It costs more to raise a child than it once did, but not all that much more. According to USDA estimates for middle America (middle-income, married couples), the inflation-adjusted cost of raising a child from birth through age 17 climbed from $202,020 in 1960 to $233,610 in 2015–a 16 percent increase. The cost of childrearing has grown in some categories and declined in others. The biggest increase has been for the category “child care and education,” with parents in 2015 spending more than eight times as much as their counterparts in 1960–and the increase doesn’t include college costs because the accounting stops at a child’s 18th birthday. Here are comparisons of 2015 costs with those in 1960 (in 2015 dollars)…
- Housing is the biggest expense for parents. The cost of housing a child from birth through age 17 was $66,240 in 2015, 6 percent more than the $62,630 of 1960.
- Food is the second largest expense of childrearing. In 2015 this cost was $41,400–15 percent less than the $48,490 of 1960.
- Child care is the third largest childrearing expense for parents today. Not so in 1960. The $38,040 cost of child care for 2015 parents is over eight times more than the $4,040 spent by parents in 1960.
- Transportation is the fourth largest expense of childrearing for parents in 2015, with $35,490 spent on transportation from birth through age 17–10 percent more than the $32,320 cost in 1960.
- Health care is the fifth largest expense of childrearing for parents in 2015. The $21,720 needed for a child’s health care is nearly triple the $8,080 of 1960.
- Clothing expenses for children have fallen steeply since 1960. In 2015, the cost of clothing a child from birth through age 17 was $13,260–40 percent less than the $22,220 of 1960, after adjusting for inflation.
- Miscellaneous expenses include personal care products and services, entertainment, and reading material. In 2015, the cost of these expenses for a child from birth through age 17 was $17,460, 28 percent less than the $24,240 of 1960.
Race and Hispanic Origin of the Baby Bust
Who is behind the ongoing baby bust, the years-long decline in the number of births. In 2015, there were 338,000 fewer babies born (3,978,497) than in the peak year of 2007 (4,316,233), according to the National Center for Health Statistics–an 8 percent decline. But births have fallen more for some women than for others, and not everyone is participating in the bust.
- Births to Asian women climbed 11 percent between 2007 and 2015, the only race or Hispanic origin group that has not contributed to the baby bust. Asian births now account for 7.0 percent of the nation’s total, up from 5.9 percent in 2007.
- Births to Black women fell 6 percent between 2007 and 2015, a decline of 38,000. Black births climbed as a share of total births, rising from 14.5 to 14.8 percent.
- Births to non-Hispanic White women fell 8 percent between 2007 and 2015, a drop of more than 180,000. The non-Hispanic White share of births, at 53.5 percent, has not changed since 2007.
- Births to Hispanic women fell the most–a 13 percent decline between 2007 and 2015. The Hispanic share of births fell from 25 to 23 percent during those years. Among Hispanic women of Mexican origin, births fell by an even larger 24 percent–down by nearly 176,000.
More Adults Living Without Children
Fifty years ago only about half of adults lived in a household without children under age 18, according to the Census Bureau
. Today nearly three-quarters do. The share of adults without children in the household climbed from 52.5 percent in 1967 to 71.3 percent in 2016. Behind the increase are delayed marriage and childbearing as well as the aging of the population. The biggest increase in child-free living has occurred among young adults…
Percent of 18-to-24-year-olds without children in household
Percent of 25-to-34-year-olds without children in household
Few Smokers Are Able to Quit
Among current cigarette smokers, more than two out of three–68 percent–would like to quit. The 55 percent majority tried to quit in the past year. But few were successful, reports the CDC
. Only 7 percent managed to quit.
There is little variation in these findings by demographic characteristic. The majority of smokers in every demographic segment wanted to quit–including men, women, young, old, Asian, Black, Hispanic, non-Hispanic White, high school drops outs, and college graduates. The majority in nearly every demographic segment had tried to quit in the past year. The success rate was in the single digits for most.
LGBT Identification by Generation
Overall, 4.1 percent of Americans aged 18 or older personally identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, according to a Gallup survey
. This figure is up from 3.5 percent in 2012. By generation, the percentage who identify themselves as LGBT looks like this…
LGBT identification by generation
7.3% of Millennials
3.2% of Gen Xers
2.4% of Baby Boomers
1.4% of older Americans
Why are Millennials more likely than older generations to identify themselves as LGBT? “Millennials are the first generation in the U.S. to grow up in an environment where social acceptance of the LGBT community markedly increased,” says Gallup. “This may be an important factor in explaining their greater willingness to identify as LGBT.”
Master’s Degree the New Bachelor’s Degree
As the bachelor’s degree has become commonplace, the master’s degree is the new mark of distinction. The percentage of Americans aged 25 or older with a master’s degree was 8.7 percent overall in 2015, 10 percent among 35-to-44-year-olds, and 12 percent among women in the 35-to-44 age group, according to the Census Bureau.
The Urban Institute
recently analyzed the characteristics of those who go to graduate school, their success rate, and how much the additional schooling adds to earnings. Here is the bachelor’s-master’s comparison by age group…
Average earnings, aged 25 to 34
$54,840, bachelor’s degree only
$63,050, master’s degree
Master’s degree premium: 15%
Average earnings, aged 35 to 44
$71,100, bachelor’s degree only
$87,320, master’s degree
Master’s degree premium: 23%
Average earnings, aged 45 to 54
$77,600, bachelor’s degree only
$92,760, master’s degree
Master’s degree premium: 20%
Carbonated Beverages as a Share of Grocery Spending
The New York Times created a stir when it reported on a USDA study with the alarming headline, “In the Shopping Cart of a Food Stamp Household: Lots of Soda
.” Yes, the USDA study found food stamp households devoting a large share of their grocery spending to carbonated beverages. But so did households that were not receiving food stamps. The real story in the USDA study is the outsized importance of soda in the shopping cart of most American households regardless of demographic or socioeconomic characteristic.
The USDA findings
were based on point-of-sale data from a leading grocery retailer–data that could be skewed by the retailer’s own customer demographics. Using a different and more comprehensive data set (the 2015 Consumer Expenditure Survey), Demo Memo calculated the carbonated beverage share of spending for the average household and for households by demographic characteristic. The share is huge, regardless of the demographics. For the average household, soda ranks 4th as a share of grocery spending. In other words, carbonated beverages are the grocery item on which the average household spends more than all but three other items–fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, and miscellaneous prepared food (i.e. food from the supermarket deli). The carbonated beverage share of grocery spending varies a little–but not all that much–by demographic characteristic…
- Carbonated beverage share is highest among low-income households: Among households with incomes below $30,000, carbonated beverages rank 3rd as a share of grocery spending. Among households with incomes of $200,000 or more, they are in 14th place.
- Carbonated beverage share is highest in two age groups: Soda ranks highest as a share of grocery spending among households headed by young adults under age 25 and older adults aged 55 to 64 (4th place). Soda is lowest as a share of grocery spending among householders aged 35 to 44 (7th place) because many are parents, and parents devote less of the grocery dollar to carbonated beverages.
- Carbonated beverage share is highest for the less educated: Among households in which no household member has a bachelor’s degree, soda ranks 3rd as a share of grocery spending. Among households with at least one college graduate, carbonated beverages rank 10th as a share of grocery spending.
Dinner at Restaurants by Age
Most of us eat dinner at a restaurant at least once a week, according to a Gallup survey
. When Americans are asked how many nights in the past week they had eaten dinner at a restaurant of any kind, the 61 percent majority said they had done so at least once, a percentage that has been stable for nearly a decade. Not surprisingly, age is an important factor in the frequency of dining out…
Percent who ate dinner at a restaurant in past week
Aged 18-to-34: 72%
Aged 35 to 54: 65%
Aged 50-plus: 50%
The stability in eating out is good news for restaurants, says Gallup, especially as fresh meal delivery services and food bars at grocery stores become increasingly popular. The fact that young adults are the most frequent customers is also good news, Gallup concludes.
IRA Balances Are Growing
Americans are saving more in their IRAs. The median balance of IRA accounts has grown since 2011, according to a report by the Employee Benefit Research Institute
. Here is the trend…
Median IRA balance
These medians are for all accounts, including recently opened IRAs. The EBRI report also examines the IRA balances of “consistent account owners”–those who owned an IRA in every year from 2010 through 2014. The median IRA balance of consistent account owners grew from $26,508 in 2010 to $40,980 in 2014.
One reason IRA balances are not growing faster is that most owners do not contribute. Among consistent account owners for the 2010-to-2014 time period, the 61.5 percent majority contributed nothing in any of those years. Only 10.4 percent contributed in all five years.
When Boom Goes Bust, Stay or Go?
When boom turns to bust, is it better to hunker down and stay put or pull up stakes and move elsewhere? Move appears to be the answer.
“We find that geographic mobility following the bust is associated with stronger consumer financial health,” say researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland
. The researchers examined the credit records of people living in counties experiencing oil rig boom and bust between 2011 and 2014. The finances of movers and stayers were similar during the boom times, but they diverged in the bust. Those who left ended up better off financially than those who stayed (lower credit utilization, fewer derogatory accounts, lower past-due balances, and greater access to credit). “Our analysis implies that geographic mobility could have quantifiable benefits for consumer financial health,” they conclude.
Population Loss by Type of Rural County
Rural America has been struggling with population loss, reports the Population Reference Bureau
. Between 2000 and 2015, fully 60 percent of rural counties lost population. But the extent of population loss varied by type of rural county…
Percent of counties losing population, 2000 to 2015
All rural counties: 60%
Farming counties: 78%
Mining counties: 43%
Manufacturing counties: 42%
Recreation counties: 27%
PRB analyzes how two age groups–young adults and retirees–have helped to curtail population loss in some types of rural counties. In 49 percent of mining counties, for example, the number of 20-to-34-year-olds grew faster than the national average between 2000 and 2015, lured there by jobs in shale gas and oil production. In 64 percent of recreation counties, the number of people aged 65 or older grew faster than the national average as retirees flocked to amenity-rich areas.
Death Rates Higher in Nonmetro Areas
With the Affordable Care Act and expanded access to health care services under threat, the CDC
has released a report suggesting any erosion of care will be a bigger problem for nonmetropolitan America than for metro areas.
The CDC report compares age-adjusted death rates in metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas for the five leading causes of death–heart disease, cancer, accidents (including drug poisonings), chronic lower respiratory disease, and stroke. Result: death rates in nonmetropolitan areas are higher for all five causes of death.
What accounts for the higher death rates? A cluster of characteristics, reports the CDC. The residents of nonmetropolitan areas “tend to have less access to health care services and to be less likely to receive preventive services,” explains the report. “In addition, they are more likely to be uninsured or underinsured, delay seeking care, live in poverty, and have lower educational attainment.”
Smartphone Ownership by Age, 2016
More than three out of four Americans (77 percent) own a smartphone, reports Pew Research Center
. Smartphone ownership is the norm in all but one demographic segment. Only among people aged 65 or older is smartphone ownership below 50 percent…
Smartphone ownership by age
Aged 18 to 29: 92%
Aged 30 to 49: 88%
Aged 50 to 64: 74%
Aged 65-plus: 42%
Projections of Homeowners to 2035
Since the bursting of the housing bubble in 2006, the homeownership rate in the United States has slumped, the number of homeowners has fallen, and the number of renters has surged. Will these trends continue, or will homeownership make a comeback? That’s what the Joint Center for Housing Studies
wanted to know. To answer the question, JCHS researchers created three sets of housing tenure projections to determine the range of possible trends through 2035.
1. Base scenario: According to this scenario, if homeownership rates by five-year cohort remain at 2015 levels, then the homeownership rate in 2035 will be almost identical to the 63.5 percent of 2015. But even with the same rates, the number of homeowners will grow more than the number of renters during the 2015-to-2035 time period, largely because of the aging of the population. Between 2015 and 2035, the number of homeowners would expand by 15.7 million and the number of renters by 9.4 million.
2. Low scenario: In this scenario, homeownership rates continue to decline until 2020 at the same rate of decline as occurred for five-year cohorts between 2010 and 2015, then remain constant through 2035. The additional years of declining rates would drive the overall homeownership rate down to 60.6 percent by 2035. The number of homeowners would increase, but not as much as renters. Between 2015 and 2035, the number of homeowners would expand by 11.5 million and the number of renters by a larger 13.5 million.
3. High scenario: In this scenario, homeownership rates for five-year cohorts recover and by 2035 return to the 1995 rates for most cohorts. The 1995 rates, say the researchers, “define the pre-boom levels that might reflect a longer-term equilibrium.” The overall homeownership rate would rise slightly to 64.7 percent by 2035. The number of homeowners would grow much more than the number of renters. Between 2015 and 2035, the number of homeowners would expand by 17.7 million and the number of renters by 7.4 million.
Which of these scenarios is most likely? The fate of the housing market is at stake, with developers of rental housing poised to benefit from the low scenario and homeowners poised to benefit from the high scenario. You decide.
Many Think Public Health Is Declining
The public is divided about whether public health is improving or getting worse, according to a Pew Research Center survey
, and the divide is by generation. Overall, 48 percent of the public say the health of American children is worse today than it was 20 years ago, but most 18-to-64-year-olds say it is worse.
Health of U.S. children is worse than it was 20 years ago
Aged 18 to 49: 52%
Aged 50 to 64: 51%
Aged 65-plus: 31%
Opinions about the health of the adult population are also split by generation. Overall, 42 percent say the health of American adults is worse today than it was 20 years ago, with the near majority of people aged 18 to 64 saying it is worse.
Health of U.S. adults is worse than it was 20 years ago
Aged 18 to 49: 48%
Aged 50 to 64: 46%
Aged 65-plus: 20%
Only 27 percent of people aged 18 to 64 say the health of children is better today than it was 20 years ago versus nearly half (49 percent) of people aged 65 or older. Only 28 percent of 18-to-64-year-olds think the health of adults is better today than it was 20 years ago versus the 53 percent majority of people aged 65 or older.
Really Long Term Trends in Health Insurance Coverage
The number of Americans under age 65 who do not have health insurance is lower today than it was all the way back in 1972, reports the National Center for Health Statistics
, despite a 46 percent increase in the population under age 65.
As recently as 2013, the percentage of the population under age 65 without health insurance was the same as in 1972–so, in four decades no progress had been made in expanding insurance coverage. Enter the Affordable Care Act, with marketplace plans up and running by January 2014, an effort that finally moved the needle. The percentage of Americans under age 65 who did not have health insurance fell from 16.7 percent in 2013 to the all-time low of 10.6 percent in 2015.
Number (and %) under age 65 without health insurance
2015: 28.7 million (10.6%)
1972: 30.7 million (16.7%)
Age of Housing Stock by Region
The average American household in 2015 occupied a housing unit with a median age of 39, built in 1976. The age of the housing stock varies greatly by region, according to the 2015 American Housing Survey
Occupied housing units: median year built
(and age of average structure)
Northeast: 1959 (56 years)
Midwest: 1971 (44 years)
South: 1984 (31 years)
West: 1978 (37 years)