American Consumers Newsletter
by Cheryl Russell, Editorial Director, New Strategist Press
Technology: Never Say Never
IN THIS ISSUE:
To see Cheryl Russell’s Demo Memo blog, click here.
1. Hot Trends
Way back in 2000, Gallup surveyed the public to determine cell phone ownership. Fifty percent of people aged 18 or older owned a cell phone in 2000 and another 25 percent planned to get one. But a substantial 23 percent of Americans reported that they would never get a cell phone–17 to 21 percent of people under age 65 and fully 50 percent of people aged 65 or older.”Many in the 2000 poll misjudged themselves or the technology–or both,” notes Gallup in its report, linking to the results of a 2018 Pew Research Center survey of cell phone ownership…
Percent owning a cell phone in 2018
Total adults: 95%
Aged 18 to 29: 100%
Aged 30 to 49: 98%
Aged 50 to 64: 94%
Aged 65-plus: 85%
Demographic change contributed to the rise of cell phone ownership, Gallup acknowledges. “Many older Americans who may have accurately predicted their non-adoption of cellphones have passed away since 2000.” But demographic change doesn’t account for the entire rise in adoption, Gallup says. The introduction of the smartphone in 2007 turned cell phones into an essential tool of modern life.
- For the 2004 cohort, “nearly 40 percent may default on their student loans by 2023.”
- Behind the sky-high level of default are for-profit schools. For the 2004 cohort, the 12-year default rate for students who ever attended a for-profit school was 43 percent. For those who never attended a for-profit, the default rate was 11 percent.
- “Debt and default among black or African-American college students is at crisis levels.” Among Blacks in the 2004 entry cohort who ever attended a for-profit school, the 12-year default rate was 58 percent.
There’s much more bad news in the 10-page report, which concludes: “The results provide support for robust efforts to regulate the for-profit sector, to improve degree attainment and promote income-contingent loan repayment options for all students, and to more fully address the particular challenges faced by college students of color.”
Medical debt looms over millions. Fully 21 percent of Americans aged 18 or older had unpaid, past-due medical bills in 2016, according to a FINRA Investor Education Foundation survey.
Women are more likely than men to have unpaid, past-due medical bills–23 percent of women versus 18 percent of men. Younger adults are more likely to have past-due medical bills than older Americans. Among adults under age 55, nearly one in four (24 percent) had unpaid, past-due medical bills. Among those aged 55 or older, the figure was 14 percent.
For many Millennials, the future may be dire indeed. A perfect storm of more debt, lower earnings, reduced homeownership, less wealth, and skimpier retirement savings relative to older generations suggests that many will experience a third-world standard of living in old age. The Center for Retirement Research reviews many of these concerns in a report examining whether Millennials will be ready for retirement.
“Many of today’s workers will have inadequate income when they reach retirement,” the report begins, “but the prospects for Millennials seem more challenging than for the generations ahead of them.” CRR researchers count the ways millennials are behind. Compared to Gen Xers and late Boomers at the same age…
- Their earnings are lower
- They are less likely to participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan
- They are less likely to be covered by employer-provided health insurance
- They are less likely to be homeowners
- They are more likely to have student loans
- They have accumulated less wealth
The average age at first birth has reached a new record high, according to the National Center for Health Statistics report, Births: Final Data for 2016. At 26.6 years, the average age at first birth was 1.4 years older in 2016 than it was in 2010. The age varies by race and Hispanic origin, however…
Average age at first birth
24.7 for Hispanics
24.8 for Blacks
27.4 for non-Hispanic Whites
30.1 for Asians
Having a baby costs a lot–about $10,000 for a normal delivery. Who pays the price? Private health insurance pays 49 percent of the costs of childbirth, reports the National Center for Health Statistics in Births: Final Data for 2016. Medicaid pays almost as much–another 43 percent.
There’s a good reason Medicaid funds such a large portion of deliveries. The federal government requires states to provide Medicaid coverage for pregnancy and childbirth for woman whose incomes are below 133 percent of federal poverty level. Because younger women have children, and because younger adults have low incomes, Medicaid often kicks in.
Percentage of births paid for by Medicaid by age of mother
Under age 20: 76.7%
Aged 20 to 24: 63.5%
Aged 25 to 29: 44.0%
Aged 30 to 34: 28.7%
Aged 35 to 39: 27.0%
Aged 40-plus: 29.1%
Is going to college pretty much the only path to financial security for today’s young adults? That’s what is suggested by the results of the National Center for Education Statistics’ longitudinal survey of the ninth-grade class of 2009. The 2016 follow up, seven years later, provides a disturbing look at the financial situation of those who did not go to college.
A substantial 28 percent of the nation’s 2009 ninth graders had not enrolled in a postsecondary institution since graduating from high school, according to the 2016 follow up. When asked why they never went to college, 43 percent cited personal reasons and 42 percent financial.
Anxiety was widespread among these young adults, with 60 percent worried about having enough money to pay for regular expenses. Many depended on parents to get by: 26 percent said their parents regularly helped them pay for their rent or mortgage; 26 percent said their parents regularly helped with health care costs; and 19 percent said their parents regularly helped pay their monthly bills. Among those who were employed, 39 percent reported having an income of less than $10,000 in the previous year.
- Let’s say you’re relatively young and want to increase your standard of living in retirement. So you decide to save more in your 401(k). You save 1 percentage-point more for 30 years. How much longer would you need to work to equal 30 years of additional savings? Three months.
- Let’s say you’re relatively old and want to increase your standard of living in retirement. So you decide so save more in your 401(k). You save 1 percentage-point more for 10 years. How much longer would you need to work to equal 10 years of additional savings? One month.
With defined-benefit pensions a thing of the past for most retirees, many older Americans are working longer to allow their retirement savings and Social Security benefits to grow. But will the rising labor force participation of older Americans result in greater income inequality? It already is, according to an analysis by Richard W. Johnson of the Urban Institute. His study examines the growing economic polarization between older Americans healthy enough to delay retirement and continue to work and older Americans whose poor health prevents them from working longer.
Analyzing data from the Health and Retirement Study, a longitudinal survey of Americans aged 50 or older, Johnson’s analysis compared the health and economic status of people aged 63 to 65 in 2014 with their counterparts in 1996. Over the time period, the health of people in their early sixties worsened…
- A larger share of 63-to-65-year-olds reported having health-related work limitations in 2014 (31.8 percent) than in 1996 (28.5 percent).
- The trend is most pronounced among the least educated–those who never attended college. Among 63-to-65-year-olds who never attended college, 42.3 percent had health-related work limitations in 2014, up from 33.6 percent in 1996.
- Among 63-to-65-year-olds who had attended college, 25.5 percent had health-related work limitations, up from 19.6 percent in 1996.
The number of same-sex couple households grew by nearly 50 percent between 2010 and 2016, according to Census Bureau estimates from the American Community Survey. Not surprisingly, the number of same-sex married couples more than tripled during those years, which saw the legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide following the 2015 Supreme Court ruling. As more same-sex partners married, the number of same-sex unmarried partner households fell 9 percent.
Total same-sex couple households
Same-sex married couples
Same-sex unmarried partners
Same-sex couple households are almost evenly split between male partners (49 percent) and female partners (51 percent). The typical same-sex couple is middle aged (householders have an average age of 48), educated (50 percent of householders have a bachelor’s degree), and affluent (median household income of $90,493 in 2016). Overall, same-sex couples have a higher median income than married, opposite-sex couples ($85,581) or opposite-sex unmarried couples ($61,909).
The Millennial generation is “a demographic bridge to America’s diverse future,” according to a Brookings analysis of the generation by William H. Frey. Millennials (defined as 18-to-34-year-olds) are only 55.8 percent non-Hispanic White. The generations ahead of them are dominated by non-Hispanic Whites (61.5 percent of 35-to-54-year-olds and 75.0 percent of people aged 55-plus). The generation behind them is almost minority majority (51.5 percent of people under age 18 are non-Hispanic White). Millennials are the bridge for this “cultural generation gap” between old and young.
Frey’s study calculates the cultural generation gap for states and large metropolitan areas. He defines the gap as the difference between the non-Hispanic White share of the pre-Millennial population (aged 35 or older) minus the non-Hispanic White share of the post-Millennial population (under age 18). Nationally, the gap is 16 percentage points (68 minus 52 percent). But in some states and metropolitan areas, the gap is much larger. By state, the gap is largest in Arizona–27 percentage points (67 minus 40 percent). By metropolitan area, the gap is largest in Cape Coral, Florida–30 percentage points (78 minus 48 percent).
The lasting legacy of Millennials is yet to be determined, says Frey. It will be “based on how successfully they serve as a social, economic, and political bridge to the next racially diverse generation,” he concludes.
The average household in the United States was home to 2.54 people in 2017, according to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. But household size varies by race and Hispanic origin. Hispanics have the largest households and non-Hispanic Whites the smallest…
3.25 people in the average Hispanic household
2.90 people in the average Asian household
2.51 people in the average Black household
2.37 people in the average non-Hispanic White household
The younger age of the Hispanic population (median age = 29) explains their larger household size, with many Hispanics in the family formation years. The older age of the non-Hispanic White population (median age = 43) explains their smaller household size, with many non-Hispanic Whites in the empty-nest lifestage. Non-Hispanic Whites head 70 percent of the nation’s single-person households and 74 percent of two-person households. But as household size increases, non-Hispanic Whites are a shrinking share of householders: they head 61 percent of three-person households, 60 percent of four-person households, 53 percent of five-person households, 47 percent of six-person households, and just 41 percent of households with seven or more people.
Depression is a common condition, according to a National Center for Health Statistics study. Among adults aged 20 or older, 8.1 percent were found to be depressed in a given two-week period of 2013-2016. The NCHS measured depression by administering a nine-item depression screening instrument to a nationally representative sample of the population.
Women are more likely to be depressed (10.4 percent) than men (5.5 percent). Asians are much less likely to be depressed (3.1 percent) than any other race or Hispanic origin group. Interestingly, the prevalence of depression falls as family income increases…
People aged 20-plus with depression by family income
Less than 100% of poverty level: 15.8%
100% to 199% of poverty level: 10.9%
200% to 399% of poverty level: 7.8%
400% or more of poverty level: 3.5%
Well-being fell in 21 states in 2017, according to a Gallup survey, a record decline surpassing the 15-state drop in 2009. No state saw an improvement in well-being–the first time without a winner since Gallup started tracking well-being by state in 2008. Gallup’s well-being index is based on a number of questions probing five areas: sense of purpose, social support, financial security, sense of community, and physical health.
On a scale of 0 to 100, national well-being fell to 61.5 in 2017, down from 62.1 in 2016 and “the largest year-over-year decline since the index began in 2008,” according to Gallup. Among states with declines in well-being, the metrics that worsened included…
- more experiencing worry on a given day
- decline in reports of receiving positive energy from friends and family members
- decline in those who say they have a leader who makes them “enthusiastic about the future”
Fifteen of the 21 states with declines in well-being were in the South and West, reports Gallup, and include biggies such as Florida, Texas, and California. The six states in the Northeast and Midwest with declines in well-being included New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Ohio.
by Cheryl Russell
You might call Demographics of the U.S. the encyclopedia of the 21st century. This all-new edition of Demographics of the U.S. focuses tightly on what has happened since the year 2000. It collects, in one place, the broad range of demographic and socioeconomic trends as we veered off the path of prosperity, and it details where we’ve been ever since. This is a reference tool for those who want perspective on the many ongoing changes in American life–a perspective critical for understanding the future. It includes single-year data on many topics and highlights the most important trends of the 21st century.
Demographics of the U.S. explains the increasingly complex, often confusing, and rapidly changing nation we live in today. It makes sense of the recent past and shines a light on our future. The reference is divided into 11 chapters, organized alphabetically: Attitudes, Education, Housing, Income, Labor Force, Living Arrangements, Population, Spending, Time Use, and Wealth.
Click here for more information about the book, including a Look Inside and a List of Trends examined.
Hardcover: $143.00 (978-1-937737-51-1) 585 pages
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Multi-user site license: $330.00
Looking for customers? Repositioning your products? Americans are spending again, but only those who are on top of the trends will know who’s spending and what they’re buying. The new 21st edition of the best-selling Household Spending: Who Spends How Much on What reveals who spends and the products and services they buy. Included in the 21st edition is a look at the spending recovery of 2014 as well as the long decline from the peak-spending year of 2006 to the post-Great Recession low of 2013.
Based on unpublished data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2014 Consumer Expenditure Survey, Household Spending examines how much American households spend on hundreds of products and services by the demographics that count: age, income, household type, region of residence, race and Hispanic origin, and educational attainment.
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