Monday, February 22, 2016

US Social Indicators Since 1960

The Office of Management and Budget released President Obama's proposed budget for fiscal year 2017 a couple of weeks ago week. I confess that when the budget comes out I don't pay much attention to the spending number for this year or the five-year projections. there's plenty of time to dig into that stuff later in the year. Instead, I head right for the "Analytical Perspectives" and "Historical Tables" that volume that always accompany the budget. For example, Chapter 5 of the "Analytical Perpectives" is about "Social Indicators": 
"The social indicators presented in this chapter illustrate in broad terms how the Nation is faring in selected areas in which the Federal Government has significant responsibilities. Indicators are drawn from six selected domains: economic, demographic and civic, socioeconomic, health, security and safety, and environment and energy. ...   In choosing indicators for these tables, priority was given to measures that are broadly relevant to Americans and consistently available over an extended period. Such indicators provide a current snapshot while also making it easier to draw comparisons and establish trends."
This section includes a long table stretching over parts of three pages shows many statistics for ten-year intervals since 1960, and also the last few years. For me, tables like this offer a grounding in basic facts and patterns. Here, I'll offer a bunch of comparisons drawn from the table over the last half-century or so, from 1960 or 1970 up to the most recent data. 

  • Real GDP per person has roughly tripled since 1960, rising from $17,198 in 1960 to $50,777 in 2015 (as measured in constant 2009 dollars).
  • Inflation has reduced the buying power of the dollar over time such that $1 in 2014 had about the same buying power as 12.5 cents back in 1960, according to the Consumer Price Index.
  • The employment/population ratio rose from 56.1% in 1960 to 64.4% by 2000, then dropped to 58.5% in 2012, before rebounding a bit to 59.3% in 2015. 
  • The share of the population receiving Social Security disabled worker benefits was 0.9% in 1960 and 5.9% in 2015. 
  • The real stock of fixed assets and consumer durable goods has more than quadrupled in the last half-century, rising from $11.2 trillion in 1960 to $52.9 trillion in 2014 (as measured in real 2009 dollars).
  • The net national savings rate was 10.3% of GDP in 1960, 7.2% in 1980, and 5.8% in 2000. It actually was slightly negative at -0.9 in 2010, but was back to 3.1% in 2015. 
  • Research and development spending has barely budged over time: it was 2.52% of GDP in 1960 and 2.72% of GDP in 2013, and hasn't varied much in between.
  • In 1960, 78% of the over-15 population had ever been married; in 2015, it was 68.2%
  • Average family size was 3.7 people in 1960, and 3.1 people in 2015.
  • Single parent households were 4.4% of households in 1960, and 9.3% of all households in 2012, but slightly down to 8.8% of all households in 2015.
  • The share of 25-34 year-olds who are high school graduates was 58.1% in 1960, 84.2% in 1980, and 89/1% in 2014. 
  • The share of 25-34 year-olds who are college graduates was 11% in 1960, 27.5% in 2000, and 33.5% in 2014. 
  • The average math achievement score for a 17 year-old on the National Assessment of Educational Progress was 304 in 1970, and 306 in 2012. 
  • The average reading achievement score for a 17 year-old was 285 in 1970 and 287 in 2012.
  • The murder rate was 5.1 per 100,000 people in 1960, rose to 10.2 per 100,000 by 1980, but had fallen back to 4.5 per 100,000 in 2014.
  • Life expectancy at birth was 69.7 years in 1960, and 78.8 years in 2014.
  • Infant mortality was 26 per 1,000 births in 1960, and 5.8 per 1,000 births in 2014.
  • In 1960, 13.3% of the population age 20-74 was obese (as measured by having a Body Mass Index above 30). In 2013, 38.6% of the population was obese.
  • In 1970, 37.1% of those age 18 and older were cigarette smokers. By 2014, this has fallen by half to 17%.
  • Total national health expenditures were 5.0% of GDP in 1960, and 17.5% of GDP in 2014.
  • Highway fatalities rose from 37,000 in 1960 to 51,000 in 1980, and since then are down to 33,000 in 2014.
  • Energy consumption per capita was 250 million BTUs in 1960, rose to 350 million BTUs per person in 2000, but since then has fallen to 309 BTUs per person in 2014..
  • Energy consumption per dollar of real GDP (measured in constant 2009 dollars) was 14,500 BTUs in 1960 vs. 6,200 in 2014.
  • Electricity net generation tripled from 4.2kWh per capita in 1960 to 12.8 kWh per capita in 2014.
  • The share of electricity generation from renewable sources was 19.7% of the total in 1960, fell to 9.4% by 2000, and had risen to 13.2% of the total in 2014.
Numbers and comparisons like these are a substantial part of how a head-in-the-clouds academic like me perceives economic and social reality. If you like this kind of stuff, you would probably also enjoy my post from a couple of weeks back, "The Life of US Workers 100 Years Ago" (February, 5, 2016).