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