Tuesday, January 31, 2017

First-Time Homebuyer Watch: 4th Quarter 2016

Homeownership rate of householders aged 30 to 34, fourth quarter 2016: 45.6%

The homeownership rate of households headed by people aged 30 to 34 was unchanged in the fourth quarter of 2016. Their 45.6 percent homeownership rate in the 4th quarter was above the all-time low of 44.8 percent recorded in the second quarter of 2016. The difference in the rates is not statistically significant. The stability in the homeownership rate of 30-to-34-year-olds over the past two years suggests that after years of decline the rate may have bottomed out.  

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 2016 the homeownership rate of 35-to-39-year-olds fell to 55.0 percent, an all-time low. 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 63.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016, a bit below the  63.8 percent of a year earlier. 

Source: Census Bureau, Housing Vacancy Survey

Monday, January 30, 2017

Birth Control and Health Insurance Coverage

Women with health insurance are much more likely to use birth control consistently than those without health insurance, according to an Urban Institute study. Among women aged 18 to 44 at risk of an unplanned pregnancy, 73 percent of those with health insurance coverage say they always use birth control. Among their counterparts without health insurance, a much smaller 42 percent always use it.

There are differences in consistent birth control use by income as well. Among women with family incomes at or above 400 percent of poverty level, 82 percent always use birth control versus just 53 percent of women with family incomes below 138 percent of poverty level.

These findings raise concerns about the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act, says the Urban Institute: "Repealing the ACA could increase financial barriers to contraception by increasing the number of uninsured women—particularly low-income women."

Source: Urban Institute, Access to Contraception in 2016 and What It Means to Women

Friday, January 27, 2017

Did Fake News Determine the Election?

In the three months prior to the 2016 presidential election, false news stories favoring Trump were shared 30 million times on Facebook, reports a National Bureau of Economic Research study of how fake news affected the election. Fake news stories favoring Clinton were shared 8 million times.

About 15 percent of adults saw the average fake news headline in the three months before the election, according to a survey fielded by the NBER team. Half of them—or 8 percent—believed the fake story. The NBER researchers calculate that, "for fake news to have changed the outcome of the election, a single fake news story would need to have convinced about 0.7 percent of Clinton voters and non-voters who saw it to shift their votes to Trump, a persuasion equivalent to seeing 36 television campaign ads."

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election, NBER Working Paper #23089 ($5)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Projections of Homeowners and Renters to 2035

Since the bursting of the housing bubble in 2006, the homeownership rate in the United States has slumped, the number of homeowners has fallen, and the number of renters has surged. Will these trends continue, or will homeownership make a comeback? That's what the Joint Center for Housing Studies wanted to know. To answer the question, JCHS researchers created three sets of housing tenure projections to determine the range of possible homeownership trends through 2035.

1. Base scenario: According to this scenario, if homeownership rates by five-year cohort remain at 2015 levels, then the homeownership rate in 2035 will be almost identical to the 63.5 percent of 2015. But even with the same rates, the number of homeowners will grow more than the number of renters during the 2015-to-2035 time period, largely because of the aging of the population. Between 2015 and 2035, the number of homeowners would expand by 15.7 million and the number of renters by 9.4 million.

2. Low scenario: In this scenario, homeownership rates continue to decline until 2020 at the same rate of decline as occurred for five-year cohorts between 2010 and 2015, then remain constant through 2035. The additional years of declining rates would drive the overall homeownership rate down to 60.6 percent by 2035. The number of homeowners would increase, but not as much as renters. Between 2015 and 2035, the number of homeowners would expand by 11.5 million and the number of renters by a larger 13.5 million.

3. High scenario: In this scenario, homeownership rates for five-year cohorts recover and by 2035 return to the 1995 rates for most cohorts. The 1995 rates, say the researchers, "define the pre-boom levels that might reflect a longer-term equilibrium." The overall homeownership rate would rise slightly to 64.7 percent by 2035. The number of homeowners would grow much more than the number of renters. Between 2015 and 2035, the number of homeowners would expand by 17.7 million and the number of renters by 7.4 million.

Which of these scenarios is most likely? The fate of the housing market is at stake, with developers of rental housing poised to benefit from the low scenario and homeowners themselves poised to benefit from the high scenario. You decide.

Source: Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, Homeowner Households and the U.S. Homeownership Rate: Tenure Projections for 2015–2035

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

More Adults Living Without Children

Fifty years ago only about half of adults lived in a household without children under age 18, according to the Census Bureau. Today nearly three-quarters do. The share of adults without children in the household climbed from 52.5 percent in 1967 to 71.3 percent in 2016. Behind the increase are delayed marriage and childbearing as well as the aging of the population. The biggest increase in child-free living has occurred among young adults...

Percent of 18-to-24-year-olds without children in the household
2016: 68.8%
1967: 46.7%

Percent of 25-to-34-year-olds without children in the household
2016: 61.5%
1967: 23.9%

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Smartphone Ownership by Age, 2016

More than three out of four Americans (77 percent) own a smartphone, reports Pew Research Center. Smartphone ownership is the norm in all but one demographic segment. Only among people aged 65 or older is smartphone ownership below 50 percent...

Smartphone ownership by age
Aged 18 to 29: 92%
Aged 30 to 49: 88%
Aged 50 to 64: 74%
Aged 65-plus: 42%

Source: Pew Research Center, Mobile Fact Sheet

Monday, January 23, 2017

Population Loss Varies by Type of Rural County

Rural America has been struggling with population loss, reports the Population Reference Bureau. Between 2000 and 2015, fully 60 percent of rural counties lost population. But the extent of population loss varied by type of rural county...

Percent of counties losing population, 2000 to 2015
All rural counties: 60%
Farming counties: 78%
Mining counties: 43%
Manufacturing counties: 42%
Recreation counties: 27%

PRB analyzes how two age groups—young adults and retirees—have helped to curtail population loss in some types of rural counties. In 49 percent of mining counties, for example, the number of 20-to-34-year-olds grew faster than the national average between 2000 and 2015, lured there by jobs in shale gas and oil production. In 64 percent of recreation counties, the number of people aged 65 or older grew faster than the national average as retirees flocked to amenity-rich areas.

Source: Population Reference Bureau, Baby Boomers and Millennials Boost Population in Parts of Rural America

Friday, January 20, 2017

When Boom Goes Bust, Stay or Go?

When boom turns to bust, is it better to hunker down and stay put or pull up stakes and move elsewhere? Move appears to be the answer.

"We find that geographic mobility following the bust is associated with stronger consumer financial health," say researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. The researchers examined the credit records of people living in counties experiencing oil rig boom and bust between 2011 and 2014. The finances of movers and stayers were similar during the boom times, but they diverged in the bust. Those who left ended up better off financially than those who stayed (lower credit utilization, fewer derogatory accounts, lower past-due balances, and greater access to credit). "Our analysis implies that geographic mobility could have quantifiable benefits for consumer financial health," they conclude.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Geographic Mobility and Consumer Financial Health: Evidence from Oil Production Boom Towns

Thursday, January 19, 2017

IRA Balances Are Growing

Americans are saving more in their IRAs. The median balance of IRA accounts has grown since 2011, according to a report by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Here is the trend...

Median IRA balance
2014: $33,185
2013: $32,179
2012: $27,987
2011: $23,785
2010: $25,296

These medians are for all accounts, including recently opened IRAs. The EBRI report also examines the IRA balances of "consistent account owners"—those who owned an IRA in every year from 2010 through 2014. The median IRA balance of consistent account owners grew from $26,508 in 2010 to $40,980 in 2014.

One reason IRA balances are not growing faster is that most owners do not contribute. Among consistent account owners for the 2010-to-2014 time period, the 61.5 percent majority contributed nothing in any of those years. Only 10.4 percent contributed in all five years.

Source: EBRI, Individual Retirement Account Balances, Contributions, Withdrawals, and Asset Allocation Longitudinal Results 2010–2014: The EBRI IRA Database

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Carbonated Beverages as a Share of Grocery Spending

The New York Times created a stir when it reported on a USDA study with the alarming headline, "In the Shopping Cart of a Food Stamp Household: Lots of Soda." Yes, the USDA study found food stamp households devoting a large share of their grocery spending to carbonated beverages. But so did households that were not receiving food stamps. The real story in the USDA study is the outsized importance of soda in the shopping cart of most American households regardless of demographic or socioeconomic characteristic.

The USDA findings were based on point-of-sale data from a leading grocery retailer—data that could be skewed by the retailer's own customer demographics. Using a different and more comprehensive data set (the 2015 Consumer Expenditure Survey), Demo Memo calculated the carbonated beverage share of spending for the average household and for households by demographic characteristic. The share is huge, regardless of the demographics. For the average household, soda ranks 4th as a share of grocery spending. In other words, carbonated beverages are the grocery item on which the average household spends more than all but three other items—fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, and miscellaneous prepared food (i.e. food from the supermarket deli). The carbonated beverage share of grocery spending varies a little—but not all that much—by demographic characteristic...

  • Carbonated beverage share is highest among low-income households: Among households with incomes below $30,000, carbonated beverages rank 3rd as a share of grocery spending. Among households with incomes of $200,000 or more, they are in 14th place.
  • Carbonated beverage share is highest in two age groups: Soda ranks highest as a share of grocery spending among households headed by young adults under age 25 and older adults aged 55 to 64 (4th place). Soda is lowest as a share of grocery spending among householders aged 35 to 44 (7th place) because many are parents, and parents devote less of the grocery dollar to carbonated beverages. 
  • Carbonated beverage share is highest for the less educated: Among households in which no household member has a bachelor's degree, soda ranks 3rd as a share of grocery spending. Among households with at least one college graduate, carbonated beverages rank 10th as a share of grocery spending. 

Source: USDA study Foods Typically Purchased by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Households and Demo Memo analysis of the 2015 Consumer Expenditure Survey

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Master's Degree is the New Bachelor's Degree

As the bachelor's degree has become commonplace, the master's degree is the new mark of distinction. The percentage of Americans aged 25 or older with a master's degree was 8.7 percent overall in 2015, 10 percent among 35-to-44-year-olds, and 12 percent among women in the 35-to-44 age group, according to the Census Bureau.

The Urban Institute recently analyzed the characteristics of those who go to graduate school, their success rate, and how much the additional schooling adds to earnings. Here is the bachelor's-master's comparison by age group...

Average earnings, aged 25 to 34
$54,840, bachelor's degree only
$63,050, master's degree
Master's degree premium: 15%

Average earnings, aged 35 to 44
$71,100, bachelor's degree only
$87,320, master's degree
Master's degree premium: 23%

Average earnings, aged 45 to 54
$77,600, bachelor's degree only
$92,760, master's degree
Master's degree premium: 20%

Source: Urban Institute, Who Goes to Graduate School and Who Succeeds?

Monday, January 16, 2017

Death Rates Higher in Nonmetro Areas

With the Affordable Care Act and expanded access to health care services under threat, the CDC has released a report suggesting any erosion of care will be a bigger problem for the residents of nonmetropolitan America than for those living in metro areas.

The CDC report compares age-adjusted death rates in metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas for the five leading causes of death—heart disease, cancer, accidents (including drug poisonings), chronic lower respiratory disease, and stroke. Result: death rates in nonmetropolitan areas are higher for all five causes of death.

What accounts for the higher death rates? A cluster of characteristics, reports the CDC. The residents of nonmetropolitan areas "tend to have less access to health care services and to be less likely to receive preventive services," explains the report. "In addition, they are more likely to be uninsured or underinsured, delay seeking care, live in poverty, and have lower educational attainment."

Source: CDC, Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report, Leading Causes of Death in Nonmetropolitan and Metropolitan Areas—United States, 1999–2014

Friday, January 13, 2017

Dinner at Restaurants by Age

Most of us eat dinner at a restaurant at least once a week, according to a Gallup survey. When Americans are asked how many nights in the past week they had eaten dinner at a restaurant of any kind, the 61 percent majority said they had done so at least once, a percentage that has been stable for nearly a decade. Not surprisingly, age is an important factor in the frequency of dining out...

Percent who ate dinner at a restaurant in past week
Aged 18-to-34: 72%
Aged 35 to 54: 65%
Aged 50-plus: 50%

The stability in eating out is good news for restaurants, says Gallup, especially as fresh meal delivery services and food bars at grocery stores become increasingly popular. The fact that young adults are the most frequent customers is also good news, Gallup concludes.

Source: Gallup, Americans' Dining-Out Frequency Little Changed from 2008

Thursday, January 12, 2017

LGBT Identification by Generation

Overall, 4.1 percent of Americans aged 18 or older personally identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, according to a Gallup survey. This figure is up from 3.5 percent in 2012. By generation, the percentage who identify themselves as LGBT looks like this...

LGBT identification by generation
7.3% of Millennials
3.2% of Gen Xers
2.4% of Baby Boomers
1.4% of older Americans

Why are Millennials more likely than older generations to identify themselves as LGBT? "Millennials are the first generation in the U.S. to grow up in an environment where social acceptance of the LGBT community markedly increased," says Gallup. "This may be an important factor in explaining their greater willingness to identify as LGBT."

Source: Gallup, In U.S., More Adults Identifying as LGBT

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Childrearing Costs Up 16% Since 1960

It costs more to raise a child than it once did, but not all that much more. According to USDA estimates for middle America (middle-income, married couples), the inflation-adjusted cost of raising a child from birth through age 17 climbed from $202,020 in 1960 to $233,610 in 2015—a 16 percent increase. The cost of childrearing has grown in some categories and declined in others. The biggest increase has been for the category "child care and education," with parents in 2015 spending more than eight times as much as their counterparts in 1960—and the increase doesn't include college costs because the accounting stops at a child's 18th birthday. Here are comparisons of 2015 costs with those in 1960 (in 2015 dollars)...

  • Housing is the biggest expense for parents. The cost of housing a child from birth through age 17 was $66,240 in 2015, 6 percent more than the $62,630 of 1960.
  • Food is the second largest expense of childrearing. In 2015 this cost was $41,400—15 percent less than the $48,490 of 1960.
  • Child care and education is the third largest childrearing expense for parents today. Not so in 1960. The $38,040 cost of child care for 2015 parents is over eight times more than the $4,040 spent by parents in 1960.
  • Transportation is the fourth largest expense of childrearing for parents in 2015, with $35,490 spent on transportation from birth through age 17—10 percent more than the $32,320 cost in 1960.
  • Health care is the fifth largest expense of childrearing for parents in 2015. The $21,720 needed for a child's health care is nearly triple the $8,080 of 1960.
  • Clothing expenses for children have fallen steeply since 1960. In 2015, the cost of clothing a child from birth through age 17 was $13,260— 40 percent less than the $22,220 of 1960, after adjusting for inflation.
  • Miscellaneous expenses include personal care products and services, entertainment, and reading material. In 2015, the cost of these expenses for a child from birth through age 17 was $17,460, 28 percent less than the $24,240 of 1960.

Source: USDA, Expenditures on Children by Families, 2015

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Favorable Views of Obama

Overall, 54 percent of American adults have a favorable view of President Obama, according to PRRI's 2016 American Values Survey. Not surprisingly the percentage with a favorable view varies the most by political party identification, ranging from a high of 91 percent among Democrats to a low of 12 percent among Republicans. Obama's favorability also varies greatly by demographic characteristic...

Favorable view of Obama
Women: 59%
Men: 48%

Aged 18 to 29: 62%
Aged 30 to 49: 56%
Aged 50 to 64: 48%
Aged 65-plus: 47%

Blacks: 91%
Hispanics: 69%
College-educated whites: 54%
Working-class whites: 37%

Source: PRRI 2016 American Values Survey, Widely Varying Views of Obama at the End of His Presidency

Monday, January 09, 2017

Few Smokers Are Able to Quit

Among current cigarette smokers, more than two out of three—68 percent—would like to quit. The 55 percent majority tried to quit in the past year. But few were successful, reports the CDC. Only 7 percent managed to quit.

There is little variation in these findings by demographic characteristic. The majority of smokers in every demographic segment wanted to quit—including men, women, young, old, Asian, Black, Hispanic, non-Hispanic White, high school drops outs, and college graduates. The majority in nearly every demographic segment had tried to quit in the past year. The success rate was in the single digits for most.

Source: CDC, Quitting Smoking among Adults—United States, 2000–2015

Friday, January 06, 2017

Race and Hispanic Origin of the Baby Bust

Who is behind the ongoing baby bust—the years-long decline in the number of births. In 2015, there were 338,000 fewer babies born (3,978,497) than in the peak year of 2007 (4,316,233)—an 8 percent decline. But births have fallen more for some women than for others, and not everyone is participating in the bust...

  • Births to Asian women climbed 11 percent between 2007 and 2015, the only race or Hispanic origin group that has not contributed to the baby bust. Asian births now account for 7.0 percent of the nation's total, up from 5.9 percent in 2007.
  • Births to Black women fell 6 percent between 2007 and 2015, a decline of 38,000. Black births climbed as a share of total births, however—from 14.5 to 14.8 percent.
  • Births to non-Hispanic White women fell 8 percent between 2007 and 2015, a drop of more than 180,000. The non-Hispanic White share of births, at 53.5 percent, has not changed since 2007.
  • Births to Hispanic women fell the most—a 13 percent decline between 2007 and 2015. The Hispanic share of births fell from 25 to 23 percent during those years. Among Hispanic women of Mexican origin, births fell by an even larger 24 percent—down by nearly 176,000.  

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Births: Final Data for 2015

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Wireless-Only the Majority in Three Regions

Nationally, 49 percent of adults live in wireless-only households, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. In three of four regions, adults who live in wireless-only households are in the majority. Only in the Northeast are they a minority.

Percentage of adults in wireless-only households
Northeast: 32.4%
Midwest: 51.7%
South: 52.3%
West: 54.4%

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey, Wireless Substitution: Early Release of Estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, January–June 2016

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

10 Questions for 2017 (Part 2)

As demographic trends unfold, questions arise. This is the second of a two-part post with 10 vital questions about ongoing demographic trends. The fresh data to be released in 2017 may answer some of these questions. (Click here for Part 1.)

6. Is the average American getting richer? It's been a long three years since we had an update on American household wealth. This year, the wait is over. In a few months, the Federal Reserve Board will release the 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances, providing the first comprehensive look at household net worth and asset ownership since 2013. The past two surveys have produced unsettling results, with a steep decline in net worth recorded in 2010 and a continuing decline in 2013. The new numbers will tell us whether American households have begun to rebuild their wealth.

7. Who voted in the 2016 election? Another important piece of the demographic puzzle will be revealed in a few months when the Census Bureau releases results from the Voting and Registration supplement to the November 2016 Current Population Survey. Shortly after the election, the Census Bureau was in the field asking a nationally representative sample of Americans whether they voted and linking answers to demographics. Was there a surge in voting among older, non-Hispanic whites? Soon we will know.

8. Are we back to square one with health insurance? Between 2013 and 2015, the percentage of Americans without health insurance plunged from 20.4 percent to 12.9 percent—an unprecedented, historic decline. Are we about to see a reversal of this trend? If Republicans carry out their threat to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the percentage of Americans without health insurance is projected to climb all the way back up to 21 percent by 2019.

9. How big is the gig economy? This year the Bureau of Labor Statistics will field a long awaited and much needed update to its 2005 "contingent" workforce survey. A number of studies have revealed tremendous growth in the gig economy, a phenomenon transforming the American workforce. The BLS update, hopefully, will capture this growth and give us a better picture of the gig economy and its workers.

10. Are we over the automobile? Transportation spending may have peaked. In 2015, the average household devoted slightly less than 17 percent of its budget to transportation, down from more than 19 percent in the early 2000s. Americans are keeping their vehicles longer, increasing their use of public transportation, and adopting ride-sharing with enthusiasm. This year is likely to provide more evidence of the cooling American love affair with the automobile.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

10 Questions for 2017 (Part 1)

As demographic trends unfold, questions arise. This is the first of a two-part post with 10 vital questions about ongoing demographic trends. The fresh data to be released in 2017 may answer these questions. (Click here for Part 2.)

1. When will the baby bust end? Population growth in the U.S. has slowed to a crawl because of the ongoing baby bust. The annual number of births fell 8 percent between 2007 (the peak year) and 2015. The fertility rate is at an all-time low, and most childless women say they don't expect to have children anytime soon. How long will they wait?

2. Why is life expectancy declining? Life expectancy fell in 2015 for the first time since 1993, and death rates rose for 8 of the 10 leading causes of death. The experts are wondering what's going on. With so many focused on this troubling trend, we might get some answers in 2017.

3. Will homeownership make a comeback? The homeownership rate fell to 63.7 percent in 2015, the lowest since 1967 and 5.3 percentage points below the 2004 peak. Among 30-to-44-year-olds, the decline exceeded 10 percentage points. After waiting more than a decade for home buying to stage a comeback, will 2017 be the year we throw in the towel and declare lower rates to be the new normal?

4. What will save small town and rural America? We're in the midst of an urban renaissance. The population of the nation's most urban counties grew faster than others between 2010 and 2015, while rural counties lost population. Economic growth, too, is occurring disproportionately in large metro centers. Outside these hubs of activity, there's a male employment crisis. What can small town and rural residents do to get back in the game?

5. When will Millennials marry? The median age at first marriage is at a record high for both men and women as Millennials remain single longer than any other generation in history. The economic consequences are huge and include the urban renaissance, the baby bust, and the decline of homeownership. The Millennial generation, more than any other, will determine what we will be talking about this year.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Age of Housing Stock by Region

The average American household in 2015 occupied a housing unit with a median age of 39, built in 1976. The age of the housing stock varies greatly by region...

Occupied housing units: median year built (and age of average structure)
Northeast: 1959 (56 years)
Midwest: 1971 (44 years)
South: 1984 (31 years)
West: 1978 (37 years)

Source: Census Bureau, 2015 American Housing Survey