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