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10 Trend Questions: An Update (Part 2)

Monday, March 4, 2019

If you missed Part 1 of this update, you can read it here.

Two years ago Demo Memo presented 10 vital demographic questions and asked how many answers to these questions we would have once we had more data in hand. Two years later, the same questions are still of great importance. We have more data. So how much more do we know? Questions one through five were examined in Hearth & Home’s February issue. Here's a look at the rest.

6. Is the average American getting richer?
With the benefit of hindsight, the answer to this question is yes and no. The wealth of American households plunged in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Median household net worth fell from $139,700 in 2007 to a post-Great Recession low of $83,700 in 2013, then climbed to $97,300 in 2016, after adjusting for inflation –still 30% below the 2007 peak.

An analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis finds that the wealth of Americans born in the 1950s and earlier has recovered from the Great Recession losses, while the wealth of those born in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s has not.

7. Who voted in the 2016 election?
This question was answered by the Census Bureau’s survey of voting and registration, released in the spring of 2017. We now know that the number of older non-Hispanic White voters surged in 2016. Largely because of the aging of the Baby Boom generation, 2.8 million more non-Hispanic Whites aged 65 or older voted in 2016 than in 2012. This trend is only going to intensify as the Baby Boom generation continues to fill the 65-plus age group. While minorities will become the majority of the population in 2044, they will not become the majority of voters until 2064.

8. Are we back to square one with health insurance?
Although Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act have not been successful, this question still matters after a federal judge in Texas declared the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA) invalid – a case that may be headed for the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, a growing share of the public has a favorable view of the ACA, the figure rising from 43% in November 2016 to 53% in November 2018. This battle is ongoing.

9. How big is the gig economy?
Are gig workers a tiny and stable fraction of the workforce, or are they an enormous and growing share of workers – 24% according to one study, and 31% according to another?We still don't know. In the past year, the BLS failed in its attempt to measure the gig economy, but nevertheless claimed gig workers to be few, far between, and not growing as a share of workers.

Researchers scoffed at the BLS findings, theorizing that the Current Population Survey’s labor force questions failed to capture gig work. The BLS fired back with a defense of the CPS. As the dust settles from this kerfuffle, all we know is that the size of the gig economy ranges from negligible to enormous.

10. Are we over the automobile?
The evidence is building that we are past the point ofpeak transportation spending. The percentage of the household budget devoted to transportation is well below the all-time high of 19-plus percent of the mid-1980s and early 2000s. In 2017, transportation consumed a smaller 15.9 percent of the household budget. With transportation the second biggest expense for the average household, helping Americans cut their transportation costs is a no-brainer for both businesses and governments. It also helps explain the appeal of cities: urban households spend much less than their rural counterparts on transportation.

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