American Consumers Newsletter

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

Median Household Income Up 5.2%


2. Business Tools:  


AMERICAN INCOMES, 11th edition

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

1. Hot Trends

Median Household Income Up 5.2%
After seven long years of decline and stagnation, median household income finally registered a statistically significant gain in 2015–and it was a big one, according to the Census Bureau. The $56,516 median household income of 2015 was a substantial 5.2 percent higher than the 2014 median, after adjusting for inflation. The gains were enjoyed by both young and old…
Median household income in 2015
(and % change 2014-15; in 2015 dollars)
Under age 25: $36,108 (4.2%)
Aged 25 to 34: $57,366 (5.6%)
Aged 35 to 44: $71,417 (7.0%)
Aged 45 to 54: $73,857 (4.2%)
Aged 55 to 64: $62,802 (3.5%)
Aged 65-plus: $38,515 (4.3%)
Women’s Median Earnings at Record High
The median earnings of women who work full-time reached an all-time high of $40,742 in 2015, according to the Census Bureau. In contrast, men’s earnings peaked in 1973. Among full-time workers, women earned 80 percent as much as men in 2015, up from 57 percent in 1973.
Men: median earnings of full-time workers (in 2015$)
2015: $51,212
2014: $50,441
2007: $51,570
2000: $51,269
1973: $53,356 (peak year)
Women: median earnings of full-time workers (in 2015$)
2015: $40,742 (peak year)
2014: $39,667
2007: $40,126
2000: $37,796
1973: $30,217
Median Household Income by State, 2015
Median household income varies greatly by state. Maryland has the highest median household income–36 percent above the national median of $55,775, according to the 2015 American Community Survey. Mississippi has the lowest–27 percent below the national median.
Hghest median household income
$75,847 in Maryland
$75,628 in Washington, DC
$73,486 in Hawaii
$73,355 in Alaska
$72,222 in New Jersey
Lowest median household income
$45,215 in Kentucky
$44,765 in Alabama
$42,019 in West Virginia
$41,995 in Arkansas
$40,593 in Mississippi
Median Home Value Rises in 2015
Home values are rising, according to America’s homeowners. The median value of owned homes climbed by a substantial 7.2 percent between 2014 and 2015, after adjusting for inflation. The nation’s homeowners estimated their home’s value to be a median of $194,500 in 2015, according to the American Community Survey. This is 10 percent more than the post-Great Recession low of 2013, but still 12 percent below the all-time high of 2007.
Median housing value, 2007 to 2015 (in 2015 dollars)
2015: $194,500
2014: $181,415
2013: $176,931 (post-Great Recession low)
2007: $222,108 (all-time high)
1 Million Fewer Nuclear Families
The number of married couples with children under age 18 (nuclear families) fell by 1 million between 2010 and 2016, according to Census Bureau data, the only household type to decline during those years. Behind the decline is the postponement of marriage and childbearing by young adults.
Married couples with children under age 18
2016: 25.1 million (20% of households)
2010: 26.1 million (22% of households)
Health Insurance by Region, 2016
Only 11.9 percent of adults aged 18 to 64 were without health insurance when interviewed by the National Health Interview Survey in January-March 2016. This is well below the 20.4 percent of 2013, the year before implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges. Health insurance coverage of working-age adults varies greatly by region…
Percent of 18-to-64-year-olds without health insurance, January-March 2016
  5.9% in New England states
  7.8% in East North Central states
  8.0% in Middle Atlantic states
  9.1% in West North Central states
10.7% in Pacific states
11.7% in East South Central states
12.2% in Mountain states
14.9% in South Atlantic states
24.2% in West South Central states
New Survey of “Gig” Workers
Every year the Bureau of Labor Statistics plums Current Population Survey data to estimate the number of self-employed American workers, and every year for many years that number has been declining. In 2015, only 6.4 percent of workers aged 16 or older were self-employed, down from 7.4 percent a decade earlier. Now two economists are calling that number–and the downward trend–into question. That’s just one of the eyebrow-raising findings in a new survey of alternative work arrangements, or what we now call “gig” workers. (See The Rise and Nature of Alternative Work Arrangements in the United States, 1995-2015, National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 22667).
Apparently economists have been frustrated with the lack of an update for the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Contingent Worker Survey (CWS), last fielded in 2005. (Here is the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s attempt to update the numbers earlier this year.) That’s because so much has happened in the 10-plus years since the BLS last asked Americans about “gig” work, or what the BLS calls contingent or alternative work arrangements. So economists Lawrence F. Katz and Alan B. Krueger decided to do something about it. They fielded a version of the CWS as part of the RAND American Life Panel in 2015. Their goal was to determine the number of Americans aged 18 or older whose main job was independent contractor or freelancer (the self-employed), contract worker, on-call worker, or temporary help agency worker.
They found the mother lode–millions of workers and a rapidly growing workforce that may account for most of the nation’s labor force growth over the decade. Fully 15.8 percent of workers in 2015 had an alternative work arrangement, up from 10.7 percent in 2005. The number of alternative workers grew from 15.0 million to 23.6 million during those years–a 57 percent increase. A comparison of alternative and traditional work force growth shows alternative workers increasing by 8.6 million between 2005 and 2015 and traditional workers increasing by just 0.5 million. In other words, gig workers accounted for 94 percent of labor force growth during the decade. Wow!
Which brings us back to that 6.4 percent (and falling) self-employment rate in Current Population Survey data. Katz and Krueger find a significantly larger 8.4 percent self-employment rate. IRS data backs up their claim of growing rather than shrinking numbers of self-employed. “Understanding the reasons underlying the divergent trends between the IRS and CPS data on self-employment should be a priority for future research,” state the authors.
Decline in Nursing Home Residents
The number of nursing home residents has fallen steadily since 1997 as home health care and residential care options have expanded, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Between 1997 and 2014, the number of nursing home residents fell 9 percent–despite a 26 percent increase in the 65-plus population and a 57 percent increase in the number of people aged 85-plus.
Nursing home residents
2014: 1,369,000
2010: 1,396,000
2005: 1,436,000
2000: 1,480,000
1997: 1,503,000
How Many Have Dementia?
Half of nursing home residents have Alzheimer’s or dementia, according to a  government report on long-term care. But most people with dementia live in their community. Overall, 10 percent of Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 or older who are not living in a nursing home have dementia according to Older Americans 2016. Here are the percentages by age…
Percent with dementia
Aged 65 to 69: 3.6%
Aged 70 to 74: 4.8%
Aged 75 to 79: 9.9%
Aged 80 to 84: 15.3%
Aged 85 to 89: 24.0%
Aged 90-plus: 36.2%
11.1 Million Undocumented Immigrants
The number of undocumented immigrants in the United States has been stable for the past few years, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of American Community Survey data. In 2014, there were an estimated 11.1 million undocumented immigrants in the country, down from a peak of 12.2 million in 2007. Here are a few of the findings from Pew’s comprehensive examination of the unauthorized immigrant population in 2014…
  • Unauthorized immigrants have been in the U.S. a median of 13.6 years.
  • Just over half are from Mexico (5.8 million).
  • The number of unauthorized immigrants from Mexico has fallen since peaking at 6.9 million in 2007, while the number from other countries has grown.
  • Unauthorized immigrants account for 26% of the nation’s 43.6 million foreign-born.
  • Most unauthorized immigrants live in six states: California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois.
Who Shops for Groceries?
When asked whether they are the person in their household who usually does the grocery shopping, here’s what men and women aged 18 or older reported, according to a USDA Economic Research Service analysis…
71.3% said yes
17.2% said no
11.5% said grocery shopping is split equally
35.2% said yes
46.1% said no
18.7% said grocery shopping is split equally
Who Prepares Meals?
When asked whether they are the person in their household who usually prepares meals, here’s what men and women aged 18 or older reported, according to a USDA Economic Research Service analysis…
74.0% said yes
15.9% said no
10.1% said meal preparation is split equally
33.7% said yes
51.5% said no
14.7% said meal preparation is split equally
Pet Health Care Spending Looks Human
Americans love their pets. They love them so much that spending on pet health care mirrors spending on human health care. “Many features of the American pet health care sector are, qualitatively, remarkably similar to those of the American human health care sector,” reports a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper. Here are the similarities…
  • Spending on pet and human health care surged between 1996 and 2012. Human spending grew 50 percent and pet spending grew 60 percent during those years, after adjusting for inflation.
  • For both types of health care, spending rises with household income.
  • The number of human health care providers (physicians) and pet health care providers (veterinarians) soared between 1996 and 2013–a 40 percent increase in physicians and a near doubling in veterinarians.
  • At the end of life, spending spikes for both pets and humans.
These similarities suggest, say the researchers, that the rapidly rising cost of human health care may have less to do with health insurance and government involvement (as some theorize) and more to do with “deeper primitives”–such as our desire to keep alive those we love, regardless of the cost.
Trust in Mass Media Has Plummeted
Americans’ trust in the mass media has fallen to a new low, reports Gallup. From a high of 72 percent in 1976, the percentage of Americans who say they have a fair amount/great deal of trust in the mass media fell to just 32 percent in 2016. A major reason for the all-time low, says Gallup, is plummeting trust among Republicans…
Fair amount/great deal of trust in mass media, 2016 (and 2015)
Democrats: 51% (55%)
Independents: 30% (33%)
Republicans: 14% (32%)
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


Where Americans get most of their news…

45% from television
35% from the internet
10% from newspapers
5% from radio
3% from friends and family


Here are your one-stop resources for understanding American consumers–vital, cost effective information. Get the answers you need for business success in today’s competitive economy!
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This new 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 2014 by age, household type, race and Hispanic origin, education, region, and work status; examines trends in the incomes of men and women by a variety of demographic characteristics; and provides data on the wealth of American households. The poverty population is also a focus of American Incomes.
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The Who We Are Series provides a comprehensive look at the characteristics of America’s three major minorities: Asians, Blacks, and Hispanics. In addition to detailed estimates of their numbers nationally and by state and metropolitan area, the three volumes in the Who We Are Series include the latest socioeconomic data on each population. Detailed household spending data, the latest on household wealth, and findings from the American Time Use Survey are also presented.

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Number of metropolitan areas in which Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians account for more than 25 percent of the population…

Hispanics: 52 metros
Blacks: 41 metros
Asians: 2 metros