Friday, February 27, 2015

Problems Paying Medical Bills

The percentage of Americans under age 65 who were in families having problems paying medical bills fell substantially between 2011 and the first half of 2014. Behind the decline is recovery from the Great Recession and the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, which boosted health insurance coverage. 

Number (and percent) of people in families having trouble paying medical bills
2014: 47.7 million (17.8%)
2013: 51.8 million (19.4%)
2012: 54.3 million (20.4%)
2011: 56.5 million (21.3%)

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey, Problems Paying Medical Bills among Persons Under Age 65: Early Release of Estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, 2011-June 2014

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Divorce Experience

Percent of Americans who say the following statements describe them...
  • My parents divorced when I was a child: 20%
  • My parents divorced when I was an adult: 4%
  • I have been divorced once: 17%
  • I have been divorced more than once: 7%
  • I am considering divorce: 5%
Source: Harris Interactive, Americans Aren't as OK with Divorce as They Think They Are

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Who Has A New Job?

Among all wage and salary workers aged 20 or older, a substantial 19.7 percent have had their current job for one year or less. Here are the percentages by age...

Worked for current employer for 12 months or less
Aged 20 to 24: 49.2%
Aged 25 to 34: 26.6%
Aged 35 to 44: 16.7%
Aged 45 to 54: 12.0%
Aged 55 to 64:   8.9%
Aged 65-plus:    7.8%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employee Tenure

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Slow Payback of Student Loans

In the fourth quarter of 2014, the outstanding balance on student loans in the United States reached a mind boggling $1.2 trillion, up from $346 billion ten years ago. The number of borrowers with outstanding loans grew 92 percent during those years to 43 million.

One reason for the enormous growth in student loans is the disturbingly slow rate at which the loans are being paid back, according to an analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Looking at Equifax data, the researchers find only 37 percent of borrowers making regular payments on schedule. The others are either delinquent, in deferral, or still in school.

The researchers analyzed how much debt borrowers had in the year they left school and how much debt remained at the end of 2014. The 2010 cohort, for example, had $78 billion in debt upon leaving school and more than four years later still owes 91 percent of that amount. The 2005 cohort still owes 62 percent of its student loan balance from nearly 10 years ago.

The housing market is haunted by these student loans, according to the Fed analysis. "We don't fully understand how the burden of large amounts of debt on households' balance sheets for long periods of time affects student borrowers' behavior," conclude the researchers, "but our research so far suggests that growing student debt has contributed to the recent decline in the homeownership rate and to the sharp increase in parental co-residence among millennials."

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Liberty Street Economics, Payback Time? Measuring Progress on Student Debt Repayment

Monday, February 23, 2015

Homeownership: A Decade of Decline

The nation's homeownership rate peaked in 2004 at 69.0 percent. Since then, the overall rate has fallen by 4.5 percentage points to 64.5 percent in 2014. Among householders in their thirties, the rate fell by more than 10 percentage points during those years...

Homeownership rate in 2014 (and percentage point decline since 2004)
Under 25: 21.7% (-3.5)
25 to 29:   32.7% (-7.5)
30 to 34:   47.1% (-10.3)
35 to 39:   56.0% (-10.2)
40 to 44:   63.2% (-8.7)
45 to 54:   70.7% (-6.5)
55 to 64:   76.3% (-5.4)
65-plus:    79.9 (-1.2)

Source: Census Bureau, Housing Vacancies and Homeownership

Friday, February 20, 2015

How Much We Love Pets: 22

Pets rank a lofty 22 in the items on which the average household spends the most. The average American household spends more on pets than it does on...
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Internet service
  • Prescription drugs
  • Day care and baby sitting
  • Gifts of cash to family members 
Source: Demo Memo analysis of the Consumer Expenditure Survey

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Why Renters Move

Among the 13 million renter-occupied housing units in which householders had moved in the past year, just over half cited one of these five factors as the main reason for leaving their previous residence...

1. To establish own household (11.7%)
2. New job or job transfer (11.6%)
3. To be closer to work (11.6%)
4. Needed larger house or apartment (8.5%)
5. Wanted better home (6.6%)

Source: Census Bureau, 2013 American Housing Survey

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Technology May Immiserate Humanity

"Will smart machines, which are rapidly replacing workers in a wide range of jobs, produce economic misery or prosperity?"

That's the question posed in Robots Are Us: Some Economics of Human Replacement, a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper. The authors create a model to see how technological progress will impact the human economy. The model's outcome is, to use the authors' term, "disturbing."

The results of the model show that the growing legacy of software code may very well put the human economy out of business. "As the stock of legacy code grows," say the researchers, "the demand for new code and, thus for high-tech workers, falls." Former high-tech workers will seek jobs in low-tech occupations, driving those wages down. Smart machines are now on track to immiserate humanity, and open-source technology is likely to make matters worse. The researchers recommend generation-specific redistribution policies that could soften the blow.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, Robots Are Us: Some Economics of Human Replacement, NBER Working Paper 20941 ($5)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Fewer Minimum Wage Workers

Between 2010 and 2014, the number of minimum wage workers in the United States fell by 31 percent—a decline of more than 1 million.

Number (and percent) of wage and salary workers paid at or below minimum wage
2014: 2,992,000 (2.9%)
2010: 4,360,000 (6.0%)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey

Monday, February 16, 2015

Boomer Men Not Delaying Retirement

Between 2000 and 2010, the labor force participation rate of men aged 65 to 69 climbed by more than 6 percentage points—from 30.3 to 36.5 percent. Many thought the upward trend was here to stay as the baby-boom generation sought to boost its retirement income. Many were wrong. As boomer men filled the 65-to-69 age group over the past four years, the rise in labor force participation came to a halt, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, the labor force participation rate of men aged 65 to 69 fell slightly between 2010 and 2014...

Labor force participation rate of men aged 65 to 69
2014: 36.1
2010: 36.5
2000: 30.3

Interestingly, a Gallup survey of today's 65-to-68-year olds found them no more likely to work than the four-year cohort immediately preceding them. Those Gallup results are now confirmed.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey

Friday, February 13, 2015

Who Has a Living Will?

Only 28 percent of Americans have a living will, defined as "directives or documented instructions and/or wishes and preferences regarding the type of care they would like to receive or not receive at the end stage of their life." Older Americans are much more likely to have a living will than younger Americans...

Percent with a living will
Millennials: 10%
Gen Xers: 23%
Boomers: 36%
Matures: 65%

Source: Harris Interactive, Most Americans Agree with Right-to-Die Movement

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Fish Oil and Yoga Are Making Gains

About one-third of Americans aged 18 or older used "complementary" (or alternative) medicine in 2012. Complementary medicine is a grab bag of tools and techniques for improving and maintaining health, including fish oil supplements, yoga, chiropractic manipulation, massage, and homeopathic treatments. The government has been tracking trends in the use of complementary medicine for a decade now, with surveys fielded in 2002, 2007, and 2012. Here are some of the more interesting findings from the 2012 survey...
  • Dietary supplements are the most popular complementary medicine, used by 41 million adults in 2012 (18 percent of the population). Fish oil ranks number one among supplements, with 19 million users in the past 30 days. Eight percent of adults take fish oil supplements, up from 5 percent in 2007.
  • Yoga is making steady gains, with the percentage practicing yoga nearly doubling from 5.1 percent in 2002 to 9.5 percent in 2012. Every age group boosted its participation in yoga during those years. People aged 18 to 44 are most likely to practice yoga, with 11.2 percent doing so in 2012. The figures are 7.2 percent among 45-to-64-year-olds and 3.3 percent among people aged 65 or older.
Source: National Center of Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey, Trends in the Use of Complementary Health Approaches among Adults: United States, 2002-2012

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Religious Affiliation of College Freshmen

Top 10 responses of college freshmen when asked their current religious preference:

27.5%: none
25.3%: Roman Catholic
 7.7%: Baptist
 6.0%: Church of Christ
 3.0%: Methodist
 2.8%: Jewish
 2.6%: Lutheran
 2.4%: Presbyterian
 1.7%: Muslim
 1.6%: Buddhist

Source: Higher Education Research Institute, The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2014

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

College Fantasy vs. Reality

85% of college freshmen believe they will complete their bachelor's degree in four years, according to The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2014.

38% of college freshmen complete their bachelor's degree in four years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Monday, February 09, 2015

How Many Share Your Birthday?

Economist Wolfgang Fengler had some fun on his birthday. He calculated the number of people worldwide who were celebrating the same exact birthday—day and year. Then he made the same calculation for other birthdays, and his results reveal not only the world's growing population but also shifting patterns of global growth.

For babies celebrating their first birthday, 368,000 others worldwide are celebrating the same birthday. The largest share of these "birthday buddies," as Fengler calls them, are from India, China, and Nigeria. For people celebrating their 90th birthday, only 11,000 others worldwide are celebrating the same birthday. The largest share are from China, the United States, and Japan.

To see results for other ages, check out How Your Birthday Reveals Global Demographic Shifts, on the Brookings Institution's Future Development blog.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Arrested by Age 23

Among 23-year-old men, percent who have ever been arrested (excluding minor traffic violations), by race and Hispanic origin...

Black: 49%
Hispanic: 44%
White: 38%

Source: Demographic Patterns of Cumulative Arrest Prevalence by Ages 18 and 23, cited in the Urban Institute report Reducing Harms to Boys and Men of Color from Criminal Justice System Involvement

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Children and Secondhand Smoke

Exposure to secondhand smoke fell steeply between 1999 and 2012, according to a CDC study of nicotine metabolite levels in blood. The percentage of nonsmokers aged 3 or older with detectable levels of nicotine in their blood fell from 52.5 percent in 1999-2000 to just 25.3 percent in 2011-2012.

Behind the decline is the elimination of smoking from most bars, restaurants, work sites, and public places. "The Surgeon General has concluded that eliminating smoking in indoor spaces fully protects nonsmokers from SHS [secondhand smoke] exposure," notes the CDC in its report. But many children are exposed to secondhand smoke at home, which explains why they have the highest levels of nicotine in their blood...

Percentage of nonsmokers with detectable levels of nicotine in their blood 
Aged 3 to 11: 41%
Aged 12 to 19: 34%
Aged 20 or older: 21%

Source: CDC, Disparities in Nonsmokers' Exposure to Secondhand Smoke—United States, 1999-2012

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Emergency Cash: How Long Would It Last?

Most households have little money saved for emergencies, according to an analysis of the 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Financial advisors recommend having three to six months of income in liquid savings (cash, checking, and savings accounts). By income quintile, here is how much liquid savings households have for emergencies...

Top quintile: 52 days
Fourth quintile: 30 days
Middle quintile: 21 days
Second quintile: 15 days
Bottom quintile: 9 days

Source: The Pew Charitable Trusts, The Precarious State of Family Balance Sheets

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Number of Moves in Lifetime

The average American will move 11.7 times during his or her lifetime, according to a Census Bureau calculation made a few years ago. The estimate was based on annual mobility and mortality rates in 2007 and allowed for a maximum of one move per person per year.

Now FiveThirtyEight has updated that estimate. As of 2013, the average American will move 11.3 times in his or her life. Behind the slight decline is the drop in mobility rates caused by the collapse of the housing market and the subsequent Great Recession. The average 18-year-old in the United States has moved twice, says Mona Chalabi of FiveThirtyEight's DataLab, and the average 30-year-old has moved six times.

Source: FiveThirtyEight, How Many Times Does the Average Person Move?

Monday, February 02, 2015

Do Parents Trump Public Health?

"Parents should be able to decide not to vaccinate their children." A substantial 30 percent of the public agrees with that statement, according to a Pew survey. Younger adults—the ones now making the vaccination decisions— are most likely to favor parental choice over public health.

"Parents should be able to decide not to vaccinate their children" (percent agreeing)
Under age 50: 37%
Aged 50-plus: 22%

Source: Pew Research Center, Public and Scientists' Views on Science and Society