Friday, April 18, 2014

The World's Most Popular Food

Will you dine on the world's most popular food today? The answer is "yes" if you plan to eat pizza, according to the USDA. In an analysis of pizza consumption, government researchers estimate that a substantial 13 percent of Americans aged 2 or older eat pizza on an average day. A government analysis of pizza consumption might seem a bit silly, but it's actually important because the dish plays such a big role in the American diet. Pizza accounts for a large portion of our daily intake of protein, calcium, sodium, and other nutrients—not to mention calories.

Younger Americans eat the most pizza. Twenty-two percent of children and teenagers (aged 6 to 19) eat pizza on an average day. Among those who do, the largest share have it for lunch (44 percent) and another 42 percent for dinner. The remainder eat it as a snack (10 percent) or even for breakfast (4 percent).

The likelihood of eating pizza on a given day declines with age to a low of 6 percent among people aged 60 or older. Among adults who eat pizza, the 59 percent majority have it for dinner, 28 percent for lunch, 11 percent as a snack, and 2 percent for breakfast.

Source: USDA, Food Surveys Research Group, Consumption of Pizza, What We Eat in America, NHANES 2007-2010

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Health Insurance Statistics Problem

There's a reason why economists are invited to testify before Congress and fĂȘted at White House events while demographers are relegated to a warren of offices in the basements of beltway buildings. Economists are Big Picture people. They get it. Demographers are spreadsheet people. They don't.

The demographer problem explains why the "technicians" at the Census Bureau decided now was the time to introduce a new way to measure health insurance coverage—just as the Affordable Care Act goes into effect, just as the statistics collected by Gallup, Rand, the Urban Institute, and other organizations begin to show a jump in health insurance coverage. The Census Bureau's health insurance estimates for 2013 and onward will not be comparable with 2012 and earlier. Those crazy demographers.

Yes, yes, demographers have their reasons. The director of the Census Bureau explained their reasons after the news broke in the New York Times—the years of research, the tests, the results. Too bad that during all those years none of the technicians looked up from their spreadsheets long enough to see the Big Picture—the politics, the media, the nation's need for a story.

"The Census Bureau, the authoritative source of health insurance data for more than three decades, is changing its annual survey so thoroughly that it will be difficult to measure the effects of President Obama's health care law," explained the New York Times. Improved methodology is important, demographers would argue, but sometimes the Big Picture is even more important.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Income of the Population 55 or Older

Among people aged 55 or older, earnings as a share of total income by age...

Aged 55 to 61: 73%
Aged 62 to 64: 55%
Aged 65 to 69: 32%
Aged 70 to 74: 16%
Aged 75 to 79: 9%
Aged 80-plus: 4%

Among people aged 55 or older, Social Security as a share of total income by age...

Aged 55 to 61: 9%
Aged 62 to 64: 22%
Aged 65 to 69: 43%
Aged 70 to 74: 58%
Aged 75 to 79: 65%
Aged 80-plus: 70%

Source: Social Security Administration, Income of the Population 55 or Older, 2012

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

When Did Men's Income Peak?

Here's an interesting exercise. Take the median income of American men since 1950, adjust it for inflation, and rank it from highest to lowest to determine the year in which men's income peaked and how much it has declined since then.

Among all men aged 15 or older, median income peaked in 2000, at $37,791. Between the peak year and 2012, men's median income fell 10 percent—to $33,904, after adjusting for inflation. A 10 percent decline sounds pretty bad, but if you do this exercise for men of working age (25 to 64), the trends are even worse...

Year in which men's median income peaked
Aged 25 to 34: 1973
Aged 35 to 44: 1973
Aged 45 to 54: 1999
Aged 55 to 64: 2003

Percent change in men's median income, peak year to 2012
Aged 25 to 34: -27%
Aged 35 to 44: -19%
Aged 45 to 54: -17%
Aged 55 to 64: -13%

The median income of men aged 25 to 34 has plunged since 1973, falling from $46,598 to $34,113 after adjusting for inflation—a loss of $12,485. Men aged 35 to 44 have lost $10,345 since their peak. Men aged 45 to 54 have lost $9,762, and men aged 55 to 64 have lost $6,407.

Source: Census Bureau, Historical Income Statistics

Monday, April 14, 2014

Travelers 50-Plus

The average household spends about $1,500 on travel each year, according to the Consumer Expenditure Survey. The biggest spenders on travel are older Americans. The AARP recently surveyed Americans aged 50-plus to examine how frequently they travel for nonbusiness purposes and how they make arrangements for their trips. Some of the findings...
  • Number of trips per year of more than 250 miles: 3.32 
  • Most frequent travelers: 60-to-69-year-olds (3.81 trips per year)
  • Percent using the Internet to book trip arrangements: 84%
  • Top two reasons for travel: spend time with family (59%) and vacation (44%)
Source: AARP, AARP Online Travel Study

Friday, April 11, 2014

Summer or Winter?

According to a recent Gallup survey, only 34 percent of the American public worries a great deal about global warming. Maybe that's because fully 77 percent of Americans prefer summer to winter, according to a Harris survey. Here are the percentages who prefer summer by generation...

Millennials: 70%
Gen Xers: 80%
Boomers: 79%
Older: 86%

Source: Harris Interactive, Less than Half of Americans Believe Humans Are Cause of Global Climate Change

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Underemployment among Recent College Graduates

For recent college graduates, underemployment is a bigger problem than unemployment, according to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Underemployment is defined as working at a job that does not require a college degree. A recent Fed study measured the underemployment rate of all college graduates and recent college graduates.

Among all college graduates, the underemployment rate (calculated by dividing the number of college graduates who are underemployed by the total employed) has remained steady at about 33 percent over the past two decades. Among recent college graduates (those aged 22 to 27), a larger 44 percent were underemployed in 2012.

Although today's high rate of underemployment among recent college graduates is not unprecedented (the rate was 46 percent in 1990-91), there are some troubling differences between then and now. First, the share of recent college graduates who are underemployed in "good jobs" (with an average wage of about $45,000 per year) has declined from about half to about one-third. Second, the share of recent college graduates who work part-time has climbed from 14 to 23 percent.

"Taken as a whole, these trends provide evidence that the job prospects for recent college graduates have indeed worsened," conclude the researchers.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Are Recent College Graduates Finding Good Jobs?

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Payment Choice by State

A study of 2 billion retail transactions at a discount chain with thousands of stores reveals differences by state in the frequency with which customers pay with cash, debit cards, credit cards, or checks. Here are the states in which customers are most likely to use...

Cash: New Jersey
Debit: Arizona
Credit: Minnesota
Check: South Dakota

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Payment Choice and the Future of Currency: Insights from Two Billion Retail Transactions

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Survey Tracks Changes in Health Insurance Coverage

In the field of demography, rapid change is rare. But rapid change is what we have today as the Affordable Care Act extends health insurance to millions.

According to the Urban Institute's Health Reform Monitoring Survey, the number of 18-to-64-year-olds with health insurance expanded by a substantial 5.4 million between September 2013 and March 2014. The percentage without health insurance fell from 17.9 to 15.2 percent during those months. But there are big differences in the percentage of 18-to-64-year-olds without health insurance by state, depending on whether the state chose to expand Medicaid...

States expanding Medicaid: 12.4%
States not expanding Medicaid: 18.1%

Source: Urban Institute, QuickTake: Number of Uninsured Adults Falls by 5.4 Million since 2013

Monday, April 07, 2014

What's Behind the Pension Gap?

There's a yawning gap in the pension participation of older workers by income. The Center for Retirement Research of Boston College analyzes 1992 to 2010 data from the Health and Retirement Study to determine why this gap exists and what can be done about it.

Among people aged 50 to 58 in 2010, only 19 percent of those with household incomes below 300 percent of the poverty level participated in a pension at their workplace. Among workers in the same age group with incomes above 300 percent of the poverty line, the 56 percent majority participated in a pension at work. What accounts for this gap? The results of the analysis show that the low participation rate of low-income workers is not due to a lack of interest nor due to a lack of income. Instead, the gap is caused primarily by the lower employment rate of low-income individuals (they can't get a job) and the lower probability that those with a job will be offered a pension by their employer (they can't get a good job).

"Policies such as automatic enrollment that focus on pension eligibility or take-up are unlikely to close the pension coverage gap," conclude the CRR researchers. There's no quick fix for closing the gap, they say, because it will require not only more jobs, but more "good jobs."

Source: Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Lower-Income Individuals without Pensions: Who Misses Out and Why?

Friday, April 04, 2014

Few Older Americans Own a Smartphone

Cell phones are popular among Americans aged 65 or older, but smartphones are not. According to a survey by Pew Research Internet Project, fully 77 percent of people aged 65 or older own a cell phone, including the majority of people aged 80 or older. Here are the percentages by age...

Own cell phone
Aged 65 to 69: 84%
Aged 70 to 74: 84%
Aged 75 to 79: 72%
Aged 80-plus: 61%

Few of those cell phones are smartphones, however. Only 18 percent of people aged 65 or older own a smartphone, with the proportion falling steeply with age...

Own smartphone
Aged 65 to 69: 29%
Aged 70 to 74: 21%
Aged 75 to 79: 10%
Aged 80-plus: 5%

Source: Pew Research Internet Project, Older Adults and Technology Use

Thursday, April 03, 2014

The 10 Largest Occupations, 2013

Just 10 occupations employ more than one in five (21 percent) American workers. Here are those occupations and the annual average wage for full-time workers in 2013, ranked by number employed...

1. Retail salesperson: $25,370
2. Cashier: $20,420
3. Food prep worker: $18,880
4. Office clerk: $29,990
5. Registered nurse: $68,910
6. Waiter or waitress: $20,880
7. Customer service rep: $33,370
8. Laborer: $26,690
9. Secretary: $34,000
10. Janitor: $25,140

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages—May 2013

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Hispanic is Not a Race

Hispanic is an ethnic origin and not a race. Demographers have been trying to explain that one for decades. No one struggles with the distinction between race and ethnicity more than Hispanics themselves, as revealed by a recent Census Bureau working paper.

Among the nation's 50 million Hispanics in 2010, fully 41 percent identified themselves as "some other race" on the census race question or did not respond to the race question at all. To solve this glaring problem, the Census Bureau is considering combining the race and ethnic origin questions on the 2020 census. For more, see Race Reporting Among Hispanics: 2010.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Household Income Rises in February 2014

Finally, an uptick in median household income. According to Sentier Research, median household income climbed to $53,093 in February 2014. This figure is 1.2 percent higher than the January 2014 median, after adjusting for inflation. The February 2014 median is 3.8 percent higher than the $51,152 of August 2011—the low point in Sentier's household income series. Sentier's median household income estimates are derived from the Census Bureau's monthly Current Population Survey.

Despite the increase, median household income in February 2014 was still 3.3 percent below the median of June 2009, the end of the Great Recession. It was 5.0 percent lower than the median in December 2007, the start of the Great Recession. It was 6.2 percent lower than the January 2000 median. 
For more information on household income trends for the nation, states, and metropolitan areas, visit Sentier's web site

Source: Sentier Research, Household Income Trends: February 2014