Low-wage workers are more diverse than you think

The perfect cup of coffeeIn his 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to “give American a raise” by increasing the federal minimum wage. For the second year in a row he argued “that in the wealthiest nation on earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty”. Even with the presidential priority of raising the Federal minimum wage, the 2014 House bill was voted down. In spite of this, many states and cities have opted to raise the basic hourly wage independent of the federal government.

Raising the minimum wage will impact employers and employees alike, and through them the larger society. While fewer than three percent of US workers* earn the minimum wage (or less), 18 percent earn less than $10.10/hour (the amount proposed by the President).  Understanding how an increased minimum wage will affect individuals first requires examining common arguments about low-wage workers.

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Extended Families: Weapon against Child Poverty?

Children living in married parent families are less likely to live in or near poverty than children in unmarried (either single– or cohabiting) parent families. Some policy advocacy groups use this to argue that marriage is the “greatest weapon against child poverty” because of the additional economic and human capital marriage adds to a household, even though there is no clear agreement about the precise ways in which parent marital status and childhood poverty interact. In fact, critics of the marriage-as-remedy position argue that economic risk may play a part in both child poverty and in the reluctance of parents to marry. As a result, they argue that economic ­– not relational – measures are the keys to reducing poverty.

However, this concentrated focus on parent relationship status overlooks another form of family structure pertinent to the well-being of poor children: the residential extended family.  These structures may allow families to pool economic and human resources to care for children and ameliorate the effects of tough economic circumstances. In 2011, one in ten Virginia children lived in a residential extended family.

Figure 1 — Children Living in Residential Extended Families by Type of Family

Blog-REF All kids

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Ancestry: Who do you think you are?

Largest Ancestry: 2000

Census-2000-Data-Top-US-Ancestries-by-County 2

This is one of my favorite demographic maps. It was produced by the Census Bureau to show the most commonly reported ancestry for each county in the United States in 2000. Even though the data is over 13 years old, the map remains very popular.

Since a follow-up map for 2010 has not been produced yet, I thought it would be more than worthwhile to create this map using Census American Community Survey data.

Largest Ancestry: 2010

Including Unreported

The methodologies used in making the 2000 and 2010 ancestry maps are similar, but there is one important alteration in the 2010 map. Ancestries that can be logically grouped together were combined so they might be better represented on the map. For example, Scandinavian ancestries: Norwegian, Danish, Swedish and Finnish, are very common in the Upper Midwest. Individually, they are the most popular ancestries in only a few counties, but when grouped together, Scandinavian is the most common ancestry in over 70 Upper Midwest counties.

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Breadwinner Moms in Virginia: A closer look at single mothers

Asain Mother

Applying findings to Virginia from a Pew Social & Demographic Trends report, two previous blog posts examined breadwinner mothers in Virginia.  In the first post we found differences between married and unmarried breadwinner moms:

  • Households where the breadwinning mom was married had higher income levels
  • Married breadwinning moms had higher educational attainment
  • Even with the same educational attainment, married breadwinning moms earned more than unmarried moms (and worked more hours on average).

In the second post we examined differences between two groups of unmarried breadwinning moms – those who are single and those who are cohabiting with a partner.  We found that, between these two groups, a greater proportion of cohabiting moms and their children live in poverty, and that lower earnings among cohabiting moms are found even when we hold age and educational attainment constant.

In this post, we will wrap up by focusing on single mothers, the group that makes up the largest share (54%) of breadwinning mothers.[1] 

In light of stereotypes about single mothers represented in popular media, findings from the American Community Survey are particularly important to describing single motherhood in Virginia.

Single mothers in Virginia

The data about single mothers in Virginia points to an important finding: the lives of single mothers who have never been married is quite different from those who have been married before, even when holding constant age, educational attainment, or age of the children. For example, in Virginia, single mothers have median household incomes of about $28,000.  But when we examine marital history, we find some variation around that number. Continue reading

Need Census data during the shutdown?

One of the little noticed effects of the federal government shutdown is that many federal statistics and reports that we rely on are currently on hold.  For example, the all-too-important September jobs report never came, and if the shutdown continues, we all may miss out on measuring the unemployment rate for October.  Even updates to the consumer price index, which adjusts government benefits for inflation, may be delayed.

If you want to look up past U.S. Census Bureau data you will encounter problems as well. The popular American Factfinder and Census Bureau websites are now unavailable.  So, here are a few tips for those who us who are in need of data right now:

  • Free of charge, The University of Minnesota’s National Historical Geographic Information System provides aggregate statistics from the decennial censuses and the American Community Survey (ACS).  I have used data from these folks on many of my projects and can vouch for their simple and intuitive interface.
  • For the next few weeks, the Social Explorer website is providing free access to its data.  Social Explorer is a great website for Census data and also offers neat visualization capabilities.  But I wouldn’t get too cozy with using their services; they usually charge a fee, and it’s hard to say how long their generosity will last.
  • If you have some data analysis skills, the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) project is still open.  The site is another Minnesota creation and is a favorite of mine.  They provide access not only to past censuses and the ACS, but data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) as well.  If you don’t have SAS, SPSS, or STATA software you can always use their online analysis tools. The interface isn’t all that great and requires some expertise to navigate, but it does allow for very detailed analyses.
  • If you need only local or state-level data, many states have decent data centers you can check out.  For all of you Virginians out there, you can always visit the Weldon Cooper Center website and see the work we do.  We provide county population data, projections, and an interactive map that has local data from the ACS and past censuses.

Dustin Cable is a Senior Research Associate at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service where he conducts research on topics that lie at the intersection of demographics, politics, and public policy.

Breadwinner Moms in Virginia: A closer look at unmarried mothers

Cohabiting Young White Couple

As mentioned in a previous post, much of the research and conversation about “breadwinning” mothers simplistically distinguishes between only two groups: married and unmarried mothers.  But there is a third group that is often not considered—women who are unmarried, but living with a partner.

Non-marital cohabitation is on the rise in the United States:  In 2009, the number of 30-44 year olds living in an unmarried (heterosexual) partnership was almost double what it was in the mid-1990s.  To more fully understand the economic status of Virginia’s mothers—to make the “breadwinning moms” story more precise—it is important to take a look at this third group.

In this post, “cohabiting mother” means any unmarried woman living with at least one of her minor children as well as a partner of either sex, while the term “solo” mother indicates unmarried mothers living without a partner.  I was able to identify this population of cohabiting Virginia mothers using data from the 2011 American Community Survey.*
 

Cohabiting mothers in Virginia

Cohabiting mothers represent about 4 percent of all Virginia mothers, and about 16 percent of unmarried mothers.   While this population is relatively small, it is worthy of notice for several reasons. Continue reading

The Census Bureau’s new Language Mapper

As far as afternoon diversions go, the latest language use visualization from the U.S. Census Bureau is one of the more entertaining. The Bureau is making good use of its American Community Survey data with the launch of the new Language Mapper widget. The interactive application displays a dot-density map for 15 separate languages and allows users to zoom down to specific regions and cities throughout the country.

ACS Language Use Map

Along with counting the number of foreign language speakers in a particular area, the map also breaks down language speakers by English proficiency. Not surprisingly, the country’s major metropolitan areas harbor the greatest number of foreign language speakers who do not speak English “very well.”

Well worth a couple minutes of your afternoon…

Dustin Cable is a Senior Research Associate at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service where he conducts research on topics that lie at the intersection of demographics, politics, and public policy.

“Breadwinner” Moms in Virginia: Distinct Populations

As Becky explained in her recent post, last month’s Pew report, Breadwinner Moms, finds that, in 2011, forty percent of American households with children under the age of 18 had the mother as the primary or sole earner.  The report goes on to parse this number, indicating that, of this population, about one-third are married women who out-earn their spouses and two-thirds are single mothers.

In Virginia, the numbers are reflective of the national trend: using the same approach as Pew to examine 2011 American Community Survey, we see that forty one percent of Virginia households with children under 18 have a woman as the primary “breadwinner”. Forty three percent of this group (or about 134,000 households) have wives earning more than their husbands, while fifty seven percent (or about 174,200) are headed by unmarried mothers.

As mentioned in various media critiques, these two groups of earners are different enough to treat as entirely different populations.  In this post, the first of three on this topic, I look at some of the key differences between these two groups of mothers, and examine earnings trends relative to these differences. Continue reading