American Consumers Newsletter

by Cheryl Russell, Editorial Director, New Strategist Press
March 2007

First Comes Love

1. Hot Trends: FIRST COMES LOVE
2. Q & A: WHO IS HAPPY WITH HEALTH CARE?
3. Cool Research Links: ASIANS, BLACKS, AND HISPANICS; HEALTH-RELATED QUALITY OF LIFE
4. Books by New Strategist: The all new AMERICAN SEXUAL BEHAVIOR, and updates of BEST CUSTOMERS, HOUSEHOLD SPENDING, and the popular WHO’S BUYING REPORTS

 

BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW

Percentage of people aged 15 to 44 who agree with the statement, “It is better to get married than to go through life being single.”
Men: 66
Women: 51

 

1. HOT TRENDS

First Comes Love

Then comes marriage, or at least that is what the folks at the National Marriage Project of Rutgers University hope (marriage.rutgers.edu). In their reports and testimony before Congress, the academics heading the program promote marriage to a nation increasingly disinterested in the prospect.

Here are the numbers that worry them: More than one-third of American children are born out-of-wedlock. An even larger 42 percent of women aged 15 to 44 have had a child outside of marriage. Divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing have reduced nuclear families to just 24 percent of households. Only 67 percent of children live with both parents.

These are troubling statistics, but the United States is not alone in experiencing the trends. In Sweden, an even larger 55 percent of births are out-of-wedlock. But the differences between the two countries are telling. Most out-of-wedlock childbearing in Sweden occurs within stable, cohabiting couples, according to David Popenoe, co-director of the National Marriage Project. Cohabiting couples are a common household type in Sweden and a respectable alternative to marriage. In the United States, most children born out-of-wedlock are raised by single mothers, many of them poor. In Sweden, out-of-wedlock childbearing is a matter of semantics. In the United States, it is a matter of economics.

If you want to understand out-of-wedlock childbearing in the United States, then follow the money–or lack of it. Having a child outside of marriage is inversely proportional to social class in this country. Among women aged 22 to 44 who did not graduate from high school–a proxy for the lower class–the 51 percent majority has had a child outside of marriage. Among college graduates, the proportion is a smaller 28 percent. Getting married may not be the answer, either, because the least educated women are the ones with the greatest problems staying married. Forty-one percent of ever-married women aged 22 to 44 who did not graduate from high school have seen their first marriage dissolve compared with only 20 percent of the age group’s college graduates.

Out-of-wedlock childbearing appears to be more of a money problem than a moral problem. Marriage is an economic partnership. To put it bluntly, it is not advantageous for lower-class women to make a lifetime commitment to a man in similar circumstances–with little education or earning power. Instead, poor women build networks of relationships within their community to help them raise their children. In the classic ethnographic study of the urban poor, All Our Kin, anthropologist Carol B. Stack shows how these relationships stabilize the volatile economy of poverty–an economy characterized by minimum wage jobs, unemployment, illness, transportation breakdowns, evictions, and ever-changing living arrangements.

The rise in out-of-wedlock childbearing over the past few decades may be the canary in the coal mine, alerting us to growing economic polarization. It takes more than love and marriage to secure the baby in the baby carriage.

By Cheryl Russell, editorial director, New Strategist Publications
For more about the demographics of love, marriage, and babies, see New Strategist’s American Sexual Behavior: Demographics of Sexual Activity, Fertility, and Childbearing. If you have any questions or comments about the above editorial, e-mail New Strategist at demographics@newstrategist.com.

 

BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW

The average householder aged 75 or older spent $1,002 on Medicare premiums in 2004.

2. Q & A

Who Is Happy with Health Care?

Few Americans deny the health care system in the United States is in trouble. Fully 71 percent of the public believes the health care system has major problems or is in a state of crisis, according to a 2006 Gallup survey. Although we have a reputation for having the highest quality health care in the world, most of us no longer believe it. The 54 percent majority of Americans are dissatisfied with the quality of health care in the United States according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2006 Health Care in America Survey (http://www.kff.org/kaiserpolls/pomr101606pkg.cfm).

Clearly, we need to rethink the system. But we don’t want to throw out the baby with the bath water. Maybe we should figure out what works before we start tinkering. We can do that by identifying the people who are the happiest with their health care. By almost every measure, people aged 65 or older are the ones most satisfied with the health care system. When asked to rate the quality of the health care they received in the past twelve months on a scale from 0 to 10, the 60 percent majority of people aged 65 or older rated it a 9 or 10, according to the 2004 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (http://www.meps.ahrq.gov/mepsweb/survey_comp/household.jsp). In contrast, only 50 percent of people aged 45 to 64 rated their health care that highly. And the figure was an even smaller 43 percent among people aged 18 to 44. Even among people with the highest incomes, who supposedly can afford top-quality health insurance coverage, only 51 percent gave their health care the highest rating.

The elderly population is satisfied with their health care in other ways as well. They are most likely to say they “always” get a doctor’s appointment as soon as they want one (56 percent), the doctor “always” spends enough time with them (54 percent), and the doctor “always” listens to them (64 percent). They are least likely to say they had a problem receiving needed medical care in the past year. And among the handful (6 percent) with problems, insurance issues were rarely the reason.

The older population is the only one with government-provided universal health care coverage through the Medicare program. Are Americans ready for universal coverage? Apparently so: When asked whether they prefer the current employer-based health insurance system or universal health insurance through a program such as Medicare, the 56 percent majority of the public chooses Medicare.

If you have any questions or comments about the above Q & A, e-mail New Strategist at demographics@newstrategist.com.

 

BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW

Asian households spend more than twice as much as the average household on fees for recreational lessons.

3. COOL RESEARCH LINKS

To keep up-to-date on ever-changing demographics and lifestyles, check out these useful websites.

Asians, Blacks, and Hispanics
http://www.census.gov/prod/ www/abs/popula.html
If you want to know the details about the Asian, black, and Hispanic populations, then head to this site. Here you can download a variety of Census Bureau publications on the characteristics of the population. Three of the most recently released reports focus on Asians, blacks, and Hispanics, with data from the 2004 American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS replaces the census long form–the one that collected all the juicy details about Americans such as how much money they make and the value of their homes. This kind of information is now available every year thanks to the ACS. The Asian report reveals the Chinese to be the largest Asian ethnic group, accounting for 23 percent of the total. It also shows that the median value of homes owned by Asians exceeds $300,000.

Health-Related Quality of Life
http://www.cdc.gov/hrqol/index.htm
If you want to know how good–or bad–Americans feel, then this web site is the place to start. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a program in place to measure our health- related quality of life, with handy summary measures of unhealthy days–both physical and mental. Some of the findings: Americans say they feel “healthy and full of energy” about 19 days per month; they feel unhealthy (physically or mentally) about 6 days a month; nearly one-third suffer from a mental or emotional problem during an average month. Disturbingly, the number of unhealthy days is on the rise.

 

BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW

During an average quarter of 2004, 5 percent of the nation’s households paid college tuition and spent an average of $2,534 on the item during the quarter.

4. NEW FOR WINTER 2006/2007

NEW TITLE: American Sexual Behavior: Demographics of Sexual Activity, Fertility, and Childbearing is a groundbreaking new title that brings you the facts about reproductive health and family formation in the United States. Its eleven chapters cover sexual initiation and orientation, AIDS and STDs, cohabitation and marriage, fertility and infertility, pregnancy, births, caring for children, and much more. ($89.95; ISBN 978-1-933588-09-4)

NEW EDITION: The fourth edition of Best Customers: Demographics of Consumer Demand reveals the best customers for hundreds of products and services ranging from alcoholic beverages to gasoline, bedroom linens, and cell phone service. It identifies which households spend the most on a product or service and which control the largest share of spending. ($89.95; ISBN 978-1-933588-06-3)

NEW EDITION: The eleventh edition of the annual Household Spending: Who Spends How Much on What gives you detailed analyses of consumer spending on hundreds of products and services by the demographics that count–age, income, household type, region of residence, race and Hispanic origin, and education. The book begins with an overview chapter, then goes on to examine spending on apparel, entertainment, financial products and services, food and beverages, gifts, health care, household operations, shelter and utilities, transportation, personal care, reading, education, and tobacco. ($94.95; ISBN 978-1-933588-05-6)

NEW EDITIONS: The updated Who’s Buying Series, which is based on the new eleventh edition of Household Spending, gives you even more demographic detail about how much Americans spend by the demographics that count–age, income, household type, race and Hispanic origin, region of residence, and education. To round out the spending picture, you also get “who are the best customers” analyses of the data.

  • Who’s Buying Apparel, 2nd ed. ($59.95; ISBN 1-978-933588-08-7)
  • Who’s Buying Alcoholic and Nonalcoholic Beverages, 3rd ed. ($59.95; ISBN 1-978-933588-11-7)
  • Who’s Buying Entertainment, 3rd ed. ($59.95; ISBN 1-978-933588-12-4)
  • Who’s Buying Groceries, 4th ed. ($59.95; ISBN 1-978-933588-13-1)
  • Who’s Buying Health Care, 3rd ed. ($49.95; ISBN 1-978-933588-14-8)
  • Who’s Buying Household Furnishings, Services, and Supplies, 4th ed. ($59.95; ISBN 1-978-933588-15-5)
  • Who’s Buying Information, 3rd ed. ($59.95; ISBN 1-978-933588-08-7)
  • Who’s Buying for Pets, 4th ed. ($49.95; ISBN 1-978-933588-17-9)
  • Who’s Buying by Race and Hispanic Origin, 2nd ed. ($59.95; ISBN 1-978-933588-18-6)
  • Who’s Buying at Restaurants and Carry-Outs, 4th ed. ($49.95; ISBN 1-978-933588-19-3)
  • Who’s Buying Transportation, 3rd ed. ($59.95; ISBN 1-978-933588-20-9)
  • Who’s Buying for Travel, 3rd ed. ($49.95; ISBN 1-978-933588-21-6)
  • Who’s Buying: Executive Summary of Household Spending, 2nd ed. ($59.95; ISBN 1-978-933588-22-3)

You can order online at http://www.newstrategist.com, where you can also see tables of contents and sample pages. Or call toll free 800/848-0842 (or 607/273-0913), fax your order to 607/277-5009, or mail your order to New Strategist Publications, P.O. Box 242, Ithaca, NY 14851.

 

BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW

Percentage of fathers with children under age 19 living in another household who pay child support regularly: 76.