American Consumers Newsletter

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

Births in 2013, Higher Divorce Rates, Fewer Nuclear Families
1. Hot Trends: 2013 Births, Higher Divorce Rates, Fewer Nuclear Families, Housing Trends and more
2. Q & A: When Will Housing Return to Normal?
3. Cool Links: Walking to Work, Reasons for Moving, Mapping Population Change
4. All New Editions of our Reference Tools:
To see Cheryl Russell’s Demo Memo blog, click here.

1. Hot Trends 

Births in 2013

At first glance, the 2013 estimate of births in the United States might seem ho-hum. The number changed little: the 3,957,577 estimate of 2013 was only 4,736 greater than the 3,952,841 of 2012 and remained at a level 8 percent below the all-time high of 4,316,233 in 2007.

On second glance, the estimate is startling. Although the overall number of births held steady, the fertility rate fell to a new all-time low of 62.9 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44. This is 9 percent below the rate of 69.3 in 2007. Even more startling is the plummeting fertility of young women. In 2013, the fertility rate of women in three age groups–15 to 19, 20 to 24, and 25 to 29–fell to new record lows. In other words, never before have young women had so few children.

That may explain this finding: the first-birth rate also hit an all-time low in 2013, with the rate dropping for women in every age group under age 30. Clearly, young women are reluctant to have children, and the number of births is essentially unchanged only because older women are playing catch up before time runs out. The seeming stability in births belies the havoc wreaked by the Great Recession on the lives of young adults.
2013 Population: Projections vs. Reality
The ongoing baby bust is messing with the Census Bureau’s population projections. The bureau had projected 7 percent more births in 2013 than the National Center for Health Statistics estimates in its preliminary report. Rather than 4,238,995 births in 2013, the nation’s women gave birth to only 3,957,577–or 281,000 fewer babies than were projected.

That doesn’t seem like a big difference, except for the following: Hispanic births in 2013 were a substantial 19 percent below what the Census Bureau had projected. Rather than the projected 1,122,069 Hispanic births in 2013, only 907,859 Hispanics were born. Conversely, more non-Hispanic whites were born in 2013 than were projected–an estimated 2,140,272 rather than the projected 2,077,212.

This means the U.S. is becoming a minority majority nation a bit more slowly than had been assumed by the Census Bureau. Only 49 percent of total births in 2013 were projected to be non-Hispanic white. But because births to Hispanics have plummeted, non-Hispanic whites still account for the majority of births–54 percent in 2013.

2013 births (and % distribution) by race and Hispanic origin

Total: 3,957,577 (100.0%)

Asian: 268,559 (6.8%)

Black: 587,612 (14.8%)

Hispanic: 907,859 (22.9%)

Non-Hispanic white: 2,140,272 (54.1%)

1 Million Fewer Families with Preschoolers

The number of families with preschoolers has dropped by more than 1 million over the past six years, according to Census Bureau data on families. Blame the ongoing baby bust for the disappearance of infants and toddlers.

The number of births peaked in 2007 and has been falling since then. The number of families with children under age 6 fell from 16.3 million in 2007 to 15.0 million in 2013.

Divorce Rate Higher than Ever

How can that be? Everyone knows the divorce rate is down. Once boomers dumped spouse number one and settled down with spouse number two, divorce moved off their bucket list.

Not so, according to demographers Sheela Kennedy and Steven Ruggles. In their research paper, “Breaking Up Is Hard to Count: The Rise of Divorce in the United States, 1980-2010” (Demography, April 2014, $39.95), the researchers blame a “deterioration of the statistical system” for “uncertainty about trends in union instability over the past three decades.” Their analysis shows that rather than declining, the divorce rate in 2011 was at a record high.

When the National Center for Health Statistics ceased to collect data on marriage and divorce in the 1990s, there was little to go on except the Survey of Income and Program Participation, which has a high rate of nonresponse. In 2008, however, the American Community Survey began to ask respondents whether they had married or divorced in the past 12 months and the number of times they had ever been married. What a difference data make. After analyzing the ACS data, Kennedy and Ruggles report a phenomenon missed by most observers–a 40 percent increase in the age-standardized divorce rate between 1980 and 2008. After a slight dip in 2009, the rate began to rise again and “2011 has the highest divorce rate of any year to date.”

Divorce has been declining among adults under age 35, say Kennedy and Ruggles, largely because fewer are marrying and those who do marry are the most compatible. But among adults aged 35 or older, it’s a different story–about half have experienced divorce or separation by their late fifties. “The Baby Boom generation was responsible for the extraordinary rise in marital instability after 1970,” they explain. “They are now middle-aged, but their pattern of high marital instability continues.”

Autos Are Aging

The nation’s automobiles are rapidly aging, according to an analysis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2012, the average age of the nation’s cars, vans, and SUVs was 11.3 years. This is up from 10.2 years in 2007. But the small uptick in average age masks the marked change in the age distribution of the nation’s vehicles.

  • In 2012, only 15 percent of the automobiles owned by American households were new-to-five-years-old, down from 23 percent in the 2000-to-2007 time period.
  • In 2012, the 52 percent majority of vehicles owned by American households were at least 11-years-old, up from 44 percent in the 2000-to-2007 time period.

Interestingly, annual vehicle maintenance costs do not vary all that much by age of vehicle. Americans spend an average of $437 a year maintaining new-to-5-year-old automobiles. Spending peaks at $588 a year on 6-to-10-year-old vehicles. The oldest vehicles, at least 26-years-old, cost an average of $502 in annual maintenance.

Social Security: What’s Fair?

If Americans are living longer, then it makes sense to raise the age at which retirees can collect their full Social Security benefit. Right? Well, maybe. If gains in life expectancy are evenly distributed to rich and poor alike, then it might make sense. But if gains are skewed, favoring the affluent and educated, then it might not be fair at all.

“If gains in life span are increasingly concentrated among the well-to-do, it seems unfair to ask the less affluent to bear the main burden of an aging society,” say the authors of a Center for Retirement Research study of the issue. Concentration among the well-to-do is, in fact, what’s happening. In an analysis of decades of data from the Health and Retirement Study, the researchers found great disparities in life expectancy gains by socioeconomic status. Overall life expectancy for men aged 55 climbed five years between the 1920 and 1940 birth cohorts, but the gain was only two years for the poorest men and six years for the richest men. Among women aged 55, life expectancy actually fell for the poorest and grew by two to three years for the richest. “The current policy of raising the retirement age for everyone seems unfair to lower-income workers whose life expectancy may be constant or falling,” concludes the report.

New Single-Family Homes, 2006 and 2013

How much have the characteristics of new single-family homes changed since the peak in 2006? Although fewer new single-family homes are being completed, according to the Census Bureau, those coming on the market are bigger than ever.

Number: 569,000 new single-family homes were completed in 2013, only about one-third of the 1,654,000 completions in 2006. But the 2013 number was one-third higher than the all-time low of 447,000 reached in 2011.

Size: The size of new single-family homes reached a record high in 2013–a median of 2,384 square feet. That’s 136 square feet larger than the 2,248 of 2006.

Bathrooms: 33 percent of new single-family homes had three or more bathrooms in 2013, up from 26 percent in 2006.

Bedrooms: 44 percent of new single-family homes had four or more bedrooms in 2013, up from 39 percent in 2006.

Garages: The 64 percent majority of new single-family homes completed in 2013 had a two-car garage and another 21 percent had a three-or-more car garage. The figures were 64 and 19 percent, respectively, in 2006.

New Apartments, 2006 and 2013

The number of renters surpassed 40 million in 2013, a gain of more than 5 million since 2006. The median age of renters climbed from 38.9 to 40.2 during those years. How have developers responded to the surge of renters, many in their thirties and forties? A comparison of the characteristics of units in new multifamily buildings completed in 2013 with those completed at the peak of the housing boom in 2006 reveals a possible disconnect. While the number of units coming to market is growing (almost all of them for rent), their characteristics are not aligning with the changing demographics of renters.

Number: 195,000 apartments in new multifamily buildings were completed in 2013, 40 percent less than the 325,000 completions in 2006. But the 2013 number was 41 percent higher than the all-time low of 138,000 in 2011.Size: The size of the apartments for rent in new multifamily buildings completed in 2013 was a median of 1,043 square feet, slightly smaller than the 1,090 square feet of 2006.

Bathrooms: Only 47 percent of the apartments in new multifamily buildings completed in 2013 had two or more bathrooms, down from 62 percent in 2006.

Bedrooms: Only 55 percent of the apartments in new multifamily buildings completed in 2013 had two or more bedrooms, down from 73 percent in 2006.

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


The $51,381 median income of households headed by 25-to-34-year-olds in 2012 was 13 percent less than the median income of their counterparts in 2000, after adjusting for inflation–a loss of  $7,838.

2. Q & A

When Will Housing Return to Normal?

“How about never–is never good for you?” Those classic words by New Yorker cartoon editor Robert Mankoff may be the best answer to the question of when the housing market will return to what we have long regarded as normal.

Although home buying has increased from the lows of the Great Recession, investors rather than all-important first-time buyers are responsible for much of the gain. What happened to the once dependable market of first-time home buyers? Study after study shows a market transformed by the Great Recession, student debt, unemployment, underemployment, and stagnant wages. A recent analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York finds 30-year-old student debtors less likely to own a home than their peers without debt, a reversal of the historical pattern. First-time buyers are a shrunken share of all home buyers (29 percent in April), according to the National Association of Realtors. The homeownership rate of young adults has plummeted, and first-time home buyers are no longer young adults but decidedly middle-aged.

To put these changes into perspective and help businesses and professionals adapt to the new normal in the housing market, New Strategist Press has produced a 16-page White Paper, Housing Recovery Strategies for a Demographically Disrupted Market. The White Paper defines the demographics of the market, identifies the pattern of home buying for the foreseeable future, and offers creative, strategic directives and solutions.

Few markets are as demographically driven as housing. Few markets are in greater demographic turmoil than housing. Who better than the demographers at New Strategist to provide perspective on the housing market’s current problems and future opportunities.Understanding the turmoil in the market, realizing the consequences, and adopting business strategies for the new era–the new normal–will differentiate housing industry leaders from laggards.

Housing Recovery Strategies for a Demographically Disrupted Market is available as a PDF download from New Strategist’s web site for $395.


Percentage of households headed by people under age 35 who are renters: 63%.

Source: The American Marketplace, 11th edition

3. Cool Research Links

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

Only 2.8 percent of workers walk to work, according to the Census Bureau. Decade after decade, walking to work has become less common, with the share falling from 5.6 percent in 1980 to 3.9 percent in 1990 and 2.9 percent in 2000. Although the 2.8 percent in the latest data (from the 2008-2012 American Community Survey) is slightly smaller than the 2.9 percent of 2000, the difference is not statistically significant, according to the bureau. This newfound stability in walking to work could be additional evidence of the growing preference for walkable communities, or it could be nothing more than a pause due to the impact of the Great Recession. More information is available at the above link in the Census Bureau’s report, Modes Less Traveled–Bicycling and Walking to Work in the United States: 2008-2012.


Americans are moving less than they once did, according to the Census Bureau, and their reasons for moving are changing. Only 11.7 percent of people aged 1 or older moved in 2013 versus a larger 15.9 percent in 1999. In a report available at the above link, the Census Bureau compares the most important reasons for moving in 2013 with 1999, finding statistically significant increases in these (mostly economic) reasons for moving: to look for work, to be closer to work or to have an easier commute, wanting cheaper housing, and wanting to establish own household. Some of the less important reasons for moving in 2013 than in 1999 are wanting a better neighborhood, wanting to own a home, and wanting a new or better home or apartment.

Mapping Metro and County Pop Change          

There’s a demographic drama unfolding, and you can see it at the above link, which takes you to the Census Bureau’s Story Maps–two interactive maps of population trends by metropolitan area and county. These maps reveal the surprising population shifts that have demographers abuzz. The first Story Map shows population change in metropolitan and micropolitan areas, comparing trends in 2012-13 with those a decade earlier in 2002-03. The interactive feature of the map allows you to zero in on a particular metro/micro area and see the trend in each time period. The second Story Map shows 2012-13 population growth by county and identifies the component of population change (natural increase, domestic migration, or international migration) most important for county growth.


Percentage of Millennials who say they are middle class: 36%.

Source: American Attitudes, 7th edition


Here are three all new and expanded one-stop resources for understanding American consumers–vital, cost-effective information. Get the answers you need for business success in today’s competitive economy!

The 9th edition of American Incomes: Demographics of Who Has Money is your map to the changing consumer landscape, exploring and explaining the economic status of Americans in the aftermath of the Great Recession. It looks at household income trends through 2012 by age, household type, race and Hispanic origin, education, region, and work status. It examines trends in the incomes of men and women by a variety of demographic characteristics. It includes an analysis of discretionary income, produced by New Strategist’s statisticians specifically for this book. It provides data on the wealth of American households, showing the impact of the Great Recession on household assets and debt. American Incomes includes the following data and analysis:

Household Incomes Chapter 1 examines trends in household income over the past 12 years. It also presents detailed 2012 household income statistics by age of householder, race and Hispanic origin of householder, type of household, and other important demographic characteristics.

Men’s Incomes Chapter 2 examines trends in men’s incomes and provides detailed 2012 income statistics for men by a variety of demographic characteristics.

Women’s Incomes Chapter 3 examines trends in women’s incomes and provides detailed 2012 income statistics for women by a variety of demographic characteristics. 

Discretionary Income Available only in American Incomes, the hard-to-find statistics in Chapter 4 show that despite the Great Recession most American households have some money to spend after paying taxes and buying necessities.

Wealth The statistics in Chapter 5, from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation, provide a comprehensive portrait of the assets, debts, and net worth of American households by demographic characteristic.

Poverty Chapter 6 shows how poverty has grown and reveals the demographics of those who are falling behind.

You can see the book’s introduction, table of contents, index, and sample pages on New Strategist’s web site where you can also download this unique reference tool as a PDF linked to Excel spreadsheets of all data tables. Call 800-848-0842 for information about Multi-user Licenses. 450 pages.

Single-user pdf: $103.95 (978-1-940308-32-6)

Hardcover:  $138.00 (978-1-940308-31-9)

Paper: $103.95 (978-1-940308-37-1)

Quick and easy access is the goal of the new 11th edition of
The American Marketplace: Demographics and Spending Patterns. Designed for convenience, The American Marketplace draws on scores of government sources to give you a population profile of the United States in one handy volume. Its hundreds of tables are organized into 11 chapters covering attitudes, education, health, housing, income, labor force, living arrangements, population, spending, time use, and wealth.

The American Marketplace reveals the latest demographic trends and tells the American story. It examines changing lifestyles in rich detail, from growing racial and ethnic diversity to declining homeownership, from disappearing nuclear families to recovery in household spending, from another baby bust to new attitudes toward gay marriage. New to this edition of The American Marketplace are 2012 population estimates for the nation, states, and metropolitan areas, revealing changing patterns of growth. The Attitudes chapter has data from the 2012 General Social Survey. The Income chapter, with 2012 income statistics from the 2013 Current Population Survey, reveals the struggle to stay afloat.The American Marketplace is a reference tool that will help you cut through the clutter and track the trends.

You can see the book’s introduction, table of contents, index, and sample pages on New Strategist’s web site, where you can also download this unique reference tool as a PDF linked to Excel spreadsheets of all data tables. Call 800-848-0842 for information about Multi-user Licenses. 612 pages.

Single-user pdf: $103.95 (978-1-940308-35-7)

Hardcover: $138.00 (978-1-940308-33-3)

Paper: $103.95 (978-1-940308-34-0)

The 7th edition of American Attitudes: Who Thinks What about the Issues That Shape Our Lives coaxes the results of the latest (2012) General Social Survey out of the shadows of academia and makes them readily available for researchers who want to explore Americans’ changing attitudes.

In hundreds of tables, the 7th edition of American Attitudestaps into the General Social Survey gold mine, revealing what the public thinks about topics ranging from gay marriage to the American Dream, how Americans feel about their financial status, their hopes for their children, how often they socialize and with whom, their religious beliefs, political leanings, and standard of living. It shows those answers by the demographics that shape perspective-sex, age, race, Hispanic origin, education, and region. American Attitudes reveals 2012 attitudes by demographic characteristic, and for every 2012 question for which historical data are available, it shows the history of response all the way back to the first appearance of the question on the General Social Survey. American Attitudesprovides the latest data and is an invaluable resource for historic trends.

American Attitudes is organized into nine chapters: Public Arena, Government and Politics, Science and Information, Religion, Work and Money, Family and Friends, Diversity, Personal Outlook, and Sexuality.

You can see the book’s introduction, table of contents, index, and sample pages on New Strategist’s web site, where you can also download this unique reference tools as a PDF linked to Excel spreadsheets of all data tables. Call 800-848-0842 for information about Multi-user Licenses. 484 pages.

Single-user pdf: $103.95 (978-1-940308-30-2)

Hardcover: $138.00 (978-1-940308-29-6)

Paper: $103.95 (978-1-940308-36-4)