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articles about “Demographics

Over the River and Through the Wood?

Although the recession has forced more young people to live with their parents, demographics – not the economy -- explain why more seniors are living with relatives. The share of foreign-born seniors is rising, and they’re four times more likely than native-born seniors to live with family.

Jed Kolko, Chief Economist
November 19, 2013

The last few years have seen an increase in multigenerational living. Young adults became far more likely to live with their parents during the recession than before and haven’t really started to move out. On the other side of the life cycle, seniors – specifically adults 65 and older – are also more likely to live with relatives than in the recent past. That means fewer Americans today need to go “over the river and through the wood” to see Grandma and Grandpa for Thanksgiving than they did 20 years ago. (Yes, the original poem is actually “through the wood,” not “woods,” and to grandfather’s house. We’ve been singing it all wrong. Have you?) But the reasons that seniors are increasingly likely to live with relatives are totally different from those that lead young adults to live with their parents.

Why are More Seniors Living with Relatives?
According to the Census (2012 ACS), 9% of seniors live in a household headed by their children, children-in-law, or other relatives (other than their spouse). Another 2% live in a household headed by people they aren’t related to, and 3% live in “group quarters” like nursing homes. The other 85% live in their own home.

Another survey, the Current Population Survey’s American Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC), shows the share of seniors living with their children or other relatives has grown over the past 20 years, from an average of 6.6% over the years 1994-1998 to 7.3% in 2013.  These data are volatile year to year, but the overall trend is clearly upward, as the “unadjusted” line in the chart below shows. (Confusingly, different government surveys report seniors’ living arrangements differently. See note at end of post for all the details. But don’t worry: all of the trends and comparisons in this post are based on apples-to-apples analyses.)


Note: based on CPS ASEC 1994-2013, via IPUMS site. See longer note at end of post.

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Sorry, Mom and Dad: The Kids Aren’t Moving Out Yet

Household formation is the most important measure of the housing recovery that hasn’t bounced back yet. The latest population data show that young adults are still living with their parents – even if they have jobs.

During the recession, fewer households – one or more people living under the same roof – were created than normal. Typically, 1.1 million new households are added each year in the U.S., mostly due to population growth. However, from the first quarter of 2008 to the first quarter of 2011, only 450,000 new households were created annually. Slower household growth means less demand for homes, so annual construction starts dropped during this period from a norm of 1.4 million to below 600,000. Most recently, only 521,000 households were created between the first quarter of 2012 and the first quarter of 2013.

A big part of the slowdown in household formation was due to young people living with parents or doubling up with roommates rather than setting up house on their own. Since most kids won’t live with their parents forever, these young adults represent “pent-up demand” for housing that the recovery should unleash. Problem is: the kids aren’t moving out yet.

More Than Two Million Missing Households
While other measures of the housing recovery are chugging along – like foreclosures, prices, sales, and construction – household formation is lagging. Thanks to years of below-normal household formation, the number of “missing households” has accumulated. Our early analysis of the 2013 Current Population Survey data (see note below) shows that there are still 2.4 million missing households, stubbornly close to the high of 2.6 million in 2010 and 2011. That’s equivalent to more than two years of normal household formation that have gone missing:


# of “missing” households, millions













Note: estimate takes into account changes in the age distribution of the population. See note at end of post.

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Population Growth is Back in Clobbered Metros

Population growth in markets “clobbered” by the housing crisis – like Phoenix, Orlando, and Las Vegas – is speeding up but is well below the hypergrowth of the bubble years

This morning the U.S. Census released population estimates for 2012. Among large metros, Austin grew fastest in the past year:

Fastest Growing Large Metros

# U.S. Metro % Population Change,
1 Austin, TX


2 Orlando, FL


3 Raleigh, NC


4 Houston, TX


5 Dallas-Fort Worth, TX


6 San Antonio, TX


7 Phoenix, AZ


8 Denver, CO


9 Charlotte, NC


10 Nashville, TN


Among metros with at least one million population.

The slowest-growing large metros this past year were concentrated in the Midwest and upstate New York, with three – Cleveland, Buffalo, and Hartford – actually losing population. One “clobbered” metro, Detroit, is on the list of slowest-growing large metros: Several fast-growing metros were “clobbered” during the housing bust–which we define as having price drops of more than 30% peak-to-trough and a vacancy rate of at least 7% during the crisis, including Orlando and Phoenix. Another clobbered metro, Las Vegas, ranks 11th after Nashville in fastest population growth. Many of the fastest-growing metros, though, had a relatively mild housing crisis, like Austin, Raleigh, and Houston.

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America’s Most Irish Towns Visualization Preview

Check out the full infographic

America’s Most Irish Towns

The suburbs around Boston and other Northeastern metros are the capitals of Irish America. Those are also the areas where home-searchers from Ireland are looking today

On St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish. But what about the rest of the year? Twenty-two million Americans — 7.2% of the population – say their “primary ancestry” is Irish, according to the Census’s American Community Survey. Another 13.5 million Americans claim at least some Irish ancestry, bringing the total to 35.5 million Americans — 11.6% of the population — with at least partial Irish ancestry. If that sounds low, remember that Ireland’s population today is just 6.4 million – 4.6 million in the Republic of Ireland and 1.8 million in Northern Ireland. So there are more than 5 times as many Americans with at least partial Irish ancestry as there are people who live in Ireland.

Irish-Americans are strongly concentrated in the Northeast. The percentage of people with primary Irish ancestry tops out at 20% in the Boston metro area, followed by Middlesex County, MA (west of Boston) and Peabody, MA (north of Boston). The top six metros are all in Massachusetts or upstate New York:

America’s Most Irish Metros

# U.S. Metro % Irish ancestry
1 Boston, MA


2 Middlesex County, MA


3 Peabody, MA


4 Albany, NY


5 Syracuse, NY


6 Worcester, MA


7 Camden, NJ


8 Philadelphia, PA


9 Long Island, NY


10 Wilmington, DE-MD-NJ


Among 100 largest metros. Primary Irish ancestry only.

Irish-Americans are at least 5% of the population in most counties across the U.S., and 10% or more in most of New England, New York state, New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, and other smaller counties across the country. At the other extreme, Miami is just 1% Irish:

U.S. Map of Where Irish-Americans Live

America’s Top Irish Neighborhoods
Even though Irish-Americans make up just 5% of the New York metro population overall– less than the national average and only one-quarter the share in Boston – the neighborhood with the highest percentage of Irish-Americans is Breezy Point /Rockaway Point in Queens (ZIP code 11697). Most recently, this neighborhood is known for having had significant Hurricane Sandy damage:

America’s Top Irish Neighborhoods


ZIP code



% Irish ancestry



Breezy Point /
Rockaway Point

New York, neighborhood




Point Lookout

Long Island South Shore suburb




Pearl River

New York northern suburb




Mount Greenwood

Chicago Southwest Side neighborhood





Boston southern suburb




Crum Lynne

Philadelphia western suburb




South Weymouth

Boston South Shore suburb





Boston South Shore suburb





Boston South Shore suburb




North Weymouth

Boston South Shore suburb


Primary Irish ancestry only.

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Why Do People Leave California?

Neither jobs nor rich people are fleeing California -- but the middle class and the poor are. The exodus slowed down during the recession, but now that home prices are rising again, more people will leave the state.

Jed Kolko, Chief Economist
February 12, 2013

A constant debate in California politics is whether jobs and people are leaving the state. This week, in fact, Texas Governor Rick Perry is in California, trying to lure businesses to his state. He won’t have much luck because jobs rarely move: in a typical year, just 25,000 jobs move out of California, and 16,000 jobs move in, out of an economy of 18 million jobs. In contrast, hundreds of thousands of people move in and out of California each year. Who are they, and why do they move?

Who Moves In and Out?
Here are the basic facts. In 2011, 562,000 people left California, and 468,000 came, according to the Census’s American Community Survey. That means 120 people moved out of California for every 100 people who moved in. Out-migration reached its peak in 2005, when 160 people moved out of California for every 100 people who moved in. The California exodus rose with the housing bubble and subsided in the recession. Lower home values in 2008-2011 made California more affordable, encouraging in-migration and discouraging out-migration, as well as pushing some California borrowers underwater, further discouraging out-migration.


Who leads the charge out of California? Even though California’s richer residents face high tax rates, lower-income households are more likely to leave. From 2005 to 2011, California lost 158 people with household incomes under $20,000 for every 100 who arrived, and 165 for every 100 people with household incomes between $20,000 and $40,000. In contrast, just slightly more people with household incomes in the $100,000-$200,000 range left than came to California (103 out per 100 in), and California actually gained a hair more people in the $200,000+ range than it lost (99 out per 100 in). The rich aren’t leaving California, but the poor and the middle class are.

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