Friday, January 29, 2016

Who Owns a Gun?

Despite all the talk about guns, only 32 percent of Americans have a gun in their home, according to the General Social Survey—a figure that has fallen over the past few decades (it was more than 50 percent in the early 1980s). Gun ownership is much more common among non-Hispanic Whites than Blacks or Hispanics...

Percent of households with a gun
Black households: 15%
Hispanic households: 15%
Non-Hispanic White households: 42%

Source: Demo Memo analysis of the 2014 General Social Survey

Thursday, January 28, 2016

First-Time Homebuyer Watch: 4th Quarter 2015

Homeownership rate of householders aged 30 to 34, fourth quarter 2015: 45.9%

The homeownership rate of households headed by people aged 30 to 34 fell in the fourth quarter of 2015 to 45.9 percent, down 0.9 percentage points from the 46.8 percent of the third quarter. This is disappointing news for the housing industry, which is anxiously waiting for first-time homebuyers to return to the marketplace. The rise in the homeownership rate of 30-to-34-year-olds in the third quarter of 2015 appears to have been a bobble at the bottom and not a turnaround. 

Historically, homeownership became the norm in the 30-to-34 age group—rising above 50 percent. But beginning in 2007, the homeownership rate of 30-to-34-year-olds went into a tailspin. In the second quarter of 2011, the rate fell below 50 percent for the first time. It's been stuck there ever since. The new age of first-time home buying is 35 to 39, but even this age group has been slipping toward the 50-percent threshold. In the fourth quarter of 2015, the homeownership rate of 35-to-39-year-olds climbed to 56.2 percent—up from the third quarter's record low of 54.6 percent. The homeownership rate of 35-to-39-year-olds peaked in the first quarter of 2007 at 65.7 percent.

Nationally, the homeownership rate was 63.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015, down from 64.0 percent a year earlier.

Source: Census Bureau, Housing Vacancy Survey

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Prescription Painkiller Abuse: The Personal Connection

Most Americans have a personal connection to prescription painkiller abuse, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey. The 56 percent majority of Americans say they 1) personally know someone who has taken a prescription painkiller not prescribed to them; and/or 2) personally know someone who has been addicted to prescription painkillers, and/or 3) personally know someone who died from a prescription painkiller overdose.

The demographic segments most likely to have a personal connection to prescription painkillers are Whites, those with a household income of $90,000 or more, adults under age 50, those with some college, college graduates, suburban residents, and men.

The demographic segments least likely to have a personal connection to prescription painkillers are Hispanics, people aged 65 or older, Blacks, those with a high school diploma or less education, urban residents, and women.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

American Culture Since the 1950s

"Since the 1950s, do you think American culture and way of life has mostly changed for the better, or has it mostly changed for the worse?"

Percent saying America has changed for the worse
72% of White evangelical Protestants
67% of Republicans
58% of White mainline Protestants
58% of White Catholics
53% of all Americans
43% of non-Christian religion affiliation
43% of Black Protestants
41% of Hispanic Catholics
40% of Democrats
35% of religiously unaffiliated

Source: Public Religion Research Institute, Two-Thirds of Republicans Say American Culture Has Worsened Since 1950s

Monday, January 25, 2016

Older Singles Spend More on Health Care

For Americans aged 65 or older, out-of-pocket per person health care expenses are greater for singles than for couples, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. EBRI analyzed two types of out-of-pocket expenses: recurring (dental visits, doctor visits, and prescription drugs), and nonrecurring (outpatient surgery, hospital stays, in-home care, and nursing home care). During a two-year period, recurring expenses average $2,500 per person regardless of age or whether the elderly person lives alone or with a spouse. "It was clear that the recurring health care expenses were very predictable," notes EBRI.

Nonrecurring out-of-pocket expenses are another story. Not only are per person expenses higher for singles than for couples, but the difference increases with age. For singles aged 65 to 74, average nonrecurring expenses were $766 more for singles than for couples ($2,790 versus $2,024 over two years). By age 85-plus, singles spent an average of $4,825 more than couples on a per person basis ($13,355 versus $8,530).

What makes nonrecurring out-of-pocket expenses so much more costly for singles than for couples? Singles do not have the advantage of a live-in caregiver, suggests EBRI. The biggest differences in out-of-pocket nonrecurring costs were for nursing homes and home health care. "As health breaks down with age," EBRI concludes, "the advantage of having a spouse or partner to act as caregiver results in lower spending."

Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute, Differences in Out-of-Pocket Health Care Expenses of Older Single and Couple Households

Friday, January 22, 2016

Even Among Centenarians, Hispanics Less Likely to Die

There were 72,197 people aged 100 or older in the United States in 2014, reports the National Center for Health Statistics in an analysis of centenarian mortality. The 2014 death rate in this oldest age group was a substantial 35.9 per 100 centenarians. In other words, more than one-third did not make it through the year. But the death rate varies by race and Hispanic origin...

Deaths per 100 centenarians by race and Hispanic origin
Hispanics: 22.3
Non-Hispanic Blacks: 28.6
Non-Hispanic Whites: 39.3

Among centenarians, Hispanics have a lower death rate than Blacks and a strikingly lower death rate than non-Hispanic Whites. This Hispanic advantage is also found among those younger than 100-plus. It's a phenomenon called the "Hispanic paradox." Hispanics have lower mortality rates and a longer life expectancy than others despite their lower socioeconomic status. The Hispanic advantage is due to lower mortality from a variety of leading causes of death including heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, and Alzheimer's, according to an NCHS analysis. These diseases are also leading causes of death among centenarians. Consequently, even in the oldest age group, Hispanics are less likely to die.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Mortality Among Centenarians in the United States, 2000-2014

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Why Cities Have Been Gentrifying

A shortage of leisure time may be behind the growing vibrancy of the nation's cities, suggests a National Bureau of Economic Research study. Over the past few years cities have become magnets for time-starved skilled workers, who are driving up housing prices. By analyzing tract-level data for the 27 largest U.S. cities from 1980 through 2010, the study's authors find a critical shift in relative housing prices: In 1980, prices were higher in the suburbs than in city centers. By 2000, city centers had the highest housing prices.

Behind the shift in housing prices is reduced tolerance for commuting among time constrained, highly skilled (read: college educated) workers. "Gentrification may be the result of high-income households seeking to protect increasingly scare leisure by reducing time spent on low-utility activities such as commuting," summarizes the NBER Digest.

Living in the suburbs is doable when husbands work shifts and wives are at home, but the suburbs make less sense for a work force increasingly dominated by full-time workers (many of them dual-income couples). As leisure time contracted among skilled workers between 1985 and 2005, say the authors, those who could afford to cut the commute bought homes in urban centers, driving up prices and gentrifying neighborhoods.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, Bright Minds, Big Rent: Gentrification and the Rising Returns to Skill, Working Paper 21729 ($5)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Lots of Job Openings, Lots of Hiring

Job seekers might be interested in a Monthly Labor Review analysis of which industries always need lots of workers. Two stand out: professional and business services, and accommodation and food services. Both industries have high rates of job openings and hires. "The simultaneous high rates indicate that, in spite of strong hiring, even more employees are needed," reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A look at average earnings in each industry reveals different processes at work in creating these behemoths of job opportunity...
  • The earnings of those employed in professional and business services (a category that includes legal, accounting, architecture, engineering, and computer services, as well as temporary help agencies) is one of the highest, an average of $29.28 per hour. Professional and business services is continually hiring because of the rapidly expanding need for skilled tech workers. 
  • The earnings of those employed in accommodation and food services is the lowest of any industry, an average of $13.03 per hour. Accommodation and food services is continually hiring because workers use it as a stepping stone to better-paying jobs.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Monthly Labor Review, Which Industries Need Workers? Exploring Differences in Labor Market Activity

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

More Bad News about Death

A few months ago two Princeton economists, analyzing death certificates, discovered a disturbing trend: mortality rates were rising for whites age 45 to 54. Now the New York Times has taken a look at the issue, analyzing 60 million death certificates spanning the years from 1990 to 2014. The Times found something even more disturbing: rising or flattening death rates for all white adults under age 65. "The analysis shows that the rise in white mortality extends well beyond the 45-to-54 age group documented by a pair of Princeton economists in a research paper that startled policy makers and politicians two months ago," reports the Times.

As with the earlier study, the rise in mortality is especially pronounced among less-educated whites and driven by drug (legal and illegal) overdoses. For those who would like to analyze trends in drug poisoning deaths, visit the National Center for Health Statistics' data visualization gallery to examine and download national, state, and county level data from 2002 to 2014.

Source: New York Times, Drug Overdoses Propel Rise in Mortality Rates of Young Whites

Monday, January 18, 2016

Most Are Clueless about Retirement Needs

Most of the nation's workers say they need to save at least $1 million to feel financially secure in retirement, according to the 16th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey of Workers. Fully 57 percent of Gen Xers feel that way, as do 55 percent of Millennials and 53 percent of Boomers. But this is how much workers have saved so far, by generation...

Total household retirement savings
Millennials: $25,000
Generation Xers: $61,000
Baby Boomers: $132,000

Clearly, the nation's workers are so far from achieving their $1 million retirement security goal that it's safe to say most will never make it. Perhaps a little planning is needed. When asked how they came up with the $1 million estimate of needed savings, 57 percent of Millennials, 55 percent of Gen Xers, and 49 percent of Boomers say it's just a guess. Only 16 to 24 percent have made an estimate of retirement savings needs based on current living expenses, and the percentages who have used a retirement calculator, completed a worksheet, or talked to a financial advisor is in the single digits.

Source: Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, 16th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey of Workers

Friday, January 15, 2016

Financial Stability More Important than Mobility

Americans far prefer financial stability to financial mobility, according to Pew Charitable Trusts' Survey of American Family Finances...

Which is more important to you—financial stability or moving up the income ladder?
Moving up: 8%
Financial stability: 92%

Source: The Pew Charitable Trusts, Survey of American Family Finances

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Have We Turned a Corner?

The Great Recession officially ended in June 2009, but a number of vital socioeconomic indicators—such as household income, household spending, births, and homeownership—continued to decline. Until now. The latest data suggest we may have turned a corner...

Is median household income making a comeback? Median household income in 2014 was still below the median of 2007, after adjusting for inflation. But in November 2015, median household income finally surpassed the December 2007 median, according to monthly household income estimates by Sentier Research.

Is household spending growing? Average household spending peaked in 2006, according to the Consumer Expenditure Survey. Then the Great Recession hit, and spending fell 9 percent between 2006 and 2013, after adjusting for inflation. But spending grew 3 percent between 2013 and 2014, and many categories in long-term decline began to grow—including apparel, food away from home, alcoholic beverages, and household furnishings.

Is the baby bust over? The number of births in the United States climbed 1 percent between 2013 and 2014, according to the National Center for Health Statistics—the first increase since 2007. Even more important, the fertility rate—the number of births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 inched up from the all-time low of 62.5 in 2013 to 62.9 in 2014.

Are Millennials buying? The homeownership rate of householders aged 30 to 34 climbed to 46.8 percent in the third quarter of 2015, according to the Census Bureau. This was 1.6 percentage points higher than the all-time low of 45.2 recorded in the second quarter of 2015.

As new data emerge over the next few months, we'll find out whether we have indeed turned a corner or hit another dead end. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Graduation Rates Vary by Type of College

Only 39 percent of students who start as full-time, first-time bachelor's degree seekers finish their degree in the allotted four years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The 59 percent majority completes the degree in six years, however. But the figure varies greatly by type of school...

Finished bachelor's degree in four years
Total institutions: 39.1%
Public institutions: 32.9%
Private, nonprofit: 52.9%
Private, for-profit: 23.4%

Finished bachelor's degree in six years
Total institutions: 59.2%
Public institutions: 57.2%
Private, nonprofit: 65.5%
Private, for-profit: 31.4%

Finished bachelor's degree in eight years
Total institutions: 61.6%
Public institutions: 60.3%
Private, nonprofit: 66.6%
Private, for-profit: 32.6%

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, Graduation Rates for Selected Cohorts, 2006-11; Student Financial Aid, Academic Year 2013-15; and Admissions in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2014, First Look (Provisional Data)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Feelings of Financial Security Depend on Day of Month

Americans are more likely to feel financially secure on the first day of the month than on the last day of the month, according to Barriers to Saving and Policy Opportunities—the third in a series of three issue briefs from Pew Charitable Trusts' Survey of American Family Finances.

This curious day-of-the-month finding makes sense when you know the context in which most Americans live: 55 percent of households spend all or more their income most months, and 60 percent experience at least one financial shock in a 12-month time period. Little wonder, then, that as a month progresses a substantial share of households discover they don't have enough money to make ends meet.

On the first day of the month, 52 percent of Americans feel financially secure. On the last day of the month, only 34 percent feel secure. "The data show that, for many respondents, perceptions of well-being are driven more by their financial conditions at the moment than by the longer-term outlook," concludes the report. These short-term shifts in opinion are crucial to policy and program participation and effectiveness."

Source: Pew Charitable Trusts, Barriers to Saving and Policy Opportunities

Monday, January 11, 2016

Straight or Gay? New Data on Sexual Orientation from the National Survey of Family Growth

It's not easy to collect data on sexual orientation, sexual attraction, or sexual experience. Many Americans are understandably hesitant to reveal details about their personal lives to government interviewers. But ask respondents to put on headphones, listen to a series of questions, and enter answers directly into a laptop computer (a method knows as "audio computer-assisted self-interviewing," or ACASI) and data begin to emerge. The National Survey of Family Growth used ACASI when it surveyed the nation's 18-to-44-year-olds about their sexuality. Here are the results...
  • Sexual attraction: 4% of men and 6% of women say they are attracted equally to both sexes, mostly or only to the same sex, or refused to answer.
  • Sexual orientation: 5% of men and 8% of women identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or refuse to answer.
  • Same-sex sexual contact: 6% of men and 17% of women say they have had same-sex sexual contact.
Why are women so much more likely than men to report same-sex sexual contact? Most likely because men and women are asked different questions. Women are asked whether they have ever given or received oral sex from another female. If they answer no, then they are asked whether they have ever had any sexual experience of any kind with another female, boosting the figure to 17 percent. Men are asked whether they have ever given or received oral or anal sex from another male. They are not asked the additional question about sexual experience of any kind. Thus, the smaller 6 percent.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Sexual Behavior, Sexual Attraction, and Sexual Orientation Among Adults Aged 18-44 in the United States: Data from the 2011-2013 National Survey of Family Growth

Friday, January 08, 2016

26% Had Problems Paying Medical Bills

More than one in four Americans aged 18 to 64 say they or someone in their household had problems paying medical bills in the past 12 months, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation/New York Times survey. Here's who ran into trouble...

Percent of 18-to-64-year-olds with problems paying medical bills in past 12 months
Total with problems: 26%
With health insurance: 20%
Without health insurance: 53%

It's not hard to figure out why those without health insurance would have trouble paying their medical bills. But what caused trouble for those with health insurance? Three things, according to the survey's findings. Among the 20 percent of 18-to-64-year-olds with health insurance who had problems paying their medical bills...
  • 75% could not afford their insurance plan's co-pays, deductibles, or coinsurance.
  • 32% received care from an out-of-network provider, and their insurance did not cover the full cost of care. Most were surprised by the out-of-network bill, with 69 percent of those who received a surprise bill unaware that a provider was not in their plan's network. 
  • 26% said their insurance claim was denied.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Men's Earnings, 1979 to 2014

The median weekly earnings of men who work full-time stood at $871 in 2014—about 2 percent lower than the $888 of 1979, after adjusting for inflation. But this small decline in the median masks the different fortunes of men at the top and bottom of the income scale...

Usual weekly earnings of highest-paid 10 percent of men who work full-time
2014: $2,094
1979: $1,565
Percent change: +34%

Usual weekly earnings of lowest-paid 10 percent of men who work full-time
2014: $395
1979: $447
Percent change: -12%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, A Look at Pay at the Top, the Bottom, and In Between

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Most Middle-Aged and Older Americans Are Being Treated for Chronic Health Conditions

Old age is not for sissies, and chronic conditions are one of the reasons. Among 18-to-44-year-olds, most are free of health problems. Only 20 percent of adults under age 45 are being treated for a chronic health condition. In middle age, troubles become commonplace. Fully 56 percent of 45-to-64-year-olds are being treated for at least one chronic condition. Among people aged 65 or older, the figure rises to 85 percent.

In every age group, Hispanics are less likely than non-Hispanic Whites or Blacks to be receiving treatment for chronic health conditions. The biggest gap is in middle age. Only 49 percent of Hispanics aged 45 to 64 are being treated for a chronic health condition. This compares with 57 percent of non-Hispanic Whites and 62 percent of non-Hispanic Blacks. Many Hispanics lack health insurance, and they see health care providers less frequently than non-Hispanic Whites or Blacks. Is that why fewer are being treated for chronic conditions? Perhaps. But Hispanics also live longer, so it's likely they're simply healthier.

Source: Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, Health Expenditures for Adults by Number of Treated Chronic Conditions, Race/Ethnicity, and Age, 2012

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Who's Not Working?

More than 87 million Americans aged 16 or older did not work in 2014, nor did they look for work—17 million more than in 2004. Nonworkers grew from 31 to 35 percent of the adult population during those years. What's behind the increase? A big factor is the baby-boom generation, which is inflating the number of retirees. The Bureau of Labor Statistics calls this the "age effect." Here are the four types of nonworking adults...
  • The number of adults not in the labor force because they are retired climbed from 31 million to 39 million between 2004 and 2014. Most are aged 65 or older.
  • The number of adults not in the labor force because they are ill or disabled climbed from 12  million to 16 million between 2004 and 2014. Most are aged 55 or older, but a substantial 45 percent are aged 25 to 54.
  • The number of adults not in the labor force because they are in school climbed from 11 million to 16 million between 2004 and 2014. Most are aged 16 to 24. 
  • The number of adults not in the labor force because they are caring for home and family was 13.5 million in 2014, the same as in 2004. Two out of three are women aged 25 to 54.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, People Who Are Not In the Labor Force: Why Aren't They Working?

Monday, January 04, 2016

Births to Unmarried Women by State, 2014

Among the nearly 4 million babies born in 2014, a substantial 40.2 percent were born to unmarried women. The percentage of babies born out-of-wedlock varies greatly by state, with the majority born out of wedlock in three states and the District of Columbia...

States with the highest percentage of births out of wedlock
Mississippi: 54.0%
Louisiana: 52.7%
New Mexico: 51.3%
District of Columbia: 50.2%

States with the lowest percentage of births out of wedlock
Utah: 18.6%
Colorado: 22.4%
Idaho: 27.8%
Washington: 32.1%

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Births: Final Data for 2014, Supplemental Tables