Skipping the Booth: Voters Using Alternative Methods are Increasing

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Written By: Thom File, sociologist, Education and Social Stratification Statistics Branch

Nationally in 2014, 10.3 percent of voters reported voting in person before Election Day, while 20.9 percent reported voting by mail, meaning that in the most recent congressional election, nearly a third of all voters reported some form of alternative voting (31.2 percent).

Most states have policies in place to allow eligible voters to cast ballots before Election Day, either during an early voting period, by voting with an absentee ballot, or both. In fact, there are only 14 states where early voting is not offered and an excuse is required to vote with an absentee ballot, while in three states (Colorado, Oregon and Washington), all ballots are cast through the mail. The level of alternative voting in 2014 represents about a threefold increase since 1996, the first year the Census Bureau asked about alternative voting, when only 10.5 percent of voters reported voting by alternative methods.

In most years of this analysis, non-Hispanic whites and Hispanics have reported relatively comparable rates of alternative voting. Between 1998 and 2010, the rates of alternative voting for non-Hispanic whites and Hispanics were not statistically different. In 1996, the rates for non-Hispanic whites were slightly higher than for Hispanics, whereas in the two most recent congressional elections, the rates for Hispanics have been higher than for non-Hispanic whites. Alternative voting rates for non-Hispanic blacks, meanwhile, have tended to lag behind those for both Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites.

However, exceptions were observed in the presidential elections of both 2008 and 2012, when reported alternative voting increased among non-Hispanic blacks to a level not statistically different from both non-Hispanic whites and Hispanics in 2008, and to a level not statistically different from non-Hispanic whites but still trailing Hispanics in 2012.

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A Gray Revolution in Living Arrangements

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Written by: Jonathan Vespa and Emily Schondelmyer

The last 50 years have witnessed a revolution in young adult living arrangements, which are now more diverse than at any time since World War II. The transformation is not limited to young adults, however. Today’s older adults, defined here as 65 and older, are more likely to live alone or with an unmarried partner than previous generations (see Figure 1). Surprisingly, they’re also the only age group where living with a spouse is more common today than 50 years ago — every other age group has witnessed a substantial decline in marriage.

Older women are more likely to live with a spouse today than in 1967

Older adults have experienced the biggest gains in living with a spouse, but not because they’re rushing to the altar. Older women’s husbands are living longer. Men live 10 years longer, on average, than they did 50 years ago. Rising life expectancy helps explain why older adults are the only age group to have seen an increase in living with a spouse.

This is not to say rising tides lift all boats, for living with a spouse is far more common among older men. About three quarters of older men live with a spouse, but only about half of women 65 and older, and a third of women 75 and older do so (see Figure 2). Why the difference? Older women are more likely to be widowed because of men’s higher mortality rates. Once widowed, older women are also more likely to remain unmarried because men tend  to marry younger women.

Today, people 75 and older are more likely to live alone than in 1967

Another part of this gray revolution is the steep decline in living with other relatives. Living alone has instead replaced living with other relatives as the most common arrangement for women 75 and older (see Figure 2); today almost half of these women live alone. An older woman who moved in with an adult child or sibling in 1967 may now find it’s more acceptable to live on her own, and that she has the ability to do so, whether because of Social Security, Medicare, homeownership or other resources.

Probably the biggest unforeseen transformation has been the rise in older adults who are cohabiting, that is living with a romantic partner without being married. Older cohabitors have increased more than fourfold since 1967, to over 750,000 people today. To be sure, older cohabitors are still rare, totaling just 2 percent of adults 65 and older. But we’d expect their numbers to keep rising because baby boomers are more likely than prior generations to be never married or divorced as they enter older adulthood, and as of 2014 only the earliest boomers, born between 1946 and 1949, have reached age 65. Many more will follow in the coming years, swelling the size of the older population and transforming later-life living arrangements. For more information visit,


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Singles, Mingles and Wedding Jingles: Partnerships and Living Arrangements from 1967 to 2014

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Written by: Emily Schondelmyer and Jonathan Vespa

For nearly half a century, the Census Bureau has been collecting data on America’s living arrangements. Young adults age 18 to 34 have experienced significant changes in who they live with when compared over several generations. This blog will examine some of those differences.

In 1967, almost nine in 10 young adults were living in just two arrangements, either with a parent or with a spouse. While about half of 18- to 24-year-olds still live with a parent today, the other half live in more diverse arrangements. Among young adults between the ages of 25 and 34, the majority no longer live with a spouse but with a partner, alone or with others (see Figure 1). Living with others includes living with relatives other than a parent (such as a child) or nonrelatives.

Young adults today live in more complex arrangements than in 1967

The biggest change in living arrangements since 1967 is related to the delay in marriage. On average, young adults wait nearly six years longer to get married today than in 1967. Marrying later is part of the reason why the 25- to 34-year-olds of 2014 resemble the 18- to 24-year-olds of 1967 in terms of percentage living with a spouse (see Figure 1). For example, 39 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds lived with a spouse in 1967, similar to the 43 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds in 2014. Today, only 8 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds live with a spouse.

We now have cohabitation estimates dating back to 1967. While a direct measure for cohabitation is not available, we created an estimate based on adults who lived with an opposite-sex adult nonrelative. The proportion of 18- to 24-year-olds living with an unmarried partner is about nine times higher today than in the 1970s and about 15 times higher for 25 to 34yearolds. Cohabitation has become so widespread that women now have about a 75 percent chance of living with a partner before marriage by age 30.

These dramatic changes in the last few decades may be related to the changing characteristics of young adults.

Over the last 50 years, the proportion of 25- to 29-year-olds with a college degree has more than doubled, from about 15 percent to 34 percent. Young adults are also delaying childbearing but are not necessarily waiting for marriage to have children. Only 60 percent of young adult parents live with a spouse. The remaining 40 percent are single parents. This is one reason we see an increase over time in young adults living with other relatives, because single parents are counted in this category.

As they delay marriage, fewer young adults are living with a spouse

While young adults are delaying marriage, research shows they are choosing to live alone, with others or with an unmarried partner while they pursue higher education, seek stable employment and form families. Adults under the age of 35 today are living in a wider variety of living arrangements than what has been the norm in decades past. To see the changes for all age groups, please visit the Families and Living Arrangements website.

What do living arrangements of the older population look like? Find out tomorrow in our next blog.


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How Long Do People Receive Assistance?

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Written by: Shelley K. Irving

A recent report examines means-tested program participation rates, the extent to which the programs are used, and median monthly benefit amounts from January 2009 through December 2012 using longitudinal data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation. The means-tested programs included in the report include Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), housing assistance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and General Assistance (GA).

This report examines the accumulated (not necessarily consecutive) months of participation in major means-tested programs for people who received the specified benefit type in one or more months over the 48-month period from January 2009 to December 2012.

These data show whether recipients tended to be short-term program participants (between one and 12 accumulated months of participation), long-term participants (between 37 and 48 accumulated months of participation) or somewhere in between. A means test is a determination of whether an individual or family is eligible for government assistance, based upon whether the individual or family has income and/or assets that fall below specified thresholds. Figure1 The amount of time spent receiving means-tested assistance programs varied by certain characteristics. People living above the poverty threshold, adults with one or more years of college and full-time working adults are most likely to be short-term program participants. Those most likely to be long-term program participants include people living under the poverty threshold, children, blacks, those in female-householder families, adults with less than a high school degree and adults not in the labor force.

The total combined median monthly benefit amount from TANF/GA, SSI and SNAP was $404. Median SSI benefit amounts ($698) were larger than those from TANF/GA ($321) and SNAP ($300). Median monthly benefit amounts were highest for those living under the poverty threshold, children, blacks, Hispanics and adults not in the labor force. Figure2

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Challenge to Hackers: Use New Software Kit to Create Apps that Benefit Cities

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Written by: Avi Bender

Since the U.S. Census Bureau launched its open API (application programming interface) in 2012, we have listened to developer feedback and continued to make improvements to the tool. Our latest update, the City Software Development Kit (City SDK), will help developers create even more powerful, data-driven apps for the public.

Next month, the Census Bureau will challenge developers to use the City SDK as part of the National Day of Civic Hacking  to address a sustainability issue facing their city. The City SDK provides better interoperability across Census Bureau demographic, economic and geographic data sets upon which data can be overlayed.

The goal of the City SDK project is to streamline the creation of open data apps for cities and communities across the country; this tool makes it easier for developers to search Census Bureau data variables and mesh different datasets together.

Through our City SDK, we are aiming to provide a user-friendly “toolbox” for civic hackers to connect local and national public data.

For the past two years, we have been engaging developers around the country to learn about how many use the API and build code to combine diverse datasets.  We have created the City SDK to make it easier for the developer community to collaborate as they harness the Census API. This is an example of how the Census Bureau, in line with the Department of Commerce, is making data more useful and accessible.

Tools already on the City SDK include code that converts latitude/longitude to FIPS (state and county) codes; the ability to request GeoJSON (an open source geographic shapefile/boundary format) right along with data from Dataweb (for mapping); a modular architecture that makes mashing up Census data with third-party data a snap; and more. The City SDK is built as an open-source project with the goal of getting direct input from developers and creating a place for improvements to be crowdsourced.

Through the City SDK, the Census Bureau will enable the development of products and solutions that rely on open data and ultimately provide tangible benefits to cities across the country. We are encouraging developers to submit the apps they are building to the Census City SDK Data Solutions Challenge on, and visit the Developers Forum to see examples of apps created with our APIs.

The challenge will open on Saturday, June 6, and will close July 31, 2015. To learn more about the challenge click here. You can become a #citySDK ambassador by hosting a National Day of Civic Hacking project in your city. Create a #citySDK event in your city and register it now!

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