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.

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