American Consumers Newsletter

by Cheryl Russell, Editorial Director, New Strategist Press
August 2014

Homeownership Falls to Record Low in the 30-to-34 Age Group

IN THIS ISSUE:

1. Hot Trends: HOMEOWNERSHIP FALLS, WEALTH DECLINES, COUNTDOWN TO THE MINORITY MAJORITY, BOOMERANG KIDS, CHILDLESS WOMEN, and more

2. New! 2012 Spending Data: HOUSEHOLD SPENDING, BEST CUSTOMERS, AMERICAN BUYERS, and the 14-VOLUME WHO’S BUYING REPORTS

To see Cheryl Russell’s Demo Memo blog, click here.

1. Hot Trends

Homeownership Falls to Record Low in the 30-to-34 Age Group 

The homeownership rate of households headed by people aged 30 to 34 fell to a record low in the second quarter of 2014, according to the Census Bureau’s Housing Vacancy Survey. The 46.5 percent homeownership rate of the age group was a stunning 11.5 percentage points below its all-time peak of 58.0 percent recorded in the fourth quarter of 2004.

Householders aged 30 to 34 were once the nation’s first-time home buyers. Historically, this was the age group in which homeownership became the norm–rising above 50 percent. But following the Great Recession, the homeownership rate of 30-to-34-year-olds went into a tailspin. In the second quarter of 2011, the rate fell below 50 percent for the first time. The downward slide continues, causing trouble for the housing industry. That’s because first-time home buyers are the heart of the housing market, putting the market in motion as they buy starter homes. According to the National Association of Realtors, first-time buyers account for only 28 percent of home buyers today, down from a much larger 40 percent prior to the Great Recession.

For more on the demographic trends affecting the housing market, see the White Paper: Housing Recovery Strategies for a Demographically Disrupted Market.

Median Net Worth Still Falling

The median net worth of American households continues to decline, according to a research brief by the Recession Trends initiative, a joint effort of the Russell Sage Foundation and the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality. Examining early release data from the nationally representative Panel Study of Income Dynamics, the researchers took a look at trends in median household wealth (assets minus debts) through 2013. It was not a pretty picture…

Median household net worth (in 2013 dollars)

2013: $56,335

2009: $70,801

2007: $98,872

2003: $87,992

“Through at least 2013, there are very few signs of significant recovery from the losses in wealth experienced by American families during the Great Recession,” report the researchers. “Declines in net worth from 2007 to 2009 were large, and the declines continued through 2013.” For more on this study, see Wealth Levels, Wealth Inequality, and the Great Recession.

Countdown to the Minority Majority: 2013

The diversity of the American population continues to grow, according to the latest Census Bureau population estimates. As of July 1, 2013, only 62.6 percent of the nation’s population was non-Hispanic white, down from 63.0 percent a year earlier and 63.8 percent in 2010. During the past 12 months, the non-Hispanic white population grew by a minuscule 0.07 percent. This compares with a 1.2 percent increase in the black (alone or in combination) population, a 2.1 percent increase in the Hispanic population, and a 2.9 percent increase in the Asian (alone or in combination) population.

One factor behind the shrinking non-Hispanic white share of the population is negative natural increase. Between 2012 and 2013, for the second year in a row, there were more deaths than births among non-Hispanic whites. Immigration prevented the number of non-Hispanic whites from declining. The non-Hispanic white share of the U.S. population will fall below 50 percent in 2043, according to Census Bureau projections.

Number (and percent distribution) of the population by race and Hispanic origin in 2013:

Total: 316,128,839 (100.0%)

Asian: 19,437,463 (6.1%)

Black: 45,003,665 (14.2%)

Hispanic: 54,071,370 (17.1%)

Non-Hispanic white: 197,836,231 (62.6%)

Population Growth, 2010 to 2013

The U.S. population grew by 6.8 million between 2010 and 2013, according to the Census Bureau. Here is the numerical gain during those three years by race and Hispanic origin…

Numerical gain in population by race and Hispanic origin, 2010 to 2013:

Hispanics: 3,323,989

Asians: 1,633,868

Blacks: 1,659,412

Non-Hispanic whites: 445,578

The Racial Wealth Gap

What accounts for the enormous gap in the wealth of blacks versus non-Hispanic whites? The wealth gap is far greater than the income gap. The net worth of black households was just $6,314 in 2011, according to the Census Bureau, a fraction of the $110,500 net worth of households headed by non-Hispanic whites.

Homeownership is one explanation for the wealth gap. Non-Hispanic white households are much more likely than black households to own their home–72 versus 44 percent. Homeownership makes a big difference because a house is, for most Americans, their most valuable asset. Another important reason, however, is inheritance. According to a study published in Demography (“Do Racial Disparities in Private Transfers Help Explain the Racial Wealth Gap? New Evidence from Longitudinal Data,” June 2014, $39.95), the larger inheritances and cash gifts received by non-Hispanic whites in a 10-year period account for a substantial 12 percent of the wealth gap.

Not only is inheritance already an important factor in the black-white wealth gap, but it may become an even bigger factor in the future. “Increases in large gifts and inheritances for white non-Hispanic families over time suggest a worsening of the white-black wealth gap in years to come,” the researchers conclude.

Counting Boomerang Kids

For the past few years, the media has been obsessing about the growing share of adult children who live with their parents. The latest example is the New York Time’s article, “It’s Official: The Boomerang Kids Won’t Leave.” The Times is correct. Adult children are more likely to live with their parents now than a decade ago, but the evidence is harder to suss out than you might think.

One way to investigate the boomerang phenomenon is to look at the living arrangements of young adults. According to the  Census Bureau, fully 47 percent of 20-to-24-year-olds lived with their parents in 2013–up from 42 percent a decade earlier in 2003. Sounds like proof, right? Not exactly, because college students who live in dorms are categorized by the Census Bureau as living with their parents. The rise in college enrollment goes a long way toward explaining the uptick among 20-to-24-year-olds. More convincing is the rise in the next older age group, where 19 percent of 25-to-29-year-olds lived with their parents in 2013–up from 15 percent in 2003. Among 30-to-34-year-olds, the share climbed from 7 to 9 percent during those years. Even among 35-to-39-year-olds, the figure grew from 5 to 6 percent.

Another way to investigate the boomerang phenomenon is to count households with children. Surprisingly, the percentage of households that include children of the householder is lower today than it was a decade ago, the share falling from 42 to 39 percent between 2003 and 2013. But the decline is due to the ongoing baby bust. Households headed by people under age 35 are less likely to have children in their home (43 percent) than their counterparts a decade earlier (47 percent). In contrast, households headed by people aged 50 to 64 are more likely to have children at home (33 percent) than their counterparts a decade earlier (31 percent). Although it’s not a big increase, there is some increase in “boomerang kids.”

Men Playing Games

Young men spend a lot of time playing computer games, according to the American Time Use Survey. Everyone knows this, but here are the facts.

Teenagers are most likely to play games. On an average day in 2013, a substantial 35 percent of boys aged 15 to 19 spent time playing games. The time use category “playing games” includes computer games as well as card games (bridge, poker) and board games (Monopoly). There’s no doubt most are playing computer games. Teenage boys who play games on an average day devote more than half (54 percent) of their leisure time to games–2.65 of their 4.93 hours of leisure.

It gets worse. Although men aged 20 to 24 are less likely than 15-to-19-year-olds to play games on an average day (24 versus 35 percent), those who do devote a larger 3.73 hours to game playing–fully 77 percent of their leisure time. No wonder the nation’s fertility rate is at a record low.

How Many Babies?

In 2013, the nation’s fertility rate hit an all-time low of 62.9 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Only 3,958,000 babies were born. How many babies would have been born if the fertility rate in 2013 had equaled the rate in…

2007: 4,374,000

2000: 4,148,000

1990: 4,462,000

1980: 4,305,000

1970: 5,532,000

1960: 7,427,000

The Geography of Debt

In a first-of-a-kind analysis, the Urban Institute examines how debt varies by state and metropolitan area. The researchers examined 2013 credit bureau data from TransUnion, which has files on almost every American adult (91 percent)–whether they have debt or not. Most do have debt. Of the 91 percent of Americans with a credit file, fully 80 percent have debt.

The Urban Institute researchers looked at the geographic variation in the percentage of Americans with a nonmortgage bill past due (between 30 and 180 days late) and/or in collections (more than 180 days late). Debt in collections could be credit card, medical, or utility bills, even a parking ticket or club membership. These bills can remain on a credit file for as long as seven years. While only 5 percent of Americans with a credit file have a bill past due, a much larger 35 percent have debt in collections (median amount owed = $1,349). The percentage with debt in collections varies greatly by state and metro area, and the South accounts for most of the states with high levels of past-due debt, the Urban Institute reports.

Among states, Nevada is the worst–fully 47 percent of the state’s residents with a credit file have debt in collections. In 12 other states (11 of them in the South), the figure is more than 40 percent. At the other extreme, a smaller 20 percent of the residents of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota have debt in collections.

Telephone Status: July-December 2013

Landline phones continue to disappear, according to a semiannual update by the National Center for Health Statistics. This was the telephone status of U.S. adults as of July-December 2013 (versus July-December 2010)…

Landline and wireless: 52% (59%)

Wireless only: 39% (28%)

Landline only: 7% (11%)

No telephone: 2% (2%)

Not surprisingly, younger adults are far more likely to live in a wireless-only household. In the last half of 2013, most adults under age 35 were wireless-only, the figure peaking at 66 percent among those aged 25 to 29. Also more likely to live in wireless-only households are the poor (56%), Hispanics (53%), and renters (62%).

How Many Women Are Childless?

How many women never have children? Sixteen percent, according to the latest analysis by the Census Bureau, which uses data on the childbearing experience of women aged 40 to 50 to measure what demographers call “completed fertility.” By the 40-to-50 age group, most women who will have children have already done so.

Childlessness varies by demographic characteristic. Hispanics, for example, are less likely to be childless than other race and Hispanic origin groups. Only 13 percent of Hispanic women aged 40 to 50 are childless versus 17 percent of non-Hispanic whites. The biggest difference is by educational attainment. Among women aged 40 to 50 with a graduate degree, 23 percent are childless–nearly double the 12 percent childless among their counterparts without a high school diploma.

These are a sampling of posts published in the past few weeks in Cheryl Russell’s Demo Memo blog. Please send questions or comments to demographics@newstrategist.com.

BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW

The average household now spends more on rent ($3,064) than on mortgage interest ($2,926).

Source: Household Spending, 19th edition

2. MEET YOUR CUSTOMERS

Who buys? What do they buy? How much do they spend? Get the dollar-for-dollar answers you need for business success in today’s competitive economy from these one-stop resources. You can’t get these data online!

Household Spending: Who Spends How Much on What, 19th edition

Looking for customers? Repositioning your products? Americans are still spending money, but only those who are on top of the trends will know who the spenders are. The just-published 19th edition of Household Spending: Who Spends How Much on What reveals who spent what in 2012 and the products and services they purchased. New to this edition are comparisons of spending before (2000-06) and after (2006-12) the Great Recession and a look at the 2010-12 spending recovery.

The annual spending data in Household Spending, the first edition of which was published more than twenty years ago in 1991, allow you to compare and contrast spending by a host of demographic characteristics. With this vital information, which is not available online, you can determine market potential, identify your best customers, and understand which segments account for the largest share of spending. You get the answers by the demographics that count–age, income, high-income households, household type, region of residence, race and Hispanic origin, and education.

You can see the book’s introduction, table of contents, index, and sample pages at NewStrategist.com, where you can also download this unique reference tool as a PDF linked to Excel spreadsheets of all data tables.

Hardcover: $144.00 (978-1-940308-38-8) 612 pages
Paper: $109.95 (978-1-940308-39-5)
PDF with Excel (single user): $109.95 (978-1-940308-40-1)

American Buyers: Demographics of Shopping, 3rd edition

The new edition of American Buyers presents 2012 spending data in a groundbreaking guide to buying patterns–essential information in these difficult economic times.

While most businesses have a feel for what’s happening in their own establishments, American Buyers lets them see the big picture beyond their walls or website. The unique weekly and quarterly spending data, which are not available online, show the percentage of households that buy individual products and services and how much the buyers pay for them. American Buyers reveals the percentage of households that buy fast-food lunches during an average week, for example, and how much the buyers spend on them. It reveals the percentage of households buying airline tickets during an average quarter and how much the buyers spend on them. Even better, these vital spending data are detailed by the demographics that count– age, income, high-income households, household type, region of residence, race and Hispanic origin, and education.

You can see the book’s introduction, table of contents, index, and sample pages at  NewStrategist.com, where you can also download this unique reference tool as a PDF linked to Excel spreadsheets of all data tables.

Hardcover: $144.00 (978-1-940308-44-9) 396 pages
Paper: $109.95 (978-1-940308-45-6)
PDF with Excel (single user): $109.95 (978-1-940308-46-3)

Best Customers: Demographics of Consumer Demand, 10th edition

Find out how the American marketplace has been transformed by the Great Recession in this new edition of Best Customers: Demographics of Consumer Demand, with all-important 2012 spending data.

In Best Customers, experts and novices alike can see at a glance who spends the most and who controls the largest market share–often surprisingly different–on over 300 products and services organized into 21 chapters such as Entertainment, Groceries, Computers, Telephones, etc.–everything a consumer might buy. Based on unpublished data–you can’t find this on the Internet–from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ valuable Consumer Expenditure Survey, Best Customers brings you insight into household spending by the demographics that count–age, income, household type, region of residence, race and Hispanic origin, and education. Each product table is accompanied by text that identifies the best customers, analyzes spending patterns, describes spending trends before (2000-06) and after (2006-12) the Great Recession, examines the all-important 2010-12 spending recovery, and predicts future trends based on changing demographics.

You can see the book’s introduction, table of contents, index, and sample pages at NewStrategist.com, where you can also download this unique reference tool as a PDF linked to Excel spreadsheets of all data tables.

Hardcover: $138.00 (978-1-940308-41-8) 820 pages
Paper: $103.95 (978-1-940308-42-5)
PDF with Excel (single user): $103.95 (978-1-940308-43-2)

Who’s Buying Series

Get the demographics you need to target your markets with the 14-volume Who’s Buying Series, which can be purchased individually or as a set. Each volume gives you the facts about consumer spending by 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-customer analyses of the data. These new editions are must-haves updated with 2012 data. They reveal product-by-product spending trends before (2000-06) and after (2006-12) the Great Recession as well as the all-important 2010-12 spending recovery. The Who’s Buying Series includes Alcoholic & Non-Alcoholic Beverages; Apparel; Entertainment; Groceries; Health Care; Household Furnishings, Services, and Supplies; Information and Consumer Electronics; Pets; Restaurants; Transportation; Travel; and Who’s Buying: Executive Summary, Who’s Buying by Age, and Who’s Buying by Race and Hispanic Origin.

You can see the introduction, table of contents, index, and sample pages of each volume in the Who’s Buying Series at NewStrategist.com, where you can also download these unique reference tools as PDFs linked to Excel spreadsheets of all data tables. Individual reports: $68.95; 14-volume series: $850.00.

For your convenience, all of New Strategist’s titles are available as searchable single- and multiple-user PDFs linked to spreadsheets of each data table so you can do your own analyses and create PowerPoint presentations.

BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW

The average household spent $1,478 on travel in 2012. This is 7 percent more than in 2010, after adjusting for inflation.