American Consumers Newsletter

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

What Explains the Decline in Households Headed by 25-to-34-Year-Olds?

IN THIS ISSUE:

1. Hot Trends: WHY THE DECLINE IN HOUSEHOLDS HEADED BY 25-34-YEAR-OLDS? 2013 AMERICAN HOUSING SURVEY, PEAK TUITION, THE TCHOTCHKE INDEX, and more

2. New Reference Tools: 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

What Explains the Decline in Households Headed by 25-to-34-Year-Olds?

When the Census Bureau released the 2014 Current Population Survey data a few weeks ago, one thing stood out: the decline in households headed by 25-to-34-year-olds. The number fell by a small but surprising 8,994 between 2013 and 2014. The decline was a surprise because the 25-to-34-year-old population is growing by more than half a million a year, and households headed by the age group had been growing by more than 100,000 a year–until now. What happened?

 

To find out, let’s take a look at which household types in the 25-to-34 age group contributed to the 2013-14 decline: married couples (down 89,216), women who live alone (down 88,688), and men who live alone (down 44,932).

 

These declines are a sign of economic distress, with millions of young adults postponing marriage and unable to afford to live by themselves. A recent survey by Pew Research Center revealed the reason why so many 25-to-34-year-olds aren’t marrying: they’re looking for a partner with a steady job. With rents rising and student loan payments looming, fewer can afford to live by themselves while waiting for Mr. (or Ms.) Right. Looking back, we should have seen this coming. Since 2010, the annual increase in the number of households headed by 25-to-34-year-olds has been shrinking to the point where there’s no increase at all…

 

Change in number of households headed by 25-to-34-year-olds

2010-11: 315,000

2011-12: 274,000

2012-13: 171,000

2013-14:    -8,994

 

Maybe This Explains It:  

The Rise of the “Shared Household” 

Here’s a trend that may explain the nation’s slow overall household growth and the outright decline in the number of households headed by 25-to-34-year-olds: the rise of the “shared household.” According to the Census Bureau, a shared household has at least one “additional adult”–defined as a household member aged 18 or older who is not in school nor the householder, spouse, or cohabiting partner. Here’s the shared household trend since 2007…

 

Number of shared households (and % of total households)

2014: 23.5 million (19.1%)

2007: 19.7 million (17.0%)

 

Number of adults in shared households (and % of total adults)

2014: 74 million (30.9%)

2007: 62 million (27.7%)

 

Between 2013 and 2014, the number of additional adults in shared households grew by 1.8 million. Among adults aged 25 to 34 in 2014, fully 25.2 percent (10.7 million) were additional adults in a shared household, perhaps explaining the decline in the number of households headed by 25-to-34-year-olds.

 

The Tchotchke Index: 2013 Update

It has been a while since we updated the Tchotchke Index–a measure of economic wellbeing. The more money Americans are willing to spend on tchotchkes–gift shop items, home decor trinkets, yard sale finds–the greater the economic confidence. Five years ago Demo Memo Blog created the Tchotchke Index to track excess consumer spending. The Tchotchke Index is the amount of money spent by the average household on “decorative items for the home,” a detailed category in the Consumer Expenditure Survey.

 

Sadly, the Tchotchke Index has plummeted to the lowest level on record. In 2013, the average household spent just $103 on decorative items for the home–less than half of the $240 it spent on this category in 2000, after adjusting for inflation. The 2013 Index is even lower than the $108 spent in 2010, in the aftermath of the Great Recession. An ominous sign, for sure.

 

Tchotchke Index for selected years (in 2013 dollars)

2013: $103

2012: $129

2010: $108

2007: $174

2000: $240

 

Six Types of Older Americans

Households headed by Americans aged 65 or older can be segmented into six clusters based on their spending patterns, say researchers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Using data from the 2010-11 Consumer Expenditure Survey, the analysts identified these types…

 

1. Basic need-meeters (26.9%) The largest and poorest cluster, this segment had an average income of $33,124 in 2010-11 and spent just $23,679. Because of their limited resources, Basic Need-Meeters must devote the largest share of their spending to essentials (43 percent).

2. Housing burdened (25.9%) Fully 78 percent of households in this cluster are still making mortgage payments compared with only 23 to 34 percent of households in the other clusters. Consequently, the Housing Burdened devote the largest share of their budget to mortgage (or rent)–fully 42 percent of their spending versus only 5 to 17 percent in the other clusters.

3. Health care burdened (21.1%) The second-poorest cluster, this group is defined by its outsized out-of-pocket health care spending–or 27 percent of its $29,818 overall spending. Other groups devote only 10 to 12 percent to health care.

4. Transportation burdened (12.1%) Although this group spent a relatively large $44,245 in 2010-11, it had to devote a hefty 33 percent of that to transportation. Fully 60 percent of this group lives in smaller cities of the South and Midwest.

5. Happy retirees (6.3%) This is the richest group, with average annual spending of $54,813. They devote fully 31 percent of their budget to “expendables” (entertainment, travel, and household operations). The average income of Happy Retirees and Balanced Budgeters is about the same, but Happy Retirees are bigger spenders.

6. Balanced budgeters (5.4%) This group is almost as affluent as Happy Retirees, but it spends less ($47,920 versus $54,813). They devote about an average amount to various budget items, which is why they are considered “balanced.”

 

Life Expectancy at Age 65

Life expectancy at birth reached a record high of 78.8 years in 2012, reports the National Center for Health Statistics. Life expectancy at age 65 also hit a record high. Since 1950, life expectancy at age 65 has increased by 5.4 years…

 

Life expectancy at age 65 (years)

2012: 19.3

2010: 19.1

2000: 17.9

1990: 17.2

1980: 16.4

1970: 15.2

1960: 14.3

1950: 13.9

 

Females have a longer life expectancy than males at every age. For women aged 65, life expectancy is 20.5 years. Men aged 65 can expect 17.9 more years of life.

 

Explaining Nonmetro Population Decline

Between 2012 and 2013, the number of adults aged 16 or older in nonmetropolitan areas declined, perhaps for the first time ever, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service.

 

Average annual % change in nonmetro population 16+

2012-13: -0.07

2011-12:  0.07

2010-11:  0.19

2009-10:  0.37

2008-09:  0.36

2007-08:  0.49

 

This loss is the result of two trends: a decline in the rate of natural population increase in nonmetro areas (births minus deaths) and a decline in net migration (people moving in minus people moving out), which has been negative since 2010. Why are people moving out of nonmetro areas? Probably to find a job. According to the researchers, “nonmetro employment growth slowed in 2011 and fell to zero or slightly below thereafter.”

 

Peak Tuition?

It might be too soon to call this a trend, but average household spending on college tuition fell 6 percent between 2012 and 2013, after adjusting for inflation. This is quite a reversal for a category that had been growing like there was no tomorrow. Between 2007 and 2012, average household spending on college tuition climbed 27 percent.

 

College enrollment fell by 930,000 between 2011 and 2013. This means 2012 might have been the peak year for household spending on college tuition. The spending spree was bound to end as young adults and their parents struggle to pay college expenses while their household incomes decline.

 

According to a Pew Research Center analysis, fully 69 percent of 2011-12 college graduates (defined as those earning a bachelor’s degree) have student loans, up from 49 percent two decades ago. The 2011-12 graduates with loans owe more than twice as much as their counterparts in 1992-93: a median of $26,885 versus $12,434 (in 2013 dollars).

 

Fewer Underwater Homeowners

The number of homeowners who owe more for their house than it is worth fell by 1.7 million between 2011 and 2013, according to the Census Bureau’s American Housing Survey.

 

Just over 5 million homeowners reported in 2013 that they were underwater on their mortgage–or 11 percent of homeowners with a mortgage. This was less than the 6.8 million and 14 percent of homeowners with a mortgage who reported being underwater in 2011. Despite the progress, the 2013 figure is more than double what it was in 2007.

 

Number (and %) of homeowners who are underwater

2013: 5.1 million (11%)

2011: 6.8 million (14%)

2009: 5.8 million (12%)

2007: 2.5 million (5%)

 

Most Homeowners Have No Sidewalks

Only 56 percent of U.S. households have sidewalks in their neighborhood, according to the 2013 American Housing Survey. Sidewalks are even less common in the neighborhoods of the nation’s homeowners–only 48 percent have them compared with 71 percent of renters.

 

Renters are more likely to have sidewalks because many live in central cities where sidewalks are the norm. Fully 77 percent of central city households have sidewalks in their neighborhood compared with 54 percent of households in the suburbs and 27 percent in nonmetro areas. By region, homeowners in the South are least likely to have sidewalks…

 

Homeowners with sidewalks in their neighborhood

Northeast: 47%

Midwest: 51%

South: 37%

West: 64%

 

No Friends in the Neighborhood

Most Americans (84 percent) say they have friends in their neighborhood, according to the 2013 American Housing Survey. Only 16 percent of households say they don’t have friends, but the figure varies by homeownership status and other characteristics. Here are the households without friends in their neighborhood by homeownership status…

 

Homeowners (average with no friends = 12.1%)

8.3% of those aged 65 or older

9.3% of those in nonmetropolitan areas

13.4% of those in manufactured/mobile homes

15.8% of those in the suburbs

19.6% of those in central cities

20.9% of those in homes built in past four years

 

Renters (average with no friends = 24.3%)

16.6% of those in manufactured/mobile homes

16.8% of those aged 65 or older

21.8% of those in nonmetropolitan areas

24.1% of those in central cities

25.5% of those in the suburbs

26.5% of those in homes built in past four years

 

Self-Employed Women

The top three occupations of self-employed women, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics study:

  • Child care worker
  • Hairdresser
  • House cleaner

Women 65+ Are Less Educated

Going to college once was an experience that divided younger generations from older Americans. Now the divide has disappeared. Well, almost. Although the majority of men and women in every age group has college experience, there’s one exception: women aged 65 or older are less educated than everyone else. Only 46 percent of women aged 65-plus have college experience, according to the 2014 Current Population Survey. In contrast, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of women under age 65 have been to college. Among men regardless of age, the majority has college experience–including 54 percent of men aged 65 or older.

 

But older women are playing catch-up as Boomers fill the 65-plus age group. In 2010, the year before the first Boomers turned 65, only 39 percent of women aged 65-plus had college experience. By 2016, most older women will have spent some time on a college campus, and college experience will become the norm for men and women in every age group.

 

American Workers Are Treading Water

If you’re the typical worker, you didn’t get a raise this year. More than two-thirds (68 percent) of Americans say no one in their household received a raise or promotion in the past 12 months, according to the Public Religion Research Institute’s 2014 American Values Survey.

 

It’s worse than that, however. American workers have been treading water not only for the past 12 months, but for the past 120 months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median weekly earnings of men and women with full-time wage and salary jobs have been stagnant for at least a decade. Here are the inflation adjusted numbers…

 

Men’s median weekly earnings

2014: $880

2004: $894

 

Women’s median weekly earnings

2014: $722

2004: $720

 

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

Yes, Virginia, there is a Scrooge: the average household cut spending on gifts for people in other households by 23 percent between 2000 and 2012, after adjusting for inflation.

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!

 

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)

 

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 best customers of pet food are households headed by 55-to-64-year-olds. During an average week, 23% of these households buy pet food–a larger percentage than any other age group.