Lora's Research Roundup

Rich in Thanks

Research reveals consumer plans for holiday spending and disparities in household income.

November 21, 2011

Despite the pervasive economic unpleasantness, it strikes me that we still have much to be thankful for this holiday week. Research indicates that yes, there is some continuing bad news, but also some reasons for optimism. This bodes well for our future and merits a moment of thanks.

Of course, we are all interested in gobbling up the news on Turkey Day dinners and Black Friday expenditures. Perhaps this report from the American Farm Bureau Federation should be no surprise: “Classic Thanksgiving Dinner Costing More in 2011.” Costs for turkey and the trimmings is up 13% this year, and the average price of Thanksgiving dinner for 10 is $49.20, up $5.73 from last year.

Those who shop ‘til they drop will be interested in the “Deloitte Annual Holiday Survey: Down economy? Bah Humbug”  It reveals that this year, more than one quarter of smart phone users will use their devices to locate stores, compare prices, and so forth.

Also, “loyalty to retailers is trending down while shopping behaviors change—the search for lower prices and free shipping, and using online reviews before buying, are more prevalent.” Technology brings time and dollar savings, it would appear.

Bargain hunters, take note. “Shopping Online This Holiday Season? FTC Offers Advice on Getting the Best Deal.”  You’ll be thankful after you set a budget, read online reviews, and verify secure checkouts.

Lora Kloth
Lora Kloth is a CUNA research librarian.

CEO bonus plans have been in the news as somewhat problematic of late, but there is reason for hope as indicated in Harvard Business School’s “CEO Bonus Plans and How to Fix Them.” “This paper includes recommendations and guidelines for improving both the governance and design of executive bonus plans and, more broadly, executive compensation policies, processes, and practices.”

Another trend is that not many of us feel like acting as Pilgrims these days, as “Mover Rate Reaches Record Low, Census Bureau Reports.”  “The percentage of people who changed residences between 2010 and 2011—11.6%—was the lowest recorded rate since the Current Population Survey began collecting statistics on the movement of people in the United States in 1948…”

American women have reason to be thankful this year, says Nielsen’s “Optimism and Opportunity: A Multicultural Look at Women in the US.”  It is interesting to note here that “Though often stressed over money, work, and lack of free time, across ethnicities, American women exhibit optimism with regards to their future and their daughters…” This positive vision is definitely a reason for gratitude.

Peruse “The Generation Gap and the 2012 Election: Angry Silents, Disengaged Millenials,” by Pew Research. Generational differences in priorities affect voting issues, as older voters make Social Security a priority and younger age groups favor changing the system so they can invest their Social Security dollars in, for example, private retirement accounts. Perhaps an extra serving of pumpkin pie could help remedy the differences in opinion?

News from the Congressional Budget Office shows “Trends in the Distribution of Household Income Between 1979 and 2007.”  CBO reports income growth was as follows:
• 275% for the top 1% of households;
• 65% for the next 19%;
• Just below 40% for the next 60%; and,
• 18% for the bottom 20%.

Health insurance
Those of us with employer-provided health insurance have reason to be thankful, as indicated in Gallup’s “Employer-Based Health Insurance Continues to Trend Down.” 

Here we learn that our health insurance system is undergoing changes due to economic situations and escalating healthcare costs.

No cause for celebration here: “…The percentage of Americans who are uninsured is on the rise again after remaining fairly steady throughout 2010. If more employers stop offering health insurance and the cost of purchasing insurance for individuals remains a barrier, it is possible that the uninsured rate will continue to rise—at least until additional parts of the 2010 healthcare legislation take effect.”

Back to the bright side, “Bankruptcy Filings Down in Fiscal Year 2011,” according to the U.S. Courts. Thank goodness, “Bankruptcy cases filed in federal courts for fiscal year 2011…totaled 1,467,221, down 8% over the FY 2010 bankruptcy filings of 1,596,355…” The report further indicates that in FY 2011, filings fell for all bankruptcy chapters.

Pension plans are on the table this week as well, as “PBGC Releases Long-Term Projections, Forecasts Some Additional Plan Failures and Higher Deficits.” 

“Most private pensions are sound,” said PBGC Director Joshua Gotbaum, “but some are real sources of concern. We want to make sure they can restore themselves, and that PBGC has the resources to help.”

Even in dark times, we can be rich in thanks. As Fred De Witt Van Amburgh noted, “None is more impoverished than the one who has no gratitude. Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.”

LORA KLOTH is a research librarian in CUNA's business-to-business publishing department.