American Consumers Newsletter

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

The Leisure Time Paradox


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

1. Hot Trends 

The Leisure Time Paradox      

You probably would scoff at the notion that you have more leisure time than your parents or grandparents did 40 years ago. But that’s what time use studies show. Since 1965, men have gained 5.26 additional hours of leisure time per week. Women have an extra 3.56 hours compared to their counterparts in 1965. How come we don’t feel more relaxed?


That question has been answered by an examination of trends in leisure time, published in Demography (August 2012). And the answer is: because the quality of our leisure time has declined. Simply put, we aren’t having as much fun.


The analysis (by Almudena Sevilla, Jose I. Gimenez-Nadal, and Jonathan Gershuny) measures the quality of leisure time in three ways: pure leisure–or the amount of leisure time spent only in leisure activities with no accompanying non-leisure secondary activities (such as taking calls from your boss); co-present leisure (a better term might be social leisure)–or the amount of leisure time spent with a spouse or other adults but not children (who have a way of turning leisure into work); and leisure fragmentation–or the number of leisure intervals and their length.


The researchers discovered that our pure leisure time has declined, as has the time we spend in social leisure. “Despite general increases in leisure time, Americans report feeling increasingly harried now compared with 40 years ago,” they note. “Our findings may help explain this paradox.”


Virtually No Financial Assets   

Boomers are not ready for retirement. That’s the finding of a new report from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, which analyzes 2010 Survey of Consumer Finance data to determine the retirement readiness of older householders.


The typical household headed by a 55-to-64-year-old has only $120,000 in 401(k)/IRA savings–about the same as in 2007, according to CRR director and author of the report, Alicia H. Munnell. She warns that these households will be surprised at how little their retirement savings provides them in retirement. For example, if a couple uses this savings to purchase a joint-survivor annuity, it would pay out only $575 a month. Except for Social Security, that $575 per month is likely to be the couple’s only source of income, says Munnell, because the typical older householder has “virtually no financial assets outside of its 401(k) plan.”


Gloom, but not Doom

Only 31 percent of Americans rate the national economic situation as good, according to a Pew Research Center survey. But more than twice as many–68 percent–say their personal economic situation is good.

Outdoor Fun

The five most popular outdoor recreational activities, according to the Outdoor Foundation, ranked by the number of people aged 6 or older participating in the activity in 2011 (in 000s) and the percent change in the number participating since 2008…

1. Running/jogging: 50,713 (+23%)

2. Bicycling (paved surface): 40,349 (+6%)

3. Fishing (freshwater): 38,868 (-4%)

4. Hiking (day): 34,491 (+6%)

5. Camping (except RV and backpacking): 32,925 (-2%)

Polling and Telephone Demographics 

Pollsters are struggling to capture the opinions of the cell-phone-only population in their polling for the 2012 presidential election, the New York Times reported recently. Some are making a valiant attempt to include a representative sample of these potential voters in their survey results–and with good reason. Nearly one-third of the nation’s adults now live in a wireless-only household, twice as many as in 2008, according to the federal government.


The demographics of the wireless-only group are strikingly different from the demographics of those with both cell and landline phones. No doubt, their political attitudes are strikingly different too. The wireless-only population has expanded to encompass the majority of adults under age 35, the majority of renters, the majority of the poor, 37 percent of blacks, 43 percent of Hispanics, and 41 percent of students.
Pet Ownership Is Down 

Pet ownership fell slightly over the past five years, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s 2012 U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook, to be released this fall. A smaller percentage of households owned dogs or cats in 2011 than in 2006, due in part to belt-tightening during the Great Recession.


The latest survey results show 36.5 percent of households owning dogs (1.6 on average) and 30.4 percent owning cats (2.1 on average) in 2011. The AVMA reports that spending on veterinary care for dogs increased 19 percent between 2006 and 2011, while remaining flat for cats. My analysis of spending trends from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey shows average household spending on veterinary care rising sharply between 2006 and 2009, after adjusting for inflation, then plunging 32 percent between 2009 and 2010.


Other Race

“Other race” is the third largest racial group in the United States (behind only white and black), according to 2010 census results. Meant to be a small residual category, the public’s confusion over the difference between race (Asian, black, white) and ethnicity (Hispanic) has turned it into one of the biggest racial categories. Who are these people of other race? The vast majority are Hispanics who check “other” in the census race question (because they do not see a Hispanic/Latino category) before moving on to the separate Hispanic origin question.


In taking the 2010 census, the Census Bureau fielded an alternative questionnaire to test a combined race and Hispanic origin question. The results are in, showing that the combined question works much better than separate race and Hispanic origin questions, reducing the other-race category to just 0.2 percent of the population–the residual it was meant to be. In contrast, with separate questions, fully 7.1 percent of the population checked other race. Expect a combined race and Hispanic origin question on the 2020.

Mental Health of Prisoners

Percentage of prison inmates with mental health problems, according to Mental Health, United States, 2010

  • In state prisons: 56%
  • In federal prisons: 45%
  • In local jails: 64%
The 10 Biggest Losers

Landline phone service has been the single biggest loser of the past decade, according to my analysis of Consumer Expenditure Survey data. In 2010, only 62.5 percent of households paid a landline phone bill during the average quarter, down from 94.4 percent during the average quarter of 2000–a whopping 32 percentage point decline in the percentage of households buying the service. At the other extreme, cell phone service was the biggest gainer during the decade, with the percentage of households spending on cell service during the average quarter climbing by 44 percentage points between 2000 and 2010, to 64.8 percent.

The other top-10 losers of the 2000-to-2010 time period experienced declines ranging from 23 percentage points for film to 10 percentage points for newspaper subscriptions. Here is the list of the 10 products and services with the largest decade-long decline in the percentage of households buying them…

  1. Landline phone service
  2. Film
  3. Photo processing
  4. Personal care services
  5. Video rentals
  6. Women’s hosiery
  7. Professional dry cleaning
  8. CDs, records, and audiotapes
  9. Life insurance
  10. Newspaper subscriptions
Internships and Jobs

Unpaid internships do not help college graduates in their hunt for a job, according to the 2012 Student Survey by NACE. Here is the percentage of 2012 college graduates who received a job offer by their internship experience…

  • Paid internship: 60%
  • Unpaid internship: 37%
  • No internship: 36%
Snail Mail Decline
The U.S. Postal Service survived the early years of the Internet relatively intact. In 1993 (the year of the first graphical Internet browser, Mosaic), the postal service handled 171 billion pieces of mail. The volume of mail grew handily for the next seven years, peaking at 208 billion in 2000. Since that year, the volume of mail handled by the postal service has fallen 19 percent, to 168 billion pieces. For more on postal service trends, see the USPS historical statistics.

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


The number of non-Hispanic whites in the labor force will decline by 1.5 million between 2010 and 2020.


2. Q & A

Why Do So Few Older Americans  

Have IRA/401(k) Income?     

There has long been something fishy about the Current Population Survey’s income data for older Americans. If you look at tables PINC-08 and PINC-09 (Source of Income) for people aged 65 or older, you find only 502,000 of 37,872,000 older Americans receiving retirement income from an IRA or 401(k). That’s only 1.3 percent of the 65-plus population, a ridiculously low figure.


Now we know why. An article in Social Security Bulletin explains the problem: the CPS does not count IRA/401(k) withdrawals as income unless they occur regularly–such as with an annuity. But most IRA/401(k) withdrawals are irregular and thus not counted. You don’t have to be a data junkie to find this omission astounding–especially from the survey that generates the nation’s official income statistics.


The Social Security Bulletin article provides a glimpse of the magnitude of the omission by comparing IRA income recorded by the CPS to IRA income reported to the IRS. The difference is eye popping: $6.4 billion (CPS) versus $124.7 billion (IRS). The CPS is missing, from IRAs alone, an average of $2,333 per person aged 60 or older in the United States.


Because a growing share of retirement income is in the form of irregular withdrawals from IRAs and 401(k)s, the researchers conclude: “The major nationally representative surveys of household income must accurately measure annual distributions from retirement accounts in order to provide a complete picture of the economic well-being of the aged and the general US population.”


Let’s hope someone is listening.


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


Married women with preschoolers and a full-time job watch television only 1.38 hours per day.

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.


How We Pay for College

Parents are pushing back on the cost of college, according to Sallie Mae’s latest survey. which can be accessed at this link. In 2011, parents with children in college spent an average of $5,955 from their income and savings on college costs–32 percent less than in 2010. Only 47 percent of parents now strongly agree that they would rather borrow than have their children not go to college, down from 59 percent who felt that way in 2010. So far, their children have not gotten the message. Fully 62 percent of students strongly agree that they would rather borrow than not go to college.


Census Bureau Apps

Want to know how many 24-year-olds live in the city of Pittsburgh? There’s an app for that, and in the near future there are likely to be many more apps providing easier access to demographic data. That’s because the Census Bureau has released its first public Application Programming Interface (API), which allows developers to create apps for retrieving census and American Community Survey data. At this link you can check out the Census Bureau’s app gallery. Already available is the Age Finder app. Select a state, pick a county or city if so desired, choose a race and any age group or single year of age. It’s an easy way to find out that 7,528 people aged 24 live in the city of Pittsburgh.


Americans with Disabilities: 2010

One in five Americans aged 15 or older and half of those aged 65 or older have a disability, according to the Census Bureau’s latest disability data, available at this site. Difficulty walking is one of the most widespread problems, reported by 10 percent of people aged 15 or older and 31 percent of people aged 65 or older. When asked what accounts for their disability, the most common causes are arthritis (25 percent), back problems (25 percent), diabetes (10 percent), and heart trouble (10 percent).


Job-Hopping Boomers

Question: How many jobs have baby boomers had in their lifetime? Answer: 11.3. At this site you can access an analysis of the job experience of today’s middle aged from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, a representative survey of people born from 1957 through 1964–or younger boomers. These boomers were first interviewed when they ranged in age from 14 to 22, then re-interviewed every year or two through 2010-11 when they were aged 45 to 53. Not surprisingly, this cohort held the largest number of jobs when they first entered the labor force–5.5 jobs between the ages of 18 and 24, on average. There has been quite a bit of job hopping since their youth, however. They held 3.0 jobs between the ages of 25 and 29, 2.4 jobs between the ages of 30 and 34, 2.1 jobs from ages 35 to 39, and another 2.1 jobs between the ages of 40 and 46.


Percentage of householders aged 55 to 64 with children living in their home, by race and Hispanic origin…
Non-Hispanic white: 22%
Black: 28%
Asian: 42%
Hispanic: 43%

New for 2012 – all-new and expanded one-stop resources for understanding who American consumers are, how they live, and how they spend their money.


Demographics of the U.S. 

The new fourth edition of Demographics of the U.S.: Trends and Projections is a unique source that documents the many important socioeconomic trends from 1950 through the first decade of the 21st century. The 4th edition includes 2010 census data as well as comprehensive coverage of historical statistics, including single-year data on many topics such as births, school enrollment, homeownership, employment, living arrangements, and geographic mobility. New to this edition is a look at household spending with an analysis of trends before and after the Great Recession.

Hardcover: $95.00 (978-1-937737-02-3) 544 pages

Paper: $69.95 (978-1-937737-03-0)


The American Generations Series

Each of the four volumes in the just-updated American Generations Series provides an in-depth look at the demographic and lifestyle data most important for researchers who want to understand how each generation is changing and what to expect in the future. New to these editions are all-important 2010 census population data, the latest homeownership rates, trends in household spending and wealth since the Great Recession, and labor force statistics with projections to 2020.


The new fifth edition of The Millennials: Americans Born 1977 to 1994 provides a demographic and socioeconomic profile of the generation that is aged 18 to 35 in 2012. Included in the book is a special section about the iGeneration–children under age 18 and their parents.

Hardcover: $95.00 (978-1-937737-02-3) 544 pages

Paper: $69.95 (978-1-937737-03-0)


The new seventh edition of Generation X: Americans Born 1965 to 1976 tells the story of the small but vital generation spanning the ages of 36 to 47 in 2012. No generation has been hit as hard by the Great Recession as Gen Xers. This reference shows you how their socioeconomic status has changed and how they are coping.

Hardcover: $95.00 (978-1-937737-04-7) 354 pages

Paper: $69.95 (978-1-937737-05-4)


The new seventh edition of The Baby Boom: Americans Born 1946 to 1964 is a definitive reference by Cheryl Russell, a nationally recognized authority on the Baby Boom. In it, Russell analyzes the demographic and spending data you need to fully understand this huge and influential generation whose top concerns are financial security, health care, and retirement.

Hardcover: $95.00 (978-1-937737-06-1) 334 pages

Paper: $69.95 (978-1-937737-07-8)


The new seventh edition of Older Americans: A Changing Market includes the latest statistics on the health, living arrangements, incomes, spending, and wealth of the 55-or-older age group. Because the economic downturn has hurt many older Americans, an understanding of their wants and needs is increasingly vital to both businesses and government. Older Americans tells you what you need to know about this market.

Hardcover: $95.00 (978-1-937737-08-5) 388 pages

Paper: $69.95 (978-1-937737-09-2)


Order all four editions in the newly updated American Generations SeriesThe Millennials, Generation X, The Baby Boom, and Older Americans-and save!

Hardcover: $365.00 (978-1-937737-14-6)

Paper: $265.00 (978-1-937737-15-3)


For your convenience, all of New Strategist’s titles are available as searchable single- and multiple-user pdfs linked to spreadsheets of each data table so you can do your own analyses and create PowerPoint presentations.


People aged 65 or older account for only 5 percent of the labor force, but they are a much larger share of these occupations…

Farmers and ranchers: 27%
Tax preparers: 16%
Bus drivers: 16%
Real estate agents: 14%
Clergy: 14%
Psychologists: 14%
Dentists: 12%
Librarians: 11%
Writers and authors: 11%

Source:  Older Americans, 7th edition