October 7, 2009
Written by C.N.
This post doesn’t focus on Asian Americans or racial/ethnic issues specifically but is certainly relevant to those kinds of discussion since it deals with what aggregate-level statistics can tell us about a person’s day-to-day life.
During this current economic recession, many of us are very aware of how it has affected our lives and perhaps the lives of those close to us. But beyond the grim stats about rising unemployment numbers that we hear on the news, what is the aggregate effect of the recession on Americans as a collective group? For many sociology students, this question might be rephrased as, “What can aggregate-level data tell us about individual lives?”
To try to answer that question, the Census Bureau has just released a report that describes how the recession has led Americans to make changes in many areas of their lives:
Preliminary data earlier this year found that many Americans were not moving, staying put in big cities rather than migrating to the Sunbelt because of frozen lines of credit. Mobility is at a 60-year low, upending population trends ahead of the 2010 census. . . . The percentage of people who drove alone to work dropped last year to 75.5 percent, the lowest in a decade, as commuters grew weary of paying close to $4 a gallon for gasoline and opted to carpool or take public transportation. . . .
Average commute times edged up to 25.5 minutes, erasing years of decreases to stand at the level of 2000, as people had to leave home earlier in the morning to pick up friends for their ride to work or to catch a bus or subway train. . . . Average commute times edged up to 25.5 minutes, erasing years of decreases to stand at the level of 2000, as people had to leave home earlier in the morning to pick up friends for their ride to work or to catch a bus or subway train. . . .
Nearly 1 in 3 Americans 15 and over, or 31.2 percent, reported they had never been married, the highest level in a decade. . . . Sociologists say younger people are taking longer to reach economic independence and consider marriage because they are struggling to find work or focusing on an advanced education. . . .
The homeownership rate fell to 66.6 percent last year, the lowest in six years, after hitting a peak of 67.3 percent in 2006. Residents in crowded housing jumped to 1.1 percent, the highest since 2004, a sign people were “doubling up” with relatives or friends to save money. . . .
More people are getting high school diplomas. Only two states, Texas and Mississippi, had at least 1 in 5 adults without high school diplomas. This is down from 17 states in 2000 and 37 in 1990. More older people are working. About 15.5 percent of Americans 65 and over, or 6.1 million, were in the labor force. That’s up from 15 percent in 2007.
It is probably no surprise that the recession has led many Americans to put off big life-changing events such as moving far away, getting married, or buying a house, along with smaller-scale changes such as driving alone less, more carpooling, sharing apartments, or working later in life. Many of us can relate to many of these changes ourselves.
What may be surprising is that aggregate-level data and statistics like this can capture such individual-level behavior and therefore give us a more fuller picture of how institutional events like an economic recession eventually affect the day-to-day lives of Americans on the aggregate level.
My point is that data like this are a nice example of how aggregate-level statistics help us understand individual-level actions. It’s with that in mind that I again urge everyone to complete and return the Census forms that will be sent out in a few months.
This is your chance to make sure you count!