Lora's Research Roundup

I Like Dreamin'

Some of these research findings will keep you awake at night.

November 14, 2011

Lately I’ve been plagued with insomnia. Many of us, I suspect, are bothered by stressful current events and excessive wakefulness may result. The same is true for your members, too.

In fact, the Pew Charitable Trusts reports that for many in the middle class, the American Dream is turning into a nightmare.

According to “Downward Mobility from the Middle Class: Waking Up from the American Dream,” growing up in a middle-class family doesn’t guarantee one will maintain this status for life. “A third of Americans raised in the middle class…fall out of the middle as adults. The data also show differences in rates of downward mobility from the middle based on both family background and personal characteristics.”

And continuing reports on college cost issues are no slumber party. “New College Board Trends Reports Price of College Continues to Rise Nationally, With Dramatic Differences in Pricing Policies from State to State.” Students are relying on increasing amounts of financial aid to get through school. Some noteworthy facts:

• Undergrads received, on average, $12,455 per FTE student in financial aid for 2010-2011;
• Graduate students obtained, on average, $23,955 in aid per FTE during this time; and
• Between 2009-2010 and 2010-2011, grants per FTE undergrad rose about 7% as federal loans decreased 2%.

This press release notes rising tuition expenses and proclaims, “…Student financial aid is more important than ever.”

The White House isn’t sleep walking on this issue as reported in its fact sheet, “Help Americans Manage Student Loan Debt.” This report examines how students can better afford continuing education and discusses loan consolidation to lower payments, income-based loan repayment, and student loan payment caps of 10% of discretionary income.

Nightmares might be plaguing the divorced, as reported in “Divorce and Women’s Risk of Health Insurance Loss in the U.S.” Noted here, “Women without their own employer-based coverage prior to divorce, primarily those insured as dependents on a husband’s employer-based insurance policy, are particularly vulnerable to insurance loss… Rates of insurance coverage remain depressed for nearly two years after divorce.”

Some health insurance considerations to sleep on are explored in the Urban Institute’s “Why Employers Will Continue to Provide Health Insurance: The Impact of the Affordable Care Act.” It examines the merits of employer-sponsored coverage versus employers dropping coverage as a “win-win” situation.

And MetLife’s “2011 Market Survey of Long Term Care Costs” details what you might expect to spend on nursing home, assisted living, adult care, and home care expenses.

One startling realization it offers: “The national average daily rate for a private room in a nursing home rose 4.4% from $229 in 2010 to $239 in 2011.”

Engines, economic & otherwise
In “Spotlight on Statistics: Automobiles,”  the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) examines consumer price trends, employment, layoffs, labor productivity, and motor vehicle pricing to name but a few of the issues in the all-important auto industry.

“The U.S. automobile industry can be viewed as both a barometer and beneficiary of American growth and economic achievement,” says BLS.

Mid-market Perspectives: America’s Economic Engine—Competing in Uncertain Times” looks at “compelling insights into what executives are thinking and doing to retain a productive edge for their companies—hiring for specific skills, improving business processes and technology, and using business analytics to target high-value customers.”

Our nation’s kids get into the act, too. A Federal Reserve paper, “Polarization, Immigration, Education: What’s Behind the Dramatic Decline in Youth Employment?” presents “updated trends in teen employment and participation across multiple demographic characteristics.” The report argues, “in addition to immigration, occupational polarization in the U.S. adult labor market has resulted in increased competition for jobs that teens traditionally held.”

On the global research front, the International Monetary Fund’s report, “Do Remittances Reduce Aid Dependency?” recognizes that developing countries have long relied on aid as financing. “But more recently remittance flows have increased rapidly and are beginning to dwarf aid flows. This paper investigates how remittances affect aid flows, and how this relationship varies depending on the channel of transmission from remittances to aid.”

Increasing remittances may be important to some of your members. Plan to assist in such matters.

A troubling document, “More Poor Kids in More Poor Places: Children Increasingly Live Where Poverty Persists,” shows how our nation’s children are suffering from the wobbly economy. “Overall, 26% of rural children reside in counties whose poverty rates have been persistently high. This compares with 12% of urban children.”

Try to have a good night’s sleep and find consolation with this quotation, author unknown but attributed to Garfield creator Jim Davis: “If people were meant to pop out of bed, we’d all sleep in toasters.”

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