American Consumers Newsletter

by Cheryl Russell, Editorial Director, New Strategist Press
August 2016

50-Year Trend in Overweight and Obesity


2. New Tools:  


AMERICAN INCOMES, 11th edition

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

1. Hot Trends

50-Year Trend in Overweight and Obesity
A stunning 70 percent of Americans are overweight, according to a National Center for Health Statistics report. Fifty years ago, only 45 percent were overweight. These figures come from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (see the report Prevalence of Overweight, Obesity, and Extreme Obesity Among Adults Aged 20 and Over: United States, 1960-1962 through 2013-2014), which deploys mobile examination units around the country to measure the height and weight of a nationally representative sample of the population….
Percent overweight (among adults aged 20 to 74)
2013-14: 70.1%
1960-62: 44.9%

Interestingly, the overweight but not obese share of the population barely changed over the decades, rising from 31.5 to 31.9 percent between 1960-62 and 2013-14. But the obese share skyrocketed, climbing from just 13.4 percent in 1960-62 to fully 38.2 percent in 2013-14. Among men, 35.5 percent were obese in 2013-14–more than three times the 10.7 percent of 1960-62. Among women, obesity climbed from 15.8 to 41.0 percent during those years.

Note: Overweight is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 25 kg/m^2 or higher and obesity is defined as a body mass index of 30kg/m^2 or higher.

Measuring the Internet-of-Things
The Internet of Things is a growing category of technology that allows consumers to control household appliances and devices through the internet. The federal government’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration is studying the Internet of Things and has solicited advice on how best to go about measuring and tracking the growing industry.
“Consumer uses of connected devices are still nascent,” says the NTIA after examining the July 2015 Computer and Internet Supplement to the Current Population Survey. But it won’t be long before the use of internet-connected devices is commonplace. Among the nation’s internet users aged 15 or older in 2015, only 7 percent controlled household equipment–such as thermostats, light bulbs, or security systems–via the internet, says the NTIA. But among the 1 percent of Americans who used wearable devices (such as fitness bands or watches), a much larger 27 percent used the internet to control household equipment. This “highlights how wearable device users tend to be early adopters of new technology,” says NTIA.
Early Technology Adopters
Young adults are stereotypically seen as early adopters of technology, older adults as Luddites. But older Americans are not the Luddites they are sometimes made out to be, according to the results of a Pew Research Center survey. To determine who is an early technology adopter, Pew asked a representative sample of Americans six questions about their preferences for new versus familiar technology, then created an “early adopter index.” Here are the early adopters by age…
Early technology adopters
Aged 18 to 29: 29%
Aged 30 to 49: 31%
Aged  50 to 64: 29%
Aged 65-plus: 21%
One in five Americans aged 65 or older is an early adopter of technology, a surprisingly robust figure. By age and sex, men aged 18 to 49 are most likely to be early adopters (34 percent), but other groups are not all that far behind. Among women aged 18 to 49 and both men and women aged 50 or older, a substantial 25 to 26 percent are early technology adopters.
Early technology adoption is not just an age thing. “Personality also matters,” says Pew.
Trends in Online Attention: 2008 to 2013
How much has online time and attention shifted as web sites have proliferated, video streaming has become commonplace, and connected devices have multiplied? A National Bureau of Economic Research study (The Empirical Economics of Online Attention, NBER Working Paper 22427, $5) uses big data to examine that question, comparing more than 1 million machine-week observations of household online activity in 2008 and 2013. Some of the findings are unexpected…
  • The total amount of time households spent on their primary home computer fell only slightly despite the introduction of smartphones and tablets. Households using their primary home computer in a given week spent 15 hours online in 2008 and 14 hours online in 2013.
  • The breadth of web sites visited and the time spent at any one site did not change between 2008 and 2013, despite the proliferation of web sites and the rise in video content.
  • The web sites most often visited did change. The top two sites in 2008 were MySpace and Yahoo, for example, and the top two sites in 2013 were Facebook and YouTube.
The authors readily acknowledge the overall increase in time spent online between 2008 and 2013, but their results show the increase occurred on smartphones and tablets and was in addition to the “relatively stable use of the home device.” Also of note: “The vast change in the menu of supply from 2008 to 2013 did not change the breadth or depth of household browsing. The vast change in supply altered only where households allocated their online time.”
What We Think about Young and Old
According to an AARP survey, this is the percentage of Baby Boomers who find themselves “saying or thinking the following types of things in regards to someone younger” than they are…
Boomer attitudes toward younger people
52%: “they are too dependent on modern technology”
48%: “they want everything immediately”
38%: “they are self-centered”
22%: “their views are extremely liberal”
And here is the percentage of Millennials who find themselves “saying or thinking the following types of things in regards to someone of more advanced years”…
Millennial attitudes toward older people
44%: “they are just stuck in their ways”
35%: “older people are terrible drivers”
34%: “I wish they would move faster or move out of the way”
27%: “their views are extremely conservative”
30-Year-Olds: Then and Now

How much have 30-year-olds changed over the past 40 years? Quite a bit, according to the Census Bureau

Percent of 30-year-olds who were married, had a child, were not in school, and lived on their own

In 2015: 32%
In 1975: 71%
Daily Calories from Fast Food
Eating out accounts for more than one-third (34 percent) of the daily calories consumed by Americans aged 2 or older, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service. That share was just 18 percent in the mid-1970s. Behind the rise of eating out is the growing importance of fast food to the American diet. The fast-food share of daily caloric intake has nearly tripled in the past three decades…
Fast-food share of daily caloric intake
2011-12: 15.8%
1977-78:   5.7%
Fast food has become essential for busy workers and parents. Among lower income households in 2011-12, fast food provided 16.4 percent of daily calories. For higher-income households the fast-food share was 15.3 percent. Fast food accounts for a much larger share of children’s daily caloric intake than school food. Children obtained 14.3 percent of their daily calories from fast food in 2011-12 (up from less than 4 percent in 1977-78) and about 7 percent from school food.
1 Million Legal Immigrants in 2014
Just over 1 million immigrants were granted legal permanent residence in the United States in 2014, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The 2014 number was slightly greater than the 990,553 of 2013 but fewer than in any other year since 2004. The peak year for legal immigration was 1991, when 1.8 million immigrants were admitted to the United States.
Legal Immigrants in 2014: Top 10 Countries of Birth
Total immigrants: 1,016,518 (100.0%)
Top 10 countries: 518,433 (51.0%)
Mexico: 134,052 (13.2%)
India: 77,908 (7.7%)
China: 76,089 (7.5%)
Philippines: 49,996 (4.9%)
Cuba: 46,679 (4.6%)
Dominican Republic: 44,577 (4.4%)
Vietnam: 30,283 (3.0%)
South Korea: 20,423 (2.0%)
El Salvador: 19,273 (1.9%)
Iraq: 19,153 (1.9%)
Immigrants by State and Metro, 2014
Over 1 million immigrants were granted permanent legal residence in the United States in 2014, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Fully 59 percent of those immigrants settled in just five states: California, New York, Florida, Texas, and New Jersey. The 53 percent majority settled in only 10 metropolitan areas…
Legal Immigration in 2014: Top 10 Metros
Total immigrants: 1,016,518 (100.0%)
Top 10 metros: 539,044 (53.0%)
New York: 174,714 (17.2%)
Los Angeles: 80,527 (7.9%)
Miami: 72,038 (7.1%)
Washington, DC: 39,531 (3.9%)
Houston: 33,858 (3.3%)
Chicago: 33,042 (3.3%)
San Francisco: 32,904 (3.2%)
Dallas: 28,780 (2.8%)
Boston: 24,026 (2.4%)
Atlanta: 19,628 (1.9)
Decline of White, Married Christians
According to the Public Religion Research Institute, the percentage of American adults who are white, married, and Christian is only half of what it was in 1980…
Percent of adults who are white, married, and Christian
2015: 28%
2010: 31%
2000: 35%
1990: 46%

1980: 56%

See also the recently published book by Robert P. Jones, the CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, The End of White Christian America.

Upper Middle Class More than Doubles 
The percentage of Americans whose incomes place them in the “upper middle class” more than doubled between 1979 and 2014, according to Stephen J. Rose of the Urban Institute. In his study, Rose defines the upper middle class as people in households with incomes ranging from $100,000 to $349,999 after adjusting for household size–or what he calls “family-of-three” equivalents. The upper middle class includes single-person households with an income of $57,735 or more, for example, and two-person households with an income of $81,650 or more.
Since 1979, the upper middle class has grown from just 12.9 to fully 29.4 percent of Americans. At the same time, the upper class expanded from 0.1 to 1.8 percent of the population. All other income classes shrank during those years…
Income class as a share of U.S. population in 2014 (and 1979)
Upper class: 1.8% (0.1%)
Upper middle class: 29.4% (12.9%)
Middle middle class: 32.0% (38.8%)
Lower middle class: 17.1% (23.9%)
Lower class: 19.8% (24.3%)
“The striking finding is the change in the center of gravity in the economy,” says Rose. “In 1979, 70 percent of the incomes were controlled by the three bottom groups. In contrast, in 2014, 63 percent of incomes were held by the upper middle class and the rich and just 37 percent by the bottom three groups.” In the future, Rose plans to examine the changing demographics of the upper middle class–such as educational attainment and marital status–to determine the cause of its enormous growth. One causal factor that should be examined is the aging of baby boomers from young adulthood in 1979 to their peak-earning years in the 2000s. Will the size of the upper middle class shrink as boomers retire?
Who Carries Cash?
How many people are carrying cash in their pockets, wallets, or purses when away from home? According to a Gallup survey, only 54 percent of adults are carrying cash. Among 18-to-29-year-olds, just 42 percent have cash on them when away from home…
Percent who carry cash
Aged 18 to 29: 42%
Aged 30 to 49: 54%
Aged 50 to 64: 55%
Aged 65-plus: 62%
Young adults are also the ones who feel most comfortable without cash–56 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds are comfortable going cashless versus only 32 percent of people aged 65 or older.
$7 Trillion in Accessible Housing Wealth
How much housing wealth is accessible to Americans? The answer is $7 trillion, according to an Urban Institute study–or an average of $133,810 per owned home in 2015. This calculation is based on total housing wealth ($11 trillion) and today’s lending standards, which allow homeowners to extract 75 to 85 percent of their current home value minus outstanding housing debt. At the 75 percent lending standard, this is the average wealth accessible to homeowners by age, and the percentage of owners who have accessible housing wealth…
Average accessible net housing wealth for owners
(and % of owners with accessible wealth)
Aged 18 to 29: $72,000 (44%)
Aged 30 to 39: $81,000 (45%)
Aged 40 to 49: $108,000 (60%)
Aged 50 to 59: $130,000 (73%)
Aged 60 to 64: $145,000 (80%)
Aged 65 to 69: $155,000 (84%)
Aged 70-plus: $161,000 (92%)
The study finds housing wealth concentrated in the hands of older Americans and by state and local area. Average net housing wealth by local area ranges from a high of $1,487,000 in the Menlo Park and East Palo Alto areas of San Mateo County, California, to a low of $27,000 in the city of Detroit.
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


More than half of Americans ranging in age from 20 to 59 (with a slight dip below 50% among 35-to-44-year-olds) have used marijuana in their lifetime.


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In Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas, more than 20 percent of residents speak Spanish at home.