American Consumers Newsletter

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

Magnets for Migrants, 2012-13
1. Hot Trends:  State Migration 2012-13, Trends in Eating Out, Family Burden of Medical Care, and more
2. Q & A: Racial Discrimination: What’s Changed?
3. Cool Links: Internet Use, Educational Attainment 2013, Pew Survey of Book Reading
4. All New Editions of our Reference Tools: 
To see Cheryl Russell’s Demo Memo blog, click here.

1. Hot Trends 

Magnets for Migrants: States with the Highest Domestic Migration Rates, 2012-13 

The mobility rate of Americans has plunged over the past few decades, falling to historic lows in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Nevertheless, Americans are still moving and some states are attracting more movers than others, according to the most recent estimates from the Census Bureau. Here are the states, ranked from highest to lowest, with positive rates of net domestic migration (meaning more U.S. residents moved into the state than out of the state per 1,000 population) between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013…


1. North Dakota

2. District of Columbia

3. Colorado

4. South Carolina

5. South Dakota

6. Montana

7. Florida

8. Nevada

9. Wyoming

10. Texas

11. Arizona

12. North Carolina

13. Oklahoma

14. Delaware

15. Idaho

16. Oregon

17. Washington

18. Tennessee

19. Utah

20. Virginia

21. Iowa

22. Alabama


Among the 29 states with negative domestic migration rates(meaning more U.S. residents are moving out of the state than into the state per 1,000 population) Alaska had the fastest rate of outflow between 2012 and 2013, followed by New York, Illinois, New Jersey, and New Mexico.


The Great Recession Changed Eating  

The Great Recession may have dinged our wallets, but it improved our diets. Working-age Americans (those born from 1946 through 1985) cut their calories and ate fewer fast-food meals in 2009-10 than in 2007-08, according to a USDA analysis of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Total daily calorie consumption fell during those years, as did daily calories from fast food. Consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol was also down. The number of fast-food meals declined, and the number of family meals prepared at home increased. These changes in eating habits were not solely due to the decline in household income during the Great Recession, says the USDA, but also due to the increased time available for shopping and preparing food at home.

Are these changes permanent, or will we revert to our bad habits as the economy improves? The USDA analysis suggests that some of the change may be permanent because a growing share of consumers are paying attention to nutrition. Between 2007-08 and 2009-10, the percentage of working-age adults who say they use the Nutrition Fact Panel always/most of the time when buying food climbed from 34 to 42 percent.


“Diet quality may not decline if consumers continue to pay closer attention to the nutritional quality of the food they consume,” concludes the USDA. Even if we eat out more often–as seems likely–there’s hope. According to the report, “the 2010 Affordable Care Act mandates that restaurant chains with more than 20 locations list the caloric content of each standard menu item, which would make it easier for consumers to identify lower calorie and otherwise healthier choices when eating away from home.”

Eating Out: Meals per Week  

Question: “During the past 7 days, how many meals did you get that were prepared away from home such as restaurants, fast food places, food stands, grocery stores, or from vending machines?” Among Americans aged 20 or older in 2009-10, these are their answers…


None: 19.3%

One: 17.0%

Two: 17.1%

Three: 13.1%

Four: 8.5%

Five: 7.3%

Six: 3.0%

Seven: 5.1%

Eight or more: 9.5%


Since the last time this question was asked in 2007-08, a statistically significant change occurred in only one category: the percentage who got eight or more meals away from home fell from 12.5 percent to the 9.5 percent of 2009-10. For more details on who eats out, see the USDA Economic Research Service’s Flexible Consumer Behavior Survey.


Why Everyone Needs Health Insurance  

A new report shows just how big a problem the lack of health insurance turns out to be. Not only are the uninsured at risk of financial ruin, but so are their families.

In 2012, more than one in four (27 percent) American families experienced a financial burden from medical care. “The family perspective is important to consider when examining financial risk because significant expenses for one family member may adversely affect the whole family,” explains the National Center for Health Statistics in Financial Burden of Medical Care: A Family Perspective. “Health insurance coverage is one way for a family to mitigate financial risk associated with health care costs.”


Among families in which all members have health insurance, 21 percent experienced the financial burden of medical care in the past year. Among families in which some are insured and some are not, fully 46 percent had a problem paying for medical care–meaning they had difficulty paying a medical bill, they currently have medical bills being paid over time, or they currently have medical bills they can’t pay at all.

Health Insurance Trends: Affordable Care Act May Be Reducing the Uninsured

A January 2014 Gallup survey has documented a downward tick in the percentage of Americans without health insurance. On January 1st, health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act took effect for millions of Americans–enough to put a dent in the statistics.


The percentage of all Americans who do not have health insurance fell from 17.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013 to 16.0 percent in January 2014. The biggest drop in the uninsured occurred among 26-to-34-year-olds. In the age group, 25.7 percent were uninsured in January, down from 30.2 percent in the third quarter of 2013.

The Cost of College Is Not Rising

Everyone knows that the cost of college has gone through the roof. But everyone might be wrong. An analysis of the net cost of college, by Scott A. Wolla of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, finds that the net cost of college has not changed over the past decade–after adjusting for inflation and financial aid.


Although average college tuition and fees climbed from $24,070 in 2003-04 to $30,090 in 2013-14, the net cost (minus financial aid) fell from $13,600 to $12,460 during those years (in 2013 dollars), reports Wolla. The reason for the difference between the sticker price and the net price is price discrimination.


“Price discrimination allows colleges to charge many different prices for essentially the same service. This practice benefits students from low-income families,” explains Wolla. In other words, middle and upper-income families are subsidizing the cost for low-income families. But there is no free lunch, he says. “The cost burden has become increasingly progressive as wealthier families are paying more for education and subsiding needier students.”

Part-Time Professors  

Among the nation’s 1.6 million college teachers, only 51 percent are employed full-time, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Fully 49 percent of college teachers are part-time workers. Here is the percentage of part-time professors by type of school…


Four-year schools

36% of teachers at public schools

48% of teachers at private, nonprofit schools

85% of teachers at private, for-profit schools


Two-year schools

69% of teachers at public schools

51% of teaches at private, nonprofit schools

53% of teachers at private for-profit schools


Alternative Credentials Can Boost Earnings

Is it time to expand our notion of what constitutes higher education? According to the Census Bureau, the answer might be yes. In a first, the bureau has collected and analyzed data on Americans who hold educational credentials other than an academic degree–called “alternative credentials.” These include certifications through an examination process, licenses that are renewed periodically, and educational certificates.


The number of adults with alternative credentials is substantial. In 2012, fully 46 million Americans aged 18 or older had professional certifications or licenses (22 percent of adults) and 19 million had educational certificates (9 percent). Including these credentials in measures of educational attainment would change our sense of who has post-secondary education. Among the 59 million Americans with no more than a high school diploma, 11.2 million have a professional certification or license. “If this alternative credential were incorporated into an expanded measure of education, these 11.2 million people might be recategorized into the ‘more than high school’ category, representing a shift of almost 5 percent of the adult population,” explains the Census Bureau.


Do alternative credentials boost earnings? Only for workers without a bachelor’s degree. Among full-time workers with a high school diploma and no alternative credentials, median monthly earnings in 2012 were $2,500 per month. For workers with an educational certificate, earnings were a higher $2,917 per month. For those with a professional certification or license, earnings were $3,053 per month. For workers with both types of alternative credentials, earnings topped out at $3,200 per month. “At low levels of regular education, there is routinely an earnings premium for a professional certification or license or an educational certificate,” says the bureau.


Under Adult Supervision

One in every 35 adults in the United States is in prison, jail, on probation or parole. For more about this burgeoning segment of the population, see the Bureau of Justice Statistics report Correctional Populations in the United States, 2012.


The Demographic Engine of City Growth

Is the recent growth of cities a consequence of the economic shock experienced by America’s young adults? The Great Recession idled millions of millennials, causing them to postpone marriage and childbearing. Without the nuclear family motive for moving to the suburbs, young adults are staying put in urban centers and boosting city populations. Between 2010 and 2012, the nation’s largest cities (with populations of 50,000 or more) grew 2.1 percent, nearly double the 1.1 percent growth everywhere else. Cities may be growing not so much because they are attracting young adults, but because they are no longer losing young families to the suburbs. Take a look at the facts:

  • The  median age at first marriage is at a record high (29 for men; 27 for women).
  • The fertility rate is at a record low (62.7 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44).
  • The number of nuclear families (married couples with children under age 18) headed by young adults fell by more than 1 million between 2007 and 2013. Nuclear families now account for only 24 percent of households headed by people under age 35.
Will cities lose their luster as the economy recovers and young adults revert to a more typical pattern of marriage and childbearing? Maybe, but there are reasons to doubt a return to the good old days. The biggest problem is student loan debt, shifting the age of first-time home buying from the early to the late thirties. Only 37 percent of householders under age 35 are homeowners, the lowest rate on record for the age group. By the time they can afford to buy a home, younger generations will be accustomed to city life and may not be willing to trade urban amenities for suburban sprawl.


Young Adults Are Splitting into Haves and Have-Nots

Young adults are splitting into Haves and Have-Nots based on their education, according to a Pew Research Center report. While this is a long-term trend, Pew’s analysis of Census Bureau income data for people aged 25 to 32 shows just how much more important a bachelor’s degree is to millennials than it was for generation Xers or boomers.


First, the good news. Today’s 25-to-32-year-olds with a bachelor’s degree have a higher median household income than did their generation X or baby-boom counterparts at the same age. For college-educated millennials, median household income in 2012 was $89,079. This compares with a median of $86,237 for gen Xers when they were 25-to-32-years-old, $81,686 for younger boomers at that age, and $71,916 for older boomers as young adults. (Note: household income is in 2012 dollars and adjusted for changes in household size.) In other words, the standard of living of college-educated young adults has improved over the decades.


Now the bad news. Today’s 25-to-32-year-olds with no more than a high school diploma are decidedly worse off than their generation X or baby-boom counterparts at the same age. Millennials with no more than a high school diploma had a median household income of $39,842 in 2012. This compares with a larger $45,164 for gen Xers when they were 25-to-32-years-old, $47,986 for younger boomers at that age, and $50,097 for older boomers as young adults. In other words, the standard of living of young adults who do not go to college has dropped, their median household income now 20 percent below what it was a few decades ago.


The household income gap between young adults with a bachelor’s degree and those with no more than a high school diploma has more than doubled, growing from $22,000 in 1979 to $49,000 in 2012. That growing gap explains why 22 percent of today’s 25-to-32-year-olds with no more than a high school diploma are poor (up from 7 percent in 1979) and 18 percent are living with their parents (up from 9 percent in 1979).


The Antidepressant Boom

Maybe it was the Great Recession, or pharmaceutical advertising, or the advice of doctors. Whatever the reason, the result is clear: a booming market for antidepressants, according to the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. The number of Americans who purchased an antidepressant grew by an enormous 65 percent in ten years–rising from 18.5 million in 2000 to 30.6 million in 2010. Overall, nearly 10 percent of Americans purchased a prescribed antidepressant in 2010, up from 7 percent in 2000. Here are the 2010 percentages by age…


Percent purchasing a prescribed antidepressant in 2010

Total people: 9.9%

Under age 18: 1.3%

Aged 18 to 44: 8.8%

Aged 45 to 64: 16.2%

Aged 65-plus: 16.2%
The Aging of Genius

Geniuses are getting older. That’s the conclusion of a National Bureau of Economic Research literature review and analysis. During the 20th century, the average age of great achievement (defined as winning a Nobel Prize or inventing a new technology) increased by six years according to a study, cited in the NBER paper, of 544 Nobel winners and 286 technological innovators.


One theory posited for the rising age of scientific genius is the growing length of time required for training. “To the extent that expertise over some range of existing knowledge is an essential input to the creative process in science, the expansion of extant theories, facts, methods, et cetera, can create a rising ‘burden of knowledge’ on successive generations of scientists,” say the authors.


The aging of genius can mean less genius overall and may even change the direction of scientific progress, according to the authors’ analysis. “There is, in effect, less time for genius to act like one,” they explain. In addition, “if early life-cycle innovative capacity is increasingly truncated by training demands, then it is possible that the nature of achievements would shift from conceptual toward experimental reasoning. Thus contributions may become increasingly biased against deep, conceptual novelty.”


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


Nationally, 22 percent of households have incomes of $100,000 or more. Percentage by region…

Northeast: 26%
Midwest: 20%
South: 19%
West: 25%


2. Q & A

Racial Discrimination: How Much Have the Attitudes of Blacks and Whites Changed? 

It is rare to have 45 years of comparable survey results on the attitudes of blacks and whites toward racial discrimination. The Harris Poll not only has the data, but has compiled a report that compares 1969, 1972, 2008, and 2014 results to see how much or how little attitudes toward racial discrimination have changed over the decades.


Not surprisingly, on every issue blacks are more likely than whites to think blacks are discriminated against. The issues range from how blacks are treated by police to the wages paid to blacks and the quality of public school education received by black children. The black-white attitudes gap existed in 1969 and it still exists today. When asked whether they are discriminated against in getting full equality, 78 percent of blacks and 41 percent of whites said yes in the 2014 survey. The figures were 84 and 43 percent, respectively, in the 1969 survey. When asked whether blacks are discriminated against in the wages they are paid, 63 percent of blacks and 25 percent of whites said yes in the 2014 survey. The figures were 73 and 22 percent, respectively, in 1969.


Clearly, blacks and whites do not see eye to eye on issues of racial discrimination. But when comparing results from 1969 with those from 2014 a bit of good news emerges: the attitudes gap is shrinking. In 1969, black and white attitudes on the range of issues addressed were separated by an average of 44 percentage points. This year, black and white attitudes are separated by a smaller gap of 34 percentage points. That’s progress of a sort.


Here is an example of how attitudes have converged. When asked whether blacks are discriminated against in the way they are treated as human beings, this is the percentage of blacks and whites who said “yes” in 2014 and 1969…



Blacks: 71%

Whites: 39%

Difference: 32 percentage points



Blacks: 77%

Whites: 35%

Difference: 42 percentage points


Nevada experienced a larger drop in homeownership than any other state between 2004 (the peak year) and 2012. The state’s homeownership rate fell 10 percentage points during those years to 56 percent.


3. Cool Research Links

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


We’re soon going to know a whole lot more about the geography of smartphone and Internet use. Beginning in the fall of 2014, the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey will provide information on computer ownership by type of computer (desktop, laptop, smartphone, etc.) and Internet subscription by type of connection (DSL, cable, fiber-optic, mobile broadband, etc.) for the nation, states, and smaller geographies such as cities and counties. Until then, there’s the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, which has long asked about computers and the Internet. According to the latest (2012) report, available at the above link, 79 percent of households have a computer at home, 75 percent use the Internet at home, and 45 percent of adults have a smartphone.


Educational Attainment: 2013  

The latest data on educational attainment, available at the above link, reveals how many millions of Americans are not only graduating from high school and going to college, but graduating from college and going to grad school. The number of people with at least some graduate-level education grew by an astounding 52 percent between 2000 and 2013, rising from 23 million to 36 million. Today, 32 percent of Americans aged 25 or older have at least a bachelor’s degree, 17 percent have graduate school experience, and 12 percent have a graduate degree.

Who Reads Print Books?       

If you think print is dead, think again. When it comes to books, print is very much alive. A Pew survey of book reading by type of book, which can be accessed at the above link, shows a growing percentage of people read a book in the past year (76 percent in 2014, up from 74 percent in 2012), and print is still the dominant book format. Among all adults, 69 percent read a print book and 28 percent read an e-book in the past year. Even among 18-to-29-year-olds, print dominates: 73 percent read a print book and 37 percent read an e-book in the past year.


Percentage of Americans who say they have been “born again” or have had a “born again” experience: 42%.

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!