Monday, August 31, 2020

Regional Disparity in Mask Use Shrinks

More Americans are wearing masks "all or most of the time" when in stores or other businesses, according to a Pew Research Center survey. When Pew surveyed the population in June, only 65 percent of adults reported wearing a mask all or most of the time when in a store. By August, a larger 85 percent regularly wore masks.

As coronavirus cases surged during the summer, there were double-digit increases in the regular use of masks in most regions of the country. Consequently, regional differences in mask use have narrowed.

Regions with lowest and highest mask use, June 2020
Lowest: 47% in West North Central states
Highest: 87% in Middle Atlantic states
Difference: 40 percentage points

Regions with lowest and highest mask use August 2020
Lowest: 70% in West North Central states
Highest: 92% in Pacific states
Difference: 22 percentage points

Source: Pew Research Center, More Americans Say They Are Regularly Wearing Masks in Stores and other Businesses

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Summer Protests Are Changing (Some) Minds

The summer of protests has moved the needle, but not for everyone. The percentage of Americans who say recent police killings of Black men are just isolated incidents fell to 42 percent in June 2020, down from the 53 percent majority who dismissed such killings in 2015, according to a PRRI survey.

By race, there are still big differences in attitudes. But the gap is narrowing. In June 2020, 50 percent of whites said the killings were isolated incidents, down from 65 percent who felt that way in 2015. Among Blacks, only 16 percent think the killings are isolated incidents, little changed from 2015.

PRRI took a closer look at white attitudes toward racial justice, revealing a stark and growing polarization by political ideology. Here are white responses to four questions in June 2020 by political party identification (and percentage point change since 2015)...

Recent police killings of unarmed Black men are isolated incidents (percent agree)
White Democrats: 19% (-24)
White Republicans: 81% (-4)

Generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for Black Americans to work their way out of the lower class (percent disagree)
White Democrats: 24% (-19)
White Republicans: 81% (+2)

The Confederate flag is more of a symbol of Southern pride than of racism (percent agree)
White Democrats: 21% (-21)
White Republicans: 85% (+6)

Monuments to Confederates are more symbols of southern pride than of racism (percent agree)
White Democrats: 31% (-18)
White Republican: 93% (+6)

Source: PRRI, Summer Unrest over Racial Injustice Moves the Country, But Not Republicans or White Evangelicals

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

High School Seniors Are Taking Fewer Risks—Sort of

In many ways, high school seniors are better behaved than they used to be. The results of the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) show fewer seniors engaging in a number of risky activities. The YRBSS has been tracking the behavior of middle and high school students every two years since 1991, surveying students in public and private schools across the country. Here's a comparison of the behaviors of high school seniors in 2019 with their counterparts in 2009 and 1999...

Percent of high school seniors who engaged in activity, 1999 to 2019

2019  2009  1999
Drove after drinking*   7.8%   28.2%   37.2%
Currently smoke cigarettes*   9.0   25.2   42.8
Currently drink alcohol* 39.9   51.7   61.7
Currently use marijuana* 28.3   24.6   31.5
Ever had sexual intercourse 56.7   62.3   64.9
Currently sexually active** 42.3   49.1   50.6
Use a computer 3 or more hours per day
for something other than school work***
 45.5   21.2     –
Watch television 3 or more hours per day*** 19.4     –   33.1

Note: – means data not available.
* In past 30 days
** In past 3 months
*** On an average school day

Many fewer high school seniors are smoking cigarettes, with the percentage of current smokers falling from 43 percent in 1999 to just 9 percent in 2019. But 40 percent of 2019 high school seniors reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, making vaping almost as popular as cigarettes were two decades ago.

Many fewer high school seniors report driving after drinking, with the number falling from 37 percent in 1999 to just 8 percent in 2019. But the 59.5 percent majority of 2019 high school seniors say they have texted while driving in the past 30 days, a behavior that can be as dangerous as driving after drinking. 

Nearly half of high school seniors say they use computers (including smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, etc.) for something other than schoolwork for 3 or more hours a day on an average school day. But many fewer high school seniors are spending a lot of time watching television.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Small Business Pulse Survey, Phase 2

It's baaack. Last week the Census Bureau released the first findings from phase 2 of the Small Business Pulse Survey, collected August 9-15. The Small Business Pulse Survey, which is measuring the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on small businesses, was on hiatus for six weeks as the bureau tinkered with questions and prepared for phase 2. Phase 1 of the survey lasted from April 27 to June 27. That was supposed to be the end of the Small Business Pulse Survey, but the coronavirus had other plans. Phase 2 of the survey will collect weekly data from August 9 through October 15. Whether there will be a phase 3 of the survey remains to be seen. Here's a look at some of the new phase 2 questions and answers during the week of August 9-15...

Supply chain problems are common:
"In the last week did this business have any of the following?"
Domestic supplier delays: 29.4%
Delays in delivery/shipping to customers: 18.0%
Difficulty locating alternative domestic suppliers: 12.6%
Production delays at this business: 9.0%
Foreign supplier delays: 10.0%
Difficulty locating alternative foreign suppliers: 3.7%
No supply chain problems: 61.5%

Most businesses are experiencing reduced operating capacity: 
"How would you describe this business's current operating capacity relative to one year ago?"
Decreased: 55.2%
No change: 37.5%
Increased: 7.3%

Physical distancing requirements are limiting operating capacity for many businesses:
"In the last week was this business's operating capacity affected by any of the following?"
Physical distancing of customers: 21.0%
Availability of personal protective equipment and/or related equipment or supplies: 21.0%
Availability of other supplies or inputs used to provide goods or services: 14.4%
Physical distancing of employees: 11.1%
Ability to rehire furloughed or laid off employees and/or hire new employees: 8.6%
Ability of employees to work from home: 3.2%
None of the above: 57.5%

Many businesses say they need to increase sales or obtain financial assistance:
"In the next 6 months, do you think this business will need to do any of the following?"
Increase marketing or sales: 32.8%
Obtain financial assistance or additional capital: 26.8%
Identify and hire new employees: 23.4%
Learn how to better provide for the safety of customers and employees: 19.3%
Identify new supply chain options: 14.1%
Develop online sales or websites: 13.9%
Permanently close this business: 5.5%
None of the above: 32.7%

Both phase 1 and phase 2 of the Small Business Pulse Survey have asked businesses how long it would be before operations return to normal. During the week of August 9-15, the 57 percent majority of small businesses said it would be more than 6 months before a return to normal. This was the highest level of pessimism recorded in any week of the survey.

Source: Census Bureau, Small Business Pulse Survey

Monday, August 24, 2020

Working Mothers: Unsung Heroes

Back in the good old pre-Covid days of 2019, most preschoolers went to day care. The 59 percent majority of children aged 0 to 5 and not yet in kindergarten participated in regularly scheduled nonparental care at least weekly, according to the Early Childhood Program Participation Survey. Among children whose mother and father worked full-time, 86 percent were in day care in 2019.

Fast forward to today. The coronavirus pandemic is making it all but impossible for many parents to work now that children are at home rather than in day care or at school. How many parents are unable to work because of these child care issues? A lot, according to the Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey. Among adults aged 18 to 64, a substantial 18 percent reported as of mid-July that they were not working because of Covid-19 related child care issues. Among adults aged 25 to 44, almost one in four (24 percent) were not working because of the lack of child care during the pandemic. Among women aged 25 to 44, the figure was 31 percent.

Percent of 25-to-44-year-olds not working due to Covid-19 related child care issues, July 16-21
Total: 18.2%
Men: 11.6%
Women: 30.9%

"Parents are among the unsung heroes of this crisis," notes the Census Bureau. "They have adapted their households and juggled work, children's schooling and other household needs. However, the pandemic uniquely affected mothers' work in formal labor markets."

Source: Census Bureau, Working Moms Bear Brunt of Home Schooling while Working during Covid-19

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Only 5% Are Heavy Drinkers?

People lie about how much alcohol they drink, or maybe they just don't remember. This is a well known fact and occurs not just in the United States but in countries around the world. The evidence of underreporting is easily discovered by comparing how much people say they drink with actual alcohol volume sales. One review of these studies found self-reported drinking to be 40 to 60 percent below actual consumption.

With this in mind, consider the latest data on drinking in the United States. Overall, 66 percent of adults aged 18 or older reported consuming alcohol in the past year, according to the National Center for Health Statistics' 2018 National Health Interview Survey. The NCHS calculates alcohol consumption using two questions. First, the 66 percent of respondents who are drinkers are asked how often they drink. Then they are asked, "In the past year, on those days that you drank alcoholic beverages, on the average, how many drinks did you have?" Based on the answers to those two questions, the government calculates how much alcohol men and women consume in an average week. Men who drink more than 14 alcoholic drinks a week and women who drink more than 7 are classified as heavy drinkers. An alcoholic drink is defined as one 12-ounce beer, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor.

According to the calculations based on these self-reports, only 5.0 percent of men aged 18 or older drink more than 14 alcoholic drinks a week. Only 5.2 percent of women drink more than 7 drinks a week.  If you think this is an understatement, it most certainly is.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, Heavy Drinking among U.S. Adults, 2018

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

36% of Kids Eat Fast Food on an Average Day

Fast food is a big part of the daily diet of American children. On an average day in 2015–18, more than one-third of children aged 2 to 19 (36 percent) ate fast food, according to the National Center for Health Statistics' National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The survey is an in-person interview asking a nationally representative sample of respondents (or, in the case of children, their parents) to recall their food intake over the past 24 hours. The survey defines fast food as food sourced from a fast-food or pizza restaurant.

Overall, fast food accounted for 14 percent of children's daily calorie intake in 2015–18. It accounts for a greater percentage of daily calories among teens aged 12 to 19 (17 percent) than among children aged 2 to 11 (11 percent). By race and Hispanic origin, fast food accounts for 21.5 percent of daily calorie intake for Blacks teens, the most of any demographic segment. Among Hispanic teens, the figure is 18.5 percent, and among non-Hispanic whites 14.8 percent.

Fast food consumption of children aged 2 to 19, average day 2015–18
64% consumed no fast food
11% consumed less than 25 percent of calories from fast food
14% consumed 25 to 45 percent of calories from fast food
11% consumed over 45 percent of calories from fast food

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Fast Food Intake among Children and Adolescents in the United States, 2015–2018

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Creative Economy Sheds Jobs

Read it and weep: a Brookings analysis of the effects of Covid-19 on the nation's creative economy is not for the faint of heart. The assessment, undertaken by Richard Florida of the University of Toronto and Michael Seman of Colorado State University, measures the extent of Covid-19 job and revenue losses for arts industries and occupations from April 1 to July 31, 2020. The findings are grim...
  • Creative industries—such as music, film, design, advertising, and theater—lost 2.7 million jobs (31 percent) and $150 billion in sales of goods and services (9 percent) from April through July. 
  • Fine and performing arts industries lost 50 percent of their jobs. 
  • Creative occupations—such as musician, artist, performer, and designer—shed 2.3 million jobs (30 percent) and 15 percent of total average monthly wages.
  • By state, California is in the lead in absolute numbers of jobs lost and revenue foregone. But as a percentage of jobs lost, smaller states have bigger losses. Seven states—Alaska, Nevada, New Mexico, Wyoming, Maryland, Vermont, and Maine—have lost more than one-third of their creative industry jobs.
  • Among metropolitan areas, New York and Los Angeles lost the most creative industry and creative occupation jobs. But in percentage terms, the losses are much greater in smaller metros. Las Vegas lost 36 percent of its creative industry jobs from April through July, 2020. Other metros where creative industry jobs fell by more than one-third are Nashville, Tucson, New Orleans, Baltimore, Jacksonville, and Richmond.
To prevent further damage to the nation's arts culture and economy, Florida and Seman recommend a "substantial and sustained national creative-economy recovery strategy." Without such an effort, every region, state, and metro will be diminished culturally and economically. "Arts, culture, and creativity are one of three key sectors (along with science and technology as well as business and management) that drive regional economies," conclude Florida and Seman. "Any lasting damage to the creative sector will drastically undercut our culture, well-being, and quality of life."

Source: Brookings Institution, Lost Art: Measuring Covid-19's Devastating Impact on America's Creative Economy

Monday, August 17, 2020

"Elevated Levels of Adverse Mental Health Conditions"

The evidence of mental health trauma is piling up. A survey by the CDC found "elevated levels" of mental anguish due to the stress of the coronavirus pandemic. Overall, 41 percent of Americans have experienced one or more adverse mental or behavioral symptoms because of the pandemic.

The CDC fielded the survey June 24-30. The survey's questions assessed symptoms of anxiety, depression, trauma or stress-related disorder, increased substance use, and suicidal thoughts. Here are the findings...

Percent of Americans with adverse mental health conditions, June 24-30
25.5% have an anxiety disorder
24.3% have a depressive disorder
26.3% have trauma or stress related disorder
13.3% had started/increased substance use
10.7% had considered suicide in the past 30 days

These numbers are not normal. "The prevalence of symptoms of anxiety disorder was approximately three times those reported in the second quarter of 2019 (25.5% versus 8.1%)," the CDC reports. "Prevalence of depressive disorder was approximately four times that reported in the second quarter of 2019 (24.3% versus 6.5%)." The percentage of respondents who had seriously considered suicide in the past 30 days climbed from 4.3 percent in the second quarter of 2019 to the 10.7 percent of June 2020.

Younger adults are faring the worst. Among 18-to-24-year-olds, fully 75 percent exhibited at least once adverse mental or behavioral health symptom, as did 52 percent of those aged 25 to 44. The figure was 29.5 percent among 45-to-64-year-olds and 15 percent among people aged 65 or older.

Source: CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation during the Covid-19 Pandemic—United States, June 24–30, 2020

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Hispanic, Latino, or Latinx?

What do Americans whose ancestry is rooted in Latin America and Spain prefer to call themselves? This might be a good time to find out since the new term, Latinx, is now being bandied about, an alternative to the commonly used terms Hispanic and Latino.

The preferred term is Hispanic, according to a Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults who self-identify as Hispanic or Latino. Fully 61 percent of the Hispanic population prefers the term Hispanic. Another 20 percent prefer the term Latino, and just 4 percent opt for Latinx.

But wait. Most Hispanics have never heard of the term Latinx, which has been introduced recently as a gender-neutral alternative for Latino. Only 23 percent of Hispanics have heard of it. Even among those who are aware of the term Latinx, however, just 10 percent prefer it. Fully 50 percent of Hispanics who have heard of Latinx prefer the term Hispanic, and 31 percent prefer Latino.

Source: Pew Research Center, About One-in-Four U.S. Hispanics Have Heard of Latinx, but just 3% Use It

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Why Parents Are Tearing Their Hair Out

Modern American parents do not devote all that much time to child care. Instead, they depend on day care providers, schools, and extracurricular activities to do much of the heavy lifting. Or, they used to. Parents, more than any other segment of the population, have had their daily lives turned upside down by the coronavirus.

Consider the time use of parents before the pandemic. On an average day in 2019, parents with children under age 18 spent only 1.36 hours a day caring for their children as a primary activity (their main activity), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' American Time Use Survey. Mothers spent 1.74 hours a day and fathers 0.91 hours a day caring for children.

Before coronavirus, few parents spent any time engaged in education-related activities with children. Parents devoted only 0.11 hours (less than 7 minutes) to their child's educational activities on an average day in 2019. Most parents did not engage in education-related activities with their children at all, according to a BLS analysis of time use data from 2015–19. For married parents, here are the percentages who participated in education-related activities with their children on an average day...

Married parents engaging in education-related activities with children, average day 2015–19
  5.2% of fathers with full-time jobs
  9.2% of mothers with full-time jobs
18.2% of mothers with part-time jobs
19.4% of mothers who are not employed

Now imagine how many parents are engaged in education-related activities with their children on an average day in 2020 and how much time they are devoting to it.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Average Hours Per Day Parents Spent Caring for and Helping Household Children as Their Main Activity

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Praying Away the Coronavirus

Most Americans say they are using prayer as a way to cope with the coronavirus pandemic. The 55 percent majority of the public reports praying at least weekly as a way to cope, according to a Pew Research Center survey. The percentage who say they pray daily as a coping mechanism (43 percent) far surpasses the percentage who say they never pray (31 percent). Older adults are most likely to use prayer to help them cope with the pandemic...

Percent who pray at least weekly to help cope with the coronavirus outbreak
Aged 18 to 29: 38%
Aged 30 to 49: 51%
Aged 50 to 64: 64%
Aged 65-plus: 67%

Younger adults are more likely to exercise than pray as a way to cope with the pandemic, with 61 to 62 percent of people under age 50 engaging in exercise as a coping mechanism at least once a week. Adults aged 50 or older depend on prayer and exercise about equally.

Regardless of age, watching TV is the number-one coping mechanism, followed by spending time outdoors. Fully 89 percent of the public reports watching TV or movies at least weekly to get through these strange days, and 84 percent report spending time outdoors.

Source: Pew Research Center, U.S. Adults Regularly Turn to a Variety of Activities to Help Cope with Coronavirus Outbreak

Monday, August 10, 2020

Most Are Not Comfortable Flying

The majority of Americans currently do not feel comfortable flying, according to a Gallup survey. Gallup asked people aged 18 or older who had flown in the past year whether they are "currently comfortable" taking a flight. The 52 percent majority said no. Here are the numbers by age...

Not comfortable flying at all
Aged 18 to 34: 33%
Aged 35 to 54: 51%
Aged 55 or older: 69%

These numbers are bad news for the airline industry. Americans aged 55 or older—those most afraid to fly—account for 44 percent of all household spending on air fares, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Expenditure Survey. "Differences in comfort level by age group might be expected given that older adults are more vulnerable to severe illness from Covid-19," says Gallup. "But the extent of those differences is especially noteworthy given that baby boomers and retirees are important market segments for leisure travel."

Half of 35-to-54-year-olds are afraid to fly as well. This age group accounts for another 40 percent of household spending on airline fares. The 18-to-34 age group is the one least afraid to fly, but it accounts for just 16 percent of spending on air travel.

Source: Gallup, 52% of U.S. Air Travelers Now Uncomfortable Flying; and Demo Memo analysis of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2018 Consumer Expenditure Survey

Thursday, August 06, 2020

One-Third of Renters Unsure about Ability to Pay Rent

One-third of the nation's renters told the Census Bureau that they had no or only slight confidence in their ability to pay next month's rent. The Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey has been measuring the impact of the coronavirus on American households each week since early May. The latest results (collected during the week of July 16-21) show many of the nation's renters risking eviction as Covid relief benefits run out. Here are the demographics of those who may not be able to make their next rent payment...

Percent of renters with no/only slight confidence in ability to pay next month's rent (July 16-21)
33% of all renters

29% of those aged 18 to 24
36% of those aged 25 to 39
39% of those aged 40 to 54
28% of those aged 55 to 64
13% of those aged 65-plus

22% of non-Hispanic whites
27% of Asians
42% of Blacks
49% of Hispanics

43% of households with children under age 18

Source: Census Bureau, Week 12 Household Pulse Survey: July 16-21

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

What Parents Want

Only 36 percent of parents want full-time in-person schooling to resume in the upcoming school year, according to a Gallup survey. As school start dates approach and Covid-19 infections surge, the percentage of parents who support full-time in-person instruction has dropped precipitously since June, when the 56 percent majority of parents supported traditional instruction.

Parents' preferences for the resumption of school (July 13-27)
Full-time in person school: 36%
Part-time in-person/part-time remote: 36%
Full-time remote instruction: 28%

Behind the 20 percentage-point drop in support of full-time in-person instruction are parents' growing fears that their children will become infected with Covid-19. Between June and July, the percentage of parents who are somewhat/very worried about their child becoming infected climbed from 46 to 64 percent. This growing fear explains the 21 percentage-point increase in parents' preference for full-time remote instruction, which rose from just 7 percent in June to the 28 percent of July. There was almost no change in the percentage of parents who favor a mix of in-person and remote schooling.

Republicans are far less concerned than Democrats about their children going back to school. Among parents who are Democrats, only 13 percent favor full-time in-person schooling. Among parents who are Republicans, 68 percent favor traditional instruction.

Source: Gallup, Fewer U.S. Parents Want Full-Time In-Person Fall Schooling

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Why Nursing Homes Are Covid Hot Spots

Nursing homes account for a disproportionate share of Covid-19 cases and deaths. Covid outbreaks continue to plague nursing homes despite visitor restrictions that began in mid-March. Why are nursing homes such hot spots? A National Bureau of Economic Research study may have the answer: staff linkages.

In a unique study, NBER researchers analyzed the geolocation data of more than 500,000 smartphones observed in at least one of 15,000 nursing homes during the six weeks following the nationwide nursing home visitor restrictions that went into effect March 13. Since visitors were no longer allowed into nursing homes, most of these smartphones belonged to staff. The goal of the study was to discover how interconnected nursing homes are through their staff. Very connected: "We find that 7 percent of individuals entering a nursing home also entered at least one other nursing home in the six-week period," the researchers report. The average nursing home, in fact, has connections with 15 other nursing homes. There are a number of reasons for this high level of connectivity. One, most nursing homes rely on staffing agencies to fill some of their staffing needs, which can vary from day to day. Two, nursing home workers may work at multiple facilities and many do. Three, hospice workers and other specialists travel to multiple nursing homes.

"Eliminating staff linkages between nursing homes could reduce Covid-19 infections in nursing homes by 44 percent," the researchers estimate. "These results provide evidence of the magnitude of the benefits that would derive from compensating nursing home workers to work at only one home and limiting cross-traffic across homes," they conclude.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, Nursing Home Staff Networks and Covid-19, Working Paper #27608

Monday, August 03, 2020

Teleworking During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Nearly one-third of the nation's employed workers told the Bureau of Labor Statistics in June that they had teleworked or worked at home for pay at any time during the past four weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic. This hefty figure does not include those who usually work from home or those who teleworked for a reason unrelated to the pandemic.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has added five questions to the monthly Current Population Survey, which collects the government's official employment data. The BLS first added the questions in May and plans to continue asking them each month for the foreseeable future. Besides teleworking, respondents are also being asked whether they are unable to work because their employer has closed or lost business, whether they are being paid if they are missing work, and whether the pandemic has prevented them from looking for a job.

The 31 percent who reported teleworking in June was little different from the 35 percent who said they had done so in May. The characteristics of those who are teleworking because of the pandemic are not surprising, but nevertheless striking. Teleworking rises steeply as education increases...

Percent of the employed who teleworked for pay in the past 4 weeks due to the coronavirus, by education, June 2020
  4.8% of those without a high school diploma
12.6% of high school graduates only
22.3% of those with some college
48.0% of those with a bachelor's degree
63.3% of those with a graduate degree

By race and Hispanic origin, Asians are far more likely to telework than other race and Hispanic origin groups. This is because Asians are the most educated workers and also the ones most likely to work in management and professional occupations. Hispanics are least likely to telework because they are the least-educated workers and also least likely to be managers or professionals...

Percent of the employed who teleworked for pay in the past 4 weeks due to the coronavirus, by race and Hispanic origin, June 2020
48.5% of Asians
30.8% of non-Hispanic whites
25.7% of Blacks
21.1% of Hispanics

By age, there are few differences in teleworking with one exception. Workers under age 25 are far less likely to telework (15 percent) than those aged 25 to 54 (35 percent) or  aged 55 or older (30 percent).

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Supplemental Data Measuring the Effects of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) Pandemic on the Labor Market