Friday, December 06, 2019

Median Household Income Stable in October 2019

Median household income did not change significantly between September and October 2019, after adjusting for inflation. The $66,465 October median was almost identical to the September 2019 median, according to Sentier Research. Sentier's estimates are derived from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey and track the economic wellbeing of households on a monthly basis.

"Real median household income has continued to display an upward trend over the past 12 months (up 3.3 percent)," says Sentier's Gordon Green, "and especially since the low point reached in June 2011 (up 18.6 percent)." At the June 2011 low point—two years after the official end of the Great Recession— median household income was just $56,036.  

Sentier's Household Income Index for October 2019 was 107.2 (January 2000 = 100.0). In other words, the October 2019 median, after adjusting for inflation, was just 7.2 percent higher than the median of January 2000—almost two decades ago. To stay on top of these trends, look for the next monthly update from Sentier.

Source: Sentier ResearchHousehold Income Trends: October 2019

Thursday, December 05, 2019

This Year, Just Say No to Dessert

Why now, Gallup? Just as the holiday season commences, Gallup again releases the results of a survey that reminds us to watch our weight—as it does every year at this time. The percentage of Americans aged 18 or older who weigh 200 or more pounds is climbing, Gallup notes in this year's release, rising from 24 percent in the 2001–09 time period to 28 percent in 2010–19. Evidently, no one is paying attention to Gallup's annual reminder to watch our weight. Among men, 42 percent weigh at least 200 pounds, up from 38 percent a decade ago. Among women, the share rose from 12 to 14 percent.

Weight distribution of American men in 2010–19
1%: 124 pounds or less
7%: 125 to 149 pounds
23%: 150 to 174 pounds
25%: 175 to 199 pounds
42%: 200 pounds or more

Weight distribution of American women in 2010–19
14%: 124 pounds or less
28%: 125 to 149 pounds
24%: 150 to 174 pounds
13%: 175 to 199 pounds
14%: 200 pounds or more

Despite the fact that we are getting fatter, Americans are less likely to think they are overweight in the 2010–19 time period than in the 2001–09 decade. The percentage who think they are somewhat or very overweight fell from 41 to 38 percent during those years. The percentage who say their weight is about right increased from 53 to 56 percent. This is fantasy. Here are the facts, according to actual measurements of height and weight taken by the National Center for Health Statistics: 71 percent of adults are overweight and just 28 percent are "about right," or what NCHS calls normal weight.

As we normalize our expanding girth, it's not surprising that our ideal weight is also rising. Among women, ideal weight climbed from 137 to 140 pounds between 2001–09 and 2010–19, Gallup reports. Among men, the ideal rose from 158 to 160 pounds. Perhaps consequently, fewer say they want to lose weight. Among women, 60 percent said they wanted to lose weight in 2010–19, down from 65 percent in 2001–09. Among men, the percentage who want to lose weight fell from 59 to 54 percent.

Source: Gallup, More Americans Say They Weigh 200 Lbs. or More This Decade

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Number of Births in 2018 Lowest Since 1986

The final numbers are in. There were only 3,791,712 births in 2018, according to the National Center for Health Statistics report, Births Final Data for 2018. While this is a tad more than the number reported provisionally back in May (3,788,235), the additional 3,477 births included in the final number did not reverse the trend. The number of births in 2018 was the smallest since 1986. It was 63,788 less than the number of births in 2017, and it was more than 500,000 below the all-time high of 4.3 million in 2007. The 2018 fertility rate—the number of births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44—dropped to a record low of 59.1.

Have we hit bottom? Hard to tell. According to the NCHS vital statistics rapid release program, the fertility rate was significantly higher (58.6) in the second quarter of 2019 than it was in the second quarter of 2018 (58.3). While not much of an increase, it could indicate an end to the decline. But the first quarter number suggested the opposite. The fertility rate in the first quarter of 2019 was significantly lower (55.9) than in the first-quarter of 2018 (57.2). Stay tuned.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Birth Data, Births: Final Data for 2018

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

40% of Hispanic Households Include Children

Households headed by Asians, Blacks, and Hispanics are more likely to include children under age 18 than are households headed by non-Hispanic Whites, according to the Census Bureau's 2019 Current Population Survey. Behind the difference is the fact that non-Hispanic Whites, on average, are considerably older than Asians, Blacks, or Hispanics and less likely to be in their childrearing years.

Households with children under age 18 by race and Hispanic origin of householder, 2019
Asian: 35%
Black: 26%
Hispanic: 40%
Non-Hispanic White: 23%

Among the nation's 34 million households with children under age 18, non-Hispanic Whites head the 57 percent majority. Hispanics head 21 percent of households with children, Blacks (alone) head 13 percent, and Asians (alone) 7 percent.

Source: Census Bureau, America's Families and Living Arrangements: 2019

Monday, December 02, 2019

Renter Mobility Rate Slips below 20%

The nation's mobility rate hit an all-time low of 9.8 percent in 2018–19, primarily because fewer renters are moving. The mobility rate of renters fell to 19.7 percent, a record low and the first time the figure has been below 20 percent. The mobility rate of renters exceeded 30 percent before 2006. Because renters account for two-thirds of movers, the falling mobility rate of renters is the biggest factor behind the nation's record low overall mobility rate. Here is the trend in mobility by housing tenure...

Percentage of renters who moved
2018–19: 19.7%
2010–11: 26.1%
2000–01: 30.5%
1990–01: 33.6%

Percentage of homeowners who moved
2018–19: 4.9%
2010–11: 4.7%
2000–01: 7.4%
1990–01: 8.8%

Between 2018–19, only 20.9 million renters moved. This is the smallest number since the Census Bureau began to collect data on mobility rates by housing tenure in the 1980s. Among homeowners, 10.4 million moved in 2018–19, down from about 15 million a year prior to the Great Recession. 

Source: Census Bureau, Migration/Geographic Mobility

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Fun Facts about Food

The folks who work for the USDA's Economic Research Service must have a lot of fun analyzing how food fits into the daily routine of the average American. It boggles the mind how much information ERS researchers Tobenna D. Anekwe and Eliana Zeballos have extracted from the American Time Use survey to reveal our relationship with food—not just eating and drinking, but also traveling to the store, shopping, food preparation and cleanup. These details are presented in their study, Food-Related Time Use: Changes and Demographic Differences.

Let's start with why it matters.  Food-related activities, say the researchers, rank fourth among the most common activities in which Americans participate on an average day—behind only sleep, paid work, and watching television. Here are a few of the fun facts about food the researchers detail in their study, which also explores demographic differences in food-related activities and trends over the past decade...

  • 95%: Percentage who participate in primary eating and drinking on an average day (meaning their main activity at the time).
  • 64.0 minutes: Average minutes per day the average person spends eating and drinking as a primary activity. 
  • 53%: Percentage who participate in secondary eating and drinking on an average day (meaning they are primarily doing something else—such as watching television or working).
  • 16.8 minutes: Average minutes per day the average person spends eating and drinking as a secondary activity .
  • 6 hours 23.4 minutes: Time Americans spend between primary eating and drinking occasions.
  • 1.99: Number of primary eating and drinking occasions Americans engage in on an average day.
  • 53%: Percentage who participate in food preparation on an average day.
  • 51.1 minutes: Time spent preparing food by those who engage in food preparation.
  • 23%: Percentage who participate in food cleanup on an average day.
  • 34.1 minutes: Time spent in cleanup by those who engage in food cleanup.
  • 14%: Percentage who shop for groceries on an average day.
  • 24.4 minutes: Time those who shop for groceries spend getting to the store. 
  • 46.0 minutes: Time those who shop for groceries spend in the store. 
  • 6:00 to 6:59 pm: Time of day when the most people (32%) are engaged in primary eating and drinking on an average day. Second is 12:00 to 12:59 pm, at 30%. Third is 7:00 to 7:59 am, at 15%.

Source: USDA Economic Research Service, Food-Related Time Use: Changes and Demographic Differences

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Only 26% of Households Include Children Under Age 18

Only 26 percent of American households include children under age 18, according to the Census Bureau's 2019 Current Population Survey—a new record low. This is 10 percentage points below the 36 percent of 2000 and about half what it was in 1960, when 49 percent of households included children—a modern-day high in the midst of the baby boom.

Percent of households with children under age 18 by age of householder, 2019
Under age 25: 18%
Aged 25 to 29: 33%
Aged 30 to 34: 51%
Aged 35 to 39: 65%
Aged 40 to 44: 62%
Aged 45 to 49: 49%
Aged 50 to 54: 27%
Aged 55 to 64: 7%
Aged 65-plus: 1%

The average age of householders with children under age 18 is just 40, well below the average age of 52 for all householders. Seventy percent of households with children are headed by married couples, 23 percent by female householders, and 7 percent by male householders.

Source: Census Bureau, America's Families and Living Arrangements: 2019

Monday, November 25, 2019

Please and Thank You: How We Talk to Smart Speakers

One in four Americans (25 percent) has a smart speaker—such as an Amazon Alexa or a Google Home—in their house, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Younger adults are more likely than those aged 50 or older to have a smart speaker...

Smart speaker ownership by age
Aged 18 to 29: 32%
Aged 30 to 49: 28%
Aged 50 to 64: 19%
Aged 65-plus: 19%

Those who own a smart speaker worry that it is collecting data about them, with 54 percent saying they are "somewhat" or "very" concerned. The fear of being overheard—and judged—might explain this survey finding: 54 percent of smart speaker owners occasionally or frequently say "please" when speaking to their device.

Source: Pew Research Center, 5 Things to Know about Americans and Their Smart Speakers

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Geographic Mobility Rate Falls Below 10%

This is a broken record, literally. Each year brings a new low in the mobility rate, breaking the record set in the previous year.  The percentage of the population aged 1 or older who moved from one house to another in the past 12 months fell to a new low of 9.8 percent between March 2018 and March 2019, according to the Census Bureau. Today's mobility rate is less than half the rate of the 1950s and 1960s.

Mobility rate for selected years
2018–19:   9.8%
2017–18: 10.1%
2010–11: 11.6%
2000–01: 14.2%
1990–91: 17.0%
1980–81: 17.2%
1970–71: 18.7%
1960–61: 20.6%
1950–51: 21.2%

The number of people who moved fell to 31 million in 2018–19. This is 5.7 million fewer movers than a decade ago in 2008–09 and 11.3 million fewer movers than two decades ago in 1998–99. The number of movers has not been this low since 1953–54, when the U.S. population was half the size it is today.

Source: Census Bureau, Migration/Geographic Mobility

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Women's Median Age at First Marriage Rises to 28.0

The median age at which women marry for the first time reached a new high of 28.0 in 2019, according to the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The median age at which men marry held steady at its all-time high of 29.8. Here is the trend since 2000...

Women: median age at first marriage
2019: 28.0
2018: 27.8
2015: 27.1
2010: 26.1
2005: 25.3
2000: 25.1

Men: median age at first marriage
2019: 29.8
2018: 29.8
2015: 29.2
2010: 28.2
2005: 27.1
2000: 26.8

The lowest median age at first marriage was recorded in 1956, when women married for the first time at 20.1 and men at 22.5.

Source: Census Bureau, Historical Marital Status Tables

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Customers of Ride-Hailing Services

Ten percent of the U.S. population aged 18 or older used a ride-hailing service at least once in the past month, according to the 2017 National Household Travel Survey (NHTS). Researchers Rick Grahn, Stan Caldwell, and Chris Hendrickson of the Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University analyzed the 2017 data in an effort to provide policy recommendations on emerging technologies in transportation.

Data from 2017 may seem a bit dated when analyzing an industry that has been operating in earnest for only eight years. But if that's all we've got—and it is—then it's important to take a look. But first, an explanation of why 2017 data are all we've got. The Federal Highway Administration only occasionally fields the NHTS, asking Americans to detail how they get to where they're going every time they step out the door. The last NHTS was fielded in 2009—pre Uber. The 2017 statistics on the demographics and travel patterns of ride-hailing users are valuable simply because they are rare.  

So let's take a look at the findings. As you might expect, young adults are the primary users of ride-hailing services. Among 25-to-34-year-olds, one in four used a ride-hailing service in the past month—more than any other age group. 

Percent using ride-hailing service in past month
Aged 18 to 24: 17.4%
Aged 25 to 34: 24.6%
Aged 35 to 44: 15.5%
Aged 45 to 54: 10.1%
Aged 55 to 64: 6.2%
Aged 65 to 74: 3.4%
Aged 75-plus: 1.8%

Because about 60 percent of ride-hailing customers use the service three or fewer times per month, the researchers suggest that ride-hailing is a special-occasion mode of transportation and not used for the regular commute to work. Although most use the service only a few times a month, 41 percent of ride-hailing customers use it at least once a week. These devotees are in their mid-thirties. They are relatively affluent, with a median household income between $100,000 and $125,000. They are likely to have a bachelor's degree. They are also more likely than the average American to use public transit. Frequent ride-hailing customers use public transit 7 to 10 times a month compared with just 2 trips a month for the average person. 

What are the policy implications of these findings? It's complex, say the researchers, because it's not yet clear how ride-hailing affects the transportation system. Are ride-hailing users replacing public transit trips with ride-hailing? Or are other modes of transportation being replaced by ride-hailing? "The inability to understand the role ride-hailing services play in urban mobility creates challenges in the transportation decision making process," they conclude. Let's hope the NHTS is fielded more frequently in the future so these questions can be answered.

Source: Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation at Carnegie Mellon, Recommended Policies for the 21st Century Trends in U.S. Mobility

Monday, November 18, 2019

47% Faced a Financial Challenge in Past Year

Nearly half of American households (47 percent) headed by people aged 30 or older experienced an unexpected financial challenge in the past year, according to an AARP survey. Among households headed by Millennials and Gen Xers, the majority faced at least one such challenge. AARP defines an unexpected financial challenge as one that "caused a significant strain in your budget or your ability to pay your bills."

Percent experiencing at least one unexpected financial challenge in the past year
Millennials: 58%
Gen Xers: 54%
Boomers: 38%

Medical expenses were the number-one cause of financial challenges, cited by 33 percent. The median cost of a financial challenge was between $3,000 and $3,999. About half (51 percent) of those who experienced an unexpected financial challenge managed to get their finances back under control in less than 6 months. That's the good news. The bad news is that the 56 percent majority of those who faced a financial challenge experienced more than one.

Source: AARP,  Coping with an Unexpected Financial Challenge

Thursday, November 14, 2019

More than 10% of Couples Work for Same Employer

Here's a question you might have asked yourself but never thought there would be an answer. How many dual-earner couples work for the same employer? The answer is 11 to 13 percent, according to a Monthly Labor Review study by Census Bureau economist Henry R. Hyatt.

Wait, what? How can so many couples share an employer? Intraoffice romance is frowned upon these days, often leading to job termination. Not to worry. Hyatt's data are from the 2000 census, so the office romances he discovered occurred in a different era. And there's another reason not to worry (keep reading).

For his study, Hyatt linked 2000 census microdata with administrative records to estimate the percentage of same-sex couples (both married and cohabiting) who share an occupation, industry, work location, and employer. Sharing these characteristics is surprisingly common, he found. A sizable proportion of couples share a narrow industry of employment (12 to 15 percent), and many also work within the same census block. But these shared characteristics, Hyatt finds, are driven  primarily by coworking. "Of those who worked in the same narrow census industry, about 63 percent worked in the same workplace, as did 70 percent of those who worked in the same census block."

Perhaps Hyatt's most interesting finding is this: most coworking couples were couples before they were coworkers. "The vast majority of coworking couples chose the same employer after meeting rather than meeting on the job," says Hyatt. Is it as easy today as it was in 2000 for couples to find jobs with the same employer? Perhaps that question will be answered by a future analysis of 2020 census results.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Monthly Labor Review, Coworking Couples and the Similar Jobs of Dual-Earner Households

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Childhood Trauma Worsens Health

The 61 percent majority of American adults report having endured at least one adverse childhood experience, according to the CDC. This finding is based on a unique set of questions about adverse childhood experiences added to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System surveys in 25 states in 2015–2017. Eight types of adverse experiences were tallied by the survey—three types of abuse (physical, emotional, and/or sexual), and five problems with household members (substance abuse, incarceration, mental illness, parental divorce, or intimate partner violence).

Percent of adults reporting at least one adverse childhood experience, by age
Total, 18-plus: 61.0%
Aged 18 to 24: 70.5%
Aged 25 to 34: 69.5%
Aged 35 to 44: 65.0%
Aged 45 to 54: 62.5%
Aged 55 to 64: 58.9%
Aged 65-plus: 47.9%

Younger people are much more likely than older adults to report at least one adverse childhood experience. In part, this is because the experience of parental divorce is much greater for younger than older adults. Another reason for the difference by age is the greater willingness of younger adults to call out abuse and admit to family problems.

Thirty-nine percent of adults reported no adverse childhood experiences, 23 percent reported one, 22 percent reported two or three, and 16 percent reported four or more. Those who report four or more adverse childhood experiences also report greater health and socioeconomic problems than those who faced less adversity, the CDC found.  "Adverse childhood experiences are associated with leading causes of morbidity and mortality and with poor socioeconomic outcomes in adulthood," concludes the report.

Source: CDC, Vital Signs: Estimates Proportion of Adult Health Problems Attributable to Adverse Childhood Experiences and Implications for Prevention—25 States, 2015–2017

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

What Explains the Retirement Savings Shortfall?

In a perfect world, the typical worker would have saved $364,000 in a 401(k)/IRA retirement account by the time he or she was aged 55 to 64. Instead, the typical worker at age 55 to 64 has accumulated only $92,000.

What accounts for the gap in what should be and what is? In a study to determine the reasons for the gap, researchers at the Center for Retirement Research (CRR) analyzed IRS tax records and data from the Census Bureau's 2014 Survey of Income and Program Participation. First they estimated potential 401(k) balances in a perfect world—a world in which there is universal coverage, consistent contributions of 9 percent of earnings (6 percent contributed by workers and 3 percent by employers), no early withdrawals, and no fees. In that world, retirement savings for the typical worker aged 55 to 64 would amount to $364,000.

But the world is not perfect. The results of the CRR analysis show that one of the biggest reasons retirement savings are falling short of their potential is the immaturity of the 401(k) system, which went into effect in the early 1980s. Consequently, the "relatively recent shift from traditional pensions to the newer 401(k) plans means that many of today's 60-year-olds did not participate in a 401(k) plan when they were young workers," explain the researchers. Another major reason retirement savings are not as high as they could be is the lack of universal coverage. Many employers do not provide their workers with the opportunity to participate in a 401(k) plan. Lesser reasons for the shortfall are fees and leakages.

Here is how each of these reasons reduces the $364,000 potential in retirement savings to a paltry $92,000...

IRA balance for typical worker aged 55 to 64
$364,000 potential in a perfect system
Reduced to $247,800 after accounting for the immature 401(k) system
Reduced to $136,200 after accounting for the lack of universal coverage
Reduced to $122,800 after accounting for fees
Reduced to $92,000 after accounting for leakages

Source: Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Why Are 401(k)/IRA Balances Substantially Below Potential?

Monday, November 11, 2019

Most Kids Get to School by Private Vehicle

Despite the ubiquitous yellow school buses driving the roads most months of the year, the 54 percent majority of the nation's children are driven to school in a private vehicle, according to the Federal Highway Administration's National Household Transportation Survey. A smaller 33 percent ride a school bus. Just 10 percent walk or bike to school.

The way children aged 5 to 17 get to school has not changed much in the past two decades, reports the Federal Highway Administration. Only 10 percent of children walk or bike to school because the schools most children attend are too far from their home. Among children who live within a half mile of school, most walk or bike to get there.

Percent of 5-to-17-year-olds who walk/bike to school by distance from home to school
81% of those who live less than 0.25 miles from school
56.1% of those who live from 0.25 and 0.50 miles from school
24.8% of those who live from 0.50 to 1 mile from school
  7.0% of those who live from 1 to 2 miles from school
  0.9% of those who live 2 or more miles from school

Source: Federal Highway Administration, 2017 National Household Travel Survey, Children's Travel to School

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Housing Problems Loom for Older Americans

Entrepreneurs take note. Over the next two decades, prepare for explosive growth in the number of households headed by people aged 65 or older. According to projections by the Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS), the number of householders aged 65 or older will expand by 53 percent between 2018 and 2038. The number aged 80 or older will more than double. By 2038, more than one-third (34 percent) of the nation's households will be headed by people aged 65 or older and one in eight (12 percent) will be headed by people aged 80 or older.

The rapid growth in the number of older householders creates problems and opportunities. The problem is that too many older Americans live in housing unsuited to the needs of the aged, according to the JCHS report, Housing America's Older Adults 2019. Fully 80 percent of homeowners aged 65 or older, live in detached, single-family homes. "The majority of these homes are now at least 40 years old and therefore may present maintenance challenges for their owners," says the report.

And that's not all. Many older householders live in low-density communities, making it difficult for them to care for themselves as they age. "The growing concentration of older households in outlying communities presents major challenges for residents and service providers alike," the report warns. "Single family homes make up most of the housing stock in low-density areas, and residents typically need to be able to drive to do errands, see doctors, and socialize."

But problems like these create opportunities. "The need for affordable, accessible housing and in-home supportive services is set to soar," concludes the report.

Source: Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, Housing America's Older Adults 2019

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Standing, Stooping Are the Most Common Physical Difficulties

What are the physical functions Americans have the most trouble performing? Surprisingly, it's not walking a quarter mile or climbing stairs. Instead, the most difficult physical tasks for the largest share of the public are standing for two hours and stooping, bending, and kneeling. Overall, 9 percent of people aged 18 or older—nearly one in 10—say it would be very difficult or impossible for them to stand for two hours. The same percentage say they are not be able to stoop, bend, or kneel.

Overall, 14.9 percent of the public reports having at least one of these difficulties in physical functioning...

Among people aged 18 or older, percent saying it would be very difficult or impossible to...
Stand for two hours: 9.0%
Stoop, bend, kneel: 9.0%
Walk a quarter mile: 7.1%
Push/pull large objects: 5.9%
Climb 10 steps without resting: 4.9%
Lift or carry 10 pounds: 4.1%
Sit for two hours: 3.0%
Reach overhead: 2.3%
Grasp small objects: 1.7%

With age, physical difficulties increase. Only 5 percent of 18-to-44-year-olds report any difficulty in physical functioning. The share rises to 49 percent among people aged 75 or older. Among the oldest Americans, 33 percent say they would find it very difficult or impossible to stand for two hours, 29 percent could not stoop, bend, or kneel, 28 percent could not walk a quarter of a mile, and 20 percent could not climb 10 steps without resting.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey, Tables of Summary Health Statistics

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Most Americans Live in Their State of Birth

More than half of Americans—58 percent—live in their state of birth, according to the Census Bureau's 2018 American Community Survey. The percentage varies greatly by state, however, ranging from a high of 78 percent in Louisiana to a low of 27 percent in Nevada. Here are the five states with the highest and lowest shares of residents born in-state...

Highest percentage born in-state
78.1% in Louisiana
76.2% in Michigan
74.9% in Ohio
71.7% in Pennsylvania
71.7% in Mississippi

Lowest percentage born in-state
27.0% in Nevada
35.9% in Florida
37.1% in District of Columbia
39.7% in Arizona
40.7% in New Hampshire

Source: Census Bureau, State of Residence by Place of Birth—ACS Tables

Monday, November 04, 2019

Median Household Income Rises in September 2019

The upward trend continues. Median household income climbed 0.4 percent between August and September 2019, after adjusting for inflation. The $66,214 September median was $234 greater than the August 2019 median, according to Sentier Research. Sentier's estimates are derived from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey and track the economic wellbeing of households on a monthly basis.

"Real median household income continued to display an upward trend over the past 12 months (up 3.3 percent)," says Sentier's Gordon Green, "and especially since the low point reached in June 2011 (up 18.6 percent)." At the June 2011 low point—two years after the official end of the Great Recession— median household income was just $55,841.  

Sentier's Household Income Index for September 2019 was 107.2 (January 2000 = 100.0). "We are at a point now where real median household income is 7.2 percent higher than January 2000, the beginning of this statistical series," says Green. "We have seen a strong positive trend in real median annual household income over the past several years, which is encouraging." To stay on top of these trends, look for the next monthly update from Sentier.

Source: Sentier ResearchHousehold Income Trends: September, 2019

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Gaping Holes in the Safety Net

Gig workers have become a controversial symbol of the gaping holes in the American safety net. Behind the outrage over gig work is our employer-based benefit system, which excludes independent contractors from medical benefits, retirement savings, and other protections. Independent contractors aren't the only ones who are on their own. Most low-wage workers are too...

Percentage of workers whose employer provides medical care benefits, by average wage quartile
Highest: 94%
Third: 88%
Second: 74%
Lowest: 40%

Percentage of workers whose employer provides retirement benefits, by average wage quartile
Highest: 90%
Third : 84%
Second: 70%
Lowest: 46%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employee Benefits in the United States—March 2019

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

First-Time Homebuyer Watch: 3rd Quarter 2019

Homeownership rate of householders aged 35 to 39, third quarter 2019: 56.5%

The homeownership rate of the 35-to-39 age group was stable in the third quarter of 2019, just 0.4 percentage points higher than the second quarter rate and not a significant increase. The homeownership rate of the age group peaked at 65.7 percent in 2007. It bottomed out at 55.0 in the fourth quarter of 2016. The current rate is much closer to the bottom than the top.

What about their younger counterparts? Householders aged 30 to 34 were once the nation's first-time home buyers—defined as the age group in which the homeownership rate first surpasses 50 percent. The homeownership rate of 30-to-34-year-olds crept up to 47.9 percent in the third quarter of 2019, not statistically different from the 47.5 percent of the previous quarter. The homeownership rate of the age group peaked at 55.3 percent in 2007, fell below 50 percent in 2011, and has been stuck below that level ever since. 


Nationally, the homeownership rate was 64.8 percent in the third quarter of 2019, not statistically different from the rate one year earlier. The homeownership rate reached an all-time high of 69.0 percent in 2004.

Source: Census Bureau, Housing Vacancy Survey

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Most Working Women Want to Work

Overall, 56 percent of women aged 18 or older would prefer to have a job outside the home rather than stay at home and take care of house and family, according to a Gallup survey. This is the largest percentage of women expressing a preference for work in all the years Gallup has asked the question, first posed in 1992. Among men, 75 percent say they would rather work than be a homemaker.

Among women with children under age 18, most of those who are employed (57 percent) prefer to work rather than be a homemaker. Most of those who are not employed (67 percent) prefer to be a homemaker rather than have a job outside the home.

Here's the percentage of adults who would prefer to work outside the home rather than stay at home and care for house and family...

Percent of women who prefer working to homemaking
75% of employed women, no children under 18
57% of employed women with children under 18
51% of women who are not employed, no children under 18
30% of women who are not employed, with children under 18

Percent of men who prefer working to homemaking
85% of employed men, no children under 18
73% of employed men with children under 18
69% of men who are not employed, no children under 18
58% of men who are not employed, with children under 18

Fully 42 percent of men who are not employed and have children under age 18 would prefer being a homemaker to working outside the home.

Source: Gallup, Record-High 56% of U.S. Women Prefer Working to Homemaking

Monday, October 28, 2019

Hey! Not All the Gray Hairs Are Boomers

How many of the Democratic presidential candidates are baby boomers? Not as many as you think, unless you're a reporter who assumes anyone with graying hair is a member of the baby-boom generation. That's what Politico writer Ben White assumed recently in his article How the Baby Boomers Broke America—classifying both Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden as boomers along with Elizabeth Warren. Of the three, Warren is the only baby boomer, born in 1949. Bernie Sanders (1941) and Joe Biden (1942) were born well before the boomer birth years of 1946 to 1964. Both Sanders and Biden are members of the "Silent Generation."

Only 4 of the 12 Democrats who qualified to participate in the October debate are baby boomers: Warren (1949), Tom Steyer (1957), Amy Klobuchar (1960), and Kamala Harris (1964). Just as well represented at the debate were Generation Xers. Four of the candidates were born during the Gen X birth years of 1965 through 1976: Cory Booker (1969), Beto O'Rourke (1972), Julian Castro (1974), and Andrew Yang (1975). Another two participants in the debate were Millennials, the generation born from 1977 through 1994: Tulsi Gabbard (1981) and Pete Buttigieg (1982).

Number of Democratic presidential candidates by generation 
2 from the Silent generation
4 from the Baby-boom generation
4 from Generation X
2 from the Millennial generation

The winner of the Democratic presidential primary will face Republican Donald Trump on election day 2020. Trump is a baby boomer, born in 1946. He is younger than Sanders and Biden, but older than the other Democrats.

Note: Ben White of Politico is not the only journalist who has been careless with generational definitions. David Brooks, in his New York Times column, Your Baby Boomer Report Card, also got it wrong. First, he said anyone born after 1960 doesn't count as a boomer, including Barack Obama (born in 1961). Sorry, but you can't cherry pick generational identity. Second, Brooks classified Bob Dylan as a boomer, but Dylan is a member of the Silent Generation (born in 1941 and a few months older than Bernie Sanders). Generational definitions seem to get sloppy when writers are trying a little too hard to make a point.

Source: Demo Memo analysis of the birth years of presidential candidates

Thursday, October 24, 2019

How Much Is Too Much?

Are parents doing too much for their young adult children? Most Americans think so. According to a Pew Research Center survey, the 55 percent majority of adults say parents are doing too much for their children aged 18 to 29.

But ask the parents of these young adults whether they're doing too much and you get a different answer. Fully 63 percent say they are doing about the right amount. Only 28 percent think they do too much. The remaining 8 percent say they do too little.

One of the big things parents do for their young adult children is help them financially. Among parents with children aged 18 to 29, a substantial 59 percent have provided at least some financial help to their child in the past 12 months. The average American might call this financial help excessive. But parents with children aged 18 to 29 know better than anyone else how hard it is for young adults to achieve financial independence these days. While 64 percent of the public thinks adult children should be financially independent by age 22, only 24 percent of young adults achieve financial independence by age 22.

Source: Pew Research Center, Majority of Americans Say Parents Are Doing Too Much for Their Young Adult Children

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

We Really Are a Fractured Nation

Fractured Nation is the title of the latest report on American values released by PRRI (the Public Religion Research Institute). The title aptly describes the findings of PRRI's August-September 2019 survey of the public's attitudes about a variety of important issues. Here's a look at some of the fractures by political party identification...

Percent who mostly/completely agree with statement...

Democrats  Republicans
Society as a whole has become
too soft and feminine
    26%      65%
These days society seems to punish men
just for acting like men
    23      53
Today discrimination against whites has become
as big a problem as discrimination against
blacks and other minorities
    21      69
Immigrants are invading our country and replacing
our cultural and ethnic background
    20      63
It is necessary to believe in God in order to be moral
and have good values
    35      55

Source: PRRI, Fractured Nation: Widening Partisan Polarization and Key Issues in 2020 Presidential Elections

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Older People Carry the Most Cash

For the first time, cash has fallen to second place as a payment instrument. According to the Diary of Consumer Payment Choice, cash was used to pay for 26 percent of transactions in an average month of 2018, down from 31 percent in 2016. Debit cards were in first place in 2018, used to pay for 28 percent of transactions.

The declining use of cash is not much of a surprise, since younger adults are spurning cash in favor of other types of payments. The Diary results confirm this notion. The 25-to-34 age group used cash to pay for only 18 percent of purchases in an average month of 2018. The figure was an almost identical 19 percent among 35-to-44-year-olds. Cash is much more commonly used as a payment instrument by the youngest and oldest adults. Among 18-to-24-year-olds, 34 percent of payments are made with cash. Among people aged 65 or older, the figure is 33 percent.

Americans carried $58 in cash on their person on an average day of 2018. The amount varies by age, however, with people aged 65 or older carrying the most cash.

Amount of cash carried on an average day, 2018
Under age 25: $20
Aged 25 to 34: $37
Aged 35 to 44: $36
Aged 45 to 54: $59
Aged 55 to 64: $68
Aged 65-plus: $104

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, 2019 Findings from the Diary of Consumer Payment Choice

Monday, October 21, 2019

Citizenship Controversy Raises Awareness of Census

Maybe there is a silver lining to all the controversy surrounding the Trump administration's failed attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. There is nearly universal awareness of the upcoming census, according to a Pew Research Center survey fielded in September. Fully 98 percent of adults say they have heard of the 2020 census. This level of awareness six months prior to census day (April 1, 2020) is good news.

The great majority of the public also plans to participate in the census, according to Pew's results. Overall, 84 percent of people aged 18 or older say they probably or definitely will participate in the 2020 census. Enthusiasm for the census rises with age...

Percent who probably/definitely will participate in the 2020 census
Total, all ages: 84%
Aged 18 to 29: 66%
Aged 30 to 49: 82%
Aged 50 to 64: 90%
Aged 65-plus: 97%

Source: Pew Research Center, Most U.S. Adults Intend to Participate in 2020 Census, but Some Demographic Groups Aren't Sure

Thursday, October 17, 2019

White Working Class Is in Decline

The white working class is declining not only as a share of the total U.S. population but also in absolute numbers, according to a Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis analysis.

Today, only 40 percent of Americans aged 25 or older are white working class (defined as non-Hispanic Whites aged 25 or older without a four-year college degree). This is much lower than the 71 percent share of the population this group accounted for in 1975. During the past four-plus decades, the nonwhite working class (Hispanics, Blacks, and other minorities without a four-year degree) and non-Hispanic White college graduates have been growing. Each of these groups is now 25 percent of the population, up from 15 and 12 percent in 1975, respectively. The remaining 10 percent of the population is accounted for by nonwhites with a four-year college degree, up from 1 percent in 1975.

Social and demographic change explains the decline of the white working class—the growing share of non-Hispanic Whites who are earning a college degree and the rapid growth of minority populations relative to the non-Hispanic White population. "Whatever the cause," conclude the researchers, "the decline of this group will undoubtedly continue to have lasting economic and social consequences for the U.S."

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, The White Working Class: National Trends, Then and Now

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Men's Earnings: Explaining Differences in Trajectory

Why do some workers enjoy rising incomes over their career while other workers can't seem to make any gains? That question was posed by researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. They examined W-2s and self-employment income of men at ages 25 and again at 55 to see how their earnings grew over the decades. For the median worker, real annual earnings grew 60 percent. But workers below the 20th percentile in earnings had lower earnings at age 55 than they did at age 25. Meanwhile, those in the top 1 percent saw their earnings increase by a factor of 27.

The researchers found several differences in the labor force experience of low- and high-income workers that could affect the earning trajectory of men over their career...
  • low-income workers lose their jobs more frequently
  • low-income workers have longer spells of unemployment
  • low-income workers are less likely to be contacted about alternative job opportunities 
Although high-income workers receive more alternative job offers than low-income workers, they are less likely than low-income workers to switch jobs. "Even though high earners are solicited more often, these solicitations do not always translate into job-to-job switches," say the researchers. "In fact, top income earners are much less likely to switch jobs. While we do not know the particular reason for this behavior, it can be the result of either the earner already having a high-paying job or the current employer responding to the risk of losing its worker."

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Liberty Street Economics, Job Ladders and Careers

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Transportation Costs in Metros and States

Nationally, the average household devotes 16 percent of its expenditures to transportation (vehicle purchases, finance charges, insurance, repairs, gasoline, public transportation, etc.). But in the Detroit metropolitan area, residents spend a larger 19 percent of their budget on transportation. Just as housing costs vary across the country, so do transportation expenses. Here is transportation's share of average household spending in selected metropolitan areas...

Transportation as a share of average household spending, 2017–18
Detroit: 19.3%
Phoenix: 19.0%
Dallas: 16.8%
Miami: 16.3%
Houston: 15.9%
Baltimore: 15.8%
Chicago: 13.2%
Boston: 12.0%
New York: 12.0%
San Francisco: 11.3%

According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics' analysis of the first state-level spending data ever teased from the Consumer Expenditure Survey, the average Texas household devotes 20 percent of its budget to transportation. This is significantly greater than the 16 to 17 percent of the budget devoted to transportation by households in the metro areas of Dallas and Houston. Transportation consumed 15 percent of the average household's budget in California and 14 percent in New York state, higher than the share devoted to transportation by households in San Francisco (11 percent) or the New York metro (12 percent).

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

Monday, October 14, 2019

Death Rate Much Lower for Married People

Married people have strikingly lower death rate than the never-married, divorced, or widowed, according to a report by the National Center for Health Statistics. Take a look at the number of deaths per 100,000 population in 2017 by marital status...

Age-adjusted death rate by marital status in 2017
   779.6 for the married
1,368.8 for the divorced
1,443.6 for the never married
1,656.9 for the widowed

The age-adjusted death rate of married people was 43 percent lower than the death rate of the divorced in 2017. It was 46 percent lower than the death rate of the never married, and 53 percent lower than the death rate of the widowed.

One factor that leads to the lower death rate for the married is self-selection, with healthier people more likely than the less healthy to be married. Another factor is the benefit of living with someone who has your back, urging you to go to doctor appointments, take your pills, and eat right. A third factor leading to higher death rates for the single, divorced, widowed, is the stress surrounding the single life, marital breakups, and the death of a spouse.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Mortality among Adults Aged 25 and over by Marital Status: United States, 2010–2017

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Student Loans: How Much Is Owed?

Americans owe nearly $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, more than they owe for auto loans or credit card debt. But what is the maximum amount owed by individual borrowers? That's what the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis wanted to figure out. To investigate, Fed researchers used Equifax Consumer Credit Panel data, calculating the maximum loan balance for each borrower between 2000 and 2018, adjusted for inflation.

The median student loan balance is $24,899, according to the findings. But there is great variation in the amount borrowed. More than 20 percent of borrowers owe more than $50,000, and 5 percent owe nearly $100,000 or more. Here are student loan balances by percentile of borrowers...

Student loan balances
20th percentile: $9,703
40th percentile: $19,125
60th percentile: $31,312
80th percentile: $54,497
95th percentile: $99,025
99th percentile: $135,472

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Are Students Borrowing Too Much? Or Too Little?

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Number of Workers Aged 75-Plus Will Double

The median age of the labor force is projected to rise by another 0.6 years between now and 2028—from 41.9 in 2018 to 42.5 in 2028, according to recently released projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It doesn't sound like a big deal.

But it is a big deal. The incremental increase in the median age masks dramatic shifts in the labor force by age group as the large baby-boom generation gets older and labor force participation rates among older workers rise. Take a look at the 10-year change projected for the labor force by age...

Percent change in labor force by age, 2018 to 2028
Total labor force: 5.5%
Aged 16 to 24:    -6.1%
Aged 25 to 34:     0.5%
Aged 35 to 44:   13.9%
Aged 45 to 54:    -1.1%
Aged 55 to 64:    -1.3%
Aged 65 to 74:   50.8%
Aged 75-plus:  104.9%

Only one age group under age 65 will gain a significant number of workers during the decade ahead. Meanwhile, the number of workers aged 65 or older will grow 61 percent. The BLS projects a 51 percent increase in the number of workers aged 65 to 74, and a doubling in the number of workers aged 75 or older. Not only are aging boomers inflating the older population, but the labor force participation rate of older workers is projected to climb as well. Among workers aged 65 to 74, the labor force participation rate is projected to climb from 27.0 to 32.5 percent. (For perspective, only 17.7 percent of the age group was in the labor force in 1998.) The labor force participation rate of people aged 75 or older is projected to rise to 12.1 percent, up from 8.7 percent in 2018. (In 1998, only 4.7 percent of the age group was in the labor force.) Workers aged 65 or older will account for 9.4 percent of the labor force in 2028, up from 6.2 percent in 2018.

Because there will be little or no growth in the number of younger workers in the decade ahead, expect businesses with expanding workforces to turn to older workers to fill positions.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Profiles of Violent Death

There were 65,000 violent deaths in the United States in 2016, according to the CDC. The 62 percent majority were suicides, followed by homicides (25 percent), deaths of undetermined intent (11 percent),  legal intervention (1 percent), and unintentional firearm deaths (fewer than 1 percent). The legal intervention category is defined as "deaths caused by law enforcement and other persons with legal authority to use deadly force in the line of duty, excluding legal executions."

The CDC analyzed the circumstances surrounding the violent deaths that occurred in 32 states in 2016. In those states, there were 23,630 suicides, 10,336 homicides, 515 legal interventions, and 295 unintentional firearm deaths. The CDC examined the demographics of the victims  (age, sex, race), the method of death (firearm, sharp instrument, drowning, etc.), the location of death (house/apartment, street, etc.), and precipitating circumstances (depression, intimate partner problem, job problem, crime in progress, and so on).

Looking at the most likely scenario for each type of violent death, here are their profiles...

Suicide: A non-Hispanic White (83 percent) man (77 percent) aged 35 to 64 (52 percent) shot (49 percent) or hung (28 percent) himself in his house/apartment (74 percent) because he was depressed (74 percent). He did not leave a suicide note (66 percent), nor did he disclose to others his suicide intent (76.5 percent).

Homicide: A Black (56 percent) man (79 percent) aged 20 to 34 (46 percent) was shot (74 percent) in his house/apartment (47 percent) by an acquaintance/friend (27 percent) during an argument (32 percent).

Legal intervention death: A non-Hispanic White (50 percent) man (96 percent) aged 25 to 44 (59 percent) was shot (96 percent) in a house/apartment (38 percent) or on the street (28 percent). He had a drug problem (26 percent) or mental illness (21 percent). He had a weapon (73 percent).

Unintentional firearm death: A non-Hispanic White (59 percent) man (86 percent) aged 15 to 24 (35 percent) was in his house/apartment (74 percent), playing (35 percent) with a handgun (63 percent) when he unintentionally pulled the trigger (23.5 percent).

Source: CDC, Surveillance for Violent Deaths—National Violent Death Reporting System, 32 States, 2016

Monday, October 07, 2019

Median Household Income Rises in August 2019

Admit it. It was a disappointment when the Current Population Survey's 2018 median household income estimate, released by the Census Bureau last month, was no higher than the 2017 median, after adjusting for inflation. No need to worry. We already know how things will turn out. The median has been rising month after month during much of 2019, according to Sentier Research, whose Current Population Survey-based estimates track the economic wellbeing of households on a monthly basis. 

Median household income climbed 1.3 percent between July and August 2019, after adjusting for inflation, Sentier reports. The $65,976 August median was 3.4 percent higher than the median a year earlier in August 2018. "Real median household income continued to display an upward trend over the past 12 months," says Sentier's Gordon Green. "We have seen a strong positive trend in real median annual household income, which is encouraging."

Sentier's Household Income Index for August 2019 was 106.8 (January 2000 = 100.0). 

Source: Sentier ResearchHousehold Income Trends: August, 2019

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Work Schedule Surprises

Many workers do not know their work schedule much in advance, according to the American Time Use Survey, making it difficult to organize child care arrangements or plan doctor visits.

Percent distribution of workers by how far in advance they know their work schedule
19% know less than one week in advance
16% know one to two weeks in advance
10% know two to four weeks in advance
55% know four or more weeks in advance

Among workers without a high school diploma, nearly one-third (31 percent) do not know their work schedule even a week in advance.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job Flexibilities and Work Schedules Summary

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

25% of Workers Sometimes Work from Home

Remember when computers and the internet were going to revolutionize the world of work? The ability to work remotely would solve all sorts of social and economic problems—allowing parents to care for young children, saving workers the time and expense of commuting, and lowering the cost of office space for employers. We're still waiting...

Wage and salary workers by work-at-home status, 2017–18
Total wage and salary workers: 100.0%
Workers who occasionally worked at home: 24.8%
Workers with days worked exclusively at home: 14.7%
Workers who worked exclusively at home at least one day per week: 8.0%

While 25 percent of wage and salary workers occasionally worked at home during the 2017–18 time period, according to the American Time Use Survey, many were just finishing up office work after hours. Only 15 percent of wage and salary workers spent a day working exclusively from home, and just 8 percent worked at home exclusively at least one day per week.

Why haven't computers and the internet created a sizable work-at-home labor force? Parents found out it was too hard to manage child care and job duties at the same time. Workers discovered face time at the office was worth the hassle of the commute. Employers grew weary of remote management. For whatever reason, working at home has not turned out to be as popular as once predicted. Of those who occasionally worked at home in 2017–18, the 56 percent majority did so primarily for personal reasons—it was their preference, they were trying to fit work in with personal or family needs, or they wanted to reduce commuting costs. But a substantial 43 percent worked at home primarily out of necessity—they had to catch up on work, their employer required it, or bad weather kept them at home.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job Flexibilities and Work Schedules—2017–2018 Data from the American Time Use Survey

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

50% Increase in Householders Aged 65 to 74

Since 2010, the number of households headed by people aged 65 to 74 has expanded by 50 percent, according to the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. This increase accounts for most of the decade's household growth—6.5 million of the 11.0 million increase in households between 2010 and 2019. The number of households headed by people aged 55 to 64 and 75-plus also grew faster than average. Householders aged 55 or older now head nearly half (45 percent) of the nation's households, up from 39 percent in 2010.

Three age groups lost households between 2010 and 2019. The biggest loss occurred among 45-to-54-year-olds. There were 2.8 million fewer householders aged 45 to 54 in 2019 than in 2010 as the small Generation X passed through the age group.

Numerical (and percent) change in households by age of householder, 2010 to 2019
Total households: 11,041,000 (9.4%)
Under age 25:           –34,000 (–0.5%)
Aged 25 to 34:       1,354,000 (7.0%)
Aged 35 to 44:        –149,000 (–0.7%)
Aged 45 to 54:      –2,800,000 (–11.3%)
Aged 55 to 64:        3,785,000 (18.6%)
Aged 65 to 74:        6,517,000 (49.5%)
Aged 75-plus:         2,369,000 (19.6%)

Source: Census Bureau, Current Population Survey Income Data Tables

Monday, September 30, 2019

Print Books Remain Most Popular

Nearly three out of four adults have read a book in the previous 12 months, according to a Pew Research Center survey, and print remains the most popular format. Overall, 72 percent of the public read a book in any format in the past year: 65 percent read a print book, 25 percent read an ebook, and 20 percent listened to an audiobook.

Interestingly, young adults are not only more likely than any other age group to have read a book in the past year, they are also most likely to have read a print book..

Percent who have read any book (and a print book) in the past year, 2019
Aged 18 to 29: 81% (74%)
Aged 30 to 49: 72% (65%)
Aged 50 to 64: 67% (59%)
Aged 65-plus: 68% (63%)

Source: Pew Research Center, One-in-five Americans Now Listen to Audiobooks

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Who Works on Weekends?

The average worker works 4.77 days a week. Sixty-eight percent of workers work Monday through Friday. But 19 percent of workers usually work on Saturday and 12 percent usually work on Sunday, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' American Time Use Survey. By day of the week, here is the percentage of workers who say they usually work on that day...

Percent of workers who usually work on...
Monday: 81.0%
Tuesday: 82.3%
Wednesday: 82.5%
Thursday: 82.3%
Friday: 80.4%
Saturday: 19.2%
Sunday: 12.1%

Workers without a high school diploma are among those most likely to work weekends—31 percent usually work Saturdays and 17 percent Sundays. Those in service occupations are also more likely than average to work weekends—39 percent usually work Saturdays and 28 percent Sundays. By industry, fully 50 percent of leisure and hospitality workers usually work Saturdays and 36 percent Sundays.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job Flexibilities and Work Schedules—2017–2018 Data from the American Time Use Survey

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Which Occupations Are Dominated by Millennials?

Millennials account for a larger share of the labor force than any other generation. Among the nation's employed in 2018, a substantial 39 percent were Millennials. Boomers and Gen Xers each accounted for 25 percent of the employed, and the iGeneration was 11 percent.

The Millennial share of workers exceeds 39 percent in many occupations and tops 50 percent in more than two dozen. Among the 328 detailed occupations for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides age distributions and median ages, Millennials account for more than 50 percent of workers in 29 occupations. Here are the top five...

Millennial share of workers (top five occupations)
60.3% of emergency medical technicians and paramedics
59.2% of physician assistants
58.8% of bartenders
58.1% of roofers
57.2% of web developers

Millennials also account for more than half of statisticians, firefighters, software developers, financial analysts, probation officers, medical scientists, market researchers, producers and directors, telemarketers, speech language pathologists, information security analysts, physical therapists, police and sheriff's patrol officers, and private detectives.

Note: In 2018, the iGeneration was aged 16 to 23, Millennials were aged 24 to 41, Gen Xers were aged 42 to 53, and Boomers were aged 54 to 72.

Source: Demo Memo analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics, Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey, Household Data, Annual Averages

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Here's Why Median Household Income Did Not Grow

For a full decade, median household income struggled to return to the pre-Great Recession peak of $62,700 in 2007 (in 2018 dollars). It finally got there in 2017 and stayed there in 2018. Some might question why American households have made no economic progress in more than a decade, but a look at trends in household income by age group reveals that most households have gained ground.

Percent change in median household income by age of householder, 2007 to 2018 (in 2018$)
Total households: 0.8%
Under age 25: 9.7%
Aged 25 to 34: 3.5%
Aged 35 to 44: 4.2%
Aged 45 to 54: 3.4%
Aged 55 to 64: –3.7%
Aged 65 to 74: 16.7%
Aged 75-plus: 20.5%

Note: Percent change calculations between 2007 and 2018 were made after adjusting 2007 median household income to make it comparable to 2018 income as per Census Bureau guidance in: Survey Redesigns Make Comparisons to Years Before 2017 Difficult.

While the overall median did not increase significantly between 2007 and 2018, every age group but one experienced a significant increase, after adjusting for inflation. How could the overall median remain unmoved when almost everyone experienced a gain?

The answer is the changing age structure of the population, thanks to baby boom and baby bust. In 2018, there were many more older householders (with lower incomes) than in 2007 as boomers aged into their sixties and seventies. The share of households headed by people aged 65 or older grew from 21 to 27 percent of the total during those years. Conversely, there were fewer middle-aged householders (in their peak-earning years) in 2018 than in 2007 because the small Generation X was in the 35-to-54 age groups. The share of households headed by 35-to-54-year-olds fell from 40 to just 34 percent during those years. These shifts depressed growth in the overall median and will continue to do so until the large Millennial generation is more of a presence in the peak-earning age groups.

Source: Demo Memo analysis of the Census Bureau's Historical Income Tables: Households

Monday, September 23, 2019

Most Americans Have Been Spoofed

Robocalls are a big problem. Nearly 48 billion robocalls came into the U.S. in 2018, up from 29 billion just two years earlier, according to an AARP study. Many of the calls are scams. In an effort to educate the public about the dangers of answering such calls, AARP surveyed a representative sample of adults to see how they responded when their phone rings.

Caller ID is nearly universal, the survey found. In an ideal world, this should help people avoid phone scams. Fully 97 percent of adults say they can see who is calling on their phone. In fact, they rely on caller ID to determine whether or not to answer the phone. Fully 92 percent say they are "very" or "somewhat" likely to answer a call when they see the name and number of a family member or friend, 86 percent are likely to answer a call when they see the name of a business with which they have a relationship, and 59 percent are likely to answer a call from a local area code.

That's the problem. Scammers are spoofing local area codes to entice people to answer the phone. And it's working. In the past month, fully 74 percent of the public has answered a call from a local area code only to discover it was a spoof—a robocall disguised as a local call.

"Many Americans rely on caller ID to determine who is calling them and, as a result, many are being deceived into answering calls from criminal telemarketers," says the AARP report.

Although most Americans say they have not given robocallers their personal information, the survey results show that many could be enticed to do so. When presented with hypothetical call scenarios, a substantial 39 percent of survey respondents say they would be likely to answer a call if the caller told them their credit card had been compromised, and 29 percent say they would be likely to answer a call if told their Social Security number had been compromised.

Source: AARP, Many Americans Still Vulnerable to Spoofing

Thursday, September 19, 2019

How Often Do Workers Get Paid?

It depends. Some get a paycheck every week, while others get paid only once a month. No single pay schedule accounts for the majority of businesses, according to data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics...

Percent distribution of private businesses by length of pay schedule, 2019
Weekly: 33.8%
Biweekly: 42.2%
Semimonthly: 18.6%
Monthly: 5.4%

The construction industry is most likely to pay every week (76 percent of construction businesses pay weekly). The financial activities industry is the one most likely to pay only monthly (8 percent of financial activities businesses pay monthly).

The less workers are paid, the more frequently they receive a paycheck, according to a BLS analysis of pay schedules in 2013. Among workers paid weekly, average hourly earnings were $18.62 in 2013. Among those paid biweekly, average hourly earnings were a higher $24.81. Earnings were highest among those paid semimonthly or monthly, an average of $29.75 and $28.45 per hour, respectively.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Length of Pay Periods in the Current Employment Statistics Survey and How Frequently Do Private Businesses Pay Workers?

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Householders Aged 75-Plus Outspend Young Adults

Average household spending peaked in 2006, just before the Great Recession. Spending then fell for years as Americans struggled with lost jobs and homes. It took until 2017 for average household spending to set a new record high. Now spending has plateaued. Average household spending in 2018 ($61,224) was not statistically different from the 2017 figure ($61,525), after adjusting for inflation, and not much higher than the old 2006 record ($60,285).

This stability in the overall median masks changes in average household spending by age of householder. The rule of thumb is this: the older the householder, the greater the increase in average household spending. Take a look...

Average household spending in 2018 (and % change since 2006; in 2018$)
Under age 25: $32,039 (–8.7%)
Aged 25 to 34: $56,457 (–4.7%)
Aged 35 to 44: $71,198 (–0.6%)
Aged 45 to 54: $75,387 (+5.1%)
Aged 55 to 64: $66,212 (+4.7%)
Aged 65-plus: $50,860 (+16.5%)
  Aged 65 to 74: $56,268 (+10.3)
  Aged 75-plus: $43,181 (+19.9%)

Average household spending was lower in 2018 than in 2006 for householders under age 45. The youngest householders saw their average spending decline by a steep 8.7 percent, after adjusting for inflation. Behind the decline is the postponement of marriage, reducing household size and spending.

Average household spending was higher in 2018 than in 2006 for householders aged 45 or older, with the biggest gains experienced by the oldest householders—a nearly 20 percent increase in average household spending for householders aged 75 or older, after adjusting for inflation. Average household spending by the oldest and youngest householders was almost identical in 2006 (in 2018 dollars)—$35,000 spent by householders under age 25 versus $36,000 spent by householders aged 75-plus. Not so in 2018. The oldest householders now outspend the younger by a whopping 35 percent—a difference in average annual spending of more than $11,000.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018 Consumer Expenditure Survey

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

44% Increase in Spending on Public Transportation

Why is average household spending on public transportation going through the roof?

While overall household spending did not increase between 2017 and 2018, after adjusting for inflation, spending on public transportation climbed 12 percent and was one of the year's fastest-growing spending categories. That's not just a blip. Since 2010, average household spending on public transportation has climbed 44 percent, after adjusting for inflation—four times faster than the increase in overall household spending—making it one of the fastest-growing spending categories during the time period.

There are three reasons for the ongoing boom in spending on public transportation. One, the back-to-the-city movement has increased spending on mass transit. Two, the aging of the baby-boom generation has boosted travel spending. Three, the average household has more than tripled its spending on "taxi fares."

Percent change in average household spending on public transportation, 2010–2018
231% increase in spending on taxi fares
  73% increase in spending on ship fares
  68% increase in intercity train fares
  34% increase in spending on airline fares
  10% increase in spending on intercity bus fares
    8% increase in spending on intracity mass transit fares

Included in the "taxi fare" category is spending on ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft.

Source: Demo Memo analysis of unpublished tables from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Expenditure Survey

Monday, September 16, 2019

He/ She/ They

A substantial 18 percent of adults personally know someone who goes by a gender-neutral pronoun, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Young adults are most likely to know someone who prefers a gender-neutral pronoun...

Know someone who goes by a gender-neutral pronoun
Aged 18 to 29: 32%
Aged 30 to 49: 19%
Aged 50 to 64: 14%
Aged 65-plus: 8%

About half of adults say they would be comfortable "using a gender-neutral pronoun to refer to someone if asked to do so," Pew finds. Young adults are most likely to say they would feel comfortable (61 percent). Americans aged 65 or older are least likely to say they would feel comfortable doing so (47 percent).

Source: Pew Research Center, About One-in-Five U.S. Adults Know Someone Who Goes by a Gender-Neutral Pronoun

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Average Household Spending Stalls in 2018

After reaching a record high last year, average household spending took a breather. The $61,224 average of 2018 was not statistically different from the 2017 figure. Spending plunged as low as $54,984 in 2013. Average household spending in 2018 was 11 percent higher than the 2013 low—an additional $6,200 of spending per year per household.

Average household spending, 2006 to 2018 (in 2018 dollars)
2018: $61,224 (not significantly different from 2017)
2017: $61,525 (record high)
2015: $59,304
2013: $54,984 (post-Great Recession low)
2010: $55,402
2006: $60,285 (previous record high)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018 Consumer Expenditure Survey

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Median Household Income in 2018: $63,179

The good news: median household income is as high as it has ever been, at $63,179 in 2018. The bad news: after adjusting for inflation, median household income in 2018 is no higher than it was in 1999, according to the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey.

You won't be able to spot this fact in the CPS data tables released by the Census Bureau yesterday. That's because 2018 income data are not comparable to data from earlier years. The Census Bureau redesigned the Current Population Survey's income questions beginning in 2014 and data processing methods beginning in 2018. But in an America Counts story, bureau analysts adjusted the overall household median for these changes to allow for a comparison of the 2018 median with earlier medians. The 2018 median, it turns out, is as high but not significantly higher than the 1999 median, after adjusting for inflation.

Why is 2018's median household income almost identical to the median nearly 20 years ago? One big reason is the aging of the large Baby-Boom generation. In 1999, Boomers were in their peak-earning years, boosting the overall household median to a record high. In 2018, the demographic pattern is reversed. Boomers are retiring and living on reduced incomes. Generation X is in the peak-earning years (45 to 54), but with little impact on the overall median because of its small size. Here is median household income by age of householder in 2018...

Median household income by age of householder, 2018
Total households: $63,179
Under age 25: $43,531
Aged 25 to 34: $65,890
Aged 35 to 44: $80,743
Aged 45 to 54: $84,464
Aged 55 to 64: $68,951
Aged 65-plus: $43,696
  Aged 65 to 74: $52,465
  Aged 75-plus: $34,925

Source: Census Bureau, Current Population Survey Tables for Household Income

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

States with the Highest Death Rates

Your chances of dying are much higher in some states than in others, according to a National Center for Health Statistics' report analyzing the five states with the highest and lowest death rates in 2017.

Highest death rates: Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and West Virginia
Lowest death rates: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, and New York

The difference is not trivial. The annual number of deaths per 100,000 age-adjusted population is 926.8 in the five states with the highest death rate (the High Five) compared with 624.0 deaths per 100,000 age-adjusted population in the five states with the lowest rate (the Low Five). So, the death rate in the High Five is an astounding 49 percent higher than the death rate in the Low Five. These differences "persist when stratifying by gender, age, and race and Hispanic origin," according to the NCHS analysis.

The death rate in the High Five exceeds the death rate in the Low Five in every age group. The biggest difference occurs in the 25-to-34 and 35-to-44 age groups, where the death rate in the High Five is more than double the death rate in the Low Five.

The death rate in the High Five exceeds the death rate in the Low Five for both non-Hispanic Blacks (32 percent higher) and non-Hispanic Whites (39 percent higher). Hispanics are the only exception. The Hispanic death rate in the High Five is 27 percent lower than the Hispanic death rate in the Low Five.

The High Five has a higher death rate than the Low Five for each of the top five causes of death. The heart disease death rate is 46 percent higher, cancer 29 percent, chronic lower respiratory disease 100 percent, unintentional injuries 83 percent, and stroke 39 percent.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Mortality Patterns between Five States with Highest Death Rates and Five States with Lowest Death Rates: United States, 2017

Monday, September 09, 2019

"I Want to Believe"

Fox Mulder of The X-Files wanted to believe in UFOs, and he has lots of company. Fully 33 percent of Americans aged 18 or older think "some UFOs are alien spacecraft," according to a Gallup survey. Sixteen percent say they personally have seen a UFO.

There are few demographic differences in the belief that aliens are visiting earth. By age, the proportion who believe some UFOs are alien spacecraft ranges from a low of 29 percent among people aged 65 or older to a high of 39 percent among 18-to-29-year-olds. People who live in the Midwest are least likely to believe (27 percent), while those in the West are most likely (41 percent). Twenty percent of adults in the West say they personally have seen a UFO.

Among Americans who are religiously affiliated, 31 to 32 percent think some UFOs are alien spacecraft. Among those with no religion, a larger 40 percent are believers.

Source: Gallup, Americans Skeptical of UFOs, but Say Government Knows More

Friday, September 06, 2019

Median Household Income Rises in July 2019

Median household income climbed 0.7 percent between June and July 2019, after adjusting for inflation. The $65,084 July median was $438 greater than the June 2019 median, according to Sentier Research. Sentier's estimates are derived from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey and track the economic wellbeing of households on a monthly basis.

"Real median household income continued to display an upward trend over the past 12 months (up 2.3 percent)," says Sentier's Gordon Green, "and especially since the low point reached in June 2011 (up 16.6 percent)." At the June 2011 low point—two years after the official end of the Great Recession— median household income was just $55,798.  

Sentier's Household Income Index for July 2019 was 105.4 (January 2000 = 100.0). In other words, the July 2019 median, after adjusting for inflation, was just 5.4 percent higher than the median of January 2000—almost two decades ago. "Not an impressive performance by any means," says Green. To stay on top of these trends, look for the next monthly update from Sentier.

Source: Sentier ResearchHousehold Income Trends: July 2019

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Snacking in the Evening

Most Americans are late evening snackers, according to the USDA Food Surveys Research Group, which defines late evening as 8 pm to midnight. On an average day, 64 percent of people aged 20 or older "consumed one or more foods or beverages other than plain water in the late evening." So what, you say? The USDA is interested in this behavior because of its "potential negative implications for health."

The prevalence of late evening snacking is greatest among young adults. Fully 68 percent of people aged 20 to 39 consume something more than just plain water between 8 and 11:59 pm on an average day. Among 40-to-59-year-olds, 65 percent snack in the late evening. Among people aged 60 or older, the figure is 59 percent.

Now for the potential negative implications: Late evening snacking is not calorie free. On average, the food and drinks consumed in the late evening add up to 16 percent of the daily calories of snackers. Perhaps consequently, late evening snackers consume more calories on an average day than those who do not snack in the evening—2,243 calories per day for snackers and 1,906 calories for nonsnackers.

The snackers are veritable vacuum cleaners in the kitchen. The foods and beverages being consumed by late night snackers include sweet bakery products (17 percent of late night snackers), candy (10 percent), sandwiches (9 percent), poultry (5 percent), white potatoes (6 percent), fruit (11 percent) cheese and yogurt (5 percent), regular soft drinks (9 percent), diet soft drinks (4 percent), tea (8 percent), milk (6 percent), coffee (4 percent), and alcoholic beverages (14 percent). Among those who report drinking alcohol between 8 and midnight, nearly half of the alcohol they drink all day is consumed during those hours.

Source: USDA, Food Surveys Research Group, Late Evening Food and Beverage Consumption by Adults in the U.S.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

21% Take Time Off from Work During Average Week

During an average week, 21 percent of wage and salary workers take time off from their job—either paid or unpaid, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' American Time Use Survey. The reasons for taking leave include vacation, illness, family needs, or personal errands.

Among the 30 million wage and salary workers who take any leave—paid or unpaid—during an average week, this is their main reason for taking time off...

31.0% for vacation
21.9% for own illness or medical care
19.8% to run errands or for personal reasons
  8.0% for illness or medical care of a family member
  6.9% because of a holiday
  3.1% for childcare or eldercare (except illness)
  1.8% because of the weather
  1.4% for birth or adoption of a child
  6.2% for some other reason

Women are more likely than men to take time off during an average week due to the illness or medical care of a family member (10.3 versus 5.5 percent). Among parents of children under age 13, a substantial 14.4 percent take leave during an average week due to the illness or medical care of a family member. Interestingly, these parents are much less likely than average to take time off for their own illness—16.7 percent do so during an average week versus 21.9 percent of all workers.

Overall, 66 percent of wage and salary workers had access to paid leave in 2017–18, up from 60 percent in 2011. Not surprisingly, workers in management are most likely to have access to paid leave (81.5 percent), while those in service (43.2 percent) and construction (35.8 percent) are least likely.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Access To and Use of Leave Summary

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Dropping Kids Off at College

The number of college students attending four-year schools has climbed 75 percent over the past four decades, rising from 5.9 million in 1977 to 10.3 million in 2017. But the distance parents drive to drop off their kids at college hasn't changed much over the decades...

Percent of freshmen whose home is 50 or fewer miles from their college
2017: 41.9%
2007: 35.4%
1997: 32.5%
1987: 31.9%
1977: 39.2%

Percent of freshmen whose home is more than 500 miles from their college
2017: 17.6%
2007: 13.4%
1997: 13.9%
1987: 13.8%
1977: 10.7%

Source: Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2017 and The American Freshman: Fifty-Year Trends 1966–2015

Friday, August 30, 2019

Workers Are Cautiously Optimistic about the Job Market

Workers are cautiously optimistic as Labor Day approaches. Nearly one in four says it would be easy "to find a job with another employer with approximately the same income and fringe benefits" as they have now, according to the 2018 General Social Survey. In the aftermath of the Great Recession in 2010, only 12.6 percent felt such confidence...

Percent of workers who say it would be "very easy" to find an equally good job
2018: 24.2% (cautious optimism)
2016: 20.5%
2014: 19.5%
2012: 16.0%
2010: 12.6% (record low)
2008: 22.0%
2006: 31.8% (irrational exuberance)

In 2006, just before the start of the Great Recession, 31.6% of American workers were confident in their ability to find another equally good job. This irrational exuberance quickly disappeared as the stock and housing markets collapsed. By 2010, the 53 percent majority of workers said it would not be easy to find a comparable job. Today, only 35 percent think it would be hard. It has taken more than a decade for workers to regain even modest confidence in the job market.

Source: Demo Memo analysis of the General Social Survey

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Households with Zero or Negative Net Worth

Millions of American households have zero or even negative net worth, meaning the amount of money they owe equals or exceeds their assets. Twenty million households—16 percent of all households—are on this bottom rung of the net worth ladder, according to the Census Bureau's Survey of Income and Program Participation. These are their demographic characteristics...
  • By age, the youngest householders are most likely to have zero or negative net worth. Among householders under age 35, a substantial 30 percent have no wealth. At the other extreme, householders aged 75 or older are least likely to have zero wealth (6 percent).
  • By race and Hispanic origin, Households headed by Blacks are most likely to have zero or negative net worth (29 percent). Asian households are least likely to have no wealth (8 percent). 
  • By education, 27 percent of households without any member who has a high school diploma have zero or negative net worth. Households with at least one member who has a graduate degree are least likely to be without wealth (11 percent).
  • By income, 29 percent of households in the lowest income quintile have zero or negative net worth. This compares with just 5 percent of households in the highest income quintile. 
  • By homeownership status, 34 percent of renters have zero or negative net worth versus just 5 percent of homeowners.
Source: Census Bureau, Wealth, Asset Ownership, and Debt of Households Detailed Tables: 2015

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

(Almost) 200 Years of Legal Immigration Numbers

The Department of Homeland Security's Yearbook of Immigration Statistics is chock full of interesting numbers. Table 1 of the Yearbook displays the annual number of legal immigrants to the United States in every year going back almost 200 years—to 1820. These numbers provide context for today's immigration debate...

  • Number of legal immigrants admitted to the United States in 1820: 8,385
  • First year the annual number of legal immigrants exceeded 100,000: 1842
  • First year the annual number of legal immigrants exceeded 1,000,000: 1905
  • Number of years annual legal immigration has exceeded 1,000,000: 23
  • Peak number of annual legal immigrants: 1.8 million in 1991
  • Number of years annual legal immigrants were at least 1% of total population: 21
  • Most recent year annual legal immigrants were at least 1% of population: 1914
  • Number of legal immigrants in most recent year (2017): 1.1 million
  • Number of years annual legal immigration has exceeded 2017 level: 8
  • Legal immigrants in 2017 as percent of total US population: 0.35%
  • Number of years annual legal immigration has exceeded 0.35% of population: 91

Source: Demo Memo analysis of the Department of Homeland Security's 2017 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

33% Participate in the "Sharing Economy"

Only one-third of internet users participate in the "sharing economy," according to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's 2017 Internet Use Survey. The NTIA defines the sharing economy (or P2P) as people buying, selling, or trading goods and services with one other through online platforms.

Not surprisingly, internet users who participate in the sharing economy are younger (median age 42) than internet users who don't participate (median age 52). Also not surprisingly, the higher the income, the greater the participation...

P2P participation of internet users by household income, 2019
33% of total internet users
23% of those with incomes below $25,000
27% of those with incomes of $25,000 to $49,999
32% of those with incomes of $50,000 to $74,999
36% of those with incomes of $75,000 to $99,999
47% of those with incomes of $100,000 or more

Requesting services is the most common form of participation in the sharing economy, with higher-income internet users most likely to do this. Fully 39 percent of internet users with household incomes of $100,000 or more had requested services, for example, versus only 16 percent of those with household incomes below $25,000. Among all internet users, 26 percent had requested services.

Offering services is a much less common P2P activity. Among all internet users, 6 percent had offered services such as ride hailing or lodging. Participation by household income ranges narrowly from 4 percent of those with the lowest incomes to 8 percent of those with the highest incomes.

Selling goods is undertaken by 11 percent of all internet users. Participation ranges from 9 percent among those with the lowest incomes to 14 percent among those with the highest.

Source: NTIA Data: Two-Thirds of U.S. Internet Users Do Not Participate in the Sharing Economy