Friday, November 24, 2017

Online Is Close to Top Venue for Christmas Shopping

Ask Americans where they will do their Christmas shopping, and the single most popular venue is (still) the department store, according to a Gallup survey. Fully 72 percent of the public reports being very/somewhat likely to shop at a department store for Christmas gifts. Department stores have been the number-one venue since Gallup first asked this question in 1998.

Close behind department stores and tied for second place with discount stores is online shopping: 65 percent of the public says it is very/somewhat likely to shop for Christmas gifts online. At the rate online shopping is growing, it will surpass department stores the next time Gallup asks this question...

Very/somewhat likely to shop online for Christmas gifts
2017: 65%
2013: 53%
2008: 43%
2002: 29%
1998: 10%

Young adults are most likely to say they are very/somewhat likely to shop online for Christmas (76 percent). People aged 65 or older are least likely (47 percent).

Source: Gallup, Holiday Spending Plans: Online Up, Discount Stores Down

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving Meal Is More Work than Play

Thanksgiving is unique in more ways than turkey. It is the only holiday on which Americans spend less time enjoying their meal than they do preparing the meal and cleaning up afterwards.

Time use on Thanksgiving
Minutes spent eating and drinking: 88
Minutes spent on meal preparation and cleanup: 127

Thanksgiving stands apart from holidays in general, when the average person spends just 46 minutes preparing and cleaning up meals and a larger 73 minutes enjoying their efforts.

Source: USDA Economic Research Service, Thanksgiving Is a Day for Food, and Black Friday Is a Day for Nonfood Shopping

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Start-Up Firms Boost Employment

If you've ever wondered how many startup firms are in the United States, it's your lucky day because the Bureau of Labor Statistics counts them: in 2017, there were 415,226 startups. The BLS defines startups as firms that are no more than 1 year old. The annual number of startups has climbed 27 percent since hitting a low in 2010. But the 2017 number is still 9 percent below the 2006 peak...

Number of startup firms
2017: 415,226
2010: 326,091 (low)
2006: 457,223 (high)
2000: 417,515
1994: 403,747 (start of data series)

In every year since 1994, startups have accounted for most job growth. Of the 2.1 million net increase in jobs in 2017, startups accounted 1.7 million—or 84 percent of the total.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job Gains among Startup Firms in 2017

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

College Graduates in the Labor Force, 1970 to 2016

The educational attainment of American workers has soared since the 1970s, when well-educated Boomers began pouring into the labor force. Among workers aged 25 to 64 in 1970, fully 36 percent had not even graduated from high school. Only 14 percent had four or more years of college. By 2016, the percentage of workers without a high school diploma had plummeted to 8 percent, and the percentage with a bachelor's degree or more education had climbed to 39 percent.

The gains in educational attainment have been especially large for women. In 1970, female workers were less likely than male workers to have four or more years of college. By 2016, they were far more likely than men to be college graduates...

Women aged 25 to 64 in labor force by educational attainment in 2016 (and 1970)
Not a high school graduate: 6.0% (33.5%)
High school graduate only: 22.9% (44.3%)
Some college/assoc. degree: 29.6% (10.9%)
Bachelor's degree or more: 41.6% (11.2%)

Men aged 25 to 64 in labor force by educational attainment in 2016 (and 1970)
Not a high school graduate: 9.3% (37.5%)
High school graduate only: 28.6% (34.5%)
Some college/assoc. degree: 25.9% (12.2%)
Bachelor's degree or more: 36.2% (15.7%)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Women in the Labor Force: A Databook

Monday, November 20, 2017

Biggest Spending Declines, 2006 to 2016

Average household spending is finally catching up to what it used to be. In 2016, the average household spent $57,311—just 0.5 percent less than it spent in 2006 (the year average household spending peaked), after adjusting for inflation. But some categories are well below their 2006 level. Here are some of the steepest declines during the decade...

–54 percent: landline telephone service
–42 percent: clothes for children under age 2
–35 percent: mortgage interest
–28 percent: gasoline
–28 percent: postage and stationery
–15 percent: reading material

At the other extreme, average household spending has surged in a handful of categories. Some of the categories with the biggest increases in spending during the past decade are cell phone service (up 80 percent), pets (55 percent), and rent (31 percent).

Source: Demo Memo analysis of the Consumer Expenditure Survey

Friday, November 17, 2017

19 Million Felons in the United States

There were 19 million current or former felons in the United States in 2010—nearly four times the 5 million of 1980, according to a study published in the journal Demography. "Development of the population with felony convictions since 1980 has been one of widespread, racialized growth," reports the study.

Felons (current or former) accounted for 8 percent of the adult population in 2010—more than double the 3 percent of 1980, according to the analysis. Among African Americans, the share grew from 8 percent in 1980 to 23 percent in 2010. "Depending on the state," say the researchers, "between 1 in 10 and 1 in 3 African American adults are confronting the daily reality of limited citizenship rights, diminished job prospects, and stigmatization." Among Black men, 33 percent had a felony conviction as of 2010, up from 13 percent in 1980. The only bit of good news is that the 33 percent of 2010 was slightly lower than the 36 percent of 2000.

"The United States' decades-long 'grand experiment' with mass incarceration may be at a crossroads," conclude the researchers, "but at current rates of decline, some estimate it would take 80 years to return to 1980 levels nationwide."

Source: Demography, Volume 54, Issue 5, The Growth, Scope, and Spatial Distribution of People with Felony Records in the United States, 1948–2010, ($39.95)

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Another New Low in 2017: Households with Children

Only 27.2 percent of the nation's households include children under age 18, according to the Census Bureau—a record low. The decline in the percentage of households with children has been ongoing for decades. Here is the trend since 1960...

Households with own children under age 18
2017: 27.2%
2010: 30.0%
2000: 33.0%
1990: 34.6%
1980: 38.4%
1970: 45.4%
1960: 48.7%

Source: Census Bureau, America's Families and Living Arrangements: 2017

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Mobility Rate Falls to New Low in 2017

The geographic mobility rate fell to a new all-time low in 2017, according to the Census Bureau. Only 11.0 percent of U.S. residents aged 1 or older as of March 2017 had moved in the previous 12 months. Not since 1960 have so few people moved (35 million).

Among people living in owned homes, 5.5 percent moved from one house to another between 2016 and 2017, above the all-time low of 4.7 percent recorded in 2011 and 2012. Among people living in rented homes, the mobility rate fell to a new all-time low of 21.7 percent in 2017.

Mobility rate in 2017
Total US: 11.0%
Owners: 5.5%
Renters: 21.7% 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

2012 Square Feet in Average American Home

The nation's 118 million occupied housing units contain a total of 238 billion square feet of space, according to the Energy Information Administration's 2015 Residential Energy Consumption survey. That's an average of 2,012 square feet per home. The average size of occupied housing units varies by a number of factors, including...

Region: The smallest homes (1,685 square feet, on average) are in the Pacific states (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington). The largest homes (2,337 square feet) are in the West North Central states (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota).

Climate: The smallest homes are in mixed dry/hot dry climates (1,665 square feet). The largest homes are in very cold/cold climates (2,239 square feet).

Year built: The smallest homes were built in the 1950s (1,866 square feet). The largest homes were built during the housing bubble—from 2000 to 2009 (2,381 square feet).

Household income: The average size of homes rises with household income. The smallest homes are those whose residents have a household income below $20,000 (1,325 square feet). The largest homes are those whose residents have a household income of $140,000 or more (3,051 square feet). On a per capita basis, the poorest households have 602 square feet per person and the richest households have 1,018.

Source: Energy Information Administration, 2015 Residential Energy Consumption Survey

Monday, November 13, 2017

Evolution: Humans vs. Elephants

Americans are more likely to say they believe in evolution when they are asked about elephants than about humans, according to the 2016 General Social Survey. Take a look at how the public responded to these two true-or-false questions on the survey...

"Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals" 
Percent saying statement is true: 59%
Percent saying statement is false: 41%

"Elephants, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals"
Percent saying statement is true: 86%
Percent saying statement is false: 14%

The difference in belief is especially large in the South, where 81 percent believe in evolution for elephants but only 44 percent for humans—a 37 percentage-point gap. The gap is only 8 percentage points in the Northeast, where 86 percent believe in elephant evolution and 78 percent in human.

Source: Demo Memo analysis of the 2016 General Social Survey

Friday, November 10, 2017

Interracial Violence Has Declined

Of the 5.8 million violent victimizations that occurred annually in the 2012–15 time period, the 51 percent majority were intraracial, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, meaning both victim and offender were of the same race or Hispanic origin. The BJS defines violent victimization as aggravated or simple assault, rape or sexual assault, and robbery. The data on these victimizations come from the BJS's National Crime Victimization Survey.

Among White victims responding to the survey, 57 percent reported that the offender was White. Among Black victims, 63 percent said the offender was Black. Among Hispanic victims, the 40 percent plurality said the offender was Hispanic. Both White and Black intraracial violence has declined steeply over the past two decades (there is no historical data for Hispanics). Between 1994 and 2015, the annual rate of White-on-White violence fell 79 percent, from 52.5 to 10.8 victimizations per 1,000 White persons. The rate of Black-on-Black violence fell 78 percent, from 66.6 to 14.5 victimizations per 1,000 Black persons.

The rate of interracial violent victimization—meaning victim and offender were of a different race or Hispanic origin—also fell steeply during those years. The rate of White-on-Black violence dropped 74 percent, from 10.2 to 2.6 victimizations per 1,000 Black persons. The rate of Black-on-White violence fell 80 percent, from 14.9 to 3.0 victimizations per 1,000 White persons.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Race and Hispanic Origin of Victims and Offenders, 2012–15

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Dying Slowly from Serious Health Conditions

Dying has changed. It has become a slow process rather than a sudden event, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. "Due to medical advances and the ability to manage chronic conditions in older adults, more people are living longer and, rather than dying from acute episodes of illness, they are dying after long periods of sickness and declining health," says Kaiser. After surveying a nationally representative sample of adults aged 18 or older, Kaiser finds most Americans (74 percent) are aware of this fact.

What are the primary conditions that cause this slow death? The Kaiser survey probed a large subset of its survey sample—respondents aged 65 or older who are experiencing a serious illness that has resulted in functional limitations or who have been diagnosed with specific conditions such as diabetes, lung disease, heart disease, cancer, or dementia. Also included in this subset were family members whose loved ones aged 65 or older are (or were) experiencing serious illness (prior to their death). For the seriously ill, these were the most commonly diagnosed conditions (many had more than one)...

52% had dementia
47% had heart problems/stroke
35% had diabetes
28% had mental health problems (anxiety, depression)
26% had lung problems (asthma, emphysema, COPD)
24% had cancer
14% had chronic kidney disease or kidney failure

The prolonged process of dying places great demands on the health care system. Most Americans think the system comes up short. The 52 percent majority of the public says the health care provided to older people with serious health conditions is only fair or poor. To track the evolution of attitudes and policies to cope with serious illness in late life, Kaiser plans more surveys in the future.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, Serious Illness in Late Life: The Public's Views and Experience

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Teens Are Drinking Less Soda

Americans are spending less on soda than they once did. In 2016, the average household spent $136 on carbonated beverages purchased at grocery stores, down from $152 in 2007, after adjusting for inflation. Households are spending less because people are drinking less, especially those known to drink the most—teenagers.

Fewer teens are drinking soda daily, according to the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. The YRBSS is the CDC's annual survey of students in 9th through 12th grade in states and metropolitan areas across the country, collecting information on teen health behaviors including smoking, drinking, sexual activity, weight, and diet. In 2015, just 20 percent of 9th through 12th graders drank at least one regular soda every day in the past seven days, down from 34 percent in 2007. Daily soda consumption ranges from a low of 12 percent among teens in Connecticut to a high of 32 percent among teens in Kentucky. Although the Kentucky figure is the highest among states in 2015, it's lower than it once was. In 2007, more than 40 percent of Kentucky teens drank a soda every day.

Source: CDC, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Who Has Trouble Staying Warm?

Among the nation's 118 million households, a substantial 31 percent reported having problems paying their energy bills or maintaining adequate heating and/or cooling in their home in 2015, according to the Residential Energy Consumption Survey. The survey defined energy insecurity as experiencing at least one of five heating/cooling problems—reducing or forgoing food or medicine to pay energy costs; leaving the home at an unhealthy temperature; receiving a disconnect or delivery stop notice; unable to use heating equipment; or unable to use cooling equipment.

Most low-income households are energy insecure. Energy insecurity is much greater among low-income Americans. Among households with incomes below $20,000, the 51 percent majority reported being energy insecure in 2015—that is, they experienced at least one of the five problems. The figure fell to 34 percent among households with incomes of $40,000 to $60,000, which is close to the national median. Among households with incomes of $140,000 or more, only 8 percent reported energy insecurity.

Climate doesn't matter. Among households located in very cold/cold climates, 30 percent reported energy insecurity. Among those in hot/humid climates, 34 percent reported energy insecurity.

Insulation cuts the problem in half. Among those who report that their home is well insulated, only 23 are energy insecure. Among those whose homes are poorly insulated, 49 percent are energy insecure.

Mobile homes are the worst. Among those who live in single-family detached homes, 27 percent report being energy insecure. The figure is about the same for those in apartment buildings with five or more units (30 percent). But for those in smaller apartment buildings of two to four units, a much larger 46 percent are energy insecure. For mobile homes, the figure is a whopping 59 percent.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Residential Energy Consumption Survey, One in Three U.S. Households Faced Challenges in Paying Energy Bills in 2015

Monday, November 06, 2017

Among Millennials, Whites Stand Apart

White Millennials are outliers—that's the finding of the latest GenForward survey of Americans aged 18 to 34. The survey probed the age group's attitudes about racial identity, race relations, and racial politics. "Our survey clearly outlines how whites are quickly becoming the outlier group in this generation," says the report. "No longer the baseline, norm, or default, white Millennials often, though not always, find themselves at odds with their peers of color."

Here is just one of many examples from the GenForward report, "The Woke Generation? Millennial Attitudes on Race in the US." When asked the question, "Do you personally see the Confederate flag more as a symbol of Southern pride or more as a symbol of racism," this is the percentage of 18-to-34-year-olds who answered "Southern Pride"...

Percent who believe Confederate flag is symbol of Southern Pride
Blacks: 16%
Asians: 25%
Hispanics: 29%
Non-Hispanic Whites: 55%

Note: For a detailed portrait of Millennials and other generations of Americans, see the all-new American Generations, available as a PDF for hardcopy from New Strategist Press.

Source: GenForward University of Chicago, October 2017 Report

Friday, November 03, 2017

Labor Force by Race and Hispanic Origin in 2026

Slowly but steadily, the labor force is becoming more diverse. The latest projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show the non-Hispanic White share of the labor force falling from 63 to 58 percent between 2016 and 2026. The minority share of the labor force will climb from 37 to 42 percent. A decade from now, 21 percent of American workers will be Hispanic, 13 percent Black, and 7 percent Asian.

Numerical (and percent) change in labor force by race and Hispanic origin, 2016 to 2026
Asians: +2,647,000 (28%)
Blacks: +1,881,000 (10%)
Hispanics: +8,118,000 (30%)
Non-Hispanic Whites: –2,471,000 (–2%)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections

Thursday, November 02, 2017

5.3 Million More Workers Aged 65-Plus

The number of workers aged 65 or older is projected to grow by an enormous 58 percent between 2016 and 2026, according to Bureau of Labor Force Statistics' projections. Older workers will account for the 51 percent majority of the overall 10.5 million increase in the labor force during the 2016-to-2026 decade.

Numerical (and percent) change in labor force by age 2016 to 2026
Under age 35: 1% (+633,000 workers)
Aged 35 to 64: 5% (+4.5 million workers)
Aged 65-plus: 58% (+5.3 million workers)

By 2026, one in three men and one in four women aged 65 to 74 is projected to be in the labor force. Among those aged 75 or older, labor force participation is projected to rise from 8 to 11 percent over the decade.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

First-Time Homebuyer Watch: 3rd Quarter 2017

Homeownership rate of householders aged 30 to 34, third quarter 2017: 45.9%

The homeownership rate of households headed by people aged 30 to 34 inched upward in the third quarter of 2017. The age group's 45.9 percent homeownership rate was higher than the record low of 44.6 percent recorded in the first quarter of 2017, but not significantly different from the third quarter 2016 rate. The homeownership rate of 30-to-34-year-olds appears to have found a new normal in the mid-forties.  


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 third quarter of 2017 the homeownership rate of 35-to-39-year-olds was 56.6 percent, well below the peak of 65.7 percent in the first quarter of 2007.


Nationally, the homeownership rate was 63.9 percent in the third quarter of 2017, a bit higher than the 63.5 percent of a year earlier, but the difference was not statistically significant. 

Source: Census Bureau, Housing Vacancy Survey

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Belief in the Paranormal

Only 25 percent of Americans do not believe in any of seven paranormal occurrences, according to the Chapman University Survey of American Fears. "This means that nearly three-fourths of Americans do believe in something paranormal," reports Chapman University in its analysis of survey results. More than half the public (52 percent) believes places can be haunted by spirits. Twenty-six percent believe aliens have come to earth in modern times.

The characteristics most associated with paranormal beliefs include being highly religious, conservative, living in a rural area, and living on the West coast.

Source: Chapman University Survey of American Fears, Paranormal America 2017

Monday, October 30, 2017

Renters Would Like a Little Help

What is the biggest obstacle to buying a home today? According to a Fannie Mae survey, it's coming up with enough money for the down payment and closing costs—cited as a barrier to home buying by 45 percent of the nation's renters.

Most (82 percent) of today's renters expect to buy a home someday. But many just don't have the cash it takes to do so—unless they get financial help from their parents or other family members. Some renters think they can count on that help. Ten percent expect to receive financial assistance from their family when they buy a home, less than the 20 percent of current or former homeowners who say they received financial assistance from their parents/family members when they bought their home.

Many Americans plan to help out when the time comes. When asked whether they plan to help out financially when their children or other family members buy a home, a substantial 38 percent of respondents said yes and 16 percent had already done so. How important is this financial help? Among homeowners who received family help in the past, 25 percent said they could not have bought their home without it, and another 39 percent said it allowed them to buy a home sooner.

Source: Fannie Mae, National Housing Survey, Renters Report Future Home Buying Optimism, while Financial Assistance is Most Available to Populations with Higher Homeownership Rates

Friday, October 27, 2017

Fear of Extremists

Are you afraid of extremists, and if so which ones scare you the most? That's what the Chapman University Survey of American Fears explored with the question, "How afraid are you that the following groups are a threat to national security?"

The number-one feared group was Islamic extremists, with 61 percent of the public "afraid" or "very afraid" of their threat to national security. Number two on the list was white supremacists, feared by 51 percent. Some of the other groups feared by the public were extreme anti-immigrationists (34 percent), extreme anti-abortionists (31 percent), extreme environmentalists (21 percent), and extreme animal rightists (14 percent).

Politics are a big determinant of extremist fears. Fully 83 percent of strong Republicans fear Islamic extremists, much greater than the 42 percent who fear them among strong Democrats. Fully 74 percent of strong Democrats fear white supremacists versus only 36 percent of strong Republicans.

Source: Chapman University Survey of American Fears 2017, Fear of Extremism and the Threat to National Security

Thursday, October 26, 2017

10 Fastest Growing Occupations, 2016 to 2026

Every two years the Bureau of Labor Statistics updates its employment, occupation, and industry projections for the decade ahead. The latest update has just been released. Here are the 10 occupations projected to grow the fastest between 2016 and 2026 and their 2016 median wage...

Fastest-growing occupations, 2016 to 2026 (and 2016 median wage)
105% increase in solar photovoltaic installers ($39,240)
96% increase in wind turbine service technicians ($52,260)
47% increase in home health aides ($22,600)
37% increase in personal care aides ($21,920)
37% increase in physician assistants ($101,480)
36% increase in nurse practitioners ($100,910)
33% increase in statisticians ($80,500)
31% increase in physical therapist assistants ($56,610)
30% increase in software developers, applications ($100,080)
29% increase in mathematicians ($105,810)

A shout-out is due the 11th fastest-growing occupation—bicycle repairers, their number expected to grow 29 percent in the next 10 years as bicycling surges in popularity. Median wage: $27,630.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections, Fastest Growing Occupations 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Paying Medical Expenses Out-of-Pocket

Americans incur $1.5 trillion in health care service expenses in a year's time—an average of $5,531 per person with expense, according to the government's Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. Those with medical expenses pay an average of $686 out-of-pocket—or 12.4 percent of the total. There are big differences in the out-of-pocket share of expense by type of service...

Percent of health care service expenses paid out-of-pocket
12.4% for all health care services 
2.6% for hospital inpatient services
5.9% for hospital outpatient services
6.6% for home health care services
9.0% for emergency room services
11.6% for physical/occupational therapist visits
11.8% for nurse/nurse practitioner visits
13.0% for physician visits
13.5% for physician assistant visits
13.9% for prescription drugs
35.6% for optometrist visits
35.7% for chiropractor visits
40.6% for dental visits
58.6% for orthodontist visits
60.9% for eyeglasses/contact lenses

Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, 2014 Expenditures Per Person by Health Care Service

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Debt Is Rising among Older Americans

Overall, 77 percent of American households were in debt in 2016—the same percentage as in 2007, according to the Federal Reserve Board's Survey of Consumer Finances. Among the oldest Americans, however, debt has soared—rising from 31 percent who were in debt in 2007 to 50 percent in 2016. Indebtedness increased among householders aged 65 to 74 too, rising from 65.5 to 70.1 percent during those years. Among householders under age 65, indebtedness did not increase.

Mortgage debt more than doubled: The percentage of householders aged 75 or older with mortgage debt climbed from 11 to 23 percent between 2007 and 2016. In every other age group, the percentage with mortgage debt fell during those years.

Credit card debt grew: The percentage of householders aged 75 or older with an unpaid credit card balance rose from 19 to 26 percent between 2007 and 2016. Among householders aged 65 to 74, the figure also increased. Among householders under age 65, the percentage with credit card debt fell.

Vehicle debt more than doubled: The percentage of householders aged 75 or older with vehicle debt grew from 6 to 14 percent between 2007 and 2016. Vehicle debt also increased among householders aged 65 to 74, but fell for every other age group except 35 to 44.

Education debt more than quadrupled: Even education debt increased among householders aged 75 or older. Although education debt is uncommon in the age group, the 1.3 percent with this type of debt in 2016 was more than four times the 0.3 percent of 2007. The percentage of households with education debt increased in every age group between 2007 and 2016.

Not only are more older householders in debt, but the amount they owe has grown since 2007, after adjusting for inflation. The median amount of debt owed by householders aged 75 or older in 2016 ($20,600) was 36 percent greater than the amount owed by their counterparts in 2007.

Source: Demo Memo analysis of the Federal Reserve Board's Survey of Consumer Finances

Monday, October 23, 2017

Environmental Fears Climb into Top 10

Environmental fears, for the first time, rank among Americans' top-10 fears, according to the Chapman University Survey of American Fears 2017. Fear of global warming/climate change is 8th on the list of 80 fears, with 48 percent of the public saying it is "afraid" or "very afraid." Water and air pollution also appear on the top-10 list. Environmental fears were heightened when the survey was fielded in May 2017, the Chapman analysis explains, because the Trump administration was threatening to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement.

Fear of corrupt government officials is the number-one fear of 2017, as it was in 2016. Trumpcare is the second-biggest fear in 2017, frightening 55 percent of Americans. A smaller 34 percent fear Obamacare, which ranks 29th on the list of fears.

Top-10 fears, 2017 (percent "afraid" or "very afraid")
1. Corrupt government officials: 74.5%
2. American Healthcare Act/Trumpcare: 55.3%
3. Pollution of oceans, rivers, and lakes: 53.1%
4. Pollution of drinking water: 50.4%
5. Not having enough money for future: 50.2%
6. High medical bills: 48.4%
7. U.S. will be involved in another world war: 48.4%
8. Global warming and climate change: 48.0%
9. North Korea using weapons: 47.5%
10. Air pollution: 44.9%

Source: Chapman University Survey of American Fears 2017, America's Top Fears 2017

Friday, October 20, 2017

Most Parents Are Very Satisfied with Child's School

Among the parents of the nation's school children in kindergarten through 12th grade, fully 60 percent are "very satisfied" with their child's school, according to a National Center for Education Statistics survey. The percentage of parents who are very satisfied declines as children grow older, from 69 percent of parents with children in kindergarten through 2nd grade to a smaller 54 percent of those with children in 9th through 12th grade. Here are the percentages of parents who are very satisfied with their child's school by type of school...

Percent of parents who are very satisfied with child's school by type of school
Public, assigned: 57%
Public, chosen: 65%
Private, religious: 78%
Private, nonreligious: 84%

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, Parent and Family Involvement in Education: Results from the National Household Education Surveys Program of 2016

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Who's Afraid of Being Shot?

Thirty-nine percent of Americans are very/somewhat worried that they or family members will become the victims of a mass shooting, according to a Gallup survey, nearly identical to the 38 percent who felt very/somewhat worried in 2015. There are big differences in the percentage who are very/somewhat worried by demographic characteristic...
  • 53% of women vs. 26% of men
  • 47% of people aged 18 to 34 vs. 33% of people aged 55 or older
  • 47% of people who do not own guns vs. 23% of gun owners 
  • 49% of Democrats vs. 27% of Republicans
The 63 percent majority of Democrats think new gun laws would reduce mass shootings by a great deal/moderate amount. Among Republicans, 71 percent say new gun laws would "not at all" reduce mass shootings. 

Source: Gallup, Four in 10 Americans Fear Being a Victim of a Mass Shooting

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Dementia Risk for Men and Women

What is the risk of developing dementia among healthy 70-year-olds? A study published in Demography, determined the probability using data from the nationally representative and longitudinal Aging, Demographics, and Memory Study—a subsample of the Health and Retirement Study. Among 70-year-olds born in 1920, men had a 27 percent chance of developing dementia before death. Among their female counterparts, the probability was an even higher 35 percent.

But there's more. The probability of developing dementia is increasing as mortality rates at older ages decline, allowing more time for dementia to develop. In the 1940 birth cohort, men aged 70 had a 31 percent chance of developing dementia before death, and women 37 percent. For this cohort, the average 70-year-old man could expect to live 1.1 years with dementia, and the average woman 2.0 years.

"These estimates imply a larger need for individuals and families to plan for a life stage with dementia," concludes the study.

Source: Demography, Volume 54, Issue 5, Risk of Developing Dementia at Older Ages in the United States

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Retirement Savings Gap

Among typical working households with a 401(k)/IRA, the median balance in their plan(s) as they approach retirement is $135,000, according to the Center for Retirement Research's analysis of the Federal Reserve Board's 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances. This is not enough to provide much financial support in retirement and is well below what they should have saved over the years, according to Center for Retirement Research calculations.

The CRR's calculations assume an individual has median earnings and contributes 6 percent of his/her salary to a 401(k)/IRA from age 25 in 1981 to age 60 in 2016, with a 50 percent employer match, a 50/50 stock/bond portfolio, and actual stock market returns over the time period. The accumulated total would be $364,000 in 2016. But after subtracting fees and the average leakage (cashing out) rate, retirement savings falls to $228,000. That's still a lot more than the actual amount ($135,000) in the 401(k)/IRA accounts of older households. What accounts for the gap? Failure to contribute, say the researchers.

"A number of factors contribute to low balances," conclude the researchers—"less than full participation, low contributions, high fees, and leakages." By fixing these problems, "outcomes could be greatly improved."

Source: Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, 401(k)/IRA Holdings in 2016: An Update from the SCF

Monday, October 16, 2017

Steep Drop in Republican Fans of Pro Football

Professional football remains the nation's most popular sport, but it's not as popular as it used to be. The 57 percent majority of American aged 18 or older say they are fans of pro football, according to a Gallup survey. But that's down by a full 10 percentage points from the 67 percent of 2012 (the last time Gallup asked the question). The decline has been especially steep among Republicans (–15 percentage points) and independents (–12 percentage points)...

Fans of professional football in 2017 (and 2012)
Democrats: 66% (69%)
Independents: 53% (65%)
Republicans: 55% (70%)

"It is uncertain how much the national anthem controversy has contributed to the decline in pro football fans compared with other controversies or factors," concludes Gallup.

Source: Gallup, Pro Football Losing Fans; Other Sports Holding Steady

Friday, October 13, 2017

Suicide Rate Highest in Nonmetro/Rural Areas

Yet another study has found a widening health gap between rural and urban areas. In an analysis of suicide rates by urban status over the past decade, the CDC finds much higher suicide rates in nonmetropolitan and rural areas than in metropolitan areas. To make matters worse, suicide rates are rising faster in the hinterlands than in the rest of the U.S.

In 2013–15, the suicide rate in nonmetro/rural areas (19.74 suicides per 100,000 population aged 10 or older) was 18 percent higher than the rate in medium/small metro areas (16.77), 32 percent higher than the national average (14.98), and 55 percent higher than the rate in large metropolitan areas (12.72). Since 2001–03, the suicide rate has climbed across the nation, but nowhere more so than in nonmetropolitan/rural areas. Between 2001–03 and 2013–15, the suicide rate climbed 14 percent in the largest metros, 19 percent nationally, 25 percent in medium/small metro areas, and 27 percent in nonmetro/rural areas.

The pattern in the suicide rate is the same for both males and females, in every age group, and for every race and Hispanic origin group except Blacks—whose relatively low suicide rate has not increased much and is highest in medium/small metros.

Suicide rates are "consistently higher in rural communities," concludes the CDC. "Findings from this study underscore the need to identify protective factors as part of comprehensive suicide prevention efforts, particularly in rural areas."

Source: CDC, Suicide Trends among and within Urbanization Levels by Sex, Race/Ethnicity, Age Group, and Mechanism of Death—United States, 2001–2015

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Jobs in the Retail Apocalypse

The year 2012 may have been the beginning of the retail apocalypse, according to a Federal Reserve Bank of New York analysis, which compares job growth over the years in two types of retail establishments—department stores and nonstore (online) retailers. Before 2012, the number of jobs in both types of establishments closely followed the ups and downs of the business cycle. But in 2012 everything changed. Department stores began to shed jobs by the tens and hundreds of thousands while online retailers have been adding to their payrolls.

To make matters worse for those laid-off department store workers, say the researchers, the stores eliminating jobs are often in different locations from the online retailers who are hiring—a geographic disparity documented in their study. Even if laid-off department store workers moved to where online retailers are hiring, they aren't likely to land a job because skillsets are different, as evidenced by average pay levels— about $20,000 a year for department store workers versus about $59,000 a year for those employed by online retailers.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Liberty Street Economics, How Is Online Shopping Affecting Retail Employment?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Few First-Generation College Students Earn Degree

First-generation college students face an uphill battle. They are far less likely than their peers with college-educated parents to earn a bachelor's degree, according to the National Center for Education Statistics' Education Longitudinal Study of 2002, which is tracking a nationally representative sample of 2002 high school sophomores.

Among first-generation students (defined as those whose parents have no postsecondary education experience) who enrolled in college, only 23 percent had earned at least a bachelor's degree by 2012—a decade after their sophomore year in high school. Among continuing-generation students (defined as those whose parents have a bachelor's degree), a much larger 55 percent had earned at least a bachelor's degree by 2012.

Fully 47 percent of first-generation students who enrolled in college had no degree or certificate to show for it a decade later. Among continuing-generation students, a smaller 30 percent left school empty-handed. What caused so many first-generation students to drop out before receiving any credentials? The single biggest factor, cited by 54 percent, was affordability—they couldn't afford to continue in school. Among continuing-generation students, the single biggest reason for dropping out, cited by 49 percent, was a desire to work and make money.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, First-Generation and Continuing-Generation College Students: A Comparison of High School and Postsecondary Experiences

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Long Half Life of Student Loans

Most college students take out loans to pay for their education, and many are still paying them back decades later, according to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics. Among first-time beginning postsecondary students who began school in 1995–96, the 55 percent majority took out federal education loans. Among those who began school in 2003–04, a larger 63 percent took out loans.

Those loans never die, apparently. The 1995–96 students still owed 70 percent of the amount of their education loans 12 years later. The 2003–04 students still owed an even larger 78 percent 12 years later. After 20 years (!) the 1994–95 students still owed 22 percent of their education loan amount.

The difficulty in paying back student loans explains why the share of American households with education debt has reached dizzying heights. According to the Federal Reserve Board's Survey of Consumer Finances, nearly half of householders under age 35 had education loans in 2016, as did one-third of householders aged 35 to 44, one-fourth of householders aged 45 to 54, and one-eighth of householders aged 55 to 64...

Percent of households with education loans in 2016 (and 2001)
Under age 35: 44.8% (26.1%)
Aged 35 to 44: 34.4% (12.5%)
Aged 45 to 54: 23.8% (11.0%)
Aged 55 to 64: 12.9% (5.2%)

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, Repayment of Student Loans as of 2015 among 1995–96 and 2003–04 First-Time Beginning Students

Monday, October 09, 2017

Children with Glasses or Contact Lenses

Many children wear glasses or contact lenses, according to the National Health Interview Survey. Among children ranging in age from 6 to 17, fully 36 percent of girls and 29 percent of boys wear them. Here are the percentages by age...

Boys who wear glasses or contact lenses
Aged 6 to 9: 14.9%
Aged 10 to 13: 33.5%
Aged 14 to 17: 38.8%

Girls who wear glasses or contact lenses
Aged 6 to 9: 20.2%
Aged 10 to 13: 35.9%
Aged 14 to 17: 51.9%

Source: CDC, QuickStats: Percentage of Children Aged 6—17 Who Wear Glasses or Contact Lenses, by Sex and Age Group—National Health Interview Survey, 2016

Friday, October 06, 2017

56% Do Not Want to Ride in a Driverless Vehicle

When Americans are asked whether they would ride in a driverless vehicle if given the chance, the naysayers outnumber the yaysayers. The 56 percent majority of Americans aged 18 or older would say no to riding in a driverless vehicle, according to a Pew Research Center survey, and 44 percent would say yes. Here are the not-so-surprising demographics of those who would say yes...

Percent who would want to ride in a driverless vehicle
Men: 53%
Women: 35%

Under age 50: 51%
Aged 50-plus: 35%

College graduate: 56%
Some college: 44%
High school or less: 33%

Urban: 52%
Suburban: 40%
Rural: 36%

Why are so many people hesitant to ride in a driverless vehicle? The single biggest reason, cited by 42 percent according to Pew, is lack of trust in technology/unwillingness to cede control to a machine. Before you wring your hands in despair over America's Luddite majority, keep in mind that if Pew had been around to survey the public about horseless carriages, the naysayers likely would have been just as numerous and for the same reason.

Source: Pew Research Center, Automation in Everyday Life

Thursday, October 05, 2017

What Explains the Black-White Wealth Gap?

The median net worth of non-Hispanic White households was 9.7 times the net worth of Black households in 2016—$171,000 versus $17,600, according to the Federal Reserve Board's triennial Survey of Consumer Finances. The wealth gap is larger today than it was in the early 2000s, when the average non-Hispanic White household had "only" 6 to 7 times the wealth of the average Black household.

What's behind the growing wealth gap? Since non-Hispanic White and Black households are equally likely to be in debt (77.5 and 77.1 percent, respectively) and since non-Hispanic Whites owe more (a median of $74,100) than Blacks ($31,100), the wealth gap is not about debt.

The gap is about assets—in particular, homeownership. Only 44.7 percent of Black households were homeowners in 2016 versus a much larger 72.5 percent of non-Hispanic Whites. Black homeownership fell more than non-Hispanic White as the housing market collapsed with the Great Recession, and Black homeowners saw their houses lose much more value. For Black homeowners, median housing value fell 29 percent between 2007 and 2016—to $124,000, after adjusting for inflation. For non-Hispanic White homeowners, median housing value fell by a smaller 14 percent during those years—to $200,000. Since owned homes are the single largest asset for the average American household, these differences explain not only the large wealth gap but also why it has grown.

Source: Demo Memo analysis of the Federal Reserve Board's 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Grandparents Are #2 Day Care Provider

Grandparents are the second-biggest day care providers in the United States, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The 2016 Early Childhood Program Participation Survey finds more than 4 million preschoolers being cared for regularly at least once a week by their grandparents.

Of the nation's 21 million children from ages 0 through 5 and not yet in kindergarten, 13 million (60 percent) are in a regularly scheduled nonparental care arrangement at least once a week. This is who cares for those children...

7.6 million are in center-based care (59%)
4.1 million are cared for by a grandparent (32%)
2.8 million are cared for by nonrelatives (22%)
1.1 million are cared for by other relatives (9%)

Note: Numbers will add to more than 100 percent because children may have more than one type of regularly scheduled nonparental care arrangement.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, Early Childhood Program Participation, Results from the National Household Education Survey Program of 2016

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

How Does 2016 Net Worth Compare?

Median household net worth climbed to $97,300 in 2016, reports the triennial Federal Reserve Board's Survey of Consumer Finances. The 2016 figure was 16 percent higher than in 2013, after adjusting for inflation, but fully 30 percent below net worth in 2007.

But comparing today's net worth with 2007 is perhaps a stretch because the 2007 figure was inflated by the housing bubble. So forget about 2007. Let's compare today's median household net worth with earlier years beginning with 1989, after adjusting for inflation...

$97,300 net worth of 2016 was higher than:
1989: $87,500
1992: $83,100
1995: $90,600

$97,300 net worth of 2016 was lower than:
1998: $105,800
2001: $117,300
2004: $118,400
2007: $139,700

The fact that net worth in 2016 was lower than in the years 1998 to 2004 is troubling. Net worth rises with age and should be at or near an all-time high today because of the aging of the baby-boom generation. Instead, net worth is well below the levels reached when the demographics were far less favorable.

Source: Federal Reserve Board, SCF Chartbook

Monday, October 02, 2017

10 Most Commonly Treated Health Conditions

In a year's time, 85 percent of Americans incur health care expenses, according to the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, at a total cost of $1.5 trillion in 2014. These are the 10 conditions for which the largest number of people incurred expenses in 2014...

62.0 million treated for hypertension
49.8 million treated for mental disorders
47.4 million treated for COPD, asthma
47.2 million treated for high cholesterol
40.6 million treated for osteoarthritis
36.4 million treated for trauma
29.9 million treated for acute bronchitis
26.2 million treated for skin disorders
25.8 million treated for upper GI disorders
25.6 million treated for diabetes

Source: AHRQ, Medical Expenditure Panel Survey

Friday, September 29, 2017

Most Children Are Expected to Earn Bachelor's Degree

The nation's parents have high expectations for their children—too high, in fact. Fully 68 percent of the 26 million students in grades 6 through 12 are expected to earn at least a bachelor's degree, according to a National Center for Education Statistics survey of parent and family involvement in education. Most children attempt to fulfill their parents' expectations. The college enrollment rate—defined as the percentage of high school graduates who enroll in college within a year of their graduation—is in fact almost identical to parents' expectations at 69 percent. But only about half of those who enroll eventually earn a bachelor's degree.

Percent of students in 6th to 12th grade whose parents expect them to earn at least a bachelor's degree, by highest level of parental education, 2016
55% of parents without a high school diploma
45% of parents who went no further than high school
59% of parents with some college
84% of parents with a bachelor's degree
91% of parents with a graduate or professional degree

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, Parent and Family Involvement in Education: Results from the National Household Education Surveys Program of 2016

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Median Household Net Worth: $97,300 in 2016

After years of decline, household wealth is growing again, according to the triennial Survey of Consumer Finances. Median household net worth rose to $97,300 in 2016, 16 percent more than the $83,700 of 2013, after adjusting for inflation. Net worth is still 30 percent below the 2007 peak...

Median household net worth, 2007 to 2016 (in 2016 dollars)
2016: $97,300
2013: $83,700
2010: $85,400
2007: $139,700

Behind the rise in net worth are modest increases in the value of household assets. The median value of financial assets ($23,500) grew 7 percent between 2013 and 2016, after adjusting for inflation, but was still 30 percent below the 2007 level. The median value of nonfinancial assets ($158,900) climbed 4 percent during those years, but was still 23 percent below the 2007 peak. Meanwhile, median household debt ($59,800) was 4 percent lower in 2016 than in 2013 and a substantial 23 percent lower than in 2007.

Source: Federal Reserve Board, 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Cable vs Streaming: Is 2016 a Turning Point?

We might be at the turning point. In 2016, growth in spending on cable/satellite television service came to a halt. The average household spent $764 on the service in 2016—the same as in 2015, after adjusting for inflation. This isn't the first time cable spending has come to a standstill. It stagnated between 2010 and 2011 too, in the aftermath of the Great Recession, then resumed its climb. This time might be different, with spending declines to come.

Evidence of the turning point is in the eroding customer base. The percentage of households that pay for cable/satellite television service has drifted downward since hitting the peak of 74 percent during the average quarter of 2010. A smaller 68 percent of households purchased cable/satellite service during the average quarter of 2016. The drop has been especially steep among younger householders...

Percentage of households spending on cable/satellite service during an average quarter of 2016 (and percentage-point change since 2010)
Under age 25: 32% (–17)
Aged 25 to 34: 56% (–12)
Aged 35 to 44: 68% (–7)
Aged 45 to 54: 74% (–3)
Aged 55 to 64: 75% (–3)
Aged 65-plus: 75% (–3)

According to a recent Pew survey, only about one in four Americans (28 percent) watches television primarily through online streaming. Among people under age 30, however, the 61 percent majority primarily streams.

Source: Demo Memo analysis of the 2016 Consumer Expenditure Survey

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Are Gig Workers Happy?

Gig workers don't earn as much as full-time employees, according to a Prudential study, which defines gig workers as those who work for themselves and provide a service or labor. On average gig workers earn $36,500 a year versus the $62,700 earned by full-time employees.

That's not the only drawback to gig work. There's also the lack of employer-sponsored benefits such as health insurance and retirement plans. That may be why only 44 percent of gig workers say they are satisfied with their work situation versus 55 percent of full-time employees. But there are differences in attitudes by age of gig worker. Most Millennial (aged 18 to 34) and Boomer (aged 56-plus) gig workers are satisfied with their work—67 and 75 percent, respectively. Many Millennial gig workers say they are using their gig status to move forward on their long-term aspirations. Many Boomer gig workers say they are using it to better prepare for retirement or to supplement their retirement income.

Gen Xers (aged 36 to 55) are the least satisfied with their gig work (45 percent). Most Gen Xers say it's just a way to pay the bills. They are more interested than younger or older gig workers in switching to traditional work and most likely to say they are struggling financially.

Source: Prudential, Gig Workers in America

Monday, September 25, 2017

Financial Instability = Postponed Marriage

Most people who have never married (58 percent) say they want to marry someday, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Only 14 percent don't want to marry and another 27 percent are not sure.

What's keeping those who want to marry from tying the knot? The 59 percent majority say they haven't found the right person. But that's not the only obstacle. A substantial 41 percent of the never-married say a major reason for their single status is that they are not financially stable enough to marry. Among 18-to-29-year-olds, fully 51 percent say financial instability is a major reason for remaining single.

Source: Pew Research Center, As U.S. Marriage Rate Hovers at 50%, Education Gap in Marital Status Widens

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Rise of Obesity, 1997 to 2017

One in three Americans is obese, up from one in five two decades ago. Here is the trend...

Percent of people aged 20 or older who are obese (body mass index of 30kg/m^2 or higher)
2017: 32.0%
2007: 26.7%
1997: 19.4%

These numbers, from the National Health Interview Survey, are  based on self-reported heights and weights and likely understate obesity. After all, who doesn't trim a few pounds and add a few inches when asked to report their dimensions. For an unbiased measure of obesity, the National Center for Health Statistics actually measures the heights and weights of a nationally representative sample of the population through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Those efforts revealed a larger 36 percent of adults to be obese in 2011–14, up from 22 percent in 1988–94.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Early Release of Selected Estimates Based on Data from the January-March 2017 National Health Interview Survey

Thursday, September 21, 2017

41 Million Eldercare Providers

Millions of Americans provide informal, unpaid care for people aged 65 or older with aging-related problems—helping them with household chores, taking them to the doctor or grocery store, managing their finances, and so on. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' American Time Use Survey collects data about this informal caregiving and the BLS regularly publishes reports on the extent of eldercare and the characteristics of caregivers. Here are a few of the highlights from the 2015-16 report...

More than 1 in 10 Americans provide eldercare: The 41 million who provided eldercare in the past three or four months are a substantial 16 percent of the population aged 15 or older. 

Eldercare providers are in every age group: More than 1 in 10 young adults (aged 15 to 24) provide eldercare. The figure climbs as high as 24 percent among 55-to-64-year-olds.

Men account for 44 percent of eldercare providers: Although women are the majority of providers, men account for a substantial share in every age group.

Many eldercare providers are caring for more than one person: 71 percent of eldercare providers are caring for one person, while 29 percent are caring for two or more.

Caring for a friend or neighbor is common: 16 percent of eldercare providers are caring for a friend or neighbor. Among caregivers aged 65 or older, the figure is 27 percent.

On an average day, about one in four caregivers provides eldercare: Those who provide care spend an average of 2.8 hours doing so.

Most eldercare providers have been helping for years: More than half of caregivers have been providing eldercare for three or more years.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Unpaid Eldercare in the United States—2015-16 Summary

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Median IRA Balance: $31,742

Individual retirement accounts hold 25 percent of all retirement plan assets in the U.S., reports the Employee Benefit Research Institute. In the 7th annual update of its IRA Database, EBRI estimates a median balance of $31,742 in the IRAs of individual owners in 2015. The average balance was $125,045. Here are median balances by age of owner...

Median IRA account balances
Under age 25: $3,565
Aged 25 to 29: $4,622
Aged 30 to 34: $7,113
Aged 35 to 39: $11,244
Aged 40 to 44: $16,738
Aged 45 to 49: $23,439
Aged 50 to 54: $31,440
Aged 55 to 59: $41,733
Aged 60 to 64: $57,859
Aged 65 to 69: $78,612
Aged 70-plus: $80,968

IRA balances are modest because few owners contribute in a year's time—only 14.1 percent contributed in 2015. Those with Roth IRAs are more likely to contribute (26 percent) than those with traditional IRAs (7 percent). Among those who contributed, only 54 percent contributed the maximum allowable amount.

Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute, 2015 Update of the EBRI IRA Database: IRA Balances, Contributions, Rollovers, Withdrawals, and Asset Allocation

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Mental Distress: Where It's the Worst

The CDC regularly monitors health conditions by state and metro area. Its latest analysis examines data collected in 2013—pre Trump, Harvey, and Irma. At that time, these five states had the largest proportion of adults who reported experiencing 14 or more days of mental distress during the past 30 days...

States with highest mental distress
1. West Virginia: 15.2%
2. Alabama: 14.4%
3. Kentucky: 14.3%
4. Oklahoma: 14.3%
5. Mississippi: 14.2%

North and South Dakota had the smallest proportion of residents reporting mental distress (7.7 and 7.9 percent, respectively).

These were the five metropolitan areas with the largest proportion of adults who reported experiencing 14 or more days of mental distress during the past 30 days...

Metros with highest mental distress
1. Akron, OH: 19.4%
2. Kingsport-Bristol, TN-VA: 18.0%
3. Fort Smith, AR-OK: 17.6%
4. Winston-Salem, NC: 16.8%
5. Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, MS: 16.6%

The metros with the smallest proportions of residents reporting mental distress were Minot, ND (6.3 percent), Grand Forks, ND-MN (6.3 percent), and Sioux Falls, SD (6.5 percent).

Source: CDC, Surveillance for Certain Health Behaviors and Conditions among States and Selected Local Areas—Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System, United States, 2013 and 2014

Monday, September 18, 2017

6.3% Increase in Black Median Household Income

Black households registered a larger gain in median income than any other race or Hispanic origin group, according to the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The Black (alone or in combination) 2016 median of $40,065 was 6.3 percent higher than the $37,681 median of 2015, after adjusting for inflation. The median income of non-Hispanic White households grew 2 percent, and the Asian (alone or in combination) and Hispanic medians grew 4.0 and 4.3 percent, respectively...

Median household income in 2016 (and % change 2015-16; in 2016 dollars)
Asians: $80,822 (4.0%)
Blacks: $40,065 (6.3%)
Hispanics: $47,675 (4.3%)
Non-Hispanic Whites: $65,041 (2.0%)

Source: Census Bureau, Income and Poverty in the United States: 2016

Friday, September 15, 2017

Census Bureau Documents Computer Revolution

The Census Bureau first collected data on household computer ownership in 1984 and internet use in 1997. This is how the figures have changed since then...

Percentage of households with a computer (desktop, laptop, or handheld)
2015: 79%
2000: 51%
1984: 8%

Percentage of households that use the internet
2015: 73%
2007: 62%
1997: 18%

Source: Census Bureau, Computer and Internet Use in the United States: 2015

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Household Growth Slowed to a Crawl Again in 2017

Average annual household growth in 2017 retreated to the sluggish pace recorded in the aftermath of the Great Recession, according to the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The estimated 126.2 million households of 2017 are just 0.3 percent more than the number in 2016—a lowly rate growth last seen in 2009 and 2010.

Number of households (and % increase from previous year), 2008 to 2017
2017: 126,224,000 (0.3%)
2016: 125,819,000 (1.0%)
2015: 124,587,000 (0.5%)
2014: 123,931,000 (1.2%)
2013: 122,459,000 (1.1%)
2012: 121,084,000 (2.0%)
2011: 118,682,000 (1.0%)
2010: 117,538,000 (0.3%)
2009: 117,181,000 (0.3%)
2008: 116,783,000 (0.7%)

One factor behind the slow growth is the hesitancy of the Millennial generation to establish households. Since 2007, the number of households headed by 25-to-34-year-olds has increased by just 3.5 percent versus an 8.8 percent overall gain. Another factor behind the slow growth is stagnation in households headed by non-Hispanic Whites, the number falling slightly between 2016 and 2017. In contrast, the number of households headed by Asians, Blacks, and Hispanics grew by at least 1 percent.

Source: Demo Memo analysis of the 2017 Current Population Survey

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

2016 Median Household Income Still Below 1999 Peak

Median household income climbed 3.2 percent in 2016 to $59,039, according to the Census Bureau. This median appears to be a record high, surpassing the long-standing 1999 median of $58,665 (in 2016 dollars). Unfortunately, the two medians are not comparable because of a redesign of the Current Population Survey's income questions in 2014. The new income questions capture much more income from IRA and 401(k) withdrawals, which resulted in a methodological boost to median household income.

So how does the $59,039 median of 2016 compare with the 1999 all-time high after accounting for changes in methodology? We still haven't caught up, according to the Economic Policy Institute, which for comparative purposes adjusted the medians prior to 2013 for changes in CPS methodology. Here are the results of the Institute's analysis...

Median household income (in 2016 dollars)
2016: $59,039
2007: $59,993 (adjusted)
1999: $60,506 (adjusted)

With the 1999 and 2007 medians adjusted to reflect new CPS methodology, the 2016 median is 1.6 percent below the 2007 median, when the Great Recession began. The 2016 median is 2.4 percent below the 1999 median, which is still the all-time high.

Source: Economic Policy Institute, By the Numbers: Income and Poverty, 2016

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

3.2% Increase in Median Household Income in 2016

Median household income registered another gain in 2016. The $59,039 median household income of 2016 was 3.2 percent higher than the $57,230 median of 2015, after adjusting for inflation. This is the second year in a row of statistically significant gains in median household income since the Great Recession. Income growth was especially large for younger adults. Here are the 2015–16 changes in median household income by age of householder...

Median household income in 2016 (and % change 2015-16; in 2016 dollars)
Under age 25: $41,655 (13.9%)
Aged 25 to 34: $60,932 (4.9%)
Aged 35 to 44: $74,481 (3.0%)
Aged 45 to 54: $77,213 (3.2%)
Aged 55 to 64: $65,239 (2.6%)
Aged 65-plus: $39,823 (2.1%)

Source: Census Bureau, Income and Poverty in the United States: 2016

Monday, September 11, 2017

Who Plays Video Games?

Millions of Americans play video games, according to a Pew Research Center survey. This is the percentage who play (on a computer, TV, game console, cellphone, or other portable device) by age...

Often or sometimes play video games
Aged 18 to 29: 60%
Aged 30 to 49: 53%
Aged 50 to 64: 32%
Aged 65-plus: 24%

Young men are most likely to play video games. Among men under age 30, 72 percent often or sometimes play games versus 49 percent of their female counterparts. Among people aged 50 or older, however, men and women are about equally likely to often or sometimes play video games—27 percent of men and 30 percent of women.

Source: Pew Research Center, Younger Men Play Video Games, But So Do a Diverse Group of Other Americans

Friday, September 08, 2017

Can You Speak a Language Other than English?

Twenty-nine percent of Americans aged 18 or older can speak a language other than English, according to the 2016 General Social Survey, up from 25 percent a decade ago in 2006. By generation, these are the percentages who are multilingual...

iGeneration (18 to 21): 40%
Millennials (22 to 39): 38%
Gen Xers (40 to 51): 30%
Boomers: (52 to 70): 23%
Older: (71 or older): 17%

Source: Demo Memo analysis of the 2016 General Social Survey

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Retirees with Dementia: Who Has Help with Finances?

How many retirees with mild cognitive impairment or dementia have someone to help them with their finances? That's the question posed by a Center for Retirement Research study. The question is critical, the researchers say, because studies show that 18 percent of people with mild cognitive impairment and 80 percent of those with dementia need help with their finances.

Analyzing data from the Health and Retirement Study, the researchers determined first the percentage of retirees aged 70 or older with mild cognitive impairment or dementia, then examined how many had potential helpers. Mild cognitive impairment is more common than dementia, affecting 33 percent of 70-to-74-year-olds and rising with age to 45 percent of people aged 85 or older. Dementia affects 2.7 percent of 70-to-74-year-olds and rises with age to 26.5 percent of those aged 85 or older.

"Fortunately, most individuals do have some help," the researchers find. Among those with mild cognitive impairment, 85 percent have available assistance. Among those with dementia, the figure is an even higher 95 percent. The types of helpers range from a non-impaired spouse or caregiving child to nursing home care. Those least likely to have help are what the researchers call "isolated"—defined as not having a non-impaired spouse and not having children within 10 miles. Others who are less likely to have help are high school dropouts and non-whites.

Source: Center for Retirement Research, Are Many Retirees with Dementia Lacking Help?

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

81% Increase in Minority College Enrollment

Minority students have accounted for nearly all of the increase in college enrollment since 2000, according to the Census Bureau's school enrollment data. The number of Asian, Black, Hispanic, and other minorities enrolled in the nation's colleges (including two-year, four-year, and graduate schools) grew 81 percent between 2000 and 2016. Non-Hispanic White enrollment inched up by 1.1 percent during those years. Consequently, minorities are a growing share of college students.

Minority share of college students
2016: 44.0%
2015: 42.9%
2010: 37.8%
2005: 33.0%
2000: 30.5%

Asian, Black, Hispanic, and other minority students account for the 51 percent majority of students at two-year schools. They are 42 percent of students at four-year schools, and 41 percent of students at graduate schools.

Source: Census Bureau, CPS Historical Time Series Tables on School Enrollment

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Year Moved into Home

Half of American households moved into their current home in 2008 or later, according to the American Housing Survey. For homeowners, 2003 is the median year they moved into their home. For renters, the median year is 2013. Here is the distribution of households by the year the householder moved into the unit...

Year householder moved into home
2010 or later: 44.2%
2005 to 2009: 16.0%
2000 to 2004: 11.8%
Before 2000: 28.0%

Source: Census Bureau, 2015 American Housing Survey

Monday, September 04, 2017

Boomer Earnings Over a Lifetime

How much have earnings climbed for baby boomers over their lifetime? The Bureau of Labor Statistics has captured the data with its National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, which is tracking a nationally representative sample of Americans born between 1957 and 1964. The panel was first interviewed in 1979 when they were aged 14 to 22. By the time the latest findings were collected in 2014–15, these "youth" were 49-to-58-years-old and approaching the end of their work life. This is how their earnings grew as they passed through each age group...

Average annual percent change in inflation-adjusted hourly earnings
From age 18 to 24: 6.4%
From age 25 to 34: 3.3%
From age 35 to 44: 1.8%
From age 45 to 50: –0.1%

College graduates fared much better than those with less education over the years, with their average annual earnings growing twice as fast as those with no more than a high school diploma through age 34, and then about one-third faster between ages 35 and 44. From age 45 to 50, the hourly earnings of college graduate grew by just 0.4 percent per year, but that was better than what happened to those with no more than a high school diploma—from age 45 to 50, their earnings fell 0.2 percent per year.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Number of Jobs, Labor Market Experience, and Earnings Growth among Americans at 50: Results from a Longitudinal Survey

Friday, September 01, 2017

Will Move for Job

Forty percent of American workers agree that they would be willing to move within the United States to avoid unemployment, according to results of the 2016 General Social Survey. But only 17 percent would be willing to move to another country. Here are the results by generation...

Workers willing to move in U.S. to avoid unemployment
iGeneration (18 to 21): 45%
Millennials (22 to 39): 47%
Gen Xers (40 to 51): 47%
Boomers (52 to 70): 26%

Workers willing to move to another country to avoid unemployment
iGeneration (18 to 21): 19%
Millennials (22 to 39): 19%
Gen Xers (40 to 51): 22%
Boomers (52 to 70): 10%

Source: Demo Memo analysis of the 2016 General Social Survey

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Spending by Race and Hispanic Origin, 2016

Asian, Black, and non-Hispanic White households spent more in 2016 than in 2015, after adjusting for inflation. The 2015–16 rise in average household spending was 4.3 percent for Asians, 3.0 percent for Blacks, 1.4 percent for non-Hispanic Whites, and 1.1 percent for the average household. In contrast to these gains, Hispanic households spent 2.6 percent less in 2016 than in 2015.

The 2016 spending of Black and non-Hispanic White households has never been greater, finally surpassing the peak of the pre-Great Recession years. Asians and Hispanics have yet to close the gap...

Average household spending in 2016 (and % change since 2006; in 2016 dollars)
Average household: $57,311 (–0.5%)
Asian households: $67,267 (–1.8%)
Black households: $42,127 (+2.3%)
Hispanic households: $47,023 (–8.3%)
Non-Hispanic White households: $61,697 (+0.9%)

Source: Demo Memo analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Expenditure Survey

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Household Spending in 2016

American households spent an average of $57,311 in 2016, according to the Consumer Expenditure Survey. That's a bit more than they spent in 2015 ($56,684), after adjusting for inflation, but still 0.5 percent below what they spent a decade ago in 2006 ($57,618)—the year household spending peaked.

Most age groups spent more in 2016 than in 2006, however. Householders aged 65 or older boosted their spending the most, with a 10 percent increase in spending during those years, after adjusting for inflation. Households headed by adults ranging in age from 25 to 44 still haven't caught up to the spending of their counterparts in 2006, in part because fewer households in the age group are headed by married couples—the biggest spenders.

Average household spending, 2016 (and % change since 2006; in 2016$)
Under age 25: $34,438 (+2.6%)
Aged 25 to 34: $52,838 (–6.7%)
Aged 35 to 44: $66,444 (–2.9%)
Aged 45 to 54: $71,166 (+3.8%)
Aged 55 to 64: $61,346 (+1.5%)
Aged 65-plus: $45,756 (+9.6%)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016 Consumer Expenditure Survey

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Four-Year College Enrollment Hits All-Time High in 2016

College enrollment—including two-year, four-year, and graduate schools—climbed to 19.2 million in in 2016 after falling each year since 2011. Four-year college enrollment reached an all-time high of 11.2 million in 2016. Enrollment at two-year schools fell to the lowest level since 2006 and was 26 percent below its 2010 peak. Graduate school enrollment was stable.

College enrollment in 2016 
Total enrollment: 19.2 million (peak of 20.4 million in 2011)
Two-year schools: 4.3 million (peak of 5.9 million in 2010)
Four-year schools: 11.2 million (all-time high)
Graduate schools: 3.7 million (peak of 3.9 million in 2010)

Source: Census Bureau, CPS Historical Time Series Tables on School Enrollment

Monday, August 28, 2017

Reason for Move: Natural Disaster

Americans move for many reasons, such as for better housing, to be closer to family, or for a new job. The Census Bureau collects data on the reasons people move. In 2006, it added the reason "natural disaster" to the list following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.

Between 2015–16, only 17,000 people moved because of natural disaster, making it the least common reason for moving during the year. In 2005–06, following Katrina, an astonishing 669,000 people moved because of natural disaster—nearly 2 percent of all moves during the year and outnumbering those who moved because of retirement, for a change of climate, health reasons, or to look for work. Since then, the number of people who have been forced to move because of a natural disaster has ranged from a handful to 177,000—well below the Katrina level. Next year when the Census Bureau releases geographic mobility data for 2017–18, we will see what Hurricane Harvey does to these numbers.

Source: Census Bureau, CPS Historical Migration/Geographic Mobility Tables

Friday, August 25, 2017

Spending Equivalence: Pet Food

The average household spent $230 on pet food in 2015. Here are some of the other items on which the average household spends about the same amount...

Credit card interest payments
Major appliances
Prescription drugs
Fresh vegetables
Child support

Source: Demo Memo analysis of the 2015 Consumer Expenditure Survey

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Boomers May Have A Debt Problem

Debt is a growing burden for Boomers nearing retirement. That's the prognosis of a National Bureau of Economic Research study, which examined three cohorts of Americans approaching retirement using data from the Health and Retirement Study—the original HRS cohort (born from 1931 to 1941), War Babies (born from 1942 to 1947), and Early Boomers (born from 1948 to 1953). With each succeeding cohort, debt has grown...

Percentage with debt and median amount of debt at age 56 to 61 by cohort (in 2015$)
HRS cohort: 64% ($6,750)
War babies: 70% ($31,250)
Early boomers: 71% ($32,700)

Mortgages are the biggest reason for rising debt among older Americans. The percentage of 56-to-61-year-olds with mortgage debt grew from 41 percent in the HRS cohort to 49 percent among Early Boomers, the researchers report. Mortgage debt is growing because each succeeding cohort has purchased more expensive homes with smaller down payments. The median value of the homes owned by Early Boomers at ages 56 to 61 was $218,000 versus the $187,000 for War Babies and the $144,000 for the HRS cohort (in constant dollars). Early Boomers were also more highly leveraged at ages 56 to 61 than were the other cohorts. Mortgage debt relative to housing value was 30 percent for Early Boomers versus 22 percent for War Babies and just 5 percent for the original HRS cohort.

"Debt among older persons may increasingly be a factor in elder bankruptcy, and even in determining lifetime wealth sufficiency and retirement security," the researchers conclude. "Our research suggests that analysts and policymakers should explore ways to enhance debt management practices as they examine factors driving retirement security."

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, Debt and Financial Vulnerability on the Verge of Retirement, Working Paper 23664 ($5)

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

New Labor Market Survey Provides Rare Details

A new survey promises to provide interesting details on labor force trends. The New York Fed's Survey of Consumer Expectations (SCE) Labor Market Survey will examine, every four months, labor market experiences, job transitions, job search efforts, job offers, offer wages, acceptable wages, wage satisfaction, retirement expectations, and much more.

The results from the July 2017 survey—the first to be released, with comparable quarterly data back to 2014—show that 17 percent of survey respondents (a nationally representative sample of adults) had received at least one job offer in the past four months. The average wage offered was $49,250. Among the currently employed, 10.5% expect to be working for a new employer within the next four months.

The minimum acceptable wage respondents would be willing to take for a new job is $57,964, the survey finds. Among college graduates, the minimum acceptable wage (reservation wage) is $76,610. Among those without a college degree, $47,202. There are many more juicy tidbits in the first data release, including findings by age, sex, and income as well as education.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Just Released: Introducing the SCE Labor Market Survey

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Top 10 Emerging Trends of the 2000s

The 21st century has been a wild ride so far, and it has only just begun. The speed with which events are unfolding is creating turmoil and confusion, necessitating a step back to see the big picture—the emerging trends behind so many of today's headlines. This is no idle exercise, but imperative for businesses intent on surviving the next decade and for policymakers struggling to adapt to profound changes in the way we live.

What are the emerging trends of the 21st century, the tipping points that have occurred since 2000? Many trends are important, but a handful stand out because of their far-reaching consequences. These are documented in New Strategist's Demographics of the U.S.: Trends and Projections, a reference tool for trend trackers. Using consequences as a measure of importance, these are the 10 most important emergent trends of the 2000s.

1. The income decline: The decline began long before the Great Recession, and it has hit the American middle class hard. Men's incomes were falling well before 2000, the household income decline began in 2000, and women's steady income growth came to a halt in the 2000s. The political repercussions of the resulting economic anxiety are well known.

2. The wealth decline: To rub salt into the economic wound of waning incomes, household net worth collapsed with the Great Recession as the housing bubble burst. Median household net worth fell 40 percent between 2007 and 2013, after adjusting for inflation.

3. The homeownership decline: The homeownership rate peaked in 2004. The number of homeowners peaked in 2006. By 2015, there were 1.4 million fewer homeowners than in the peak year. The homeownership rate in 2015 was the lowest since 1967.

4. Majority acceptance of gay marriage: The percentage of Americans who support the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry climbed from just 31 percent in 2004 (the first year the General Social Survey asked the question) to 59 percent in 2016. Rarely has massive social change occurred so rapidly.

5. Increase in health insurance coverage: The percentage of Americans without health insurance fell to a record low in 2015, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Although still reviled by many, the ACA has grown in popularity now that Americans better understand the alternatives. But continual threats to repeal the Affordable Care Act are taking their toll on the nation's already fragile sense of wellbeing.

6. The marriage decline: The Millennial generation is postponing marriage longer than any previous cohort of young adults. Delayed marriage has contributed to other emerging trends—the decline of homeownership, the baby bust, and population loss in nonmetropolitan areas.

7. The birth decline: The number of births in the U.S. peaked in 2007 at 4.3 million. Since then, births have fallen in nearly every year and have been stuck below 4 million since 2009. Fertility rates are at a record low for women under age 30, with Hispanic fertility falling the most. The steep decline in Hispanic fertility may delay by a few years the coming minority majority forecast for the 2040s.

8. The life expectancy decline: Life expectancy at birth fell in 2015 for the first time since 1993. All of the decline was due to rising death rates among people under age 65. What's going on? A big factor is a rise in "deaths of despair," a consequence of rural and small town stagnation.

9. City growth and rural decline: Urban centers have been experiencing a resurgence, thanks to Millennials seeking job opportunities. At the other extreme, since 2010 for the first time, nonmetropolitan America has been losing population. The disparity between flourishing urban centers and languishing small-town and rural America has upended the nation's politics.

10. The mobility decline: The geographic mobility rate hit an all-time low in 2015–16, in part because some residents of small towns and rural areas are trapped in their shrinking local economies. Many either cannot or will not move to pursue an American Dream in which they no longer believe.

These are the top emerging trends of the 21st century. Most are stories of decline—which is a trend of significance in itself. For more of the trends shaping American society right now, see New Strategist's Demographics of the U.S.: Trends and Projections.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Rural Americans More Likely to Distrust Others

Recent surveys are revealing big differences in the attitudes of rural and urban residents. Most rural residents think the values of urban residents are different from their values, for example, while urban residents are much less likely to feel that way. Fewer than half of rural residents still believe in the American Dream versus three out of four residents of large cities.

Here's another difference of opinion: rural residents are much more likely than urban residents to think others are getting government help they don't deserve, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation/Washington Post Survey of Rural America. Here's the survey question: "Which of these two situations do you think happens more often in America today—needy people going without government help, or irresponsible people getting government help they don't deserve?" Here are the answers by urban status...

Percent who think irresponsible people are getting government help they don't deserve
64% of rural residents
55% of suburban residents
48% of urban residents

Percent who think needy people are going without government help
32% of rural residents
40% of suburban residents
47% of urban residents

Among Republicans in rural areas, fully 83 percent think irresponsible people are getting help they don't deserve. The figure is 64 percent among rural independents and 44 percent among rural Democrats.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation/Washington Post, The Health Care Views and Experiences of Rural Americans

Friday, August 18, 2017

Wife Time Is Shrinking

Women are spending a shrinking share of their lives as wives, according to an analysis by the Center for Retirement Research. Examining data from the Health and Retirement Study, the researchers analyzed four birth cohorts—the original HRS cohort (born from 1931 to 1941), War Babies (1942 to 1947), Early Boomers (1948 to 1953) and Mid Boomers (1954 to 1959). Here are the researchers' estimates of the percentage of life, from age 20, women will have spent as wives by cohort...

Percentage of life from age 20 spent as a wife
HRS cohort: 72%
War Babies: 69%
Early Boomers: 56%
Mid Boomers: 51%

Behind the decline in years spent as a wife are several factors—the rising age at first marriage, the greater prevalence of singlehood, and more divorce. Because women are spending a growing share of their lives without husbands, "it probably makes sense to explore their savings and investment behavior separately from men," conclude the researchers.

Source: Center for Retirement Research, Do Women Still Spend Most of Their Lives Married?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Good, Bad, and Ugly of the American Workplace

A new survey finds both good and bad conditions in workplaces across the country. According to RAND's American Working Conditions Survey, "the American workplace is very physically and emotionally taxing, both for workers themselves and their families." Here are some examples of common troublesome conditions...

  • Only 54% of workers work the same number of hours every day.
  • 36% say their work schedule is set by their company with no possibility for change.
  • In the past month, half have worked in their free time to meet work demands.
  • 41% of workers are in tiring or painful positions at least one-quarter of the time. 
  • 20% experienced abuse or harassment on the job in the past month/year.

On the positive side, the 56 percent majority of workers say they have very good friends at work, 58 percent have a supportive boss, and 79 percent like and respect their colleagues. More than 60 percent say their job provides them with a sense of personal accomplishment.

The survey was of a nationally representative sample of working men and women aged 25 to 71—all members of the RAND American Life Panel. The findings are shown for all workers as well as men and women in three age groups and two educational attainment groups.

Source: RAND, Working Conditions in the United States—Results of the 2015 American Working Conditions Survey

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

More than 1 in 8 Americans Use Antidepressants

Millions of Americans are taking antidepressants, according to data collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Among the population aged 12 or older, more than one in eight (12.7 percent) took an antidepressant medication in the past month in the 2011–2014 time period. Women are far more likely to take antidepressants than men (16.5 versus 8.6 percent), and older women are most likely to take them—nearly one in four women aged 60 or older took an antidepressant in the past month.

Percent of women (and men) taking an antidepressant in past month
Aged 12 to 19: 5.0% (1.9%)
Aged 20 to 39: 9.8% (5.9%)
Aged 40 to 59: 21.2% (11.6%)
Aged 60-plus: 24.4% (12.6%)

Antidepressant use has increased since 1999–2002, when 7.7 percent of Americans aged 12 or older had taken the medication in the past month. One reason for the growing use of antidepressants is their long-term use. Among those taking an antidepressant in the past month, one in four had been taking the medication for 10 or more years.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Antidepressant Use among Persons Age 12 and Over: United States, 2011–2014

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Income Shocks Are the Norm for Men

In a study of men's incomes over time, researchers for the National Endowment for Financial Education found income shocks to be the norm. Fully 61 percent of male workers aged 25 to 70 had experienced the loss of an entire year's worth of income at least once. Among older men, such devastating losses are a nearly universal experience...

Percentage of male workers who have lost all earnings for at least one year
Aged 25 to 34: 40%
Aged 35 to 54: 56%
Aged 55 to 61: 75%
Aged 62 to 65: 87%
Aged 66 to 70: 93%

These income shocks lower the retirement savings of workers in the bottom 50 percent of the income distribution (with annual earnings of $26,531 or less), who struggle to save money. By linking data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation with Social Security and IRS records, the researchers tracked men's lifetime earnings as well as their contributions to retirement plans and account balances by demographic characteristic. The researchers found that lower-income men are most likely to experience income shocks—82 percent had experienced at least one versus 53 percent of middle-income men and 45 percent of high-income men (with annual earnings of $80,040 or more). When  lower-income men experience an income shock, their retirement savings take a hit. For each one-year episode of income loss, workers in the bottom 50 percent of the income distribution saw their retirement savings decline by an average of $3,786. There was no effect on the retirement savings of men in the top 50 percent of the income distribution.

"Nearly everyone will suffer multiple income shocks during their working lives," conclude the researchers." Educators and policymakers should "prepare individuals to expect income shocks and educate them on how to manage and recover from financial setbacks with the least possible impact on their retirement savings."

Source: National Endowment for Financial Education, Income Shocks and Life Events: Why Retirement Savings Fall Short

Monday, August 14, 2017

Americans May Be More Honest in Online Surveys

Phone surveys may be understating financial stress, according to a Pew Research Center experiment. In an effort to determine "mode effects," Pew randomly assigned survey respondents to telephone or online modes when asking them questions about financial stress. Respondents were more likely to report financial stress when answering online than when talking to an interviewer by phone.

"Survey researchers have long known that Americans may be more likely to give a 'socially desirable' response (and less likely to give a stigmatized or undesirable answer) in an interview-administered survey than in one that is self-administered," notes Pew.

Percent saying they received financial help from a relative in past year
Phone: 15%
Online: 26%

Percent saying their personal finances are in poor shape
Phone: 14%
Online: 20%

Regardless of income, Americans are more likely to report poor finances when answering online than by phone, says Pew. "Researchers studying financial stress should consider that phone surveys have, at least to some degree, been understating the share of Americans experiencing economic hardship."

Source: Pew Research Center, Personal Finance Questions Elicit Slightly Different Answers in Phone Surveys than Online