American Consumers Newsletter

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

Population by Generation, 2016



2. Business Tools:
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To see Cheryl Russell’s Demo Memo blog, click here.

1. Hot Trends 

Population by Generation, 2016

Boomers and older generations now account for less than one-third of the U.S. population, according to the Census Bureau’s 2016 population estimates. Millennials and younger generations account for the 52 percent majority of Americans.

Generational power is shifting as older generations shrink and younger ones grow. In the past year, the number of Gen Xers fell by 57,000, Boomers lost 652,000 of their peers, and the number of older Americans (born in 1945 or earlier) dropped by 1.7 million. Since 2010, the number of older Americans has fallen by more than 10 million.

Between 2015 and 2016 the number of Millennials grew by 348,000, the iGeneration by 280,000, and the Recession generation gained a whopping 4 million as births over the year expanded its ranks. In 2017, the Recession generation will surpass older Americans in size.

Size of generations in 2016 (and % of total population)
323,127,513 (100.0%): Total population
27,989,207 (  8.7%): Recession generation (aged 0 to 6)
62,788,936 (19.4%): iGeneration (aged 7 to 21)
79,159,101 (24.5%): Millennial generation (aged 22 to 39)
49,151,059 (15.2%): Generation X (aged 40 to 51)
74,102,309 (22.9%): Baby Boom (aged 52 to 70)
29,936,901 (  9.3%): Older Americans (aged 71-plus)

City Population Growth, 2010 to 2016

Between 2010 and 2016, the population of the nation’s 757 largest cities (incorporated places with populations of 50,000 or more in 2016) grew by an average of 6.0 percent, according to the Census Bureau. The remainder of the United States grew by a smaller 3.5 percent. City growth varies little by city size, with large cities of all sizes growing faster than elsewhere…

City population growth 2010-2016 by city size
1 million or more: 5.6%
500,000 to 999,999: 7.3%
250,000 to 499,999: 6.4%
200,000 to 249,999: 5.1%
150,000 to 199,999: 6.1%
100,000 to 149,999: 5.9%
50,000 to 99,999: 5.7%

A Demo Memo analysis of annual growth rates reveals slowing growth in the nation’s largest cities. Among cities with populations of 50,000 or more, the growth rate since 2010 slowed from about 1 percent annually between 2010 and 2015 to a smaller 0.8 percent between 2015 and 2016. Widespread recovery from the Great Recession, which finally boosted household incomes in 2015, may be reducing the economic incentive to move to large cities.

51% of Households Are Wireless-Only

Most American households are now wireless-only, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The 50-percent threshold was crossed in the last half of 2016, when 50.8 percent of households reported having only wireless telephone service and no landline, up from 49.3 percent in the first half of 2016.
Most adults are now wireless only as well. In the last half of 2016, 50.5 percent of people aged 18 or older reported having cell phone service and no landline service, up from 49.0 percent in the first half of 2016. The nation’s children have been majority wireless-only since 2014.
Adults who are wireless-only, July-December 2016
Aged 18 to 24: 61.7%
Aged 25 to 29: 72.7%
Aged 30 to 34: 71.0%
Aged 35 to 44: 62.5%
Aged 45 to 64: 45.2%
Aged 65-plus: 23.5%

42% of Older Americans Own Smartphones

The percentage of Americans aged 65 or older who own a smartphone has more than doubled in three years–rising from just 18 percent in 2013 to 42 percent in 2016, according to Pew Research Center. One factor behind the increase is the aging of the Baby-Boom generation into the 65-plus age group. Here is the percentage of Americans aged 65 or older who owned a smartphone in 2016, by age…

Own a smartphone, 2016
Aged 65 to 69: 59%
Aged 70 to 74: 49%
Aged 75 to 79: 31%
Aged 80-plus: 17%

Use Internet “Almost Constantly”

Percentage of internet users who say they use the internet “almost constantly,” according to a Pew Research Center study of tech adoption by older Americans…

Aged 18 to 29: 41%
Aged 30 to 49: 31%
Aged 50 to 64: 19%
Aged 65-plus: 8%

Attitude Changes among Boomers

The Baby-Boom generation is becoming more liberal as Boomers age into their seventies, according to a Demo Memo analysis of General Social Survey. Comparing the attitudes of Boomers when they were younger (aged 26 to 44 in 1990) with their attitudes today (aged 52 to 70 in 2016) reveals the liberalization of the generation…
  • Same-sex relations are always wrong: Although a substantial 45% of Boomers still feel same-sex relations are always wrong, the share is down from 70% in 1990.
  • Marijuana should be legal: The 59% majority of Boomers think marijuana use should be legalized, up from just 18 percent in 1990.
  • Working mothers hurt children: When they were younger adults in 1990, fully 69% of Boomers did not believe working mothers harmed children. Now older and wiser, an even larger 77 percent of older Boomers don’t believe working mothers are harmful.
  • Support for capital punishment: Boomers are less supportive of capital punishment for convicted murderers today (63%) than they were in 1990 (80%).
  • Identify as Democrats: A larger percentage of Boomers identified themselves as Democrats in 2016 (47%) than in 1990 (43%).
  • Identify as Republicans: A smaller percentage of Boomers identified themselves as Republicans in 2016 (36%) than in 1990 (43%).

54% of Women Aged 25 to 29 Are Childless 

Nearly half of American women aged 15 to 44 were childless in 2016, up from about one-third in 1976, according to the Census Bureau. The dramatic rise in childlessness among women of reproductive age has been fueled by the especially large increases among women aged 25 to 34. The percentage of women aged 25 to 29 who have not (yet) had a child climbed 23 percentage points between 1976 and 2016. Among 30-to-34-year-olds, the percent childless nearly doubled during those years…

Percent of women who are childless, 2016 (and 1976)
Aged 15 to 44: 48.6% (35.1%)
Aged 20 to 24: 75.8% (69.0%)
Aged 25 to 29: 53.8% (30.8%)
Aged 30 to 34: 30.8% (15.6%)
Aged 35 to 39: 18.5% (10.5%)
Aged 40 to 44: 14.4% (10.2%)

Voting Rate of Non-Hispanic Whites Climbed in 2016

Non-Hispanic Whites were more likely to vote in the 2016 presidential election than they were in the 2012 election, according to the Census Bureau. Blacks were less likely to vote. The 1.2 percentage point rise in the non-Hispanic White voting rate was something of a surprise, while the 7.0 percentage point decline in the Black voting rate was perhaps not as surprising after the surge in Black voting in 2008 and 2012 for Barack Obama. Here are the 2016 (and 2012) voting rates by race and Hispanic origin…

Voting rate of citizens in 2016 (and 2012)
Total: 61.4% (61.8%)
Asians: 49.9% (47.9%)
Blacks: 58.9% (65.9%)
Hispanics: 47.6% (48.0%)
Non-Hispanic Whites: 65.3% (64.1%)

Interestingly, non-Hispanic Whites aged 65 or older accounted for a larger share of voters in 2016 (20 percent) than in 2012 (18 percent). The number of non-Hispanic White voters aged 65 or older climbed by 2.8 million between 2012 and 2016, thanks in large part to the aging of the Baby-Boom generation. The number of Black voters fell by 683,000 because of the decline in Black voter participation. Those shifts may have determined the election outcome.

“Did Not Like Candidates” Nearly Doubled as Reason for Not Voting

Among the 19 million registered voters aged 18 or older who did not vote in the 2016 election, according to the Census Bureau, the single biggest reason given for not showing up at the polls was that they “did not like the candidates.” The percentage who cited this reason nearly doubled since the last presidential election, rising from 12.7 percent in 2012 to 24.8 percent in 2016.

Reason for not voting in 2016 (and 2012)
Did not like candidates: 24.8% (12.7%)
Not interested: 15.4% (15.7%)
Too busy/conflicting schedule: 14.3% (18.9%)
Illness/disability: 11.7% (14.0%)
Out of town: 7.9% (8.6%)
Registration problems: 4.4% (5.5%)
Forgot to vote: 3.0% (3.9%)
Transportation problems: 2.6% (3.3%)
Inconvenient polling place: 2.1% (2.7%)
Other reasons: 13.8% (14.9%)

Death of Loved One in Past 5 Years

The 66 percent majority of adults experienced the death of a loved one in the past five years, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey. Among those who experienced the death of a loved one, 35 percent (or 23 percent of all adults) were involved in caring for the person before he or she died. Among those whose parent died, the 55 percent majority were helping to provide care.

Is Your Mother Still Alive?

Millions of Americans celebrate Mother’s Day each year by honoring the memory of their mother rather than spending time with her. While the 60 percent majority of adults still have Mom in their life, a substantial 40 percent do not, according to a Demo Memo analysis of the 2016 General Social Survey. The percentage of adults whose mother is no longer alive becomes the majority in the 55-to-64 age group…

Mother is no longer alive
Total 18-plus:   39.8%
Aged 18 to 29:  3.4%
Aged 30 to 44: 16.2%
Aged 45 to 54: 32.7%
Aged 55 to 64: 62.8%
Aged 65-plus:  96.8%

Is Life Expectancy Really Falling among the Least Educated? 

Not according to a study by the Center for Retirement Research. The least-educated Americans are not who they used to be, say CRR researchers, and that must be taken into account when determining trends in life expectancy.

Back when dropping out of high school was practically the norm, the least educated were part of the economic mainstream. Today, they are an increasingly disadvantaged economic minority. That’s why comparing the life expectancy of high school dropouts over time is like comparing apples and oranges. To solve this problem, CRR researchers took a different approach. They examined life expectancy trends between 1979 and 2011 by dividing the population in each year into educational attainment quartiles. By defining educational attainment relatively rather than absolutely, the decline in life expectancy among the least educated disappears.

In fact, the life expectancy of the least educated increased between 1979 and 2011, as did the life expectancy of every other educational attainment quartile. But the gains were bigger for the better-educated groups and biggest among the most highly educated. Life expectancy is increasing for all, conclude the researchers. But “mortality inequality is worsening over time.”

39% of Children Have Parent(s) with a Bachelor’s Degree

Among the nation’s children, 39 percent have at least one parent in the household who has a bachelor’s degree or more education. The figure varies greatly by race and Hispanic origin, according to the National Center for Education StatisticsThe Condition of Education 2017

Percent of children under age 18 with parent who has a bachelor’s degree, 2015
66% of Asians
50% of non-Hispanic Whites
24% of Blacks
21% of American Indians
18% of Hispanics

Social Security is at Least Half of Income for Most People Aged 65 or Older

Most Americans aged 65 or older depend on Social Security for at least 50 percent of household income, according to an analysis of 2015 Current Population Survey data in Social Security Bulletin. Here are the percentages by demographic characteristic…
  • By age: Social Security accounts for at least half of household income for 51.8% of people aged 65 or older, including 61.4% of people aged 80 or older.
  • By sex: Social Security accounts for at least half of household income for 55.2% of women aged 65 or older and 47.5% of men in the age group.
  • By race and Hispanic origin: Social Security accounts for at least half of household income for 51.5% of Hispanics, 51.8% of non-Hispanic Whites, and 56.9% of Blacks aged 65 or older.
  • By educational attainment: Social Security accounts for at least half of household income for 57.9% of high school graduates aged 65 or older. Among college graduates in the age group, a smaller 34.9% depend on Social Security for at least half of household income.
  • By income quintile: Social Security accounts for at least half of household income for 86.6% of people aged 65 or older in the lowest income quintile, 82.3% of those in the second income quintile, and 62.7% of those in the third income quintile. Among those in the fourth income quintile, the figure is a smaller 24.8%. Among those in the highest income quintile, just 2.2% depend on Social Security for at least half of their household income.

Stock Ownership Has Declined

The stock market has been doing well lately, but fewer Americans are benefiting from it, reports Gallup. The percentage of adults who own stock is below the level prior to the financial crisis in 2008. Gallup asked the question: “Do you personally, or jointly with a spouse, have any money invested in the stock market right now–either in an individual stock, a stock market fund, or in a self-directed 401(k) or IRA?” Here are the responses…

Own stock in 2017 (and percentage point change since 2008)
Total 18-plus: 54% (-8)
Aged 18 to 29: 31% (-11)
Aged 30 to 49: 62% (-9)
Aged 50 to 64: 62% (-7)
Aged 65-plus: 54% (+1)

Older Adults Who Become Disabled Had Less Wealth Long Before Disability

When older Americans become disabled and need long-term care services and supports (LTSS), their wealth plummets. Long-term care insurance would help to conserve this wealth. Yet only 11 percent of people aged 65 or older have purchased a policy. An Urban Institute study examines whether policies to encourage more Americans to buy long-term care insurance would be successful.

Using Health and Retirement Study data, the Urban Institute’s Richard W. Johnson tracked adults without disabilities from 1992 (when they were aged 51 to 59) until 2012 (when they were 71 to 79) to determine whether those who became disabled and in need of care during the time period differed in some way from those who remained disability free. He found big differences in wealth between the two groups. Among adults who developed disabilities, median household wealth was just $139,200 in 2012. Among those who remained disability free, median wealth was 61 percent higher at $224,600.

Older adults who became disabled over the 20-year time period had much less wealth than those who remained disability free. Significantly, the wealth gap existed years before they developed disabilities. Thus, adults at high risk of becoming disabled are at an economic disadvantage and unlikely to be able to afford long-term care insurance. Consequently, concludes Johnson, “proposed policies designed to encourage people to pre-fund future LTSS expenses may have limited impact because they will be unable to target those with the highest expenses.”

Air Conditioning, 1976 and 2016

Global warming skeptics should take a look at the Census Bureau report, 2016 Characteristics of New Housing. The proof of global warming begins on page 8 of the 751-page statistical report. Fully 93 percent of new single-family homes completed in 2016 had air-conditioning, including more than 8 out of 10 new houses in the Northeast. Not so in 1976, when only 49 percent of all new single-family homes completed (and just 13 percent in the Northeast) had air-conditioning. Here is the 40-year trend by region…

Northeast: from 13% in 1976 to 86% in 2016

Midwest: from 40% in 1976 to 94% in 2016
South: from 78% in 1976 to 100% in 2016

West: from 29% in 1976 to 78% in 2016

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


Average annual household spending on pets: $507
Average annual household spending on toys: $121

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Percentage of households with children of any age, by race and Hispanic origin of householder…

Total: 39%
Asian: 48%
Black: 43%

Hispanic: 56.%
Non-Hispanic White: 35%