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