Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Demography & Debt

For argument's sake, let’s assume that single people on average tend to be more self-absorbed than married people. That’s a conjecture, not a criticism. More specifically, I am assuming that singles care more about their own wellbeing than about the next generation, which is less the case for married people with kids. If my hypothesis is correct, then that might explain why President Barack Obama was reelected despite the poor performance of the economy. It would also shed some light on why there is no political will in Washington to reduce the federal deficit. The relevant demographic facts are as follow:

(1) Marital status. The civilian noninstitutional population 16 years and older that is single increased by 62.0 million to a record 121.2 million from December 1976 through December 2012. Over the same period, the number of married people increased by 25.0 million to 123.2 million. Over the past 10 years (since December 2002), the number of singles is up 20.4 million, four times the increase in the number of married persons, i.e., 5.2 million!

(2) Single
s. At the end of last year, singles accounted for a record 49.6% of the population aged 16 years or older. That’s up from 37.6% at the end of 1976. 

(3) Never married and other singles. The Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles these monthly statistics. There are two categories of singles, namely, those who have never been married and those who are divorced, separated, or widowed. The footloose and fancy-free rose to a record 73.0 million during December, accounting for a record 29.9% of the adult population, up from 22.3% at the end of 1976. The number of previously married persons rose to a record 48.1 million, accounting for 19.7% of the adult population, up from 15.3% at the end of 1976.

Adults who have never been married and have no kids aren’t likely to be all that concerned about leaving the next generation with more debt than has ever been passed on by one generation to the next. The younger adults should be more concerned because they are likely to suffer the consequences. However, many of them are currently more interested in getting government-subsidized student loans. Also, most of the young singles are simply not politically organized as are older singles, especially senior citizens.

Many of the seniors do have older children and grandchildren, and should be more concerned about burdening their progeny with so much debt. However, they are living longer, and are expecting the government to support them since their good-for-nothing kids won’t do it. Life expectancy at birth increased to a record 78.7 years during 2010, up from 76.8 a decade ago and 75.4 two decades ago.

There is also a rapidly growing population of single mothers. They undoubtedly care about their kids. However, since many of them have low incomes, their primary concern is likely to be to receive government support rather than to worry much, if at all, about the rapidly mounting federal debt we are bequeathing to our children.

The singles boom has certainly contributed to the drop in the general fertility rate (GFR) to the lowest on record. According to an October 3, 2012 release
from the National Center for Health Services, the GFR for 2011 was 63.2 births per 1,000 women aged 15-44. That’s about half the peak of 122.7 births during 1957, when the Baby Boomers were booming. The actual number of live births, on a 12-month moving sum basis, dropped from a record high of 4.33 million during February 2008 to 3.94 million in June 2012, the lowest since May 1999.

Today's Morning Briefing: Barrels of Oil. (1) There’s more on tap. (2) Saudis blame their output cut on weak demand. (3) Their real problem is more competition. (4) New math: US + Canada > Saudi Arabia! (5) World oil demand stats show global economy growing led by EMs. (6) Record auto sales in China pumping up oil demand. (7) Detroit scrambling to more than double fuel efficiency by 2025 with lighter materials. (8) Good for copper, platinum, and aluminum. (9) Energy likely to be market performer. (More for subscribers.)

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