American Consumers Newsletter

by Cheryl Russell, Editorial Director, New Strategist Press
December 2017

Mobility Rate Falls to New Low in 2016


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1. Hot Trends 


Mobility Rate Falls to New Low in 2017
The geographic mobility rate fell to a new all-time low in 2017, according to the Census Bureau. Only 11.0 percent of U.S. residents aged 1 or older as of March 2017 had moved in the previous 12 months. Not since 1960 have so few people moved (35 million).

Among people living in owned homes, 5.5 percent moved from one house to another between 2016 and 2017, above the all-time low of 4.7 percent recorded in 2011 and 2012. Among people living in rented homes, the mobility rate fell to a new all-time low of 21.7 percent in 2017.

Mobility rate in 2017
Total US: 11.0%
Owners: 5.5%
Renters: 21.7%


Another New Low: Households with Kids

Only 27.2 percent of the nation’s households in 2017 included children under age 18, according to the Census Bureau–a new record low. The decline in the percentage of households with children has been ongoing for decades. Here is the trend since 1960…

Households with own children under age 18
2017: 27.2%
2010: 30.0%
2000: 33.0%
1990: 34.6%
1980: 38.4%
1970: 45.4%
1960: 48.7%


Among Millennials, Whites Stand Apart

White Millennials are outliers–that’s the finding of the latest GenForward survey of Americans aged 18 to 34. The survey probes the age group’s attitudes about racial identity, race relations, and racial politics. “Our survey clearly outlines how whites are quickly becoming the outlier group in this generation,” says the report. “No longer the baseline, norm, or default, white Millennials often, though not always, find themselves at odds with their peers of color.”

Here is just one of many examples from the GenForward report, The Woke Generation? Millennial Attitudes on Race in the US. When asked the question, “Do you personally see the Confederate flag more as a symbol of Southern pride or more as a symbol of racism,” this is the percentage of 18-to-34-year-olds who answered “Southern Pride”…

Confederate flag is symbol of Southern Pride
Blacks: 16%
Asians: 25%
Hispanics: 29%
Non-Hispanic Whites: 55%


Spending on “Taxi Fares” Has Soared

Ride sharing has exploded since Uber rolled out in 2011. According to a Demo Memo analysis of the Consumer Expenditure Survey, average household spending on what the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls “taxi fares and limousine services” climbed 47 percent between 2010 and 2016, after adjusting for inflation. The Uber effect is especially strong among Millennials…

Percent change in spending on “taxi fares,” 2010 to 2016
Under age 25: -10%
Aged 25 to 34: +156%
Aged 35 to 44: +97%
Aged 45 to 54: +17%
Aged 55 to 64: -4%
Aged 65-plus: +17%

Drilling down to spending on “taxi fares” in home city only (excluding taxi fares on trips) and the increase in average household spending is even greater–55 percent overall and 181 percent for householders aged 25 to 34.


Alexa, Listen to Me

Despite this being early days for digital voice assistants, they are already remarkably popular. Nearly half of Americans have used them, according to a Pew Research Center survey. The largest share of the public has used a digital voice assistant on their smartphone (42 percent), while only 8 percent have used a stand-alone device such as an Amazon Echo (Alexa). Not surprisingly, digital voice assistants are more popular among younger adults…

Have ever used a digital voice assistant
Total public: 46%
Under aged 50: 55%
Aged 50-plus: 37%


Fastest-Growing Occupations, 2016 to 2026

Every two years the Bureau of Labor Statistics updates its employment, occupation, and industry projections for the decade ahead. The latest update has recently been released. Here are the 10 occupations projected to grow the fastest between 2016 and 2026 and their 2016 median wage…

Fastest-growing occupations, 2016-26 (2016 median wage)
105% solar photovoltaic installers ($39,240)
96% wind turbine service technicians ($52,260)
47% home health aides ($22,600)
37% personal care aides ($21,920)
37% physician assistants ($101,480)
36% nurse practitioners ($100,910)
33% statisticians ($80,500)
31% physical therapist assistants ($56,610)
30% software developers, applications ($100,080)
29% mathematicians ($105,810)

A shout-out is due the 11th fastest-growing occupation–bicycle repairers. Their number is expected to grow 29 percent in the next 10 years as bicycling surges in popularity. Median wage: $27,630.


5.3 Million More Workers Aged 65-Plus

The number of workers aged 65 or older is projected to grow by an enormous 58 percent between 2016 and 2026, according to Bureau of Labor Force Statistics’ projections. Older workers will account for the 51 percent majority of the overall 10.5 million increase in the labor force during the next decade.

Numerical (and %) change in labor force, 2016 to 2026
Under age 35: 1% (+633,000 workers)
Aged 35 to 64: 5% (+4.5 million workers)
Aged 65-plus: 58% (+5.3 million workers)

By 2026, one in three men and one in four women aged 65 to 74 is projected to be in the labor force. Among those aged 75 or older, labor force participation is projected to rise from 8 to 11 percent over the decade.


Minorities: 42% of Labor Force in 2026

Slowly but steadily, the labor force is becoming more diverse. The latest projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show the non-Hispanic White share of the labor force falling from 63 to 58 percent between 2016 and 2026. The minority share of the labor force will climb from 37 to 42 percent. A decade from now, 21 percent of American workers will be Hispanic, 13 percent Black, and 7 percent Asian.

Numerical (and %) change in labor force, 2016 to 2026
Asians: +2,647,000 (28%)
Blacks: +1,881,000 (10%)
Hispanics: +8,118,000 (30%)
Non-Hispanic Whites: -2,471,000 (-2%)


Who Has Trouble Staying Warm?

Among the nation’s 118 million households, a substantial 31 percent were energy insecure in 2015, according to the Residential Energy Consumption Survey. The survey defined energy insecurity as experiencing at least one of five heating/cooling problems–reducing or forgoing food or medicine to pay energy costs; leaving the home at an unhealthy temperature; receiving a disconnect or delivery stop notice; unable to use heating equipment; or unable to use cooling equipment.

Most low-income households are energy insecure. Among households with incomes below $20,000, the 51 percent majority reported being energy insecure in 2015–that is, they experienced at least one of the five problems. The figure fell to 34 percent among households with incomes of $40,000 to $60,000, which is close to the national median. Among households with incomes of $140,000 or more, only 8 percent reported energy insecurity.

Climate doesn’t matter. Among households located in very cold/cold climates, 30 percent reported energy insecurity. Among those in hot/humid climates, 34 percent reported energy insecurity.

Insulation cuts the problem in half. Among those who report that their home is well insulated, only 23 are energy insecure. Among those whose homes are poorly insulated, 49 percent are energy insecure.

Mobile homes are the worst. Among those who live in single-family detached homes, 27 percent report being energy insecure. The figure is about the same for those in apartment buildings with five or more units (30 percent). But for those in smaller apartment buildings of two to four units, a much larger 46 percent are energy insecure. For mobile homes, the figure is a whopping 59 percent.


Real Weight Is Rising. So Is Ideal

Americans are putting on the pounds, but that’s ok with them because their “ideal” weight is also rising, according to a Gallup Survey. “One apparent way Americans cope with the knowledge they are gaining weight and the potential health problems this entails is to adjust their idea of what they should weigh,” reports Gallup.

In the past decade, the average man has gained two pounds and now weighs 195. The average woman has gained three pounds and now weighs 158. (These are self-reported rather than measured weights and likely to be underestimates.) For both men and women, “ideal” weight climbed four pounds over the past decade–to 183 for men and 140 for women.

As men and women have gained weight, fewer regard themselves as overweight. Only 35 percent of men consider themselves to be overweight, down from 38 percent 10 years ago. Forty percent of women consider themselves overweight today, down from 45 percent a decade ago. “Until these trends can be reversed…the weight problem that plagues the U.S. is not going away,” concludes Gallup.


College Graduates at Work, 1970 to 2016

The educational attainment of American workers has soared since the 1970s, when well-educated Boomers began pouring into the labor force. Among workers aged 25 to 64 in 1970, fully 36 percent had not even graduated from high school. Only 14 percent had four or more years of college. By 2016, the percentage of workers without a high school diploma had plummeted to 8 percent, and the percentage with a bachelor’s degree or more education had climbed to 39 percent.

The gains in educational attainment have been especially large for women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Women in the Labor Force: a Databook. In 1970, female workers were less likely than male workers to have four or more years of college. By 2016, they were far more likely than men to be college graduates…

Distribution of women aged 25 to 64 in labor force by educational attainment in 2016 (and 1970)
Not a high school graduate: 6.0% (33.5%)
High school graduate only: 22.9% (44.3%)
Some college/assoc. degree: 29.6% (10.9%)
Bachelor’s degree or more: 41.6% (11.2%)

Distribution of men aged 25 to 64 in labor force by educational attainment in 2016 (and 1970)
Not a high school graduate: 9.3% (37.5%)
High school graduate only: 28.6% (34.5%)
Some college/assoc. degree: 25.9% (12.2%)
Bachelor’s degree or more: 36.2% (15.7%)


How Young Adults Live: 1967 and 2017

The living arrangements of 25-to-34-year-olds have changed dramatically over the past 50 years, according to Census Bureau statistics. In 1967, more than 80 percent of 25-to-34-year-olds lived with a spouse. In 2017, no single living arrangement accounts for the majority of the age group…

Living arrangements of men aged 25 to 34
36.7% live with a spouse in 2017, down from 82.6% in 1967
18.3% are a child of the householder, double the 9.1% of 1967
14.0% live with a partner, up from just 0.3% in 1967
11.4% live alone, three times the 3.7% of 1967
9.9% live with nonrelatives, up from 1.4% in 1967
9.7% live with other relatives, up from 2.9% in 1967

Living arrangements of women aged 25 to 34
45.1% live with a spouse in 2017, down from 82.7% in 1967
15.3% live with other relatives, up from 8.5% in 1967
14.1% live with a partner, up from just 0.2% in 1967
11.5% are a child of the householder, up from 5.3% in 1967
8.8% live alone, nearly four times the 2.3% of 1967
5.2% live with nonrelatives, up from 1.0% in 1967


Young People Do Not Share Our Values!

That’s the opinion of the great majority of Americans aged 18 or older, according to a PRRI survey. When asked whether they agree or disagree with the statement, “Most young people today do not share the same values I do,” the 75 percent majority of the public completely (32 percent) or mostly (43 percent) agrees.

This “you kids get off my lawn!” attitude is shared by every race and Hispanic origin group and by both Democrats and Republicans. Take a look…

“Most young people today do not share the same values I do”
Total public: 75%
Blacks: 85%
Hispanics: 73%
Non-Hispanic Whites: 76%
Republicans: 87%
Democrats: 64%


Healthy Grandparenthood Is Expanding

With Millennials delaying marriage and childbearing longer than any previous generation, many wannabe grandparents are experiencing FOMO–fear of missing out. Will they still be around–and able to enjoy–their grandchildren when they finally arrive? A study in Demography should help ease their fear. Despite delayed childbearing, expected years of healthy grandparenthood are rising.

Using data from several surveys including the Health and Retirement Study, researchers Rachel Margolis and Laura Wright examined grandparenthood and health status over time. They wanted to determine whether the years of healthy grandparenthood, “one of the most satisfying parts of older age,” are expanding or contracting as the dueling forces of later childbearing and longer life expectancy interact.

The answer: the best part of old age is expanding. Expected years of healthy grandparenthood for Americans at age 50 grew significantly between 1992-94 and 2010. For men, years of healthy grandparenthood grew from 13.2 to 15.8 (a gain of 2.6 years). For women they climbed from 15.9 to 18.9 (a gain of 3.0 years). The proportion of grandparenthood spent healthy also increased during the time period, rising from 71 to 73 percent for men and from 69 to 74 percent for women.

Healthy grandparenthood is a big deal not just because it’s fun. It is a time when elders provide important transfers to younger family members, the researchers note–such as providing child care. In contrast, “unhealthy grandparenthood represents a period when the middle generation may be more likely to provide care upward,” say the researchers.


Who Is Manly, Who Is Not?

Nearly one-third of American men and women regard themselves as “very masculine” or “very feminine,” according to a Pew Research Center survey. But attitudes vary by generation. Millennials are less likely than older Americans to regard themselves as very masculine or very feminine, and the differences are much bigger by generation among women…

Percent of men saying they are “very masculine”
Total men: 31%
Millennials: 24%
Gen Xers: 36%
Boomers: 34%
Older: 30%

Percent of women saying they are “very feminine”
Total women: 32%
Millennials: 19%
Gen Xers: 32%
Boomers: 36%
Older: 53%

Education also divides the public on the issue of manliness (and womanliness). Among men with a bachelor’s degree or more education, only 22 percent regard themselves as very masculine compared with 37 percent of those who went no further than high school. The comparable figures for women are 24 and 38 percent, respectively.


How Many Move after They Retire?

What percentage of older Americans move after they retire? According to a Transamerica survey, a substantial 39 percent moved. The single biggest reason retirees moved was to downsize (34 percent), followed by to reduce expenses (29 percent), to start a new chapter in life (28 percent), and to be closer to family and friends (27 percent). Multiple responses to this question were allowed.

Among workers aged 50 or older, expectations about moving in retirement are in line with the experiences of retirees. The 57 percent majority of workers aged 50-plus would prefer to stay in their current home when they retire, 26 percent would like to move and 17 percent are unsure.


19 Million Felons in the United States

There were 19 million current or former felons in the United States in 2010–nearly four times the 5 million of 1980, according to a study published in the journal Demography ($). “Development of the population with felony convictions since 1980 has been one of widespread, racialized growth,” reports the study.

Felons (current or former) accounted for 8 percent of the adult population in 2010–more than double the 3 percent of 1980, according to the analysis. Among African Americans, the share grew from 8 percent to 23 percent between 1980 and 2010. “Depending on the state,” say the researchers, “between 1 in 10 and 1 in 3 African American adults are confronting the daily reality of limited citizenship rights, diminished job prospects, and stigmatization.” Among Black men, 33 percent had a felony conviction as of 2010, up from 13 percent in 1980. The only bit of good news is that the 33 percent of 2010 was slightly lower than the 36 percent of 2000.

“The United States’ decades-long ‘grand experiment’ with mass incarceration may be at a crossroads,” conclude the researchers, “but at current rates of decline, some estimate it would take 80 years to return to 1980 levels nationwide.”


New Generations Spending Table
The World War II generation gets smaller by the day. This generation, defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as people born in 1927 or earlier, heads fewer than 2 percent of the nation’s households. Despite its small size, the BLS has revealed its characteristics and spending patterns, along with those of younger generations, in a new standard table in the Consumer Expenditure Survey’s annual series…
World War II generation (1927 or earlier): Still alive and kicking, the average householder in this generation is 91 years old. Two-thirds are women. Fifty-eight percent own a vehicle. They spent $35,344 in 2016, including $1,095 on eating out and $1,223 on entertainment.
Silent generation (1928 to 1945): With an average age of 77, households headed by a member of the Silent generation spent $41,763 in 2016. The 58 percent majority of Silent generation householders are women, and 84 percent own a vehicle. They spend slightly more on cell phone than landline service, and they are the biggest spenders on reading material.
Baby-boom generation (1946 to 1964): Boomers are still the largest generation of householders, accounting for 35 percent of the total. The average Boomer householder is 60 years old and owns an average of 2.1 vehicles. Forty percent are homeowners with a mortgage, and another 36 percent own their home free and clear. Boomer households spent an average of $61,204 in 2016.
Generation X (1965 to 1980): Gen Xers, with an average age of 43, are the biggest spenders. The average Gen X household spent $68,532 in 2016. Gen Xers spend more on mortgage interest than any other generation–$4,526 per year, nearly 7 percent of their total spending. They are also the biggest spenders on education because many have children in college and some are still paying off student loans.
Millennials (1981 or later): The 30 million households headed by Millennials, with an average age of 28, account for 23 percent of total households–less than Generation X’s 27 percent share. Only 33 percent of Millennial households own their home. This generation is less likely to own a vehicle (83 percent) than the Silent generation (84 percent). On average, Millennial households spent $48,576 in 2016. Nearly half of their food spending (47 percent) is devoted to eating out. In 2016, they spent $1,110 on cell phone service and just $64 on reading material.
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


Who are the best customers of lunch at full-service restaurants?
  • Householders aged 65 to 74, who spend 29 percent more than the average household on sit-down lunches.
  • Empty-nesters, who spend 40 percent more than the average household on sit-down lunches.
  • College graduates, who spend 49 percent more than the average household on sit-down lunches.


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Who are the best customers of bottled water?
  • Householders aged 35 to 54, who spend 19 to 20 percent more than average on bottled water.
  • Households with adult children at home, who spend 58 percent more than average on bottled water.
  • Hispanic households, who spend 58 percent more than average on bottled water.