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

Friday, August 11, 2017

Who Shops for Groceries Online?

Grocery shopping is slowly moving online, according to the findings of a Gallup survey. Nearly 1 in 10 American families (9 percent) say they shop for groceries online for pickup or delivery at least once or twice a month. Here are the percentages by age...

Shop online for groceries
18 to 29: 15%
30 to 49: 12%
50 to 64: 10%
65-plus: 2%

Despite the significant presence of online grocery shopping, going to a store for groceries is still a universal activity. The percentage who shop for groceries in person at a store at least once or twice a month varies little by age, ranging from 97 to 99 percent.

Source: Gallup, So Far, American Grocery Shoppers Buck Online Shopping Trend

Thursday, August 10, 2017

How Much Money Is In 401(k) Accounts?

According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 54 million American workers were active 401(k) participants in 2015. Total 401(k) assets amounted to $4.4 trillion at the end of 2015—19 percent of all retirement assets. But how much have individual participants stashed away?

EBRI has the answers. The median 401(k) account balance was $16,732 in 2015. The average balance was $73,357. Here is the distribution of participants by the size of their account...

Distribution of 401(k) participants by size of account, 2015
$10,000 or less: 41.3%
$10,001 to $50,000: 28.2%
$50,001 to $100,000: 11.1%
$100,001 to $200,000: 9.1%
$200,001 or more: 10.2%

Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute, 401(k) Plan Asset Allocation, Account Balances, and Loan Activity in 2015

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Research Shows 65-Plus Income May Be 30% Higher

The income of households headed by people aged 65-plus may be much higher than estimated by the Current Population Survey. An analysis of 2012 data by Census Bureau researchers finds substantial underreporting of retirement income when compared to administrative records. Among older Americans who receive retirement income, the researchers say, none of it is reported 46 percent of the time! Here are some other startling findings from the analysis...
  • The 2012 median income of householders aged 65 or older was 30 percent higher based on administrative records versus the Current Population Survey—$33,800 reported by the CPS and $44,400 based on administrative records.
  • The poverty rate of people aged 65 or older was 2.1 percentage points lower (6.9 percent instead of 9.0 percent). 
  • The income drop after retirement is much smaller than has been estimated based on CPS data. "We do not find large, abrupt declines in income or increases in poverty upon retirement," say the researchers. 
The analysis is based on 2012 CPS data, prior to the Census Bureau's 2014 redesign of the Current Population Survey to better capture retirement income. In the future, the researchers hope to evaluate the effectiveness of the redesign in capturing more retirement income.

Source: Census Bureau, Do Older Americans Have More Income Than We Think?

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Who Can Count On Family for Financial Help?

Many Millennials would have a lot of trouble paying an unexpected bill of $1,000, according to a GenForward Survey, which defines Millennials as 18-to-34-year-olds. The bimonthly survey is a project of the University of Chicago and administered by NORC. The survey's purpose is to examine "how race and ethnicity influence how young adults or Millennials experience and think about the world."

Percent saying they would have a lot of difficulty paying an unexpected $1,000 bill
Asians: 28%
Blacks: 50%
Hispanics: 43%
Non-Hispanic Whites: 35%

One factor that would make it difficult for many to pay an unexpected bill is the lack of family resources. When asked whether they could turn to their family for help in paying an unexpected $1,000 bill, the percentage who say yes ranges from a low of 38 percent among Blacks to a high of 64 percent among Asians...

Percent saying they could turn to family for help paying an unexpected $1,000 bill
Asians: 64%
Blacks: 38%
Hispanics: 54%
Non-Hispanic Whites: 56%

Asians also are most likely to say their family could help with a down payment for a new car (51 percent) or house (49 percent). They are also most likely to say their family could help them with college tuition or paying off student loans (58 percent).

Source: GenForward University of Chicago: June 2017 Report

Monday, August 07, 2017

Private-Sector Health Insurance Costs, 2016

Several years ago Demo Memo noted that most Americans were "health insurance dummies," sheltered from an understanding of the full cost of health insurance by employer-provided plans. Here is how much those employer-provided plans cost in 2016...

Average total cost of employer-provided health insurance in the private sector, 2016
Single coverage: $6,101
Family coverage: $17,710

Fortunately for most private-sector workers, their employer pays the bulk of the bill. For single coverage, the average employee paid $1,325 of the $6,101 cost in 2016. For family coverage, the average employee paid $4,956 of the $17,710 premium.

Source: Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, Results from the 2016 MEPS-IC Private-Sector National Tables

Friday, August 04, 2017

The Ability to Think for Oneself Is Losing Importance

Perhaps it is a sign of the times, but thinking for oneself is not as important as it used to be. The percentage of Americans who believe "thinking for himself or herself" is the most important thing a child should learn to prepare for life has fallen—and the decline has been especially steep since 2006.

Thinking for himself/herself is the most important thing a child should learn
2016: 41%
2006: 47%
1996: 51%
1986: 51%

Despite the decline, thinking for oneself is still the most important thing a child should learn according to the plurality of Americans. In second place is "learning to work hard," cited as most important by 27 percent of the public in 2016, more than double the 11 percent who felt this way in 1986. Third in importance is "learning to help others" (19 percent), followed by "learning to obey" (12 percent), and in last place "learning to be popular" (0.6 percent).

Source: Demo Memo analysis of the General Social Survey

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Households Spend the Most on These 12 Items

The average American household spends more than $1,000 a year on only 12 items according to the Consumer Expenditure Survey. Here are the items...

1. Social security deductions: $4,457
2. Groceries: $4,015
3. Vehicle purchases: $3,997
4. Rent: $3,600
5. Health insurance: $2,977
6. Mortgage interest: $2,859
7. Restaurants: $2,575
8. Gasoline: $2,028
9. Property taxes: $1,913
10. Electricity: $1,460
11. Vehicle insurance: $1,079
12. Cell phone service: $1,023

Note that both rent and mortgage interest appear on the list, yet few households have both expenses. But subtract either rent or mortgage interest from the expenses on the list, and the result is the same. The average American household devoted more than half of the $55,978 it spent in 2015 to this short list of items.

Source: Demo Memo analysis of the 2015 Consumer Expenditure Survey

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Glory Days Are Here Again for Tech

Since 2010, employment in the tech industry has been growing twice as fast as private-sector employment overall, and tech wages are outpacing the average. The glory days are back for tech, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, which defines the sector as comprised of seven industries...

Industries in the tech sector (and publicly-owned firm with largest revenue)
1. Computer manufacturing (Apple)
2. Electronic shopping (Amazon)
3. Software publishing (Microsoft)
4. Data processing, hosting, and related services (Xerox)
5. Internet publishing, broadcasting, and web search portals (Google)
6. Computer systems design (IBM)
7. Scientific research and development (QuintilesIMS)

The tech sector has seen ups and downs over the decades. Tech employment as a share of total private employment climbed through 1990s and hit a high of 4 percent in 2000, then fell as low as 3.4 percent after the tech bubble burst in 2001. The Great Recession also shook the industry, but in 2010 the turnaround had begun. Tech employment as a share of total private employment reached 3.9 percent in 2015—nearly matching the all-time high of 2000.

Between 2010 and 2015, jobs in the tech sector grew 20 percent versus an 11 percent gain for all private-sector employment. Tech-sector wages grew 5 percent annually during those years. Wage growth has lifted the earnings of tech workers far above those of the average private-sector worker. In 1990, the average tech worker made 1.6 times as much as the average private-sector workers. By 2015, tech workers made 2.2 times as much.

"Innovations in digital computing systems and automation have triggered tectonic shifts in consumer and business behaviors across the economy" says the St. Louis Fed. All true, but the tectonic shifts to come may be even greater than the ones in our past—especially if a theory about the low productivity growth of recent years turns out to be correct (see the New York Times article, Maybe We've Been Thinking about the Productivity Slump All Wrong). The theory goes like this: depressed wages have discouraged businesses from widespread deployment of productivity-boosting technologies. Why bother investing in capital equipment and software when workers are so cheap? As the labor market tightens and workers become more costly, businesses will deploy labor-saving technologies on a massive scale. The glory days may turn into glory years.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Growth in Tech Sector Returns to Glory Days of the 1990s

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

American Dream Disappearing in Rural America

In rural areas, the American Dream is slipping away. At least that's how those who live there feel, according to the General Social Survey.

The GSS asks respondents whether they agree or disagree with the statement: "The way things are in America, people like me and my family have a good chance of improving our standard of living." This is the percentage who agree that the American Dream still applies to them by urban status...

Belief in the American Dream by urban status, 2016
74% of those who live in the central cities of the 12 largest metropolitan areas
60% of those who live in the central cities of the 13 to 100 largest metropolitan areas
58% of those who live in the suburbs of the 12 largest metropolitan areas
58% of those who live in the suburbs of the 13 to 100 largest metropolitan areas
57% of those who live in other urban areas
47% of those who live in rural areas

Only 47 percent of Americans who live in rural areas have faith in the American dream versus 74 percent of the residents of the largest central cities. It gets worse. Analyzing the data by race and Hispanic origin shows that only 40 percent of non-Hispanic Whites in rural areas think the American Dream works for them. This pessimism is not shared by their counterparts in cities and suburbs, most of whom still believe in the American Dream—including 71 percent of non-Hispanic Whites in the largest cities. Blacks, too, do not share the pessimism of rural non-Hispanic Whites. About two-thirds of Blacks have faith in the dream, whether they live in rural areas, suburbs, or cities.

Belief in the American Dream among non-Hispanic Whites in rural areas was much greater in 2000, when 68 percent believed they had a good chance of improving their living standard. By 2010, the figure had fallen to 54 percent. Because of the Great Recession, belief in the Dream also took a hit during those years among non-Hispanic Whites in central cities and suburbs. Since 2010, faith in the American Dream among non-Hispanic Whites in cities and suburbs has rebounded. There has been no rebound for non-Hispanic Whites in rural areas.

Source: Demo Memo analysis of the General Social Survey