American Consumers Newsletter

by Cheryl Russell, Editorial Director, New Strategist Press
December 2012

New Population Projections Show Much Slower Growth


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

1. Hot Trends 

New Projections Show Much Slower Population Growth  

A lot has happened since the last time the Census Bureau produced national population projections: a recession, a baby bust, a 2010 census that counted 3 million fewer non-Hispanic whites than expected, and two elections in which minorities flexed their political muscle with profound results. How do the Census Bureau’s new projections capture these events and what will be their impact on the nation’s future population? Let’s take a look at what the projections show…


Much slower population growth The Census Bureau’s new projections show a population of just 399.8 million in 2050. This is much less than the 439.0 million projected for 2050 in the previous set of projections (produced in 2008).


Non-Hispanic white decline The new projections show the number of non-Hispanic whites peaking in 2024 at just under 200 million and declining steadily after that. As a share of the population, however, non-Hispanic whites will remain above 50 percent until 2043. Non-Hispanic whites are already in decline among Americans under age 45. The non-Hispanic white share of the younger population will fall below 50 percent in 2027. Among the nation’s children (under age 18), the non-Hispanic white share is projected to fall below 50 percent in 2018.


No baby bust in projections The Census Bureau’s forecast of slowing population growth may not be conservative enough. The projections assume the addition of well more than 4 million infants (under age 1) each year, including 4.2 million in 2012. Yet, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, the provisional number of births for the 12 months ending in June 2012 was just 3.9 million.


Slowing Growth Will Not Slow Diversity  

The Census Bureau’s new population projections forecast much slower growth than had been projected a few years ago. But this slower growth does not mean the population will diversify any more slowly. Only 46.6 percent of Americans will be non-Hispanic white in 2050, according to the new projections, almost identical to the 46.3 percent forecast by the old projections. Here are the Census Bureau’s latest projections of the size (numerical and percent) of each race and Hispanic origin group in 2015 and 2050:


Asian (alone or in combination)

2015: 20 million (6.2%)

2050: 38 million (9.6%)


Black (alone or in combination)

2015: 46 million (14.4%)

2050: 70 million (17.4%)



2015: 57 million (17.8%)

2050: 112 million (27.9%)


Non-Hispanic white

2015: 198 million (61.8%)

2050: 186 million (46.6%)


Births Continue Downward Slide

The Census Bureau population projections division may not be all that happy with the National Center for Health Statistics’ provisional count of births through the first half of 2012, which shows births well below the bureau’s assumption and continuing their downward slide. During the 12 months ending in June 2012, only 3,942,000 babies were born in the United States. This was 39,000 fewer births than during the same period ending in June 2011–a 1 percent decline. It was 374,233 fewer births than the 4,316,233 of 2007–the record high year.


So far in this newest baby bust, births have fallen 9 percent from the 2007 peak. During the baby bust of the 1970s, which created Generation X, births fell 37 percent from peak (1957) to trough (1973). We have a long way to go before we come close to that kind of decline. In fact, we won’t see the steep decline of the Gen X years because fertility rates are already at a record low and don’t have room to fall much more. The fertility rate for the 12 months ending in June 2012 was 63.0 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44–an all-time low.


Mobility Rate Inches Up

After reaching a record low in 2010-11, the nation’s geographic mobility rate inched up slightly in 2011-12, according to the Census Bureau. The percentage of Americans aged 1 or older who lived in a different house in March 2012 than in March 2011 rose to 12.0 percent, up from the all-time low of 11.6 percent a year earlier. Here is the trend in the annual mobility rate since 2000…


2011-12: 12.0%

2010-11: 11.6%

2009-10: 12.5%

2008-09: 12.5%

2007-08: 11.9%

2006-07: 13.2%

2005-06: 13.7%

2004-05: 13.9%

2003-04: 13.7%

2002-03: 14.2%

2001-02: 14.8%

2000-01: 14.2%

Homeowner Mobility Lowest Ever  

The overall mobility rate climbed slightly in 2011-12, but the mobility rate of the nation’s homeowners sunk deeper into record low territory. Between March 2011 and March 2012, only 4.739 percent of the nation’s homeowners moved, slightly less than the 4.741 percent of 2010-11. While this decline is not statistically significant, it indicates continued trouble in the housing market. The mobility rate of homeowners peaked at 9.5 percent in the late 1980s.


The number of homeowners who moved in 2011-12 fell to a new record low of 9,701,000, slightly less than the 9,724,000 homeowners who moved in 2010-11. The number of homeowners who moved peaked at more than 17 million in 1999-2000.


In contrast to the moribund mobility rate of homeowners, the mobility of renters climbed to 26.7 percent in 2011-12, up from 26.2 percent in 2010-11. The number of renters who moved climbed by 1.4 million to 26,787,000. This is the largest number of renters who moved since 1998-99 and signals an improving economy but not necessarily an improving housing market.

Median Age of Marriage Hits New High

The median age at which men and women marry for the first time continued to climb in 2012. Men now marry for the first time at a median age of 28.6, up from 26.8 in 2000 and a low of 22.5 years in the 1950s. Women now marry for the first time at a median age of 26.6, up from 25.1 in 2000 and a low of 20.1 years in the 1950s.


What’s Behind Shrinking Household Size?

Curiously, despite the economic turmoil in the aftermath of the Great Recession, average household size fell to a record low in 2012. The Census Bureau’s release of 2012 household statistics shows why: the changing age distribution of the population. A look at household size by age of householder reveals an increase in household size in all but one age group between 2007 and 2012. Nevertheless, the average fell because of the aging of the population and the entry of the small generation X into the crowded-nest lifestage.


In 2012, the average household was home to 2.55 people, the record low and slightly smaller than the 2.56 of 2007. By age, however, average household size fell in only one age group during those years. The average size of households headed by 30-to-34-year-olds fell from 3.09 to 3.06 people. Every other age group experienced a slight increase in household size, with one of the largest gains occurring in the 40-to-44 age group (rising from 3.22 to 3.44 people).


Average household size declined between 2007 and 2012 because of the shifting age distribution of the nation’s householders. In the 65-plus age group, average household size is less than two. Between 2007 and 2012, householders aged 65-plus expanded from 20 to 22 percent of total households. Meanwhile, the share of households headed by 35-to-44-year-olds (when household size peaks) fell from 20 to 18 percent of the total as generation X moved in. Yes, some young adults are living with their parents, but not enough to move the dial on average household size.

The Year the House Was Built  

Although the housing bubble resulted in the construction of many new homes, half the housing stock in the United States is nearly 40 years old–built in 1974 or earlier, according to the 2011 American Housing Survey. The housing stock is older in some regions than others. The oldest is in the Middle Atlantic states of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, where half the homes were built in 1958 or earlier. The newest is in the East South Central states of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee, where half the homes were built in 1980 or later.


Cell Phone Activities by Age

What do people do with their cell phone besides making phone calls? Taking pictures is the most popular cell phone activity, according to Pew Internet & American Life Project. Among the 85 percent of Americans who own a cell phone, 82 percent have used their phone to take a picture. Eighty percent have sent or received text messages, and 56 percent have accessed the Internet. There are big differences by age in the percentage of cell phone owners who do these activities, primarily because of the greater ownership of smartphones by younger Americans.

  • 94% of 18-to-29-year-olds have used their phone to take pictures versus only 44% of cell phone owners aged 65 or older.
  • 97% of 18-to-29-year-olds have used their phone to send or receive text messages versus only 34% of cell phone owners aged 65 or older.
  • 77% of 18-to-29-year-olds have used their phone to access the Internet versus only 13% of cell phone owners aged 65 or older.

These are a sampling of posts published in the past few weeks in Cheryl Russell’s Demo Memo blog. Please send questions or comments


Whites as a share of the U.S. population, 1950 to 2010…
1950: 90%
1960: 89%
1970: 88%
1980: 80%
1990: 76%
2000: 69%
2010: 64%Note: Beginning in 1980, whites are non-Hispanic white.

2. Q & A

Why Aren’t They Having Babies?       

The United States is in the midst of another baby bust. Births have declined 9 percent from their 2007 peak, the overall fertility rate is at a record low of 63.0 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44, and the birth rate of women in their prime childbearing years–aged 20 to 24–is at an all-time low. But take a look at the long-term trend in the birth rate of women in the 20-to-24 age group…


Births per 1,000 women aged 20 to 24

1960: 258.1

1970: 167.8

1980: 115.1

1990: 116.5

2000: 109.7

2007: 106.3

2011: 85.3


Clearly, the current low of 85.3 births per 1,000 women aged 20 to 24 is the continuation of a long-term trend. Yes, the economic turmoil of the Great Recession contributed to the recent decline, but long before the recession something else was at work. What was the mysterious force? Higher education. Note that the birth rate of 20-to-24-year-olds declined most sharply between 1960 and 1980 as baby-boom women made going to college the norm. Only 39 percent of women who graduated from high school in 1960 went to college. By 1980, the 52 percent majority were going to college. The figure grew to 68 percent by 2007, and the Great Recession pushed the enrollment rate as high as 74 percent in 2010.


With nearly three out of four young women in college, there aren’t a lot 20-to-24-year-olds with the time or inclination to have a baby, not to mention the money (or the man, since men are busy attending college too). Rising college enrollment explains not only the declining birth rate but also the rise in the median age at first marriage. The median age at which women marry for the first time has grown from 20.3 years in 1960 to a record high of 26.6 years in 2012.

By Cheryl Russell, editorial director, New Strategist Publications. Questions or comments, please contact


Percentage of women who have never married, by age…
Aged 18 to 19: 95%
Aged 20 to 24: 81%
Aged 25 to 29: 50%
Aged 30 to 34: 28%Source: The Millennials, 5th edition

3. Cool Research Links

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


Religious Belief

Nearly one in five Americans (19 percent) is religiously unaffiliated–a figure that has more than doubled since 1990, according to the 2012 American Values Survey of the Public Religion Research Institute, available at this link. The religiously unaffiliated have become one of the largest segments of the American population. They are almost as numerous as Catholics (22 percent) and evangelical Protestants (20 percent). They outnumber white mainline Protestants (15 percent). The Public Religion Research Institute produces numerous surveys exploring religious belief and their intersection with politics and public life.


Retirement in Tatters

Many Americans are no longer planning to retire. A new survey of workers aged 18 or older finds a substantial 43 percent planning to work past age 70 or not retire at all. The 54 percent majority say they will continue to work even after retirement. And 65 percent do not have a back-up plan if they find themselves unable to work before their planned retirement, according to the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies report Weathering the Economic Storm: Retirement Plans in the U.S., 2007-2012, available at this link.


Do you need local demographic data? The Census Bureau has released the latest local estimates from the American Community Survey. These detailed statistics from 2007-2011 profile 700,000 communities across the country. There are three ways to access the numbers. The hard way is to go to the Census Bureau’s American Factfinder site and compile your data. An easier route is to go to the Census Bureau’s QuickFacts site, select your geography (as small as incorporated places with 5,000 people), and get a summary profile of the most popular statistics. The third way is to go to the Census Bureau’s Easy Stats site, choose a topic (financial, jobs, housing, people, and education), select a geography (state, county, or place), and generate a table you can download in Excel.


Percentage of baby boomers who think marijuana should be legalized: 54%.