May 05, 2014

Where Were You Raised?

Percentage of young adults and older Americans who were raised...

In a city
Aged 18 to 34: 16%
Aged 65-plus: 14%

In a suburb
Aged 18 to 34: 35%
Aged 65-plus: 21%

In a small town
Aged 18 to 34: 32%
Aged 65-plus: 35%

On a farm or in the country
Aged 18 to 34: 17%
Aged 65-plus: 30%

Source: General Social Survey, 2012

Friday, May 02, 2014

One in Five Americans

One in five Americans is poor or nearly poor, according to the Census Bureau. Fully 61 million of the nation's 311 million people were living in or near poverty in 2012, defined as having a family income either below the poverty level or within 100 to 125 percent of the poverty level. For a family of four with two adults and two children, this is an income of $29,104 or less. For someone who lives alone, it's an income of $14,931 or less. As a point of reference, a minimum wage worker who logs 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, would have an annual income just above the near-poverty level, at $15,080.

Between 1966 and 2012, the percentage of Americans who live in or near poverty has fallen slightly—from 21.0 to 19.7 percent. The percentage in poverty climbed from 14.7 to 15.0 percent during those years, while the percentage near poverty fell from 6.3 to 4.7 percent. The poor and near-poor population expanded by more than 20 million between 1966 and 2012.

Source: Census Bureau, Living in Near Poverty in the United States: 1966-2012

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Millennial Marriage Projections

The Millennial generation has postponed marriage for so long it will go into the record books. According to projections by the Urban Institute, Millennials will be less likely to have married by age 40 than any generation in American history—even if they hurry up about it.

"The economic shock of the recession put marriage on hold for many young adults and marriage rates are returning slowly (if at all) to pre-recession levels," explain the Urban Institute researchers in their report on the projections. Take a look at the trend: Among women, the percentage who had married by age 40 was 91 percent for older Boomers, 87 percent for younger Boomers, and 82 percent for Generation X. Even if marriage rates return to pre-recession levels, only 77 percent of younger Millennial women will have married by age 40. If marriage rates do not rebound, an even smaller 69 percent will have married by age 40. For millennial men, the respective figures are 73 percent with a rebound and 65 percent without.

"With respect to marriage at least, our projections indicate that many of these millennials will not recover in the future from the opportunities they have missed as young adults," say the researchers. As if that's not enough, there's more bad news. Not only will Millennials be the biggest "singles" generation in history, but marital status will split the generation into haves and have-nots. That's because marriage rates are higher for college graduates, who earn more and tend to marry one another.

Source: Urban Institute, Fewer Marriages, More Divergence: Marriage Projections for Millennials to Age 40