|Census: Recession had sweeping impact on US life
By HOPE YEN, Associated Press Writer Hope Yen, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON – A broad survey of Americans has provided striking
measures of the recession's effect on life at home and at work: People
are now stuck in traffic longer, less apt to move away and more
inclined to put off marriage and buying a house.
The U.S. census data, released Monday, also show a dip in the number
of foreign-born last year, to under 38 million after it reached an
all-time high in 2007. This was due to declines in low-skilled workers
from Mexico searching for jobs in Arizona, Florida and California.
Health coverage swung widely by region, based partly on levels of
unemployment. Massachusetts, with its universal coverage law, had
fewer than 1 in 20 uninsured residents — the lowest in the nation.
Texas had the highest share, at 1 in 4, largely because of illegal
immigrants excluded from government-sponsored and employer-provided
Demographers said the latest figures were significant in highlighting
how profoundly the recession affected Americans as it hit home in
2008. Findings come from the annual American Community Survey, a
sweeping look at life built on information from 3 million households.
Preliminary data earlier this year found that many Americans were not
moving, staying put in big cities rather than migrating to the Sunbelt
because of frozen lines of credit. Mobility is at a 60-year low,
upending population trends ahead of the 2010 census that will be used
to apportion House seats.
"The recession has affected everybody in one way or another as
families use lots of different strategies to cope with a new economic
reality," said Mark Mather, associate vice president of the nonprofit
Population Reference Bureau. "Job loss — or the potential for job loss
— also leads to feelings of economic insecurity and can create social
"It's just the tip of the iceberg," he said, noting that unemployment
is still rising.
The percentage of people who drove alone to work dropped last year to
75.5 percent, the lowest in a decade, as commuters grew weary of
paying close to $4 a gallon for gasoline and opted to carpool or take
Twenty-two states had declines in solo drivers compared with the year
before, with the rest statistically unchanged. The decreases were
particularly evident in states with higher traffic congestion, such as
Maryland, Texas and Washington.
Average commute times edged up to 25.5 minutes, erasing years of
decreases to stand at the level of 2000, as people had to leave home
earlier in the morning to pick up friends for their ride to work or to
catch a bus or subway train.
Palmdale, Calif., a suburb in the high desert north of Los Angeles,
posted the longest commute at 41.5 minutes. It barely edged out New
York City, with its congestion and sprawling subway system, at 39.4
minutes. Shortest commute time: Bloomington, Ill., at 14.1 minutes.
Nationwide more than 1 in 8 workers, or 17.5 million, were out the
door by 6 a.m.
Marital bliss also suffered. Nearly 1 in 3 Americans 15 and over, or
31.2 percent, reported they had never been married, the highest level
in a decade. The share had previously hovered for years around 27
percent, before beginning to climb during the housing downturn in
The never-married included three-quarters of men in their 20s and
two-thirds of women in that age range. Sociologists say younger people
are taking longer to reach economic independence and consider marriage
because they are struggling to find work or focusing on an advanced
The Northeast had the most people who were delaying marriage, led by
states such as New York and Massachusetts. People in the South were
more likely to give marriage a try, including those in Arkansas,
Tennessee and Texas.
The dip in foreign-born residents comes as the government considers
immigration changes, including stepped-up border enforcement and a
path toward U.S. citizenship. At nearly 38 million, immigrants made up
12.5 percent of the population in 2008; an estimated 11.9 million are
In three large metro areas, Miami, San Jose, Calif., and Los Angeles,
more than one-third of all residents are foreign-born.
Roughly half the states showed declines in the number of immigrants
from 2007 to 2008. Major metro areas also posted decreases, including
Los Angeles, Phoenix, Detroit and Tampa, Fla. An influx of workers
from India, who came looking for specialized jobs in
telecommunications, manufacturing, computers and software, partially
offset the national immigration decrease.
About 1 in 5 U.S. residents spoke a language other than English at
home, mostly clustered in California, New Mexico and Texas.
The number of foreign-born and minority residents often tracked
closely with how a state ranked in the levels of uninsured.
The highest numbers were in agricultural communities with large
Hispanic populations in California's San Joaquin Valley, South Texas
and South Florida. Regions in New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Alaska,
Oklahoma and Georgia also fared poorly.
The numbers help explain why the debate over illegal immigration and
health insurance is so heated.
"The fact that many election 'swing states,' with large and growing
Hispanic populations, rank low on health insurance for children and
young adults points to the significance of this issue for both parties
in future national elections," said William H. Frey, a demographer at
Brookings Institution, a think tank.
Democratic proposals to overhaul health insurance would exclude
illegal immigrants from benefits, but Republicans contend the
prohibition is meaningless because of lax enforcement. President
Barack Obama has now proposed broader and tougher restrictions;
opponents say the steps are still not enough.
• The homeownership rate fell to 66.6 percent last year, the lowest in
six years, after hitting a peak of 67.3 percent in 2006. Residents in
crowded housing jumped to 1.1 percent, the highest since 2004, a sign
people were "doubling up" with relatives or friends to save money.
• The share of people who carpooled to work rose to 10.7 percent, up
from 10.4 percent in the previous year. Commuters who took public
transportation increased to 5 percent, the highest in six years, with
Washington, D.C., at the top.
• Women's average pay still lagged men's, but the gap has been
narrowing. Women with full-time jobs made 77.9 percent of men's pay,
up from 77.5 percent in 2007 and about 64 percent in 2000.
• More people are getting high school diplomas. Only two states, Texas
and Mississippi, had at least 1 in 5 adults without high school
diplomas. This is down from 17 states in 2000 and 37 in 1990.
• More older people are working. About 15.5 percent of Americans 65
and over, or 6.1 million, were in the labor force. That's up from 15
percent in 2007.
Associated Press writers Frank Bass in East Dover, Vt., Calvin
Woodward in Washington and Mike Schneider in Orlando, Fla.,
contributed to this report.