American Consumers Newsletter

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

Cities Continue to Sparkle
1. Hot Trends: Cities Continue to Sparkle, Why Urban Counties Are Growing, 2013 Homeownership, and more
2. Q & A: What Happened to the Inheritance Boom?
3. Cool Links: 2014 Retirement Confidence Survey, 2013 American Freshman Survey, Homeownership in 2013
4. All New Editions of our Reference Tools: 
To see Cheryl Russell’s Demo Memo blog, click here.

1. Hot Trends 

Cities Continue to Sparkle  

The nation’s cities continue to attract Americans by the millions, according to the  Census Bureau’s 2013 county population estimates. A Demo Memo analysis of 2010-to-2013 county population trends along the Rural-Urban Continuum documents strong city growth (the bigger, the better) and unrelenting rural decline.


The Rural-Urban Continuum is the federal government’s way of classifying counties by their degree of urbanity. The continuum is a scale ranging from 1 (the most urban counties) to 9 (the most rural counties). If you sort the nation’s 3,143 counties by their rank on the continuum, then measure population change between 2010 and 2013 for each rank, this is the result…


County Population Change, 2010 to 2013 

by Rural-Urban Continuum Rank:

Rank 1: 3.0%

In metro with 1 million or more people

Rank 2: 2.2%

In metro of 250,000 to 1 million people

Rank 3: 1.5%

In metros with less than 250,000 people

Rank 4: 0.0%

Nonmetro, adjacent to metro, urban pop 20,000+

Rank 5: 1.1%

Nonmetro, not adjacent to metro, urban pop 20,000+

Rank 6: -0.5%

Nonmetro, adjacent to metro, urban pop 2,500-19,999

Rank 7: -0.3%

Nonmetro, not adjacent to metro, urban pop 2,500-19,999

Rank 8: -1.1%

Nonmetro, adjacent to metro, urban pop under 2,500

Rank 9: -0.6%

Nonmetro, not adjacent to metro, urban pop under 2,500


The most urban counties (a 1 on the scale) grew the fastest between 2010 and 2013. The most rural counties (8 and 9 on the scale) experienced the biggest declines.

Why Are Urban Counties Growing?

The nation’s most urban counties are growing faster than others, according to a Demo Memo Blog analysis of the Census Bureau’s 2013 county population estimates. Counties in metro areas with the largest populations are growing the fastest–a 3 percent increase between 2010 and 2013. Counties in smaller metros are growing at a slower rate, and those in rural areas are losing people.

What is behind these trends? One reason for the strong growth of the nation’s urban counties is domestic migration: Americans are voting with their feet for city life. The rate of domestic migration in the 2010-to-2013 time period was positive only for the most urban counties, those ranking a 1 or 2 on the Rural-Urban Continuum (counties in metro areas with 250,000 or more people). For less urban and rural counties, the domestic migration rate was negative–meaning more Americans moved out than moved in. Not only are less urban and rural counties losing residents to migration, but in the most rural counties–those ranking 8 or 9 on the Rural-Urban Continuum–deaths exceeded births in the 2010-to-2013 time period. This double whammy is resulting in historic population losses in the nation’s small towns and countryside.


Homeownership in 2013   

The nation’s homeownership rate fell to 65.1 percent in 2013, according to annual statistics released by the Census Bureau. The 2013 homeownership rate was down from 65.4 percent in 2012 and the all-time high of 69.0 in 2004. By age, 2013 homeownership rates (and the percentage point change since 2004) look like this…


Under age 25: 22.2% (-3.0)

Aged 25 to 29: 34.1% (-6.1)

Aged 30 to 34: 48.1% (-9.3)

Aged 35 to 39: 55.8% (-10.4)

Aged 40 to 44: 65.0% (-6.9)

Aged 45 to 54: 71.2% (-6.0)

Aged 55 to 64: 76.6% (-5.1)

Aged 65-plus: 80.8% (-0.3)


If homeownership rates by age were the same in 2013 as in 2004, then the overall rate would be a much higher 70.3 percent rather than 65.1. The United States would have nearly 6 million more homeowners–81 million rather than the 75 million of 2013. Among households headed by 30-to-39-year-olds, there would be 2 million more homeowners.


The Boomer Effect on the Labor Force   

Between December 2007 and December 2013, the labor force participation rate of people aged 16 or older fell from 66.0 to 62.8 percent. How much of that decline is due to the Great Recession and how much is due to the aging of the large baby-boom generation?


A substantial 40 percent of the decline is due to the aging of the baby-boom generation, according to an analysis of the data by Alicia H. Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College (The Impact of Aging Baby Boomers on Labor Force Participation). Although boomers are staying in the workforce longer, the labor force participation rate of older workers is still less than half the rate of prime-age individuals, notes Munnell. The growing presence of Americans aged 55 or older in the population is reducing the overall labor force participation rate. “Regardless of general economic factors, we should expect to see labor force participation continue to decline for the remainder of this decade due to the retiring of baby boomers,” she concludes.

Mobility Rate by Generation 

Only 5.9 percent of baby boomers moved between March 2012 and March 2013, according to a Demo Memo Blog analysis of the Census Bureau’s geographic mobility data. Mobility rates peak among young adults and fall with age. Here are the 2012-13 mobility rates by generation…


iGeneration (aged 1 to 18): 13.1%

Millennials (aged 19 to 36): 20.4%

Generation X (aged 37 to 48): 10.6%

Baby Boomers (aged 49 to 67): 5.9%

Older Americans (aged 68-plus): 3.5%


Among the nation’s 74 million boomers, only 4 million moved between 2012 and 2013. Among movers, 61 percent remained in the same county. Only 15 percent crossed a state line.

Wives Are Better Educated than Husbands

Among the nation’s married couples, wives are more educated than husbands in 20.7 percent. This figure exceeds, for the first time, the 19.9 percent in which husbands are more educated than wives, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of census data.


Among newlyweds, the trend is even more pronounced, with 27 percent of wives more educated than husbands and only 15 percent of husbands more educated than wives. Despite their greater educational attainment, says Pew, only 39 percent of better-educated newlywed wives earned more than their husbands. The 58 percent majority earned less.

Childhood Obesity and  

the Demographics of New Mothers   

A new study has found a big drop in obesity among the nation’s 2-to-5-year-olds, according to a  New York Times article. The percentage of children in the age group who are obese fell from 14 percent in 2004 to 8 percent in 2012. This is good news, but no one can explain the decline. Some say it’s due to more breastfeeding. Others say children are consuming fewer calories from sugar. First Lady Michelle Obama’s efforts to improve children’s nutrition are also cited as a reason. Here’s a more likely explanation: the higher educational attainment of new mothers.


Between 2000 (when some of those 2-to-5-year-olds of 2004 were born) and 2010 (when some of those 2-to-5-year-olds of 2012 were born), the annual number of births in the United States declined as the Great Recession triggered a baby bust. Fewer women gave birth, and their demographics changed. New mothers in 2010 were much more educated than new mothers in 2000, according to the Census Bureau. The percentage of babies born to high school dropouts fell from 23 to 17 percent between 2000 and 2010. The percentage of babies born to women with college experience grew from 46 to 56 percent during those years. Educated people have better health, so it should come as no surprise that educated mothers have healthier children


The Old and Young at Work

Among occupations that employed at least 500,000 workers in 2013, these are the oldest and youngest (based on unpublished data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics)…


Oldest Median Age

Farmers and ranchers: 56.1

Bus drivers: 52.7

Chief executives: 52.5


Youngest Median Age

Food prep workers: 27.8

Cashiers: 26.7

Waiters and waitresses: 26.2


Spending on Reading Material 

The average household spent $109 on reading material in 2012, slightly more than the $105 spent in 2010, after adjusting for inflation. What contributed to this boost in spending on reading material after the steep 46 percent decline between 2000 and 2010? Digital book readers, according to a Demo Memo Blog analysis of unpublished detailed spending data from the government’s Consumer Expenditure Survey.


During an average quarter of 2012, nearly 2 percent of households bought a digital book reader. While that doesn’t sound like much, it was a higher rate of purchasing than for personal digital audio players (such as iPods) and nearly as high a rate as for online gaming services. The result was a boost in spending on the overall reading category despite ongoing declines in spending on books, newspapers, and magazines.


The introduction of digital book readers explains why average household spending on reading material grew especially strongly among householders under age 55 during the 2010-to-2012 time period…


Percent change in average household spending on reading material, 2010-12 (in 2012 dollars)

Under age 25: 7.2%

Aged 25 to 34: 12.1%

Aged 35 to 44: 10.4%

Aged 45 to 54: 7.8%

Aged 55 to 64: 0.3%

Aged 65-plus: -4.4%


With more Americans owning digital book readers, perhaps spending on books will begin to grow in the years ahead.

The Bottom for Self-Employment?

The percentage of Americans who are self-employed shrinks a bit more nearly every year. Last year was no exception. In 2013, only 6.5 percent of the employed aged 16 or older were self-employed–yet another record low.  This figure was down from 7.0 percent in 2010 and 7.3 percent in 2000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


But we might have seen the bottom for self-employment. Beginning this year, the Affordable Care Act makes health insurance available to all. America’s entrepreneurs are now free to start businesses without the loss of health insurance and the threat of financial catastrophe. This time next year we will know whether 2013 was the end of the long decline in self-employment.


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


Median income of men who work full-time by place of residence…

City of metro area: $47,744
Suburb of metro area: $53,779
Nonmetropolian area: $42,069


2. Q & A

What Happened to the Inheritance Boom?

For decades we’ve been hearing about the billions boomers would inherit as their elderly parents (the richest elders in history) passed on. But a new study of inheritances finds their impact declining rather than growing. The study, published inThe Journal of Economic Inequality and reported on in the Monthly Labor Review, uses 1989 to 2007 data from the Survey of Consumer Finances to examine the impact of inheritances on household net worth.


The impact is a fizzle, not a boom. Rather than increasing as a share of household net worth during the 1989 to 2007 time period, the inheritance share fell from 29 to just 19 percent. Where did the money go?


No one knows for sure, but here’s a theory: The prime suspect in the disappearance of all those billions is the health care industry. Perfectly positioned to siphon family wealth from long-lived elders, the health care industry has transformed the long-awaited inheritance boom into a health care facilities, services, and salary boom. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, the average man aged 65 or older needs $122,000 in savings to cover 90 percent of his out-of-pocket health care costs in retirement. The average woman needs $139,000. Those numbers are conservative because they do not include the extraordinary cost of long-term care. Those numbers might explain why the inheritance boom is a bust.


Percent who have ever used marijuana, by generation…

53.7% of Millennials
49.9% of Gen Xers
50.9% of Boomers
14.8% of older Americans


3. Cool Research Links

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


At this link you can access the 2014 Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS). Every year for almost two decades, this invaluable resource has updated the nation on American attitudes toward and preparations for retirement. Sponsored by the Employee Benefit Research Association, the American Savings Education Council, and Mathew Greenwald & Associates, the RCS is a nationally representative survey of workers aged 25 or older. The 2014 results are worrisome, revealing that a substantial 36 percent of workers have less than $1,000 in savings. Even among workers aged 55 or older, one in four has saved less than $1,000.
This survey of the nation’s freshmen has been fielded every fall for nearly 50 years. Sponsored by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, the latest results show cost to be a growing concern for high school seniors as they choose a college. Nearly half (46 percent) of college freshmen say cost was a “very important” factor when deciding on which school to attend–the highest level in the 10 years the survey has been asking the question. In 2004, just 31 percent of college freshmen said cost was very important in their college choice. The percentage of freshmen who say the financial aid package offered by their school was very important in their choice climbed to 49 percent in 2013, the highest level in the 42 years the question has been asked. In 2004, a smaller 34 percent said financial aid was very important.

2013 Homeownership Rates        

The latest annual homeownership statistics are available at the above link, from the Census Bureau’s Housing Vacancies and Homeownership Survey. The 2013 figures show that first-time homebuyers are getting older, their age rising from the early thirties to the late thirties since the Great Recession. Among householders aged 30 to 34, only 48.1 percent owned their home in 2013, down from 57.4 percent in 2004 (the year when the overall homeownership rate peaked). Among householders aged 35 to 39, the 55.8 percent majority owned their home in 2013, but this was down from 66.2 percent in 2004. At the Housing Vacancies and Homeownership Survey site, you can access homeownership trends by age of householder, household type, region, state, and metropolitan area.


Percentage of Americans who believe the universe began with a huge explosion (Big Bang), by region…

Northeast: 74%
Midwest: 52%
South: 41%
West: 60%


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.

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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)

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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)