In less than 24 months, the percentage of working-age adults without health insurance has plummeted, according to the National Health Interview Survey
. It’s not often social scientists get the opportunity to observe, in just a few months time, so big a change in such an important socioeconomic indicator.
In the decade prior to implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 2014, the percentage of 18-to-64-year-olds without health insurance averaged 20.4 percent, the figure ranging from a low of 19.3 percent in 2005 to a high of 22.3 percent in 2010. Between 2013 (pre-ACA) and 2015 (post-ACA), the percentage without health insurance fell by a jaw-dropping (for social scientists, at least) 7.5 percentage points–to a record low of 12.9 percent…
People aged 18 to 64 without health insurance, 2004 to 2015
Note: 2015 figure is for the January-September time period.
Feelings of Financial Security Depend on Day of Month
Americans are more likely to feel financially secure on the first day of the month than on the last day of the month, according to Barriers to Saving and Policy Opportunities
–the third in a series of three issue briefs from Pew Charitable Trusts’ Survey of American Family Finances.
This curious day-of-the-month finding makes sense when you know the context in which most Americans live: 55 percent of households spend all or more their income most months, and 60 percent experience at least one financial shock in a 12-month time period. Little wonder, then, that as a month progresses a substantial share of households discover they don’t have enough money to make ends meet.
On the first day of the month, 52 percent of Americans feel financially secure. On the last day of the month, only 34 percent feel secure. “The data show that, for many respondents, perceptions of well-being are driven more by their financial conditions at the moment than by the longer-term outlook,” concludes the report. These short-term shifts in opinion are crucial to policy and program participation and effectiveness.”
Stability More Important than Mobility
Which is more important to you?
Moving up: 8%
Financial stability: 92%
Most Are Clueless about Retirement Needs
Most of the nation’s workers say they need to save at least $1 million to feel financially secure in retirement, according to the 16th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey of Workers
. Fully 57 percent of Gen Xers feel that way, as do 55 percent of Millennials and 53 percent of Boomers. But this is how much workers have saved so far, by generation…
Total household retirement savings
Gen Xers: $61,000
Clearly, the nation’s workers are so far from achieving their $1 million retirement security goal that it’s safe to say most will never make it. Perhaps a little planning is needed. When asked how they came up with the $1 million estimate of needed savings, 57 percent of Millennials, 55 percent of Gen Xers, and 49 percent of Boomers say it’s just a guess. Only 16 to 24 percent have made an estimate of retirement savings needs based on current living expenses, and the percentages who have used a retirement calculator, completed a worksheet, or talked to a financial advisor is in the single digits.
Lots of Job Openings, Lots of Hiring
Job seekers might be interested in a Monthly Labor Review analysis of which industries always need lots of workers. Two stand out: professional and business services, and accommodation and food services. Both industries have high rates of job openings and hires. “The simultaneous high rates indicate that, in spite of strong hiring, even more employees are needed,” reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A look at average earnings in each industry reveals different processes at work in creating these behemoths of job opportunity…
Professional and business services: The earnings of those employed in professional and business services (a category that includes legal, accounting, architecture, engineering, and computer services, as well as temporary help agencies) are among the highest, an average of $29.28 per hour. This industry is continually hiring because of the rapidly expanding need for skilled tech workers.
Accommodation and food services: The earnings of those employed in accommodation and food services are the lowest of any industry, an average of $13.03 per hour. This industry is continually hiring because workers use it as a stepping stone to better-paying jobs.
Why Cities Have Been Gentrifying
A shortage of leisure time may be behind the growing vibrancy of the nation’s cities, suggests a National Bureau of Economic Research study
. Over the past few years, cities have become magnets for time-starved skilled workers. Those workers are driving up housing prices. By analyzing tract-level data for the 27 largest U.S. cities from 1980 through 2010, the study’s authors find a critical shift in relative housing prices: In 1980, prices were higher in the suburbs than in city centers. By 2000, city centers had the highest housing prices.
Behind the shift in housing prices is reduced tolerance for commuting among time constrained, highly skilled (read: college educated) workers. “Gentrification may be the result of high-income households seeking to protect increasingly scare leisure by reducing time spent on low-utility activities such as commuting,” summarizes the NBER Digest
Living in the suburbs is doable when husbands work shifts and wives are at home, but the suburbs make less sense for a work force increasingly dominated by full-time workers (many of them dual-income couples). As leisure time contracted among skilled workers between 1985 and 2005, say the authors, those who could afford to cut the commute bought homes in urban centers, driving up prices and gentrifying neighborhoods.
Even Among Centenarians, Hispanics Are
Less Likely to Die
There were 72,197 people aged 100 or older in the United States in 2014, reports the National Center for Health Statistics
in an analysis of centenarian mortality. The 2014 death rate in this oldest age group was a substantial 35.9 per 100 centenarians. In other words, more than one-third did not make it through the year. But the death rate varies by race and Hispanic origin…
Deaths per 100 centenarians by race and Hispanic origin
Non-Hispanic Blacks: 28.6
Non-Hispanic Whites: 39.3
Among centenarians, Hispanics have a lower death rate than Blacks and a strikingly lower death rate than non-Hispanic Whites. This Hispanic advantage is also found among those younger than 100-plus. It’s a phenomenon called the “Hispanic paradox.” Hispanics have lower mortality rates and a longer life expectancy than others despite their lower socioeconomic status. The Hispanic advantage is due to less mortality from a variety of leading causes of death including heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, and Alzheimer’s, according to an NCHS analysis
. These diseases are also leading causes of death among centenarians. Consequently, even in the oldest age group, Hispanics are less likely to die.
Older Singles Spend More on Health Care
For Americans aged 65 or older, out-of-pocket per person health care expenses are greater for singles than for couples, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute
. EBRI analyzed two types of out-of-pocket expenses: recurring (dental visits, doctor visits, and prescription drugs), and nonrecurring (outpatient surgery, hospital stays, in-home care, and nursing home care). During a two-year period, recurring expenses average $2,500 per person regardless of age or whether the elderly person lived alone or with a spouse. “It was clear that the recurring health care expenses were very predictable,” notes EBRI.
Nonrecurring out-of-pocket expenses are another story. Not only are per person expenses higher for singles than for couples, but the difference increases with age. For singles aged 65 to 74, average nonrecurring expenses were $766 more for singles than for couples ($2,790 versus $2,024 over two years). By age 85-plus, singles spent an average of $4,825 more than couples on a per person basis ($13,355 versus $8,530).
What makes nonrecurring out-of-pocket expenses so much more costly for singles than for couples? Singles do not have the advantage of a live-in caregiver, suggests EBRI. The biggest differences in out-of-pocket nonrecurring costs were for nursing homes and home health care. “As health breaks down with age,” EBRI concludes, “the advantage of having a spouse or partner to act as caregiver results in lower spending.”
American Culture Since the 1950s
“Since the 1950s, do you think American culture and way of life has mostly changed for the better, or has it mostly changed for the worse?” When the Public Religion Research Institute
asked that question, this is what the public said…
Percent saying America has changed for the worse
72% of White evangelical Protestants
67% of Republicans
58% of White mainline Protestants
58% of White Catholics
53% of all Americans
43% of non-Christian religion affiliation
43% of Black Protestants
41% of Hispanic Catholics
40% of Democrats
35% of religiously unaffiliated
Prescription Painkiller Abuse: Many
Have A Personal Connection
Most Americans have a personal connection to prescription painkiller abuse, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation
survey. The 56 percent majority of Americans say they 1) personally know someone who has taken a prescription painkiller not prescribed to them; and/or 2) personally know someone who has been addicted to prescription painkillers, and/or 3) personally know someone who died from a prescription painkiller overdose.
Most likely to have a personal connection: Whites, those with a household income of $90,000 or more, adults under age 50, those with some college, college graduates, suburban residents, and men.
Least likely to have a personal connection: Hispanics, people aged 65 or older, Blacks, those with a high school diploma or less education, urban residents, and women.
Who Owns a Gun?
Despite all the talk about guns, only 32 percent of Americans have a gun in their home, according to a Demo Memo analysis of the General Social Survey
–a figure that has fallen over the past few decades (it was more than 50 percent in the early 1980s). Gun ownership is much more common among non-Hispanic Whites than Blacks or Hispanics…
Percent of households with a gun
Black households: 15%
Hispanic households: 15%
Non-Hispanic White households: 42%
Women Earn 97 Percent As Much As Men
Among recent college graduates, that is, and after controlling for college major.
A Liberty Street Economics analysis
of the wages of men and women aged 22 to 27 with at least a bachelor’s degree finds women earning 97 percent as much as men after controlling for college major. In 29 of 73 college majors examined, women earned more than men–including social services, treatment therapy, industrial engineering, and art history.
Among college graduates aged 35 to 44, however, the analysis found men earning 15 percent more than women on average. In every major in which women earned more than men among young adults, the advantage disappeared by middle age. In the majors in which men earned more than women among young adults, the earnings gap expanded. What’s behind this shift?
Discrimination could be one reason for the shift, say the researchers, but women’s greater family responsibilities are a likely major contributor. “Because raising a family often requires more flexible schedules, those with family responsibilities who have difficulty satisfying time sensitive work demands may face lower wages,” they explain. “In fact, in jobs where such time demands are largely absent, and more flexibility is possible, the pay gap has been found to be much smaller.”
Could Older Americans Work Longer?
The authors ask this question: “If people with a given mortality rate today worked as much as those with the same mortality rate in the past, how much could they work?” The answer: a lot. Among 55-to-59-year-olds today, 70.5 percent are in the labor force. But if they worked as much as the people of 1977 with the equivalent mortality rate, then a much larger 86.0 percent would be employed. Among 60-to-64-year-olds the employment rate would rise from 56.2 to 83.2 percent. Among 65-to-69-year-olds, the figure would rise from 32.3 to 74.1 percent.
“Employment declines rapidly as workers reach their 60s, while health declines steadily but quite gradually with age,” say the researchers. “The fact that health does not plummet along with employment suggests that there are reasons other than health for the employment declines, such as the availability of Social Security,” they conclude.
Water Not Safe to Drink
Long before Flint Michigan’s water problems became a national news story, a substantial 9 million American households identified their primary source of water as unsafe to drink. We know this thanks to the American Housing Survey
, which asks respondents whether their primary source of water is safe for drinking. This is the percentage of households with water not safe to drink (excluding households whose primary source is commercial bottled water)…
Primary source of water is unsafe to drink
Total households: 8%
Below poverty: 12%
Central city: 9%
How Many Americans Are “Gig” Workers?
A surprisingly large percentage of Americans engage in informal paid work, according to the Survey of Informal Work Participation–and the percentage who participate in the “gig” economy is growing. The Informal Work Participation survey was included in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Survey of Consumer Expectations in December 2013 and again in January 2015 in an attempt to measure the percentage of Americans who participate in alternative income-generating activities and how their participation is changing. These activities include babysitting, housesitting, dog walking, lawn care, elder care, personal services (such as taxi service), selling online, renting property, consignment sales, and so on.
The 2013 survey found a substantial 40 percent of respondents participating in informal paid work. Two years later, the 2015 survey found a much larger 52 percent participating. Behind the increase, theorize researchers from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
, is greater work opportunities provided by Uber and other online platforms.
With so many participating in informal paid work, “It is important to determine whether the meaning of ’employed’ status according to the BLS might be changing over time,” say the researchers. At this point, however, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is not able to make that determination because it has not collected data on the informal (or “contingent”) workforce since 2005–long before the likes of Uber appeared on the scene. Fortunately, the BLS has been funded to update the survey in a supplement to the May 2017 Current Population Survey. Until then, the results from the Survey of Informal Work Participation are perhaps the best available estimates of the “gig” workforce.
On an average day, 47 percent of Americans aged 20 or older eat a sandwich, according to the USDA’s Food Surveys Research Group
–52 percent of men and 43 percent of women.
- Cold cuts are the most popular type of sandwich (27%), followed by burgers (17%), poultry (12%), and hot dogs (10%). Only 6 percent are peanut butter.
- Lunch accounts for nearly half of sandwiches eaten (48%), followed by dinner (31%), breakfast (13%), and snacks (8%).
- Most sandwiches or their ingredients (58%) are purchased at a store. Twenty-seven percent are from fast-food restaurants.
- Fifty-nine percent of burgers and 46 percent of poultry sandwiches are from fast-food restaurants, while 76 percent of cold cut sandwiches are from a store.