Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Covid-19 Recession Endangers Black Wealth

First, the good news. The median net worth of Black households climbed 33 percent between 2016 and 2019, after adjusting for inflation. This was a much bigger increase than the 18 percent rise in the median net worth of all households during those years and far surpassed the 3 percent increase in the median net worth of non-Hispanic white households.

There's more good news. The wealth gap between non-Hispanic whites and Blacks narrowed between 2016 and 2019. Non-Hispanic white households had 10 times the wealth of Blacks in 2016. They had only 8 times the wealth in 2019.

Now for the bad news. The median net worth of Black households was just $24,100 in 2019. Sure, this is 33 percent more than in 2016, but it isn't much of a buffer during a pandemic. 

Median household net worth by race and Hispanic origin of householder, 2019
Non-Hispanic whites: $189,100
Hispanics: $36,100
Blacks: $24,100

Now for the really bad news. The gains made by Black households in the past few years are endangered by the coronavirus pandemic. To start with, Black households had less of a financial buffer than non-Hispanic whites or Hispanics. Now, the buffer is eroding in the struggle to stay afloat during the Covid-19 Recession. 

Blacks have been hit hard by Covid-19—physically and financially. As of mid-September, 1 in 1,020 Blacks has died of coronavirus, according to APM Research Lab—a higher rate than any other race or Hispanic origin group. The 52 percent majority of Blacks say they or someone in their household has experienced a loss of employment income since March 2020, according to the Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey fielded in September. Thirty-two percent of Blacks expect to lose employment income in their household in the next four weeks. Among Black homeowners, 16 percent could not make last month's mortgage payment. Among Black renters, 24 percent missed last month's rent. Forty-three percent of Blacks have had trouble paying bills during the pandemic, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Forty percent have had to use money from their savings or retirement account to make ends meet. One in three has had to borrow money from friends or family to stay afloat. 

We won't know how much damage the Covid-19 Recession inflicts on Black household wealth until the results of the 2022 Survey of Consumer Finances are released in the fall of 2023. But, it's not looking good. The gains of the past few years may be wiped out. 

Source: Federal Reserve Board, 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Median Household Net Worth in 2019: $121,800

How wealthy is the average American household? We find out only every three years, which is a very long wait. Well, the wait is over but the moment is bittersweet. 

On the one hand, we now know that net worth climbed by a substantial 17.7 percent between 2016 and 2019, after adjusting for inflation—almost, but not quite, a record-busting increase (outdone only by the 18.4 percent increase between 2004 and 2007). On the other hand, because of Covid, who cares? Reviewing the  2019 numbers is like looking through an old family photo album of a time long ago and far away.

Still, the story must be told...

Median household net worth, 1989 to 2019 (in 2019 dollars)
2019: $121,800
2016: $103,500
2013:   $89,400
2010:   $90,700
2007: $149,400 (record high)
2004: $126,200
2001: $125,300
1998: $112,800
1995:   $96,500
1992:   $88,900
1989:   $93,600

Source: Federal Reserve Board, 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances

Monday, September 28, 2020

Mental Health Problems Common before Coronavirus

The mental health of Americans has taken a beating during the coronavirus pandemic. But mental health wasn't all that great in 2019, either. According to results from the 2019 National Health Interview Survey, a substantial 18.5 percent of adults had experienced symptoms of depression in the past two weeks, and 15.6 percent had experienced symptoms of anxiety. Here are the numbers by age...

Percent with symptoms of depression in past two weeks by age, 2019
Aged 18 to 29: 21.0%
Aged 30 to 44: 16.8%
Aged 45 to 64: 18.4%
Aged 65-plus: 18.4%

Percent with symptoms of anxiety in past two weeks by age, 2019
Aged 18 to 29: 19.5%
Aged 30 to 44: 16.6%
Aged 45 to 64: 15.2%
Aged 65-plus: 11.2%

Millions of Americans are receiving treatment for their mental health problems—either they are taking medication and/or receiving counseling or therapy. Overall, 19.2 percent had received treatment for mental health problems in the past 12 months, according to 2019 survey results. Medication was being taken by 15.8 percent of adults, and 9.5 percent were receiving counseling/therapy. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Median Tenure with Employer: 4.1 Years

How long have you worked for your current employer? Among all wage and salary workers aged 16 or older, median tenure was 4.1 years as of January 2020. Among workers aged 25 or older, median tenure was 4.9 years.

The median tenure of workers aged 25 or older was slightly higher a decade ago in 2010, at 5.2 years. Tenure declined in every age group over the decade with one exception. Among workers aged 65 or older, median tenure grew from 9.9 years in 2010 to 10.3 years in 2020. One reason for the increase is the rising labor force participation of older Americans. 

Median years of tenure with current employer by age, 2020
Aged 25 to 34: 2.8
Aged 35 to 44: 4.9
Aged 45 to 54: 7.5
Aged 55 to 64: 9.9
Aged 65-plus: 10.3

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employee Tenure in 2020

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

50% of Americans Fear Medical Bankruptcy

There's more to fear than coronavirus. There's bankruptcy to fear as well, bankruptcy caused by mounting medical bills for treating coronavirus. Half of Americans are afraid of such a financial catastrophe. According to a Gallup survey fielded in July 2020, fully 50 percent of the public is concerned/extremely concerned that a major health event in their household could lead to bankruptcy. In 2019, a smaller 45 percent felt this way. 

Those most likely to be concerned/extremely concerned about bankruptcy due to a major health event are people under age 50 (55 percent) and non-whites (64 percent). Since 2019, the fear of bankruptcy has grown the most for these two groups as well—up 12 percentage points for non-whites, up 12 percentage points for 18-to-29-year-olds, and up 9 percentage points for 30-to-49-year-olds. Those least concerned with going bankrupt due to medical bills are people aged 65-plus (40 percent). Thanks, Medicare!

Overall, 15 percent of Americans have medical debt they will be unable to pay off in the next 12 months. Those most likely to have long-term medical debt are non-whites (20 percent), and households with incomes below $40,000 (28 percent). 

"The sharp rise in U.S. healthcare costs, which was already a significant problem for Americans before the Covid-19 pandemic, has only been exacerbated by new challenges presented by the outbreak," Gallup concludes.

Source: Gallup, 50% in U.S. Fear Bankruptcy Due to Major Health Event

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Missing the Arts

Millions of Americans are missing the arts. It has been more than six months since the public has been free to attend art festivals, live music performances, plays, musicals, dance recitals and other in-person art events. This is a big loss for all of us. 

Just how big is revealed by a National Endowment for the Arts analysis of the 2017 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. The NEA study analyzed attendance at in-person art events by generation, revealing widespread devotion to the arts regardless of age. The majority of Gen Zers, Millennials, Gen Xers, and Boomers attend at least one in-person art event during a year's time. On average, these arts aficionados attend three events a year...

Percent reporting attendance at in-person art events in the past year (and average annual number of events participated in by attendees)
65% of Gen Zers (3.1)
59% of Millennials (2.9)
55% of Gen Xers (3.0)
53% of Boomers (2.9)
41% of Silent Generation (2.7)

Note: Generation Z was 18 to 20 in 2017. Millennials were 21 to 36. Generation X was 37 to 52. Boomers were 53 to 71. The Silent Generation was 72 to 89.

The 2017 survey also explored the reasons for attending arts events and the barriers preventing attendance. Wanting to spend time with family or friends was the top reason for attending an in-person art event—cited by 82 percent of attendees. The biggest barrier to attendance was a lack of time. Those were the good old days.   

Source: National Endowment for the Arts, 2017 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, Why We Engage: Attending, Creating, and Performing Art

Monday, September 21, 2020

Is Crime a Problem? Not in My Neighborhood

The nation's violent crime rate has plummeted over the decades—falling by more than 50 percent since the early 1990s, according to FBI data. Nevertheless, Gallup surveys continue to show that the majority of Americans think crime is a very/extremely serious problem in the United States. But when Gallup asks the public about crime in their local area, then it isn't such a big problem. Only 13 percent of the public says crime is a very/extremely serious problem in their area. 

President Trump claims crime is rampant in cities such as New York and Chicago. But the people who live in these and other cities don't think so. According to recently released results from the 2019 American Housing Survey, 94 percent of all Americans disagree with the statement, "This neighborhood has a lot of serious crime." Among those who live in the suburbs, 97 percent disagree. In nonmetro areas, the figure is 95 percent. In central cities, 89 percent disagree. Even in the nation's 15 largest metropolitan areas, at least 90 percent of residents disagree that there is a lot of serious crime in their neighborhood...

Percent who DISAGREE with the statement, "This neighborhood has a lot of serious crime"

15 Largest Metro Areas 
New York93%
Los Angeles90%
Washington, DC93%
San Francisco92%

Source: Census Bureau, 2019 American Housing Survey

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Water Accounts for 51% of Nonalcoholic Beverage Consumption

Water accounts for just over half of what American adults drink on an average day (not counting alcoholic beverages). Water is 51.2 percent of nonalcoholic beverage consumption, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. In second place among beverages is coffee (14.9 percent), followed by sweetened beverages (10.2 percent), tea, (8.7 percent), fruit beverages (5.6 percent), milk (5.5 percent), and diet beverages (3.8 percent). 

Water's share of beverage consumption declines with age while coffee's share increases. Among adults aged 60-plus, coffee accounts for 20.5 percent of daily beverage consumption. This is more than twice coffee's share among young adults...

Percent distribution of nonalcoholic beverage consumption by age, 2015–18
  total  20 to 39  40 to 59  60-plus
Water   51.2%    56.5%   49.3%   46.9%
Coffee   14.9      9.2   16.1   20.5
Sweetened beverages   10.2    13.5   10.4     5.9
Tea     8.7      6.7     9.6   10.3
Fruit beverages     5.6      6.5     5.1     5.2
Milk     5.5      5.0     5.2     6.4
Diet beverages     3.8      2.6     4.4     4.9

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Nonalcoholic Beverage Consumption among Adults: United States, 2015–2018

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Median Household Income in 2019: $68,703

Every year demographers anxiously await the Census Bureau's release of income statistics from the Current Population Survey. This year, not so much. In the midst of the Covid-19 Recession, the treasure trove of data has lost much of its predictive power. But still, wow. Median household income soared to a record high of $68,703 in 2019. The median increased by 6.8 percent between 2018 and 2019, after adjusting for inflation. This is the biggest one-year increase in the history of the series dating back to 1967. 

Or is it? Could the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 have caused the outsized increase in median household income in 2019? It doesn't seem possible, but the answer is yes, according to Census Bureau analysts Jonathan Rothbaum and Adam Bee. Here's why... 

The Census Bureau fields the Annual Social and Economic Supplement to the Current Population Survey in March of each year, with respondents asked to report their income for the previous year. The income statistics for 2019 were collected in March 2020—in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. Not surprisingly, survey response rates were abnormally low—10 percentage points lower in March 2020 than in the same month of 2019. When Rothbaum and Bee analyzed response rates by demographic characteristic, they discovered that higher-income households were more likely than lower-income households to respond to the CPS during the pandemic. This nonresponse bias inflated the estimate of household income. 

After adjusting for nonresponse bias, median household income in 2019 is an estimated $66,790 rather than the published and official figure of $68,703. The adjustment reduces the 2018–19 increase in median household income to a more modest 3.9 percent rather than 6.8 percent. 

The good news is that median household income in 2019 is still the highest on record, even after the adjustment for nonresponse bias. The 3.9 percent increase in median household income between 2018 and 2019 may not have been the biggest on record, but it was still pretty big—in the 93rd percentile of annual increases. "The adjusted estimates would indicate that 2019 (from the 2020 CPS ASEC) was still a very good year for income," the researchers conclude.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

A Bigger Stash of Cash

Did your stash of cash grow as the coronavirus pandemic gained strength in the spring of 2020? If you say yes, you're not alone. Americans carried more cash on their person and stored more cash in their home in May 2020 than they did in 2019. 

The Federal Reserve fielded its Diary of Consumer Payment Choice in October 2019, collecting data from a representative sample of the population on the ways Americans pay for things. Two months later, Covid-19 appeared on the worldwide stage, making irrelevant the data collected in October. Rising to the occasion, the Federal Reserve went back into the field and surveyed respondents again in May 2020 to measure changes in payment behavior due to the pandemic. The supplemental survey discovered bigger piles of cash in pockets, purses, and desk drawers. 

The amount of cash the average person carries grew 17 percent between October 2019 and May 2020, the supplemental survey found, rising from $69 to $81. The amount of cash the average person has tucked away in their home, office, or car nearly doubled, growing from $257 to $483. 

The increase in cash holdings "may point to the relief cash can offer in times of uncertainty and to its role as a contingency payment method," the Federal Reserve explains. Cash becomes a security blanket. The emotional rather than practical bond with cash is confirmed by another fact revealed by the supplemental survey. The 63 percent majority of respondents had not used cash to make any in-person payments since March 10, 2020. Most aren't hoarding cash for purchases. They are hoarding cash for protection. 

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Consumer Payments and the Covid-19 Pandemic: A Supplement to the 2020 Findings from the Diary of Consumer Payment Choice

Monday, September 14, 2020

Who Has It Worse: Blacks or Whites?

"It is a lot more difficult to be a Black person in this country than it is to be a White person." Agree or disagree? Overall, just 44 percent of registered voters in the U.S. agree that it is a lot more difficult to be Black, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Another 32 percent say it is a little more difficult, and 23 percent say it is no more difficult. Of course, there are huge differences in opinion by demographic characteristic and political party identification. 

Let's start with race. Among Blacks, fully 81 percent say it is a lot more difficult to be Black than White. Among non-Hispanic whites, just 36 percent feel that way—a gap of 45 percentage points. That's not the biggest attitudinal gap, however. The biggest gap is between Biden and Trump supporters. Among Biden supporters, the 74 percent majority say it is a lot more difficult to be Black. Among Trump supporters, only 9 percent agree—a gap of 65 percentage points. 

Percent of registered voters who think it is a lot more difficult to be Black than White, by generation, 2020 (and 2016)
Millennials: 55% (40%)
Gen Xers: 44% (36%)
Boomers: 37% (32%)
Older Americans: 39% (33%)

Compared with 2016, every generation in 2020 is more likely to think it is a lot harder to be Black than White.  

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Average Household Spending in 2019: $63,036

Average household spending surpassed $63,000 in 2019—but just barely. The $63,036 spent by the average household in 2019 was 1.1 percent greater than spending in 2018, after adjusting for inflation. Spending in 2019 was the highest ever recorded by the Consumer Expenditure Survey and 12 percent above the post-Great Recession low of $56,077 in 2013. 

That's all ancient history now that the coronavirus pandemic has destroyed millions of jobs and plunged the U.S. into a recession. We will have to wait another year before the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the 2020 Consumer Expenditure Survey data. Only then will be be able to measure the impact of the Covid-19 Recession on household spending. 

Average household spending, 2006 to 2019 (in 2019 dollars)
2019: $63,036 (record high)
2018: $62,332
2017: $62,643
2015: $60,378
2013: $56,077 (post-Great Recession low)
2010: $56,403
2006: $61,374 (pre-Great Recession record high)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019 Consumer Expenditure Survey

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

More than 1 in 10 Adults Take Antidepressants

The use of antidepressant medications is widespread in the United States, with 13.8 percent of adults taking antidepressants in the past 30 days. Women are more than twice as likely to use antidepressants as men—18.6 percent of women versus 8.7 percent of men took antidepressants in the past month, according to the National Center for Health Statistics' 2017–18 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The use of antidepressants rises with age. Nearly one in four women aged 60 or older took an antidepressant in the past 30 days...

Percent of men using antidepressants in past 30 days, 2015–18
Aged 18 to 39: 5.5%
Aged 40 to 59: 8.4%
Aged 60-plus: 12.8%

Percent of women using antidepressants in past 30 days, 2015–18
Aged 18 to 39: 10.3%
Aged 40 to 59: 20.1%
Aged 60-plus: 24.3%

The use of antidepressants is highest among non-Hispanic whites, with 16.6 percent taking antidepressants in the past month. The figure is 7.8 percent among Blacks, 6.5 percent among Hispanics, and just 2.8 percent among Asians. 

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Antidepressant Use among Adults: United States, 2015–2018

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

52% of Young Adults Live with Parents

This is a record high. Young adults (aged 18 to 29) are now more likely to live with their parents than ever measured before—even during the Great Depression, according to Pew Research Center. The coronavirus has driven many young adults back home, says Pew, which analyzed monthly files from the 2020 Current Population Survey. In February 2020, before coronavirus swept through the nation, 47 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds lived with their parents. In July 2020, the 52 percent majority lived with Mom and Dad. 

Young adults are more likely than any other age group to have moved due to coronavirus, according to Pew's previous research. Many moved because their college campus closed. Pew notes, however, that the Current Population Survey already classifies college students who live in on-campus college dorms as living with their parents, so the closure of on-campus college dorms did not contribute to the measured increase in young adults who live with parents. Instead, the increase was fueled by college students in off-campus housing who moved back home. It was also fueled by the many young adults who lost their jobs and could no longer afford to live independently.  

Between February and July, the percentage of young adults who live with their parents increased in every demographic segment. Among 18-to-24-year-olds, the share living with parents climbed from 63 to 71 percent. Among those aged 25 to 29, the figure grew from 26 to 28 percent. Living with parents became more common for both men and women, in every race and Hispanic origin group, in every region, and in both metros and rural areas.

Percent of 18-to-29-year-olds living with parents by race and Hispanic origin, July 2020 (and percentage point increase since February 2020)
Total: 52% (5)
Asians: 51% (6)
Blacks: 55% (4)
Hispanics: 58% (3)
Non-Hispanic whites: 49% (7)

"These new living arrangements may have an impact not just on young adults and their families, but on the U.S. economy overall," says Pew. The housing market may be especially vulnerable to the rise of multigenerational households. Pew has evidence of this, finding that the number of households headed by 18-to-29-year-olds fell by 1.9 million between February and July—a 12 percent drop.

Thursday, September 03, 2020

Older Workers Projected To Be 25% of Labor Force

The workforce is getting older as the Baby-Boom generation ages. Workers aged 55 or older will account for one in four workers by 2029, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics' projections, nearly double the share in 1999...

Workers aged 55-plus as a share of the labor force
1999: 12.7%
2009: 18.8%
2019: 23.5%
2029: 25.2%

In 17 states, workers aged 55-plus already account for 25 percent or more of the labor force, according to a BLS analysis of 2019 data. The states with the largest shares of older workers are Vermont (28.8 percent), Maine (28.7 percent), and New Hampshire (28.3 percent). The New England states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island are also above 25 percent, as are the Middle Atlantic states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Florida, of course, ranks among states with the oldest labor force. But so does Hawaii. The remaining states that make the list are Iowa, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, Virginia, and Wyoming.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Fastest Growing Job: Wind Turbine Service Technician

Among the ten fastest-growing occupations in the decade ahead, none is projected to grow faster than wind turbine service technician. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' new projection series examines likely workforce changes in the decade ahead and finds these to be the 10 fastest growing occupations between 2019 and 2029...

10 Fastest Growing Occupations, 2019 to 2029
1. Wind turbine service technician: 60.7%
2. Nurse practitioner: 52.4%
3. Solar photovoltaic installer: 50.5%
4. Statistician: 34.6%
5. Occupational therapy assistant: 34.6%
6. Home health and personal care aide: 33.7%
7. Physical therapist assistant: 32.6%
8. Medical and health services manager: 31.5%
9. Physician assistant: 31.3%
10. Information security analyst: 31.2%

The number of wind turbine service technician jobs is projected to expand by 4,300 in the next 10 years. That's not a lot of jobs, but there weren't many to begin with. So, the percent change in jobs puts wind turbine service technician at the top of the heap. Median annual earnings are $52,910.

Among the 10 fastest growing occupations, home health and personal care aide is projected to gain the largest number of jobs—an impressive 1,159,500 additional jobs over the next 10 years. Median annual earnings are just $25,280.

Of the 10 jobs projected to grow the fastest, physician assistant is the highest paying, with median earnings of $112,260. Two other occupations on the list have median earnings over $100,000—nurse practitioner and medical and health service manager.

Of course, there's a caveat. The BLS states in its news release, "The 2019–29 projections do not include impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic." Since the pandemic may cause structural changes to the economy, the BLS is "developing alternative scenarios for the 2019–29 projection period that encompass possible impacts from the pandemic." Stay tuned.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

50% Increase in Householders Aged 65 to 74

The nation's households are increasingly top heavy. Between 2010 and 2019, the number of households headed by people aged 55 or older grew 28 percent. Households headed by people aged 65 to 74, an age group filling with Boomers, expanded by 50 percent...

Number of households by age of householder, 2010 and 2019 (numbers in 000s)

    2019    2010    percent change
Total households      128,579      117,538          9.4%
Under age 35        26,810        25,490          5.2%
Aged 35 to 54        43,441        46,390         -6.4%
Aged 55 or older         58,328        45,657        27.8%
  Aged 55 to 64        24,172        20,387        18.6%
  Aged 65 to 74        19,681        13,164        49.5%
  Aged 75 or older        14,475        12,106        19.6%

Between 2010 and 2019, the number of households headed by younger adults (under age 35) increased by just 5 percent. Households headed by the middle-aged (35 to 54) fell 6 percent because the small Generation X is in the age group.

Source: Census Bureau, 2019 Current Population Survey