Demographics of Handheld-Only Households

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

As computing and Internet technology have evolved, many people have started accessing the Internet with hand-held devices, such as smartphones. Overall, about 83.8 percent of households reported owning some type of computer last year, with 63.6 percent reporting owning hand-held devices, and 78.5 percent owning more traditional desktops or laptops.

Regardless of the type of device, computer-owning households were more likely to be young, Asian or white, and affluent, according to a new report  from the American Community Survey. These results conform to the digital divides observed in past Census Bureau reports and closely align with 2013 rates of household Internet use as well.

However, there is evidence that certain groups rely more than others on hand-held computers as their only type of computer. In 2013, about 5 percent of households reported having only hand-held devices.

In some cases, the pattern of these handheld-only households is similar to that of overall computer ownership. Hand-held computer ownership by age works this way, with young households reporting higher rates of having only hand-held computers than older householders (about 10 percent of the youngest households fell into this category, compared with only 2.5 percent of the oldest households).

In other instances, the pattern for using only hand-held devices is directly opposite that of overall computer ownership. Black and Hispanic households, for example, were more likely than both white and Asian households to report owning only a hand-held device. The same pattern appears by income, with low-income households reporting handheld ownership alone at much higher rates than more affluent households (Figure 4).


Whether or not the emergence of mobile technologies can level traditional digital divides remains an open question, but as hand-held technologies evolve and become more readily available, it will be important to continue tracking trends for households with only hand-held computing devices.

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Grandparents Who Live with a Grandchild are Younger and More Likely to be in Poverty

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Written by: Renee R. Ellis, demographer, Fertility and Family Statistics Branch

The Survey of Income and Program Participation is the only U.S. census survey that asks questions about grandparents who do not live with their grandchildren. In the Coresident Grandparents and Their Grandchildren: 2012 report, we used the 2008 survey for the first time to compare grandparents who lived with grandchildren to grandparents who did not. There were about 65 million grandparents in the United States in 2009. About 10 percent of those grandparents lived with at least one grandchild.

Grandparents by Coresidence_blog post-02

Grandparents with coresident grandchildren were younger, on average, than those without coresident grandchildren. While only about 5 percent of non-coresident grandparents were under age 44, 11.0 percent of grandparents who lived with grandchildren were under 44. Conversely, about 48 percent of grandparents who did not live with a grandchild were over age 65, while 27 percent of grandparents who lived with a grandchild were over 65.

Grandparents who did not live with their grandchildren were more likely to be married with their spouse present. Sixty-four percent of them were married, compared with 58 percent of grandparents who lived with a grandchild. However, they were also more likely to be widowed or cohabiting. Sixteen percent of nonresident grandparents were widowed and 3 percent were cohabiting, compared with 14 percent widowed and 2 percent cohabiting for coresident grandparents.

Grandparents who did not live with their grandchildren had higher levels of education. Only 14 percent did not graduate from high school, compared with 28 percent of coresident grandparents. Thirty-three percent of non-coresident grandparents completed at least some college, and 19 percent had a bachelor’s degree or higher. In comparison 28 percent of coresident grandparents completed some college, and 11 percent had a bachelor’s or higher.

These educational differences relate to differences in work status and poverty. Fifty-eight percent of non-coresident grandparents were not working, compared with 52 percent of coresident grandparents. Coresident grandparents were more likely to have work limitations because of an illness or disability (23 percent), compared with 15 percent of non-coresident grandparents. Coresident grandparents were also more likely to be in poverty (17 percent) compared with non-coresident grandparents (10 percent).

From this research, we can conclude that while coresident grandparents are a small subset of all grandparents, they are distinctly different from non-coresident grandparents on a variety of characteristics.

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What is the Supplemental Poverty Measure and How Does it Differ from the Official Measure?

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Written by: Kathleen Short, Census Bureau Economist

In September, the U.S. Census Bureau released official poverty statistics for the United States for the 2013 calendar year. The current official poverty measure was developed in the early 1960s, and only a few minor changes have been implemented since that time.

In 2010, an interagency technical working group asked the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to develop a new measure that would improve our understanding of the economic well-being of American families and enhance our ability to measure the effect of federal policies on those living in poverty. The technical design of the supplemental poverty measure draws on the recommendations of a 1995 National Academy of Sciences report and the extensive research on poverty measurement conducted over the past 15 years. See the history of poverty measures in the United States here:

This week, the Census Bureau will release the fourth report on the supplemental poverty measure, containing estimates for the 2013 calendar year. The report presents estimates for and discusses differences between the official and the supplemental poverty measures. The major differences are listed in the box below and in this chart:

The official measure compares a family’s or individual’s before-tax cash income to a set of thresholds based on the cost of a minimum food diet in 1963, updated to 2013 by changes in prices. To determine poverty status, the measure compares the family’s cash income, such as earnings from a job or Social Security benefits, with the official poverty threshold. It does not take account of the value of important federal programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and housing and energy assistance, nor does it account for refundable tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, aimed specifically at families with low income.

The supplemental poverty measure does take into account family resources and expenses not included in the official measure. The value of noncash benefits that are available to buy the basic bundle of goods are added to cash income. Necessary expenses for critical goods and services are subtracted, such as income taxes, social security payroll taxes, child care and other work-related expenses, out-of-pocket contributions toward the cost of medical care and health insurance premiums, and child support payments to another household.

Thresholds used in the new measure are prepared at the Bureau of Labor Statistics and derived from the Consumer Expenditure Survey. They are based on the most recent five-year reports on how much people spend on basic necessities (food, shelter, clothing and utilities) and are adjusted for geographic differences in the cost of housing.

Chart comparing official poverty measure and supplemental poverty measure components

This week’s report will compare 2013 supplemental poverty estimates with 2013 official poverty estimates for numerous demographic groups. It will provide state-level poverty estimates and show how our perception of the poverty population differs from that using the official statistics. In addition, the report will examine the effect of noncash benefits, tax credits and necessary expenses on supplemental poverty rates.

For more details on the new measure, please see the technical appendices of the November 2013 report or the technical webinar presented with the release of the first supplemental poverty measure report in November 2011.

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Out of Africa: Recent Growth of the African Foreign-Born Population

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Written By: Christine Gambino, Edward Trevelyan and Elizabeth M. Grieco

When someone says the word “immigrant,” many people likely picture Europeans moving through Ellis Island during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Others think of a more recent time — especially after 1980 — when most immigrants arrived from countries in Latin America, such as Mexico, and, to a lesser extent, Asia. However, it may be surprising to learn that recent data show that the African foreign-born population is one of the fastest growing immigrant groups in the United States.

The African-born population has experienced rapid growth over the last 40 years, approximately doubling in size each decade since 1970. Between 1990 and 2000, the African-born population grew by over 140 percent, from 364,000 to 881,000, according to decennial census statistics. It nearly doubled again by 2012, reaching over 1.7 million, according to the American Community Survey.

Although the growth of the African foreign-born over the past decade was rapid, this population still represents only 4 percent of the 40.8 million foreign-born and less than 1 percent of the 313.9 million residents of the United States.

The foreign-born from Africa remain fewer in number than immigrants from other regions of the world as well. For example, in 2012 there were 21.3 million foreign-born from Latin America and the Caribbean, accounting for over half (52 percent) of all foreign-born and about 7 percent of the total population. The Asian foreign-born represented over one-fourth (29 percent) of the total foreign-born population and about 4 percent of the U.S. population.

A notable characteristic of the foreign-born population from Africa is the relatively high proportion that recently arrived in the United States. More than two out of five (43 percent) African-born immigrants in America arrived between 2003 and 2012 (see figure).

This high proportion of recent arrivals is not typical of all immigrants, as about one-quarter (26 percent) of the total foreign-born population entered during the same 10-year period. The proportion of African-born who entered from 2003 to 2012 was higher than all other regions, including Asia (32 percent) and Latin America and the Caribbean (24 percent).

Of the 746,000 foreign-born from Africa who entered the country between 2003 and 2012, about half were from Ethiopia, Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana and Kenya. The origin countries with the highest proportion of their total populations arriving after 2003 (about half for each) included Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

The foreign-born population from Africa is a small but rapidly growing segment of immigrants, many of whom arrived in this country relatively recently. This population’s cultural diversity and other unique qualities, such as high educational achievement (41 percent of African-born immigrants had a bachelor’s degree or higher educational attainment in 2012, compared with 28 percent of the overall foreign-born), promise to add to the diverse American landscape.

For more information on the African foreign-born in the United States, see the new report released today The Foreign-Born Population from Africa: 2008-2012.

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The American Community Survey in Action

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Written By: Cheryl Chambers

Today’s annual release of American Community Survey statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau helps communities, organizations, businesses and governments make informed decisions by providing information on more than 40 topics, from educational attainment to commuting to language spoken at home.

Retailers, homebuilders, police departments and city planners are among the many private- and public-sector decision-makers who count on these important statistics. Here are a few examples of how Census Bureau statistics from the American Community Survey helps make a difference in local communities.


KaBOOM! uses American Community Survey statistics, such as median household income and the number of children 12 and under, to identify populations in need of play equipment where playgrounds would get the most use. They use these statistics as a baseline for their program to promote the concept that “Play matters for all kids!” KaBOOM! has created over 2,500 playgrounds across the country to  serve more than 6.5 million children.

National Institutes of Health and RTI International

Scientists from the National Institutes of Health and RTI International use American Community Survey statistics to create “synthetic” populations and simulate the spread of disease. This allows decision-makers to determine the effect of disease transmission and prepare for the next potential outbreak.

Transportation Planning

How many people in your area are on the road and when?  Transportation is a critical part of our nation’s infrastructure. Statistics from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey allow planners to determine the most effective use of transportation spending and the delivery of services.

Emergency Planning

The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey provides statistics that communities use to make decisions about resources, such as after a natural disaster. These statistics are critical to emergency planning, preparedness and recovery efforts. For example, the American Community Survey provides detailed information on how many people in a community may need extra assistance during a disaster, such as the elderly, disabled or those who speak a language other than English. Knowing these specific details about local communities gives decision makers the information they need to plan and efficiently deploy resources and to accurately measure the impact of a disaster. Visit the Stats in Action page to see some examples.

These are just a few examples of how your community may use everyday statistics. Tell us how you use the American Community Survey in the comments below.

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